Friday, March 10, 2017

We're Moving Back To The Grim Tower.Com!

Yes,  we're moving back to the official domain site as the rent has been paid and we're good for a year. During that year, I want to try some new things with the website. You'll see for yourself when we post them!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Mist - Phantasmagoria (Reissued 2017)

Brazilian thrashers The Mist actually have a bit more going for them than the previous Brazilian thrash act I reviewed this week, Mutilator. The most important thing that I can say about the reissue of this 1989 debut album is that it definitely has quite a bit of variety, refusing to stay in the same tempo or even the same style of music that many thrash acts never leave. Also,  frontman Cassiano Gobbet sounds a stickler for legendary Death vocalist, Chuck Schuldiner. Keep in mind that even if these guys were inspired in part by Scream Bloody Gore or Leprosy, they would have to be direct inspirations as the band were more than likely recording this album in '88, around the time that Leprosy would have released. I'll throw in the fact that parts of this record also structurally sound like some of Death's later releases, just because there is almost a progressive sense to these pieces that you wouldn't have expected in thrash. Keep in mind though, this was very close to the nineties and progressive elements were creeping in left and right.

The record has an uncanny 90% score (one review) on Metal Archives, which is one point higher than Leprosy (twenty-two reviews), if you can believe it. Oddly enough, the band are still heavily compared to acts like Sepultura and Mutilator, (which means that their style must have simplified as they went on) which I'm just not hearing here. Like I said, I'm hearing more of Death and Sarcofago with more thrash elements. When the band aren't playing straight-up thrashers, they seem to be at their very best as songs like “Smiles, Tears and Chaos”, “The Enemy” and the title track seem to display very well. It's not that they can't thrash, because they can – and better than a lot of bands, even Metallica during this era. I'd certainly say it's a more interesting and ferocious album than Kill Em' All ever was and despite how much I absolutely love Metallica's early compositions; they were never overly frightening. It's great that these guys actually managed to put a little bit of horror into these tunes with some noticeably creepy vibes throughout and that works for me. The record isn't filled with dread and terror, but it doesn't shirk away from that territory either, still managing to hold a thick steel mallet of pure-bred thrash behind it's back by which to pummel the listener until they are nothing but a gelatinous pool of blood and bone matter. Thrashers are still getting a great thrash album, which I might even want to say is a real lost gem in the genre. If you like thrash metal in any capacity and have not gotten your hands on this one, then you definitely need to do so and as soon as possible. I'm not sure how many copies they will have left, and this is a definite treasure. Not to mention that the remastering on the disc sounds absolutely brilliant, and I can discern ever bass lick and guitar lead as I find myself sucked into a record that I just cannot stop playing. If you've always wished for a thrashier Death, then The Mist might just grant that in spades.

Two guitarists really helped to make the band as melodically great as they are, which would be Fabio Andrey and the now deceased Jairo Guedz, who seems to be a real loss to the world of metal as a whole. He died nearly sixteen years ago, but when you hear just how great his playing on this record is, you might even regard him in the same territory as great axemen like Cliff Burton or Randy Rhoads. Judging from the later albums however, the band could simply not keep up the momentum as this 90% later became an 82% with their next release and then a 58% where the band's legacy ended with their third album. An EP was also released, but it received an unexpected 35% so it must have been rather rough. In any case, Phantasmagoria is literally as good as it gets from these guys and though I'm definitely tempted to check out sophomore The Hangman Tree, not even I think that this recording can be topped. Run, don't walk to the nearest record store and see if they have this one in or might be able to order it for you. This isn't just a great Brazilian thrash record, it is an essential piece of thrash metal history, lost no more. 

(10 Tracks, 39:00)


Agresiva - Eternal Foe (Reissued 2016)

Originally released back in 2012, this new version of the Spanish thrashers' debut recording contains two extra tracks in addition to the Spanish language version of “Hell Town.” These are “The End Of The Game” and “Sent To War” respectively. Judging the record as a whole, I feel that the three reviewers on Metal Archives got it right, and it currently stands at a 71% even though I'd place it just a few points higher. The early (but should we now say current?) Belladonna era of Anthrax seems to be a major influence on the piece, with fontispiece Samuel being a near emulation of the classic vocal style. You can tell that these blasted the living hell out of Among The Living when you pop in Eternal Foe and that's just fine. They know what kind of band that they want to be, and frankly there's enough firepower and differentiation in riff-structures to make for something of a pleasant listen. As of this review, I'm on my third play of it tonight as I'm trying to really hammer down what I think the issues are.

As far as the musicianship is concerned, I feel that this very much resembles Anthrax at their mightiest, and it may even offer a bit more bite than the records that influenced it. There are also some sections that differ from the thrash formula and tinge maybe a little on prog. The drumming offered up by Chus Maestro is quite proficient and the flurry of varied riffs that we get from guitarists Miguel Coello and Eduardo Chamón more than make up for the slighty lackluster vocal approach that Samuel offers in some areas, especially when wonderful solos come into the mix. The band utilize a slew of soundclips within the performance, but never directly in the songs, which is a major plus for me. All I want to hear in thrash is the guitars, drums, bass and vocals and that's pretty much it. This record gives me exactly that, along with some real energy – the kind that Metallica haven't offered in quite a while. But you can't even really compare a band like this to Metallica, because they borrow so much from early Anthrax and don't even seem to have so much as a bone in their body that resembles Metallica. With an atmosphere that feels warm, yet clean – we get something that is not much offered within the thrash metal spectrum, and that is a bit refreshing. It's a bit less fierce than the two other thrash releases I've covered this week, being Mutilator and The Mist respectively; but it is still a rather rough and tumble experience that fans of the genre need to check out, especially if they miss old-school Anthrax. Daniel Villaseñor's hefty bass is certainly well pronounced and provides a firey overtone to the production here, but there is just enough space within the recording that I can actually make out nearly every melodic lead and drum tap. This is fantastic, because songs like “Pale Horse”, “Hell Town” and the especially progessive title track are only made the better because of this production decision. This record could have been produced with a focus on raw thrash, but it would have sounded like crap and at the same time, would have harmed the band a great deal. Thankfully, that was not the case here.

Again, we don't get many independent thrash albums where the band can breathe and many sound like they're in some kind of box or garage plugging out inaudible tunes with amps that have been turned up far too loud for their own good. I have no idea who mastered this one, but they did a hell of a job with it and they deserve about fifteen medals. I don't know what kind of medals, probably those chocolate medals from the Mario books. In any case, what we have here is something quite profound and promising in the house that thrash built, and I hope that the band's sophomore release The Crime Of Our Time (2014) came out just as good as this one did. If not, throw it to this guy and let him master it as well. I don't care how much money it takes, this is a real bang-up production job and it shows that these guys have some real power in the scene. If they were able to deliver just as good, or even better of a performance with the second one, then I'd be more than willing to hear it.

These guys were independent for a while, but Minotauro Records picked them up and created this version of it, so if you liked the independent release, you owe it to yourself to grab this version of the disc. It contains some nice cover artwork as well, and looks like a truly professional product. There's an undead shogun on the front of it and that works for me! Very cool stuff, guys.

(12 Tracks, 55:00)


Mutilator - Immortal Force (Reissued 2016)

Originally released back in 1987 but reissued in 2016, we have the debut album from Brazillian thrash act Mutilator for the first time ever in a CD format. You may not be all that familiar with these guys as they broke up shortly in 1990, never to reunite again. In that time, this record was released to a solid 80% (five reviews) on Metal Archives, followed by the band's sophomore and final album Into The Strange, which released a year later to a 73% (four reviews) on the same site. If you happened to catch Metallica last night, then you'll soon come to realize that the thrash here is much different than what Lady Gaga performed on stage. Here we have a rather warm and hard-hitting thrash, that actually sounds like thrash metal. Rapid-fire riffing combines with a ferocious amount of drum punch and shouting vocals on the front-end to introduce a band that absolutely defines the very genre compared to what the aforementioned put out last year. Not to mention the fact that we have blazing guitar solos, which are an absolute staple of thrash.

Not surprisingly, Mutilator also seem to have a similarity to Brazillian thrashers gone technical groove/thrashers Sepultura, but during their most respected days. Records like Arise and Beneath The Remains come into mind, as well as efforts like INRI and Rotting from Sarcofago. So if you love Brazillian thrash in it's most classic element, you'll love this to. Rodrigo Neves simply pounds the living hell out of the drumkit sometimes, so it's admittedly a little difficult to hear some of (now deceased) guitarist Alexander Magu's leads as well as Kleber's melodies, despite the fact that his vocals are incredibly defined and voracious inside the mix. These guys played thrash the old-fashioned way, long before the Black album and long before Slayer thought they would try to go a bit mainstream and then jump back into their old stomping grounds. This also predates John Bush's arrival into Anthrax, which produced the (still memorable) White Noise album and certainly it comes before Sepultura's Roots (which they're doing an entire tour for). Though the album will undoubtedly knock listeners on their ass, much can't be said for varitey and song structure. Much of the record feels like one big thrash song, which is the same way I felt about Slayer classic, Reign In Blood. If you're looking for more varied thrash, look elsewhere. But if you're looking for hard-hitting thrash that never lets up and doesn't go into ballads or acoustic bits of atmosphere, then you'll find just what the doctor ordered here.

Unfortunately, not even one song stands out above the others, but I'd be a fool to tell you that it wasn't performed with enough bravado and raw power to leave a mark. Maybe Metallica or MetalliGaga should sit down and listen to this one, so they can kind of get a taste of what the genre they made waves in back in the eighties, is supposed to sound like. Without question, Immortal Force comes in as a reminder of what thrash metal music is supposed to be. It's debatable as to whether or not the new sound of thrash is an evolution of devolution, but for you old-school thrash heads that remember what this thing was like on vinyl, now you get another excuse to pick it up and relive the raw energy available on this disc. By the way, it comes with two bonus tracks, “Evil Conspiracy” and “Visions Of Darkness” which are both shorter than any of the tracks here, but are worth checking out in their own right. Obviously these are a bit lower in quality and were taken from a demo recording. Even so, it's great to have them as part of the package now.

(11 Tracks, 42:00)


Seth - Apocrypha (2016)

Since Seth is first known as a black metal act, and “Seth Rock Band” gives me results for a rapper by the name of Seth Rock, I'm just going to have to say that information is slim regarding this Massachusetts bassed progressive rock act. Now, Seth is definitely influenced by everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Robert Plant, which means we are definitely hearing Zeppelin and Sabbath in the mix. You can tell right off that multi-instrumentalist and frontman Gerry Stafford is heavily influenced by artists like Ozzy (especially with his vocal style, which seems to echo quite a bit of the Ozzman) even though this act goes back to '74 and predates the British metal legends by quite a bit. Nevertheless, I'm still hearing that Sabbath flair here. It's undoubtable that there are several artists not limited to Cream, and The Beatles, Yes and possibly even early Pink Floyd that could have had a hand in this, but that depends on who you ask. The record itself nearly comes in at forty minutes, so there's quite a bit of territory covered here and a great deal to be explored.

Unfortunately, several of the cuts here are not quite as thick as those at the beginning of the album and although we get a rather potent opener in “I'm No Saint” as well as a grooving alternative rock (it almost sounds a bit like grunge, if you ask me) number in “Semaj” there exist two rather light pieces in the ballad “Love's Hallowed Ground” and the even lighter ballad “The First 29 Years” which aren't exactly bad, but might be a bit more airy than one would expect. Sandwiched in the middle of that is a decent enough piece called “Free World” that despite it's length, feels a bit off for some reason. I've listened to this track several times today and it just feels as if something is wrong with it. It honestly kind of feels a bit garage for me, which I'm kind of lost to. The rest of the album sounds a bit more clear than this – whatever it is supposed to be – and I certainly cannot say that it is one of the band's best tracks, by far. Maybe with a slightly less raw production as the others have received, “Free World” will come off a bit more lively. Not only does the piece sound off, but it feels stifled compared to the rest of the album. Seth had the right idea, but it's just a little below the bar for me. I also feel that “There and Now” isn't quite what it should be, even though it is definitely a much heavier cut than some of the others here. That being said, I'm not looking for an overly heavy record here and perhaps it touches on doom a bit too much.

The real treat on this album (and why it is worth the purchase price) is a wonderful instrumental called “Quadragy” which spans well over ten-minutes and carries me into places that not only execute great prog, but remind me of great classic video game soundtracks. I strongly doubt these were inspirations, but I heard something within the piece that felt like a Mega Man style melody and I definitely jumped on it. It felt like the end credits music to such a game, what you would hear after finishing the final boss and seeing how the story turned out. A veritable time for relection, which is a good idea between games. We often don't reflect on media period, which is definitely not a good thing. We should think about those experiences that we've had with art in all of it's different facets. It doesn't help the Mega Man feeling I get when electronics and keyboards are wholly used to make these sounds, and when something comes off very much like a charge sound, I can't really help it. Later, the piece goes into something that kind of reminds me of the seventies inspired progressive rock that influenced some of the tunes in X-Men: Arcade's Revenge. This is definitely eighties X-Men to me. Then we have what sounds like a ship landing as what feels like classic music for a shmup begins to blare. I'm just missing the ship and the enemies. Very cool, very classic and certainly one of the best things I've heard this year.

I guess this comes off as a bit rude, but with such an amazingly outstanding performance like this one, why did Seth even write traditional songs? I think I would have absolutely salivated over an entire record like this and as much as I really dug “I'm No Saint” and “Semaj” there's nothing like “Quadragy.” That's simply just “cool” and I can't say much more than that. It brings back so many memories, of course – and I feel that ended far too soon. Twenty or thirty more minutes of that would have been awesome. That, is the very essence of this genre. Without a piece like that, this record would probably receive a five, or if I was feeling gracious, a six. But since there's such a monumentally awesome recording utilized as a finale, I have to give Seth the benefit of the doubt. I want more people to hear said track, because it is absolutely incredible. These guys reunited after many years, and even though I didn't think so much of the record at first (it was relatively decent,  but not phenomenal) they unexpectedly blew me away right at the end. It's like watching a film with a good build-up and a lowly climax, only to be shaken by a suprisingly fantastic ending note. I have to recommend Seth's Apocrypha to progressive rock fans sheerly due to “Quadragy”, because such a piece is worth paying for. There's absolutely no question in my mind.

(7 Tracks, 37:00)


The Silverblack - Self-Titled (Remixed and Remastered) (2016)

This very short remastered and remixed version of the industrial goth rockers debut album feels more like an EP release than a debut. Even though there are ten songs featured here, it feels more like a smattering of ideas that was further realized on the group's next effort. There are obvious references to The Deathstars here, especially right in the vocal tone of album opener “Chimera.” Throughout the album we are introduced to a very dark vocal croon in the background, which would definitely have to be Disarmonia Mundi's Claudio Ravinale and could carry the weight of the record completely on it's own. Unfortunately, this is technically Neroargento's main band with him performing the leads, samples and the majority of the vocals, which are a bit more focused towards lighter and more fragile territory which doesn't work as well for me. For instance, there's a section in “Dandelion” where a clean vocal is used, which feels a bit closer to Manson and far from that deep tongued Bloody Kisses Pete Steele vibe that Ravinale is going for. Aside from that, you're going to find a very interesting mix of guitar and electronica here, which is often as bouncy as it is gothic. It often feels like both vocalists are struggling for supremacy here, as one fellow prefers a harsh approach to the clean approach of the other – you can only imagine how this comes off on the recording, sounding not unlike an utter mess. Less is more, and there is just too much going on as far as the record is concerned. The Silverblack need to find a way to separate vocal duties in this act, or someone needs to go. That's not to say that heartwrenching number “Someone like you” or the catchy “Once Again” (by which the harsh/clean approach is used effectively) are not worthy of merit, but there are definitely some slips and slides here. The most aggravating track on the record is called “B.B.N.C.” which quite literally feels ruined by it's gimmick of a cellphone scammer. I will say that if you're looking for a mix of goth rock and heavy industrial with an almost melodic death metal flair to the vocals, you can't really go wrong with this. It reminds me a little of early Blood Stain Child (are they even still a band?) and that's a good thing. I also need to mention that this disc sounds a bit different from The Grand Turmoil and comes across with more of a bite.

Remember that this version of the band's debut is different from the initial release and may come off better or worse than that version, depending on taste. Some of you might feel that the original mix was better, but I can't confirm or deny that, not having heard it. I will say that even though the record is pretty short, it does feel a bit longer than it does due to all of the different ideas utilized within each track. As the record literally overflows with differing structures, there exists a brand of substance that you just won't hear in similar bands. Perhaps this might even come across as a heavier version of industrial era Linkin Park, which is not a problem for me, because even if Neroargento is going for something like Chester Bennington with the cleans (who actually always wanted to emulate Ministry during their With Sympathy days – did you know?) the rest of the album features so much more bite than anything I've heard from the experimental alternative pop rockers in years. I'd definitely recommend this one over that style of music, even though I am admittedly a fan of some of their music as well and do not recognize boundaries when it comes to music. Perhaps one of my favorite tracks on the album would be it's closer “Blessed By A Curse” where we get a nice bit helping of frightening dark vocal tones, something that I feel could have been utilized better on the album as a whole. Even so, you're never going to hear anything like that on a Linkin Park album. Speaking of, the band just jumped the shark and is getting hammered by people for putting out a very lackluster track and this might be just what you need to cleanse your palette and get the fucking taste out of your mouth. As a secondary defense, I'll also state that NeroArgento's clean lines are not as whiny as Chester Bennington's often come off. We can be rather thankful for that. I was on the fence during the first listen of this recording, but sometimes it's the second listen that really allows the material to sink in. I would certainly recommend it to those looking for a good mix of many genres, set to a bouncy and brackish musical backbone.

(10 Tracks, 34:00)


The State Of Metal Address 2017

I vowed not to get political here, but things are definitely changing around the world. That also means the metal scene. So let me state my politics immediately. I am not a liberal and I am not a conservative. I stand somewhere in the middle and consider politics a little bit of a game. Do I consider Donald Trump to be the devil? No, not by any means. But I cannot say that I agree with what he is doing either, at least as far as the environment is concerned. The man simply refuses to understand that the Antarctic is melting more than it ever has, which will have some rather horrid effects on the world as a whole and is already beginning to take effect. I read science books as a child, detailing the effects of global climate change on the world and apparently this wonderful pipeline is only going to make things worse through pollution, no matter how many jobs it creates. It's a very interesting situation.

I will say that since I have not gone to sign waving and pussy-hat wearing protests, and because I have not completely demonized the president in every way, shape and form as well as stood behind social justice ideals, I've ended up with more people blocking and unfriending me than can add me on social media. It's almost a joke. I'm making myself Public Enemy #1 in this industry because I'm one of the only people with enough sense to see a manufactured revolution is on the rise.

First of all, we have to realize that millionaires with power and connections are telling peasants to rise up and rebel against another millionaire that they didn't want to win the political game. There's a nice little conspiracy here (dare I call it a theory?) that makes a lot of sense to me. In the past, people did not trust their media or the entertainment industry. In comes Donald Trump, who criticizes both beyond recognition. Now the same industry that people didn't trust and put much stock in before, sheds crocodile tears and makes the peasants fear for the future of their existence. Eventually, the mean tyrant will be ousted, by which a new millionaire that the entertainment industry, media and elite members of society will openly support. Soon, the rest of the country and world as a whole will consider this choice to be a victory. The result of that victory will see an entire group of people once again lipping tongue to the entertainment and media industry, more than ever before. This will allow any corporate agendas to pass through without any real conflict from the people and much of that will be a form of socialism/globalism which is what other countries already seem to be working towards.

There are definitely some fears in globalism, which will change the way the world works, as well as the way that money is handled (a one-world digital currency) and some of these effects will actually be quite useful. I do support the Universal Basic Income, which will allow people who cannot find a job or refuse to work, some sort of income by which they can survive, rather than protesting higher wages. People don't want higher wages, they want liveable wages. They want any form of currency that will allow them to provide for their families. This may mean throwing the dollar out the window completely, or combining it with the euro and other means of currency in order to make something sustainable for all people on the globe. Of course, that also means that such a currency has the possibility of being corrupt. Aye, everything that man can put his hands on has the ability to become corrupt or to fail altogether. Some say that capitalism itself has become corrupt. That's more or less the truth, unless you are a millionaire yourself. Most millionaires in this country don't want to be less than millionaires. But everyone wants to be a millionaire!

So honestly, I don't see the Trump presidency going on for very long. Because people will keep complaining and the media will keep spending thousands on all of these ad campaigns, program guides (yes, there are daily program guides for people in this country to protest and march, and they have to be paying them some kind of wage in order for these people to leave their places of employment for so long, unless they are on some sort of welfare). I dunno folks, the whole country is pretty much in shambles and now even metal is becoming a part of it.

Last night, a Marduk show was completely cancelled because of Antifa and BLM members. Wow. Are we in pre-MetalGate times, already? Has the dragon that we'd long thought vanquished over a week's time in 2014 decided to rear it's ugly head again in 2017 as hordes of brainless trendhoppers attempt to destroy a music that they know nothing about? People who only know about a topic based on what they've read and not what they've experienced? Is this what 2017 is going to be like? Every black metal act on the face of the fucking globe thrown into a Neo-Socialist pile? Boy, I'd sure hate to be a real Neo-Socialist black metal band these days. Good thing that nothing like that actually exists... (sarcasm). But seriously, folks. I think we are for some very interesting times here in the heavy metal scene. Not to mention we have that awful repugnance, Lords Of Chaos releasing this year, which is only going to make it worse for black metal bands and fans. Just think, a whole fucking western culture that now considers black metal listeners to be killers and satanists. Not the kind of satanists you're thinking of either. Rather the murdering devil worshippers of a Satanic Panic film.

Good gravy, metal is really taking a beating this year. Sabbath is done, Lady Gaga (Do I embolden that?) is being considered a member of Metallica, Marduk was banned, Lords Of Chaos is set to release. What else can go wrong? Oh, I cannot wait for the days when I check out the comments section on a topic from Metal Injection or Blabbermouth (or the newly reformed Metal Hammer... did not see that coming) and find tons of religious-minded people and/or normal folks that have watched the film and it becomes the next fucking Deliverance, because of what some teenagers did two or three decades ago. Soon, all metal listeners would be branded with the same shit, as the republican house declares another war on metal - again. (We already had this once, during the Tipper Gore years). Then I guess Corey Taylor (since he doesn't have the balls of Dee Snider and Rob Halford) will get on his hands and knees and bawl into the defendant's table just like he does on his little Hello Kitty pillow every night and complain about how he's sorry for making such violent and offensive heavy metal albums. Who knows, maybe the guys from Avenged Sevenfold will get a shoulder up from Metallica as Gojira heads back to France where people aren't so closed-minded, and Nergal just gives the whole country a finger as the new Behemoth record releases exclusively to Poland in a compact disc format only. Little blogs like this will just go down in an instant, as Google succumbs to pressure and everything I worked for falls apart in front of me. I know, maybe all of this is an exagerration; but you'd be surprised all of the flack that one little fucking Hollywood movie can create. Or maybe you wouldn't.

In any case, between Trump, a manufactured revolution and all of the bullshit that is happening to heavy metal in the media (or is about to), this year is turning out to be just as great as the last one. I should also mention that I have not heard from my colleague since late October. He may never do this kind of work again. Who knows? I haven't heard from my other friend in quite a while too. I'm also at odds right now with another friend, which I hope we will work out. I am tired of people in my life walking out the door for one reason or another. Hopefully, I can bring some great heavy metal reviews (and other music too) in the months to come and maybe we'll all make it through this shit unscathed. If not, well... I don't even want to think about it.

- The Grim Lord

Friday, February 10, 2017

Malacoda - Ritualis Aeterna (2016)

Who are Malacoda? Well, the Canadian quintet have been together since 2015 and they've released one self-titled album along with an EP just last year. This of course, is a review for that EP. You can grab it on Bandcamp right now and it's definitely worth it if you like Gothic, doom and power metal. The band is composed of current and former members of Annihilator, Phear, Echoterra, Pyramaze, Structure Of Inhumanity and Universal Mind Project, but it doesn't have a very strong budget yet and needs some level of promotion in order to possibly get further in the game. That being said, this blog probably won't be much help. (Chuckles) In any case, we first have to wager as to whether or not Malacoda are actually worth being a big name act in their own right and in my book, I was quite surprised by what I thought was going to be some kind of generic metal album. I'm already aware that if you'll look at the Metal Archives review for the record, you'll find that the score is relatively low at 60%. But judging by the inexperienced nature of the writer, I wouldn't trust it. Seriously, looking at that load of proverbial chicken scratch tells me that he doesn't have the faintest idea as to what in the hell he's talking about.

So let's get down to brass tacks – Malacoda are an act worth watching. Not only do I hear resemblances to Candlemass, Ihsahn and even Nevermore within the powerful clean vocal structures of frontman/guitarist Lucas Di Mascio, but I'm also noticing superb keyboard atmospheres from Jonah Weingarten which really add to the whole gothic nature of the piece. Adding to that, we have some pretty killer solo work as Mascio and secondary axeman Brad Casarin prove that they can recreate the same incredible effects with their guitars that Weingarten is creating with his keys.

Malacoda aren't just a band that excell mainly in their dark and gloomy keyboard atmospheres, as they also hit strong choruses (there are no ten minute epics here, so it's mainly verse/chorus) in nearly every track that will actually get stuck in your head if you give them enough time. It feels a bit rock sometimes (I Got A Letter) but that's a large part of classic/heavy/power metal anyway, so you can't blame them for wanting to make catchy songs out of this. I do think they should branch out a little more, maybe offer some longer pieces in which the guitars and keys can have a free-for-all, but I'm definitely not unhappy with this. Di Mascio still needs a little work in his clean lines, but don't we all. I definitely can't pull off those highs in “Pandemonium” without sounding like I've grown breasts. I'd definitely have to compare them to Ihsahn's clean lines as well, which is what I was most reminded of when they came into place. This EP feels like an experiment, with every song offering something new from the band. It seems that they want to show what they're capable of and sort of find a middle ground for all of it. I'm guessing the first record was a bit of a mess because there were a million ideas utilized on it, only few of which will be further carried on. When we continue listening, we find that “The Wild Hunt” actually comes across as one of the band's strongest by far, pulling off a familiar sound and style that fans of darker power metal acts will catch right away. The only real piece I could do without is “Linger Here” which is mostly a little piano ballad that never catches on due to it's unexpectedly short length. I guess I was expecting a “November Rain” moment with this, where the guitars are finally turned on and we manage to get a brilliant solo out of it. Even BabyMetal did that with “No Rain, No Rainbow” which still surprises me to this day. I have never really cared for piano based ballads in this fashion and this one didn't win me over either. Fortunately, the record ends with a heavy-hitter called “There Will Always Be One” which is appreciated, as the prior cut nearly put me to sleep. Not only does the piece contain it's share of awfully creepy keyboards, but it features as strong of a chorus number as that of opener “Penny Dreadful” and “The Wild Hunt.” We also get several infusions of guitar, like we wanted from the very beginning.

I think Malacoda know what to do, they're just not exactly doing it. What I'd like to hear from a future release is much longer songs with more guitar influence, less of the teary piano ballads and without question, an album worthy of the title of gothic power metal. There's so much promise in Ritualis Aeterna that labels should be taking note, and I'm sure they are. I really just hope that the band are able to evolve naturally and don't end up getting thrown into the core and djent trends, of which I'm proud to say that I'm not hearing one bit of throughout the entirety of this release. Thank the metal gods for small favors. As I said, you can pick this one up on Bandcamp and you should, especially if you're interested in a couple of catchy dark tunes that have me hopeful for the future of this genre. You see, gothic power metal is not all that prolific within the heavy metal spectrum, nor should it be. I like to see that bands like Malacoda are trying new things within what has seemed to hit a sort of a slump as far as the power metal genre is concerned. Many of the bands are putting out good albums, but no one is really putting out anything all that unique. At least these Canadians are trying, and that's saying something.

(6 Tracks, 24:00)


Adoration Destroyed - Ritual Damage (2016)

Despite the unexpected and unfortunate passing of the band's bassist John Gilyeat shortly after, this latest album from this Texas based Industrial rock act is certainly worth checking out, especially for fans of acts like Celldweller, The Dreaming, Mortiis, Deathstars, Nine Inch Nails, The Cruxshadows or Marilyn Manson. Now the cover looks like something you might expect for an etheral/darkwave act like Dead Can Dance, Unto Ashes or Inkubus Sukubus, but this record is definitely not that kind of experience. Which was perfectly fine for me, it was an unexpected and surprisingly intriguing. The most interesting part about this album for me was how close frontman Eric Gustafson actually hits Marilyn Manson territory, even covering classic “Coma White” to near-perfection. I'm extremely anal-retentive regarding covers of this classic because of my connection to the lyrics, (I'd been pushed through the pharmaceutical system for many years as a child – so I know what “a pill to make you numb, a pill to make you dumb” and “a pill to make you anybody else” actually means. As a matter of fact, it was just a few months ago that my current doctor told me that what I had been going through was indeed a “pill doctor” trying to exploit me for the benefit of the system, and apparently it is common in the industry. I suffered numerous side effects from the drugs, far beyond what Manson discussed in the song of course.) and I've heard several so/so renditions having tracked down numerous covers of it myself.

Though other than making a tribute to what I believe is one of the best-eras of the long running shock rock act (Mechanical Animals is my favorite album from the band, after all), Adoration Destroyed manage to pump out several great numbers in their own right, like the Black Tape For A Blue Girl meets Depeche Mode with a touch of The Cure influence in “Voices Carry” the thumping “Never Mine” which takes us on a bit of space travel, and the unexpectedly harsh vocal backed electronic flair of “Nothing Left” which also features Cynical Existence on said abrasiveness. Normally the music here tends to vocally lean towards an emotionally depressive (but certainly not whiny) nature, but with the inclusion of Cynical Existence, it almost makes me think of early Grendel. I also need to mention “In Elegant Decay” and closer “Both Of Me” because they definitely capture the very best of what this genre has to offer, along with the kind of catchy choruses that will surely make Adoration Destroyed an act to remember. I find it odd that the band would choose to put one of their catchier numbers (worthy of being a single in it's own right) towards the very back of the album, but at least it allows the disc to go out with a bang, considering the tracks that follow are a short instrumental outro alongside some fair remix numbers by 16 Volt and Mr. Kitty, respectively. They come with the album at no extra cost, which is always a wise idea in my book. I never liked the idea of making a customer pay extra for a disc of remixes that may very well be hit or miss, as several (not naming names here – but you're aware of them) other industrial/electronic acts have done in the past.

Breaking the band down on an instrumental level, Adoration Destroyed utilize everything from slow electronic dirges to bouncy europop, but never with even so much of a tinge of happiness. The Cruxshadows are actually more light-hearted than anything you'll hear here, which just goes to show you the amount of emotional depravity you're walking into. There is very little rock influence, but Gilyeat's bass is still a rather notable part of the band and brings in the heavier sections when necessary. Eirik Ashe performs the live drums that you'll hear on some sections of the album as well, which again brings a sort of heavier rock tone to some of the cuts here. There's nothing on the record that emulates acts like NIN or Marilyn Manson at their heaviest, but Adoration Destroyed are not interested in that kind of sound so much as they are a more deep-spirited and fragile series of moments; which will definitely meld with listeners looking for something more genuine than furious bouts of hard rock. Adoration Destroyed were not in any way the kind of band I thought they were judging on the extremely pagan-influenced and occult cover. Nor do their lyrics seem to mention anything in those realms. These lyrics seem to come with a much more personal effect, which might relate more to those struggling with relationships or identity than those looking to summon something. Even so, it's a great listen and I hope you'll find something in it. I do feel again, that the album cover is a bit misleading for the music, but maybe those expecting a dark/etheral experience might find that they really dig the cold and bouncy electronic atmospheres found here anyway.

(13 Tracks, 52:00)


Dirk Serries - Microphonics XXVI - XXX: Resolution Heart (2016)

It's been a long time coming, but I'm finally reviewing what was essentially one of many releases from Belgian electronic/atmosphere artist, Dirk Serries. When this record released, around three or four others released with it and judging from the numbering here, this is part of a set. From a brief observation,  this is the final piece in that set and I recommend checking out the others first,  in order to get the full experience.  I can't comment on the other pieces as I don't recall ever hearing them, but I can of course give an observation of this piece and why it is a must for fans of atmospheric and electronic music. While the four tracks here mostly seem to be a bit foreboding in title (I Communicate Silence, Deprivation Of Heart) the album as a whole is quite uplifting. It sounds like the sort of amorphous winds that one might expect from another dimension, possibly an astral world of sorts. The album cover itself is quite droll though, making one feel like they might be in for a desolate, urban experience with two sullen looking concrete structures and a pale sky just above them.

Even so, I'm certainly not getting anything harsh or negative within “I Communicate Silence.” It rather feels like meditation music, marking the record a great piece to play when you're trying to wind down after a long day's activities. Perhaps said material would work on a night time drive through the countryside, in which moving the steering wheel itself becomes an almost minimal action as you're encapsulated by a blanket of stars and the subtle melodies by which such a travel almost feels non-mechanically aided. Resolution Heart is indeed the kind of music we play when we're looking to put behind all of the political chaos of recent times and focus on the significance of life, while we still have it. It is an album that makes you thankful that you are among those in the world who can hear pleasant and calming sounds on a daily basis.

Though merely made up of a slew of synths, most people will not turn such an experience away due to it's therapeutic nature. I most commonly review heavy metal albums, but if you do find this kind of record to be something to your taste and are a metal fan as well, then that to me is a plus. Some may not realize why I don't just review one sort of music, and that is because I'm a fan of quite literally everything. The atmosphere here is rather subdued amidst it's twinkles, but it feels like holding your head underneath a stream of clean, flowing water. If you enjoy this album, please check out the brother and sister albums that released alongside it. I'm sure that if you give it a chance, you'll find something in it.

(4 Tracks, 40:00)


1914/Minenwerfer - Ich Hatt Einen Kamaraden (2016)

This split between California's Minenwerfer and the Ukraine's 1914 is certainly something I wouldn't have expected. Two bands on completely opposite sides of the world making war themed metal, of course in 1914's case, their country has literally become a warzone. So I'd assume that 1914 have actual experience with such a subject by now that it isn't just the product of several WWI books and documentary films. Unfortunately. My thoughts on the war are not very pleasant, but I won't get into them here. In any case, we have two bands that are both worthy of promotion.

The first of course is California's Minenwerfer (Minethrower) and they do produce a style of black metal that I'd describe as raw, dissonant and slightly technical. Though the band mainly use droll tones, there are also some obscure riff compositions that create a sort of slightly progressive sense to the music. They also love to thrash, blast and generally cause a ruckus. It's twenty minutes of extremely dark chaos with some unexpected nods to rock n' roll shredding (Iron Cross) that sound very similar to other acts in the genre. It isn't until “Second Battle Of The Masurian Lakes” that things really start to pick-up for me and I'm suddenly aware of their talent. Considering that members of funeral doomers Lycus are here (Nick Liuzzi plays the guitar in both bands) and Liuzzi's penchance for shredding up a storm during some of these admittedly rather punchy numbers, you're definitely getting everything you could want from a black metal act. It doesn't get much more dark or depressing than this without going into howl territory, and I'm glad that the record never reached that level of stupidity.

The next act we have is of course 1914, who have given us a much different sort of performance this time around. Aside from and intro and an interesting electronic remix, there are only two songs here, “Karpathenschlacht” and “8 × 50 mm. Repetiergewehr M.95.” Yeah, that's a hell of a name for a song and it sounds much more like a loaded weapon – which it is, of course. Fortunately, this one is a good mix of doom, black metal and atmosphere. It tends to stick towards more melodic and somber tones, but this just goes to show the listener that 1914 are more than the basic black metal affair of blasts and tremolo riffs. These unexpected excursions are what will propell the band further into relevance, and by all means; they should be blowing up by now. This is essentially well-crafted work that a great deal of thought was put into, not to mention the soundclips sometimes used in order to create the atmosphere of war. As I said, the electronic remix for “Gas Mask” is interesting and not just something thrown in for filler. Though dubstep is certainly used a bit within the piece, I found it extremely interesting when chiptunes came into play and it began to sound like these gentlemen were soring a classic Nintendo title. I love chiptunes obviously, and the fact that these guys decided to give that a go here is something I found quite inviting,

All in all, both bands have recorded decent efforts on their respective sides and you can't go wrong with a disc like this. I definitely feel that the 1914 side is much stronger than the Minenwerfer, but I would not turn either side away due to just how intriguing they can be in their respective styles. Though the two acts are similar in sound, they are by and large different in style, which you'll notice quite early on. This EP might be hard to come by as far as a physical release is concerned, but you can always pick up a digital copy on Bandcamp.

(8 Tracks, 43:00)


Monday, January 30, 2017

Snogg - Qivitoq (2016)

A weird sort of mixture of black and death metal from Slovenia, this duo created not one, but two EP releases last year. To be honest, I don't know why they even bothered to split them up as there was enough music on both the earlier released Snogg EP and this one to release as a full-length album. Perhaps the rest of the music wasn't quite finished yet, but I do very much hate the idea of being nickel and dimed for another half an hour of music. In any case, the four tracks that we receive here are quite interesting.

The disc starts out with an odd sort of static and keyboards, later heading into familiar black metal landscapes and even progressing right into death metal mayhem. When we arrive at “Nun Attack” we find that we're getting more of a noise approach, not uncommon to the atmosphere albums that I also review here alongside the metal numbers. It's good to hear a good mix of both, and frankly rarely happens. I will say that it is a bit peculiar when we are getting essentially raw scowls mixed in with noise in a way that does not come off like other noise or industrial recordings, but those sectons eventually see a transference into familiar black metal landscapes as the listen continues. These gentlemen also like to take us up into space with their music, as occurs later via the keyboard and rhythm sections in “In Death, Erection!” (Don't think too much about that title, please.) The last track here sounds like the kind of metaphsyical occult rantings I'd remember from early Killing Joke, but it works well with the background music and brings out that authentic occult feel. Later the track turns into something a bit more black metal, which is undoubtedly raw, but nevertheless an exciting listen. I love the amount of progressive elements here, reminding me of some of the mid-era works from Enslaved (Isa and Ruun in particular) and will also add that these progressive bits are splotched throughout the album, so there's plenty of enjoyment for fans of that kind of work as well. I still have no idea what the shave buzzer and rooster crows towards the end of the record are supposed to symbolize, unless it's the band's idea of a joke (referencing a shaved rooster) but it's also here that I would have felt the band's namesake track (Snogg (28:00) could have fit rather nicely, rather than it having been put on a separate EP.

In any case, if you're looking for something very different, I have a feeling that Qivitoq and the earlier released EP will be right up your alley. Again, they should have been packaged as one single recording, but what can you do – right? I'll have to reiterate that the recording quality here can still be a little more raw than some of us would like, but it definitely fits the gritty nature of the genre. Worth checking out, if you're up for the experiment. Not your father's black metal album, that's for sure.

(4 Tracks, 28:00)


Killing Addiction - Shores Of Oblivion (2016)

Floridian death metallers Killing Addiction have been together since '90 and put a slew of records from '91-'98 which I haven't actually heard, unfortunately. One of these was a full-length by the name of Omega Factor back in '93 and that scored a rather decent 70% on Metal Archives. The second release came much later, when the band reformed over a decade later with Fall Of The Archetypes. The score for that one is a tad lower at 68%. Another EP by the name of When Death Becomes An Art was released just a few years ago (2014) with this one of course having been released just last year. The record actually released in October, but I don't think it ended up on anyone's radar. That might be for the unfortunate fact that I kind of found the disc sort of, “ho-hum.” I mean, it's not a terrible death metal disc by any means, but it isn't anything that reall caught my interest, up until the arrival of “Into Shadow” which brought on an almost sort of depression-heavy doom. It's not that I didn't like the outrageous solo performances performed by Chris Wicklein, or the chucky bass grooves offered up by Patrick Bailey. It just felt to me as if the vocal end was a bit lacking. That could all be in production really, as it feels like Bailey's been drowned out in places by detriment of his own damn riffs. There's just something missing with this album and it doesn't kick like it should. Chris York goes to town on the kit a couple of times throughout the listen as well, making for what should really be a great recording. But everything here seems a bit too warm for it's own good. As I said, the vocals are severely drowned out, despite the fact that tracks like “Extinction Agenda” are pretty punchy in the mix and should be all-around headbangers. Do these guys sound better live, I wonder? There just seems to be a sapped energy here, something missing that I wish the band would discover. When I'm sent these discs, I give an honest opinion and that's what I feel I'm giving here. Maybe not the positive review that the band and label might be hoping for, but the honest truth.

I've listened to this EP (it's quite short) again and again and again, as I try to figure out why it's not as engaging as I think it should be. I really do feel that production could be the issue here as there's just so much to be said in the way that a song is produced, period. The drums might actually need to come a little more in the mix, believe it or not. Sometimes Bailey's vocal even drowns out a couple of riffs. I understand that it's impossible to get a perfect mix, but either there's too much fuzz and warmth here or these gentlemen aren't all that good to begin with. They've stood the test of time for many years, but this effort really didn't strike me in the way that I would have wanted it to, which is unfortunate. Regardless of that, check out Shores Of Oblivion if you're interested in a shade of classic death metal with a warmer production value and some intriguing solo work.

(4 Tracks, 14:00)


Sagorah - Control and Create (2016)

Arriving just last night, the sophomore release from this Italian death/thrash and certainly groove metal act was offered to me via social media. I simply posted in one of my notoriously ranty opinions that I was a bit tired of cookie-cutter acts that all sounded the same, and having listened to thousands of albums over the past couple of years (you people should know this quite well if you choose to go back into our Archives and over at the Tower domain backup, where I did the majority of music reviews) you get to the point where you only want to deal with something fresh, unique or just plain awesome.

Well, Sagorah answered my call, and while they are an Italian death metal act; we are not looking at another Sadist unfortunately. That isn't a problem though for me, as these guys have potential. They are at least showing signs of an attempt at more than the hum-drum death of some many other acts, and even if it does inhibit L.D. 50-era Mudvayne grooves at times, there's still quite a bit to chew on despite the disc's short length. For the most part, listeners are getting groovy death metal with slightly unexpected progressive sections, and some bits of thrash in an attempt to literally pepper the pot with as many spices as possible. It's this attention to detail that keeps frontman Iwan Holzer on his toes, as we notice several moments on the disc in which he has to be alert enough to change his vocal sapproach and tone to match abrupt changes in tempo.

With “Imagintation Imprinted” we're getting mostly a display of groove, but that quickly changes into prog and thrash later and is appreciated in that respect. The title cut throws in some nice rock solos (which are mostly unexpected at this point) and then rolls into slightly technical chug. That's a nice way to balance out the grooves, especially because it shows that these guys are capable of many different styles within this death/groove and that they'll be able to take it much further as they progress. Axemen Bryan James Bertoldi and Daniel Slaviero show their Six Feet Under worship on “Face Down” where Holzer makes a great stand-in for Chris Barnes, amongst some slightly core breakdowns and air-raid sirens in the piece. Though the piece is a real hunk of meat, there's a rather unexpected and quite melodic tinge to it's opening that doesn't even entail to the listener the kind of song they're going to get at first – which again, is a real piledriver. Now I know that there's some obvious breakdowns here, but they're not enough for me to get too upset about and these guys are a little younger and probably grew up around some of those core acts as well. It's the presentation as a whole that really works for me, and being a lover of great grooves, Sagorah does just that for me. There's a section on “Fire” in which some blasts are incurred, but a solo also manages to sneak out as well. When we get to “Sleepwalker” that's where I actually noticed the L.D. 50-era Mudvayne grooves, but there's nothing wrong with that, I feel. Especially since they're pumping those grooves in with intriguing bits of melody and yes, some thrash as well.

The most unexpected and promising piece here for me was a song called “Disequilibria” which actually relies heavily on piano keys, synths and melodies, showing again the hefty guitar end of this band. There are no lyrics, it never becomes expanded upon and doesn't do much else unfortunately – but it shows that there's a possibility for these guys to do even more than what they're offering. Even the intro to the record “We Are Cancer” features some electronic vocal filtering and effects that are never heard again. Why not? Same with the keyboards and the piano synths. Why not? Same with the beautiful melodies? Why not? Would it be an absolute sin to take a solo node like in “Disequilibrium” and put it somewhere in the title track? I understand that they wanted to isolate it, as they felt it was such a good piece on it's own, but I think it really would have been better used as the instrumental section of a shorter song. There are already three tracks on the disc that approach the five minute mark, so it seems really odd that the first two cuts are average single length and could be doing much more with their time.

The record itself isn't even thirty minutes long, and the band consider it a full-fledged sophomore instead of an EP which is how I would consider it due to length. The normal length of an LP is about forty minutes or so, which Control and Create simply does not compare to. At the end of the day, the record feels full of different ideas and has some real potential as I've said – but we're not there yet. I simply can't consider this record as anything more than another EP in a band's journey that will hopefully end up in a debut LP after they've truly found their place. Control and Create is a great experimentation that fans of death, groove, thrash, Six Feet Under and a little bit of core will certainly find something here.

(6 Tracks, 25:00)


Steve Roach - Spiral Revelation (2016)

The first time I listened to this album, I was having horrible sinus pains. These happen quite often (especially with all the frequent weather changes) and of course I needed some music that wasn't quite as brackish in which to calm my mind and hopefully soothe the pain. Spiral Revelation did just that for me, and I actually played the disc twice in a row just because I literally couldn't risk listening to anything else at the time.

The disc is largely electronic, as most of his work has been as of late and it feels more active than the meditative atmospheres we are used to. “We Continue” begins the record almost with a crystalline cavern sort of feel, and I can almost hear the water rushing. Slight electronic clicks come into play later, which sees more movement in the waves courtesy of a number entitled “Unseen Hand.” As for “Finger On The Pulse”, it takes us directly into space. I'm often reminded of games, possibly something that might suit the setting inside of a spaceship. It feels very cybernetic, quite vibrant and truly active. “A Righteous Thing” sort of reminds me of Metroid, but many similar soundfonts do. That's not a bad thing, as anything that feels like it belongs in the atmosphere of an alien world is certainy worth a listen in my book.
This one truly feels otherworldly, almost like an obtuse experiment that sounds strangely beautiful. “Primary Phase” brings us right into what I feel befits an office building, yet in the year 3047. It sounds as if busy robots are hurriedly filing reports and sending out parcels throughout the galaxy. Without a doubt, it will have your synpases firing on all levels, which this album manages to do very well.

The record itself feels vastly futuristic, making me feel as if I've walked into what I'd consider a very productive and utopian future, where the population has now become more machine than man. Though this is not a bad thing either, it just feels like a sort of transhumanist evolution into what might be a more versatile form of life. The record concludes with it's title track, which is by far the most active of them all. It is nearly twenty minutes long and considered a perfect piece by which to obtain focus and accomplish a task. There's something hugely unique about this album, and that might be the patterns it speaks to in my brain. One's head can feel a bit odd while listening to it, which might have been the real reason I sought to listen to it more than once in a sitting, despite it's length.

In any case, I definitely feel that this is one of Steve Roach's very best albums and it's probably the most active and vibrant electronic atmosphere that I've heard in my life. It is the complete opposite of meditative, and seems primed to get you going. Definitely give it a listen during those times when you feel that you will be at your most productive, as it will certainly work in your favor. It certainly got me writing.

(4 Tracks, 40:00)


Suppressive Fire - Nature Of War (2017)

North Carolina's Suppressive Fire are back with their sophomore outing and from what I've heard, there's nothing really wrong with it. We're getting a very solid offering of black and thrash metal that feels raw, dirty and truly authentic. I'd definitely recommend it to fans of acts like Toxic Holocaust and Goatwhore. The vocals come off with a menacing snarl, coupled with malicious drumming and screaming guitar solos – loads of them. Maybe at sometimes it can feel a little muddy, but that's to be expected with this approach. I'm just glad that some melodies are given a chance to shine here, and that the man behind the kit decided to do much more than simply give us blast beats, of which he never really offers on this album and I'm thankful for it. Suppressive Fire sound more like an angry thrash band, rather than a black/thrash act and they seem to put more grit and grime into their approach than a lot of the thrash acts out there who are merely looking to copy the legends over and over again. There's a little bit of Testament, Overkill, Anthrax, Exodus and Sarcofago to be found within this one which will make it a worth offering for any thrash fan.

Unfortunately, what you see is what you get here and there are no real prog elements or melodic interludes to be found. Though is that really such a bad thing in retrospect? When I pick up an album from a band that mixes the raw grit of black metal in with thundering thrash, I'm more or less ready to accept that package, even if that comes live. I saw Goatwhore for the first time around the end of last year, and they delivered pretty much the same performance that I feel Suppressive Fire will offer on the stage too. Only difference is that there will be far more guitar shredding on this one than I think I've heard from practically any Goatwhore record, and far less blast beats. Though similar, Suppressive Fire have taken more of a thrash approach than their peers and I feel that will be much more appreciated by the thrash community than the black metal hordes out there.

Regardless, I feel that Nature Of War is a record for metalheads. It's just plain metal for fans who love it. I don't feel that anyone is going to have a problem with it, nor do I think it'll be the best album of the year. I do feel that it's a band doing exactly what they should do, and exactly what they want to do. So definitely grab a cpy of the disc and go seem them live, where this music truly thrives.

(8 Tracks, 39:00)


Monday, January 16, 2017

1914 - Eschatology Of War (2015)

Hailing from the Ukraine, this black, death and doom act released their debut just a few years ago and it's definitely still worth checking out today. This was a personal submission that I had not expected, featuring a very interesting way of looking at war. Now the war by which this album is centered on is the bloodiest one we've ever had, and that would be World War I. It was so barbaric that it's surprising it ever warranted a sequel. In any case, the most interesting thing I find about this band outside from their crushing metal outputs is their “dare we call them atmosphere” pieces. Often a very popular song for the time would begin to play from a scratched record or an old vinyl, and then suddnely fill with the sounds of warfare. I may have said this before, but if anyone ever decided to make a music genre made of classic songs from the forties and the sounds of battle, I would become a quick fan of it. Aside from that, these guys certainly know their grime. The record feels often carnivorous, terribly morose and uncomfortable and even quite horrific in the vein of Cpt. John B. Kumar's vocal expressions. Lt. Serge Russel's drumming was heavily felt in both “Gasmask” and “Frozen In Trenches” as it really brought a paramount degree of force and fire. Yet in “Verdun” the band takes a much different approach altogether, which is slow and melodic courtesy of Sgt. Andrew Knifeman and Pvt. Liam Fissen. Said piece even fills heavy with majestic choirs. The entire album places you dead center into the middle of European warfare, in possibly one of the most realistic ways that metal can do. If you watched a WWI documentary while listening to this album, you may even feel as if you're there. Word has it that Tolkien wrote some of his books down in those muddy trenches, and the world of modern fantasy has him to thank for making it out in one piece.

I'm actually hearing a lot of God Dethroned here, which is quite peculiar as they've also done their war epics, and actually went out doing them. The difference here is that there is definitely more of a fiery black metal edge to the performance than that of the death metal pummelers, which adds a much different feeling to these songs of warfare. Also, God Dethroned's work with similar material felt much cleaner than this record, which has a gritty rawness that feels more believable. Cpt. Kumar displays his vocal range perfectly as well, which translates to horrendous scowls and pained clean vocal moments, nothing ever feeling overly happy. Nor should it. This was a hell of a time for the whole of humanity. “Zeppelin Raids” gives me the right amount of ominous doom, as “Ottomon Rise” gives me an absolute splattering of mud and chaos. The riffs here sound downright demonic, once again making me feel the sorrow and fury of the war. Once again, this record puts you right in the middle of a war. You might want to put on a flak jacket before you even sit down to listen to it. That's not to say that there isn't any light-hearted bits of atmosphere to be found on the same track, but the howling and shrieking in the background certainly dirties up the clean guitar nodes used on the piece. There's no remorse here, not even in the twinkly bits. It's war! Have you forgotten?

I will say that more progression finds it's way into the mix later on, and that's fine. I do prefer records with more texture and depth, and these guys could have just given me pounder after pounder, by which I'd have been sick with the record by then. Rather, 1914 decide to give me an actual performance worthy of being on a disc, with many twists and turns in lieu of songscape and that's when I start to give a damn. I'm aware that this is an older record, but if you have not heard it yet, now is your chance to do so. I will warn you that it is absolutely gruesome, not for the feint of heart and drenched in the blood and guts of merciless warriors who fought for several things, but namely their own lives. Nothing I've seen in the metal market puts you right in the heat of battle faster than 1914, especially with album, which should be heiled as a modern classic.

(10 Tracks, 51:00)


Carved - Kyrie Eleison (2016)

I have been meaning to cover this one for a while now and I knew that I couldn't simply hold off any longer. When I first saw that Italian metallers Carved were described as “melodic death metal” I didn't really expect much seeing as many melodeath acts just seem to copy each other these days, but this one really blew me away. According to Metal Archives, Carved are actually considered symphonic death metal and the SepticFlesh and Fleshgod Apocalypse similarities are certainly here, making this act seem like a bit more than just a normal melodeath act. There's also a bit of a folk element here, which brings up obvious nods to Amorphis. Symphonics obviously lie heavy on the record, combining with folk elements to make it seem as if some sort of monumental war is being waged through each of the tracks. This is also produced with such a clarity that Carved do not feel like some bottom of the barrel underground act that you simply forgot about, instead they're the kind of metal act that has the ability to rise to the very summit of the mountain. What I like most about this record is how bombastic they've made it, almost reminding me of early Battlelore. But that bombast doesn't seem to come into blandness like Ex Deo for example, and it instead measures a sort of satisfaction in it's attention to detail. Carved aren't necessarily trying to be the most brutal act that ever smashed you in the face, and would prefer to dazzle your ears with many different shades of color and flavor. The guitar solos on this one are simply astounding at times, and when they double with the piano as in “Malice Striker” you can certainly feel the very passion on this album. That's not to say that they've completely stripped out pummeling sections of death metal, there's just a bit more offered here in lieu of bands who seem to only know how to do one or two things on an album. Yes, I know that a drum kit can be played realitively quickly to sound uncompromising. But there's more that can be done with a kit than that. There's also more that can be done with a bass guitar than to creat thick, heavy grooves, but some bands just want to throw everything into downtune and seem to forget that people love to hear the sound of a guitar simply played well. I get that with this album. Damiano Terzoni and Alex Ross (Souldeceiver) perform the dual-axe wield that decorates that point to me, and it decorates it beautifully. Unlike some reviewers out there, I haven't forgotten that a big part of heavy metal still lies in riffs melodies and leads, which Carved have not forgotten about.

Christian Guzzon performs both the harsh and clean vocals, with bassist Lorenzo Nicoli performing the backing growls. Their style is definitely more tinged to death metal, but that doesn't mean that Guzzon doesn't get a full-on clean moment in “Heart Of Gaia” which offers a much different side to the band than we might have expected judging on the previous cuts. Some bands would be content to continue the metallic onslaught throughout, but giving us a little more as Carved tend to do, is just what separates them from so many of their peers, even the more popular of those. The band also manages to mix saxophones together with djent riffs and hefty growls on “Swamp” which comes off as something else I wouldn't expect. Another thing I wouldn't have expected is the band's cover of The Bloodhound Gang's “The Bad Touch” which is going right on my phone playlist right after this review. Not only does it have the Carved touch to symphonics, but the death growls actually translate well into the rapped vocals, and the guitars actually emulate the keyboard sections in the original piece quite well also. It's definitely folkier than we expected, but much more interesting than some of the out of touch covers Andy Rehfeldt has done lately. It follows the tone of the original, which I love.

It's safe to say that Carved have much to offer to fans of symphonic death metal, folk instrumentation and unexpected pop covers. There is an increasingly large amount of bands jumping on the symphonic death metal bandwagon, but these guys actually know what they're doing. As with most records of it's type, it could use a bit more differentiation and is certainly no Mystic Places Of Dawn, but what is these days? Kyrie Eleison is a disc that gives us more than most bands in this genre, at least those I've heard for the past couple of decades – and that's a good thing in my book. It's the band's sophomore album and shows that they're still going strong. It would be great if someone recognized them or even decided to review them (reviews are a bit scarce for this one) but often acts, even of a great caliber get left behind for more popular or more heavily publicized acts. Don't worry though, as Carved are just as good as any of those bands, if not even better.

(12 Tracks, 63:00)


Mindahead - Reflections (2016)

Formed from former members of Evergaze Eternity, Hellrage, Athena, Exsecror and more, Italy's Mindahead prove that they are a bit more than anyone ever expected. Mixing together seventies prog landscapes with pounding metal and the Lacuna Coil style gothic metal approach is something quite new, especially with the fact that these guys are also willing to experiment and incorporate bombastic solos in areas where acts like Lacuna Coil, Theatre of Tragedy and Theatres Des Vampires wouldn't have even given them a second thought. Now it does have some modern core elements within Francesco Novelli's harsh vocal approach which could be a turn-off to some, but shouldn't really be as the band can actually save face due to their incredible approach to musicality. If you were looking for an artier approach to the gothic metal/hard gothic rock style that we've hard so much of in these days, you might just find it here. Now they're no Ram-Zet, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. To be fair, Novelli also attempts some unusual vocal styles aside from his Trivium influenced crap, which also adds to the building blocks here. A female vocalist is also featured quite a bit through the album in the form of Kyo Calati, but she doesn't necessarily have the microphone ninety-percent of the time, which is refreshing. In other words, Mindahead aren't trying to sell this band on female vocals and attractive eye-candy like so many of their peers, but overall skill – which they have tenfold.

Some of these songs are quite long folks, even ranging into the seven, eight and ten minute marks. You're not getting a bunch of “quick to the chorus” numbers here, and instead are being challenged to listen to full-fledged music tracks with a great deal of depth and texture. This is definitely due to the Matteo Ferrigno's (any relation to Lou?) carefully calculated drumming as well as the dual-guitar tag team of Nicola D'Alessio and Guido Scibetta, which combined work to create a chemistry that listeners will notice right from the start. If the overall riff and lead structures (even though I'll admit that the band throw into down-tune probably more than they should) don't work for you, then the instrumental sections and solo moments will definitely sell you on this band. You're not getting Lacuna Coil, you're not getting Dream Theater and you're not getting Trivium either. It's something sort of halfway between all of those mainstay acts and it has the possibility of becoming even better in the future.

There's an hour of music to challenge your mind here, and it most certainly will. As I have stated, there's definitely room for improvement, but with such a tremendous leap at the debut level as I'm offered here, I can't honestly see much. I can almost say without being challenged that nearly eighty percent of bands in this industry do not offer this much at a debut level. Reflections is a record that certainly requires several listens to understand, just like I remember when I was a teenager enthralled by Ram-Zet's Escape. I didn't know a record like that could possibly exist and that's just one reason I'm really excited about this band as well. Even though the band are considered progressive, they definitely incorporate slight elements that I would almost consider avant-garde, and the electronic sections utilized within some of the pieces help just as much as those of a purely atmospheric nature. I haven't heard this kind of music done this well in quite a long time, so I certainly recommend checking out Mindahead. This is the kind of music that works it's way out of the box and goes every which way but loose in order to create something that is truly worthy of the term “art.”

(11 Tracks, 61:00)


Ols - Ols (2016)

Poland's Ols is a neofolk project that it's female mastermind describes as being influenced by black metal. While I can't exactly give her the benefit of the doubt on that, especially after listening to the disc itself, I can say that the Katatonia and Agalloch covers certainly seem to place it into that category. But what we've got here is a bit more etheric, and it sometimes even sounds a bit jaunty. I'm quite reminded of various pieces from The House In Fata Morgana soundtrack, especially in the first few tunes that play during the novel's opening tale. In fact, one of the cuts entitled “Krew Na Mchu” reminds me almost directly of the music that you hear while playing the game, and makes this record almost a must if you loved the folk interpretations utilized there. Her voice is absolutely hypnotizing, almost making for what feels like a ritualistic sort of sound similar to something from Qntal or possibly even Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance. “Kolysanka” is one such piece where vocalization seems to prove stronger than actual phrases, making what again feels deeply spiritual and inhuman. If the sounds of a woman chanting amidst a sea of folk instrumentations entices you, then you will certainly find something here. It isn't a heavy metal album obviously, and is something that you would probably want to put on later at night to cool off a little before slumber. Thirty-four of the forty minutes on this record consist of original pieces, but the final two tracks on the record are “Unfurl” (Katatonia) which works extremely well as an acapella piece and “Bloodbirds” (Agalloch) which forms a nice closer, but is too short for me to truly recall. That being said, overly impressive and heartfelt neofolk is being utilized here and I do believe that fans of folk, ethereal, darkwave and other genres will find something in it. I don't really hear the frozen chill of black metal here, but it certainly comes off as something intriguing enough to get your hands on. Ols is definitely worth a listen, but just make sure that you're a place of quiet contemplation when you listen to it, as some parts can get a bit deep.

(8 Tracks, 40:00)


Viranesir - Supports Flag Burning and Female Raping (2017)

The Turkish experimental black metal project Viranesir has returned with a new album, this one more influenced than black metal than the previous disc I reviewed. It's a bit different, a little more raw and far less experimental than the previous as well. I can't say that I like it as much, but nor would I suggest Viranesir repeating itself, which to my knowledge has not happened. Emir Merdumgiriz recorded the record earlier in 2016 and it's filled with treatises on everything from politics to an overall hatred of the modern metal scene. The Turkish born composer has been through quite a lot during his career, and mostly the dissension seems to come from him being the exact opposite of politically correct. Some artists apparently fear for their image and have obviously taken a strict liberal basis (metal is far more liberal by nature) which actually feels more conservative in the sense that they're almost afraid to be on an album release with this artist. Such a dispute was handled in the same form similar of a hip-hop diss track, entitled “Metal Is Full Of Faggots” which comes off pretty well until Emir starts using the high pitched vocal for the other unnamed band member that he was quoting, and it becomes a bit funny. Emir seems to be going for an almost G. G. Allin approach to black metal in a politically correct age, which is going to lead to more and more issues in the future. I don't take issue with it, rather I champion it. Because Viranesir is taking a path that artists seem afraid to do. Satan no longer really invokes fear among metallers, so in order to upset and offend them in the way that early black metal records used to do, uncomfortable topics like rape, murder and siding with terrorists are satirically hinted around at, more than likely in a way that will offend and upset the scant few who actually pick this one up. I haven't seen anyone actually covering this record nor this artist, and it maybe be all the Bandcamp hassles as a reason for it. I think Viranesir was also banned from social media. Hell, just mentioning these guys for some reason may result in people thinking I support the myriads of horrible things talked about on a record, but I also know the difference between reality and fiction, satire and the actual intent or belief in these items. The record explores many instances of raw black metal, death metal, doom and even some experimental quirks in places – but it's definitely not as uncomfortable as the last and feels full of anger. Emir is seriously pissed.

To some, the record might come off a little bit soapbox, but that's fine as I've made similar records and will continue to do so. It allows Emir to get some things off his chest, which I think is truly great art. Even when the message may come off as grossly offensive, rather harsh and undoubtedly pungent, it is still art at it's core and must absolutely be respected. Viranesir has made an album by which to shock and upset a great number of people and we're certainly not going to shame him here for doing it. There's no money here, no big corporate agendas and most certainly no safe space garbage to be had over at The Grim Tower.
Judging it in the vein of raw black/death record, it's pretty strong and I think that fans of extremely raw approaches to what can be considered heavily aggressive genres well find something in it. If the song titles turn you off or suchlike, there's not much I can say there. Obviously not everyone is going to love this thing, but it hearkens back to the days when metal was actually considered evil and dangerous. To be honest, the last couple of tracks (in native Turkish) were my favorites on the album and definitely show the act's strong suites. If you can get around some of the more comical sections of the disc, you'll find that it's what we need in extreme metal today. Viranesir makes no compromises here and the entire album is better because of it.

(10 Tracks, 37:00)


Friday, January 6, 2017

Khonsu - The Xun Protectorate (2016)

Earlier we reviewed the 2012 debut album from these Norwegian electronic experimental metallers entitled Anomalia, and now after several years, we finally have a follow-up in The Xun Protectorate. This album marks their second release and could very well be their last one, at least from what I observed while reading a recent interview with the band. If that is to be the case, this album sees the Nords with an impressive amount of attention to detail, vibrancy and downright variety. Regardless of the album's overall concept, there isn't a necessary structure that flows in between all of the songs here and it is a bit of a Baskin Robbins album. But you really can't go wrong with thirty-one metallic flavors instead of vanilla, and when I describe each of them to you, I think you'll have even more of an interest in this material.

The first track here is “A Jhator Ascension” which is also the first single released from the band. The track pounds with blazing drums and blaring black metal tremolos. In all instances, it is the essential “black metal” track on the disc and feels inspired by Emperor. After that, things dramatically shift to a sort of electronic/industrial metal in “The Observatory” which features the first of many clean vocal spots from Rune Folgero of Manes. It sounds almost like eighties industrial, and I would have never expected it here. But as I am a huge fan of that style, I welcome it. With the guitars and electronics combined here, it almost sounds a bit like the final satellite stage from Mega Man X4 in some areas. There is still some black metal to be had here, and even some death metal bits before an astonishing solo effort. After that unexpected moment comes yet another in the fearsome black/death of “Liberator.” This is what happens when Khonsu fuse with latter-era Behemoth and tack some Cannibal Corpse onto the end of that. It's also nearly ten minutes long, so you're getting more than just a pummel. S. Gronbech knows his way around entertaining melodies, which have so far been one of my personal favorite things about this album. The track is still going to pound your face off, but then it goes straight into Manes style territory complete with a barrage of trumpets that almost sound like a king is being welcomed in. As the track ends, it gets hugely theatrical, which you may not expect – but keep in mind that this one battles between pomp and pulverisation at the same fucking time. It's quite unprecedented. The death metal continues as well, with frontman T'ol showing his hefty pipes on what soon sounds like a mixture of old-school Swedish death, robot rumblings and even more of Gronbech's melodic and moon-faced riffs. That guy knows how to write one hell of a nighttime melody and proves it here. There's even another strong clean vocal performance from Folgero.

I know that Manes is dead (I have no earthly idea why) but it's good to hear Folgero still able to perform similar material today. Do you even remember Manes? Have you heard any of their albums? Even the disc where they experimented with more modern and alternative approaches (it has rapping, for instance) is worth checking out. I'm not going to mention it by name, as I kind of want you to do that research and start from their first record, working your way up as I did. It is also necessary to do that with the band I'm supposed to be reviewing here as well (No, I didn't forget about you, gentlemen.)

Getting back to the record, we get a nice mix of harsh and clean sections within “The Death Of The Awakened One” as well as a decent solo section in the middle. Gronbech doesn't use a solo on every cut, but he does utilize similar melody lines, which manage to bring a little bit of uniformity to the album. Perhaps it is not quite the chaotic mess I may have described in the beginning, but it is still chock full of variety nonetheless. “Visions Of Nehaya” throws the most extreme moments of black and death metal together for a little less than three minutes and offers a filthy sledgehammer to the face. There are no clean vocals to speak of here. “A Dream Of Earth” sounds like it was written in space and is wonderfully filtered in the vocal region to sound like a machine is singing the lines. This piece heads even deeper into electronic territory as a female vocalist (uncredited, but a wonderful perfomance!) comes into play and fades out leaving us with a very familiar sound effect around the 4:15 – 4:19 mark. Yes, that very much sounds like the noises that the metroids made in games like Super Metroid and AM2R which only gamer nerds like myself will probably notice. Let's just hope Nintendon't!

Without spoiling any more of the listen, it's safe to say that the work done here is nothing short of exemplary. If you're looking for something heavier than you might be getting with other electronic metal acts, you're definitely going to find it here. As a matter of fact, I need to mention that some of the solos and riff-melodies I've accredited to T'ol may actually have been performed by Keep Of Kalessin's Obsidian C. That's because he performed additional guitars throughout the entire record, along with Rune Folgero's many clean moments. Altogether, it sounds like a full band with a highly produced and undoubtedly professional level of production quality. I'm surprised that I didn't hear much about Khonsu in mainstream heavy metal news media, but seeing as they are too busy talking about bands that I listened to back in my teenage years, it makes perfect sense. I think it goes without saying that the late release of this album might have placed it well under the radar for many of you – and since it seems to be their last, you may want to pick up on it now. If you're a fan of acts like mid-era SepticFlesh, mid-era Satyricon and of course Manes, then you'll definitely want this one in your collection.

(10 Tracks, 58:00)