Thursday, September 22, 2016

Zealot Cult - Karmenian Crypt (2016)

Ireland's Zealot Cult play a style of intelligent death metal that reminds me of a brainier Leprosy. I'm certainly hearing the Death influence, particularly on the vocal side of things and that works for me of course, but there are other facets of this performance which will keep the listener intrigued, the main facet of that being a band that just plain knows how to play death metal music. Folks, there are song structures within this album. Never are we hearing a band forced to swim through the simplicities of core. Zealot Cult doesn't make it easy for themselves, rather they fight through the muck in order to make an EP that seems worthy enough of their name. Jesus Christ, listen to the guitar playing on this record – that's the example for great death metal. Period. Now I'll admit that it's a little sludgy and pretty slimy in some areas as well, but it fits the atmosphere beautifully. If you're looking for good death metal, you're going to buy this one. Doesn't even matter if it's only seventeen minutes long. You'll play it again. Hell, I would. I'm already listening to this album again after previewing it the first time. My opinion of it hasn't changed.

As I mentioned, these gentlemen have just made their mark on the scene with this debut and other than a demo, it's all they've put out so far. So to tell me that these guys are going to go on to make a full-length soon enough, well... I want to hear it! But fuck my opinion, I want you to hear it. Yes, you – the death metal listener looking for something that actually sounds like death metal, not double-bass and cookie monster vocals and core breakdowns, but authentic death metal from musicians who sound like they've been playing it their entire lives. Originally, the drummer (Declan Malone) and guitarist (Mick Carey) had been playing death/thrash in a now defunct band called The Swarm, and while I can't tell you what that sounds like, I can tell you that what you're experiencing here is going to blow your mind. Now there are a couple of clean vocal portions on the hypnotic closer “Suffocation Of The Mind” but I didn't even feel perturbed by them. They simply added to what was an incredibly well-built and finely performed death metal track that merely serves as the topping on an already impressive cake, such as the one I'm feasting on here. Take a trip down to the pub for this one, gentlemen. You deserve it!

In my professionally unprofessional opinion, I think you'd have to be a complete ignoramous to skip out on this one. Ten more death metal records could come to my inbox within the next few days and I can guarantee that not even one of them would be as good as what I've just heard here. The Grim Tower highly recommends Karmenian Crypt and it's without a doubt one of the best EP's I've heard all year.

(3 Tracks, 17:00)

9/10

Assailant/Ubiquitous Realities - Bringers Of Delusion (2016)

We have here a split between two acts from Costa Rica, the first one being Assailant which is technical thrash metal with Ubiquitous Realities which is technical death metal.

Assailant reminds me a bit of Sepultura fused with latter-era Death and with maybe a hint of Cynic. Most of you are going to hear the Death influences though, which I think are quite apparent and show just how well these guys can play. Not only is guitar work completely abstract, but the drumming seems to line-up perfectly with what can be some rather bizarre compositions at times. Assailant have a vocal end as well, but he's not doing anything that I haven't heard from Chuck Schuldiner before and the band make a better instrumental act. It just depends on how you like your technicality. I can say that I would rather listen to the hard-edge of Assailant over a mainstay like Voivod which just bores me to tears and that's saying something. Yes, I'd rather listen to an act that just started out than one who's been around for decades because I think that the act sounds better than the legend. There, I said it. Crucify me. I had the chance to see Voivod live and walked out. They just were never that interesting to me and these guys seem to capture the essence of technical thrash much better.

Next we have Ubiquitous Realities, which is by and large different from the Assailant. First of all, these guys aren't just technical death metal – they're technical brutal death metal. After a slight movie quote, the record takes off into what can be considered the most extreme realms for the heavy metal genre. The bands that you know for playing this kind of music are those that have surgical procedures as monikers and intense gutturals. Also, I might mention that Ubiquitous Realities aren't a one-trick pony. The songs here actually have depth, and even some solo numbers. Opener “Bringer Of Malevolence” at one point had a sound that made me think the frontman was grinding his teeth, an approach I haven't heard in this genre before, even though it sounded pretty silly. There's definitely a lot of kick-drum here, but the fact that I am hearing a slight bit more than that makes these guys a bit more interesting. Sometimes they dip into breakdown or djent territory, but at least they're thinking out of the box. Especially on the spacey instrumental closer “Alterated Perception II” which I don't think anyone wwill see coming. If you like acts like Fallujah and Animals As Leaders, you'll find something there too, but they're still a BDM band. I promise!

Such an extreme partner on the disc makes for an odd split, I must say – but neither band disappoint and there's something for thrash and BDM fans here that I feel both will be happy with. I tend to like the Assailant part more as I think I've heard several better technical BDM acts like Wormed and 7.H Target, but these guys aren't half bad and at least it isn't the same old shit. I could see myself really getting into these guys after they've gotten a full-length out to show what they can really do. Yes, I'm saying that there's something in Ubiquitous Realities that could be very promising if they stick with it. Definitely give this record a listen, as this is a very strong Costa Rican split that just very well might surprise the living hell out of you.

(8 Tracks, 31:00)

9/10

Gnawed - Pestilence Beholden (2016)

Minnesota's Gnawed are back, with a record that I feel is described perfectly by the small amount of text located on the album's digipack. “All scrap metal, performed percussion and natural sounds were recorded within sewers, and rotting abandoned industrial complexes in Minneapolis.” In short, that pretty much sums up what you'll be hearing here as well. It's also quite good, as Gnawed give us a slightly different and surprisingly less ferocious atmosphere this time. When I first started up the record, I was expecting a great deal of unhinged anger and death electronics – but that's just not what I got and was thankful for it. Rather, there's something of an ominous and almost zen-like mist that pervades through the album. It doesn't feel pleasant, but it's not willing to rip your throat out either. As the text above implied, there is a heavy use of scrap metal scrapings on the disc, which help it to feel extremely metallic. We might call certain approaches of extreme rock music “heavy metal” but in all honesty, Gnawed is the sound of literal metal. Steel, iron, copper, aluminum – it's all here for your ears to explore. If this record had a smell, it would be that of a rotted old pipe left out for decades in an abandoned factory mixed in with the stale hint of a musty sewer.

Yes, there are moments of shouting on the disc (heavily masked with an effect) but they didn't reach in until much later, and once again I appreciate that the artist took time to think out of the box with this one. Industrial listeners expecting an atmosphere that matches the horrific imagery of malnourished humans on the album's digipack artwork will find exactly that in Pestilence Beholden. There's absolutely nothing that I couldn't recommend on this one, because it literally feels like cold, rotting metal and that is really what you want from industrial music. Real industrial music, where metal is used instead of rock or metal instruments and/or synthesizers. Admittedly, I like that sort of thing as well, but at least I know enough about this genre now to differentiate it from the dance-friendly distant cousin that exists on the other side of the paradigm. Gnawed fans won't be disappointed with this one, because it is exactly what they should expect from the artist at this point and feels like a more mature approach to the genre, even though it is straight-forward. Certainly worth picking up for any fan of industrial music and can be used as a educative tool to teach those who are unware of the difference in the two industrial genres. Gnawed have made the example with this one, with mastermind Grant Richardson showing everyone else what industrial music is really all about.

(9 Tracks, 55:00)

8/10

Hellgoat - Eden In Flames (2016)

Georgia's Hellgoat is about to release their next EP, with several full-lengths and other EP's just like it under their belt. The band has been comapred to acts like Von, Abysmal Lord, Beherit, Demoncy and others, offering a pretty raw and very rough-necked black metal edge that feels like a more produced version of something that may have come out during the early nineties. The drums do overpower the tremolos here, but that's probably how they'll sound on the stage too – and that's fine, because this is the kind of raw energy that we want to hear from them. It's not always blazing, but even during the lower registers, the frontman still manages a venomous scowl or two and makes for an entertaining performance. The lyrical matter is mostly based in the same Anti-Christian/Satanic stuff that you hear from most black metal acts and we won't beat them up about it. More or less these guys are just sort of emulating the acts and ideas that they enjoy putting forth in their music, and the approach comes off without a hitch. It's not very long, but it makes a mark and includes some interesting introductory and closing notes as well. You hear the sound of goats to open it, and you know – having lived on a farm at one point in my life, goats really aren't all that frightening to me. The ending piece was interesting though, a murky droning atmosphere that I wouldn't have expected. It's worth a listen, but these guys have a bunch of other material out there that comprises of more than just two tracks. I'd listen to those releases first.

(2 Tracks, 8:00)

7/10

Traffic Death/Lurking Corpses - Split Personality (2016)

I don't review much punk here, because I frankly can't fucking stand most of it, or that scene for that matter. Especially now that social justice culture has worked it's way into the scene. That being said, this is a split between two bands from Des Moines and Ft. Wayne with both offering a different approach to punk than I've heard before. Traffic Death started out with a pretty common punk flair, right up there with the Ramones or Misfits, especially in the “whoa-oh” sections. Then they decided to turn a song about their frustration with remakes and new shit into a rather scathing punk cut. The riffs were pretty derivative of the punk genre, but the frontman offered an absurdly harsher vocal approach that I quite enjoyed.

Next we have the equally scathing Lurking Corpses, which aren't strangers to me as I've reviewed them before – but this time around they're experimenting with thick, heavy bouts of doom as well as some death metal growls on “Human Scar.” It's also the longest cut on the disc. Considering the length of this thing, that's not long. After that, they just go into fast numbers that come in and out and don't really leave a mark. It's like when an artist just kind of says, “Eh, fuck it – we'll just write two quick tracks and clal it a day.” But that's what they did. It's a decent disc with slight bits of promise and even though I don't really like a lot of punk, I'll accept this as a relatively decent disc.

(5 Tracks, 8:00)

6/10

State Of Mine - Devil In Disguise (2016)

Hailing from Michigan, these alternative/hard rockers certainly have something for fans of acts like Five Finger Death Punch and early Motograter, which is what they sound like. Even more so than the acts they've been compared to on the press release: Mice & Men, Shaman's Harvest, Sevendust and Gemini Syndrome. While I haven't quite heard of all of those bands, I know for sure that State of Mine have not even the clearest resemblance to Sevendust as I've been a fan of those guys since I was a teenager. What we have here is an act that channels quite a bit of Five Finger Death Punch in their most modern and accessible era, which will do great for record sales, but not strike so hard for originality. What surprised the hell out of me though, was how close to Moody's vocal tone the frontman got on this record – it's unreal. Put those two together in a music program and you'll be quite astonished by the similarity. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but I don't know how well it's going to do for these guys to go so close to an approach that sounds just like that of the current kings of radio rock. “Curtain Call” is the track they're promoting and even have a video for, which certainly seems to have a lot of FFDP worship especially considering the chorus. Now Flaw could also be cited, but Flaw was performing their style long before Motograter joined Moody (and if anyone's ever heard Motograter before Moody, you'll know that they were an entirely different band at that point) and it could even be argued that Ivan Moody borrowed from Flaw in their early days (even though that's highly debatable.)

In any case, fans of a familiar radio rock approach (with added electronics) will find something here within the downtuned riffing and catchy chorus matter that pervade through the disc. There are some strong nodes in the chorus line for “Stones” as well as the closer “Broke By Monday” which reminds me of some of the good times during my teenage years, where we would all ride around on the back roads and listen to radio rock while getting stoned. I'm far too old for that mess now, but back then it was quite an experience. Devil In Disguise is chock-full of radio hits from front to back and I'd certainly recommend it to those who have no problem with commercial approaches. It's not too bad, but certainly nothing I'd outright recommend unless you want to have more radio-friendly hard rock music in your life. I have more than a few friends that would enjoy it, and I think personally that these guys are just one hit away from a major radio breakthrough. But I feel like I've personally heard it all before as far as this goes and it's really nothing all that special. Feel free to check the video and give them a listen for yourself, if this is something that interests you.

(7 Tracks, 25:00)

6/10

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ludicrous - The Stoic Ideal (2016)

This is the sophomore album from the Finnish industrial/death output, featuring members from End Of You, Dead Shape Figure and GAF. According to MA, there's only one member in the act right now and no one knows what he plays. That doesn't seem quite right to me though, and later checking the band's FB profile warrants a much better description. There are five members in the band here who apparently play various instruments. There, now that we have that covered (stifled laughter) let's get to talking about the damn album, shall we?

First off, Ludicrous are not the kind of band to stay stuck in one style for too long, even though they have a base of thumping bass (yes, I made a pun) and furious industrial elements. It can be said that some djent is used on the recording, but it only feels like an element instead of a backbone. Keyboard atmospheres gently decorate sections of the disc, but occasional piano can appear as well as a myriad of other things. Much of the record seems to mirror Swedish death metal, particularly cuts like “Crucifix-State-Of-Mind,” “Deathjog” and the album closer “Delta Male Supremacy.” The band does hit into more alternative rock territory with “Inside Out” and of course, the unexpected Slipknot cover of “Duality” which is definitely one of the act's most mainstream and popularized songs. As for that cover, it does maintain the same vibe, but features more of an industrial background and a much deeper vocal style than Corey Taylor might be capable of.

The record isn't all that long, but it certainly manages something a bit new and different with the death metal genre that people won't be expecting anytime soon. Just in case you passed it up, you might really want to get your hands on it. Bands like Ludicrous are just what we need in the metal scene today, because these are the kind of acts that truly think out of the box. For a real shocker, check out “Ponyrides and Ceilings.” You might not know what to think after hearing that one! Hopefully there will be more of this to come in the future.

(8 Tracks, 31:00)

8/10