This is the work of a soul drenched in sorrow. Finding in the unimaginable weight of the darkness the creative ability to embrace multiple forms, styles and sounds of music to produce a work that is harrowing, avant-garde, expansive and above all else capable. Wrest is known for his work with his Leviathan project, rightly getting credit for the darkness he creates under that pseudonym for it's bleak ambience and death-hazy resonance. Lurker of Chalice was arguably the father of Scar Sighted and you will certainly pick up the vibes from Leviathan's 2015 release here.
I haven't heard many albums that in the midst of such organically generated fear and menace manage to still soothe and calm the soul at the same time. For all the perilous gloom Wrest creates here he blends perfectly elements of post-everything (I am not kidding) whilst adding doom like atmospherics and songwriting to the album at the same time. He concocts structures made out of pure desolation, emptying the contents of a damaged and fragile soul into a stark and arid desert of human misery.
In just less than an hour you will find yourself afraid, fearful of what lurks in every shadow of your own mind as this record twists and contorts itself around your very own psyche. Yet you will also find solace here. It is a dark dressing for the gaping wounds on all our characters, a soundtrack to all of our nightmares that rationalises and makes tangible their form. It is the nefarious voice in all of us that fears our ability to be anything other than pale shadows on this mortal coil.
Genres: Black Metal
The last Akhlys release blew my fucking mind. It was intense to the point of being overbearing. Between the expansive song writing and layered atmospherics, the whole experience was a cloying and totally memorable one. As with most of Naas Alcameth's output, this project follows a familiar level of infrequency of output with a whole five years having passed since the project's sophomore release. The more recent venture he had undertaken with Aoratos last year made me aware of the continued quality of his work under whatever band name he was working under and so my hopes were high for Melinoë.
Using Evan Knight (or Eoghan as he is known here) for the drums following the success of collaborating on Aoratos, Naas continues to forge ahead with making Akhlys an exciting and terrifying project in equal measure. The blue print for this album differs only very minutely from The Dreaming I, instead opting to build on the "wall of noise" theme so prevalent on that record and make things just a tad more coherent and accessible in places on this one. That's not to say this record lets up on the momentum created by its predecessor in anyway, if anything it is a far more challenging record. But, I do find it a lot more sticky than previous output and this was obvious with the preview tracks - which after hearing just two of them I had the vinyl on pre-order.
Melinoë is a suffocating listen. Its main driving force the oppressive nature it imposes on you as a listener, whether through all out battery or utilising menacing atmospherics that would sit just as well on the soundtrack to most horror films, you can't help but fear the sounds it produces. The experience leaves you feeling like being lost at sea and having to swim for some distant shore and the tumult of the tide just endlessly pulls you down to the darkest depths of the blackest waters. Even when you manage to get your head above water again it is not long before you are pulled back under.
The melodies deployed are acutely distressing, swarming and mining at your very core as they circle you like taunting demons. These harrowing moments are what save you from getting totally lost at times, they are well-timed and the album deploys more atmospheric tracks and passages to great effect to give the overall feel of a well-paced record.
The only challenge I have is with the production on the first couple of tracks. It feels a bit stifling upon the first couple of listens and the impact of the music is blunted somewhat as a result. I don't recall this issue on the stream so appears to be a new challenge with the vinyl pressing I have. The fact that it is an album that is supposed to have that element of mystery and ethereal threat is what makes this almost passable (it certainly doesn't ruin the record at least). If you enjoyed The Dreaming I though you'll love this.
Genres: Black Metal
An injustice has been addressed during the writing of this review. Namely that I had paid so little attention to Paysage d'Hiver that I genuinely thought they only had one release (their brilliant self-titled) and their latest offering in 2020 to their name. A quick look on a wonderful new invention called "The Internet" soon revealed the monstrous levels of my ignorance and has now led me to the discography of one of my emerging favourite artists.
For anyone else existing in ignorance, Paysage d'Hiver is Tobias Möckl from Darkspace (where he is better known as Wroth on vocals and guitar). Paysage d'Hiver is his solo project harking back to prior the existence of Darkspace where he goes by the title of Wintherr, performing all instruments and vocals himself. The concept (literally) of his releases are that all of them form one big story, not always in linear narrative, with whole demos/EP's or sometimes individual songs making up parts of that story. The vastness of aforementioned story should not be underestimated as there are ten demos and (as of this year) one full-length that comprise this tale. And there's more to come.
I am quite partial to a bit of Darkspace and Tobias' influence on that band is never made more obvious than when listening to his solo outings. The sound is a dense and turgid mix of raging black metal, replete with blast beats and tremolos galore; yet also there is often atmospheric and ambient passages (sometimes whole tracks) that balance a very varied and intense offering like Schattengang. Track number two on here goes through various shifts and turns during the twenty-plus minutes that it stretches over, but never once does it get lost or boring. This is especially true when you have the knowledge around the story-telling aspect of what Tobias is trying to achieve here and the real neat trick is trying to place the events of Schattengang in the bigger picture.
For a second release that is now some twenty-two years old, this is strong stuff. The songwriting prowess is already very well established and the vision to be able to write such expansive and vast narrative whilst holding the listener captivated is nothing short of brilliant. The soothing and bleak ambience of the track that close this release (I have the three track version), Atmosphäre massages my actual brain as I listen to it. With my eyes closed it is almost trance inducing, feeling the rotation of the world type stuff. What a great discovery.
Genres: Black Metal
An album that I don't think I have ever (or will ever) fully fathom, Nespithe is certainly unique in both sound and delivery. From a vocal perspective it is indecipherable, genuinely sounding like the vocalist is so low that the sound must be resonating off the very walls of his own bowels. Although you cannot get away from them being the focal (or vocal point - get it?) point of the album they are but one piece of a very strange puzzle.
The whole album appears to lurch and flounder to me. That's not say it is out of control in anyway though, it just feels barely controlled, like the band have unleashed something that even they were not expecting on the world and aren't really sure what it is going to do next. Even for the more avant-garde side of DM there's some elements here that conjure up more than a few curved balls.
Tracks seem to veer and swerve a lot of the time and (again - not necessarily a bad thing) this has me constantly trying to ground everything and play catch up after what feels like multiple reset buttons have been pressed. In my day job I have to work with a lot of complex equations and sums and Nespithe feels like it is one that has multiple variances on how the total can be reached, like it needs looking at from different approaches and I am still never sure how I got to that figure. It's mathematical genuis is fascinating, like it sees things from angles that I cannot.
The ability of the muscians involved can't be questioned as they deliver a demanding yet clean and competent performance. I have no doubt that the challenges that I have with this record are with me and not the actual band/album. Sonics dive in and out of tracks like swopping songbirds, emitting some cosmic chirping that bends the very air around it. The drummer surely has more than two arms in order to be able to map the rhythm of such complex structures and the audibility of the bass at all times is a rare trait in death metal. You have to work to get all this though, there's no "background music" here folks, this is stuff that demands your attention. You have to listen to the detail to even begin to understand the bigger picture and that may be a bit too much for some death metal fans.
For a band with such a small amount of recorded output, Nespithe is a standout release not just in the discography of Demilich but it is also a very big flux in the biological mass of death metal as a whole. Take a shower in its madness whilst you try and figure it out.
Genres: Death Metal
I am quite particular about my power metal. I don't profess to be a big fan of it as a sub-genre by any means but I do know what I like and have found there to be a reasonably short list of preferred releases to revisit once I had gone through large amounts of pompous and overly grandiose nonsense to be honest. Blind Guardian actually are responsible for my favourite power metal album ever with their 1995 release Imaginations From The Otherside sitting top of my pile (well, more likely a slight bump) of such records. There are other releases that I have time for in their discography such as At The Edge of Time and Nightfall In Middle Earth which both have their moments but don't quite offer complete experiences.
Strangely enough I hadn't ventured much earlier than 1995 into their discography (given my general distaste for their latter day material, going back seems such a logical direction for me in terms of expansion of my knowledge and experience of the back-catalogue) so their 1992 effort, Somewhere Far Beyond was not familiar to me until this week. The first thing to mention sounds obvious to state, but this album is so very clearly a Blind Guardian record. Their trademark fluent and skillful musicianship shines through from the very start of the record along with their mastery of writing memorable and absorbing songs that take the listener on a journey.
The arrangement too is well calculated, structured to present a narrative of time travelling bards coming together to tell their stories as depicted on the grand and rather colourful artowrk that adorns the front cover of the release. As you move through the album track by track the dashes of brilliance that were to become virtually omnipresent on the follow up album leap out like sun flares, scorching the ether around the album, burning with the promise of what we know is to come in three years time.
As a result, despite these moments described above, the album doesn't feel complete. Perhaps if I had waited and listened to this record before Imaginations... I might have been more enamoured with it as a whole. In comparison it feels hindered somewhat and I find myself willing a bit more quality to ooze out of it that in reality was yet to be learned by this point in their careers. I found the 2007 remastered version to be entertaining enough still with the couple of demos/alternat versions of songs added on to the end. As a standalone album this is a great example of how Power Metal should be done, my messy timeline aside it probably does desrve a higher rating than the number of stars I have awarded.
Genres: Power Metal
For the first few seconds of the opening track of this album I was struggling to see how this had anything to do with Death Metal. Having heard only black metal style vocals over poppy guitar work, I am still no nearer if I am honest. The internet tells me that this is Symphonic Death Metal. I don't believe everything I read on the internet for a reason.
There's no power behind much of anything on display here and so I am left to hope that some catchy songwriting or sonic wizardry is awaiting me over the coming tracks. It isn't though! The tempo and structure suggests that this could be a folk metal album, except they forgot to write any actual folk parts to any of the tracks. As a result it just sounds like overtly jolly heavy metal with a black metal vocalist who has no friends who like black metal so he's had to join any band he can find.
If I am forcing myself to find any positives and not just look like a miserable bastard then I would say that the lead work is of actual note and clearly the work of an adept guitarist. The rest of I found a real struggle to get through with no spark or even palatable consistency to cling to I do confess to hitting the skip button more than once in search of something of interest.
The lyrics to track number three Sleeping Stars sum up the experience perfectly for me:
"Suddenly I feel a
warmth go through my body,
but I feel that a
part of me has died."
The "warmth" might have been wind though.
Genres: Death Metal Power Metal
More than a little reminiscent of early Opeth, fellow Swedes Edge of Sanity where a late 80's/early 90's progressive death metal band. They released eight albums before finally calling it a day in 2003 (after previously doing so in 1999). As I have already alluded to, the likeness to the sound of their countrymen is hard to ignore. It is not that one band copied the other I suspect. Sweden just clearly had a plethora of talented progressive metal heads throughout the 90's and they couldn't possibly all fit into one band.
Crimson actually is one song album split into parts depending on what version you look at. A one song album in 1996 was a bold and brave move but the fact that Dan Swanö's name is on the liner notes should tell you all you need to know. As with most things he touches Crimson is ambitious to say the least but is backed up by deft playing and clever songwriting. The progression on here is well measured, tempered almost to maximise the enjoyment. Considering it is just one song the record never gets boring as it changes pace and tempo well during its expansion over forty minutes.
It requires a close ear to be given to it in order to truly appreciate the vast and intricate nature of the entire offering. But anytime spent with this record is time well spent. It will take you through death, progressive and at times gothic elements of metal and blend all of the styles together with a real deftness. To date it is the only release from the band that I have sought out to listen to and such is my satisfaction with it I have not yet felt the need to venture further into their back catalogue. I really can't recommend this enough.
Genres: Death Metal Progressive Metal
Enter the avant-garde, bass twanging, bone-jarring branch of Gorguts that seems to cause equal amounts of praise and revulsion across the death metal fan base. I sit firmly in the praise camp. Not that I don't get the challenges that people have with this directional shift from the bands previous releases (all respectable enough DM records), but for me what impresses me the most about Obscura is the sheer range and scope of the album. It isn't perfect by any means but, as per my love of Colored Sands this record likewise retains death metal as its core source, despite the multi-layered influences on display here Obscura does still come across as a raging death metal record full of energy and rampant angst.
Lemay's trademark demented shriek accompanies the instrumentation perfectly. I find the music twists and contorts perfectly throughout, taking the listener on a real journey. The only real downside to that journey perhaps is the length of it. Clocking in at an hour in duration, the record does meander a bit unfortunately. Although it is stylistically refreshing it is not controlled enough in its delivery to be able to sustain a presence for such a long period of time. To compare it with the aforementioned Colored Sands is a fair contrast really as the latter album absolutely nails the delivery of the avant-garde/experimental aspect by integrating it into the overall sound better, even though the run time is more or less the same the 2013 album feels more palatable.
From reading the criticism of Obscura there's definitely a feeling of the album being something that is done to the fans as opposed to being something they feel is introduced to them. As full on as it is, the record is still fun and an entertaining enough curved ball.
Genres: Avant-Garde Metal Death Metal
Albums grow on you for different reasons. As an avid fan of most of Death's earlier releases I didn't find the same levels of entertainment in much of anything after Spiritual Healing. Whilst I could more than see the talent and skill involved in the direction that Chuck was taking Death's sound, progressive elements of metal have only recently become of interest to me - over the last 12 months say - so for a number of years the majority of the bands later releases gathered some dust on my shelves. I now find myself oddly in the reverse mindset where I prefer the later output to the initial three releases. For me The Sound of Perseverance is the crowning glory in this more progressive style of death metal, largely because the whole thing just feels so natural and effortless.
Oddly for death metal, there are lots of feel good vibes for me on this record. The chords sound more open but the riffs are just as cutting as you would expect from one of the founding fathers of death metal. Whilst obvious, the time changes are not intrusive and feel clean and polished. Again these are traits i would not attribute to me gleaning enjoyment from in terms of my more extreme tastes but they work so well with the confidence and aptitude of Schuldiner, Hamm, Clendenin and Christy.
The band sound like they enjoyed making the record, such is the warm feel to proceedings. They almost tease the listener during Story To Tell, with their stop/start playing leaving you wondering if the track is over or whether another time change is due. There's an accessibility to proceedings that is reminiscent of almost rock music proportions, only Chuck's grim vocals and the chugging riff passages keep you of the understanding this is still a death metal record at its core. The creepy atmospheric bass and guitar interlude during Flesh and The Power it Holds also adds the necessary levels of menace you'd expect.
In terms of criticisms (what is keeping that half star off the score) I have two. Firstly, the cover of Priest's Painkiller is both out of place in the greater context of the album and also not a very good cover either. Secondly, the album is a tad too long with the cover on here. In terms of flow it is all mapped out superbly as an album but it just falls at the end unfortunately.
Genres: Death Metal
My melodic death metal tastes aren't really that wide in scope as I tend to dwell in the more extreme end of my tastes in death metal generally. Without wishing to generalise too much I find most bands that fall under this sub-genre to be underwhelming. Why would I want my death metal to be melodic, ergo more accessible is the question that has remained largely unanswered for the past 30 or so years of listening to metal. Dark Tranquillity were still a new band for me until today, but sadly they have brought little in the way of reasoning for my opinion of the melodic side of death metal to change much.
I mean it is very melodic, don't get me wrong. There's keyboards galore on display as well as melodious guitar parts, but none of it sticks with me. The riffs feel aggressive enough but they don't really set anything on fire for me and so come off as being restrained or blunted somehow. Stanne's vocals aren't awful by any means but just come across to my ears as being very generic ad tired sounding.
The album seems to go on and on as a result of my struggles it seems with only really track twelve standing out as the album closes with it's adept instrumentation bringing a memorable ending to proceedings. Again, I don't report that the band are doing anything wrong here, I know that the issue lies more so with me than anything they are trying to achieve. To a convert of the melodic death metal sound it probably will have more stars against it's name. I however struggle to give much of anything to the release.
Genres: Death Metal
As intros to death metal go, mine wasn’t too shabby. I bought “Slowly We Rot” blind, in the days of (me) having no internet and just a sick logo and equally sick artwork to tickle my pubescent fancy! I had never even heard any death metal at that point but I instantly loved every fucking minute of this record.
I had to play it at my grandparents house and luckily my grandad had a great stereo set up. When he first heard the record he though he had something wrong with his equipment. I had to convince him for a good few minutes that it was supposed to sound like that.
I was instantly enthralled by Tardy’s vocal style and remember thinking how insane it was that a human could make such a noise. It was like a dumped high school girl puking and sobbing her hatred for boys out with only the occasional word actually audible through all the hatred and vitriol.
The atmosphere on the record scared the shite out of me, like some soundtrack to some mind bending horror film. The record plays like a writhing, shifting mass of fetid, acrid evil just toying with the listener and taking great pleasure in doing so. The riffs on here are fucking scathing too so any flesh left on your bones from the Tardy onslaught is soon detached once the riffs kick in. Peres and West made a great partnership, leaving as much of an impact with their six strings as Tardy did with his vocal chords.
Although end to end this is a thoroughly ferocious affair it does lose me sometimes, not necessarily out of complexity more out of if sounding a little samey in places. Still though this is a benchmark Death Metal album for me based on both nostalgia and the overall genre impact it had.
Regrettably I sold my vinyl copy of this record and now don’t even have it on stream but I can still recall every track and every terrifying Tardy howl.
Genres: Death Metal
Candlemass 2019 are epic. I mean in terms of the sound at least. This plays more like an epic heavy metal record as opposed to a doom record. Yeah, the heavy drudging riffs are still there but there's a real sense sword-wielding, bicep popping warriors flanked by women in metal underwear sat on spiky horses type fantasy. Opening track "Splendor Demon Majesty" is an unashamedly dark opener full of occult promise that pulls of a perfect balance of menacing worship of evil deities whilst also pacing superbly to open the album strongly. Even the most doomy tracks here are still laden with such vocal stylings. "Astorolus - the Great Octopus" (great fucking song title) is an obvious choice here, even given Iommi's input it still doesn't stray to far away from the epic nature the song title and feels well balanced. It rumbles and rolls like a great Octopus would do assisted by some superb lead work along the way that stab through the menacing atmosphere. Likewise, the gallop of "Death's Wheel" drops down in pace to doomy depths for the chorus to become one of the nearest experiences to the 1986 debut heard on here.
Let's be honest though folks, this isn't "Epicus..." part two. Not that anyone really wanted that though, right? On its own, "The Door to Doom" stands up as a fantastic record for a band who haven't released anything notable since "Tales of Creation". It is not that recognisable as a Candlemass record though which will no doubt get the diehards moaning into their retro flares and skull effect candlestick holders whilst crying into their earthen drinking vessels full of mead. The only real reminders on here of the doom relationship is the fact that the record on the whole reminds me of a much better version of "13". As I sit listening to "Black Trinity" I hear so much similarity to numerous tracks from Sabbath's last full length that I had to look twice in the instrumental parts to make sure I didn't the library on shuffle.
That withstanding, "House of Doom" is a superb doomy romp with monumental riffage and pace and horror themed synths to build the atmosphere to boot. This was on the the EP of the same name from last year and is probably may favourite track on here certainly in terms of its authenticity to the Candlemass sound of old, chiming church bells ringing to fade as the track closes. If anything the record gets doomier the final 2 tracks. Check out the riffs on "The Omega Circle" if you still need your bed wetting from some punishing doom metal before the band signs off on a job well done.
There is only really two criticisms I can level at the record, one being the utterly pointless filler of "Bridge of the Blind", a crap ballad dropped in after just 3 tracks of excellence is just out of place both in terms of the timing of its placement and the marked difference in pace from the rest of the album. Secondly, too many tracks start the same way. There's about 3 or 4 that start with some slow picked strings and Languist crooning as an introduction to the tracks proper. It just gets old after the second or third time even though on each occasion the track is soon hit by an epic riff or stomping pace change,
Sadly, if it wasn't for the shit ballad this album would have afforded a higher rating as it makes very few bad steps along it's length. Buy it for the love of metal though, not just because it's Candlemass.
Genres: Doom Metal
Death/Thrash or Thrash/Death? Does it really matter? Whichever style you believe has most traction in the calculated attack of Opprobrium (known as Incubus to the older audience), it certainly makes for an authentic and entertaining listen. For me the Thrash elements act like explosions of flavour, giving notes of energetic bitterness. The menacing death metal atmospheric dirge is still the more prominent factor in the sound but both elements are akin to some acceptable collaboration between the genres with neither one ever truly outweighing or outdoing the other. Like two warring factions have decided to call it quits and just try and get along as best they can!
The authenticity comes from that sound on the production that gives the impression that this was recorded in someone’s garage, yet the quality of the songwriting leaves the listener with structures that suggest it may have been planned in the office of an architect.
This is the kind of album that makes a consistent entry on thousands of music blogs about “Underrated/Unsung Classics” from the 90s. And the majority of those bloggers are right. There’s nothing here that is any dramatic step down from the nefarious and menacing death/thrash of “Seven Churches”. “Beyond...”punches well within its category but never quite reaches the furious delivery of Demoltion Hammer. The latter just works hard on the jab whilst “Beyond...” has a more varied sack of sucker punches that strike from behind its darker guard.
At just eight tracks, the sophomore release from these guys feels like a real clear cut, transparent statement of intent. Turn up, put it down and get it out there, and it is this immediacy of the record that really appeals. The band name may have changed but this album remains exactly as good as I remember it first time of listening.
Genres: Death Metal Thrash Metal
The debut full-length from Taake came at the arse-end of the second wave era of BM. By 1999 nobody was burning churches anymore, bands weren't killing each other's members and many stalwarts of the genre had already drifted to a more experimental sound. The success of 'Nattestid...' at first glance seems surprising, yet a couple of listens unearths an album built on a foundation of solid songwriting, supported by razor sharp steel riffage and decorated with a consistent theme permeated by some subtle yet lasting nuances to maintain its hellish Feng Shui.
For all the cold and scathing guitar here there's more than a fair share of melody, whether that is rooted in the viking style passages or just the more obvious folk leanings of the album. Whenever it is there, it seems effortlessly measured. It never takes the edge off the raw energy of the tremolo and nor does the cutting of the riffs blunt the impact of the more melodious elements. Throughout the album the bass and drums maintain a strong presence (especially on instrumental track, 'Vid IV ') and Hoest himself, shrieks and rasps along like some demented high priest undertaking some satanic and nefarious ritual. There is an edge to the guitar throughout more or less the entire record that sounds a little too hazy at times which I can only put down to the production job (yes I know it is a BM album, but nonetheless it remains my only gripe).
It is easy to see from the seven tracks on show here that Hoest's talent for accomplished and consummate songwriting was already well developed at this early stage of his career. Frostein's deft contributions on both drums and bass make these visions whole. Considering the two man line up it is an album that has a vastness in scope that belies the small number of contributors.
The menacing and creepy looking artwork on the album sums up the nightmarish soundscape inside perfectly. The minimal approach to the tracklisting earns kvlt/troo points by the bucket load.
Genres: Black Metal
A shuffle playlist in my hotel room this past week threw up 'Heresy' from this record and I have ended up playing the whole record through in my head before getting home and playing the CD. In the 90's this record occupied a near constant place in the top 4 of my 'most played', alongside 'Painkiller', 'Arise' and 'Seasons in the Abyss' it got span to death over nearly the whole decade. There was so much that appealed to my established taste at the time yet also equal amounts of new and enticing sounds to absorb, all delivered with a fervour and ferocity that was literally breathtaking. In so many ways, playing this for the first time was like listening to something that was nothing like anything I had heard before, yet at the same time there was enough reference points to breed the necessary amount of familiarity for me to engage with it instantly.
Although this does not retain the top slot in my favourite Pantera list, it holds enough nostalgia and tangible feelings still of the initial awe of the discovery to always have an important place in my evolution through the genre.
There has always been a real sense of cohesion to me about the sound of Pantera. They are like some well oiled machine with just enough AI in it's computer parts to deliver flare and panache instead of just routinely processing the same parts over and over again. Whether it is the shrill wailing of Anselmo, the chunky stick work of Vinnie, the rumbling current of Brown or the insane string wizardry of Dimebag you focus on, they are all there together as a unit. Yes, for me the overarching memory post-listen is those fucking riffs, but the structures they form part of are also key to their impact.
I enjoy the darker side of the album's sound. 'Medicine Man', 'Message in Blood' and 'The Sleep' stand out as a trio of tracks that add a real depth to an album that given its relentless approach could otherwise lose you towards the end. Pantera seem to "grow" with the progress of the record which is rare in most releases that have frequented my headphones since the 90s.
Does it stand up well as a singular release some 29 years later? Not quite for me, even with the memories these 12 tracks hold for me I can't avoid the need for a couple of tracks to be trimmed ('Heresy' and 'Shattered') to really cement five stars in the rating for this review.
Genres: Groove Metal
I am not a fan of compilations generally. I usually see them as opportunistic releases designed to boost the coffers of the associated record company who have been fortunate enough to scoop the demo recordings or greatest hits rights to a band's back catalogue. That withstanding, 'Amon: Feasting The Beast' actually has relevance beyond appealing to just the avid uber-fan of Deicide. It is a release that showcases the raw talent, energy and commitment of the band before they became the death metal household name we all recognise to be Deicide.
There's still some turkeys on here, the second attempt at 'Sacrificial Suicide' sounds like Benton has a lisp and is just ridiculous, for example. However, as a release of a piece of death metal history, 'Amon...' stands up well enough. It is hard to get too excited by it, likewise difficult to extend paragraphs enough to stretch to a full review of the release.
Genres: Death Metal
There are very few albums nowadays that I can recall track by track in my head. The fact that ‘Heartwork’ still plays through my memory some 26 years after I first heard it is testimony to it being a big part of my metal journey and also the catchy nature of the songwriting. I get that it is a departure from previous direction and that for many it was a step too far away from the more familiar sound of the band, but “Heartwork” was still a strong metal record and still recognisable as Carcass regardless.
My rating of 3.5 stars really only reflect my transition towards their earlier material as I have aged. “Heartwork” gets less rotation than “Symphonies...” or “Reek...” do, but at the same time will always have that element of nostalgia present to give it a solid rating. Whether it is the energetic start to the title track or the chop n chug of “No Love Lost” or even the spiralling maelstrom of “This Mortal Coil”, there’s still variety on this record.
As a melodic death metal album this just about has enough edge still to cut the mustard with my more extreme tastes. Often it gets criticised almost as an album that let the band down in some way, but I don’t think that is fair as it still stands up as a successful turn of direction for Carcass as well as being a defining record for the melodic death metal movement.
Genres: Death Metal
'Rituale Satanum' stands up as a glorious exploration of how true aggression can be ported onto an audible format with pure aplomb and genuine heartfelt hatred. Some of the riffs on show here are truly demonic and when coupled with those rasping and harsh vocals make for great effect on one of BM's most under-rated releases. The melodic elements whilst not always as obvious to the ear are there in the background like some dark, melancholic tidal current that churns up sightless, shrieking beasts in it's waves.
From the menacing spoken word to 'Intro (The Summoning)' we are instantly into the scathing guitar that opens 'Sota valon jumalaa vastaan" which straight up lashes away at the listener for its entire duration. 'Night of the Blasphemy', whilst no less intense in the delivery, offers that melodic element to give additional structure to the chaotic riffing and blasting. 'Christ Forever Die' with its more measured approach to the track offers a well-paced build to the track whilst losing none of the looming threat built so far over the first three tracks. The hatred and vitriol for the icon of the subject matter from the track title is obvious as ever in the vocals here. They act like some scorching wind that you could envisage peeling the flesh from the face of the holy one just by virtue of the wickedness behind them, spat like acid onto the face of the crucified man. I find that the instrumentation and arrangement of the song actual temper the vocals really well also.
One of the real successes of 'Rituale Satanum' is that whilst it remains unrelenting in delivery it never feels like a drain to listen to in one sitting. Rampant BM records like 'Battles in the North' or 'Pure Holocaust' do lose me at times despite my enjoyment of them. I think the unexpected moments such as the lead work on 'Towards the Father' keep things interesting and challenging without showing any dip in the fury on display.
The big build up to 'Saatanan varjon synkkyydessä' feels like the start of some epic heavy metal track but soon becomes that familiar slaughtering paced frenzy, yet there's great structure to pace the track out to retain some of the majesty built in the intro to the song, to bridge the chaos in between solid start and finish sections and add a funereal set of keys to finish.
My favourite track on the album is 'Baphomet's Call', it has an almost easy feel to how it drops around some light riffing into an almost foot tapping pace. It plays like some old rock track given the Satanic treatment with it's death metal like layered growls midway through. 'The Flames of the Blasphemer' is just as harsh as the track title indicates but again makes great use of melody to manage the flow of the track. There's also an almost NWOBHM feel to the pace here as well, although the return of the funereal keys soon stamps sufficient atmosphere on proceedings to remind me that this ain't no Diamond Head record.
The final two tracks work superbly to give a almost grandiose ritual(e) feel to the closing part of the record. The solid drumming of 'Blessed Be the Darkness' and demented shrieks of the vocals that share space with spoken word recitals midway through the track weigh a dense atmosphere to proceedings. By the time we get through the closing (and title) track with its slow pace there's a real sense of finality and closure, like as a listener we have been through some torrid and yet positively memorable experience.
Genres: Black Metal
If you have been paying attention to my musings in The Pit Clan Challenge then you won't be surprised to find that I have given this record four stars. It characterises that rabid and vicious thrash metal that I enjoy so much and only the fact that some of the production work on this is truly terrible (as in beyond being able to simply be considered kvlt or cool) then a full five stars would have been easily awarded.
For sheer lack of fucks given the album scores about a ten at least, this is a record forged out of complete abandon of compromise. It starts off relentlessly and ends up the same without once letting up. Every aspect to it feels bestial and evil in the most primitive sense. Whether it is the menacing vocals with their sneer of derision and mocking undertone, the bashing fury of those drums or even the manic strumming of the bass underneath the charging dual guitar attack, it all has a fee for antediluvian values throughout.
Considering the band started out some six years before recording this by just playing Priest, Maiden, Sabbath and Crüe covers, what they eventually got to transcribe to record was far removed from their covers days. This is crude and unrefined music for ears of fans who genuinely don't care too much for compositional excellence or song writing prowess. Each track has one intention, to rip your fucking face off! And they do it, eight times in a row.
As I mention above, the main issue here is the production job sounds terrible. Notwithstanding the fact that it kind of suits the ideal in so many ways it is too obvious even for my extreme metal scarred ears for me not to notice. Instead of charging the energy in the record it kind of blunts it a little bit although I still get multiple lacerations after each spin of this record.
Genres: Thrash Metal
Blessed Are The Sick" is still as relevant now as it was 20 + years ago, with its sonic wizardry, beefed up guitar sound (when compared with its predecessor at least) and the furious thunder of Sandoval on the drum kit driving forward this beast of a record. The complimentary lead work of Richard and Trey (Richard and his more melodic moments to temper Trey with his swarming, chaotic and sonic shredding) works superbly and you get a real sense that this is band much improved ability wise from their previous outing.
The maturity is evident and the whole package has a more serious edge to it with the album artwork grotesque and twisted like the sound of the considerably darker music within. The intro is a perfect opener with the almost engine like noise of some hellish machine made from crying children and grinding bones being revved up to floor the accelerator and destroy all in its path. By the time it gives way to opener proper "Fall From Grace" you are sat bolt upright waiting for the assault to happen and your are not going to be disappointed as the track smothers you in glorious low end marauding DM.
The build up to the title track is varied with each track managing to stand out as individual points of brilliance. The fury of "Brainstorm", the sudden slowed technique of "Rebel Lands", the horror film soundtrack keys of "Doomsday Celebration" and the frantic pace of "Day Of Suffering" all cement the foundations of the stairway up to "Blessed Are The Sick/Leading The Rats". The title track is a slower but epic descent into the bowels of Hades themselves the bottom end of every note pulling you further down into the darkness before the flutey ending adds a bestial cherry to the top of the hellish cup cake!
The title track acts a central pin for the whole record, it is not that this is the peak of the album as what follows it is just as intense and powerful as the rest of the album so far, but the title track does exactly what it is supposed to. It is the pillar running through the atmosphere, direction and experience of the whole album. This brings me on to the structure of the album as a whole, the already mentioned intro starts things off perfectly but the changes of pace are brilliantly scheduled, the haunting beauty of "Desolate Ways" with its picked acoustic strings is like a beautiful woman with an underlying darkness lay in field of scarred and twisted corpses and it stays with you long after the album has finished. "In Remembrance" is the perfect ending to the album, an acknowledgement that although the chaos is over things won't be the same again as a result of it.
Genres: Death Metal
It is hard to quite put into words the monstrous fury of Ulcerate. The difficulty largely lies in the fact that for every bludgeoning riff, hammer blow drum hit or swirling wall of noise that the New Zealanders strike the listener with, there's a remarkable amount of deftness and skill in the calculations they invoke to deliver their assault.
There were times when I listened to "Vermis" (the predecessor to "Shrines..." for the uneducated reader) and that precision was off, albeit very minutely. The vocals for example on the bands 2013 opus felt some how lost in the mix and at times there was a sense of not actually being aware whether they had begun or not. They are some of course who thought this a clever use of the mixing desk to create that folly deliberately, but for me the storm of Ulcerate's sound needed that extra bit of definition vocally to turn a great album into an absolute classic.
Thankfully, here on the band's fifth full length offering, the vocals are prominent and whether you deem them visceral or based on intellect they are very much a centre piece of "Shrines Of Paralysis". Yeah, there's occasion when they do go under the churn of riffs, drums and bass but thankfully these are rare and do not distract.
As well as Paul Kelland's lyrical exploits being a point of particular note, the listener cannot miss the frankly fucking amazing performance of Jamie Saint Merat on the drums. They are powerful, punishing and utterly fucking relentless. The clever bit being that every other instrument is allowed to breath around them without any one detracting from the other. In a tornado of sound like the brand that Ulcerate stir up to say you can pick out the bass is testimony to their technical excellence at not just performance but at actual songwriting also.
Hoggard's riffs are of course merciless too. They are like being stabbed by a surgeon, with each slash designed to incapacitate whilst also make you nod in complete appreciation. There's geologists probably queueing up to take abrasivity tests on Ulcerate's riffs and they know the scores will be off the motherfucking chart.
Things get off to an explosive start with opening track "Abrogation" as it bursts out of the speakers like a soul of hell clawing for freedom from the burning fury of Hades itself. As "Yield To Naught" continues in much the same vein it is here I first start to note the clever use of melodic components of the tracks. These are there most of the time but instead of being drowned out by the thunderous roar of the band in full throttle, they are more marshalled by the riffs and percussion as if being constantly reminded of their place even though they are key still amongst all that is going on. Throughout the pulverising violence of the bodily harm inflicted you are never far from an atonal stab or dissonant tranquility as they bob atop the tide of the endless churn.
To have all that going on must require an almost military precision as never does anything seem confused or chaotic. Even at their most furious Ulcerate show clarity of structure and planning. The title track with its progressive build and eventual unleashing of all living fury proves this point perfectly.
One thing that is obvious throughout is the layering of the experience. "Extinguished Light" is like unwrapping a gift and finding exploding candy in each layer, each variety giving a different flavour and texture experience to the last.
To sum up "Shrines Of Paralysis", it is like an in depth documentary on the mechanics of Technical DM. As well as exploring the intense fury of emotions involved, it takes opportunity to delve into the skillset required, demonstrating along the way a work of real dark art done by true masters of the genre.
Last time Ulcerate and Gorguts released an album in the same year was 2013 and they both blew me the fuck away, with "Colored Sands" edging "Vermis". In 2016 they've reversed it for me. "Shrines Of Paralysis" is nowhere near as dense as "Pleiade's Dust" in content and style but it takes the raw emotion of the genre and hones it into an explosive, purposeful and memorable DM experience.
Genres: Death Metal
Behind every great man, there's a great woman. Behind every camped up, shape throwing, garrulous Black Metal vocalist there's a great song writer. Both of these statements are true, except the second one actually does not commend Abbath as being the imaginative, creative and artistic driving force behind Immortal. This is blatantly obvious if you have heard his solo pop/rock record of a couple of years ago.
What "Northern Chaos Gods" does is essentially pull off one of the best tattoo removal jobs in the history of "I Love Sharon" ink stains on most truck drivers (married to a woman called Rose) arm's being obliterated by lasers. Despite a big character no longer being present on this record, I don't for one second miss Abbath. Demonaz and co manage to put out an album that sounds so much like Immortal of old you could be forgiven for crying "Fake News!" at every mention of the turmoil and split between the founding members given the music is as strong as it has been in some while.
Demonaz even sounds like a more in control albeit slightly more subdued Abbath. But it isn't the vocals that will get you sweating like a blind lesbian in a fishmongers. Nope, IT'S THE FUCKING RIFFS MAN!!!!!! It is genuinely like getting twatted by an octopus for 42 and a bit minutes, listening to this record. Utterly relentless in their delivery, Immortal just pummel away at you, occasionally throwing an atmosphere building intro before thundering off on hoofed steed to epic landscapes such as "Where Mountains Rise".
There's no Judas Priest or Iron Maiden esque dip in output here in the absence of their established frontman here. Demonaz and Horgh have - to put it in layman's terms - just picked up and ran with the established format. Don't get me wrong, it isn't anywhere near the quality of "At The Heart of Winter", although it does piss all over "All Shall Fall". Think of it as being the record "Damned In Black" could have been as a better precursor to the great "Sons of Northern Darkness".
They have a song called "Blacker of Worlds"!!! I mean what grown man with the mind of a pubescent boy doesn't think that is cool as fuck??? If the start of closing track "Mighty Ravendark" doesn't bring you out in goose pimples, you're dead inside. Fist pumping, neck snapping metal right here folks.
Genres: Black Metal
Glen Benton is 51. Fuck I feel old now too. Deicide are 30 years old (32 if we count the Amon era). Album number 12 from the fathers of Florida death metal is a strong effort considering yet another change of personnel has occurred. It is bye-bye Jack Owen, hello Mark English of Monstrosity fame taking up guitar duties and ironically I like "Overtures of Blasphemy " a lot more than Monstrosity's effort this year.
Whilst it can never make the "beast of a DM record" title I would give to the debut or"Legion" for example, "Overtures..." is entertaining. Whether it is the melo-death passages that litter the streets and alleyways of this record or the more familiar sacrilegious blasting fury of Deicide at their (old) best, there's plenty to balance the experience over these 12 tracks. Take "Seal The Tomb" for example, it goes immediately for the jugular, relentlessly chugging riffs alongside Benton's usual demented growls only to be tempered by menacing and interesting leads and sonics that carry the song along well. Listen once to this track and it is in your head for literally days after.
Then there's the vehemence of the lyrics of "Compliments of Christ" were you can feel the spittle from Glen's lips splattering your ears as he spews forth the vitriol he is best known for. "Anointed in Blood" opens like a lead jam session recorded mid flow before developing into a hellish gallop of fiery hooves, again perfectly completed by some well placed and well timed leads.
This is were Morbid Angel went wrong with "Kingdoms..." safe DM with little if any attention paid to the sonic wizardry of their sound. Take a leaf out of Glen's book Trey!
It is clear that this is no nonsense DM that still has enough equal measure of extremity and assured and unapologetic attitude to hold it's own against most of the DM records released this year. It is not perfect by any means. I lose it on more than one occasion if I am honest ("Crucified Soul of Salvation" in particular hits my 'standby' button really nicely) and it is a couple of tracks too long making for an almost excessive feel to the running time. Whilst it is a well paced record there's definitely some "filler" present. But for any turkeys in here there is still thankfully the brilliance of tracks like "Consumed by Hatred" to snap you back to attention. "Flesh, Power, Dominion" is one of the strongest things Deicide have ever put to tape btw.
Genres: Death Metal
There's life in the old dog yet it seems. In terms of original members only Phil Fasciana remains in the ranks of Malevolent Creation now and after the passing of Brett Hoffman last year you could almost forgive fans for thinking the curtain had fallen on Malevolent Creation. The fact is that whilst "The 13th Beast" reinvents no wheels it does exhibit the sound of a band in the throes of something of a regeneration phase. There's nothing tired sounding here, no dull interludes to build unnecessary atmosphere. As soon as the spoken word intro to "End the Torture" finishes it is straight up thrashing death metal until the very end, some 11 tracks later.
Although all debuting in the Malevolent full length stakes here, the 3 musicians that join Fasciana on this record are all clearly capable and qualified purveyors of their art form. Again, I highlight that this is not far above your average DM record yet it is so assured and solid you can easily forgive it to some degree. Lee Wollenschlaeger gives a good acquittal of himself as an established and competent vocalist, filling Hoffman's shoes nicely. Phil Cancilla is a machine on those skins, blasting his way across the soundscape yet also using the percussion well when the occasional let up in the pace permits. Fasciana and Wollenschlaeger work well together to keep the chug of the riffs motoring along whilst Gibbs plonks, twangs and rumbles his way through every track, allowed to be heard in the mix and show his variety without ever showboating. For a band together for only 2 years as a four piece they sound tight and committed.
There's no metal fan worth the denim their patches are sewn onto that doesn't look at that album cover and mouth a "fuck me, dude!" I mean, come on, it is fucking awesome. Like a more ornamental Predator head on a ghostly green background. I love it when album covers are matched by the content of the record inside, and whilst there are obviously some shortfalls here, still in the main "The 13th Beast" delivers. When they keep the track length short and succinct, Malevolent Creation are at their best. "The Beast Awakened", "Agony for the Chosen" and "Knife at Hand" all kick serious ass. By the same token "Born of Pain" at nearly 7 minutes long doesn't really do anything or go anywhere to justify the length attributed to it.
Overall, I would have preferred a shorter record. At 11 tracks the band cover a lot of ground in under 50 minutes but not all of it really needs treading. That withstanding, never does it get grating and still the accessibility factor remains consistent enough to forgive the extra excursions present.
Genres: Death Metal
Despite my many years of listening to music and having nearly 3 decades to mature and learn to give all genres, sub-genres and styles of metal a chance, I still have this annoying trait of telling myself I am going to hate something before I listen to it. Now, I am not entirely in love with Inside The Beehive and their spazzing riot of math and grind but I am suitably impressed enough to take the time to write a review.
I don't often venture to the Revolution Clan (see my opening comment above to understand why) but this release transcends mere rebellion against conventional metal. It is a release that flourishes greatly within a relatively short play time and shows a band with a great understanding of texture in their music. Amidst the stabbing frenzy there is an almost constant sense of form still, some basic structure that gets elements moulded around and slammed onto it. It's like a very scalable foundation level that can be subjected to intense and sustained levels of obliterating fury and it still maintains integrity throughout.
The best way I can find to describe it would be to say this is the eye of the storm and at the same time is the constant, violent swarm that swells around it, driving its own growth and expansion. This in essence is its downfall also as there are times during the release where there is a feeling of the album trying to cover too much ground. The overtly core sounding elements do grate a tad and it loses the grind element a little to readily in favour of these elements which leaves me conflicted about the overall piece.
Considering grumpy old Macca would have had me dismiss this had I not resisted, this is a decent find and one that hopefully will help me to learn to put that character in his box more readily in future and actually find some new shit to like.
Genres: Grindcore Metalcore
As the boundaries and edges of metal and music in general continue to be pushed and stretched, almost inevitably the influence of the past moves along with this innovation regardless of the pace or momentum at the time. It's fair to say that roots go along way back and unless you are going to do something really avant-garde and genre defining (genre-creating perhaps?) the relevance of influence is a key component in most band's repertoire regardless of how unique their approach or sound. I should go on record here as saying I like Mestarin kynsi very much. I like its boldness, its depth and its refreshing approach to structure.
Another reason I enjoy the record so much is because it reminds me some damn much of Hawkwind that there's times when i have to check I am not listening to Space Ritual. Like Hawkwind, I feel Oranssi Pazuzu are an acquired taste, not for everyone perhaps but when you do avant-garde this well then you can afford to be niche with your audience. Mestarin kynsi goes beyond mere psychedelia and atmosphere though, it plays like a macabre dance ritual overall. Some soundtrack to the most bizarre of rituals that aims to shift the very fabric of time around you.
What the album does brilliantly is shift through gears effortlessly, jumping from deep atmospheric incantations into progressive structures and dark, black metal intensity in the course of mere minutes yet never letting anything slip out of place, maintaining the revs in gear so nothing feels like it is running away with itself. For all the expansion in tracks there's still the feel of a foot hovering over the brake pedal at all times ready to ease up when required without ever needing an emergency stop.
Melodies soar as leads burst like solar flares on tracks and the atmospherics cleverly track these bursts superbly, raising songs to new heights. The whole album has a feel of organic growth, like a jam session started in the 60's that is still going some sixty years later. It doesn't feel bloated though, which was my main concern going into the record. Although some tracks do stretch the nine or ten minute mark, overall the album is listenable in one sitting and often feels like variances on a theme as opposed to always being unique tracks each time. I'm sold.
Genres: Avant-Garde Metal Black Metal
It is nice when you find a band who are utterly unapologetic for wearing their influences on the sleeve. The authenticity and sheer earthiness of Mystik is infectious to anyone who has ever heard any Warlock or Acid record, yet they are more than just worship of speed metal and trad metal bands, they are clearly accomplished musicians and connoisseurs of an art form that should never be allowed to die.
The furious gallop of their debut album rarely lets up. From the opening track you are taken on a whirlwind of racing riffs, pounding drums and gruff and curt vocals courtesy of the superb Julia von Krusenstjerna. The lead work is melodic and fluid, matching the overall intensity of the record as it leaves you with little doubt of its intention to do anything other than wrap the listener in a big warm blanket of the eighties. You can hear all the component parts of the instrumentation also, whether it is the thundering drums or the rumbling current of the bass as it presses harder on the gas to really drive the engine along, the guitars revving the engine with their frenzied riff patterns.
There's anthems here to keep your head occupied for hours after you finish playing the record. Ancient Majesty and Gallows Hill deal with their macabre subject matter with rasping choruses, chanted at the listener and etched into your brain without the need for any great range from the vocalist. The industriousness of the band is breath taking, nearing relentless at times in terms of the energy levels on display. The album relies on a simplicity in terms of structure, giving you banger after banger with fantasy-fuelled content to compel the inner nerd to sit upright and pay attention.
The emergence of female fronted (in fact the majority of Mystik are female) metal bands that are able to tap into the rich vein of traditional metal and raging speed metal is something I welcome and this is simply essential listening for me. Mystik have laid down a firm foundation stone to what I hope will be a long and illustrious career. My only criticism is that it is very "samey" overall, even with the variety they throw in through melody and structure and so probably a seven track album would work better in reality, but still a very good debut.
Genres: Heavy Metal Speed Metal
If I am honest from the outset of this review my first few listens of Necroceros (like Rhinoceros apparently) left me with a couple of challenges. As a band who are responsible for some of my favourite doom/death releases there was an element of disappointment at the more melodic and accessible sound that presented itself on Asphyx's first album for five years.
This in part I guess is due to them letting “Seeb” Leverman undertake mixing duties as opposed to the regular butt cheeks of Dan Swanö occupying the chair behind the mixing desk. Whether it is Leverman’s power metal influences shaping things or simply conscious changes in the writing (I suspect both) Necroceros sounds like the band are exploring a variety of riffing options, whether it be the stabbing melodic death metal influences of Molten Black Earth or the big open rock sounding riffs of Mount Skull, this is not the familiar territory of Asphyx to my ears.
The quality of the song writing is still there and epic monstrosities such as Three Years of Famine and the title track that ends the record give me enough assurance that Asphyx are not going all Amon Amarth on me. Although not as up-tempo overall as previous outings, the record maintains variety well, launching straight into the opening track with a vigour that belies the ages of the band members. Tracks are well paced and those harrowing melodies from the guitars are littered throughout the album as familiar melancholic totems for old fans like myself to latch onto.
The second challenge I mentioned right at the start of the review is to do with the amount of filler on what I must note is a very front-loaded album. Beyond track six I find most subsequent songs just pass me by and although the closing of the album is strong, I do not feel the title track flexes its full musculature and sounds weaker than it probably actually was intended to be. This overall dilution of the album just leaves me with a sense of frustration in that although this is not a terrible album, it lacks the familiar bite associated with the artist and concerns do get heightened that this is a directional shift that will escalate across future albums.
Genres: Death Metal
As I continue my non-linear narrative with Author & Punisher I find more and more textures being applied with each release I consume. This eight track release from 2015 being now the fourth album from Shone's discography feels a lot more contemplative and deep than other outings I have witnessed. Not that any of these reflective and pondering aspects are done at the expense of sheer banging intensity mind you, more that the album itself feels like a congruent entity, that the tracks all belong together.
The realm of industrial metal isn't the most vast in terms of scope (not that I pretend to be an expert on the genre) but what Melk en Honing has in abundance is attitude to amplify its use of industrial music. It is a record that clearly has something to say and uses all the mood and intensity over its fifty-three minute length to great effect. Tracks build consistently, instead of relying on just raw throbbing and racing pulses coupled with pounding and looping percussive assaults to force you into submission. There's a real sense of accomplishment to the progression of tracks, like they have been written thoughtfully and real attention paid to detail. None of this quality control makes for a dull or boring record; quite the opposite this has an emotional yet calculated delivery and a real sense of connection with Shone himself.
In its more harsh and abrasive moments Melk en Honing is scarring and uncomprehending yet in the throes of building tracks it is explosive and compelling at the same time. Like the rampant scribing of a Richter Scale machine in a magnitude 8.0 earthquake, music jabs across the page in sharp and violent surges, blunted by low-end bass lines that swell beneath the build of trajectory.
It feels like there's more vocal content here this time around and again this is well-balanced in the overall mix. The vocals hold some horrific semblance of tune played deliberately slowly to add an alien ethereality to them that is probably the main take from the record that stays with me post-listening. Tristan Shone continues to impress as I explore his discography in my albeit scattergun approach that I take.
Genres: Industrial Metal
Kentucky gets touted as the "breakthrough" release for Panopticon but I have to say it has taken me a good near decade to get to grips with it and its combination of folk, bluegrass and black metal elements. Without going into too much detail, if the album cover doesn't give it away, the subject matter for the album is the labour struggles in mining in (fittingly) Kentucky with a heavy focus on the film-documentary Harlan County, USA from which many samples are used to great effect.
It is a challenge to get the balance of samples right in record. They all too easily clash in my experience and can quite quickly become a distraction that detracts from the music itself. However, Panopticon give a masterclass in the application of the samples here, using the black metal elements to give them a real sense of drama and the bluegrass and folk elements to underline the real human aspect to the stories also. As such it is an album you feel compelled to listen to in its entirety in order to do both the record itself and the stories real justice.
The styles of music all have a relevant place here and all are firmly placed across the record with 3 tracks being folk covers and 3 being predominantly black metal (Black Waters sits as some ambient track towards the end - again adding depth; some reflection as the album draws to a close). This combination of genres works well overall on the album as a whole but on individual tracks the transitions don't always feel they are executed cleanly and whilst never sounding clunky as such they do keep the record off full marks on the rating.
For such a passionate subject matter there's a feeling that the storytelling is done sensibly and the album feels that more sincere and authentic to the cause as a result. It's sparked an interest in me to go and watch the documentary and learn more which is what good music should do I suppose. My initial reservation some ten years ago upon first hearing this seems nonsensical now and is evident of my lack of musical maturity at the time because overall this works and is one of the few albums in recent years i have truly connected with.
Genres: Black Metal
Of Feather and Bone's unrelenting approach to death metal first crossed my path with their sophomore full-length Bestial Hymns of Perversion back in 2018. Bestial by name and bestial by nature the album felt oppressive but lacked focus; like it was blasting for blasting's sake so to speak. With album number three the trio appear to have managed to better keep a lid on things. The album is still batshit crazy in places but there is also a measured pace to most tracks that allow expansion as well as much needed respite.
With riffs that mine the very ground around them and a percussion section that does a nice job of clearing any debris from their fallout, the band show versatility in being able to chug it out when necessary as opposed to relying on sheer face-shredding intensity to deliver their point. There's grindcore in here for good measure along with a definite blackened edge to proceedings to give the whole sound a swarming yet also at times cavernous delivery.
The vocals are of the sickened, guttural variety that just hint at a black metal style around the edges to mix things up in that department also. Like the album artwork there's a constant sense of activity, of endless depravity and unyielding horror. The lead work when deployed is chaotic and lightning quick, adding just enough sonic input to show these guys have heard their fair share of Morbid Angel records in their time.
It is a furious affair still, despite the obvious effort to pair it back a bit from the previous release but the sense of urgency simply compels you to listen on and learn more. Perhaps one more record away from truly achieving their ultimate balance, Of Feather and Bone are definitely on the right trajectory.
Genres: Death Metal
Immolation are as I have stated elsewhere one of the more under-appreciated death metal bands of the genre. For nearly three decades they have produced consistent releases, stamped by their unique sound and style that conjures a distinct sense of menace and threat whilst still retaining a high level of accessibility. Taking their entire discography into consideration, their first two albums are the standout releases and there's debate aplenty about whether it is the debut or the sophomore release that is the finer moment. Right now, there's very little in it for me with both releases offering their share of merit to both the band's development and the continued establishment of the genre that was considered to be on the wane by the time Here In After was released.
Taking the elements of the album in singularity inevitably draws you to the angular leads and complex riff patterns of the guitars. But they also deploy clever use of melody to induce cheek-aching depths of melancholy. Check out the wail of the guitar as Christ's Cage seeps into your ears, dripping in despair and despondency but so cleanly killed off by the fastidious riffing that adds urgency to the track as it gets going. The next standout component for me are Dolan's trademark vocals; never quite dropping into bowel resonating guttural growls, they inhabit a gruff and yet intimidating space that offers the lyrics a sense of clarity and therefore a transparency to the levels of hatred being espoused for all things religious (I Feel Nothing).
Sticking with Dolan for a minute, his bass is also really obvious in the mix as it rumbles along in the background without ever becoming intrusive or overly "twangy". At times I feel like we are listening to some Gorguts style structures but the bass never quite runs away with things and as a result there is a real feel of composure to the delivery of most tracks. Finally, the drumming of Smilowski offers a consistent if not altogether that remarkable performance. Amidst the furious blasting there are runs, flurries and fills that should really have me feeling their impact more but unfortunately they do feel to be the one victim of the mixing job and sit just that little bit too far back in the mix.
When you put all these parts together the sum is one that is brimming with compelling and pressing death metal that never feels rushed or hasty but retains an accessibility that makes its synthesis decipherable to most death metal fans.
Genres: Death Metal
Album number 1254 on my list of records I really need to spend more time with is the only full-length from diSEMBOWELMENT. It is not that I have struggled to like the album more that I have never felt like I have been able to give it sufficient attention to warrant writing a review. It has been clear from day one that this is a great album but what has always been equally clear is that no half-measures are permitted when trying to appreciate that greatness and acknowledge it in a review. This is not the type of album you get to put on in the background whilst doing anything else, it is a record which dictates that you spend quality time with it. Spending time to focus on it's ethereal, dissonant and destructive energies is after all time well spent.
Normally when I write reviews about albums I like I bang on for a couple of paragraphs and then around paragraph three or four I go "but..." as I point out the one thing about the record that keeps it a half star away from a nice whole number of stars rating. Well, new year, new me and I will get off my chest now that with Transcendence into the Peripheral my only gripe is the production job which on a couple of occasions I find to be a bit lacking and nearing amateurish. That having been said though for the most part I think the production is perfectly fitting for the sound that comes across from the band, just here and there it slips into being too thin on the guitars or too murky on the drums and I just look at the speakers and "tut" loudly like some grumpy parent listening to the radio with his kids.
Gripe aside, this record is a mixed bag of styles and ideas that all come together superbly without clashing or jarring against each other. For an album so very deeply rooted in death/doom I find it has very black metal approach to the vocals at times and amongst some of the less heavier passages. For each drudgerously (made up word) slow section that feels like a boulder on your chest there's also a scathing edge to both the vocals and guitars when the weight is lifted intermittently from your breastplate. Likewise the atmospheres that get created are superb doomy monoliths that drift like ghost ships on the ocean before bashing into coastal towns and reaping havoc with their undead crew. This balance is effortlessly delivered in that no track ever feels like it has veered off completely and instead you get a real sense of exploration of the band's abilities and influences.
I feel this album often gets mentioned more because it was the only album release by the band and there always appears to be a sense of lost potential. I find this argument has some validity as I truly would love to see what these guys cold have delivered next but I do believe that this album is a stunning legacy and one that makes your record collection better just by being there on the shelf.
Genres: Doom Metal
When Hamish Hamilton Glencross left My Dying Bride due to "irreconcilable differences" he hardly dropped off the metal music radar altogether. Continuing with his guitar (and bass) duties in Vallenfyre the former Solstice man first pitched up with Godthrymm in 2018. Picking up vocals along with his more renowned guitar work the band Hamish has started to forge yet another quality death/doom act which currently has fellow MDB and Solstice skinsman Shaun Taylor-Steels and the superbly named Sasquatch Bob in the ranks also.
Reflections might be the best doom record of the year for me. The caveat being that I listen to very little doom so this isn't as bold a statement as it initially may sound. With me having played the record three or four times so far in the past week I think it is fair to say that I still have some way to go with it before I can say I have unlocked all of the nuances and devilish detail contained over the eight tracks on offer. What I can say however is that Hamish and co's ability to write infectious, epic and expansive doom passages is clear from the word go with this record and the main quality that comes off from the experience of listening to it is how consistent it is. Worth noting also how memorable the tracks are, with We Are The Dead, The Sea As My Grave and Cursed Are The Many already ringing in my head after the limited listens I have had thus far.
There's a strong and binding groove to the riffs also that hook you in superbly and seem to surge and swell with the dark atmosphere that the album is shrouded in but they also have a stoner element to them that gives just a tad of warmth also. There's very little if in fact any death metal elements here with all the vocals being clean sung and the weight of the riffs avoiding to much of a raw edge to allow the record to be heard as anything other than an epic doom record in the main. Bob and Shaun do a superb job of simply pounding away in the background making the low end heavy as possible and underpinning the vocals brilliantly.
Despite its obvious epic nature the album is not overly-theatrical or gratuitous with it. Everything is built on really solid, heavy foundations that allow the robust structures to be built upon them and develop into established and accessible songs you want to revisit.
Genres: Doom Metal
Sounding like Mütiilation had a baby with Ved Buens Ende and produced an offspring that somehow captures the best of both parents, Onirik occupies quite a unique space in black metal. The Portuguese one man bm project sticks with largely familiar themes on album number five treating us to seven tracks of constantly shifting evil. However common the topics of evil, darkness and the occult maybe in black metal, I don't believe there are many artists out there expressing their devotion to such subjects as well as Mr. Gonius Rex is.
The Fire Cult Beyond Eternity is a chaotic, urgent, busy, progressive and melodic affair that offers more than enough kvlt content to appease the most trve of bm fans yet at the same time is able to branch out effortless into territories that would have most die-hards hiding behind their corpse-paint and brass candlestick holders as they try to process just where the fuck each track actually ends up.
An obviously experienced artist, Gonius excels himself here, building complex and arcane structures that morph before your very ears. There's a constant sense of Onirik running with the very boundaries of black metal cradled in arms not caring where he ends up with it just going gung-ho to push it far and hard. Better yet, there's no wankery here, no gazey influence to try and turn the heads of the less orthodox crowd. Only a deaf person (or a complete fucking buffoon) could miss the inherent and intrinsic traits of black metal literally coursing through the veins of this record, yet equally as obvious are the expansive and spacious heights that the melodies of the album soar to and the dizzying spirals of the guitars as they loop like incantated notes through the air.
Come bathe in the glorious darkness (bring your own towels).
Genres: Black Metal
Xoth fire straight into their particular construct of technical, thrashing death metal with an assorted assault of blackened riffs on album opener Casting the Sigil. It's a strong opener that leaves you in no doubt of the intention of the rest of the record. From the off, energy levels are high, leads and licks stack up aplenty and there's a tongue pressing into a cheek as well one feels.
There's inevitable comparisons with Vektor here with the bold and expansive riffs and technical wizardry on display but the death metal elements of Xoth's sound make the band feel a little more fun than their progressive counterparts. There's elements of Absu here also (only again much more fun than them) as well as more modern references like Revocation also.
Everything sounds really clear in the mix, with former Warbringer man Ben Bennett's bass darting off on little runs here and there to let the listener know there's room for more than just the twin guitar attack of Tyler Splurgis and Woody Adler. Although Tyler does the majority of the vocals, Woody chips in pretty regularly also giving an element of variety, although at times the vocals feel a bit clunky and forced. Meanwhile, back on the drum stool, Jeremy Salvo does his surname proud on the skins displaying blistering pace and solid bashing in equal parts.
The hi-octane nature of the album is a tad exhausting with track after track of back to back intensity and I did find myself looking for some respite that never comes and this feels like it is the main weakness of the record. Whilst I get that with a title such as Interdimensional Invocations this is not an album with much chance of a power ballad there is still some element of change missing in terms of song writing and structure because everything is so face-melting in delivery and you almost want to just have some breathing space to take stock.
For next time around Xoth need to learn when a more measured approach is appropriate to add depth and variety to their recorded output as this forty minute album feels like a twenty minute single track broken up by dramatic pauses.
Genres: Death Metal Thrash Metal
Having flirted with their EP released earlier this year (Monarchy of Shadows) I was once again pulled into the gnarly and blackened world of the Brooklyn trio Tombs when this full length dropped in late-November. What is obvious from both releases is that Tombs don't fit neatly into any particular box for a nice, neat and singular genre label to be applied to the front of. Throughout Under Sullen Skies I am triggered by influences such as Motörhead, Neurosis, Bolzer and Isis as the album works its way through twelve tracks of potent and forceful music that succeeds in leaving a lasting impression in the main.
Now to be clear, I find the record far too long for my liking and I sense an inconsistent trajectory overall as a result of there simply being too many songs on the album. The highlights are infectious however; the groovy riffs of The Hunger or the desolate and spiralling tremolos of Angel of Darkness are both with me for life am I sure having only heard them a few times. But, in simple terms there's an overload of ideas here. The album feels likes an EP and a full-length stuck together as opposed to one cohesive release.
Whilst they may transcend genre/sub-genre borders the band don't do so with any real degree of thought for the compositional impact on the record and as a result the record feels like the dreaded "collection" of songs. This is a shame because a lot of what is written here is solid stuff (such as the superb dankness to the aptly titled Sombre Ruin) but it feels in the main like pieces from two different puzzles as opposed to a bumper Xmas jigsaw to cover the whole coffee table. Competent song writing and musicianship, let down by composition issues and crowding of ideas.
Genres: Black Metal
Belgium's Acid were/are a fun bunch by the sounds of it. Their current status might be a bit of a grey area with a rumoured two versions of the band being in existence but on their sophomore album there is no ambiguity on any front. What we get here is straight up heavy/speed metal absolutely brimming with energy and youthful vigour. Whilst they might not have been the most flamboyant musicians they certainly know how to put on a performance and this is in no small part is due to vocalist Kate de Lombaert.
Now, Kate isn't any soprano type vocalist and indeed shows no hint of melody or harmony during the record. Instead she uses her curt and blunt pronunciation to great effect, combining it with her gruff and aggressive delivery that makes for a perfect accompaniment to the hi-octane pace of the music, elevating the overall edginess of Acid's sound. Although it does rely heavily on this urgent and busy riffing style, Maniac has branches of variety that show build to tracks such as America making them immediate and memorable without sacrificing the cutthroat approach to the music overall.
It does still lack variety overall though, and the elements of filler mentioned in other reviews (namely No Time) results with the odd sigh getting uttered during the listen through. There's certainly no dynamic playing going on across the instrumentation here, in fact I would go as far as to say that without Kate this album wouldn't work quite so well. I can't remember any leads if I am honest and the drum work seems to happily sit as a background element only.
Still, for a sophomore release (done in the same year as their debut) it is a good effort, solid and consistent if not predictable as a result.
Genres: Heavy Metal Speed Metal
Back in the times when I had a gym membership, Sentenced To Life was something of a mainstay on my workout album playlist. The short and pummelling delivery making for a perfect accompaniment to my training regime and also giving me ample excuse to not associate with other regulars at my 6am visit, four days a week before work to my local gym. Although the healthier state of nearly a decade ago has now firmly left me the enjoyment levels of this album has not diminished quite as much over time.
There's anthems here from the very off as the crusty, thrashy/crossover and death metal blend makes a mark early on with the pounding opener Feast of the Damned. This track really sets the tone for the album overall with a face-searing intensity and furiously catchy chorus, it is not an opener you forget in a hurry. Capitalising immediately on this strong start the band bash through the remaining nine tracks with an almost reckless abandon.
However, there's a undercurrent to the songs that hints at something more than just a need for five guys to get somethings off their chest. Within the at times primitive simplicity of Black Breath's song writing there is a conscious moulding of space to push the sound into, to let the messages linger long enough to maximise impact. Whether it is a punchy bassline or a laboured riff, or a gruff vocal statement delivered with just enough intensity to hang in the ether of the throes of a track, Black Breath have more to say than their basic lyrics would have you believe and it is an album that very much lets all the component parts do the talking.
Whilst it helped me get weights of the floor and motivated me to get my fat ass in some semblance of shape at one point, it doesn't stimulate my senses in quite the same way that it used to sadly. Overall, when I listen back it lacks variety and whilst this doesn't make the attack any less frenzied, it does make the experience more blunted than I used to find it.
Genres: Death Metal
Following on from the more speed metal tinged Out of the Abyss, Manilla Road opted for a more slow to mid-tempo affair to kick off the nineties with. This time around they stuck with their traditional/epic heavy metal sound but it all felt even more accessible on this outing. Opening with an instrumental track is always a risk on any album and on this occasion they scrape through with it as although Road to Chaos isn't terrible it doesn't really hold the interest all too well and I find my attention has wandered on the opening track.
Thankfully the rest of the record measures up to a better standard. With a distinct sense of build being present on the record from the off, track number two steadily presents a consistent tempo without immediately galloping into the more upbeat style the band are famed for. The more aggressive tendencies do start to come in soon enough as well though and the album does a great job overall of balancing the more restrained elements with the more in your face parts.
There ain't no Crystal Logic or Open The Gates moments here though, with flashes of that brilliance only showing presence on all but too few occasions to make the overall experience anything more than just average. Shelton's trademark vocals are (as always) the over-arching memory I take from the record with the guitars doing their usual job of creating varied and capable passages. I don't feel however that the record ever really gets going to any degree and there's little sense of flow and very scarce evidence of compelling moments that standout to any degree.
Genres: Heavy Metal