Friday, October 30, 2009

Halopent - The Ancient Of Days / In The Darkness Of Chaos

So you just listened to Necrophagia's "early days" compilation and you're itching for more ungodly death metal of the highest order. Right? You could search endlessly for another platter of severed hands and removed organs or you could check out Halopent's "The Ancient Of Days / In The Darkness Of Chaos" double barrel release of ugly festering refuse. The release is a constant example of what puts the "death" in death metal. Two demos, sixteen tracks and a whole lot of blood soaked goodness awaits you. It's the kind of release which finds a corner somewhere in your mind and dwells there for a while slowly growing into an addiction. Upon first listen you might not find anything worthy - though if you let "Septic Torture" pass you by you should reconsider what you consider your listening ability - and upon second listen you might find a song or two enjoyable, once the addiction grows and you're listening to the compilation for the hundredth time, you'll be gnawing on your own bones during every track, the madness compelling you to drench everything in gore immediately.

I prefer the first "side" of the release, "The Ancient Of Days" for its... well... ancient feel. "Septic Torture", "Morbid Feast," and "Post-Mortal Suffering" are the top three best songs on the entire release. All contain the wailing decrees of a guitar in pain. I'd hate to be an instrument in the Jackson family. Randal Jackson handles rhythm guitar, bass and drum duties while Ryan Jackson delivers the final blow with the guitar solos. An interesting combination if I've ever seen one but one that works rather well for these two Texans. "The Ancient Of Days'" early death metal style (see Necrophagia, Death, Possessed) gives insight into the incorporation and importance of thrash in formative death metal. This is thrashy and trashy low-fi yet crushing metal of death madness for fans of mid-80's proto-death metal and the deadlier thrash of the late 80's.

Second "side" of this compilation is "In The Darkness Of Chaos," though equally disgusting, I don't find as many high caliber songs on this side. Opening track, "Cannibals Born Of Satanic Ritual" is an acceptable death metal dirge, marching along to occult rhythms. "In Demonic Possession" contains an irritating start stop rhythm, resembling machinery made to make pots and pans. "The Inevitable Death" and "Infernal Eternity" both are slower, bass driven songs though in reality, the bass on the second set of tracks on the compilation basically takes the role of guitar - dishing out basically all the rhythms and taking a major upfront role. Though "World Of Ashes" is actually relatively awesome compared to the other songs on this side of the release, it still falls short of the tracks on "The Ancient Of Days" side. Ultimately, this is a worthy release, something quirky and unique with four or five strong songs I feel comfortable proclaiming loyalty to. Though as a whole, only the first nine songs - The Ancient Of Days tracks - are what's worth paying for, the extra seven songs aren't total garbage as evidenced by "World Of Ashes."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Playlist - 10/28/09

Another night of metal action. Get your denim jackets out fiends!

01. Loudness - Lightnight Strikes - Street Life Dream
02. Judas Priest - Defenders Of The Faith - The Sentinel
03. Primal Fear - Nuclear Fire - Angel In Black
04. Cirith Ungol - Frost And Fire - Frost And Fire
05. Hades - Resisting Success - The Cross
06. Ross The Boss - New Metal Leader - I Got The Right
07. Overkill - Taking Over - Powersurge
08. The Beast - Born To Metalize Split - Randall Flagg
09. Speedwolf - Bark At The Poon - Speedwolf
10. Polterkrist - The Death Cell - God Creation Failure
11. Burial Ritual - Tower Of Silence - Atop The Funeral Pyre
12. Abazagorath - Ancient Entities Arise Split - Beyond The Veils Of Obscurity
13. Abazagorath - Ancient Entities Arise Split - In The Heart Of A Dying Star
14. Bound By Entrails - The Oath To Forbear And The Burden Of Inheritance - Tides Of Redemption
15. Genocide Winter - Monastica Holocaust - Consumed By Darkness
16. Neglektum - Beyond The Frozen Mist - Beyond The Frozen Mist
17. Negura Bunget - Maiastru Sfetnic - Al Locului
18. Choronzon - Magog Agog - Crimson Awakening
19. Pentacle - Under The Black Cross - (Storming Through) A Hail Of Steel
20. Deathevokation - Chalice Of Ages - The Monument *
21. Mandatory - Exiled In Pain - Where They Bleed
22. Funerary Pit - Winds Of Hell EP - Fathomless Depths
23. Highgate - Black Frost Fallout - Burial Light
24. Morgion - Solinari - All The Glory...
25. Clock - On The Threshold - Unresponsive
26. Decaying Citadel - Ruin Of The Wooded Realm - Unholy Salvation
27. Earth - Earth 2 - Seven Angels

Vinyl / Cassette #'s: 1, 4, 8, 10, 15, 22, 23, 25,
2009 Releases #'s: 9, 11, 14, 15, 16, 23, 26,
Background Music: Nivathe - Nivathe

* This is one of my favorite death metal songs of all time. Purely evil, maniacal and demonic. The contrast between the melodies and rhythms are unbearably exemplary of what made Swedish death metal the auditory representation of chaos in the early 90's. Chalice of Ages is an immediate classic and well worth whatever it costs to buy it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bound By Entrails - The Oath To Forbear And The Burden Of Inheritance

This is all wrong. Bound By Entrails neither comes off as an ultra-complex Emperor infused blast parade, or looks the part of the Scandinavian gods but they sure capture that essence of blackened hellfire in their sound. "The Oath To Forbear And The Burden Of Inheritance" is quite the output; never ceasing, always pounding, and continually stimulating. The album art? An artistic representation of Alaskan mountains and a serene calm lake illuminated by a glowing full moon. Now, I'm not saying that mountains and a lake can't be "never ceasing" or "pounding" and they can certainly be intellectually stimulating... but I was expecting a more atmospheric styled band with some psychedelic flourishes in the style of Wolves in the Throne Room; an artsy black metal attack (Seriously, take a look at that logo), not a variation on Emperor's "In The Nightside Eclipse."

So, I'm staring at "TOTFATBOI" with this preconceived expectation and I turn over the Digi-pak and see the tracks including a cover of "Inno A Satana." Ok... odd cover choice for a modern artsy black metal band. I toss the CD into the stereo and "Voices Of The Past" proves me right. It is some modern collegiate black project made by members of the local university's jazz ensemble. I'm listening to a band influenced by Auspicium's musical textures! This is going to be easy! Wait... that was an intro? Bound By Entrails are fucking me? "Voices Of The Past" is that playful musical joke; you think we are going to be this so we will give you that and then crush your predictions with the real opening track*.

That track? "The Furious Host," a blistering rampage through demonic incantations and haunted dinner parties. Fast, angry - furious even - and technically keen, there is little to dispute about this track as far as epitomizing the black metal audsthetic** and nurturing any metal heads love for cheetah-like staccato meddling. Without blowing their load, Bound By Entrails have dispatched my falsely wrought notions, drawn me into their icy hellish world, and left me expecting a track to triumph what I consider to be a great opening salvo.

They deliver with my favorite song on the release, "Seafarer's Journey," a Primordial structured epic about pirates and Vikings and fishermen and the angry balding Joe Pesci look-a-like two blocks away who leaves his twelve foot fiberglass dingy out in his driveway. It's a song about anyone who sails, who dares the waves and shines a waving banner in their watery visages as the crests crash against the decking of the only thing protecting them from the fathoms of death waiting all around. A song about the memories the oceans and seas call prisoner (remember that Auspicium reference?). Clean vocals shed their disguise in the track, harsh vocals mimic the chaotic blowing of wind and swirling guitar melodies both swoon and scare. For me, "Seafarer's Journey" is an account of the ocean told through music, a pure musical painting, unbiased and honest. Symphonics play a role in the track as well adding texture but never hijacking the vessel. The talents of the whole band are shown - the virtuosity of guitarists Jeremy and Brett and the ability of drummer Tyler. Though the bass is mixed down, and not particularly fascinating, Billy Harbour's keyboard playing shines like stolen gold. The song conjures many moods as well - not an easy feat for even talented bands. Bound By Entrails has accomplished this elusive goal.

The album falters slightly here for me though. Though maybe a reaction of my own mind, thinking "they can't do better than that... really, they cant..." I do find myself drifting away from the music, focus easily distracted. "This Too Shall Pass" is a continuation of the end of "Voices of the Past" minus the Sahgish vocals. "Under The Midnight Sun" lacks the memorability and gripping factors, basically existing as a filler track. Though "Tides of Redemption" strangles me for a moment with a great opening riff and some awesome melodies, it's counterpart is generally uninspired. Bland, forgettable and dragging on for what seems like an eternity. Then, Bound By Entrails nails the Emperor cover. What I found is that the TOTFATBOI ends with "Tides of Perdition," ultimately leaving us with two intro/intermission pieces and five lengthy real songs. The Emperor cover and an additional live track of "Across The Dead Night Sky" acting as non-labeled bonus tracks. The live track is monstrous, an awesome recording. The production is powerful and clear - probably my second favorite track or third behind "Tides of Redemption."

This is an enjoyable album. Fans of Emperor or symphonic black metal will eagerly find diamonds among the rough on this unknown release. Don't let the cover judge this book for you; the contents are deadly, maybe more deadly with the unassuming album art. In a way, the disc is a lot like Tartaros' "The Red Jewel." Though not nearly as symphonic, Bound By Entrails' "The Oath To Forbear And The Burden Of Inheritance" falls into the same awkward artwork / strong music category as the previously mentioned black metal land mine.

* Introduction, "Voices of the Past" has a particularly psychedelic undertone. Sahg comes to mind... their first album, mostly due to the airy vocals. It has that ambient feel/vibe though also; obscure horns and aboriginal instruments succinctly summon "The Furious Host."

**Yeah, I made that one up.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Folkstorm - De Stemmen Van Het Woud

Folkstorm's debut album, an idealic wooden carving, will cater to the black metal fans dreaming of those days spent idling away the hours underneath the their favorite pine listening to Empyrium's ...A Wintersunset while sipping down sweet tea and reading William Wordsworth until the bright sun parted and the lunar glow swept over their secret residence. Fans of Drudkh's first two defining albums will also find a whole lot of space to play as their world disappears behind misty fields and foggy copses. The immediate enjoyment of opener "November's" pastoral melody and minimalist approach sets the tone for the rest of "De Stemmen Van Het Woud," - vast landscapes of fluidly moving melody and contemplation inducing contentment. Main man Sigurd has molded an appropriate design of relaxation by combining atmospheric black metal in the vein of Alcest or even China's Zuriaake with the sounds and smells of the Germanic countryside including birds, wind, and the distant chiming of church bells from an ancient steeple. One is easily transported to a small unknown town in the European countryside.

Folkstorm have managed to create a strong, possibly redundant, though professional album. What impressed me most though was the incredible progression the band has taken in just a short time. Let's hop aboard the demo dirigible and look at how much the band has accomplished in the span of a fly's lifetime. In just one year, Folkstorm have "wowed" me, made me want to disassemble my stereo system and given me the feeling of discovering a new black metal gem of infinite bright/darkness. I'll be brief as possible about it. I can talk all day about this crap...

When I first came upon the minimalist approach of Folkstorm's first demo, "From The Pale Woodlands," I was awed by the easily memorable melodies, scope and expansiveness of each song's atmosphere. The simple heartfelt approach to black metal. The Burzum inspired atmosphere and the Darkthrone trance worked wonders. Songs like "Winter Came" and the soon to be classic - in my mind at least - "Frozen For Eternity" set my mind into a downward spiral of basic nonexistence; I zoned out for twelve minutes straight standing in place staring at my floor without ever realizing that I had forgotten to leave for work. Folkstorm hooked me. I was expecting great things from their portion of the "Spells Of Foresight Predict Our Paradise" split, like a fish expecting to find another worm as I was pulled from the comfortable wetness of my pond.

I found a giant fillet knife instead. Generally, I was disappointed with their songs on the split for not being characteristic of what I loved about their demo. Gone were the farmland melodies, the mysterious reverb soaked vocals, the epic black metal atmosphere and the freshly produced cow milk that came with my copy of the demo*. Instead, primitive raw black metal greeted me with disgusting sweaty palms. Though maybe not accurate, I got a distinct stench of a more melodic Von instead - short songs, simple structures, numbing drums. Yeah, it's a simpleton view but its the best I could think of... Shut Up! So, to be precise, it wasn't bad but it wasn't Folkstorm.

"De Stemmen.." then is a return to the form I found captivating on the first demo. They've returned to the form and pressed it into a concentrated juice of uplifting atmospheric black metal. I do have some small aspersory remarks though. This is a very safe album, a comment that I feel many would agree with. Folkstorm are not reaping new souls on this release, hell they might not even be swinging the scythe at all. This may or may not matter. Those less concerned about experimentation and progression won't care at all that Folkstorm aren't building new molds. In the case at hand, I'm not bothered by it either. I also would have enjoyed a slightly beefier guitar tone, as Sigurd's six string is rather clean in tone but I guess there's no livestock on his farm. Then again, the slightly destitute guitar tone may help relay the "pastoral" qualities of the album. Though the album lacks any aggressiveness, there are different moods displayed across the album preventing stagnation. The acoustic playing by Sigurd is awesome and well deserving of praise. Haatzaaier (ridiculous name... four "A"s??!) does not play drums on this album. Instead Sigurd relied on a drum machine. I would have loved to hear Haatzaaier on the album though. A more natural, varied approach to the percussion would have given the album maybe a touch more depth. The drum machine is programmed comfortably, though maybe lazily. It plods along with simple drum beats, allowing the melodies and fertile views to play the part of King. This is a nice, relaxing listen. Perfect for those rainy spring days sitting on the porch watching the rain soak through your backyard garden.

*The demo did not actually come with a glass of milk. Don't buy the demo expecting a big tall glass of milk. If you do, you didn't hear it from me.

Friday, October 23, 2009

October Additions

I am posting a list of what I have received this month. If you see something you want reviewed, let me know and I will move it to the front of my queue. Feel free to comment on anything listed!

Sonata Arctica - Silence
Caustic Soul - An Absence Of Warmth
Steel Prophet - Messiah
Born / Dead - The Final Collapse
Ballistic - Ballistic
Lefay - The Seventh Seal
Tartaros - The Red Jewel
Tad Morose - Undead
Parsons Green - Live From Caspar
V/A - Noname Worldwide
Electric Wizard - Let Us Prey
Pat Methany Group - The Way Up Promo
Cober - Eulogy
Jucifer - War Bird
Sea Of Green - Chemical Vacation
Headhunter DC - And The Sky Turns To Black
Candy Store Gangsters - Killed On Christmas
Helstar - Nosferatu
Ross The Boss - New Metal Leader
Warbringer - Waking Into Nightmares
Malicious Intent - Potential Sins
Morgue - Bonecrunch
Mental Aberration - Victim Of Its Own Sort
Militia Christi - Non Timor Domini, Non Timor Malus
Morcrof - Apeiron: Trinitas Primitiae Opus
Carnal Forge - Who's Gonna Burn
Valkija - Avengers Of Steel
Catastrophic - The Cleansing
Manowar - Louder Than Hell
Incriminated - The Promise Of Worse To Come
Putrifactor - Symptoms Of Societal Rot
Inisghts Of The Profane - Insights Of The Profane
Agarthi - At The Burning Horizon
Spetalsk - Perverted Commandment
Texutres - Drawing Circles
Hyponic - The Noise Of Time
Genetic Wisdom - Humanity On Parole
Weltbrand - Radiance Of A Thousand Suns
Polterchrist - Engulfed By The Swarm
Tales Of Dark - "Fragile
Sanctifier - "Awaked by Impurity Rites"
Forbidden Citadel Of Spirits / Kazaviel split 7"
Cruciamentum - "Convocation of Crawling Chaos" MC
Valium - "Scars From Different Times" MC
Verderben - "Anti/Mensch" MC
Hatred - "Fist Of Death" MC

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Drugs Of Faith - Drugs Of Faith

I'm addicted to Drugs... of Faith. They're like reruns of Cops - every song has an aura of self-abuse, domestic violence, uncontrolled aggression and multiple personality disorders. The lyrics read like a news ticker of Jeffery Dahmer's demented thoughts and once in a while there is some spark of a street smart police officer's advice, off handedly muttered while chasing down some inner demons in a Chevy pickup with expired plates and a loose-cannon in the driver seat chewing tobacco hell bent on getting home to give his mobile home wife a kiss before being hauled off to the slammer for indecent exposure at a cousin's thirteenth birthday party. Way to go guys... you made the shortest most intense audio-representation of trailer park car chases and like Cops, I'm lovin' every boozed second of the distorted reality we see on shows dedicated to the underbelly of American society.

The production on Drugs Of Faith's eponymous debut is very similar to the 2008 demo. Notable differences are difficult to pinpoint. Most notable for me is the mixing and tone of Taryn's bass guitar. The bass on the recently released demo was more prominent, though only slightly, and more gritty and harsh. That harshness is still prevalent and audible on this recording though she takes, what I feel, is a less influential role; jumping in the backseat of that speeding Chevy. Taryn still shines though in, among other tracks, opener "Never Fail," churning out spaghetti-like strands of dirt and dissonance almost halfway through the song.
The dissonance and noise crusting up the edges of Drugs of Faith's sound on their latter demo is marked here on their earlier work. Though not as purposefully included as on their latter work, Richard's disregard for "polishing" this turd-like offering has created enough crevices for the festering and moldy growth of sincerity to promptly find a home among the eight kernels and create the truthful and honest stench that so many albums lack. Richard's guitar playing on the album is excellent, never pretentious, always emotive and natural.

If I had to narrow down my thoughts to a single, long winded paragraph, Drugs of Faith would receive honors in a multitude of categories. "Drugs of Faith" is serious, overtly angry and cynical emotional nihilism perpetrated through cryptic and tricky yet witty and uniquely misanthropically multi-angled lyrics splattered with a rusted iron mallet over a background of bloody muddy oil / water noise puddles. Imagine Anti-Cimex and Nasty Boys with an Isis styled fluidity and you're half-way there. The other half is the totally original delivery of these filthy crust bastards.

Confessor - Unraveled

An older review from about 2006...

I'm a person who takes my music pretty seriously. If I hear good things about a band, I'm going to check the band out. I was hearing a lot of praise for Unraveled calling it a tech-doom masterpiece and a brilliant work of heavy metal and whatnot. After listening to this album, I have an obligation to myself to decide if I enjoyed the album or not and as hard as I tried to judge without being influenced by others, it was hard to disagree with the rumors I had heard. This album is completely awesome. There are so many subtleties that push this album to greatness. Fantastic vocals, brilliant guitar work, and a bass and drum rhythm section that leaves no beat unbeaten.

I can't quite decide what Scott Jeffrey's vocals sound like. They are really hard to compare to anything. Layne Staley does work yet only at times. Other times, the vocals sound more like Tim Aymar from Chuck Schuldiner's side project Control Denied if he was singing one or two octave's lower. Sometimes the vocals waver between the two. Sometimes they waver between wavering between the two and not wavering at, forming a vocal black hole of categorization. Apparently he is going to be singing on the new Watchtower album also and his vocals with Ron Jarzombek's crafty guitar philosophy is an almost unimaginably perfect combination. Back to Confessor. The vocals are great, full, they are full of a melancholic intensity and emotion that rips into your very being. Range wise, this album spans all frequencies of the sound spectrum. At times, high pitched wails are the order of the day and other times low wins out instead. Overall, it is a perfect blend of both the low, the high, and the strangest clean vocal style I have heard in a long time.

Musically, this album takes the prize in a vast array of areas. Yes, there is the signature Confessor time signature manipulation. Yes, there is the estranged guitar melodies. Yes the drummer destroys the fabric of any drumming handbook. Yes the bassist pummels through every riff like twelve elephants fighting over a 3 inch watering hole. Shawn McCoy and Brian Shoaf's playing creates melodies that we never even knew existed. Completely ridiculous riffage is at work on this album and these two twist each riff until they fold over and over infinite times into themselves. Like trying to follow the winding path of a piece of spaghetti through your pasta with your eyes, each riff becomes another, flows into each other riff seamlessly. My mind is boggled by the fact they remember all the riffs. Steve Shelton is one hell of a drummer. My god. He has to be one of the most talented yet overlooked drummers on the face of this earth. Every fill is completely different. The sporadic double bass placement is top notch and never off. Tight. Ridiculous. If drums could talk to their drummers his drums would say something like, "Hey, Steve... what are you doing man??" Then he would hit the drum that talked to him. And it would sound perfect because he has that ability were he can hit things that weren't even on his drum set and still make it sound perfect. All told, listening to the drumming in songs like Hibernation proves how ridiculously talented he is. Now, Cary Rowells, must be doing some bass work to rival that of twenty bassists playing at once. And, he is. Somehow he follows the drums and the guitars, switching off between following one and the other. Altogether, these are five guys who when they come together to create, they do more than create. They create and destroy all musical barriers at the same time. Bravo Confessor Bravo.

Song wise. Each song is ridiculous and awesome. It would be impossible to talk about each one. Basically, Hibernation is one of my favorites. Until Tomorrow and Blueprint Soul are also killer tracks. Listen to the whole album, each song is incredibly monstrous in sound and attitude. Together, these songs show a band who are completely in tune with what they want to create and want to sound like. Perfectly placed breaks, solos, leads and harmonies abundant, this album will tear, and carve out a place distinctly its own in your mind. Like a virus slowly eating away until it has conquered all of you. Confessor have created a masterpiece. Hopefully, they will create another and real soon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Playlist - 10/21/09

Tonights show is brought to you by the letter "D." Death, Doom, Destruction, Devastation... the list goes on forever. Thanks to all those who have called in, listened, all that jazz.

01. Diamond Head - To Heaven From Hell - To Heaven From Hell*
02. Anthem - Anthem - Shed
03. Nuclear Assault - Survive - Fight To Be Free
04. Apocrypha - The Forgotten Scroll - Fall Of The Crest
05. Testament - Souls Of Black - Face In The Sky
06. Iron Maiden - Rock In Rio - The Number Of The Beast (Request: RYAN)
07. Coroner - Mental Vortex - Semtex Revolution
08. Sodom - Tapping The Vein - One Step Over The Line
09. Sodom - Agent Orange - Ausgebombt
10. Speedwolf - Bark At The Poon - Death Ripper
11. Moder - Fields Of Devastation - Kruez Der Ilusion
12. Necrophagia - A Legacy Of Horror, Gore And Sickness - World Funeral**
13. Sapremia - With Winter Comes Despair - The Despair Of Winter
14. Funerary Pit - Winds Of Hell - Fathomless Depths
15. Gwar - Lust In Space - Let Us Slay (Request: JAY)
16. Nocturnes Mist - Southern Storms - Land Of Fire
17. Apolion - Hungry of Souls - Winds
18. Tod - Hate Campaign, Hymn To The Death - In The Endless Black I Lay
19. Empyrium - A Wintersunset... - Under Dreamskies
20. Drudkh - Autumn Aurora - Glare Of Autumn
21. Jeruselem - Jeruselem - Beyond The Grave
22. Candlemass - Tales Of Creation - Under The Oak
23. Confessor - Unraveled - Sour Times


24. Beyond The Sea Of Fog
25. And That Is Eternity
26. Unholy Salvation
27. Dread Saviour Arise
28. The Final Days Of All

Tape / Vinyl #'s: 3, 4, 11, 14, 16, 17, 18, 21
2009 Releases #'s: 10, 15, 16, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28
Background Music: Skepticism - Alloy

* I think there are a lot of people out there who refuse to admit that Diamond Head had good material post-peak after the early 80's ended. Diamond Head did falter, that is not to be argued though Tatler's ability to write strong songs was never levied.

** Check out my review of this necessary addition to any death metal freak's collection. Just find it in the quick links off to your bottom right.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Helll's Thrash Horsemen - ...Till Violence

After all the Butterfly Temple and Bestial releases I could handle, I developed the notion that Russia was a total metal wasteland. And so, I've been prepared to accept the fact that Igor Stravinsky would be the sole musical export I would remember the country by. Luckily, after a reccommendation, I got in contact with Nik Komshukov, Hell's Thrash Horsemen guitarist. After a brief wait, their debut album, "...Till Violence," landed in my mailbox in pure foreign glory - covered in bizarre symbols, government stickers and a kaleidoscopic jumble of cyrillic letters like a Christmas present wrapped by Czar Nicholas or Lenin or that dog from Disney's Anastasia. Regardless of who sent me the thing, I was impressed - not so much that I would fly to the Motherland to bow to the guys, but "... Till Violence" has all the aspects of what I liked about the more recent Kreator releases.

Kreator, though at first I thought an appropriate comparison, after a while didn't quite fit... as evidenced by my above scribble and edits (---->). A more honest analysis would be to describe the Horsemen as a less dissonant version of modern Voivod with Pantera groove... hell "Serial Man" basically copies the infamous "Walk" riff. But the strong production, little -core influence and a certain appreciated amount of groove - Pantera or post-Horrorscope Overkill style - gives the album the sense of being the umpteenth album from a classic band rather than a new band's first album or anything a retro-thrash band would pump out. The awkward yet intense English lyrics make for a charming listen. HTH's namesake track remains my favorite though not any one song steals the show.

Rounding out the album is a cover of Testament's "The Preacher" done HTH style. With one cover, an intro track and short instrumental, the seven track album feels short. Only four songs are real songs. I would have loved to have seen one or two more original, full length tracks with slightly less groovy riffs, slightly less chugging and more of the intricacies which I know Nik and second guitarist Andy are capable of writing. "...Till Violence" is a great debut that dispays a good new band with a style that they can mold into practically anything... We'll see where they take their brand of thrash in the future.

Highgate - Highgate + Black Frost Fallout Comp.

Highgate have been throwing their weight around for the past few years, making headway in the doom underground. Worth checking out is the compilation of their demos released by They Used Dark Forces Recordings. While the label name is utterly moronic and awkward, Highgate's demo material is astounding in quality and much more enjoyable then the massive, Moss-like expanse of their self titled debut. Though it's hard to pick out specific bands which Highgate sound similar too, their influences are easy to discern on the debut, possibly one of the reasons I don't like it as much as I do their demo material. The enigmatic nature of a band who have seemingly developed a sound completely their own to the point which influences are difficult to extrapolate is rare. Highgate's demo material is closer to realizing this golden treasure. The debut though is more pigment. I sense a particularly strong love of Isis' style of movement fluidity with the druginess of mid-period Electric Wizard and the rustiness of bands like Nortt.

Speaking of the debut, Highgate have given up what worked so well for them on their demo material - a sense of harmony and crafting actual songs. The simple fact that I can choose a song from their demo such as "Burial Light" and actually listen to the entire song without having to plan my doctor's appointments around it is particularly convenient. It takes a lot of time to listen to a forty-five minute song... forty five minutes to be precise, forty-five minutes in which I can't do a single other thing. The only practical time to listen to an album such as this is when you're laying down to go to bed and you're DEFINITELY going to fall asleep before you hear the whole track. Trust me on this. Highgate is the ultimate somnifacient.

Musically speaking though, this is typical slow, dirge-doom with large single stroke punches left to fester and radiate like the atomic explosions which the band seems to obsess over. The debut, Highgate, opens with the rusty chords, a sample newscast about the effects of an atomic blast, and, eventually around the three minute mark the most evil Sabbath worshiping riff I've yet had the pleasure of injecting into my ear canal. What Highgate have done perfectly on this vast song though is continually maintain direction. The song deviates constantly, never sitting too long or repeating too many times and as it undergoes its myriad transformations reveals the range of possibilities which Highgate also showed on their demos. While Highgate can sludge it out with the best, they can also cut back the distortion and weave supple natural guitar melodies with frightening noise to create unique texture.

This ability to create texture, shown throughout the lengthy track on the eponymous debut, seems planted and frail in the context of the song. The parts themselves are strong and excellent though feel incoherent in the overall structure. They would have worked better had they been their own separate song. I feel Highgate, instead of doing what may have been best for the release, had the notion that releasing one single long track would overwhelm listeners and expect them to accept that this single massive long track is an incredibly epic masterpiece just because it has so much mass. While some are overcome by such trickery, I don't much care for it. So while Highgate eagerly tried to jam everything into a single track and pass it by us without us knowing, their demos sit around, nonchalantly looking on with furrowed brows and scowls, upset that they aren't getting the attention they deserve. Well, I'm going to give them the attention they deserve.

Black Frost Fallout and their 2005 Demo simply rapes the pretentious long winded untitled track of their debut with multitudes of farming equipment. Songs such as the creepy yet sophisticated "Burial Light" busy themselves with driving John Deere cultivators into tight orifices which Highgate's self titled didn't know existed and The opening track, "Black Frost Fallout" is ready and willing to be the most intense of the Highgate songs. Though the drum tone on the Black Frost Fallout material isn't as oceanic - that might be an Isis reference... maybe... - as the drums on the debut, the rest of the album comes off as far more powerful. Maybe this is due to the cassette's ability to amplify the low ends and cut down on the crispy treble frequencies, which in Highgate's case is a good thing. Moments on the debut were a bit too crisp, like a burnt French fry... and no, not one of the delicious slightly burnt fries at the bottom of the batch. I'm talking fried to the point of oblivion. Fried so far removed from edibility that you instead decide to use the crusty mass to puncture Ted the fry-cook's tires in the parking lot after you chip your back molar unsuspectingly on the steel-like encasement that is your overcooked fry.

"The Wolf" is the closest Highgate come to black metal, as the song deconstructs into a flurry of atmospheric black metal near the half-way mark. Suitably, this moment alone renders the demo a depth and texture not found on the debut CD. "Black Frost Fallout" employs a similar tactic during its running time. "Sermon Of The Apocalypse" takes form on the demo as the band's "hit." The first showing is a from the Black Frost Fallout demo, the second is an edit from the 2005 Demo. What's so enjoyable about this song is the simplicity of it's construction and it's movement from harsh to melancholy with a simple harmony. Once again, Highgate's use of harmony on the Demo rules supreme. The 2005 version of "Sermon Of The Apocalypse," though the same song is more atmospheric, a consequence of a more low-fi recording. I think though that this song contains the compilation's best drum tone - distant, spacey and clear. Sadly, the harmonies which I enjoyed on the original sound absent.

Sea of Perdition is a watery ambient track, nice and smooth the whole way through. A nice contrast to the sharpness of "Burial Light," which happens to be my favorite track on the compilation. It has so much going for it - a slightly uneasy mellow interlude, intriguing harmonies and the tormented Highgate vocals ghostly wailing from beyond the grave. At nine minutes, the song is long enough to find yourself lost in, not too long to summon sleep and complex enough to listen multiple times without hearing everything. Hell, it even contains a tiny guitar solo in the vein of early Obituary. With six songs and a lot of interesting and memorable material, this compilation is the best place to start at with this band. The blood-red cassette insert is awesome too, a nice break from all the white print on black pro-covers which arrive daily in my mailbox.

I know this might sound tempting and you'll be searching for a while before finding any copy. Check out Pale Horse Records, they should have some available.

I Just Want To Remember You Forever

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Playlist - 10/07/09

01. Grave Digger - War Games - Let Your Heads Roll
02. Motorhead - No Sleep Till Hammersmith - Metropolis
03. Midnight - Farewell To Hell - Vomit Queens
04. Speedwolf - Bark At The Poon - Speedwolf
05. Speedwolf - Bark At The Poon - Death Ripper
06. Venom - Welcome To Hell - Live Like An Angel
07. Darkthrone -Dark Thrones And Black Flags - The Winds They Called The Dungeon Shaker
08. Nachtmystium - Instinct: Decay - Chosen By No One
09. Fornication - Stab - Les Handicapes Du L Er Rang
10. Moder - Fields of Devastation - No One Shall Live
11. Moder - Fields Of Devastation - Kruez Der Ilusion
12. Apolion - Necro Black Elitist Alliance Split - Primordial Hunger
13. Tod - Hate Campaign, Hymn To The Death - Intro / Hate Campaign
14. Annunaki - Throne Of The Annunaki - Perpetual Suffering
15. Golem - Dreamweaver - Diaspora
16. Bestial Warlust - Blood And Valour - Legion Of Wrath
17. Devastation - Idolatry - Legacy Of Faith
18. Morbid Saint - Spectrum Of Death - Scars *
19. Whiplash - Looking Death In The Face Demo - The Burning Of Atlanta
20. Overkill - Taking Over - In Union We Stand
21. Wolf - The Black Flame - The Bite
22. Wolf - Ravenous - Curse You Salem
23. Virgin Steele - Hymns To Victory - The Burning Of Rome
24. Dio - Holy Diver - Stand Up And Shout
25. Altar Of Oblivion - Sinews Of Anguish - My Pinnacle Of Power
26. Xasthur - To Violate The Oblivious - Xastur Within
27. Evoken - Antithesis Of Light - Antithesis Of Light
28. Hell Rot - Vomit Altar - Marginal
29. Auspicium - Dawnland - Mountains Of Pamola
30. Katharsis - WorldWithoutEnd - WorldWithoutEnd

Cassette / Vinyl Rips #'s: 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 28, 29, 30
2009 Releases #'s: 04, 05, 22, 25, 29,

* My God, the brutality! Metallica, stop trying to make money on iPhone apps and listen to what Thrash is supposed to sound like.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Necrophagia - A Legacy Of Horror, Gore And Sickness

Quite possibly one of the most underrated of all the early death metal progenitors, this compilation of Necrophagia's early material from 1984 through 1986 is a great addition to any metal fan's collection though it will find itself most comfortable next to your dubbed Death demos. For anyone interested in the formative years of death metal and the progression from early thrash to the next tier in brutality, "A Legacy of Horror, Gore and Sickness" is practically mandatory. And it's a beautiful release also, a real labor of love from the guy at Baphomet Records. That's a joke kiddies... Necrophagia's Vocalist Killjoy runs the label with a blood-covered hand. But this digipak from back in 2000 has been masterfully put together - great artwork, a nice preface from Mayhem's Maniac in the booklet which folds out to a 10x10 inch poster of Patrick Tremblay's cover artwork.

Tracks 1-11 are all from 1986 and are vastly superior to the 1984 tracks which make up the second half of the album in production quality. Generally, these tracks are easy to hear, enjoyable to listen to and deploy a whole host of different tempos, speeds, riffs, rhythms and structures. "World Funeral" opens the release is pure death metal fashion with crusty guitars and crispy fried vocals. The song displays where Necrophagia's power comes from - the gargled, distorted, pervertedly twisted bass tone which smears all the '86 tracks in a vicious mist of fleshy viscera. "Lust of the Naked Dead" continues with the deadly poison. "Black Apparition" is the album's most gargantuan crusher though; just under seven and a half minutes of pure death-thrash - three minutes longer than the album's second longest track, "Ancient Slumber." What really impresses me about "Black Apparition" though is the meandering, almost black metal, style of the track which evolves, breaks apart, reattaches all it's dismembered limbs and perseveres to slaughter another day.

The 1984 tracks are all rehearsal takes from presumably personal tapes which have never seen the light of day. Dirtier, rawer, and about four hundred percent noisier than the first eleven tracks, this is where Necrophagia truly prove their importance to death metal. From the first notes on "Autopsy On The Living Dead," the combinations even this short track are worth analysis. Opening with a simple rock and roll riff, progressing to an indescribable eighth-note based descending chromatic scale and then devolves into a chaotic mess... all covered with Killjoy's lovely screaming gravy. It shows a bunch of guys trying to make music more brutal than they seemingly know how to. Every one of these eighth tracks has something to say about the state of metal in 1984. They show the complex desire to combine the newer thrash with the aggression and attitude of bands like Motorhead with the evil and speed of bands like Venom.

This is not a release for every metal fan. It is not a universal album. Casual listeners will not appreciate the nuances and importance of the older 1984 tracks, and though they might pick out something from the later, 1986 tracks, the possibility that they won't appreciate how those tracks evolved is very real. I think that had the tracks been placed in chronological order by date of release, date of recording or, if possible, date of composition, that the progression from the rusty awkward attempts of turning speed metal into death metal - see "Insane For Blood" - would have made themselves more clear instead of hiding in the bushes waiting to be found. Still, I would wager that there are a ton of death metal freaks that would find this an interesting journey into the genre's past.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Drugs Of Faith - 2008 Demo

As a metalhead, I have an aversion to aggressive music that falls under categories such as "hardcore" or "post-grind," you know... whatever the kids are calling it these days. I like my aggressive music to be metal the same way that I like my metal to be M.E.T.A.L. So the problem with Drugs of Faith's 2008 Demo lies in the fact that I can't stop listening to it - contrary to every belief my brain has succeeded in instilling in me. Maybe it's the fact that I pick out more of a Napalm Death vibe to Drugs of Faith than a modern "hardcore" vibe. Though there are elements of classic hardcore punk scattered across their short stubby songs, I hear not a single 'tough-guy beat/break down. Time for the modern "hardcore" bands to take notice, because Drugs of Faith are doing things right. But there are other reasons that Drugs of Faith's 2008 Demo is the shortest long-player I might ever own...

Maybe its the gritty guitar tone and huge thundering bass wallop that gets my teeth chattering every time "Race To The End" picks up after "Age Of Reason" leaves me eagerly waiting for my CD player to kick back to track one. Maybe I can't stop listening to Drugs of Faith because Richard Johnson has a unique way of making lyrics which I would not usually care for sound so particularly personal, that I actually sometimes think that instead of hearing him spit them from his dirty lips, I'm hearing my own subconsciousness graft my thoughts onto the foundation which Drugs of Faith lay out for me - like a window or gateway or toilet flange where my inner thoughts could sneak out or be flushed away into the great open world - at their expense.

Maybe I like Drugs of Faith because I can listen to this entire demo while walking outside to get my mail... and then listen to it again while yelling at the bills left for me by 'ol Uncle Sam. I'm sure theres a lyric in here somewhere that perfectly represents my feelings about that. Speaking from an objective standpoint though, the demo works perfectly. For me, a prime example of someone who usually is not a fan of such chaotic grind, the length allows me to hear something which I would usually not listen to, not get pissed and angry about listening to something I would not normally spend time listening to and instead get a sense of self-improvement and exploratory prowess. For someone who not only likes the dissonant hardcore / grindcore style, the immediate aggressiveness and intensity of Drugs of Faith's demo should compel any listener worth their salt to immediately seek out the rest of their catalog. A demo that can work this hard for a band is a rare find in an over saturated market. A true shame that the original planned split release didn't work out. Both bands would benefit from such a potentially strong showing. Me... I'm just glad I have something I can listen to in the time it takes me to brush my teeth every night.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mr. Big - Lean Into It

Mr. Big. The name conjures memories of the easy and sleazy hard rock era of the late 80's early 90's and rightly so as evidenced by Mr. Big's most successful album, "Lean Into It." While the pairing of Sheehan and Gilbert might create an orgy among prog-frogs, this album is about as progressive as Loverboy. Judging by the laid back style of the album though, "prog" was probably not the focus which Mr. Big was heading at. In fact, I would be surprised if someone told me that Mr. Big wasn't a brainchild of Atlantic Records Executives. While my particular interest in Sheehan has always lain with his Niacin project and, to be fair, my interest in Gilbert has never quite taken off, Sheehan, Gilbert, vocalist Eric Martin and pigskinner Pat Torpey have created a quintessential hard rock relic.

The album opens with "Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy." Though not as immediately arousing as Writhing Afterbirth's "Forced Incestual Intercourse," Mr. Big has kicked off their album in a way which, twenty minutes after hearing the song, will be awkwardly nauseating. The whole sleaziness of the song is repugnantly glorious for such an accessible band. And the whole song is post-marked "The Electric Drill Song." I guess that's a popular position in incest circles? What we find in this song which is carried through most of the album though is a lighthearted tossing around of double entendre and the typical word-smithing (or destruction... whichever you prefer) associated with the glam and hard rock scene which Mr. Big drew influence from in their formative years.

The distinction which makes Mr. Big something more timeless than the glam bands and more interesting the hard rock bands is the sheer variety of styles amassed on "Lean Into It." In this respect, they could be compared to a band which they toured with during their peak - Aerosmith. The maturity evident in both bands, even though the lyrics on some of Mr. Big's songs are giant blocks of ultra sharp cheddar, is shown through the strong songwriting. Every song on the album has strong hooks, strong distinction from other songs on the album, and flawless musicianship (like Gilbert and Sheehan would accept anything less?). Eric Martin's vocals make me yawn though, as technically excellent as he is. He just sounds too clean-cut for my tastes.

I find the main style apparent on the release is a hybrid of two main styles - hard rock songs like "Never Say Never" (barely Hard Rock) and "Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy," and cuts like "Alive And Kickin, Voodoo Kiss," and "A Little Too Loose," which have strong southern rock and blues influences. On these tracks, Sheehan is particularly excellent. I find his unique buzzy and overdriven-though-cleaner-than-Lemmy bass tone suitable to create the underlying roughness which the songs require to obtain that meaty southern flavor. Gilbert is all over the frets on almost every song when he has the opportunity. What I like about Gilbert that I loathe in other notable solo-guitarists is that his seemingly laid-back personality is evident through his humble style of playing. I could never imagine Yngwie finding himself perfectly happy playing chords that don't involve seventeen fingers and sixteen toes. While Torpey is a name I'm not familiar with, his drumming on the album is rather standard but he has a great tone and lays down constantly evolving drum lines which never stagnate.

Lean Into It is a pretty chill album, nothing worth yapping on forever about, and most likely something your non-metal girlfriend won't mind listening to and with a culminating track like "To Be With You," she might even think you have a soft-side which could win you brownie points... until you tell the bitch to make you a sandwich. Mr. Big is basically a pretty standard rock band which almost anyone can enjoy, regardless of their preferences. Sure, I could throw on Sodom grab the nearest metal pipe and haphazardly bash in just about every piece of furniture I see... Wait... where's my "Tapping The Vein" CD?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Vuohivasara - The Sigil

"Ok so guyz I have this sick idea!"
Diemonium lets out a massive foreboding sigh. "What is it Thy Agony, Lord of Sickness and guitars?"
"Ok Diemonium, listen up up bazzist becauz you won't be heard practically at all anyway. Let's make an album, where every song sounds like every other song but give them different namez..."
"Hmm. T-Ag, I don't think anyone would like that."
"...And no one will be able to tell that they are the same becauz we'll play them fast like 1349 or Satyricon fast..."
"I don't think I like my bass not being audible T-Ag."
"...And we'll give them namez like "Poison... OF GOD!" and shit in Latin too. Black metal fanz like shit in Latin. Oh man, It'll be awesome!..."
"Ok. But..."
"...And Krig, we'll trigger your drumz and program them so people will think you're Frost! Yeah! This iz totally gonna rock! Now we need a band name... something no one will be able to pronounce... becauz black metal fanz like that shit... like some Native American God'z name or something..."

Well, at least the engineer mixed poor Diemonium's bass into The Sigil. Vuohivasara and their album "The Sigil" is one of those meals you should never eat, or at least try to eat, because you know that even if you get a part of it in your body, it's just going to sit there forever wasting space. It's like trying to eat milk with a fork and knife. You don't need the knife at all anyway, and as many times as you try to get some of that goopy liquid into your mouth with the fork, it just falls apart, elusive, like the songs on this album. There is simply nothing to grab onto, no really semblance of memorable melody, no hint at rhythms, just constant staccato picking and string-nibbling. With nothing solidifying, my fingers just slide through the mixture and get covered in what could only be described as 'grey matter'- the kind of food that tastes like cardboard but is less nutritious.

Though fleeting fans of 1349, pre-Sworn To The Dark Watain (Vuohivasara don't have the memorability of STTD or the ability to write as stunning and engaging riffs) and Keep of Kalessin might find the stinging taste of cardboard black metal delectable, long term adherents will find this release mostly amateur. I know that I personally would rather eat a live spider crab, newly caught from the polluted mud of the Jersey Shore than listen to this release again. Where Vuohivasara fail is in the construction of long-lasting riffs. Every segment sounds unmodified from what first came from guitarist Thy Agony's nimble little fingers.

"Hey T-Ag, I think this riff might be more contrasting if we moved it down a full step."
"...and we'll have like graves on the cover and... Did you say something Diemonium?"
"Uh, I said I think this riff might sound more contrasting if we were to move it down a full step."
"... Shut up Diemonium. The riff's already written. No need to change it!...
"I heard that you six-string cocksucker!"

Yeah, something like that. The musicianship on the release is something which I can be positive about though. All the members of the band are shown in excellent form on their instrument. Infidel Viktor Capricorn, whose name immediately makes me burst out laughing from sheer bombasticity, has a typical though strong black metal screaming and wailing style. Krig's drumming is on par with the speed and intensity of the Thy Agony's guitar riffs as is Diemonium's bass playing. Vuohivasara has a lot going for them. They just have to start writing songs that actually stick to the nerve endings in my brain.