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Space Avenue

Oh wow, another band I wish I had discovered sooner! Waltari is known for their huge blend of genres, with Space Avenue focusing on industrial/alternative metal. The album features a lineup with notable members including former Stone guitarist Roope Latvala, taking temporary place of Sami Yli-Sirniö who would also join Kreator, and drummer Janne Parviainen. Latvala and Parviainen would later join Sinergy, and the former would perform with Children of Bodom and the latter with Ensiferum. Absolutely solid!

As for the album, a fantastic lineup doesn't necessary show evolution to the band, but Space Avenue is still in the line of perfection. Manning the production is Front Line Assembly's Rhys Fulber, another reason for the album's slick audio appearance.

The space-thrash opener "External" has powerful riffing and a heavy bridge. Sounds like Latvala is having fun with his riffing before having his fun in his material with Children of Bodom. "Far Away" is a catchy poppy industrial metal single, with more of the cosmic keyboards and vocal fuzz. "Wolves on the Street" mixes a bit of the spacey prog-metal of Voivod with some rapping verses. The thrash-ish industrial metal track "Progression" progresses in heaviness with mechanical riffing though having a poppy chorus.

"Blind Zone" is another track I would recommend for fans of industrial/alternative metal. "Purify Yourself" has a bit of the experimentation of Candiria, though closer to the alt-metal sound that band would later have in What Doesn't Kill You... Adding to the experimental vibe is the beautiful cello courtesy of Apocalyptica (back when that group was still known as a Metallica cover band). "Stars" is a cover of a song by Rauli Somerjoki, and it certainly reminds me of bands Pain and Deathstars. A favorite track of mine, "Prime Time" rocks out with heavy mid-paced groove before incredible hyper-thrash soloing. And it all starts from an 8-bit video game-sounding intro.

"Main Stream" is anything but mainstream-sounding, continuing the heavy thrash. The crushing guitars performed by Latvala spawn technical riffing. Towards the end is some deathly thrash, probably the heaviest in this album! "Look Out Tonite" is more industrial with barely any metal heaviness, unless you count the bass. There's a little more of Apocalyptica's cello. Some might be reminded of Kong with vocals! "Walking in the Neon" continues the infectious dance-y sound with a bit of thrash. There's even some catchy female vocals by Anita Davis who sounds a bit like Tina Turner (RIP that rock 'n' roll heroine). "Mad Luxury" ends the album on a soft alt-metal note. A tame yet intriguing ending to another perfect album!

Throughout this release, Waltari shines with their thrashy industrial/alternative metal sound. I haven't yet listened to one of the band's other albums like Big Bang, but I can consider Space Avenue a big bang with its f***ing engaging style. The band had fun making their material, and so did I with listening to what they've made there!

Favorites: "External", "Far Away", "Blind Zone", "Prime Time", "Main Stream", "Walking in the Neon"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 29, 2023 11:14 PM
Rouge Carpet Disaster

Your Favorite Childhood Candy Bar

Rouge Carpet Disaster, as already said by many, is nostalgia baiting perfection. If you were someone who listened to the near inescapable angsty Metalcore/Post-Hardcore of the early and mid 2000's, Static Dress may feel like a warm hug or a home cooked meal. They're able to rise above simplistic mimicking, though, as they add a noisy element that's prevalent in the current Shoegaze/Emo scene to give them a fuller and more interesting sound that pairs well with the Post-Hardcore riffing. "Fleahouse" is a perfect opener that instantly makes a statement of what the listener is in for, which is a mix of Metalcore screams and catchy clean-vocal choruses that never manage to sound too whiny to my ears. The energy through the first three tracks as they nail some fantastic transitions is palpable, with "Push Rope" being one of my personal favorites. Static Dress then pump the breaks a little for songs like "attempt 8", "such.a.shame", and the admittedly pretty "marisol", but resume their normal programming for everything in-between. 

When I was first recommended this album last year I didn't think too much of it, but after many listens it's slowly found its way into my normal rotation. I'm not the biggest fan of the band's softer material, but even the less memorable cuts like "Di-sinTer" or "Lye Solution" have some killer riffs and fun choruses in the moment. The vocals have just the right amount of edge and balance between harsh and clean for me, although I think they're a little rough around the edges on the ballads or softer sections. The second half of the album leaves a bit to be desired, with the closing "Cubicle Dialogue" always being on the weak side for me. 

There's a twist here, though; I have zero nostalgia for this kind of stuff. I grew up in the right time frame, but never got into any of the bands others will point to when talking about Static Dress' influences. So, at least from my perspective, Rouge Carpet Disaster is far from being purely fueled by nostalgia and stands on its own remarkably well. The ballad sections definitely aren't my thing and the Metalcore leanings eventually get a bit old, especially on the second half, but I've come around on "marisol" enough to say that it's not a total dud. So even though Static Dress desperately wants to transport the listener back to 2005, I think there's still plenty of merit for them in 2022. 

Xephyr Xephyr / May 29, 2023 10:39 PM
The Sham Mirrors

Theater of the Unknown

Given I began seriously diving into the deeper cuts of Progressive Metal more than 10 years after The Sham Mirrors was released, it's no wonder I never gave Arcuturus too much time of day. I recall listening to this album many years ago, thinking it was neat, then proceeding to forget about it, which in hindsight was a mistake given my broader knowledge nowadays. What I thought was just a random band turned out to be a somewhat of a Norwegian supergroup consisting of Mayhem's drummer Hellhammer as well as a few members from the Progressive Black Metal band Ulver. Arcturus was officially formed in 1990, two years before Ulver, however this group's debut album didn't come to be until 1996, one year after Ulver's signature debut album, showcasing the sometimes complex pipeline of album creation when working with multiple groups at the same time. Given that Ulver's debut album was known for its more progressive take on atmospheric black metal with a bunch of jagged transitions, it's not surprising that Arcturus was able to utilize those ideas in a subgenre that benefits greatly from those ideas. 

The Sham Mirrors has a rawer and heavier sound overall, meaning more distortion than your run-of-the-mill, squeaky clean sounding Progressive Metal. This applies to the vocals as well, which are reverb laden and very theatrical with heavy use of choir-like layering. Despite being so over the top in its vocal and synth choices, The Sham Mirrors has a certain darkness to it that is extremely unique for an album that manages to still sit firmly within the Progressive Metal tag and not drift into heavier waters. The use of synths and piano are a massive part of The Sham Mirrors and "Nightmare Heaven" with its extended atmospheric section does a great job of encapsulating the otherworldly uneasiness that the album attempts to convey through its entire runtime. These synth themes are layered extremely well behind the grinding guitar riffs to not feel like an afterthought, which properly gives the album another dimension past the riffing. This means there's a lot to take in though, as Arcturus eventually show off their Black Metal roots on tracks like "Collapse Generation" and especially "Radial Cut", which has guest vocals by Ihsahn. I'm a pretty big fan of Symphonic Black Metal, so you don't hear me complaining. 

Despite Arcturus' best efforts to create a harrowing and otherworldly feel, they weren't safe from the goofiness that Progressive Metal manages to bring out. It's obviously a subjective topic and if you think they pull off the atmosphere perfectly, I can see The Sham Mirrors being an all time classic for you. However, I still can't shake the feeling that some of the transition, vocal, and piano choices in tracks like "Nightmare Heaven", "Ad Absurdum", and "Star Crossed" fumble around a bit too much. The ten minute epic closer "For To End Again" is easily the most guilty of this given its opening marimba number, but thankfully it reigns everything back in for the most complete and complex showcase of their sound on the album, transitioning between ripping guitars and well written piano interludes without skipping a beat. 

The Sham Mirrors succeeds in being an experience that is incredibly unique, but it doesn't have enough staying power for me to want to come back to it consistently. I love the use of symphonics to give off an epic and theatrical feel to some grimy sounding riffing, but the push and pull of the melodies can get a little lost sometimes. Symphonic Metal has shifted away from this darker style as of late so it's cool to hear another type of band take advantage of what strings can offer for heavier and more distortion heavy Metal. The synth-y strings, piano, and even brass parts during the closer feel very fleshed out with unique melodies separate from the guitar, showing that Arcturus put a lot of thought and effort into incorporating all but one element of their sound. Even though the vocals are able to compliment the instrumentation well, they seem a bit senseless sometimes in their melody and placement. "Radical Cut" is a surprising exception for me as Ihsahn manages to slot in perfectly for a spectacular climax to the album before the closer. 

Overall, The Sham Mirrors is an album that I regret not having on my rotation for the past few years, but at the same time it doesn't manage to rise to any sort of legendary status. It's awesome to hear such a uniquely progressive take on using theatrical strings with grisly sounding guitars, especially given Arcturus' Black Metal background, but I find myself struggling to come up with a way it sincerely wowed me. Nothing stands out as insanely memorable despite being an incredibly enjoyable and succinct listen, which is also a nice change of pace for a Progressive Metal album. 

Xephyr Xephyr / May 29, 2023 09:14 PM
Take Me Back to Eden

I would have had every reason in the world to stay away from Sleep Token in 2023. When I listened to this band’s 2021 album This Place Will Become Your Tomb, I criticized as being another standard piece of cult-esque worship band. I could never deny the talent that was on display, but thanks in part to a lot of poorly executed songwriting techniques and formulas, that record did not sit well with me.

But perhaps we were only just getting to the meat of the Sleep Token cult. You see, ever since Bring Me the Horizon dropped That’s The Spirit in 2015, there seems to be an alarming attempt to “popify” metal in recent years (perhaps you could call a new wave of British heavy metal?). More acts like Bad Omens and Architects using electronics, but not in the traditional industrial sense; instead opting for electronic percussion and heavy bass presence. Hmm, isn’t there a style of metal music that focuses on rhythmic virtuosity and heavy bass presence?

It’s bizarre to see so many metal fans become enraged by a band like Sleep Token, when all they’ve done is take Animals As Leaders to its next logical conclusion. And on Take Me Back To Eden, I will admit this album is not a flawless attempt at bridging the gap between pop and metal, but it is the best representation of that tonal shift that I’ve heard from Sleep Token.

For starters, the albums first handful of tracks are some of the best of Sleep Token to date. In terms of composition for starters, “Chokehold” and “Vore” are not meant to be pop chasing songs. “Chokehold” in particular starts with ominous synths and eerie tempo mapping that reminds me of a Lingua Ignota record! What happens next (and for the rest of the album really) is the well-balanced tightrope as Sleep Token switch between heavy, djent infused riffing and soft, atmospheric pop and R&B.

It can be a hard sell since metal fans crave the sound of live, acoustic percussion, but since this album has no issues in subverting your expectations at the outset, I think the way in which the percussion is not only balanced, but also unique between the two tales is worth commemorating. “Granite”, “Aqua Regia” and “Vore” do an excellent job of this.

Unfortunately, the album takes a bit of a bump following “Vore” and is never able to fully recover afterwards. Part of the reasoning for this is that the rest of the album falls into a predictable pyramid scheme for each track; where the heaviest moments are not implemented into the tracks rather than just expanding upon a pop chorus formula but now with guitars and thick drums.

I think that the guitar mixing is very well done as there is some truly spectacular dichotomies between the heavier djent passages and the cleans during the bridge of “Vore” and “Are You Really Okay?”. Vessel’s vocals are more dynamic than ever before, and while the heavy-handed percussion is par for the course over this style of metal music and mostly okay, it still does not change the fact that some of it can become really disorienting during the album’s softer moments.

Sleep Token are going to get a lot of flack for bridging the gap between pop and metal as directly as this. And while it may not be the grand masterpiece that anyone asked for, I have yet to hear anyone do it like this before. A lot of past experiences have shown that getting swallowed by an Imagine Dragon forces the artist to lose their sense of identity in the process, but I still think that Sleep Token have their best years ahead of them.

Best Songs: Chokehold, Granite, Aqua Regia, Vore, Are You Really Okay, The Apparition

Saxy S Saxy S / May 29, 2023 05:49 PM

So here I am at the final part of Red Harvest's underground trilogy, before they became more popular with Cold Dark Matter. Some say going chronological when checking out a band's discography is one of the weaker methods because the earlier material before the famous era is often highly different. They may be correct, but HyBreed ended up being an exception to that rule. A newfound perfect favorite of mine as my industrial metal collection grows!

HyBreed shows that the band is no longer as speedy as they were in their debut album and part of their second album. The album is slow in a lot of songs, and the tempo stays the same in even the long 10-minute epics.

The short opening track "Mazturnation" is a fast yet mature track that I enjoy. "The Lone Walk" is a long epic in which the verses have a drum pattern and the chorus is more riff-focused. It just goes on throughout those 10 minutes, and there's never anything bad about that at all! Despite being a bit repetitive, that's the kind of repetition that appeals to me. This band can be catchy while only having one d*mn idea. It's quite brilliant that the band can show talent from just one or two riffs! GENIUS!!! Yeah, that chorus is quite epic along with the verse drum pattern. The other fast track "Mutant" bounces through great guitar riffing and drum kicks.

Another track, "After All..." has a haunting dark cellar vibe. "Ozrham" is almost 10 minutes of ambient instrumental. You might think I would get bored from that, but surprisingly I didn't! By the end, you soar through rain-stormy heights. "On Sacred Ground" starts slow and melodic in the riffing and beat, and continues that way throughout the song that is another one nearly 10 minutes long. However, having the last minute being an intro to the next track is a bit of a risk to take. But all in all, a true masterpiece track of melodic doom! "The Harder They Fall" is another superb bleak industrial metal track. It's amazing how my taste in modern metal developed from the metalcore of Trivium and Bullet for My Valentine into this genre.

"Underwater" has a bit of the slow yet progressive ambience Maudlin of the Well would later have. "Monumental" has a lot of that monument melody, and I love the splash cymbal used here. Another one of the best tracks of the album! There's still two more tracks left, starting with the 12-minute ambient track "In Deep", which is nothing special but still nice and soothing. "The Burning Wheel" is the righteous ending of this long trip. It's a heavier blast while not building actual speed. This can really fit in a live setting, and both new and longtime fans can look back at it in the decades following its release. Like now, perhaps?

All I'm gonna say is, no matter how perfect HyBreed is for me, some people might not like it due to its heavy repetition and lengthiness and think this could cause a dent in the genre. However, this album has the motherload of many things that solidify the melody and dark ambience of industrial metal/post-sludge. The simply structured songs can keep you hooked until the end. Any fan of Red Harvest and industrial metal should get it, and if you want to appreciate it as much as I do, it just takes patience!

Favorites: "Mazturnation", "The Lone Walk", "On Sacred Ground", "The Harder They Fall", "Monumental", "The Burning Wheel"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 29, 2023 02:09 PM
Unquestionable Presence

As I have iterated before on many occasions, I am not a fan of technical death metal (or tech-thrash either for that matter) but my experiences with Atheist have been nothing but incredibly positive. The reason for this, I think, is that these guys don't make the technicalities of their music the be all and end all, but rather they make the jazz elements and their technical expertise work to enhance the high quality death metal that they produce. I mean, these guys produce absolute killer riffs, some of which still contain a deal of thrashiness, such as the main riff on the title track, or on The Formative Years, and that is what I want to hear when I listen to a death metal album - riffs, riffs and more riffs... oh and a certain degree of brutality, another aspect of their sound that is well and truly taken care of. So with that aspect of their songwriting sorted they then give themselves license to enhance and elaborate upon their ideas with jazz-influenced sections, multifarious time changes and displays of technical skill a great deal of their contemporaries could only marvel at, I suspect.

The drumming and basswork are superb and sound fantastic, Tony Choy's bass playing in particular is impressive as he weaves his basslines in and out of the sound, at times in step with drummer Steve Flynn like conjoined twins, such as during the technical sections of An Incarnation's Dream where the two combine to weave musical magic. Kelly Shaefer has a pretty mean death growl, not so deep and rumbling as some, but with a nice vicious snarl to it. Shaefer and Rand Burkey also turn in some mean solos that howl and squeal nicely but, man, I just can't get over them riffs.

At a mere 33 minutes this may appear to be quite a slight album, but Atheist just pack so much into it that it is more than enough to sate the appetite. In fact I would argue that knowing when to stop is also a lost art amongst too many modern metal acts who insist on issuing bloated hour-plus efforts that can oftimes test the patience and I, for one, would much rather have half an hour of this level of quality. So, first and foremost, Unquestionable Presence is a top-drawer death metal album with enough brutal-sounding riffs to stop a charging rhino, but Atheist held ambition enough not to be satisfied with "just" that, they further employed their technical prowess and songwriting skill to push the boundaries of what death metal could be and can justifiably be considered one of the seminal bands (along with Chuck Schuldiner's Death) of the technical death movement. I'm just not sure if the later acolytes of Atheist always concentrated on writing brilliant death metal songs first and foremost like the massively impressive Floridians did, so for me, this is one of the absolute premier tech-death albums and, despite my reticence regarding tech-death generally, I could listen to this all day long.

Sonny Sonny / May 29, 2023 01:10 PM
There's Beauty in the Purity of Sadness

Let me just say that going through the first part of a band's discography when you haven't heard of the band before may be both a good and a bad way to get around. Anyone starting with the band's early-2000s material can shake their heads at me disappointed for this route. That's OK because I like witnessing the evolution from the beginning!

It's amazing how constant the band can keep their unique ability of turning things around, so that each song is unpredictable in direction. In one song you can hear bleak slowness, and the next one you can the band's earlier hellbent thrash. There's Beauty in the Purity of Sadness shows the band mixing things up quite a bit. You can almost consider the music to be a slightly more deathly Ministry, among other sounds that are the dreams of many bands.

Already bringing you onboard is the fantastic opener "Wounds"! I still can't believe I hadn't discovered this band sooner. This extreme industrial metal banger ends with an epic one-minute guitar/drums outro. "Naked" is another song I absolutely love! "Resist" is what I would describe to a blend of Sepultura at that time and Circle of Dust.

"Mindblazt" has a similar vibe to the mid-paced earlier songs of Earth Crisis in the slower sections while the rest of it is firmly industrial metal. "Mastodome" is a slow sludgy 8-minute epic that sounds like the seed planted for two bands, Mastodon and Gothminister. "Shivers" is another awesome track that gives me shivers. "?" is as confusing as the one-character title says, being just a strange interlude.

"Mother of All" almost reminds of Mushroomhead in the pace and vocals. Now, "A.B.G.L.E.A.K."... I have no idea what that acronym stands for. I do know the song sounds like one Opeth's acoustic interludes. "Sadness" is also awesome! "The Art of Radiation" is another 8-minute epic, and the best way to end the album. Worth lots of praise!

See? Industrial metal can go extreme and dark with out going as blackened as Aborym. The muscular strength comes from the music and not the aesthetics. I can someday try to build up my potential for the band's more popular albums like Sick Transit Gloria Mundi, but for now, I can admire how influential this album is despite how rare it was at the time of its release. Of course nowadays, industrial metal goodness is easy to find on the web....

Favorites: "Wounds", "Resist", "Shivers", "Sadness", "The Art of Radiation"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 29, 2023 09:15 AM
Verses of Steel

With 17 full length albums, Polish band Acid Drinkers are an outfit I've considered checking out many times. The main thing that's turned me off over the years is the way their album covers suggest the band are just having a laugh. I had noticed that their 2008 album Verses of Steel is relatively well received though, so when it appeared as an option in this month's Review Draft for The Pit, I figured it was time to take the plunge? Do I regret that decision? Well, at least now I know that my natural aversion was correct all along. Before I go any further, I'm surprised this only has a thrash metal primary on RYM (and therefore here). There's a fair bit of groove metal on this album, as well as a hint of crossover thrash from time to time. Regardless of where it fits on the metal tree, Verses of Steel has a surprising lack of emphasis on riffs. There are plenty to experience if you choose to focus on them, but they're rarely powerful or effective, and I find the vocals draw my attention away from them more often than not. That could have something to do with the vocalists spasmodic approach, and I have to say that I don't enjoy them for the most part. Like the band's artwork so often does, the band seems to be going for an entertaining and somewhat comedic approach, which just rubs me up the wrong way. I'll take vicious and brutal over humurous and playful anyday (unless it's Mike Patton).

In the end I've given Verses of Steel plenty of time to connect with me. It's not terrible, and I found myself enjoying parts of it quite a bit when I wasn't being so critical. I'm not surprised that they have a reasonable sized fanbase, but this isn't what I want from my thrash metal. If you want to check it out, second track In a Black Sail Wrapped is easily the highlight. Don't expect the rest of the album to be at that standard though.

Ben Ben / May 29, 2023 03:38 AM

In a land where black metal rules them all, progressive metal has also been taking Norway by storm. Since the 90s, Norwegian progressive metal bands have come around to sweep the globe, such as the power metal-influenced Pagan's Mind and Communic, the melodic Spiral Architect and Leprous, and the extreme Arcturus and Enslaved. A warm progressive light shines over the cold darkness! There's also a Norwegian thrash metal band called Equinox. A progressive thrash metal style is quite rare in Norway, but that's where Red Harvest's debut Nomindsland comes in! Red Harvest would later be known for their strong industrial metal sound with dark atmosphere, harsh noise, and cold riffs. Nomindsland is a much different debut. This is avant-garde-ish progressive/technical thrash metal not too far off from Coroner and late 80s Voivod!

This thrash sound isn't too surprising considering the band started in the late 80s as a Slayer tribute band called Arctic Thunder. After switching to a more original band known as Red Harvest, they stormed in with some demos, combating the mainstream menace as they stood by the Norwegian thrash sound of their fellow countrymen Equinox. As the original classic thrash dies out in the year 1992, these original innovators from Scandinavia are determined to have that dream rolling one more time. And they twist it up to with some avant-progressive metal as they strive for uniqueness.

"The Cure" kickstarts the album and lets listeners know that not everything that year is grunge/groove metal, there is still classic thrash with a mighty progressive turn. The avant-garde aspects arrive with a flamenco bridge in the middle to spice up this grand opener. Aggression should also be expected in the sharp riffs and leads, though you can find catchy choruses worth singing along to. "Righteous Majority" continues running the thrash bullet-train while having a bit of the progressive atmosphere that another Norwegian prog-metal band In the Woods would later have. "Acid" has the more abstract sound of Equinox, keeping up the progressive thrash dissonance. The frantic rhythms and catchy choruses will surely delight fans of the sound.

"No Next Generation" actually hints at a bit of the industrial metal the band would switch to and Deathstars would also later be known for. "Machines Way" reminds me a bit of Sadus in the thrashy parts. "(Live & Pay) The Holy Way" is a true avant-garde tech-thrash highlight, especially in the second half to reminds some of Mekong Delta.

What confuses me a bit is the idea of sneaking in "Crackman", a one-minute hardcore track, but it's still OK. "Face the Fact" is just straight up technical thrash from the get-go, a Coroner-like masterpiece of a song. The closing track "Wrong Arm of the Law" is another short eclectic hardcore track. It certainly repels a few of the more strict listeners, but nonetheless, it's a good way out.

Red Harvest had a much different stylistic nature that their more famous era. Regardless of that change, it's great to look back at the old-school as much as you can enjoy the modern stuff. Nomindsland shows the band's strength even when they didn't yet have the industrial sound that carves their name in stone!

Favorites: "The Cure", "Righteous Majority", "Acid", "(Live & Pay) The Holy Way", "Face the Fact"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 28, 2023 11:37 PM
Tukaaria / Odz Manouk

The obscure and reclusive nature of black metal artists does occasionally uncover some real gems if you can travel far enough off grid (well, onto YouTube as it happens) to find them.  Having never heard of either of these artists going into this EP I was suspicious as to why they had never surfaced in some of the conversations I have with internet peers who firmly reside in the underground part of the scene.  Reading Daniel's mini-bio in his review helped me understand why and soon enough I was embroiled in the five tracks on offer, noting almost instantly of the difference between the swarming frenzy of Tukaaria and the more structured and intelligent form of Odz Manouk.

Suffice to say that I much more prefer the contribution of Odz Manouk here.  There is a raw energy to the otherwise very accessible structures that really set the two tracks from him apart when compared to those of Tukaaria.  Odz Manouk perform some foot-stomping black metal that bashes its way into your memory banks. The Scavenger looms over the listener hovering on ferocious tremolos and haunting atmospherics (and that mauling melodic guitar stab that cuts like a blunt and filthy blade across your flesh on a couple of occasions), whilst those abhorrent vocals just spew all over you.  Meanwhile (the personal highlight for me of the release), The Sloth is a beast of a track.  Starting off all crawling and rhythmically lumbering it rumbles on for nearly nine perfect minutes of uncomfortable and stifling black metal that rams it's tongue down your throat.

By comparison the Tukaaria tracks lack much in the way of presence for me.  Whereas the Odz Manouk tracks stay with me and did so from the first play, the three Tukaaria ones sort of pass me by and I find very little to praise from his offering.  If this was just an Odz Manouk EP then we would be seeing the higher scores.  However, when taken as a whole the EP is not a consistent entity and so I struggle to get above the halfway point of the scorecard as a result.

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / May 28, 2023 03:13 PM

I've tried! I've tried to get into Oomph!, but what do I expect? It's just the unsettling and barely understandable (for me) German industrial rock/metal subgenre Neue Deutsche Härte that has ended up popular via Rammstein. Still, Wunschkind (German for "Desired Child") is quite heavy in both music and lyrics.

As we only go through the songs I truly like, "Born-Praised-Kissed" starts with an innocent music box before you hear guitar heaviness everywhere. The title track has that kind of riffing too! Guitars and synths are blended together in dark atmosphere. However, it's not something you should be bring to dance parties because of the dark mood and slamming heaviness. The instrumentals might have better potential though...

"Wälsungenblut" (Blood) is the more interesting of the two interludes, having a didgeridoo and choir. One song really worth talking about is "Krüppel" (Cripple). Dero's vocals sound close to growling as he details a story about getting kicked, punched, crippled... basically getting beaten up by vicious bullies. Now this is the Oomph I need in the lyrics that are heavy as the gradually distorted music. The emotion is what makes the song special in its own right. Sadly, there's no later song like that in this album. The other interlude "Filthy Playground" has piano to add to the sad mood of the concept.

The songs I've mentioned make me understand why fans of German industrial metal see Wunschkind as a classic. However, I just can't get into a lot of this band or other Neue Deutsche Härte bands like Rammstein, Megaherz, and Eisbrecher. I'm fan of industrial metal, but NDH still ain't for me....

Favorites: "Born-Praised-Kissed", "Wunschkind", "Wälsungenblut", "Krüppel", "Filthy Playground"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 28, 2023 01:48 PM

OK, this one is slightly better that the previous album. Defekt has heavier guitars and drums, and more powerful vocals that have more shouting than singing. There are some more songs that are pretty cool, including the lyrics, despite still using German often.

However, not all of the songs are any good, so I'll just talk about the ones that are, starting with one of the best here, "Willst Du Hoffnung?" (Do You Want Hope?). Another track "Hast Du Geglaubt?" (Did You Believe?) has a more experimental vibe almost like what Dir En Grey would have a few years later at the other side of the globe. Perhaps the true best of the album is "Come and Kick Me". I don't have much words to describe its beauty!

"Mitten Ins Herz" (Right in the Heart) continues that experimental vibe. "Your Love Is Killing Me" sounds strangely like 2000-era Embodyment in the clean-sung verses, but then the usual heaviness is still around. Another one of my favorites is the 7-minute closing title track, ending the album in amazing young genius!

As heavy as this music is, it doesn't measure up to bands that I like such as Hatebreed. Fans of Rammstein, and to a lesser extent Slipknot, might dig this....

Favorites (only ones I like): "Willst Du Hoffnung?", "Hast Du Geglaubt?", "Come and Kick Me", "Mitten Ins Herz", "Your Love Is Killing Me", "Defekt"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 28, 2023 01:03 PM

Need some Oomph in your German industrial rock/metal? I don't. The idea of producing a German mix of the industrial of the Laibach, the metal of Pantera, and the in-between of Ministry doesn't cut it for me. Nonetheless, the then-newly created subgenre of Neue Deutsche Härte would motivate bands like Die Krupps and KMFDM to push their metal direction further and spawn the second NDH band and the most popular, Rammstein!

Only a few tracks in the album stand out for me, one of them being the best here, "Sex". Another good track is "Feiert das Kreuz" (Celebrate the Cross), though the intro sample makes me think of a Hitler-Exorcist crossover. "Breathtaker" is indeed what the title suggests. "Ich Bin Der Weg" (I'm the Way) is quite underrated and deserves some listening.

As interesting as it is to hear an innovative start of Neue Deutsche Härte, Sperm exemplifies why it's not for me. The lack of consistency in the writing, along with the German sex-ridden lyrics, can be a struggle most of the time. Nonetheless, I can witness how influential the album is at starting something different....

Favorites (only ones I like): "Sex", "Feiert das Kreuz", "Breathtaker", "Ich Bin Der Weg"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 28, 2023 09:08 AM
Misery Loves Co.

The 90s was when different possibilities were really expanding beyond metal's classic 80s genres. The decade started with the introduction of groove metal that, along with alt-metal and later nu metal, would take the place of thrash metal in the reign of fame. Then by the mid-90s, industrial metal has just ascended out of the underground and gained global prominence. Vocalist Patrik Wiren has covered all those metal tracks in earlier bands leading up to this one to vent his anger, Misery Loves Co.

The band formed around 1992/1993 and recorded a song for the compilation Extreme Close Up. Gaining some good reception as a result of that, the band consisting of Wiren, guitarists Örjan Örnkloo (who also does drum programming) and Michael Hahne (who also plays bass) and ready for some industrial action!

At the start of "My Mind Still Speaks", you already know what a great industrial metal journey this is gonna be. The abrasive metal guitars play through the vocal blend of the growls of death metal and the singing of alternative metal. "Kiss Your Boots" has heavy rhythm marching on. "Need Another One" is more of a goth/alt-metal ballad-ish song in which Wiren's singing make the softer sections sound like a more industrial HIM. "Sonic Attack" starts off in a ballad-like pace, then the sharp riffing aggression continues.

"This is No Dream" is a memorable heavy thrasher in this industrial environment of theirs. "Happy?" is another ballad-like song. Wiren sings an excellent chorus over guitars as bleak as Ministry at that time. Then there's the FX-ridden intermission "Scared".

The dynamic "I Swallow" is a heavy pounder with a bit of melody. Next up, "Private Hell" is a winning standout with sharp riffing especially in the chorus. "The Only Way" is pleasantly aggressive, as the fast guitars can level up a mosh pit quite well along with the p*ssed-off vocals. I enjoy the headbanging heaviness that occurs in "2 Seconds", having some of that 90s groove to end this industrial metal ride.

After released two more albums, the band split up during the millennium turn. He could've reformed his earlier thrash band Midas Touch to keep up with the thrash rebirth, but that didn't happen. Misery Loves Co. didn't return until 2016. Still the band's 1995 debut is quite interesting and has made up for classic-era metal's temporary death....

Favorites: "My Mind Still Speaks", "Need Another One", "This is No Dream", "I Swallow", "Private Hell", "2 Seconds"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 28, 2023 02:15 AM
Vae Solis

It's interesting how the creators of the first side of Napalm Death's Scum, known as the founding album of grindcore, would go on to make their own industrial metal acts. Justin Broadrick would focus on Godflesh, and Mick Harris and Nick Bullen would create... SCORN.

The debut album from this project fits well at home in the Earache label. Although Vae Solis mostly shows its industrial direction, slight traces of thrashy death metal that Harris was moving away from for the project. This can be heard vocally from Bullen's growls though they're not too far of Broadrick's vocals. Also giving the album a Godflesh vibe is the guitar contributions from Broadrick. However, most of what happens in the album is strong spacey ambience with occasional reverb within the metal.

"Spasm" rolls with a bit of thrash similar to Meshuggah at that time, while staying firmly in industrial metal. One of the more basic Godflesh-sounding tracks is "Suck and Eat You". There's more of the fast thrash in "Hit", having a great connection to Napalm Death in the band's punky side rather than their hyperspeed.

There's some extra percussion used in "Walls of My Heart". The single "Lick Forever Dog" is not really worth DJ usage but it's one of the best of the album. "Thoughts of Escape" is another Godflesh-like tune. The exceptional "Deep in - Eaten Over and Over" is one of the most dreadful-sounding tracks I've heard in industrial metal, almost like funeral doom before the genre was fully developed, though some might be reminded more of Swans than Skepticism. A solid break from the fast pounders!

"On Ice" is a bit sh*tty but still OK. "Heavy Blood" is more mid-paced, but it slowly rises in heaviness, sounding like Godflesh at that time mixed with one of the slower and more melodic Fear Factory ballads. The album rating would've been higher if not for the filler CD bonus tracks, which I don't wanna mention, and the only one of the bonus tracks I enjoy is "Scum After Death". Napalm Death fans might recognize the opening bass from their song "Scum". The 3 voice samples that appear in the song are from I Drink Your Blood: "Do we pray?" "Satan was an acid head." "Together we'll all freak out!"

Bullen's vocals are what stand out in the original tracks, ranging from direct singing to deathly snarls. Again I would've given the album a higher rating if I was only rating the LP edition, which is filled with decently solid industrial metal that can sometimes be brutal or ambient....

Favorites: "Hit", "Lick Forever Dog", "Deep in - Eaten Over and Over", "Heavy Blood", "Scum After Death"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 28, 2023 12:45 AM
Awaken the Guardian

Connecticut progressive metal legends Fates Warning & I have a very long association going back over three decades now. I’ve always held them in high esteem since becoming infatuated with their classic “Point of View” single in 1991 & subsequently purchasing the “Parallels” album on CD but strangely my enjoyment of that album didn’t see me exploring the rest of their back-catalogue much until Ben & I conducted our research on their earlier releases for the Metal Academy podcast in the mid-2010s. Fates Warning’s crude 1984 debut album “Night on Bröcken” certainly had its charms with its American take on the NWOBHM sound often resembling Iron Maiden a little too closely to see the band differentiating themselves from the pack. Their 1985 sophomore album “The Spectre Within” was another story altogether though as it saw Fates Warning fully indulging in their more progressive Rush influences &, in doing so, virtually creating what we know now as the progressive metal sound. Don’t get me wrong, there were certainly a few earlier underground records that had a crack at it but none managed to incorporate progressive elements into their sound so smoothly & cohesively & I found “The Spectre Within” to be a really strong record with even the unusual high-pitched histrionics of front man John Arch failing to tarnish the challenging & universally professional instrumentation.

This is my first focused investigation of Fates Warning’s highly praised 1986 follow-up “Awaken The Guardian” though & my expectations were very high off the back of “The Spectre Within” which I awarded a well-deserved four star rating during the podcast. I’d been looking forward to seeing where the band would take their sound next as “Parallels” (their sixth album) was a little more restrained from a purely technical point of view. “Awaken The Guardian”, however, sees Fates Warning surging forwards with the complex progressive approach they'd begun exporing on “The Spectre Within” in what would have to have been one of the most ambitious undertakings for metal to the time. I mean this record could very well break a few people’s brains from a purely rhythmic point of view as it’s relentless in its pursuit of unusual & ever-changing time signatures. Then when you throw in Arch’s vocals which go even further than before with their melodic experimentation you get a very unusual record that sounds like nothing before it & very few after it too.

But this brings me to my criticisms of “Awaken The Guardian”. Despite being a unanimously successful & highly revered release in my household, “The Spectre Within” did struggle a little with its balance between expansive artistic license & genuinely memorable song-writing with only album highlight “The Apparition” seeing Fates Warning creating the much sought-after "classic song” as opposed to a very impressive & interesting technical display. The rest of the material simply didn’t possess the hooks that are required to have the listener singing along for days afterwards, a task that’s already hard enough given Arch’s inimitable operatic style which requires a level of acceptance in regard to taking the good with the bad. “Awaken The Guardian” struggles a little more in this regard, perhaps due to the even more overtly progressive instrumental approach which sees Arch having to force his melodies to work over rhythms that are already hard enough to digest. Despite what fans will have you believe, Arch DOES sing out of key quite regularly here & it can be grating if you’re not able to achieve some level of respect for the aural adventure he takes you on. Personally, I’m able to achieve that balance but, despite the fact that there's nothing close to a bad track on offer, there just aren’t enough truly memorable hooks included to warrant all of the praise & I find myself relying on the heavier instrumental parts of the album that see the band dipping into US power metal territory (see “Valley of the Dolls” or “Prelude To Ruin”) to take me to greater heights. Unfortunately Fates Warning can’t quite sustain it for long enough for my liking though. The more restrained album highlight “Guardian” is certainly a strong track but is it a genuine classic like “The Apparition” was? I don’t think so personally & things aren't helped by a fairly thin production job either.

Look, if you’re a prog tragic then “Awaken The Guardian” is probably a bit of a no-brainer but I can’t say that I regard it as highly as “The Spectre Within” or the better works from prog metal contemporaries like Queensryche & Dream Theater who are simply better at getting that technicality vs song-writing balance right. Admittedly both benefit from much more traditionally talented front men but I would happily have accepted a bit less rhythmic extravagance & a little more of a focus on making the sort of captivating heavy metal anthems that Crimson Glory are so successful at.

Daniel Daniel / May 27, 2023 10:40 PM
Butcher the Weak

I first became aware of Dallas-based slam death metal establishment Devourment back in 1997/98 through their “Impaled” demo which I picked up through the tape trading scene. I remember really digging it too although I’d start my decade-long sabbatical from the metal scene shortly afterwards & wouldn’t return to metal until 2009 when I’d immediately looked to catch up on what I’d missed from my beloved brutal death metal scene. The band’s 1999 debut album “Molesting The Decapitated” would be my first point of call as many a pundit seemed to be claiming it as a seminal record for the scene at the time. On paper that album was always going to appeal to my particular taste profile however it certainly wasn’t without its flaws which left me wondering whether Devourment would improve on those with subsequent releases, particularly given the long period between their debut & the release of their sophomore album “Butcher The Weak”. The gap was mainly due to the incarceration of guitarist Ruben Rosas (ironically on the day that “Molesting The Decapitated” was released) which triggered a series of splits & reformations that would derail Devourment's immediate plans for world domination but “Butcher The Weak” would finally see the light of day as an independent release in 2005. Devourment would be picked up by Minnesota label Brutal Bands shortly afterwards though & the label would facilitate the re-recording of the whole record so there are technically two versions of this release, the second & arguably more accepted version being the one I’m reviewing today.

Those that were familiar with “Molesting The Decapitated” prior to checking out “Butcher The Weak” likely weren’t surprised by what they heard as its successor doesn’t try to change the formula much but it does manage to improve on it a touch. There were a number of obstacles I faced in my appreciation of Devourment’s first up effort & the completely unintelligible, ultra-gutteral drainpipe vocal performance was certainly one of them. Bassist Mike Majewski has taken over the microphone duties from Rosas this time with the former front man opting to take on all of the guitars instead but the result is still the same with Majewski making very little attempt to enunciate his words. This will definitely be a dealbreaker for those metalheads not already accustomed to slam/brutal death metal as you’ll rarely hear a more overt example of that technique than you do here, at least not from a vocalist that’s not using a vocoder like is commonly the case with the goregrind scene. The other major issue I had with the debut was the sloppy drumming & tightly-wound, pinging snare drum sound. Thankfully new drummer Eric Park has been gifted with a much more natural & powerful snare sound this time which makes the whole record a lot more easily digestible. Unfortunately though, Park doesn’t seem to be much better than former skinsman Brad Fincher at performing blast beats & gravity blasts so you’ll still find a lot of examples where Park struggles to keep up with the rest of the band once the tempo starts to reach light-speed.

Thankfully though, Devourment are at their best when they’re sticking to their signature slow-to-mid tempo slam riffs & you’ll do well to find a more obvious example of the slam death metal sound than this particular record as it doesn’t hold back at all in presenting its differentiating element. I’ve always been a sucker for the heavily palm-muted, Suffocation-style breakdown & Devourment have made a career out of replicating it through as many different variations on the theme as they can come up with. It might not be the most original or creative mode of attack but I inevitably find my body reacting in positive ways so who the fuck am I to question it, particularly when used in conjunction with some well placed double kick work. Could “Butcher The Weak” have done with some spasmatic guitar solos to help the tracks reach greater heights? Shit yeah it could have but I’ve said that about all of the Devourment records I’ve reviewed to date so I’m relatively at peace with it at this point.

So just where does “Butcher The Weak” sit as far as Devourment’s discography & the overall slam death metal scene goes? Well, I’d argue that it’s a minor improvement on “Molesting The Decapitated” & one of the better examples of the slam death sound you’ll find. It would take the band thirteen years to top it with 2019’s “Obscene Majesty” album being Devourment’s finest full-length in my opinion. If you hate slam death metal then this record ain’t gonna change that in the slightest. In fact, it’ll likely further repel you if I’m being honest but fans of bands like Abominable Putridity, Kraanium & Internal Bleeding will no doubt find a fair bit to enjoy in “Butcher The Weak”.

Daniel Daniel / May 27, 2023 09:17 PM
The Tomb Awaits

I often overlook Entrails for their more renowned Swedish compatriots, but the fact remains that had the band been happier with their demo recordings back in 1990 (they were not and so released nothing for 20 years) they could have made a bigger splash in the Swede-death scene. Whilst perhaps not as much of a "go-to" option as say Entombed or Dismember, Jimmy and co are still an absolute machine of riffs as you would expect from any band present at the inception of the sub-genre back in the 90's. Of the few albums I have heard of Entrails' (Obliteration is on CD somewhere from memory), The Tomb Awaits is perhaps the most powerful one I have heard. Crowd pleasers such as Crawling Death and Undead are monster tracks that cannot fail to get the blood pumping. Between Jimmy and Mathias there are enough riffs here to fill your house and still have enough spare to occupy the garage also.

Dan Swanö makes a guest vocal appearance on Eaten by the Dead and he was also responsible for mixing and mastering the album - and as usual does a fucking sterling job. Adde Mitroulis stamps his d-beat credentials all over tracks such as The Slithering Below and he and bassist Jocke share vocals on the album also. What you end up with here is twelve tracks of solid and highly consistent in quality Swede-death that easily holds a candle to the likes of Dismember and Entombed. Don't worry about eating your greens to grow up big and strong. Eat these riffs instead and you will end up built like a brick shithouse!

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / May 27, 2023 03:21 PM
Nightcrawlers: The KMFDM Remixes

I gotta be honest, I was expecting more from this White Zombie/KMFDM collaboration when I decided to give a listen and a review. The originals sound cool, but the remixes not so much. "Thunder Kiss '65" is a classic banger, and it makes me wonder if I should check out its original album. However, both of its remixes are decent yet not so special. Same thing between "Black Sunshine" and its remix. This is only for true fans of White Zombie. For me it's just a bit of a f***ing letdown....

Favorites (only the original tracks): "Thunder Kiss '65", "Black Sunshine"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 27, 2023 02:55 PM

The tragedy that encompasses the content of this album is an impossible level of suffering for me to understand, both for Aleah Stanbridge herself and also Juha Raivio.  The album makes a strong case for helping me to at least try to fathom the anguish and desolation that the horrible loss of someone you are really close to and the ongoing grief.  Indeed, part of the success of Moonflowers is that it does not simply dwell in acoustic ballads draped in gothic shrouds.  The album takes time to explore a variety of genres and styles whilst still staying true to it melancholic and melodic gothic/doom tropes, as the band seek various pastures from which to showcase the tumultuous emotion at the centre of the record.

For the most part it works.  I am going to go on record as saying that my least favourite aspect to the album are Mikko Kotamäki vocal's.  However, the instrumentation is absolutely sublime in all of its shadowy textures and ethereal melodicism.  I cannot help but be absolutely enchanted by those guitar leads and those chunky, simplistic and yet so effective riffs. The elements of symphonia are presented so eloquently that it is impossible not to be taken in the dense mournful atmospheres that they create.  Tracks like Woven Into Sorrow and All Hallows' Grieve are absolute masterpieces of constantly shifting form and growing elements, some of which I miss after even a few listens through and continue to identify on later listens even now.

I do however get the sense that Mikko is tested beyond his capabilities on more than one occasion.  This is not necessarily a challenge of his range (no Halford heroics needed here folks), more that I find his vocals at times lack conviction.  This is especially true of the death metal vocals he deploys which border on contrived for me.  Were it not for the obvious brilliance going on virtually everywhere else on the album then this could become an issue that would certainly pull down the rating of the record by a couple of stars.  Thankfully the combination of the musicianship and the guest appearances (in particular Cammie Gilbert form Oceans of Slumber on All Hallows' Grieve) offer more than sufficient compensation here.

Moonflowers is my first venture into the music of Swallow the Sun and despite my vocal gripes there is more than enough here to snare my interest in the wider discography of the group.

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / May 26, 2023 09:07 PM

The 1985 debut album from French metal establishment ADX represented somewhat of a gap in my metal knowledge as it's quite highly regarded, particularly in their home country. ADX are still running strong after twelve albums & 41 years in the business but I'd previously only heard their 1990 fourth album "Weird Visions" & it didn't exactly set my world on fire to be fair. "Execution" is a much stronger effort though with the band showing off some highly accomplished chops & benefiting from a raw yet razor-sharp production job that perfectly accentuates ADX's strengths.

ADX's sound sits somewhere in between the high velocity speed metal of Savage Grace & the NWOBHM-influenced French heavy metal of H-Bomb & early Sortilege, perhaps being a little closer to the heavy metal side of the equation when examined closely. There's a great energy about everything the band do here with the shredding guitar solos being the clear highlight for me personally. The weakest link is an inconsistent performance by front man Phil whose voice isn't the strongest you'll find & probably isn't helped by his opting to perform in his native tongue either. The instrumental component manages to cover for him for the most part though with only the unintelligent closer "Caligula" falling short of par for me personally. It's also the most popular song on the tracklisting though so go figure. My favourite number is heavy metal anthem "Prière de Satan" which features some lovely melodic guitar work & is easily Phil's most effective contribution with some highly memorable vocal hooks. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that it's a French metal classic.

So "Execution" is a pretty decent listen overall, even if it's fallen well short of the classic status that some would have you believe it to be worthy of. It's probably the most high energy release I've heard from the early French scene though which differentiates it from other respectable records from bands like Blaspheme, High Power, Trust or Warning. In fact, I'd imagine that most speed metal freaks will probably get a lot more out of "Execution" than I do as speed metal doesn't tend to be a genre that I find myself connecting with as readily as your traditional brand of heavy metal.

Daniel Daniel / May 26, 2023 07:28 AM
Musta seremonia

I hadn't revisited this cult classic of a mid-90's demo tape in many years but Ben recently asked me for my opinion on it & I noticed that I hadn't rated it on Metal Academy yet so I felt it was about time I gave it another sitting. The six tracks included run for just over half an hour which is a good length for this kind of release &, while the production may be really raw, it loses none of it's effectiveness. In fact, I feel that the crushing down-tuned riffage & depressive atmospherics are only enhanced by it which is the sign of a true underground gem. I really love the deep death growls too as they're wonderfully monstrous but don't sound generic in the slightest.

Musically, Rippikoulu's sound is a tale of two cities. On the one hand you have the dark, suffocating doom/death of bands like Spectral Voice, Winter & diSEMBOWELMENT, only it's been combined with the grimy, mid-paced, tremolo-picked conventional death metal of early 90’s Bolt Thrower & the outcome is nothing short of splendid. Perhaps the lack of production can make a lot of the material sound a touch samey but it's only a short release & the couple of more atmospheric highlights that close out the demo certainly stand out, particularly the spectacular "Pimeys yllä Jumalan maan" which about as good as doom/death gets. If I'm being picky I'd say that the faster parts are a little less effective than the doomier sections but this is a quality effort from a band that clearly showed a lot of unfulfilled potential.

Daniel Daniel / May 25, 2023 09:15 PM
To Be Cruel

To Be Cruel is only Khanate's fourth album in the 23 years since their formation and it has been fourteen years since previous release, Clean Hands Go Foul. To be fair, the band had originally split in 2006 with little prospect of reforming, it appeared, and the main man behind Khanate is none other than Stephen O'Malley, so he has been otherwise occupied with Sunn O))) and his zillion other projects for the last two or three decades. The other members of Khanate are drummer Tim Wyskida and bassist James Plotkin who, along with Runhild Gammelsæter were both members of legendary, one album only, drone metal outfit Khlyst and vocalist Alan Dubin who, along with Plotkin was in New Jersey grindcore/industrial legends O.L.D. and is more recently the voice behind drone/noise outfit Gnaw. So with a pedigree like that, don't go into To Be Cruel with expectations of hearing anything even remotely melodic.

The album consists of three tracks, all clocking in at around the twenty-minute mark and a degree of patience will serve you well as you tackle the ensuing hour and one minute of hulking insanity. In fact, even with the patience of the Dalai Lama, the majority probably wouldn't get very far with To Be Cruel because this is not music for everyone. It is grindingly slow, exceedingly sparse, hulkingly menacing and lacking any kind of melody or hooks for the uninitiated to hang on to. O'Malley's massive, hulking guitar chords, bolstered by Plotkin's glacially-paced, seismic bass and Wyskida's sparse drum hits and crashing percussion set the scene with an atmosphere of terrifying menace, like a slow-motion, one-take camera shot of a walkthrough of a serial killer's homestead, as dread builds against the appearance of the killer himself. And when he appears, in the guise of Alan Dubin's genuinely disturbing vocals, you know you have experienced true fear. Dubin's vocal performance sounds truly unhinged and if you thought Edgy from Burning Witch sounded scarily deranged, then Dubin is about to take you even further away from any grasp on sanity, whether he is screaming at the top of his lungs in frustrated defiance or cajoling with gentle whispers, you feel you are in the presence of a mind that is warped beyond any recognition of reality. The excessive distortion, those percussive crashes and Dubin's howling of frustrated agony all combine to produce one of the grimiest and scariest sounds on a drone album. Mental pictures of delapidated barns full of rusted scythes and rotting pig carcasses insert themselves in your brain unheeded as you seem to be subjected to the workings of Leatherface's inner monologue.

I am a massive fan of Khanate's debut album, but they may even have bettered it this time around. I don't know if working on it during the pandemic in '20/'21 added an extra aura of despair and hopelessness to the recording process, but whatever mysterious alchemical formula they happened upon seems to have been a lightning in a bottle event that has very possibly produced the last word in extreme doom metal albums. Do not listen to To Be Cruel in the dark if you wish to preserve your sanity. Makes Texas Chainsaw seem like a Disney movie and Lovecraft like a bedtime story.

Sonny Sonny / May 25, 2023 03:26 PM
Official Bootleg: Demo Series: Awake Demos: 1994

As would be expected when any band releases an album consisting of demos, these tracks lack the polished production or finesse that a band like Dream Theater are known for, thus making this one strictly for the diehard fans.

Most of the songs are near-identical to how they appear on the 'Awake' album, with the only noticeable changes being slight differences to some arrangements, lyrics, riffs or solos.

If you like 'Awake' then it's a nice look at how the songs were originally arranged, and as usual with this band, the musicianship is fantastic. However, because this is nothing more than a demo album, this is best kept for the Dream Theater collectors who need to own everything.

Like me. And my bank account does not approve.

MartinDavey87 MartinDavey87 / May 25, 2023 02:48 PM
Tales of the Void

Labyrinthus Stellarum are a Ukrainian three-piece from Odessa in Ukraine, who must be commended for even being able to get an album out considering the challenges they must currently be facing. They were founded by vocalist and keyboard player, Alexander Andronati along with guitarists Alexander Kostetskyi and Misha Andronati (who is a mere fifteen years old) and Tales of the Void is their debut release. I was tempted to check Labyrinthus Stellarum out after being quite struck by their track Void Dwellers which is actually the opener from Tales of the Void when it was featured in May's Academy playlist for the North.

The trio play a combination of atmospheric black metal and dungeon synth with a space theme which, admittedly, isn't the most original theme for an atmo-black outfit, but it is carried off with such beautiful arrangements that lack of originality is never an issue that leaps to mind. They don't just intersperse their black metal with some synth-laden interludes, although that does occur, they are also unafraid to incorporate the synths into the black metal sections which seems to produce a really nice, mellowing effect and actually makes Tales of the Void an incredibly relaxing album to listen to. They may have taken influence from the likes of Darkspace, particularly thematically, but their style of black metal is more laid back than Wroth's often desperate-sounding earnestness. I know I have probably made the album sound more blackgaze-y than it is, but I think fans of Deafheaven and Alcest may enjoy what these Ukrainians are delivering. The actual black metal content of Tales of the Void sounds to me more similar to Saor than to Paysage d'Hiver and when that is combined with the gently soaring synth work then it assumes a quite epic visage that is well-suited to nature-themed BM. I don't think it encapsulates the atmosphere of space as well as the top cosmic BM practitioners like Mare Cognitum and Darkspace as it feels a little too warm and earthy and doesn't really evoke the frigidity of cosmic majesty as effectively as the true masters. The synths do sometimes offer a weird, space-y dimension, such as those present on the track Cosmic Winds, but again, for me, they just as often evoke earthbound phenomena like rain or waterfalls. Of course this is my interpretation of what I am hearing and others may disagree, but I feel cosmic BM should be a little more frigid-sounding than this.

That said, this is still an exceedingly promising debut from what appears to be a young and inexperienced trio of musicians. The tracks are very well put together, the guitars are layered to wonderful effect and the synths add a nice additional dimension. Alexander Andronati has a decent shrieking vocal delivery, although his voice is buried in the mix occasionally, especially when the synths are present as they do tend to dominate. I can see this appealing to those who may not be regular black metal fans, as well as the more seasoned atmo-black veterans. No doubt the trve will take against it, but they do with anything that even hints at any production values, so there's nothing new there. A band well worth keeping an eye on as they do seem to have cracked one of the key elements of any type of music, which is the songwriting.

Sonny Sonny / May 25, 2023 02:05 PM
L'ombre de la croix

Epheles were formed in 1997 by french brothers Malphas and Nephtys (possibly not their real names!) L'ombre de la croix is a four track mini album that marked the band's debut release, being released in May of 2001. It does suffer from some production issues and sounds like a reasonable quality demo, but as this is black metal we are talking about that is by no means an insurmountable hurdle. This is viciously feral-sounding black metal that is also incredibly atmospheric, despite some of the atmosphere being lost in the production. Along with the blasting and Nephtys' keening, shrieking vocals there is a liberal use of keyboard layering, ambient sections and slower riffing parts which makes the tracks feel quite narrative. Opener Winds of Despair, for example, tells the tale of the narrator's bleak existence since the death of his beloved, with lyrics that My Dying Bride would be proud of and sorrowful ambient parts that are usurped by rabid, raving shrieks and intense blasting as if his sorrow is unable to be contained.

Epheles songwriting is actually quite strong, especially the first couple of tracks which are the longest at nine and fourteen minutes and displays a strong sense of atmosphere and variety, whilst maintaining the fundamental essence of evilness that is the basis of black metal. Look, if you like your metal to be crystal clear and well-produced then you are best looking elsewhere, but if you thrive on the lo-fi gloriousness that really good black metal can possess then I think you may be pleasantly surprised by L'ombre de la croix.

Sonny Sonny / May 24, 2023 02:03 PM

If the only thing I took away from my deep dive into the early years of death metal was my re-evaluation of Death and elevation of Chuck Schuldiner to the level of metal god, then it would have been a worthwhile exercise. Being a death metal numpty at the outset I had, even here on the forum pages of Metal Academy no less, expressed scepticism that Death were all that. Approaching the band's releases chronologically and in temporal context revealed that yes, indeed, they were all that and Chuck Schuldiner may well have been the most evolutionary of all metal songwriters. A question that begs some contemplation is where would metal be now if Chuck had lived a longer life, what the hell would he be playing nowadays and is there anything even remotely like it in existence? I think it is fair to say that Chuck was indeed the very rare case of a true musical visionary.

Where Death excelled is that although they constantly changed, literally from album to album, they didn't throw the baby out with the bathwater and always gave their existing fanbase a way into their new material by a process of evolution of their sound rather than a complete overhaul. There may never be a better example of a metal songwriter's evolution than Death's seven albums. It is almost as if with each release it is possible to trace the individual steps of Death's metamorphosis.

For Death's fourth album, Human, out went the rhythm section of bassist Terry Butler and the much-maligned drummer Bill Andrews (after a legal battle over the pair's use of the Death name on a European tour) and surprisingly, considering how big an impact he had on Spritual Healing, out too went guitarist James Murphy. Previously Chuck had written material with other members, but for Human he wrote all the tracks in isolation and, possibly realising he needed band members with the chops to do his new material justice, in came exceedingly capable musicians in Sadus bassist, Steve Di Giorgio, and Cynic members, drummer Sean Reinert and guitarist Paul Masvidal. This was an inspired move, as there is a greater emphasis on technicality on Human that is pulled off brilliantly by the four members.

The sound on Human has a greater clarity than previous Death albums and allows the multifarious riffs and more complex rhythms distinction in the mix that may have been lacking in the earlier albums' muddier production. Both Reinert and Di Giorgio's amazing contributions can be heard distinctly and their technical prowess in both maintaining the rhythms and adding interesting work of their own to the shifting soundscapes is obvious for all to hear. Paul Masvidal's lead work is excellent and he takes a jazzier kind of approach to his soloing than Murphy's more traditional heavy metal approach, and this increasing technicality and diversity seems to be one of the major reasons for his recruitment into Death's lineup. The solo halfway through Secret Face, for example, brings a spanish, almost flamenco-like flavour to the track which, especially in 1991, seems like an impossibility in death metal, but is pulled off here with aplomb.

Chuck Schuldiner had always written great riffs, but on Human they became more complex, seemingly evolving and mutating as each track progresses, like some kind of virus. Despite this increasing complexity and technicality Human still has some incredibly powerful death metal riffing - the main riff of Lack of Comprehension is an absolute killer that is as muscular as anything you could have heard at the time. Human is comprised of truly memorable tracks that stick in the mind well after the silver disc stops spinning and this is a huge plus for me as I often find a lot of technical metal is so focussed on it's own complexities that listenability is sacrificed at the altar of technicality for technicality's sake. Just when you think you have the measure of Human, though, they toss in instrumental Cosmic Sea, which is an insane piece of work that comes at you with pretty much everything Chuck could muster, atmospheric keyboards, soaring solos, weird, otherworldly dissonance and another brutally heavy riff all combine for one of the most interesting metal instrumental tracks you may ever hear. Then on top of Human's sublime instrumentation there are the vocals. Chuck Schuldiner is a seminal death metal vocalist and I think the main thing that makes his vocals so great is that they sound equally as horrified as they are horrifying, as if even he himself cannot bear the evil tidings he brings.

At 33 minutes the album is Death's shortest, but there is just so much to digest within it's slight runtime that it is hard to believe only half-an-hour has passed come album's end. This is as rigorous a workout as you could reasonably have expected back in 1991 and most bands would fail to get even close to producing a half hour of metal as genuinely awe-inspiring as Human.

Sonny Sonny / May 24, 2023 01:11 PM

This is a wonderful album that more black metal fans should experience. I first heard back when it was released and it's one of those albums that I find myself going back to over and over for another fix. I know it seems redundant to use the word atmospheric when describing a release in a subgenre that contains the word itself, but these Germans completely filled all 54 minutes of Andacht with it. The black metal itself has a heap of emotion enducing riffs and (surprisingly audible) basslines, but the addition of moving synths, gregorian chants and snippets from various sources (I recognise Bram Stoker's Dracula for one) take it to a whole other level. These aspects also help to give each of the six tracks their own identity and, unlike many atmospheric black metal albums, I'm never in doubt as to which track I'm listening to. I've always assumed that this is an album deserving of five stars, but now that I've given it a few concentrated listens in the past week, I've come to realise that it does lose steam towards the end. The final two tracks are not quite as great as the first four, and it's this drop that has resulted in me settling on a high 4.5. Andacht is still an album I highly recommend to anyone that enjoys black metal.

As a final note, I discovered today that the band utilised a drum machine for this recording. I'm sure Daniel will tell me it's obvious, but I must admit it's never even crossed my mind throughout all the listens over the years. I'm not one of those elitists that think drums have to be real for the music to be authentic, so it makes no difference to me. Either way, they're clearly done extremely well here.

Ben Ben / May 24, 2023 05:41 AM
Steel the Light

There was a bit of a minor scene happening in Seattle in the mid-1980's with bands like Q5, TKO, Culprit, Nightshade & Mistrust all floating around & often sharing members. "Steel The Light" is the most highly regarded release to come out of that lot & sees Q5 approaching NWOBHM-style heavy metal & an AC/DC-inspired brand of hard rock in equal measure. Jonathan Scott K's powerful vocals are well suited to this kind of music & the presence of guitarist Floyd Rose (yes, the man behind the locking nut/floating tremolo system) won't be lost on the guitarists out there. The album is very much a tale of two halves with the majority of the metal material appearing on the A side & the more commercially accessible tracks filling the B side. That B side does include a couple of duds in the AOR-infused glam metal ballad "Come & Gone" & the generic AC/DC-plagiarizing "Rock On" but the rest of the album is quite entertaining, particularly the classic title track which draws upon lumbering Dio-fronted metal anthems like "Heaven & Hell" & "Holy Diver" for influence. I also really enjoy the catchy closer "Teenage Runaway" which sees the album finishing on a high & will have you singing along in your head for hours afterward. If you like heavy rockers like Krokus, Pretty Maids & Culprit then you'll no doubt find a bit to like about "Steel The Light".

Daniel Daniel / May 23, 2023 09:31 PM

I have done countless double-takes on this album purely on the basis that this was all put together by one person.  A Chinese, one man bm project with an output frequency to rival Jute Gyte to boot.  As with Jute, there is a lot going on here.  The difference here is that not all of the content is bm.  As other site members have pointed out there are elements of thrash metal in here and the spazzing delivery of it all definitely smells of mathcore aesthetic (even though there is no such content per se).

Those punishing levels of dissonance do get lost in the swarming chaos overall for me and I find this to come across as being more confused than well fused together.  The variety in the content I sense (if I had the time and/or patience) is not that all far apart in terms of a range or scale of variation, but it is so inaccessibly pitched that I cannot bring myself to take the minutes out of my week to try and map out themes.  Do not get me wrong, for one man to deliver all this is astonishing, even though it doesn't work all that well for me I have to admire the work.  The fact that he is getting this out of a far flung corner of China is only all the more unbelievable.  But this admiration can only go so far when I am largely unable to recall any of the record despite playing it four times this morning.

Too many ideas flung at something is never a good combination for my ears and Τρωθησομένη is no exception I am afraid.

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / May 22, 2023 01:55 PM
Abandon All Life

A nasty little burst of abrasive and aggressive grindcore that will give your ear'oles a good pummelling with most of it's ten tracks. It isn't exactly relentless, however as the two longest tracks are delivered at a more considered pace, but it is generally speaking an exercise in nothing less than aural violence. There is blasting aplenty and drummer Taylor Young is given a pretty intense workout, but luckily he seems more than up to the task. The guitar tone is brilliant, aided I believe by Kurt Ballou of Converge who was producer on "Abandon All Life", and maintains a terrific clarity despite it's thick crunchy sound.

The two slower tracks, that is " Wide Open Wound" and closer "Suum Cuique" are, unsurprisingly I suppose, the ones that appeal to me most, as they deliver more on the atmosphere front with looming, menacing riffs rather than just trying to blow your balls off! I guess grindcore records have to be taken as an overall package and the adrenaline-fuelling effect of the majority of the genre's output is the main thing as most of the songs display only minor differences in a lot of cases, and that is the case with some of the faster material here, but those slower tracks do give the listener a foothold into the tracklisting and "Suum Cuique" is actually a very effective, slower and brooding end to the record.

Where it loses marks for me, in what has become a bit of a theme with this month's features, is the vocal department. I prefer grindcore with a vocalist whose vocals are a bit more OSDM sounding like Barney Greenway or Terrorizer's Oscar Garcia and although Todd Jones doesn't actually hit "shouty toddler" level, he still sounds a bit metalcore-ish for my taste. The vocals aren't bad enough to be a deal breaker, though, and on the whole I did enjoy this a lot, it's variation in pacing and generally excellent instrumentation being huge plusses.

Sonny Sonny / May 22, 2023 01:15 PM
Blood of the Nations

One of the reasons why I don't care for Accept despite them basically writing half the material of 90% of power metal bands is the legendary Udo. He has a certain voice that I enjoy about as much as I enjoy hearing gunshots in the middle of the night. Blood of the Nations doesn't have Udo, as he has a successful enough solo career and apparently enough animosity with Wolf Hoffmann to not wish to appear for their big reunion album. So, now they got the much less annoying and much less German Mark Tornillo, out of TT Quick. Which is something I didn't really know ever. He's not some younger fellow that the old man bosses around, though considering who he is I don't doubt Tornillo didn't want to rock the boat now that he was in his dream role.
Unfortunately, I don't really care for this anymore than I do their classic period. I have a lot of minor issues but nothing really major. Andy Sneap did the production, but it's not one of his more annoying works. Doesn't fall into most modern metal production pitfalls. It's good, but nothing really feels like it excels. Nothing I would necessarily object to if forced to listen to, but I would hardly listen to it randomly myself.
Hoffmann is good at writing riffs, but he was never the best soloist. In fact, now, he's downright boring. At least I assume it's Hoffmann. I feel like I sort of gave up on the quality of these when I recognized a solo from not only an earlier album, but the same solo repeated twice, practically note for note. Also not helping, the bizarre insistence on writing long songs, very few of the tracks last as long as they should, some going on for a tedious 7 minutes. Brevity is the soul of wit as far as the kind of music Accept is going for, and this is so not brevity.
Ultimately, I don't think the positive work out too well for the album. It feels somewhat like a focus tested version of what a metal album should be like.

Morpheus Kitami Morpheus Kitami / May 21, 2023 06:49 PM
Mad Locust Rising

OK, so this four-track EP is really only about two tracks, the first being an intro to the title track and the third being a fairly faithful cover of Judas Priest's The Ripper which reveals nothing other than that maybe Priest should have recruited John Cyriis insted of Ripper Owens when Rob Halford jumped ship.

So the two tracks in question, the title track and closer Let It Be Done / The Day at Guyana, are fairly decent thrashers that tick a lot of the boxes instrumentally but, a lot like this month's Fallen feature, suffer for me in the vocal department. Basically I don't like Cyriis' screeching vocals very much at all which, considering that I have no issue with either King Diamond or Cirith Ungol's Tim Baker, is damning indeed! I think Let It Be Done is by far the stronger of the two tracks (where the singing does least damage) and the closing Day at Guyana riff is a killer that seems wasted as a mere fade-out for the track. The title track is OK, but I wouldn't go overboard for it, although if Tom Araya was singing on it instead of Cyriis then it may have been a thrash classic.

I guess I would have to say that this slight EP has had very little impact on me and I don't really feel that I missed out on anything by it slipping past me first time around.

Sonny Sonny / May 21, 2023 03:54 PM
The Apostates

"Black Metal (early); Stoner/Southern/Black Metal (later)".  That is how a well known metal website describes the genre for Glorior Belli.  Given that I had already picked the latest release in the band discography for my Review Draft for The North this month I soon found myself wondering what the hell just how the hell Stoner/Southern and Black Metal would go together.  At first it is not so obvious a blend, with album opener Sui Generis sounding like a modern take on French bm with those familiar Deathspell Omega/Aosoth style vocals soon giving cold pleasure to my ears.  As the track seems to have ended though, it kicks back in with a melodic sweep (vaguely Southern sounding in fact) and goes on for a few more seconds.  Not sure why they chose to do that but it does not actually ruin the song as you might expect it to.  With my interest piqued already, onwards into The Apostates I ventured.

The first thing that I note as being as different with Glorior Belli in terms of traditional bm stylings are the drums, they are a strong and powerful entity in the bands sound but are not your traditional blastbeats.  They undertake varied runs and fills that provide individual entertainment whilst somehow not being distracting from everything else.   The stoner influences seem to grow with every track as the album weaves its way through this expansive and intriguing landscape - like being drip-fed the band's wider influences, track by track.  Part of me was flat-out ready to hate this album before I ever heard even one note of it and although I will not pretend to be madly in love with it, I cannot help but doff my hat in the general direction of Glorior Belli for having the balls to at least attempt something different.

The Apostates never seems to entirely lose sight of its bm roots, no matter how far away it sails from them at times (the title track in particular).  Just when you get the sense the band have switched sub-genres altogether they soon bring you back into the coldest of our clans here at Metal Academy.  For the devout, second-wave worshippers amongst you, this is probably an album that borders on the sacrilegious.  If you like a bit of variety in your black metal then you would do well to give this one a few spins as it only grows with repeated plays I have found.  It does not always work brilliantly (Hangin' Crepe is just a bad attempt at Stoner in all honesty) but it could have been a lot worse if the mix of these elements was even slightly off for the majority of this record.  There is a strong argument here for dual-clan existence for The Apostates as it embraces both elements of its promise well enough to do a quality delivery of the equal parts. Hi ho, hi ho, off to the Hall of Judgement we go.

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / May 21, 2023 03:36 PM

Invernal is composed of thick, dense riffs that are common in sludge metal but which also possess a thrashiness and complexity that is much less common in the genre. This makes the album sound more kinetic than the vast majority of sludge, which by it's very nature is a slothful style of metal, but there is more than enough doominess present, despite the uptempo pacing, to justify it sitting under the Fallen's umbrella. Instrumentally this is a really fine album, the complexity of the busy riffing on a track like Somnae tenebrae is exceedingly interesting and doesn't fall into the trap of excessive "jerkiness" that I feel with a lot of technical metal and all the tracks flow along really nicely. When the band do turn in a slower-paced riff like the early riff in Corrosion Fields then they build a nice, ominous atmosphere and they aren't afraid to occasionally insert a gentle post-metal section, such as during Abyss, to break things up a little and build anticipation for their next aural assault. The production is great and very clean-sounding, which isn't always a plus for a sludge metal album, but doesn't hurt the sound here and the riffs, although they aren't as muddy as those on many other sludge releases, have a depth and "crunch" that should satisfy all but the most demanding of sludge metal fundamentalists. It is fairly unbelievable to me that this has no bass at all, because the guitar sound has such amazing depth to it that you don't even notice the four-string's absence. The drumming is excellent, but is occasionally drowned out a little, particularly on faster sections like during the middle of Erebus Dawn, however, Rafael Martinez is a busy little bee and he turns in a performance to rival even Animal from the Muppets!

The "but" is coming now I am afraid, and it is the vocals that are the subject of it. Like Vinny I think the vocals are the weak point. I actually don't mind them per se, they are not as grating or ascerbic as some sludge vocals and they don't have the shouty, "spoilt toddler" quality that turns me off to other releases so often, but they just don't sit comfortably here with the instrumental work. I have seen elsewhere that there is little variety to be found on Invernal, which I would ascribe to the singing as it does seem to sound the same on nearly every track and the accusation of lack of variety can't really be laid at the door of the instrumentalists. Invernal would definitely benefit from a more aggressive-sounding and harsher singer I feel.

In summation, this is a really excellent album musically and the two guys have done a great job of sounding like twice that many, but they really should look at drafting in another singer to push them into the top echelon of sludge metal marvellousness.

Sonny Sonny / May 21, 2023 03:34 PM
Rising From Below the Earth

Gunnar Hansen and Johnny Tombthrasher's (yes, really) contributions on Rising From Below the Earth are varied in terms of actually being able to hear them as the production job on the bands second full length is so dense that it sounds a horrid, muddy muddle in parts.  For a man who is bold enough to name himself Tombthrasher, Johnny's drums sound incredibly tishy throughout album opener At Night They Rise from Below the Earth to the point where they sound like drums on demo recorded in someone's basement.  But, these guys are from Norway and those lo-value production influences are bound to rub off I guess.  Although I see them tagged as "black/doom" on the internet, these guys are clearly blackened death doom.  The riffs of Hansen rarely lift beyond some mid-paced tempos whilst his vocals manage to inhabit a crude void between guttural death doom growls and that familiar Scandinavian black metal inflection.

The kvlt and raw ethos to the record does not come across all that well though.  When you listen to just a few tracks into the record you soon find the mind wondering as the under-mixed drums and over-produced bass soon start become the main focus instead of the actual song content.  If you are going to do death doom of any kind then you need to get the balance of your instruments right or otherwise that repetition is soon going to get monotonous and boring.  I remain unconvinced by the authenticity of the black metal mire that Faustcoven attempt to submerge themselves in and sound find myself believing that they are just inexperienced musicians who are hiding in the confines of a sub-genre where they believe that basic musicianship is an acceptable level at which to perform.

The solo/sonic efforts are painful in all honesty and boy do I regret not using my Review Draft pick more wisely this month folks.  Somethings were supposed to stay underground I guess.

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / May 21, 2023 03:08 PM
When Eden Burns

It's an understatement to say that I am not the world's biggest European Power Metal fan, but I can get along with it in small doses and whenever I am confronted by an album of EUPM, I hold out some hope that this will be the one to change my mind on the genre as a whole. Spoiler alert: this is not that album, but I didn't find listening to it to be a terrible chore either. Instrumentally When Eden Burns had a fair bit to enjoy with the odd killer, thrashy riff and some nice soloing on display. However, my primary and perennial issue with EUPM is in the vocal department where OTT delivery seems to be a requirement, as does the Queen-like layered backing vocals, all of which do sweet FA for me I'm afraid. Sure, I like vocalists who have range - I really dig such metal stalwarts as Dickinson, Halford and even Joey Belladonna - but there is just something about the lead vocals in EUPM that rubs me up the wrong way. The earnestness with which the lyrics are delivered is often just too much for me to take seriously and ultimately I find this area to be where the cheesy odour that pervades EUPM smells strongest. To be sure, Persuader vocalist Jens Carlsson is far from the most egregious example of OTT vocalists, but it's still a part of Persuader's sound, as are those irritating, choral backing vocals. Thankfully Persuader don't feel the need to double-down on the excess by drenching their sound with layer upon layer of keyboards and this is a wise move, because when they are at their best, ie when they are at their most thrashy they have quite a visceral sound, not unlike early Iced Earth.

I can't claim any great urge to revisit When Eden Burns after this and I know it may feel like I am damning with faint praise, but it is one of the least annoying euro-pm albums I have heard.

Sonny Sonny / May 19, 2023 10:01 AM
The Wretched; The Ruinous

Unearth are one of those bands that were very popular during the time I was just starting to get into metalcore during the late 2000s. They were always a band that I could enjoy their music, but never found myself returning to it in the same way as I did with Killswitch, All That Remains and, perhaps most importantly, August Burns Red.

The reason is because while Unearth and August Burns Red are quite similar structurally, ABR always had an advantage by just being slightly more progressive than your standard melodic metalcore band. Now I haven't actually listened to a mainline Unearth record since Watchers of Rule so I went in with muted expectations, but was surprised by what we ended up getting.

For starters, Unearth are not reinventing the wheel anymore than they already did back in the early/mid 2000s; very prominent guitar leads that form the harmonic progression for the chugging guitars and strong vocals from Trevor. Each track on this record has its own identity and the flow of the record is solid from top to bottom.

The mixing of the record is also quite solid. I did feel like the kick drum felt a little over-the-top on occasions, especially during breakdowns with prominent double-bass action, but when the guitars are soaring with those sweet melodic choruses, they tend to drop back and compliment the top two voices.

Unfortunately, like with August Burns Red earlier this year, Unearth are a band that are clearly stuck in that mid 2000s timbre of metalcore. As a result, The Wretched; The Ruinous does not reinvent the wheel in any meaningful way. Don't get me wrong; you will not confuse The Wretched; The Ruinous as a Killswitch Engage or Trivium album, so the band still has plenty of their identity still out there. But I was kind of hoping that this triumphant return of blazing guitar solos and chunky breakdowns might have received a modern facelift.

Best Songs: The Wretched; The Ruinous, Cremation of the Living, Invictus, Call of Existence, Broken Arrow

Saxy S Saxy S / May 18, 2023 09:34 PM

I have discovered that Black Cobra are very much a tale of two halves.  One half (the instrumentation and all round quality playing thereof) is superb.  It is full of grimy grit and abrasive surfaces that literally hack bits off you as you venture through all eight tracks of Invernal.  The pacing is relentless and scarring and literally feels like it is daring you to go any further, like it is goading the listener to have the stomach to delve further into the filthy mire of the record content.  With slightly progressive rhythms being exposed at times, the record feels like it is a lot more calculating than you may at first give it credit for.  It is this possession of a devious intellect that keeps me focused on the record for its whole duration in all honesty as for the first few listens at least I was second guessing the direction it would take next.

Still, a distinctly ugly nature permeates from Invernal and if anything it only gets uglier the longer you listen, it just happens to be in possession of a charming wit that sees you look past the unappealing façade and become drawn to the record like it is a supermodel in a flannel shirt and jeans.  The intense layering that gets deployed here is dizzying to the point of being sickening at times with some tracks feeling like they are on an eternal upwards spiral.  And, when there are brief moments of respite this tricky little record goes off into post-rock territory, just for shits and giggles before lulling you back in for another sludgey pummelling.  The drums of Martine are consistent throughout and considering there is no bass whatsoever the punch in the guitar is nothing short of phenomenal when you take time to reflect (I mean, it took me a couple of listens to realise there was no bass on this).

My challenge with Black Cobra overall comes in that second half of the equation that I have managed to avoid for two paragraphs.  The vocals.

I just cannot get on with Landrian's rugged style that although is true to form in the delivery of succinct, hardcore-influenced spats of raw aggression at the same time it suffers in the pitch and the tone department for me.  They have a sort of melodic death metal edge to them that comes across as being a tad sterile overall and dilutes the impact of the vocal prowess on the record.   Perhaps the lack of bass is where this vocal element finds itself more exposed in listening experience but I cannot help but feel that for all the power that the guitar puts into each track here, the vocals tip a fair old portion out whenever they appear.  Tight as the Black Cobra unit so very clearly is, all the hard work of the drums and guitars does feel like it is undone considerably for me by the vocals and I actually would enjoy this more if it were an instrumental record.

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / May 16, 2023 07:21 PM

Klone are yet another band I have been blissfully unaware of until now. Meanwhile is the latest of the band's eight albums and is quite a nice album of progressive alternative metal. The band are very accomplished musicians, obviously, and their sound is highly polished, as is their songwriting, for me a little too polished. At first this sounded great, but as the album proceeded it felt so controlled that it came over like it was lacking in character and more than once I wished that the band would just let rip and let themselves go. Although it sounds quite proggy it doesn't really contain any extended instrumental sections, in the vein of a band like Riverside, which would make the whole a lot more interesting. As it is, it just sounds like an exceedingly professional collection of songs that pass by without me being able to make any emotional connection with, other than in a chin-stroking admiration for their musical adroitness, but that isn't enough for me to return to a record. Although I do genuinely admire the band's skill, I am unable to engage with Meanwhile on an emotional level, so no, it isn't really for me I'm afraid.

Sonny Sonny / May 16, 2023 12:25 PM

Veil of Maya is one of the first metalcore bands I became interested in besides Trivium, and I was hoping for the former to release a new album in the same year as the latter's 2020 album. Sadly, that didn't happen, and I lost that hope...

I mean, the band was still kind of active during the 6-year gap since False Idol. They released 4 standalone singles from 2019 to 2021. Then another 4 singles were released this year and the last, all leading up to the wildly anticipated new album they appear in. [M]other was released on May 12, and I'm glad to finally have the chance to review their amazing comeback 2 weeks later, after some listening. Their impressive djentcore reign continues!

"Tokyo Chainsaw" doesn't come in quietly, rather making an immediate launch in frantic aggression. This is strictly technical brutality to leave a powerful impact. "Artificial Dose" continues the madness but pumps you up with a bouncy tempo. Then we finally get to witness the colorful melody in the chorus. The relentless "Godhead" is a hard-hitting single, and probably their heaviest since 2012's Eclipse! A vicious assault of chaos from the drums and vocals will keep you intrigued. Only a true djentcore daredevil would dare to take on the dangerous spiciness...

"[Re]connect" shines with the band's more progressive side. The riff majesty can range from beautiful melody to crushing heaviness. So smooth yet aggressive! "Red Fur" is filled with infectious electronics as the vocals soar while the charging heaviness still bites down through. The pulsating drums help out in the almost anthemic vibe. "Disco Kill Party" hits everywhere in dynamic madness. You can hear a huge variety of tones without leaving your seat. A fantastic standout!

Now, "Mother Pt. 4"... I don't know where the other first 3 parts, but HOLY MOTHER!!! This is another awesome piece of synthwave djentcore! The chaotic assault often sets itself aside for softer sections of emotional melody, and you never know where they might go next. "Synthwave Vegan" doesn't really follow the title. It's mostly barbaric fury to stomp on you until you can't breathe. "Lost Creator" keeps up the momentum up on fire as the pulverizing blasts and grooves snap your neck and spin your disconnected head around. Definitely closer to their earlier deathcore! "Death Runner" ends the album with the last of the rapid-fire destruction.

[M]other takes listeners on a journey filled with laser fires from Hell blasting into synthwave Heaven. This band can expand their creative technicality without bounds for a fine comeback fans of the band were waiting eagerly for. A 35-minute artistic beast that is a stunning djentcore addition to this year!

Favorites: "Godhead", "[Re]connect", "Disco Kill Party", "Mother Pt. 4", "Lost Creator"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 16, 2023 08:43 AM
The Wretched; The Ruinous

25 years on and Unearth continues to light the metalcore torch. Alongside other bands like Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, Hatebreed, and God Forbid, this band has engraved their name into the New Wave of American Heavy Metal stone. However, with both founding rhythm guitarist Ken Susi and recent drummer Nick Pierce having just left the band and joined As I Lay Dying, it seemed like the torch might end up being put out...

Fortunately, their new album The Wretched; the Ruinous, has some of their heaviest diversity yet! The album contains Nick Pierce's last recordings with the band, though with earlier drummer Mike Justian rejoining the band later, I hope the band can make some albums with Mike in the future to restore the perfection of The Oncoming Storm.

Starting off the action right away is the spectacular title opener. This is perhaps the best track I've heard from the band in ages! Alongside some aggressive energy, guitarist Buz McGrath packs some punches with his melodic shredding force. Vocalist Trevor Phipps keeps his vocals moving forward, especially in the ending deep viking-esque chant of "No heroes... Year zero..." Different layers give the song diverse brilliance! "Cremation of the Living" has more of that excellent metalcore sound, a Gothenburg-style anthem with the riffs, vocals, and breakdowns throwing back to the mid-2000s, in a way where they can really do it! Next track "Eradicator" again has the At the Gates/In Flames melodeath style blend with moshing metalcore breakdowns, keep you interested in the heaviness.

What makes this album show the band at its strongest is the contrasting experimentation, as you can hear in "Mother Betrayal". It flashbacks to the band's earlier beauty from 20 years ago then twists it with the closest the band has gotten to black metal. With that and McGrath's sonic leads, that song is another epic standout. Then we have the thrash-blasting "Invictus". The strong breakdown isn't highly hardcore, but it has the brutal-melodic blend of Shogun-era Trivium. "Call of Existence" continues the melodic sound taken from Miss May I and The Browning (minus the electronics of the latter). Deeper down the line is "Dawn of the Militant", having more of the classic metallic hardcore sound of Earth Crisis and Strife, with great b*lls. This is solid heaviness we really need. It then leads to perhaps the most brutal breakdown the band has ever made. Absolutely killer sh*t right there!

"Aniara" is a soft acoustic interlude to start the final third of the album. "Into the Abyss" pulls you back into the heavier melodeath-infused drama of In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. One true surprise in this offering is "Broken Arrow" which is more of a straight rocker. Some can be reminded of Queen of the Stone Age at some points. Nonetheless, their 2000s metalcore throwback is still on as the guitar leads, riffs, and breakdowns continue to crush. The album's closing track "Theaters of War" concludes quite strongly, like everything has lead up to this point. It all ends in a hellbent breakdown unleashed in a punishing catastrophe to break the world apart.

The Wretched; The Ruinous marks both the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. The band can continue what has made them great while adding in nice surprises. The metalcore sound is still in their hearts. This album is filled with amazing hard-hitters and occasional experimentation. Their fame shall be kept high!

Favorites: "The Wretched; the Ruinous", "Eradicator", "Mother Betrayal", "Invictus", "Dawn of the Militant", "Theaters of War"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 16, 2023 08:42 AM
Death Domination

When I saw that Impious are from Sweden and that Death Domination, their sixth and seemingly final album, is listed as melodic death metal, I immediately assumed I was about to experience just another band from the In Flames / Soilwork school. This expectation was very quickly obliterated though, as this album gets off to a much more brutal start than those bands ever attempted, with the first couple of tracks ripping along with more typical death metal ferocity. Vocalist Martin Åkesson barks his vocals out with a heap of aggression, and drummer Mikke Norén puts the pedal to the metal, with regular blast beats and a generally high level of energy. There are definitely moments on the album that sit more comfortably beside the aforementioned bands, and the melodic death metal tag isn't unwarranted, but don't be put off if Swedish melodic death metal isn't normally your thing.

All this said, I have to admit that I enjoy the mid section of the album the most, particularly And the Empire Shall Fall and Hate Killing Project, where the band change things up and slow things down. The majority of the album relies heavily on intense vocal rhythms and intense battery, with the riffs often taking the runners up position in the race. When the band take the time to concentrate on writing more varied song structures, things become much more interesting and memorable for me. As things are, this album just isn't all that compelling, and my feelings for it are generally as lukewarm as the middling reception this band tends to get online.

Ben Ben / May 16, 2023 04:14 AM
Effigy of the Forgotten

I have a strong aversion to brutal death metal that stretches back to when I returned to metalhood around the turn of the millenium and I was still reading metal mags. Every cover disc from Terrorizer or Zero Tolerance seemed to be made up of about 60% crappy brutal death metal bands, so I gained a disdain for the genre as it all sounded basically the same. Suffocation is a name that I have come across many, many times over the years, but my distaste for the more brutal flavour of death metal meant that I had never investigated them further, at least until now. I had, of course, listened to a fair bit of Cannibal Corpse's discography and didn't mind them too much, especially in small doses, so there was hope yet that Suffocation might do it for me.

It's pretty obvious from the very off that Effigy of the Forgotten is superior to 99.9% of the shit that "adorned" those metal mag cover discs as, despite Suffocation's brutality, there are a whole heap of subtleties and nuances contained within it's nine tracks. Now I am not going to insult anyone's intelligence by making out that I know what makes a great death metal album (brutal or not), but I will say that these seemingly insignificant subtleties make all the difference to a borderline "fan" like myself.

Suffocation certainly seem to be aptly named because, initially at least, their sound is so dense that it feels claustrophobic and asphyxiating, leaving the listener gasping for air come albums end. Repeated listens, however, reveal that the band don't just seem to be about blasting you away with sheer bravado and brutality, although they certainly don't lack in that department either, but the ever-shifting riffs, searing, laser-focussed soloing and the technically superb-sounding, but totally badass, maniac behind the drum kit all combine to produce a ridiculously tight sound that contains far more than at first appears and rewards the listener the more invested in it they become. Hell, there are even times when the riffs turn downright "groovy" although those sections are short-lived, so don't let me mislead you that this is anything other than the unmitigated assault on your senses that it is. The vocals are one of the possible sticking points for me as sometimes this style feels far more forced and "put on" than, say, Chris Reifert or Dave Vincent. I don't hate Frank Mullen's growls altogether, but I feel they are one of the weaker aspects of Effigy of the Forgotten although they are much better than some of the "stuck pig" style of vocals that seem to have become popular in more modern brutal DM.

In summation, I would probably have to say that this is as good as it gets for me with brutal death metal as it isn't a genre I think I will ever come to truly love, but this is an album I could listen to again and whilst it doesn't tick all my boxes, there is more than enough here for me to get my teeth into without being overwhelmed by a band seeking brutality for brutality's sake.

Sonny Sonny / May 15, 2023 03:01 PM
Dawn of Possession

The only Immolation album I was familiar with prior to checking out this, Immolation's debut, was their classic 2000 album, Close to a World Below, to which I awarded a five star rating, so it has been interesting to check out how the debut stacks up to that behemoth. Back in 1991, when Dawn of Possession was released, death metal was solidifying it's identity and had finally severed it's ties with the thrash metal scene that had spawned it. So too had Immolation, as they had left the thrash-based death metal of their early incarnation, Rigor Mortis, behind (none of the founding members of Rigor Mortis remained in the band at this point) and had evolved their sound into true death metal.

The riffs come thick and fast and seem to be constantly changing, but not in a choppy, distracting manner that some of the more technical death metal bands employ, but rather in a way that maintains the impetus of the tracks whilst still injecting a feeling of controlled chaos, which is often reinforced by the intense and savage soloing. The drumming is well worthy of note as Craig Smilowski turns in a superb performance behind the kit, deploying every trick in the book whilst not missing a beat and the positioning of the drums in the mix is perfect, allowing every beat to be heard without overwhelming the other performers. Last and not least come Ross Dolan's vocals which feel quite unique, the raspiness of his gutteral delivery seems unlike most other death metal growler's to my ears and he manages to create a brooding sense of menace in his exhortations to devilish forces and his celebrations of evil-doing.

I suppose Dawn of Possession could be cited as an early evolution towards the use of dissonance in death metal, but I never found it grating as I often do with modern disso-death, but rather it engenders a feeling of brutality and chaos and never allows the listener to get into a comfort zone where the tracks wash over them, as you have to constantly stay on your toes with this one. Not quite the classic that Close to a World Below is, but a damn fine debut nevertheless that any OSDM freak should love and goes some way to cementing Immolation as one of my favourite death metal bands along with Autopsy and Incantation.

Sonny Sonny / May 14, 2023 02:02 PM
Live Without Sense

I’ve never found German thrash metal heavy-weights Destruction to be quite as compelling as fellow Teutonic thrash legends Kreator & Sodom to be honest. I quite enjoyed 1984's “Bestial Invasion of Hell” demo but their first couple of proper releases (1984’s “Sentence of Death” E.P. & 1985’s “Infernal Overkill” full-length album) did very little for me. It wasn’t until they began to go in a more sophisticated direction with 1986’s “Eternal Devastation” sophomore album that my interest would start to be tweaked & they’d continue to build on that over their next couple of releases, peaking with my favourite Destruction album in 1987’s classic “Release From Agony” which was clearly their most complex & innovative record to the time. So 1989 would seem to have been the perfect time to release Destruction’s first live album in the cleverly titled “Live Without Sense” (a reworking of the titled of one of their songs “Life Without Sense”), wouldn’t it? Well, for me it was anyway. And the result is as enjoyable & impressible as it had the potential to be too.

“Live Without Sense” is a well-produced & executed summary of Destruction’s career to the time. The production does a good job at balancing the raw electricity of the band’s studio work with a consistent clarity that sees every instrument owning its own space. The only criticism I would have there is the snare sound which does highlight drummer Olly’s position as the weak point of the band. It’s just a little intrusive which makes the simpler beats sound more basic than they might otherwise have done. The guitar work slays here though, despite the fact that both men think they’re more technically capable than they actually are. The consistent use of high-end techniques such as classically-influenced sweep-picked arpeggios was certainly pushing both musicians limitations but they somehow manage to get away with it due to the fact that they’re simply so cool. Yes, some of the lead solos are a bit sloppy but they also sound quite inspired & fuelled by Satan himself. Front man Schmier & I have had our differences over the years & that’s not been totally been ironed out here with those high-pitched squeals I struggle with so much still popping up from time to time but it’s hard to deny that his signature snarl sounds pretty bad-ass for the majority of the run time.

The tracklisting offers a nice mix of material with inclusions from every record in Destruction’s back catalogue. I don’t think it’s any surprise that the tracks that appeal to me the least (“Thrash Attack”, “Invincible Force” & “Bestial Invasion”) are all drawn from the speed metal-influenced 1984/85 period releases but thankfully they’ve benefitted from the band’s greatly improved chops & now sound significantly more tight & professional than they originally did. This gives “Live Without Sense” an impressive level of consistency with all of the more recent material being exceptionally strong. In saying that though, the only track that I regard as a genuine thrash classic is “Reject Emotions” with its darker atmosphere reminding me of Slayer’s more mid-paced material. The more technical songs like “Dissatisfied Existence” work really well & often see me reaching for Coroner comparisons which can’t be a bad thing either. I could really do without the inclusion of an unaccompanied guitar solo & two humorous interludes (i.e “Pink Panther” & “In The Mood”) though as they each represent slight blemishes on an otherwise exceptionally solid tracklisting. The guitar solo may impress those that aren’t trained musicians but I’d suggest that Eddie Van Halen & Randy Rhoads can rest easy as their crowns are in no jeopardy.

“Live Without Sense” is an excellent example of a thrash metal live album & won’t disappoint any fans of Destruction or the genre in general. In fact, I place it behind only “Release From Agony” in terms of the band’s overall discography with the clear production & strong tracklisting making it an attractive listening option for someone like myself that wasn’t convinced by Destruction’s more crudely presented early releases.

Daniel Daniel / May 13, 2023 09:53 PM
Explosions in Ward 6

For no valid reason I have never previously sat down with a Pig Destroyer release.  Coming into this month's Review Draft I decided it was time to rectify that and where better to start with their debut full-length offering from 1998? After four years of Agoraphobic Nosebleed material guitarist Scott Hull decided to treat the world to what "grindcore should be" with eighteen tracks of spazzing chaos that only ever really lets up for the most punky of vibes to bounce through.

No bass guitar is used at all here (that was still some fifteen years off for Pig Destroyer at this point) yet the guitar tone is so full and powerful and backed by a superb drum sound also that you do not miss the bass at all.  When you add J.R. Hayes' vocals into the mix then I personally find myself in my complete element with this record.  A succinct nineteen minutes and twenty seconds of eighteen individually clear explosions as the album title promises.  Complete with a Melvins' cover also for additional variety.

Closing track, Pixie is a monstrous six minutes in length and is by far the slowest paced affair on the whole album.  However, it still retains that air of primal violence that threatens to burst out across the track as Hayes' trademark vocals make no effort to change slant or angle despite the whole slowing down of proceedings to close out the album.

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / May 13, 2023 11:40 AM
History of a Time to Come

I tell who would be really annoying at parties?  Martin Walkyier.  His clipped, posh English accent must permeate the room almost organically with its innate ability to fill the air around it without seemingly ever raising the decibels behind it.  For most of History of a Time to Come it is Martin's vocals that dominate the aether, despite the raging riffs of Andy Sneap doing their upmost to unseat Walkyier from this lead role on the album.  However, just like that person at parties who commands the attention of the room, Sneap's guitar work comes off as nothing more than a distraction when it is allowed some floor space.

This sounds harsher than I mean it to as I actually think that part of the major success of this album (and indeed the band) is down to that unique vocal style that is so recognisable.  Although not quite the same, a fair comparison would be Judas Priest.  Tipton and Downing for the most part battle to let their guitars do some talking but in reality they will never be considered ahead of Rob Halford's vocals.  I actually prefer the guitar work on most Priest records as, if you listen closely enough, they more than stack up against the vocals of Halford.  Here, within the ranks of Sabbat, Sneap simply does not stand a chance though.  No matter how intently I listen, Walkyier is the main memory I take away with me after each spin.

That having been said, I cannot deny the energy behind this record and its infectious display of some raging thrash metal.  History of a Time to Come is a "banger" most certainly.  It is lauded in many quarters and I can most certainly see why, even though I cannot match these levels of enthusiasm for the entire duration.  Touching upon NWOBHM and traditional metal influences there is most certainly variety present here, however I am not entirely sure I want there to be.  The raging intensity of their thrash metal is where Sabbat thrive and I feel the loss of focus on this aspect of their sound is sometimes to the detriment of my enjoyment.  Still, for an album that is 35 years old, it sounds as fresh as the day it was released and most certainly has aged well. 

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / May 12, 2023 08:41 PM
Under the Red Cloud

I heard Black Winter Day somewhere (probably on a Metal Hammer cover disc) and was impressed by it's combination of death metal sensibilities and folky atmosphere. I obtained copies of Thousand Lakes, Elegy and Tuonela and they were all on regular rotation back in Sonnyville. 2001's Am Universum was a bit of a damp squib for me, however and eventually my love for Amorphis waned as I dived further down the extreme metal rabbit hole and I haven't listened to them a whole lot since the mid-2000s other than the odd track from Thousand Lakes, so this review will be a bit like catching up with an old friend and finding out what they have been up to since last we met.

Well, it would be wrong to say they haven't changed a bit, but I would have to admit that they have aged very well. I thought that by 2015 they would have become more technical and progressive than they actually were and I suspected that they wouldn't appeal to me that much, but I actually found Under the Red Cloud to be a very enjoyable and accessible slab of metal. Melodic death and folk metal are combined in an alchemical formula that shouldn't appeal to me in the slightest, but in the Finns' capable hands become an exceedingly palatable cocktail. I don't think I can praise the songwriting highly enough, for them to be able to combine genres I normally run a mile from into such an addictive release is testament to their songwriting skill. The folk metal element is quite prominent, but even so it never even hints at the cheesiness that so dogs the genre in other, less skilled hands, but makes complete sense in the context of this album and it is hard to imagine how it could exist without it. There are a couple of tracks where this element really transforms the melodic death metal skeleton of the tracks into something special, the oriental-flavoured Death of A King and Enemy At the Gates with it's exotic Middle-Eastern atmospherics and brilliant keyboard work. One track that made me smile was Tree of Ages, not because of any inherent cheesiness, but because the irish whistle featured sounds a lot like that featured in Aussie punk's The Rumjack's An Irish Pub Song - a track I love for it's vitality and catchy Irish theme. Amorphis have always been skilled performers and their performances on Under the Red Cloud are terrific, Tomi Joutsen's superb death growl / clean dual vocal attack, Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari's riffing and excellent leads, the layering of Santeri Kallio's keyboards and the faultless rhythms laid down by drummer Jan Rechberger and bassist Niclas Etelävuori underpinning everything the band does, are all absolutely top-notch.

There are several guest musicians featured on Under the Red Cloud, all of whom's contributions add a sheen that raises the album above the crowd, not least the much-lamented Aleah Stanbridge who contributes female vocals to three tracks, most noticeably official album closer, White Night. The Österäng Symphonic Orchestra are also featured and I don't think their contributions can be underestimated either, lending the album a sumptuousness that lifts it above the mundane.

Sonny Sonny / May 12, 2023 03:21 PM

You can rely on two things in life: taxes & Cannibal Corpse delivering a quality death metal product. We’re now thirty-five years & fifteen albums into their career & the Buffalo death metal legends are still going strong with their last album proving to be as popular as anything they’ve released in more than two decades. My experience with the band began right back at their debut album “Eaten Back To Life” & has taken me through the majority of my life. Back in the early-to-mid 1990’s I counted them as a major influence on me as a musician &, despite the fact that they’ve tended to steer away from delivering any surprises over the years & have subsequently earnt a reputation for being the AC/DC of death metal in that their albums sound predominantly the same, my respect for Cannibal Corpse as an artist has proven to be unwavering. I hold a lot of admiration for their undying commitment to never selling out, staying brutal & pushing themselves technically & 2006’s tenth album “Kill” is no exception. In fact, it may just be some of the band’s finest work.

Unlike the vast majority of the Cannibal Corpse back catalogue, “Kill” doesn’t come adorned with ultra-gory & cartoonish cover artwork. This time the band wanted to let their music do the talking & that’s backed up by a very serious & professional musical approach that sees the band pushing their techniques to their limits. The album marks the return of guitarist Rob Barrett (Solstice/Eulogy/Malevolent Creation) who had previously played on 1994’s “The Bleeding” & 1996’s “Vile”, a move that brought with it great promise for me personally as I consider myself a fan of both records. It also saw Hate Eternal/Morbid Angel/Ripping Corpse/Alas guitarist Erik Rutan taking on the production duties for the first time, a responsibility he’d continue to own for most of Cannibal Corpse’s subsequent releases. You can see why too as “Kill” sounds great with the heavily down-tuned guitars achieving perfect clarity & the drum kit punching through with precision. I regard this as quite an achievement given the band’s brand new super-low tuning of G#.

The thirteen song tracklisting offers a solid level of consistency throughout with no weak tracks included. The riff work is exceptionally angular & expansive & represents one of the highlights of the album with bassist & songwriter Alex Webster having come up with a truck-load of interesting spider-handed runs that keep me on my toes throughout. It’s a very technical album actually & I think the return of Barrett has helped to enable that along with the unquestionable skills of his partner in crime Pat O’Brien. The guitar solos are the other major talking point as they invariably represent the peak of each track. Some are spectacularly shreddy while the use of wah-pedal is employed to great effect in the more atmospheric moments. Webster’s performance is outstanding as usual & once again shows him to be one of the elite bass players in the extreme metal scene.

I don’t think there’ll be any surprises when I mention the albums limitations though. Front man George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher does what he does, nothing more, nothing less. You know exactly what to expect from George as he’s built a career on doing largely the same thing on every album. He’s no doubt a wonderful asset in a live environment with his ultra-masculine, metal-as-fuck persona dominating the show but in the studio he can sound a touch monotonous after a while & this does limit the levels that a modern Cannibal Corpse record can reach. The other (& more significant) limiter can be found in Paul Mazurkiewicz’s repetitive blast-beat style which sounds pretty tame by today’s standards. The rumours of him only possessing three beats in his repertoire are somewhat justified in my opinion & it’s been a long-time annoyance of mine. His strength though, lies in his contribution to the slow-to-mid-paced material where he utilizes double-time ride cymbal work to great effect & I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this also correlates with the band’s strength. Cannibal Corpse’s more up-tempo & brutal passages can sound a little unsophisticated & thuggish but when they slow things down a bit they achieve the complete opposite effect with slower tracks like “Death Walking Terror” & closing instrumental “Infinite Misery” (my personal favourite) representing some of the high points of Cannibal Corpse’s entire career.

“Kill” may not be a tier one death metal record but it is a damn solid one nonetheless & I can see very few fans of the genre complaining too much. It’s nice to have a band that can so regularly & so consistently deliver a product of invariable quality as the extreme metal scene seems to gravitate towards the more progressive & adventurous artists over the last decade or two. I probably wouldn’t have thought it possible many years ago but I do tend to favour a record like “Kill” slightly over childhood faves like “Butchered At Birth” & “Tomb Of The Mutilated” these days, perhaps due to the increased maturity, consistency & sophistication in the band’s sound. In fact, it may be one of Cannibal Corpse’s more successful ventures overall.

Daniel Daniel / May 11, 2023 11:48 PM