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A Small Boy and a Grey Heaven

Metalcore was barely existent in some European countries like Germany in most of the 90s. And why not, since it was pretty much a US thing when the genre started. Two bands would mark the first ones from Germany to be metalcore; Caliban and Heaven Shall Burn. They would even release a couple split albums together, but not before each releasing an album separately. This is Caliban's side of the German metalcore coin...

Their 1999 debut A Small Boy and a Grey Heaven showcases their brutal thrashy death/metalcore roots. Obviously they're not the very first metalcore band in the world, but this album is different from what you would expect today. Barely any melody is found here, with the guitars being mostly electric, and very few clean vocals to go with the unclean dominance. With that and the Slayer-like riffing and wicked hardcore breakdowns, plus some memorable scream-along refrains, I can see the influence the album might cause for modern deathcore. All I gotta say is, this can be considered a hardcore mix of the thrash of Kreator and Anthrax, and the groove of Pantera and Hatebreed.

The interlude tracks are quite pointless here and I don't wanna explain them all, though the "Intro" can almost make you think this is a Therion album. Then the proper songs started leveling up your attention, beginning with the standout "Arena of Concealment" with sick screams and the Slayer riffing to creep in your skin and get you headbanging, especially in a pummeling breakdown. "In My Heart" carries on in similar fashion with blazing riffing, slamming drums, and a catchy ending worth shouting along to. One song that actually clean singing is the destructive "Destruction". The title track has the hardcore bass crunch going on that's actually audible, though low and ominous. That's how early metalcore shall roll around here!

After one of the two pointless skits, "A Faint Moment of Fortune" has a more furious riff onslaught complete with blast beats, though you might wanna expect another mid-paced breakdown, and another f***ing skit afterwards! "Supervision Until Death" clearly stands out, sounding slow, even the same level as sludgy doom with notable bass. Of course things will still speed up. Returning to more of the brutal thrash, "Always Following Life" has some bloodthirsty guitar grinding before an incredible climatic outro. The noise-polluting "Pollution" is an anthem with a cool slow intro before slamming and lightning-fast leads and the mid-tempo moshing of hardcore.

After the lame 3rd skit ("Sylca"), the bulldozing "Intolerance (Ignorance II)" (sequel to a song from an earlier EP) has memorable riffing to round things up. Finally, "De Rebus Que Gerunter" (The Matters of the World) is a Slayer-powered scorcher that then slows down for a melodic breakdown, once more having the uncommon cleans that back up the screams. Another thing to make that track a highlight is an unforgettable guitar solo. I think that should've been the end instead of a weak anticlimactic "Outro".

As part of the trio of influential 90s metalcore bands with their names starting with the letter C (along with Cave In and Converge), Caliban is essential for the metalcore we know today. It is recommended for metalheads who want to witness the development of a genre. A few details I might not like, but I know this album's importance....

Favorites: "Arena of Concealment", "A Small Boy and a Grey Heaven", "A Faint Moment of Fortune", "Supervision Until Death", "Pollution", "Intolerance (Ignorance II)", "De Rebus Que Gerunter"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 28, 2022 06:36 AM

My interest in Coalesce began with their first two albums, both of which contained the chaotic sound of their intense music and screamed vocals. Though this 3-song EP 002 is quite decent, this was before they fully matured to the full-on mathcore machinery of those albums. After that era, which came with changes in lineup and style, they've decided to re-record those songs along with another two-song EP for a small compilation, 002: A Safe Place. I'm sure it's for more than just money...

The vocals in the original EP sounds as furious as they usual do, but back then it sounds high and strained as opposed to, as well as the songs sounding too tight. "Simulcast" is the only incredible song here, with some changes into an occasional sludgy sound that would hint at the band's incoming technical experimentation and emotion.

002 is slightly good, but is it worth the price you pay? They would later improve....

Favorites (only one highlight): "Simulcast"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 28, 2022 12:06 AM
Cause of Death

Back in the day this record definitely would have received an instant 5 stars from me as it was simply that influential on me at a very young & impressionable age when I was just freshly converted to the wonders of death metal. These days I can see it through an unbiased lens & it's definitely not without it's faults but it was certainly a revelation at the time & the highlights are truly gargantuan. John Tardy's monstrous vocal performance is arguably the best in all of death metal in my opinion. He's certainly the most unique vocalist the scene has ever produced as there's no one that comes close to touching the sheer ferocity of his talent. The recruitment of hired gun shredder James Murphy was a master stroke too as his highly melodic & technically dazzling contribution really does take this record to another level from anything the band would have been able to produce previously. The trademark Obituary rearranged-5th chords have never sounded so good while the cover artwork is my personal favourite of all time & goes a long way to maximizing my passion. The weaknesses of the album are the faster sections where the rhythm section draw upon "Leprosy"-era Death for inspiration as those parts tend to sound a little tame in comparison to the ridiculously heavy & doomy slow sections which are Obituary's real forte if you ask me. It's often a matter of less is more with Obituary as their controlled restraint is possibly their biggest strength & that's not something you can say about too many extreme metal acts. The song structures sound pretty loose & pieced together at times but thankfully every track includes at least one or two monlithic riffs of pure death to draw you in & Obituary understood how to create that authentic graveyard atmosphere as well as any death metal band that's ever picked up an instrument.

Looking back it's not difficult to see why "Cause Of Death" not only set a new standard for the band but also took them to the top of the Florida tree with Morbid Angel. The album reeks of underground credibility but it also manages to stay accessible enough to draw in a sizeable fanbase. I can't say that I regard it as highly as I did when I was a kid but it's clearly Obituary's finest work & stands as a key piece of death metal's historical puzzle. Even the cover version of Celtic Frost's "Circle Of The Tyrants" is a strong inclusion & represents one of the rare occasions when I actually think the cover may eclipse the original. The huge influence of Frost on Obituary's signature sound certainly helped in that regard as it doesn't sound anywhere near as out of place as many extreme metal cover versions do. When I look back on my youth in years to come I doubt my brain will ever forget to attach a soundtrack that includes belters like "Infected" or "Memories Remain" to the images in my head & this last 24 hours has seen me relishing the chance to regain an awareness of a time that I regard as one of the best of my entire life, purely through the sounds that played such a huge role in it.

For fans of Autopsy, Jungle Rot & Asphyx.

Daniel Daniel / May 27, 2022 09:05 PM
The Joy of Motion

Progressive metal has challenges that other genres of metal do not have to comply with. And the biggest one for me has always been "how far off the deep end can an song/album go before it becomes too much and 'inaccessible'?" The debut record from out non-human overlords brought to focus the prog problem that myself and many of my music graduate class refer to as "the Berklee album". Berklee is one of, if not the most respected and revered post-secondary music program in North America and it produces some incredible talent across all genres of music. The issue is that no one who comes out of Berklee knows how to write a song properly. Animals as Leaders has the chops, but lacks any sense of dynamic growth or memorability for the listener. These records feel more like projects for the artists themselves rather than the audience.

Well in five years Animals as Leaders took these criticisms to heart and finally released The Joy of Motion. This album defines itself apart from other AAL records by incorporating melody and dynamic growth, while still maintaining what makes a record such as this the possession of Animals as Leaders. At no time throughout the record is someone not playing a consistent string of notes, whether that be in the percussion or a technical guitar ostinato pattern. What forces these songs to stand out is that these ostinato's are not at the forefront. Leads on "The Future That Awaited Me" and "Air Chrysalis" are slow and compliment the other parts brilliantly. Furthermore, the way that these leads build and mutate over time is splendid since they don't feel as if they were two separate ideas loosely tied together with silly string.

What matters most to me is that this record isn't boring. It does contain a plethora of Animals as Leaders tropes, but each track has its own unique style to it making it a much easier album to digest than the bands previous two records. Still, I noticed a considerable drop off in attention to finer details on the final three tracks after "Para Mexer". Perhaps it was proggy/djent fatigue that kicked in, but I would have been contempt after just nine tracks. They aren't bad per se, but they de feel like deep cuts, thrown on to the back of an album to pad runtime. Either way, this album is a joyous listen and the motion of head bopping is infectious.

Saxy S Saxy S / May 27, 2022 07:25 PM
Life. Love. Regret.

Hardcore took on a new different form in the 1990s, embracing a bit of the mainstream while trying something different from what many expected to hear. More different was the metal influences in a few of those bands that lead to metalcore's creation. There are slow heavy riffs that go well with the speedy intensity. The ideal attitude was rebellious while caring for the world's environment, which lead to the straight edge scene. From the southwestern corner of the US, Unbroken became an important band for this decade with the amazing album Life Love Regret! Lasting throughout the first half of the 90s, the name Unbroken fit well for their straight-edge dedication and the rarity of passion. Guitars and shouting vocals chug through, the latter reciting struggles for hope in society. This actually fits well for the hard times of the pandemic when we all have to work together to make things better for the world. We need this band back together to motivate us with their hardcore attitude.

It's so amazing how vastly influential this album can be! They fulfilled a hardcore/metalcore legacy to be remembered by the bands they influenced, even after their split. Unbroken would have hardcore fans head over heels in love, and they would probably be like "Minor Threat who?" The passion and dedication comes from all the members, especially Dave Claibourn who shouts his lyrics with meaning. After their split in 1995, the band refused to reunite for anymore shows or albums. That is, until guitarist Eric Allen committed suicide and the band performed a charity show for his family. Over a decade later, they would spend the early 2010s playing multiple shows and donating to charities. Their final show was a 20th anniversary concert for this album. RIP Unbroken and Eric Allen...

Beginning "D4" is crushing sinister riffing, then it makes a slow transition to really grow on you. "End of a Life Time" is also so good, and the more hardcore fans might keep coming back more. "In the Name of Progression" is slightly more speedy and progressive, and it really hints at the metallic hardcore progression the band was shooting for. There's more hardcore madness to come...

"Razor" has sharp guitar work that can cut like a f***ing razor. "Final Expression" could've had some lyrics expressed better, but they still work well. Another favorite of mine is "Blanket", an intense unforgiving highlight!

But then it leads to an even better ending trio of songs, starting with "Recluse". Then "Setup" has the best setup for some of the most explosive music in this album. And soon comes the very best saved for last... The album ends with the 9-minute epic "Curtain" to shape up top-notch progressive hardcore/metalcore for a different metallic future. Everything is wrapped up with long feedback outro to pleasantly end the short yet wholesome journey this band has made. I know the more hardcore fans would certainly look forward to give this album a spin again.

Even though Unbroken is now just...broken, they remained a hardcore legend. This should be enjoyed by fans of hardcore and 90s metalcore. This band spawned a spark of hope for the hardcore rebellion!

Favorites: "End of a Life Time", "In the Name of Progression", "Blanket", "Setup", "Curtain"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 27, 2022 10:55 AM
Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version

Earth's 1993 debut full-length "Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version" is arguably the most important & influential drone metal release of all-time. Interestingly though I've never regarded it as a genuine classic up until now & have always preferred Earth's 1991 debut E.P. "Extra-Capsular Extraction". I think this revisit may have seen me changing my tune though as I've come out of it finding it noticeably harder to deny its classic status than I have previously.

I think there's a couple of reason why I've not managed to get there previously with the most obvious one being that the shortest & most popular track on the album (15 minute opener "Seven Angels) has never struck me as being anything particularly special even though I do find it enjoyable. It's the most traditionally structured of the three lengthy pieces which I feel is probably what makes it the most popular as it's clearly the most accessible but I do think it sounds a fair bit like Tom Warrior & Martin Ain from Celtic Frost testing their rigs during a Celtic Frost soundcheck. Thankfully I'd happily listen to those guys all day long but I can't say that it blows my mind as it seems to me to be incomplete without further accompaniment. Things pick up very quickly though with the 27 minute "Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine" which is a less structured drone metal piece that still maintains some semblance of riffs amidst an almost industrial atmosphere. That's some very solid & outrageously heavy drone metal right there & it's worth remembering that no one else was making anything like this shit at the time. But the real reason that I can't help but gush over "Earth 2" these days is my sheer delight at the half hour monster that is "Like Gold & Faceted" which sees the band completely abandoning traditional rock tools & creating a wonderfully monotonous & highly cerebral journey through the darkest terrain imaginable. I mean this muthafucka sounds utterly triumphant but also as evil as any black metal act known to man. It invariably draws me to conjure up images of Lord Satan himself standing atop a mountainous peak in front of a huge army of his demonic minions & slowly raising his hands to the Heavens while all of mankind is forced to instantly accept that evil has finally overcome the last ray of hope for humanity. I can very easily see what Earth were trying to achieve with this track as it's undoubtedly been modelled on similar drone works from the previous decades but the outcome is absolutely immense, making it by far & away one of the best examples of the genre you'll find. In fact, I'll be fucked if this track alone isn't enough to warrant the inclusion of "Earth 2" in my Hall of Metal Glory so I simply couldn't resist the urge to elevate my score a bit further.

"Earth 2" certainly wasn't made to appeal to everyone but those that "get it" are in for a transcendent experience. I highly recommend the commitment to "active listening" with this one because if you let it become background music it'll no doubt SOUND like background music. Patience is required to wade through the murky sludge in search of transcendence but rest assured that it is in there waiting for you & the rewards easily justify the effort. "Earth 2" was made for a dark room & a good pair of headphones at high volume whilst lying on a bed with your eyes shut. If you let it engulf you then it's actually possible to see the event horizon that Sonny portrayed so beautifully in his review. This should be essential listening for all drone metal fans.

For fans of Sunn O))), Boris & Nadja.

Daniel Daniel / May 27, 2022 07:33 AM

Uhhh NO. I'm sorry, no. There are good old-school metalcore albums out there, but this ain't it. It's highly difficult for me to enjoy this, let alone write a full review for it. The only golden nugget for me in my opinion is the title track. I guess I like this EP when it really rocks hard and complex, but that's all I can get, just from that track. Anyway, it's no wonder the band's collapse was inevitable, and this EP is not one to have for your hard/metalcore soul....

Favorites (only one I even remotely like): "Outlines"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 27, 2022 07:11 AM
Metal II

I admit I had no idea that this was a re-recording of the band's 2007 album Metal until just now. You might think that the name, Metal II, might have given it away, but since I haven't heard the first one, I figured it was a sequel of sorts. Now that I know, I have to wonder why they bothered to re-record it. Maybe the production was shite the first time around? Perhaps Jeff Waters just thought it would be better with Slayer legend Dave Lombardo on drums and Stu Block from Iced Earth performing vocals?

Whatever the reason is, I went into this not having listened to anything the "band" has released since the mid-2000's. As a big fan of Annihilator's first couple of records, I stupidly hoped that there might be something here that resembles what made those early albums so entertaining. There are definitely moments on Metal II that showcase the thrash metal pedigree of the undeniably talented Waters. His guitar skills are still very much on show, but sadly so are his lazy song writing habits and shockingly bad lyrical abilities. Honestly, this guy writes some seriously cheesy shit! He also has a habit of injecting pointless, boring sections into otherwise decent tracks, as though he's trying to sabotage his own work. The track that comes closest to raising my late 80s thrash metal devil horns is definitely Clown Parade, but even that track contains a momentum-killing concert-intended singalong towards the end.

In the end, any chance I had of enjoying Metal II is ruined by the albums more atrocious efforts, such as the horribly cheesy Army of One, the hard rock dullness that is Romeo Delight, and the downright awful wannabe stadium-filling Detonation. It does seem as though I haven't missed anything by skipping the last 7 Annihilator albums.

Ben Ben / May 27, 2022 03:53 AM

This compilation is basically an extended version of Integrity's debut Those Who Fear Tomorrow, with the additional tracks being the In Contrast of Sin EP (an extension of the 1989 Harder They Fall demo), the tracks recorded in 1992 but released 20 years later as The Araca Sessions in memory of their late drummer David Araca (RIP), one sneak peek at their next album System Overload, and a bonus Negative Approach cover. The extra tracks aren't as crushing as the debut, but still good metallic hardcore.

So getting into the songs from the In Contrast of Sin EP right away, "Live It Down" can be considered the earliest metalcore song if we exclude Rorschach's material. I like that! "In Contrast of Sin" is another very early example of what would remind you of more hardcore bands like Nails. It's tough, fast, and the vicious vocals have a lot worth shouting along to. The rhythm pounds like a hammer through your head. "Bringing It Back" brings back some of the hardcore while mixing it with metal. For "Dead Wrong", anyone who thought Integrity wouldn't succeed at this awesome mix they helped create would be DEAD WRONG! "Harder They Fall" punches the floor like a motherf***er.

The debut begins with a short ambient intro, "Den of Iniquity", a hint at Dwid's later ambient noise part of his career. Despite that intro, you already what's coming for you in hardcore... Dwid makes an unforgettable shout of "MICHA!!!" that kick-starts the title track. This was an important part of 90s hardcore, already signifying the metalcore vision of Earth Crisis and Hatebreed, even Killswitch Engage. "Die Hard" sounds more desperate. This would fit well in the one of the first couple Die Hard movies. However, the scenario the vocal cries creates for me is a crazy caveman fight against feral wolves. The lyrics ring through psychotic guilt. "Lundgren/Crucifixion" is another fast hitter. Lyrically, "Judgement Day" would carry their attitude torch to modern bands to Terror. That song would've had potential in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, from the same year.

"Descent Into" nicely sets things up before something perfectly righteous... The immediate "Darkness" is probably my favorite track here, blowing your mind with despair for a solid 3 minutes! This is the right theme for those with thoughts of the world's insanity. This would've probably helped me during a sh*tty time back in my teen years, but back then I was into power metal, and that was good enough for me. "Tempest" is a song worth listening to appreciate what bands like Misery Signals wouldn't exist without. Later on, the album would have apocalyptic themes of love and evil, and that's apparent in "Dawn of a New Apocalypse".

"Wings Tear" would continue the metallic hardcore sound Skycamefalling would have 10 years later. "Candra Nama Vijayasya Stri Pums' Calayasti" is a short interlude with a strange name. "Apollyon's Whisper" follows as another short hardcore track. "March of the Damned" ends the album with some final twists of desperation. I don't know if it would end upwards and downwards, but I guess any direction they go.

"Kingdom of Heaven" begins The Araca Sessions by showing how slightly different their sound is while still in the early 90s. "Rebirth" has their classic thrashy metallic hardcore going on, pushing their 80s metal influences further yet again, with dissonant distortion in hardcore progression. "Eighteen" is out of place compared to the rest, sounding softer like Alice in Chains at that time. It's the Meshuggah "Ritual" of Integrity! The first of two bonus tracks, "Jimson Isolation" is a sneak peek to their next album System Overload, and has a nice Danzig/Sabbath influence in the pace. Finally, the bonus Negative Approach cover "Evacuate" closes the compilation smoothly.

Hookedlung isn't the best metalcore compilation I've heard, but it's pretty great. I would recommend this only to die-hard Integrity fans. And if you early 90s metalcore is your game, this could get you hooked....

Favorites: "Live It Down", "Dead Wrong", "Harder They Fall", "Micha: Those Who Fear Tomorrow", "Die Hard", "Judgement Day", "Darkness", "Dawn of a New Apocalypse", "March of the Damned", "Kingdom of Heaven", "Rebirth", "Jimson Isolation"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 26, 2022 11:07 PM
The Pact...

I think I share the same sentiment as others when they saw The Pact... by Negative Plane show up  on the front page of RYM listed as a black metal album. At least in terms of what we in the 21st century anticipate what black metal is supposed to sound like, Negative Plane are about to throw your expectations out the window. This is more of a straightforward heavy metal album with some heavier elements that may be perceived as the extreme metal grandchild of black metal. But for me, this record feels more like a nostalgic trip back to extreme metal's roots, with the biggest influences being early records by Venom and Slayer.

As for the quality of the record, it does show a lot of ambition to not just be a straight clone of Venom's Welcome to Hell or Slayer's Show No Mercy. The riffage of the guitar is simplistic and does show signs of the early power metal influence on this records bookend tracks "A Work to Stand a Thousand Years" as well as "And so It Came to Pass". When the vocals stand aside, the guitars take their place with melodic leads that are not flashy. Solo's are sparse, which makes the rare transitions into those higher registers alarming and welcoming on an album that is primarily groove centric. The bass is understandably weak as many early extreme albums typically would be and lacking in rhythmic independence. It is the percussion that I find the most interesting, as it does contain an abundance of rhythmic independence from the melodic instruments. While guitars and bass remain stagnant for extended periods of time, the percussion is alternating back and forth between power metal grooves and black metal blast beats. The dynamic is striking and very well executed.

The vocals are not the best, but they do contribute where they need to. The howling fits right in with the very traditional black metal themes of the occult and satanic worship. Unlike Tom Araya, these vocals are given time to resonate with the listener allowing them to comprehend what is being said and with decent enough annunciation of the syllables. They blend well with the instrumental and do not deter from the rest of the compositions.

Structurally the album is quite flawed and right out of the gate you may have already figured out why. As the album is a nostalgic trip back to the early 1980s and the true roots of extreme metal (not the Norwegian 2nd wave of the 1990s), the blending is hit or miss. When the album tries to get a little extreme, it can sometimes be held back by an abundantly cheery guitar lead. The inverse also applies. Furthermore, the album runs quite long, leaving more than half of these seven songs feeling like they run out of steam by the end; five of the seven tracks are over eight minutes, and the bookends of this record both surpass ten. As a result, the album suffers the same issue that many modern progressive metal acts have to deal with; having too much content that isn't focused enough.

But in the end, I can't say that I hated this. The Pact... presents a very different side of the black metal landscape that is seldom discussed or given the time of day because it isn't brutal enough. It's the kind of black metal album that I imagine hundreds of elite music critics would have panned back in the 1980s, but would quickly turn around on once they witnessed first hand its influence. I don't think The Pact... will be influential in the same way that Venom or Darkthrone were, but it is quality and the nostalgia is not just for show.

Best Songs: Poison and the Crucifix, Three Turns to the West, And so It Came to Pass

Saxy S Saxy S / May 26, 2022 05:50 PM
Those of the Unlight

Marduk at their height were a full-on assault of unrelenting, martial brutality masquerading as a black metal band. Albums like Panzer Division Marduk and Plague Angel are exhilharating adrenaline-rushes that display little variation but are addictive as hell to those who love an all-out blastathon and just need a hit of aggression and nihilistic fervour. Yet this wasn't always the case with the Swedish black metal titans. Ten months after the blackened death metal of Dark Endless was released they unleashed their sophomore, Those of the Unlight, which is a huge improvement on the debut in my opinion, but is very different from their later, more well-known material. With Those of the Unlight Marduk tread a far more varied and melodic path than they would on later releases. There is an ambition to the songwriting that they lost once they had settled on their identity and the direction they wished to take. The melody on Wolves could well be whistling around in your head for days after hearing it and most of the songs feature some degree of development without constantly bursting out of the blocks. This doesn't mean this is a "tame" album, they still let rip fairly often - On Darkened Wings for example contains some intense blasting for sure, but it also has a nicely ominous atmosphere that is allowed to build and offers contrast to the aggressive passages when they hit, resulting in a more satisfying payoff. Those of the Unlight even features an ambient piece which, let's face it, would be completely out of character for later Marduk and despite my oft-touted aversion to a lot of ambient stuff on black metal albums, Echoes From the Past actually works really nicely here.

The thing is that Marduk at their best are kind of unbeatable when it comes to relentless blasting, but Those of the Unlight also illustrates a band that have more than that to offer. I would never want to be without Panzer Division Marduk, it is one of my all-time favourite black metal albums, but Marduk also produced some rather unimpressive releases in similar vein and it would have been nice to hear them stretch their wings at some point too and realise the potential they showed with Those of the Unlight rather than just regurgitating the same tropes time and again. I guess there's still time, but with every lacklustre attempt to reproduce PDM it seems less and less likely.

Sonny Sonny / May 26, 2022 12:48 PM
Tempo of the Damned

I was taking my sabbatical from metal when Exodus returned for their long-awaited & highly anticipated comeback album after twelve years in the musical wilderness but I made sure to check it out as soon as I returned five years later as by all accounts "Tempo Of the Damned" was somewhat of a minor classic & a definite return to form. I have to admit that the reality isn't quite as impressive as all that though & I think there's definitely a fair few people that got over-excited about the idea of Exodus returning to the studio in much the same way as they did about the lineup for Testament's "The Gathering" album. What we have here is a well produced & performed, meat-&-potatoes Exodus thrash metal record but it rarely leaves the impression of being particularly classic. In fact, there are a couple of tracks that I find to be pretty flat in the the revamp of the old Kirk Hammett-contributed number "Impaler" & the groove metal inspired "Shroud of Urine". That's not the only reference to groove metal either as it's not hard to pick up on the influence of Pantera in their idols' sound at several points across the tracklisting but my preference is definitely towards the thrashier material, particularly the mid-paced moshpit style stuff that the band grew up cutting their teeth on (see album highlight "Sealed With a Fist" for example). That classic Exodus guitar tone is certainly still going strong & it gives the riffs the sort of definition that only the Holt/Hunolt combination knows how. Their guitar solos are right on the money too & inevitably represent the high point of the more filler-oriented material. Steve Souza's vocals are positively gnarly at times & I really love it when he gets his attitude on. Unfortunately his screamier moments are pretty weak & unappealing though & I'd recommend that he sticks to what he does best in future rather than pushing himself so far outside of his limited comfort zone.

While "Tempo Of The Damned" is certainly gonna offer a fair bit of appeal for diehard thrash metal fans who crave the glory days of the mid-1980's & also possesses a little something for the early 90's groove metal crowd too, I just don't think it's on the same level as a record like 1987's very solid Pleasures Of The Flesh", let alone genuine classics like "Bonded By Blood" or "Fabulous Disaster". It's a well-executed if inessential thrash record that will keep their existing fanbase salivating but is unlikely to convert an entirely new supporters.

For fans of Overkill, Testament & Metallica.

Daniel Daniel / May 26, 2022 12:20 PM

How do you assess an album that consistently breaks up otherwise excellent medieval flavoured melodic black metal with jolly sing-alongs and atmosphere-breaking folk melodies. This is the question I've been faced with after giving French band Véhémence's third full length album plenty of time to impress me. I genuinely dig the hugely majestic black metal that fills most of the release's hour long runtime. There are heaps of fantastic riffs on offer, and the musicianship is totally on point throughout. If the band gave me a whole album of more pure black metal, with riffs like those found in great tracks like Notre royaume... en cendres and Par le glaive, this would easily get 4 stars, threatening 4.5. As it is though, there are just too many of those awkward folkish change-ups that sound more like pirate shanties or dance-around-the-maypole jaunts than anything I want in my black metal.

These criticisms obvious come down to personal taste though, and I'll say straight out that this is a high quality release. If you're reading this and you like both majestic black metal and Ensiferum-style folk metal, then this could be your album of the year. As for me, well I'll still give this a listen from time to time, as it's a relatively small portion of the runtime that provokes my ire. There is still plenty of goodness here for this cranky old black metal fanatic.

Ben Ben / May 26, 2022 03:53 AM
Realm of Chaos

In November of '89, a year on from their debut, In Battle There Is No Law, Bolt Thrower issued sophomore album, Realm of Chaos. This album shows a band who have improved hugely in professionalism and who have honed their vision into sharper detail. Gone was the sloppiness of the debut, as had most of the crust influence and we had a much tougher-sounding, more brutal and heavier release as a result. This is no all-out assault of mindless brutality however and most of the tracks display some degree of progression. First track proper, Eternal War, may be the exception with it's nod to Napalm Death-style grindcore. Typically the tracks feature a slower, medium-paced, groove-laden riff with bursts of fast-paced, grind-like aggression and howling solos and they even turn in a creeping death doom riff to open the magnificant All That Remains. In Karl Willetts they have one of my absolute favourite death metal vocalists, his rasping growl epitomising what death metal vocals are all about for me.

Often with extreme metal, I will concede, an album can become a blur of similar-sounding tracks that struggle to stick in the memory after they have ceased playing and are more about the experience of listening, but in similar fashion to Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness, Realm of Chaos consists of tracks with enough memorable riffs and even melodies to stick with you after the disc has stopped spinning - a mark of exceptional songwriting I would suggest. Tracks like All That Remains and particularly World Eater are genuine death metal classics in my opinion, but there really isn't any filler on this album and I believe that Realm of Chaos can stand toe-to-toe with most of the classics of early death metal.

Although they are well-regarded, I still don't think Bolt Thrower get the credit they deserve. This was still 1989 and yet they had written the manual on brutal, grind-influenced death metal already (and went on to become one of the select few bands with decades-long careers who never put out a bad album) yet it seems to me that they remain the preserve of death metal enthusiasts and early grind adherents while lesser lights bask in the floodlights.

Sonny Sonny / May 25, 2022 03:51 PM

This EP was another band's attempt at crossing over hardcore with death metal. However, unlike Damaged, the quality has taken a plunge downward. It's clear how much they were trying to change the hardcore scene, but when they making their bridge between catchy metalcore and Deicide-like death metal, they seem stuck in the middle. The ties still weren't connected as they should've been. I was expecting something more exciting to begin this otherwise interesting deathcore era...

The record shows them trying to force their hardcore aspects into a death metal sound. The songs are short, mostly under 3 minutes, and contain no solos. While those are not usually an issue in metalcore/deathcore, when much of it is death metal-oriented, near the Cannibal Corpse level, it's quite an important key they ended up wasting. They also seemed to pay no attention to the riffs they've written, which could tilt the urgent hardcore-death metal balance they would've had. I would care for this a lot more if they added some soloing to go with the complex groove.

The vocals sound great in the high screams and low growls, and they actually have more aggressive intensity than the riffs, but the one song where the riffs work the best and most memorable is the 4-minute "177252: God Defined", actually adopting fast breakdowns and catchy vocal sections, despite lyrics of Alien-like extraterrestrial murder.

I have doubts for Misanthrope being considered a good start to deathcore. It can help me bang my head, but it just doesn't reach its potential strength. There are much better bands that could carry the deathcore torch, even the modern bands that metal purists hate. H*ll, even the ultimate slam death metal band sounds awesome to me compared to this sh*t. The production also detracts any case of intensity. I can find less stripped-down deathcore albums from the late 90s, and I'll be back with one of them....

Favorites (only one I like): "177252: God Defined"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 25, 2022 06:24 AM
The Cosmic Cauldron

This release should be right up my alley. A melodic death album steeped in Warhammerish science fiction with imagery to match. Sadly, I've found the release to be more than a little challenging, for two reasons.

Firstly, the album chops and changes relentlessly, rarely ever giving otherwise decent sections room to thrive. Every time I hear something that really grabs me, the band move on within seconds, and often don't return. Needless live up to their name a bit, needlessly jumping from one riff to another, resulting in a fairly spasmodic outcome. If you're going to throw this many things at the wall, some of it is going to be shit, and the gold bits are likely going to be covered in it.

Secondly, speaking of spasmodic, Ádám Forczek's vocals are just as relentless and unstable. He roars, he screams, he sings, he growls, often all within the same lyrical line. It's hard enough to have memorable tracks when the music refuses to take the time to let the listener connect, but when you combine that with a completely rabid vocalist that won't shut up for a second, well... the whole thing becomes a bit of a chore.

It's a pity, because I can definitely hear an album in The Cosmic Cauldron that I would really enjoy. It's just infested with alien spores and an angry rabid space monkey. I think it says everything that my favourite track is the somewhat out of place female vocal led gothic metal ballad, that does a mighty fine Lacuna Coil impression.

Ben Ben / May 25, 2022 04:38 AM
Token Remedies Research

Well, here I am again, making another attempt at finding out the deathcore status of this Australian deathgrind band I've discovered last week. Deathcore was practically unheard of when this album was released 25 years ago. Back then, very few extreme bands from Australia were known outside their homeland, even Damaged. Anyone who thought groove metal bands like Pantera and White Zombie were the heaviest would have their minds blown away, if they've ever stumbled upon this then-rare token.

The album has good loud production, suitable for this deathgrind/proto-deathcore band. Here we have earth-quaking drums, sonic guitar distortion, and incomprehensible screaming vocals. The songs can range from slow boring distortion to fast interesting aggression! It sounds as if the latter was one of Slipknot's heavier influences, with some similar riffing to be found in that band's debut album two years later. However, the speed and heaviness varies in more than what would've sounded like nu metal sh*t, though the vocals some threaten to reach that level in their weaker songs, particularly in the first half, which really lessens the fun mood.

The solo-less opening title track is never really close to the best. "Change" is a total stinker, sounding too much like they've attempted to change their style in different directions. Too many styles spoil the song! "Eternal Dismemberment Complex" sounds slightly better.

However, track #4 "The Mirror Perils" is the best of this album! It turns things around from the sh*tty first half by mixing their deathgrind/deathcore sound with more extreme yet melodic influence than just nu metal. However, "Cold Blood Eraser" is back to the album's OK status. "Soul Vaxation Accidental" is at a decent good level, though the intro would remind some of Marduk at that time.

Then the rest of the album has that amazing extreme-infused deathgrind/deathcore sound, the awesome foursome of "Swine Eyed Sheep", "Ingrained", "Glass Spines and Hearts like Junkies", and "Dust". Though that last track would have 15 minutes of silence before a weak hidden track.

There are probably better extreme metal bands out there, for me anyway, but Damaged is as much as I'm up to going into the deathgrind genre, though there's a decent amount of proto-deathcore as well. I can only recommend this to fans of this kind of sound with lots of noise and variety. I probably don't plan to explore the death side of deathcore any time soon, other than one more album from a different band. But at least half of this album is a grand blast....

Favorites: "The Mirror Perils", "Swine Eyed Sheep", "Ingrained", "Glass Spines and Hearts like Junkies", "Dust" (not including hidden track)

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 25, 2022 12:59 AM
Infest the Rats' Nest

I remember being very surprised when I first discovered that Melbourne psychedelic rock legends King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had somehow made it onto the radars of extreme metal fans all around the world. I’d never really committed to investigating them for myself but I'd always intended to & it was very hard to ignore the impact they’d made on my local Aussie rock scene in a relatively short period of time. Boy, had they made every effort to cash in on their fame too. I mean any band that manages to release a full fourteen full-length albums in just seven years in the modern day is running well against the curve these days, aren’t they? And that’s just what the Gizzard had managed to achieve going into this record which would see them breaking the two records per year barrier. They’d been very much the local buzz band for a good five years by this point with critics & fans alike gushing over their druggy, retro vibe ever since 2014’s “I’m In Your Mind Fuzz” album but I have to admit that I’d never heard them referred to as being a metal band before so I was intrigued by 2019’s “Infest The Rats’ Nest” & wasted little time in giving it the once over.

Now let’s put it out there straight off the bat that the general tendency to tag “Infest The Rats’ nest” as a thrash metal record isn’t exactly accurate. Sure, there are a fair few fast tracks that definitely include more than the odd thrash riff but this simply doesn’t feel like a thrash record in any way, shape or form thanks to the fuzzy, 1970’s style production job. It’s not slicing & abrasive like thrash should be & doesn’t sound half as metal as a “Bonded By Blood” or a “Pleasure To Kill” which is why my inclusion of the opening track “Planet B” on a monthly playlist for The Pit never quite seemed to sit too well with me. Instead we get a record that feels much more like a stoner metal release, kinda like the thrashier High On Fire material in many ways. There is one monster stoner doom epic included here that reminds me a lot of bluesy early Black Sabbath meets stoner monsters Sleep too & it may well be my favourite track on the album. The more up-tempo numbers like “Organ Farmer” leave me with more of a Ministry vibe in that the thrashy riffs are pretty simple & rhythmic but are invariably effective.

The use of short & highly psychedelic guitar solos is most welcome & always maintains the link to the Gizzard’s retro roots too. I love the way that front man Stu Mackenzie never allows them to overstay their welcome & this conscious restraint definitely helps to accentuate the song-writing which is a real strength for the band. Stu’s voice is as powerful as it is gruff & the tight doubling of his voice in the production phase was nothing short of a master stroke. One criticism I do have though is that “Infest the Rats’ Nest” is a very top heavy record with the opening four tracks being the clear highlights of the nine track set, despite there being no signs of anything subpar included. I can’t help but think that it might have been a better option to finish with the epic doom of “Superbug” in order to crush the listener into a pulp on the way out & leave a greater impression but I guess it wasn’t to be.

Ultimately it’s pretty hard to be critical of an album like “Infest the Rats’ Nest” that has so much soul for a release that’s widely (& incorrectly) touted as extreme metal. The contrast of 70’s warmth with the incisive urgency of the 80’s is unusual & at the very least interesting. I can’t say that I was ever completely sold on the concept though. Perhaps my thrash metal roots are just a little too stuck in their ways & for that reason I teetered on the edge between a respectable 3.5/5 score & a very solid 4/5 for some time before allowing myself to commit to the more impressive option, a call that was largely contributed to by my admiration for the sheer class that King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard ooze of from every pore on this release. I don't think I'll be alone in going that direction though & I'm not surprised that metalheads from around the globe have found "Infest the Rats' Nest" to be such an addictive record given just how accessible it is for heavy music fans from such different backgrounds & scenes.

For fans of High On Fire, Sleep & Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats.

Daniel Daniel / May 24, 2022 08:26 PM
Live aus Berlin

Here’s an album that just hasn’t aged well. I’m pretty sure I enjoyed Rammstein’s ‘Live Aus Berlin’ when I was younger, but hearing it now, it just doesn’t do the band justice.

The thing is, anyone that knows Rammstein knows that they are all about being “huge”. They sound huge! Their stage show is huge! Their image is huge! Everything about them is bombastic and over the top, and this album, released in 1999, just doesn’t live up to what the band would go on to become.

With only two studio albums released at the time, the set list is pretty solid, but again, when compared to the bands later output, it’s pretty lacking now. Still, it’s a decent enough look at the band in their early days, even back then, with only two albums under their belts and speaking their native German, they were a live force to be reckoned with.

The production as well, is pretty weak, and just doesn’t compare to the studio albums. All the early hits are here, including ‘Du Hast’, ‘Engel’, ‘Sehnsucht’, ‘Heirate Mich’ and ‘Du Riechst So Gut’, but none of them can compete with their studio counterparts.

Rammstein are one of my all-time favourite bands, and ‘Live Aus Berlin’ by its own merits is not a bad album, but as I started my review by saying, it just hasn’t aged well, and today it’s pretty irrelevant. I’ll stick to the studio albums.

MartinDavey87 MartinDavey87 / May 24, 2022 02:19 PM

Okay this isn’t going to make me any friends... but this is my review and I can only share my honest opinion...

Yuck. What is this?

I was heavily into thrash metal in my early teens, and while I don’t sway very often towards the heavier and more aggressive side of metal these days, I still like many of the artists that I’m already a fan of. So here I am many, many years later, and it’s time to get stuck in with one of the main metal subgenres that has always eluded me; death metal. And what better place to start than one of the most revered and beloved bands of the genre? Death.

But this? Nope! Not into it! I mean, the playing is incredibly intense and these guys are all incredibly proficient at their instruments, with pinpoint precision and accuracy, and there are a couple of decent riffs. But most of it is just way too fast and lacks any kind of melody. Ditto for the vocals. Angry, growly stuff, which is fine if you’re into that, but for me, I need some kind of melodic vocal line that I can sing along to!

Aw well. I tried, and I know I’ll get flayed alive for this review (metal fans can be so annoyingly passionate sometimes, it’s just a review, come on guys, chill!), but there we have it. I gave Death’s ‘Human’ multiple listens, and it’s just not growing on me. What can I say? I’m only human.

MartinDavey87 MartinDavey87 / May 24, 2022 02:17 PM
Acts of God

I have listened to a lot of death metal in my lifetime. Give or take a couple of years, I have been active in the genre from its beginnings and have explored all manner of variants, sub-genres and cross-genre blending over the last 30+ years. In that time, I have seen bands hit real runs of form in terms of consistency and finding their peak output (Death from more or less start to finish) as well as simply finding amazing one-off releases from the more obscure artists in the far corners of the globe. I have watched bands like Morbid Angel define the very essence of the genre and then tragically run out of gas yet inexplicably carry on despite there clearly being nothing in the tank, whilst other old favourites like Obituary seem to have more than enough determination (if not necessarily the quality of old) to still bang out some serious death metal material.

Inevitably with so many choices out there, some bands slip through the net initially. Some quite well-known names in fact because I did not listen to any Immolation until well into the noughties. Over time, as I have discovered more and more of their output, they occupy a rarefied space in my buying habits whereby I will buy pretty much anything they put out, cold. Whilst I am unable to stipulate that the band has a flawless discography, their levels of consistency for over three decades is unable to be matched by many of their contemporaries. Such is my admiration of them I waited three long months to listen to their latest offering on vinyl as opposed to just going for the instant streaming option that is so easy access nowadays.

For reasons I will go into shortly, I undertook a second full listen through in the digital format as there was a genuine need to compare the two following my initial spin on my trusty turntable. The over-arching statement first though is that this is Immolation through and through. Technically capable without being overly technical death metal, urgent without being sloppy and beastly without needing to be utterly monstrous at the expense of structures or form. You could pick this album up knowing nothing about the band and tell instantly that this is a record written and performed by guys who have been around the block a few times and who know their stuff as a result. The disdain for organised religion still sits at the heart of their lyrics and song themes and instrumentally they still balance pace and tempos well to offer a varied playbook out of which they pull every play possible over a lengthy fifteen tracks.

Complete with superb artwork from Eli Kantor, Acts of God is an album staged on very familiar and welcoming ground. However, as much as there is to be celebrated, there are also some challenges which keep the scores on the doors well away from being a full compliment. Firstly, Acts of God is too long. Now, this is not to say that it outstays its welcome – far from it. As a vinyl experience though you have two discs to play and each side averages around three songs so the overall experience gets a bit stop-start. Absolutely my choice to go with vinyl of course, but this really emphasises that there is a lot to get through here.

As I mentioned above, once I had heard the vinyl version of the album I reverted to the digital version for my next run through. There were two reasons for this. Oddly, Dolan’s vocals sounded too monstrous upon first listen, to the point of them sounding artificial. Clearly just and oddity in the formats as this is not an issue on the digital version. I also thought the production sounded a little too muddy on the vinyl format and again, this is not an issue with the streamed format. Whilst neither of the above challenges ruin the listening experience overall it was worth exploring the detail on this occasion. Worthy of noting that the album sound on vinyl is (as you would expect) absolutely huge.

Although by no means flawless, Immolation’s eleventh studio offering is well worth the five-year wait (as well as the extended couple of months due to issues with the vinyl pre-orders). It still sounds like a mature, well-established death metal band that are still able to sound relevant and individual at the same time. There cannot be many more of these in the tank – at least not based on my already noted experience of other bands in the genre who began at approximately the same time – and so to all intents and purposes Acts of God should be celebrated for the fine death metal album that it is.

Vinny Vinny / May 24, 2022 12:53 PM

It is only over recent months that I have been spending any amount of time with Ufomammut, which is very remiss of me because I am very much in their target audience with a love of stoner, doom and space rock that are the chief ingredients of the Italians' sonic recipe. Well, better late than never and I have been bowled over by the cosmic-psych-wall-of-sound approach of classic albums like Snailking, Idolum and Eve that the Italian trio have previously unleashed, so it is with some anticipation I now tackle their ninth and brand new studio album, Fenice (Phoenix in Italian).

First of all this is Ufomammut's shortest album at only thirty-eight minutes, Snailking and Idolum were both over an hour and more recent albums were at least 45 minutes. There seems to be a more restrained approach at work here with various synth-led, ambient intros and interludes to provide a glimpse beyond the heaving sonic barrier of their more usual material. Such an intro leads us into the opener, Duat, which does blast off into more traditional heavy space metal territory eventually but then subsides into the short ambient track Kepherer. This calmer, more ambient-feeling intro approach is utilised on several tracks with Psychostasia having an extended, hypnotic, guitar-led build up to it's intro complete with washed-out vocals and spacey synth effects until it erupts into a propulsive climax.

I don't know if it is because I am relatively new to the band and I haven't yet had my fill of their heavier sound, but there seems to be more build-up than pay-off on Fenice. It feels a bit like the band have been influenced by the drawn-out builds utilised by massively popular atmospheric sludge acts like Cult of Luna and Isis and, for me, this is at the cost of the cosmic thrill ride I have been experiencing through the band's back catalogue. This is still a decent release and undoubtedly when they do let rip it is worth the wait, but there is just a little bit too much navel gazing for me and I want to hear those booster rockets on full propulsion a bit more than they are here. Maybe I will be better disposed towards it at a later date when I am more sated on their classic sound, but for now I will return to those earlier classics.

Sonny Sonny / May 24, 2022 12:08 PM
Variable Speed Drive

Do you ever wonder if you think there should be something altered in its history without lowering too much of its value? That is a frequent thought, isn't it? When you don't know if what you think would be more suitable for a band that would've caused them to rise higher or fall lower. You can't change the past, but you can live with what's available. That feeling I can have listening to Cable's debut Variable Speed Drive, which is still marked an enjoyable mathy metalcore escapade!

Cable evolved throughout the over 25 years since they've released their debut, and they've made 7 full-length albums and a couple EPs, splits, and compilations. Before their switch to sludge in subsequent albums, Variable Speed Drive bashes through 90s noise-metalcore at as much tremendous ease as Deadguy.

Blasting off is "Needles Vs. Nails", completely discordant except for pleasant melody exploding into a triumphant climax before the verse drags you back down. My favorite track here is "Steel Cage Match", a highlight in which the anger and passion makes up for the slight unpolished mistakes. "Sick Little Ritual" is absolutely sick and wacky, to have fun jamming along to out of your hardcore mind.

"Water.Down.Rock" is paced slightly close to doom while having that hardcore "fight-anthem" vibe. Whereas "Carolina Eyes" takes that brooding side on in a more hypnotic way. There's still more fast metalcore madness to come...

"Lie Detector", I'm not gonna lie, is a very killer track worth headbanging. "The Sinking Vessel" continues the dissonant guitar that would be more prominent in metalcore from the 2000s onwards, especially in the breakdowns. "PaperPlaneCrash" is one more standout that reminds me of Converge at that time, with more abrasive delivery yet having a good amount of melody.

Variable Speed Drive has intrigued hardcore/metalcore fans by adding elements that barely co-existed before. The thing I would change would be the production to sound more polished, but I know the rawness should be left as is for the "noisecore" trend. Plus, it's balanced out by the then-rare-in-metalcore melody, so it's all good either way....

Favorites: "Steel Cage Match", "Sick Little Ritual", "Lie Detector", "PaperPlaneCrash"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 24, 2022 11:54 AM
Hearts Once Nourished With Hope and Compassion

Here's another band that has reached the top in the late 90s, Shai Hulud! Metallic hardcore has started taking higher ground, with this band paving the way for bands from a few years later like Poison the Well and Skycamefalling. Shai Hulud's debut Hearts Once Nourished with Hope and Compassion is an important late 90s metalcore record, and many metal/hardcore bands would be taking the aspect of emotional anger from the music and lyrics of Shai Hulud for their own sound. This band certainly isn't emo, but they have emotional passion in their lyrics and music. Hearts Once Nourished with Hope and Compassion consists of 9 amazing songs with the most intensity heard in the genre. Shai Hulud have been a highly significant part of the metalcore league despite the long 5+ year gap between albums and as many lineup changes as Annihilator. Their debut shows how beautiful hardcore can be. The band's strongest lineup has made their ultimate essential album!

Now would it surprise you found out that the vocalist at that time is Chad Gilbert, founding guitarist of pop-punkers New Found Glory? Chad has done amazing vocals in this album. He has screamed out messages of despair, with thoughts better communicated here than elsewhere. Though if you wanna hear melodic sung choruses with guitars performed by Chad, New Found Glory would be the better deal, but not for me though.

The opener "Solely Concentrating on the Negative Aspects of Life" makes a perfect point about those screams ("By defending those I love with my life"). One of my favorites here, "My Heart Bleeds the Darkest Blood" continues the unbeatable intelligence of those lyrics ("My heart is cold is stone, I laugh at the pain"). Then "Outside The Boundaries of a Friend" has excellent guitar intricacy that would make me say the Owen Wilson "WOW." The perfect devastation comes during the breakdowns in contrast to lightning fast rhythms that sear through.

"Beliefs and Obsessions" continues the band's top-notch metalcore zone, with devastation that sounds sensible. "A Profound Hatred of Man" sounds more emotional as Chad asks "Why should I strive for acceptance and piece of mind!?" Then they go far beyond where they've gone so far in "Beyond Man".

"This Wake I Myself Have Stirred" stands out with the guitar duo's exchange. The music is as amazing as the lyrics! "Eating Bullets of Acceptance" keeps up the earlier theme of striving for acceptance. Then we have one more slow-to-fast track "For the World". Then after 3 minutes of silence comes a bonus hidden track, an electro-industrial remix of "If Born From This Soil" from the Profound Hatred of Man EP, "Treatments for the Infected Foetus". Wow, they made industrial metalcore before it even caught on! Then finally, after a bit of studio jamming, they sign off with Sigourney Weaver's audio sample from Alien, "This is Lieutenant Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo...signing off."

All in all, Hearts Once Nourished with Hope and Compassion amazes me as much as hardcore fans when it was originally released 25 years ago. This is probably the best Shai Hulud offering for me, though I would still give their other albums a try. No other full album would have their original lineup with only their guitarist Matt Fox continuing the band along with bassist Matt Fletcher starting with their second album. Shai Hulud is no longer as active as they originally were, but Hearts Once Nourished with Hope and Compassion would be a major influence to the hardcore/metalcore world. Shal Hulud is still as influential as they've ever been these past 25 years. Hardcore/metalcore fans would surely be inspired by one of the most original bands of the genre. This is hardcore perfection!

Favorites: "Solely Concentrating on the Negative Aspects of Life", "Outside The Boundaries of a Friend", "Beliefs and Obsessions", "A Profound Hatred of Man", "This Wake I Myself Have Stirred"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 24, 2022 06:37 AM
Vision of Disorder

We're now heading towards a transitional era where the old-school hardcore roots of metalcore are drifting away slightly more to begin a new heavier wave of metal. A glimpse of promise for the mid-90s before the next decade!

The 90s might seem like p*ssed off Hell for the world, with sieges and wars on the rise in different parts of the planet. Where do some of the witnesses put their rage? In music! Many 90s extreme bands aggressively tackle the world's problems in their sound, whether it's rap metal like Rage Against the Machine, or metalcore like this band Vision of Disorder. This band from Long Island has shaken the world as much as their peers, with the extreme metallic hardcore of their 1996 self-titled debut!

Just listen and learn with the opener "Element" for angry heaviness. "Watering Disease" shows the band really testing the metalcore waters. "Through My Eyes" has violent lyrics of aggression, as Tim Williams threatens to "pull the f***in' trigger, watch your head combust". Then things get more melodic in "Viola" with creative Deftones influence.

"Liberation" is another prime mix of metal and real hardcore punk, as opposed to Devin Townsend's "fake punk" phase at that time. "Divide" has some more of their early metalcore than bands like All That Remains and While She Sleeps probably wouldn't exist without. "Ways to Destroy One's Ambition" has some ambitious motives while sticking to the metalcore guns. "Suffer" originally appeared in a compilation album a year earlier, and it has the best drumming in this album, with lyrics fitting well for this hardcore sound, "Our generation slapped with a f***in' ‘X’".

"Zone Zero" is an amazing combination of melody and heaviness. "D.T.O." is another heavy highlight, recently covered by Eighteen Visions in their own cover album named after the year the Vision of Disorder album was released, 1996. "Excess" continues the excessive amount of metal and hardcore combined, put in great usage to appeal to fans of both territories. "Gloom" has some Filter influence going on, a cool way to end the album.

In conclusion, Vision of Disorder's self-titled debut is another highly essential album of 90s metalcore. The golden age of metal has been considered to be the 80s, but the 90s was in fact the golden age for the earliest metalcore, and this offering is one gem from that era!

Favorites: "Element", "Watering Disease", "Liberation", "Divide", "Suffer", "D.T.O."

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 24, 2022 12:27 AM
Gomorrah's Season Ends

If you ask most Earth Crisis fans what their favorite release from that band is, they'll probably say Firestorm and/or Destroy the Machines. I haven't even discovered this band before today and already I'm one of those fans, now knowing this band's historical importance! Their next album that would come behind the throne of those two releases is Gomorrah's Season Ends, which continues the band's unique hardcore metal sound, but with some slight cliches from their attempts to recreate their success.

Metalcore is indeed aggressive, but the whole idea of what's the "heaviest sh*t" has been done to death. People could use that term to describe bands like Metallica, Pantera, and Sepultura, and Fear Factory. However, this album starts with the real deal...

This significantly being "Broken Foundation", an awesome opener that got my attention rolling from the beginning "PAIN!!!!" scream. "Cease to Exist" swirls through with hi-hat strikes. There's even some bass fitting well with the doubled drums in the title track. Nothing's totally perfect in the album, but they've made progress in their greatness, keeping things d*mn interesting in the production.

"Constrict" has helped the American early metalcore scene rise amongst other metal scenes from the rest of that country and Europe. Steadily drumming in the 7-minute epic "Names Carved into Granite", you can hear some of the most alternating meter patterns on Earth! "Situation Degenerates" continues leveling up the hardcore generation.

"Morality Dictates" has the vocalist roar about the horrors of animals being slaughtered for meat industries, and the consequences of obesity that would occur in society. Vegans might be up to screaming along to the vocals to warn people about those dangers, but I'm still a meat eater. Sorry, guys... "Cling to the Edge" adds more to their hardcore edge. "Forgiveness Denied" is a brilliant highlight, with lyrics telling the story of a woman tracking down her sexual abuser for revenge.

Earth Crisis has finally appealed to me, though this album was released over 25 years ago. Normally, people don't find these kinds of bands until their teen years, but I found them today as a young adult. Gomorrah's Season Ends has a great amount of impressive music, continuing this band's status as an important one in metalcore history!

Favorites: "Broken Foundation", "Gomorrah's Season Ends", "Constrict", "Names Carved into Granite", "Forgiveness Denied"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 23, 2022 11:16 AM
Destroy the Machines

Throughout the past nearly 30 years of metalcore, one of the most influential bands is Earth Crisis. This band is fighting against animal rights issues and drug abuse in their lyrics. While the Firestorm EP solidified their signature metalcore sound in the same level as Integrity, their debut album is where they continue that journey!

Metal and hardcore have been two of the heaviest rock styles out there, but early 90s bands like Earth Crisis helped break the divisive walls between the two. If pure fans of each genre thought one shouldn't co-exist with the other, Earth Crisis proved them wrong by doing their part in bringing together those two scenes. While the Firestorm EP stabilized their foundation of raging riffs and substance-free lyrics, Destroy The Machines brought them higher underground fame, influencing many metal/hardcore bands.

For a brilliant metalcore opener, listen to "Forced March", showing you what the album is gonna be about. It was later covered by Between the Buried and Me in their own cover album. Up next is the introspective blast of "Born From Pain" with heavy weight in the music and lyrics. It was also recently covered by Eighteen Visions in their own cover album. The title track calls out with more rage than Rage Against the Machine. The mid-paced "New Ethic" stomps right through like the fiercest plant-eating dinosaur. A prime example of groove metalcore in that song!

The one track I would consider weak is "The Discipline". It just can't match the power of their EP's title track! Luckily it doesn't detract any perfection from the album. The groove track "Deliverance" is one of those songs that, no matter how bands try to rip it off, always stays original. "Inherit the Wasteland" keeps you in attention with solid drum bounce. The bass is placed perfectly on top of the guitars for some great groove.

"Asphyxiate" has a mid-paced sludge-ish sound that would make you think of Asphyx gone metalcore. "The Wrath of Sanity" touches my metal heart the most of all hardcore-oriented tracks with probably the best breakdown of that genre. Switching around the tempo is "Fortress", one last building-shaking metallic hardcore track.

Earth Crisis is, in my opinion, more underrated than Integrity when it comes to the metalcore pioneering game, with Destroy the Machines bringing hope to the future of the metalcore realms. Even rarer back then was the ability to mix the genre with a groove metal attack. Their record label Victory would become one of the best-known record labels in metal/hardcore, helping out the band in the earliest years for both. Destroy the Machines is essential listening for all metalcore fans, past, present, and future!

Favorites: "Forced March", "Born From Pain", "New Ethic", "Inherit the Wasteland", "The Wrath of Sanity"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 23, 2022 07:05 AM

Another addition to my "most essential metalcore albums from the 90s" is the 1993 EP from Earth Crisis, Firestorm! This war cry of an EP was a twist in underground hardcore. This band, along with Vision of Disorder and Snapcase, would metallize hardcore away from the outdated Youth Crew scene. Firestorm would build the metal bridge into a new 90s wave of hardcore/post-hardcore, updated into a different genre, metalcore!

Firestorm has the kind of objective Earth Crisis have in much of their material; sending a message via music. The EP unleashes underground anger, and they don't do it without reason. They rage out on different topics that have tainted the world, all while remaining rock-stars (or metalcore stars).

Karl Buechner indirectly screams out that kind of message in the popular title track, "A chemically tainted welfare generation, absolute complete moral degeneration". The track is indexed together with "Forged in the Flames", an incredible anthem for The Revolution. "Unseen Holocaust" has a catatonic breakdown, but the rest of the song drives on through the sonic assault of Karl's vocals as he addresses indigenous people and their risk of genocide and relocation. "Eden's Demise" tries to teach us that veganism might be the way to save the environment. Is that Straight Edge or what!?

In the end, Earth Crisis is never a band to sell out to expand their audience. Firestorm pleases the fanbase they have and would expand with pure simple 90s metallic hardcore. The band would later experiment with other different territories in music, but no 90s metal/hardcore discovery journey would be complete without Earth Crisis, and this 15-minute EP is their very definition. Firestorm is a brave essential release that can be used as a less deadly but equally good-feeling alternate to weapons!

Favorites: "Firestorm", "Forged in the Flames"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 22, 2022 10:53 PM
Resurrection Absurd

Given the aggressive nature of German thrash metal it was only a matter of time before the Germans turned their hand to death metal and I believe that Morgoth's Resurrection Absurd was the first Teutonic death metal release, put out by Century Media in November of '89 as a 12" EP. The sound is occasionally a bit muffled and so the faster parts do become a bit messy at points (the closing part of the instrumental The Afterthought, for example). Morgoth seem to be quite strongly influenced by Death and Resurrection Absurd bears a strong resemblance to Scream Bloody Gore, to the extent that vocalist Marc Grewe is virtually indistinguishable from Chuck Schuldiner. I don't think that Morgoth do too much special here and their slavish reproduction of Death's early sound is a bit predictable. That said, there are glimpses of promise, the track that opens side two, Selected Killing, is a bit more ambitious and has a nice, ominous break in the middle with a bit of a doom-ridden build to the climactic run-in and is the stand-out track for me.

This is by no means a bad release, but it is patchy in both production, performance and songwriting. I am not at all familiar with Morgoth so I don't know if they took the potential they did show and improved on it on later releases, but maybe I'll find out later. I was vacillating between whether to give this three or 3.5 stars and went with the latter mainly thanks to Selected Killing. Interesting for the fact of being the first German death metal release, but inessential for it's contents I would suggest.

Sonny Sonny / May 22, 2022 04:17 PM
Mentally Murdered

I have a massive soft spot for Napalm Death, them being a Midlands band and all, and virtually inventing grindcore gives them a lot of kudos in my book. Anyway, the Mentally Murdered EP came out slap-bang in the middle of the two year gap between the albums From Enslavement to Obliteration and Harmony Corruption. It shows a slight departure from Napalm Death's grindcore origins and their incorporation of elements from the emerging death metal scene. They were touring partners with Morbid Angel and Bolt Thrower at the time and so I guess some death metal influence rubbed off on the Coventry crew. Mentally Murdered is the last recording to feature Bill Steer and Lee Dorrian, the former dedicating himself solely to Carcass and the latter forming doom/stoner outfit Cathedral (and starting Rise Above Records).

The six tracks here weigh in at just over quarter of an hour and are a blistering death/grind assault on the ears. Despite the slight change in style there is no compromise in Napalm Death's sound here, it is still as brutal-sounding as ever and Lee Dorrian may possibly never have sounded so fucking terrifying, bellowing away like an enraged bull charging at a guy in a Man United top! Despite playing so fast, Steer's riffing never disintegrates into mere noise, he always seems in absolute control with his riffs standing iconic and clear. Shane Embury and drummer Mick Harris (who apparently coined the phrase "blastbeat") make a great supporting duo, their fantastic rhythm work allowing Steer and Dorrian to indulge in such absolute brutality without worrying that things will descend into formless noise. This may still be too heavily grindcore-adjacent for some death metal fans, but for those who dig both grindcore and death metal then this is a thrilling quarter of an hour that feels like riding the aforementioned enraged bull - just hold on and hope you don't break your neck! One of my favourite Napalm Death releases right here.

Sonny Sonny / May 22, 2022 03:36 PM
Every Nerve Alive

With their hi-octane approach Ritual Carnage rev it up and leap out of the blocks, accelerating quickly to high speed riffing and barely ever let their foot off the gas with only the penultimate track, Escape From the Light, offering any real slowing of the pace. Personally I feel that track would have been better left until the end as it would have rounded the speedfest off better as a closer rather than expecting the actual closer, Far East Aggressors, to pick up the pace again (and suffering for it, I feel). There is loads to like about Every Nerve Alive, which in itself seems a more than apt title for the music contained within. The riffs are king here and although there is very little by way of originality, they are executed with passion and integrity and are intended to tempt you to rupture your neck muscles! Vocalist Damian Montgomery (aka Nasty Danny) has a great harsh growl that fits the aggressive nature of the riffing perfectly and only really dips on the aforementioned slower track, Escape From the Light, where his clean singing is exposed a little.

The band as a whole is exceedingly tight and the bass and drums solidly support the breakneck pacing without doing anything extraordinary. The solos are fine I suppose, but are the least remarkable part of the album for me, quite often just passing me by and unless I was really concentrating I didn't notice them so much until they had actually finished! However, overall this is a very good slab of energetic and brutal-sounding thrash that I would date around '91/'92 if I didn't know it was from 2000 when thrash was supposedly dead. I guess Ritual Carnage never got the memo!

Sonny Sonny / May 22, 2022 01:16 PM

Metalcore is, by definition, a mix of metal and hardcore, and the earliest albums of the genre were simply that. They didn't follow any of the trends that would spawn in the new millennium. Starkweather was formed in Philadelphia, in the year the two other creators of metalcore were formed, 1989, and like those bands, they were determined to make a sharp rudimental sound of metallic hardcore. Their debut Crossbearer would be ahead of their time!

I said that because, it was the year 1992, and they were already introducing new sonic elements into the genre they were helping pioneer. You can hear some alt-metal to remind you of Biohazard, Helmet, and Life of Agony, with a similar approach in the production.

In saying that though, you'll definitely hear p*ssed-off metalcore starting shortly after the intro verse of "Tumult". Then in "Mean Streets", there's a section where the vocalist performs almost a monastery-like ritual somewhere in the 30-second outro. "Rest the Soul" is not a song for rest and relaxation. Neither is "Lazarus Runs" which runs at a slow sludgy pace before leveling it up towards the end.

Beginning "Murder in Technicolor" is some Slayer-like riffing that's slowed down. Stretching beyond the limits again is "Shards". Then it segues into "Unto Me". Those two songs are indexed as one in later re-releases. "Picture It Obsidian" has more of a rock vibe and imagery.

The re-release comes with a few bonus tracks worth noting, starting with "The Rift", once again showcasing deranged vocals performed by Rennie Resmini; not hardcore, not metal, but in between. "Above the Rafters" puts you in a sleepy spell of slow energy like if you're in a bar that's also a hot stripper club (not saying that's anywhere I would go). "Desolate" has almost the same death-doomy pace as Paradise Lost at that time. Finally the riff-oriented "Shroud" is a hint at their later material.

With all that said, there's so much to digest, especially for those who have had a hard time finding this album before the reissue. Starkweather is still active, but their album release pace is very slow, having only released 3 more albums in the 30 years after their debut. Their material is very good, so hope they speed up that pace....

Favorites: "Tumult", "Lazarus Runs", "Shards", "Unto Me", "The Rift", "Above the Rafters"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 22, 2022 10:31 AM
Those Who Fear Tomorrow

So the original metalcore album was Rorschach's Remain Sedate. But what if you can fully establish metalcore as a genre without being highly dependent on hardcore roots, to influence heavier subgenres, a bit like Black Sabbath's way of heavy metal in Masters of Reality? Add that and lyrics of the confusing insanity of life, and you have the violent intensity of Integrity's Those Who Fear Tomorrow! This hardcore juggernaut is the start of the band's over 3-decade legacy. It is one of the first ever metalcore albums, from 1991, though only the second after Rorschach album from a year earlier. It's no secret that Cro-Mags and Corrosion of Conformity where experimenting with crossing metal over into their hardcore, but Integrity helped bring life to a brand new world. Hardcore verses and metallic breakdowns are led by the original metalcore Dwid Hellion!

For this album's violent soundscape to work, Dwid was born for this world to unleash his psychotic vocals. This unique approach was for many a complete anomaly. This bizarre delivery was unusual at that time, and somehow it still works greatly, with lyrics tackling every trick in the hardcore book. What needed to be kept in mind was, this album was made by strapping young lads in the hardcore scene. Effective messages of "us vs. them" are delivered in gang-like introspection. This music was for suburban Americans preparing for battle, with tattoos and punky uniforms on, ready to tear down more walls than Mr. Gorbachev and descend into dark chaos...

The album begins with a short ambient intro, "Den of Iniquity", a hint at Dwid's later ambient noise part of his career. Despite that intro, you already what's coming for you in hardcore... Dwid makes an unforgettable shout of "MICHA!!!" that kick-starts the title track. This was an important part of 90s hardcore, already signifying the metalcore vision of Earth Crisis and Hatebreed, even Killswitch Engage. "Die Hard" sounds more desperate. This would fit well in the one of the first couple Die Hard movies. However, the scenario the vocal cries creates for me is a crazy caveman fight against feral wolves. The lyrics ring through psychotic guilt. "Lundgren/Crucifixion" is another fast hitter. Lyrically, "Judgement Day" would carry their attitude torch to modern bands to Terror. That song would've had potential in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, from the same year.

"Descent Into" nicely sets things up before something perfectly righteous... The immediate "Darkness" is probably my favorite track here, blowing your mind with despair for a solid 3 minutes! This is the right theme for those with thoughts of the world's insanity. This would've probably helped me during a sh*tty time back in my teen years, but back then I was into power metal, and that was good enough for me. "Tempest" is a song worth listening to appreciate what bands like Misery Signals wouldn't exist without. "In Contrast of Sin" is another very early example of what would remind you of more hardcore bands like Nails. It's tough, fast, and the vicious vocals have a lot worth shouting along to. The rhythm pounds like a hammer through your head. Later on, the album would have apocalyptic themes of love and evil, and that's apparent in "Dawn of a New Apocalypse". With that said, they also add a bit of metaphors related to an abusive mother-son relationship, and that would be some vile disturbing imagery.

"Wings Tear" would continue the metallic hardcore sound Skycamefalling would have 10 years later. "Harder They Fall" punches the floor like a motherf***er. "Candra Nama Vijayasya Stri Pums' Calayasti" is a short interlude with a strange name. "Apollyon's Whisper" follows as another short hardcore track. "March of the Damned" ends the album with some final twists of desperation. I don't know if it would end upwards and downwards, but I guess any direction they go.

So what was next for Integrity? They would make two more EPs and three more albums before guitarist Aaron Melnick left after touring. Dwid would continue the band with more experimental tendencies. Yet he would stay true to the band's legacy and violent touring. Dwid is pretty much an underground legend that helped spawn a massive genre for the worldwide masses. More live albums and compilations would be on the way maintain the band's cult following, and Dwid would even experiment on a more gothic-sounding solo album. Still, Those Who Fear Tomorrow is responsible for a metalcore!

Favorites: "Micha: Those Who Fear Tomorrow", "Die Hard", "Judgement Day", "Darkness", "Dawn of a New Apocalypse", "Harder They Fall", "March of the Damned"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 22, 2022 06:27 AM
Remain Sedate

The revolutionary history of metalcore all began with this hardcore quintet from New Jersey. If you enjoy the sound developed and popularized by Converge or the recent noise-grind of Nails, Rorschach is the band to thank! Such a miracle wouldn't come without a misfortune. Shortly after their debut, vocalist Charles Maggio came down with Hodgkin's disease. After a 3-day cripple, he was able to continue shows to work up some smoke, sweat, and spit, though his vocal style would change for their next album.

Rorschach's debut Remain Sedate would bring a rebellious future to mankind. After the decadent 80s when metal and hardcore were two separate sides, the despondent 90s was when both genres have been united. Maggio had to fight his own battles when keeping together 3 jobs; his time in the band, being an accountant, and a father of twins, and all that energy would be put into making a real scene-changer. Rorschach has made the perfect stylistic formula for the most brutal hardcore at that time, transcending into a new style they wanted to invent. This is a relentless D-beat-inspired assault of crushing riffs and tormented screams like nothing before!

There wouldn't be much justice done if I describe in words the songs from the very first metalcore album, but I'll do my best, starting with "Pavlov's Dogs", blasting out into metalcore fury right from its very creation. "In the Year of Our Lord" can easily refer to this year being the year of the creators of metalcore. There's more of their impressive invention to come in the next 4 tracks; "Someone", "Impressions", "Clenching", and "So It Goes".

So that was the end of their first side, but they would strike again with their second side starting with "Lightning Strikes Twice". And their sound would never be alone thanks to "No One Dies Alone". Then we have the fast hardcore trio of "My Mind's in a Vice", "Checkmate", and "Exist". Finally, the chaotic dissonance fades out after "Oppress".

A new sound was unleashed like the end of the world but really a new beginning. Everything's a highlight with no tracks competing against each other, and no sh*tty filler. The slithering bass and jackhammering drums share the stage with the guitars and vocals. This raw formation of a new sound while channeling their own horrors is kind of what Black Sabbath had done when inventing heavy metal. Like Sabbath, Rorschach was a will-testing pioneer of something new. With this perfect offering, metalcore was born!

Favorites: "Pavlov's Dogs", "In the Year of Our Lord", "Impressions", "Lightning Strikes Twice", "No One Dies Alone", "Oppress"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 22, 2022 12:01 AM
Slowly We Rot

Slowly We Rot is actually the only Obituary album I've heard prior to this and that only a couple of times, it not really making much of an impression on me, which I guess makes it ripe for a revisit. I have had to give it a fair few spins this time round as it was initially suffering from following hot on the heels of the quite superb Altars of Madness in my listening rotation (as it did in real life, I guess, being released a mere month after Morbid Angel's debut).

The first thing that strikes me is that whereas most other early death metal bands take their lead from Slayer, Obituary seek to emulate Swiss thrashers Celtic Frost and you don't need the cover of Into the Crypts of Rays from their follow-up to illustrate that, the guitar tone that Obituary strive for is ample proof in itself. Compositionally Obituary favour a mix of dank and doomy medium-paced and slower riffs, interspersed with short high-tempo bursts of aggression, in a similar style to that employed by Autopsy on their debut Severed Survival and that allow for some variety in the tone and atmosphere rather than the out and out blitz of Morbid Angel's debut. Despite this variation I still don't think the songs stand out as much individually as the tracks on Altars of Madness, but in fairness that album is a particular exception to the extreme metal rule rather than being an indictment of Obituary's songwriting prowess. I do love that guitar tone, it brings a nice dank, crypt-like atmosphere to the band's sound as it did for Celtic Frost and it combines perfectly with John Tardy's particularly evil-sounding vocal delivery - check out 'Til Death for particular proof if any is needed and the foreboding, brooding atmosphere that is created.

The riffs are solid and the lead work is fine if not particularly spectacular with the soloing following the Slayer-esque stylings of most of the early death metal protagonists. The rhythm section again is solid rather than remarkable, but does form a solid foundation. I feel like I am sounding awfully harsh on the band here, but don't misunderstand, I love the atmosphere that Obituary create on the slower material but also when they do let rip and get in full flow they feel like a really tight unit and these faster sections are impressively executed, so although I feel like they may not be the most technically flashy performers they function exceedingly well as a unit and as such produced an evilly atmospheric and heavy-as-fuck debut album that deserves all the credit it receives.

Sonny Sonny / May 21, 2022 04:33 PM

One last band for me to check out in my early essential expedition is Knut. Sadly I came here after the passing of vocalist Didier Séverin, but with such a perfect album as Challenger, this positive review would be a nice blessing for his legacy. And better late than never, right? RIP...

Lots of cool stuff you can find from Switzerland including metal bands Coroner, Samael, and Eluveitie, along with Tolberlone's triangular chocolates and Swiss Army Knives. Initially, the band only gained attention in Europe, but they would then be heard of in America thanks to Hydra Head Records releasing their first two releases. Challenger is an album that would challenger the Northern lands with unexpected expectations from their sludgy mathcore sound!

Straight on into pummeling madness, the wacky "Whacked Out" opens the album with discordant guitar and thick bass before a Botch-like math-metalcore groove. The chaotic guitar flows through frantic drumming and heavy rhythm. "Repressed" has guitars alternating from high to low, even going far into grindcore. "El Niño" has some Coalesce-powered groove as well. The guitars and drums fight for the main control, impressive building up to more of that chaotic frenzy. There's more of that fury to come later on, if you're up for more of this challenge...

"Bite the Bullet" bites down on the usual mathcore antics, leading up to an incredible ending breakdown. Next track "Neon Guide" slows things down close to black-doom. Don't take it the wrong way though, this ain't Woods of Ypres (another band with a fallen frontman, RIP). It sounds more towards the style of Neurosis and Cult of Luna at that time, reminding me of the latter's self-titled debut. "H/Armless" continues the slow intensity with tearing vocals.

"58.788" is cleaner with melodic yet distorted guitar and voice samples. "Ice Will" brings back the earlier pounding chaos. The closing track "March" is a 20-minute math-metalcore epic (almost as long as the entire Coalesce's Functioning on Impatience), filled with tempo changes, complex drums, and elevating intensity. Incredible!

All in all, it is expected to be unexpected. The intense music has evolved into one of the best albums I've heard of sludgy mathcore. This excellent music with catch your ears with this pummeling record. It should really be picked up by fans of that sound, especially Neurosis, Keelhaul, and Cult of Luna. Add some sludge spice into your metallic hardcore with the perfect challenge that is Challenger!

Favorites: "Whacked Out", "El Niño", "Neon Guide", "Ice Will", "March"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 21, 2022 05:16 AM
Rock and Roll Killing Machine

You know how hardcore a band's gonna get with this sarcastic "fight me, b****rds" attitude, and Drowningman is no exception! Rock and Roll Killing Machine allows them to bite their way through social commentary in statements delivered to the metalcore masses.

From the shadows of Rock and Roll Killing Machine, Drowningman brought the right tools for the sound of this second album of theirs in a noisy mix of elements from hardcore punk and crossover thrash that formed metalcore. It is shocking to find the lack of appreciation this band gets for their strength. They even had the audacity to write a few long song titles, which I'll shorten so I don't get exhausted just from writing them all.

"When People Become Numbers" has strength in numbers, and by that, I mean numbers of aspects to expect in metal/mathcore. The hardly recognizable "Last Week's Minutes from the Meeting..." deserves more attention with its sharp relentless riffing attack, eventually turning into some of the most melody this band has ever had to blow through your head. "The Truly Dangerous Nature of a Man..." is probably the heaviest song here, but it won't go out without a soft ending with clean vocals. There are a few more songs coming up, and they have shorter song titles...

The title track has excellent melody in the chorus. "Code Breaking Hearts" is a classic highlight, starting with speedy aggression before some more melodic sections, all great when you're along for the ride. "My First Restraining Order" is definitely not the first mathcore song I've listened to, but it's a great start for newcomers.

"This Year’s Most Fashionable Signs of Weakness" is a slightly longer song title than the previous 3, but they're clever enough to eliminate the emo class for the greater scene of bands like Cable (still waiting for that band to be added to this site) and Today is the Day. You'll never be bored in the frantic "If God Loves a Winner..." And finally, "Angles And Defenses" is the band's last line of metal/mathcore defense before their long break until one more album.

Rock and Roll Killing Machine reaches near-perfection with its caustic blend of melody and dissonance in the vocals and guitars, creating crazy monstrous hooks for noisy hardcore punk songs to morph with math metal into their own subgenre. Drowningman has proven that it's hard to replicate the Killing Machine that they are!

Favorites: "When People Become Numbers", "Last Week's Minutes from the Meeting...", "The Truly Dangerous Nature of a Man...", "Code Breaking Hearts", "This Year’s Most Fashionable Signs of Weakness"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 21, 2022 12:39 AM
Souvenirs d'un autre monde

*Stands up in front of his peers*

Daniel: “Hi everyone. My name is Daniel & I’m a kvlt elitist.”

*insert round of applause from his sympathetic peers*

Sometimes in life you just have to admit that you don’t know everything. You may have thought you did at one point but then the gift of hindsight comes back to emphatically show you that what you thought you categorically knew previously was misguided & delusional & that’s kinda how I feel about French blackgaze originators Alcest these days. You see, when I finally returned to the metal scene in 2009 after a decade of electronic music indulgence I felt that I had a lot of catching up to do so I threw myself head-first into every extreme metal-related release of significance from the years of my defection. Unfortunately though, my mind was still firmly playing by the rules of my late 80’s/mid 90’s hey day as I simply wasn’t open to some of the new & more adventurous sounds I was hearing. In my mind black metal needed to be insanely dark, relentlessly brutal & inherently Satanic so when I first heard Alcest’s take on the genre I headed straight over to one end of the polarization line & stood my ground militantly. I kidded myself that I was open-minded & that these new sounds simply didn't offer much of substance. Hell, I even dragged Ben along to see Alcest perform live on their 2011 tour in support of the re-recorded version of their "Le Secret" E.P. but still came away saying that they were boring & uninteresting with my arms folded & my best Quorthon impression etched on my face. Fast forward to 2022 & I can certainly still understand my prior position as I still prefer my black metal to be of the variety I’ve just described but I’ve also grown as a person with time, age & experience gifting me with a greater appreciation for a more diverse array of musical styles & the improved ability to be a able to judge a release on its own merits rather than what I’d like it to be. As a result, I’m coming into Alcest’s debut album with a completely new set of ears & it’s warmly rewarded me for it.

Unlike Alcest’s ground-breaking debut E.P. “Le Secret” which saw the blackgaze subgenre being thrust upon the world for the very first time, “Souvenirs d'un autre monde” is often claimed to be a more traditional shoegaze release with the post-metal tag also being used to describe it. I can see why people may want to go in that direction as these six tracks are completely devoid of shrieking black metal screams, instead seeing band leader Neige opting for a sweet, melodic, whispy, unintimidating & child-like clean approach that is very much in line with what you’d expect to hear on your average dream pop release. A couple of the tracks are more aligned with shoegaze from an instrumental perspective too with their jangly wall of guitar sound being performed at a more restrained tempo that summons rock a lot more than it does metal (see the title track & “Ciel errant”). Closer “Tir Nan Og” is the clear anomaly in the tracklisting as it steers well clear of rock or metal altogether & sounds more like Celtic new age music than anything else but the remainder of the album sees me being tempted to make the link to black metal strongly enough to result in me reluctantly placing “Souvenirs d'un autre monde” into the black metal bin alongside the Mayhems, Bathorys & Emperors. You see, although tracks like “Printemps émeraude”, “Les iris” & “Sur l'autre rive je t'attendrai” clearly draw inspiration from conventional shoegaze, the often tremolo-picked melodic guitar riffs simply feel far too closely aligned with the black metal atmosphere to deny. The use of fast, pseudo-blast beats on a couple of the tracks only strengthens that association & at the end of the album I can't help but feel that I’ve witnessed something that falls far too close to black metal for me to continue to deny it of its passage into the Metal Academy clan system. Where the association with post-metal comes from is more of a mystery though as, despite the use of the occasional atmospheric acoustic section, “Souvenirs d'un autre monde” is still very much a riff-based release & doesn’t rely on textured, slow-building & climactic post-rock structures.

Once I’d come to the surprising realisation that this album may actually have some link & resemblance to the extreme metal sounds I held so dear, the next step in my recovery from black metal elitism was to allow Alcest the opportunity to impress me as a piece of art & I’ll be damned if “Souvenirs d'un autre monde” isn’t a mighty fine record in its own right when you finally give it a chance after leaving your expectations at the door. The production job is bright & glistening, the cover art captures the atmosphere of the child-like innocence contained within wonderfully & the warm feeling of comfort the songs leave you with is endearing & self-reflective. None of that is anything I strive to achieve when streaming your average black metal release to my car stereo mind you but after finally giving in to Alcest’s world I have to ask myself why it has to be? Sure, I don’t regard any of these six tracks as raging metal classics that’ll stay with me in my Hall of Metal Glory for all eternity but to deny that I enjoy them any longer would not be representative of the place where my more expansive modern taste palate has transitioned to over time.

I have Xephyr’s The Infinite feature release submission of Alcest’s excellent 2016 fifth album “Kodama” from quite a few months ago now to thank for encouraging me to finally return back to the band’s earlier work which I’d previously dismissed. Perhaps I don’t enjoy “Souvenirs d'un autre monde” quite as much as I do that release which I feel falls outside of the scope of the metal spectrum altogether but there’s not all that much between the two & its opened the door for me to re-evaluate the rest of Alcest’s back catalogue with new ears too now. Can I see why “Souvenirs d'un autre monde” is the band’s most highly celebrated release? Yeah definitely. It’s got an accessibility that gives it a very broad range of appeal across a wide cross-section of music lovers. Is that a negative? It might frustrate a teenage me to hear me say it these days but the answer is not in the slightest.

For fans of Jesu, Lantlôs & Sun Devoured Earth.

Daniel Daniel / May 20, 2022 08:10 PM
Until Your Heart Stops

Mathcore's development has been helped out by a few bands that are far more metalcore. Cave In took on a more progressive-ish side of metalcore that might make you think of mathcore though it has only reached elements of that subgenre, and the end result sounds massive!

Their debut Until Your Heart Stops shows what a boundary-breaking band they can be and would make you up for many listens. Instead of going as melodic as Killswitch Engage, expected is the violence of changing rhythms you might also hear in The Dillinger Escape Plan, Coalesce, and Converge, the latter's members Kurt Ballou and Jacob Bannon appearing a few times in the album. Many different elements form the uniqueness in Cave In's mighty sound, for a new underground attitude.

The two-minute opening punch of "Moral Eclipse" pounds through with killer energy, complete with distorted guitar breakdowns, driving percussion, and screaming vocal alternation. "Terminal Deity" has repetitive riffing but it's OK because of its evolution into madness that you can understand more in later listens. "Juggernaut" sounds more progressive but in a beginner's level, with a storming riff onslaught unleashing energetic hardcore, though there are twists back and forth into strange melody, jazzing up things while making the song worth headbanging to.

A longer definition of the album is the 8-minute epic "The End of Our Rope is a Noose". There's an ambient soundscape Isis would have later, before a mid-paced blend of progressive metal and metalcore, sounding slow before a ricochet into chaos. Then we have a psychedelic stoner bridge before the nastily great heaviness rises once more. Normally I don't like bringing interludes into detailed light, but "Segue 1" stands out as a cool interlude to breathe in for a minute. You can consider that one instrumental experimental emocore! Then there's a sudden jump into the title track, with the most Slayer-ish riff-fight you'll ever witness, before some last melodic twists and concluding with the noise-ridden interlude "Segue 2". Following this is "Halo of Flies" with stomping guitar and percussion effects, and vocals ranging from harsh to soft.

"Bottom Feeder" is an under-3-minute mid-tempo clean-sung track that reminds some of Helmet in the semi-relaxing verse, before some more ugly yet beautiful noise. It's forgotten yet so unforgettable! Then "Segue 3" is another brief weird noise interlude. "Ebola" has the most frantic intro, yet it continues as the most melodic song here. The 14-minute "Controlled Mayhem Then Erupts" travels the mathy metalcore lands one more time before sailing the ambient noise seas into the unknown...

Until Your Heart Stops is not an album to simply summarize, but it's known as an interesting diverse addition to the metalcore revolution. It's the perfect way to start this band's career that would end up taking a less heavy turn. Don't let their legacy stop!

RIP bassist Caleb Scofield

Favorites: "Moral Eclipse", "Terminal Deity", "The End of Our Rope is a Noose", "Until Your Heart Stops", "Bottom Feeder", "Controlled Mayhem Then Erupts"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 20, 2022 12:49 PM
Twilight in Olympus

It would seem a near-impossible task for a band to not only match, but surpass 'The Divine Wings of Tragedy', but if anyone can do it, it's the albums creators themselves, for with 'Twilight in Olympus', Symphony X have unleashed a pure masterpiece of progressive metal upon the world.

Comfortable and confident with their sound, the interplay between all the musicians on this release is breathtaking, with each member given ample time to shine. Michael Romeo's guitars are at their neoclassical best, with keyboard player Michael Pinnella matching him note for note. The rhythm section, despite the long compositions and intricate structures, are as solid as ever, and Russell Allen's vocals are truly at their peak. From aggressive to melodic, from deathly growls to the highest wails, this truly is one of the most versatile singers in the world, fronting some of the most technically proficient musicians in the world.

Despite being a continuation of the style they'd honed and perfected over the last few albums, nothing on 'Twilight' sounds forced or stagnant. The band sound more focused and driven than ever. While every song here is a true highlight in the bands discography, it's the first half of the album that deserves particular attention. 'Smoke and Mirrors' and 'In the Dragon's Den' are relentless in speed and technique, and 'Church of the Machine' and 'Through the Looking Glass' are two of the greatest "epics" the genre has to offer.

With its blend of metal, progressive and neoclassical elements, virtuoso musicianship and solid production, Symphony X's 'Twilight in Olympus' is an absolute beast of an album, and is without a doubt one of progressive metal's finest offerings.

MartinDavey87 MartinDavey87 / May 20, 2022 11:18 AM
The Dungeons Are Calling

After the release of their 1983 debut, Savatage were quick to follow up with this EP, 'The Dungeons Are Calling', that consists of songs that were originally recorded for 'Sirens', but left off due to time restraints.

Overall the selection of tracks is good, but these are pretty much leftovers from the bands previous release, and that's exactly what they sound like. 'City Beneath the Surface' and the title track are standout songs that prevents this EP from being a complete waste, but the rest of the songs are pretty average, especially when compared with Savatage's later material.

As with their first record, the production could be better, but it's raw, grittiness suits the music perfectly, giving it a distinctive 80's metal sound.

'Dungeons' has since been released with 'Sirens' on one CD, "how it was meant to be", according to Savatage mastermind Jon Oliva, which is probably just as well, because as a stand-alone release, I don't think there's much worth picking up here unless you're a dedicated member of the Savatage Legion.

MartinDavey87 MartinDavey87 / May 20, 2022 11:16 AM
Functioning on Impatience

Coalesce's debut Give Them Rope can be considered an early mathcore masterpiece, highly technical with underground production in a decent album length. However, their shorter second album Functioning on Impatience might be good for the impatient but not for those who want a full album. This is pretty much the Daughter's Canada Songs of Coalesce in terms of length and quality.

With its 20-minute 7-track length, Functioning on Impatience doesn't reach the brilliance of Give Them Rope. The album is not the most metal-looking, but it doesn't hurt. Neither does this short test of patience...

The subtle build into chaos that begins "You Can't Kill Us All" consists of the caustic pained shouts of Sean Ingram with simple drumming. After he proclaims the title line, the drumming tightens and in come the guitar rhythm and bass rumble, all while the thick growls lead the way. After that is the filler interlude "Recurring Ache of Monotony Still Running". Then the heavy cadence is steadied in "A New Language".

Speaking of language, they better watch themselves in "On Being a B****rd". After that "My Love for Extremes" is heavily suitable for my love for extreme mathcore. Will they continue the extremeness that I love?

"Measured in Gray" keeps going on and off with their guitar work and time changes. They really start and stop a lot in a pleasant way, thanks to guitarist Jes Steineger. The most furious way to finish the album is "A Disgust for Details". To be honest, I don't think there's a lot fiercer than that track from much of this band's material or mathcore. That's the heaviness to remind me of us where they started in their debut!

Functioning on Impatience has quite some tight groove throughout the album. You won't be able to dance to this music without turning the dancefloor into a moshpit. The insane amount of time-changes was the right spark for a metalcore future. Now despite the album's short length, you would be welcome into metal-mathcore progression....

Favorites: "You Can't Kill Us All", "A New Language", "My Love for Extremes", "A Disgust for Details"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 20, 2022 12:03 AM
Give Them Rope

Coalesce has disbanded and reformed on and off, and currently they're no longer active after a couple reunion shows. I've only just discovered the steady supreme material they've made. During their first long split throughout the first half of the 2000s, in order to tame fans of the band hungry for a new EP and album, a crushing masterpiece was remastered and re-released, their debut Give Them Rope! This perfect album delivers mathcore in every way possible.

The lyrics can be quite hard to understand and can p*ss off some listeners, though the frustration is important for Coalesce's power. However, when you already know the lyrics and pay close attention, you know the darkness of the themes within the screams.

The impressive assault "Have Patience" blasts off and has made quite an impact for my first time with this album, delivering heaviness beyond 11. If anyone thought Spinal Tap made heavy history, that track would prove them wrong. "One on the Ground" begins in a screaming barrage that's totally worth it. I can personally hear those notes and beats strike my heart. Blasting through again in "Cut to Length". And again in the crushing "For All You Are".

"Still It Sells" has panning rhythms, while the screams of Sean Ingram rocket through the ears in an interesting light. "Chain Smoking" continues the heavy math-metalcore chain once again. "Did It Pay the Rent?" pays off well with its tormenting greatness.

This band can pummel and there's "Every Reason To", from every instrumentation aspect, including the heavy groove bass of Stacey Hilt, the smashing drums of James Dewees and the technical destruction in the guitar riffs by Jes Steineger. Altogether with Sean Ingram's mighty roars. "I Am Not the First" is an interlude with not much to say. "This is the Last" isn't the last song, but has the ultimate part of their sound. "I Took a Year" makes sense the amount of time they took to release the album since recording.

It's no secret that Coalesce knew how to take on the audible aspects of their sound. While people might prefer more precise production that the band would have in later albums, the muddy sound is what sets Give Them Rope apart, letting the technical grooves beak through the Earth's crust. Just think about the massive moshing whirlpool the smashing guitars and decimating drums would create when performed live, all guided by Ingram's deep monstrous vocal power. This metallic hardcore can be both brutal and catchy, the way it's meant to be. The crazy destruction is what helped Coalesce stand their ground, and an album this important deserves the most attention!

Favorites: "Have Patience", "One on the Ground", "Still It Sells", "Did It Pay the Rent?", "Every Reason To", "This is the Last"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 19, 2022 11:01 PM
Blood Mountain

Don't ask me why but despite being a hhhuuugggeee fan of the records either side of it for many years now I'd never gotten around to checking out the highly celebrated 2006 third album "Blood Mountain" from Atlanta-based progressive sludge masters Mastodon until yesterday. Mastodon have always been a class act so I didn't expect anything other than a polished & accomplished piece of art & there's no question that that's exactly what they've delivered here too. This album appears to be the point in which the band took a turn away from their sludge metal roots & pointed their ship directly towards the progressive metal stratosphere as it's a lot more technical & complex than I remember their earlier material being & I don't think it technically qualifies for sludge status any more either as that's only a small portion of the holistic direction that "Blood Mountain" sees the band taking with stoner elements popping up almost as often. The album offers the usual highlights from drummer Brann Dailor who was a complete phenomenon at this point while it also falls victim to Mastodon's obvious Achilles heal in the vocal department which places a cap on the album's potential to reach the upper eschalons of my affection. In order to make a genuinely classic record you need to be able to write classic hooks &, for all it's splendour in the instrumental department, I'm just not sure "Blood Mountain" offers enough catchiness & memorability to be able to stand toe-to-toe with amazing records like "Leviathan" & "Crack The Skye" in that department. Brent & Troy do their best with the tools at their disposal however neither have the vocal chops to make this consistently solid outing into a truly special one. Still... there are few that can match Mastodon for ambition & execution in the instrumental department & the effortlessness with which they perform complex melodic acrobatics is beyond criticism. You can't really go wrong here if you're a fan of professionally produced & performed progressive metal music.

For fans of Baroness, Dvne & Intronaut.

Daniel Daniel / May 19, 2022 11:56 AM
Fixation on a Coworker

One band to really put the metal in metalcore and the math in mathcore is Deadguy (not to be confused with German power metallers Edguy). There are more popular bands of those genres, but a few of the less active bands would have you keep keep listening. Though I've already experienced Botch and Converge, Deadguy is what's missing for me! For their debut and only album, Fixation on a Coworker, we have the most real metallic hardcore you'll ever witness, with such beauty and chaos to inspire new bands.

The production is quite grand yet sharp, as sharp as a razorblade! The angular riffs shred like buzzsaws alongside heavy tom hits. And there's never the need for any recycled emotion, it's just rage all the way through.

"Doom Patrol" starts with a direct punch in the face as speedy riffs sear through riff harmonic dissonance. The intense vocals by Tim Singer (who shouts, not sings) is just what metallic hardcore really needs, working especially well in the slow breakdown. "Pins and Needles" has more intricate syncopation as you hear in your mind all that's happening to you. The lyrics focus on the horrors of reality instead of the gory film horror that death metal bands fixate on, inspiring a dark yet modern future. The mid-paced "Die With Your Mask On" keeps up the standard-tuned riff wrath as you hear a ranting frenzy in the vocals ("so quick to deny and patronize"). That's a much better way to start mathcore than the overly experimental Candiria!

"Baby Arm" once again makes sure the band is armed for another metal-mathcore war. The more dissonant "Makeshift Atomsmasher" has more unpredictable brutality that would level up a moshpit. They can sound so technical in such a short song length. "The Extremist" once again takes things to the extreme.

"Nine Stitches" has the kind of bridge you wish to have in music class, with as many time changes as The Dillinger Escape Plan can have, enough to induce f***ing confused headbanging. "Riot Stairs" starts clean and gloomy. Then the drums speed up to fast hardcore with thundering growls ("therapy and love"). There's rapid metal complexity all over "Apparatus". Finally, the 6-minute "Crazy Eddie" starts with a riff that's like Slayer but slower, then after a pause, some kick-A rhythm before a final hard chord strike.

Who needs solos and breakdowns when you can have nothing but f***ing technical heaviness!? Fixation on a Coworker is the right album for metalcore fans, and it's disappointing that this band ended too soon. Essential metal/mathcore that you can't skip in your life!

Favorites: "Doom Patrol", "Die With Your Mask On", "Makeshift Atomsmasher", "Nine Stitches", "Apparatus"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 19, 2022 10:56 AM
Surrealistic Madness

For far too long, old forgotten albums have been in the unknown void. If only I could have a time machine that could allow to teleport back in time to when they were still remembered. The debut album from Candiria isn't easy to absorb, it sounds quite weird with some superb points! Straight outta Brooklyn, Candiria want to make any d*mn music they wanted, with no fear of being criticized. Since their 1992 formation, they've crossed through a diverse sonic mix of styles and experienced several lineup changes and hiatuses, plus a tour van crash in 2002 that severely injured all the members at that time, but fortunately they recovered. Their most recent album came out in 2016. But now we're gonna experience the first part of their diverse journey, their debut Surrealistic Madness!

I had not known much of this band before this encounter, and it's quite incredibly strange having come across this album for the first time, as if the cover art and title wasn't enough of a tip-off. Many fans have praised this band, but little did they know the existence of this offering! Some things are quite notable when you catch up with the context of the sonic music. It's quite a bizarre combination that works sometimes. There's also lots of death metal groove here, but is this really enough to create deathcore? Well the style I would say is progressive mathcore, and this album is the first of that style, but is more of a mix with that and technical death metal, along with jazz interludes. The album is also known as their only one without longtime guitarist John LaMacchia. Instead they had the late Chris Puma (RIP) who also wrote some guitar parts for their second album that were performed by LaMacchia. Puma's guitar work was quite impressive though...

You can hear it in the first of two songs that were re-recorded for later, "Temple of Sickness". At over the 4-minute mark is a brutal slam-core breakdown, then a minute later, the vocals reach death-growling while having the mid-paced metalcore of Cold as Life. The one-minute interlude "Wind" seems like a bit of a waste. I mean it's OK, but it sounds too much like a futile attempt at a different experiment of tribal drumming. "Elevate in Madness" is the second of two tracks re-recorded for The Process of Self-Development, trying again their mosh-core bridge between jazz and tech-death. The fantastic "Infected Wisdom" is for some reason only available in the original version. That's too bad because the awesome jazz-infused progressive death/mathcore is still around.

"Toying with the Insanities" is another useless one-minute interlude. The only thing amusing is the possibility that they made this using only bathroom appliances. "Mental Crossover" definitely sounds like a crossover between mathy hardcore and deathgrind, especially in the vocals. "Observing Highways" is another amazing track that was only in the original. But what's different here is, this is basically just progressive jazz, sounding like Herbie Hancock contributed to the SimCity soundtrack. "Pages" is a return to some great deathly hardcore insanity. They unleash furious fire in a brief breakdown in the last 20 seconds.

For the next track "Weep", it starts off like something from a horror movie soundtrack before going full-on jazz in the last minute. "Red Eye Flight" is a f***ing treat. The first minute is deathly hardcore but after that is a 10-minute string/synth jazz interlude. Holy sh*t, some of the jazzy parts actually work pretty well on and off. Not something I would listen to if I'm in a pure metal mood, but it has decent potential. There are two bonus tracks in the 1999 re-issue, starting with the dissonant yet jazzed-up "Chaos in the Middle of Perfectly Illogical Sense". The other bonus track "Purity Condemned" is from an earlier demo and, one minute and 20 seconds in, has a killer breakdown.

This band's experimental journey began in Surrealistic Madness. I'm sure longtime fans of the band would love it to bits and probably finally give it the credit and praise that has been missing all these years. But for someone who has just discovered this today, it would have to take a very long time to get used to it before I like it more. There's more than meets the ears, and you would find a lot more of it if you're a professional listener of experimental jazz/death metal/mathcore....

Favorites: "Temple of Sickness", "Infected Wisdom", "Observing Highways", "Pages", "Red Eye Flight" (parts of it), "Purity Condemned" (bonus track)

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 19, 2022 06:05 AM

This is my first Allegaeon experience and it's not quite what I expected. Given Damnum's single primary genre is Technical Death Metal, I expected something akin to Gorguts or Ulcerate. What I ended up with is a fairly technical and intense Melodic Death Metal album that occasionally drifts into Opeth territory. I'm not at all opposed to the melodic side of death metal, so I've found a lot to enjoy here. The production is great and the musicianship is very good indeed (the drumming and leads are particularly strong), plus there's a whole variety of utilised vocal techniques, including excellent (not to mention easily decipherable) deep growls, screams, Soilwork-like clean choruses and even more tender Åkerfeldt-ish singing.

The album is not without it's flaws though, with the 60 minute running time being the most obvious. While it's all consistently enjoyable, the album probably just overstays it's welcome, and most tracks fail to have that X factor that would take this release into higher echelons (which I feel like this band is capable of achieving). In the end I thoroughly enjoy what I'm hearing though, and hope to check out some of their other works. A very solid four stars from me.

Ben Ben / May 19, 2022 03:40 AM
Passive Backseat Demon Engines

There's a reason why deathgrind is not one of the death metal subgenres I chose to rediscover. It's a mix of two of the deadliest metal genres; standard death metal and grindcore, and bands like Brutal Truth (whose vocalist Kevin Sharp would perform in their final album 5 years after this one) are beyond my leeway. So why am I here? To explore the earliest deathcore releases and, SPOILER, this ain't!

With the lack of impact outside their homeland, Damaged was signed to Rotten Records to have this EP and their debut reissued as one album. Damaged is in their game of deathgrind fury, sounding good in a couple tracks, but when they rarely ease up, it's as intense as the world's spiciest ghost pepper and not how I would handle spiciness.

One track I truly enjoy is the title track, which has unholy guitar-vocal assault that might be an early hint of deathcore, but again that subgenre is not what this EP is for the most part. The only other enjoyable track for me is the neat little cover of Bathory's "Equimanthorn". Still nowhere near deathcore, but it's quite interesting hearing this band transform an early black metal song into deathgrind.

If you enjoy Celtic Frost's earlier death metal-influencing material mixed with the noise-grind that Nails would later have, you might like and handle the intensity of Passive Backseat Demon Engines way more than I do. All you need to know is, they're deathgrind, very little deathcore is present, end of review....

Favorites (only songs I like here): "Passive Backseat Demon Engines", "Equimanthorn"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 19, 2022 01:05 AM
Forest of Equilibrium

Getting past Lee Dorian’s vocals has been a life-long challenge of mine. His exploits in Cathedral’s debut are only tolerable because everything that is going on is so good that I have sufficient distraction from his tepid attempts at vocal work. His croak is lost to some degree under the sheer weight of the mix and on any other album I would probably call this out as a problem, but on Forest of Equilibrium it is a perfect imperfection for me. That having been said, when he allows his voice to drop to a more mournful tone, he can croon well enough I find. As another criticism (let us get the moans out of the way early on) the drums are also a victim of the knob-twiddling that went on to get the album out of the door. They sound cloaked to the point of being suppressed, which overall is a shame because there are some neat fills being run here and an obvious energy to the skin work (I mean check out Ebony Tears and tell me I am wrong).

What rules the day here are absolutely the best parts of the album. A guitar tone that rattles the windows in their frames and comes with a drenching of dirge that is a functional pre-requisite for doom. Supported by heck of a chug in the bass, the deft and mournfully melodic playing of Lehan and Jennings really shines (albeit in a dark and horrific way of course). Lurching the album forwards with each torturously slow riff they create their own atmosphere – arguably an ecosystem of dank air and acrid fumes in which only the most rarefied beasts can survive, perhaps those depicted on the bizarre album cover?

The best parts of the record are when the guitars are allowed to simply run away with themselves as they pummel their agonising riffs repeatedly, knowing just when to go with the consistent punishment but then also add the necessary variety as harrowing melodies. It is an album that almost needs no vocal input (for me at least) to get its message across; quite easily these seven tracks could entertain me as instrumentals. It is not to say that I am completely ignorant of the placing of the vocals though. They are clearly there for added atmosphere and threat and I can even see how on some level they work. I guess I am just not that interested in them overall.

As a band who I have no further knowledge of beyond their debut effort I feel that their sound alone deserves more exploration through their discography, but it is not a desire that I have engaged enough with to understand whether there can be more reward to be gained from expanding my experience of a band I sort of only half like. The heavy metal credentials of Soul Sacrifice suggest more to the band than just aching doom drudgery, but I am unsure of just how far my interest can go really beyond the debut.

Vinny Vinny / May 18, 2022 07:32 PM
Altars of Madness

OK, so I am quite reluctant to comment on Altars of Madness as it is undoubtedly one of the most highly-regarded of all death metal releases and I am not sure I can do it justice, but as it is a seminal release in the death metal canon I will have to try and do my best. I came to it quite late in the day, early on in my reintroduction to metal, around the turn of the millenium via a work colleague who was into Morbid Angel and Deicide and was kind enough to lend me a few of his CDs, Altars of Madness among them. So does it merit all the praise that is heaped upon it? Yes it absolutely does as this sets a whole new level of evilness and intensity for metal at this point in it's evolution and pretty much writes the manual for death metal going into the 1990s.

Firstly the songwriting is phenomenal, each track being immediate and vital and yet each retaining an individuality and identity that is rarely maintained to such a level in extreme metal, making each a memorable classic that doesn't just become part of the overall album's morass of sound but which stand out in their own right. Next, the guitar sound is phenomenal - I swear there are four or five guitars playing sometimes, such a sweeping hurricane of sound are we faced with. The riffs are fantastic and the solos, whilst being rooted in the example set by Slayer's Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, take this tortured style of soloing to a new level. Pete Sandoval's drumming is relentless and is technically brilliant as he employs every weapon in his arsenal to take metal drumming to a new heights with superb fills and proto-blastbeats that more than just keep time. Bassist/vocalist Dave Vincent snarls and growls his way through the unholy and blasphemous lyrics (which are probably the most predictable part of the whole album) with a demonic-sounding relish.

Even with all this amazing songwriting and musicianship, that still isn't the whole story of Altars of Madness. The cover art is fantastic with the leering mass of demons that seem to be forming and reforming from some kind of primordial protoplasm, some looking evil and savage, others looking mischievous and humourous and yet more looking merely demented. It is the sort of album cover you could study for ages and still find something new hidden within - a bit like the album itself. The details are also where it's at with AoM, the backwards-playing riff that introduces the album opener Immortal Rites and the demonic laugh Dave Vincent unleashes at the start of Maze of Torment both add to the immersion of the album and these small details help to elevate Altars of Madness in the minds of it's advocates.

All in all I would definitely agree with those who claim this as one of the greatest and most influential death metal albums of all time and I must concur that it more than deserves it's position on the highest pedestal of extreme metal classics.

Sonny Sonny / May 18, 2022 03:40 PM