Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Playlist: July 28, 2010

01. Black Sabbath - Heaven And Hell - Neon Knights
02. Slauter Xstroyes - Free The Beast - Battle Axe
03. Slauter Xstroyes - Winter Kill - City Of Sirtel
04. Slauter Xstroyes - Free The Beast - Syncopated Angel
05. Chastain - Ruler Of The Wasteland - Angel Of Mercy
06. Judas Priest - Defenders Of The Faith - Freewheel Burning
07. Overkill - Taking Over - Wrecking Crew
08. Helstar - Nosferatu - Harker's Tale (Mass Of Death)
09. Faith Or Fear - Punishment Area - The Shadow Knows
10. Vektor - Black Future - Forests Of Legend
11. Sodom - Agent Orange - Magic Dragon
12. Onslaught - Power From Hell - Damnation / Power From Hell
13. Razor - Custom Killing - Forced Annihilation
14. Demolition Hammer - Epidemic Of Violence - Epidemic Of Violence
15. Crucifixionhammer - Graveyard Lust - Ghouls Desecrate
16. Nominon - Monumentoumb - Kevorkian Exit
17. Obituary - Slowly We Rot - Intoxicated
18. Obituary - The End Complete - Sickness
19. Obituary - Slowly We Rot - Words Of Evil
20. Mandatory - ... Where They Bleed - Where They Bleed
21. War Master - Thrones Of Tyranny - Undead War Machine
22. Dismember - Like An Everflowing Stream - And So Is Life
23. Maegashira - Maegashira / Sowbelly / OSSM Split - The Man Who Named God
24. Grand Magus - Grand Magus - Never Learned
25. Grand Magus - Iron Will - Fear Is The Key
26. Solitude Aeturnus - Alone - Burning
27. Candlemass - Nightfall - The Well Of Souls
28. Primordial - The Gathering Wilderness - The Coffin Ships
29. Primordial - To The Nameless Dead - Traitors Gate
30. Negura Bunget - Maiastru Sfetnic - A-Vint In Abis

Friday, July 9, 2010

Kaarmekristus - Ajan Lopun Alku

This is a pretty simple, straight forward review for a pretty simple and standard black metal demo. Ajan Lopun Alku (Finnish for "The Beginning Of The End Of Time - I assume) is the first release from Kaarmekristus, the sole energy of one Ophiuchus Caedo. The tape contains four songs and a long intro piece appropriately titled "Kutsu" or "Invitation." For an intro to a black metal demo, I find the three minute plus track exceptionally beautiful. A chant of sorts, almost Gregorian except for the accompanying orchestration, "Kutsu" beckons you in. It says, "Welcome to my sanctuary... feel at ease here... for a moment." The play between the multiple vocal patterns and timbres is captivating and very well done. It creates a sense that you are not merely listening to music but that you are an onlooker to a spiritual event of sorts.

The first two tracks here are the least impressive - not that either of four tracks are "impressive" but the first two are less impressive than not impressive at all. Though all the tracks sound like Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger, "Uusi Aikakausi" is the least hungry of the tracks. It offers little. It's like going to a fast food restaurant and getting napkins as an appetizer. Though the demo doesn't quite worship early Darkthrone, the influence is immense but fails to succeed in the most important part of the formula - the hypnosis. And without that all that's left is corpse-paint which Ophiuchus Caedo has down pretty well judging from the image on the insert. To be blunt, there is little impact on either this track or the slightly less interesting second song "Unohduksen Verhon Lapi." Between these two tracks there is little to identify them. While "Unohduksen Verhon Lapi" has more initial kick than the opener, it has a far less interesting structure and repeats for what seems like an eternity with no vocals, no change or variation in the barely audible drums...The two later tracks have more depth, and are more mature. Though the cyclical "Hanen Tyonsa" is slowly gain my interest, mainly due to a peculiar extended slow moody part, final track "Totuuden Etsija" is full of urgency. It has a purity to it that rekindles some of the feelings I have when I listen to Transilvanian Hunger - feelings of introspection a desire for solitude from existence during it's playing time. "... Etsija" feels like it is going somewhere, that it SHOULD be heard. This feeling is noticeable immediately. The connection between the instruments is stronger. The drums and bass and guitar fall on each other in a beautiful collapse. While other tracks sounded confused at times, there is no doubt on this track as to where to go next, what rhythm needs to exist for notes to ascend to a level above repetition. Vocally, I wish I had lyrics to follow along with his wall-of-static style of vocals in this track.

I get the impression that this was the first song Ophiuchus C. wrote and it means to most to him. One of the most enduring strengths behind black metal demos, specifically demos from single people is that, the are so personal. There is the sense that with this music, you are being allowed to witness it not just of your choosing but at the artist's discretion. One of the intriguing aspects to demos of this sort is that, if, for instance, Ophiuchus did not decide to release it, who would hear it? No one. It would be lost to time. His rituals and compositions would not exist to anyone but himself. It's a strange idea. Even if it is generic, mediocre and trite, it's honest and it means something to someone. Even with demos like this, we can discover the "one hit wonders" of underground metal. "Totuuden Etsija" is that kind of a song - a stand out amongst unnecessary tracks.

Final conclusion: typical demo, especially for black metal. Some added textural depth would help differentiate some of the rather monotonous melodies and rhythms but with a great intro and excellent final track, not all is lost. I'd be interested to see progression in the next release but more of the same just isn't truly necessary. A few tracks like "Totuuden Etsija" and to a lesser extent "Hanen Tyonsa" would make a decent demo. A less amateur guitar tone would also help a little though in this stage, production concerns are not important at all in my opinion. The production on this isn't BAD but it's definitely not for those unfamiliar with listening through demos. Polished is the last word I'd use to describe Kaarmekristus. I would use rough and rugged instead but smooth high-quality production doesn't fit Kaarmekristus' music anyway. Ajan Lopun Alku has charm but then again, when doesn't when something is this personal?

Perhaps this was once a dub of Thirst's Per Aspera Ad Astra album? Once again, a very personal release. More likely though is that it is simply a recitation of the Latin phrase "To the stars through difficulties."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Enforcer - Diamonds

Regression is a word that's been tossed around a bit the past few years, with a seemingly ammonium perchlorate aided ignition of old school thrash, massive interest in Darkthrone's last few albums and now with a rise in traditional metal's appearance. But regression assumes that the whole of metal has come to a point in which the old way of thought had been entirely ousted in the minds of metal fans in favor of new trendy modern ideals in production and songwriting. I don't believe in regression. There's been a sway of old and new since the day Sabbath played that first infamous note - and the true thunder roared. What the hell does this have to do with Enforcer? Some may say that they are regressionist but I think of them as an entirely different class. It would be much easier to label their latest release, Diamonds, as youthful revisionism. The influences of early metal mainstays like Maiden, Priest and - daresay I - a little glam, have been combined with Enforcer's infectious excitability. It's like metal never encountered Possessed or Venom. As if the most extreme in metal was a hard hitting Dokken track.

With Diamonds, Enforcer seem to have clearly set out to make a more consistent and rounded album than debut Into The Night and with Diamonds Enforcer seems to have caught stride of their goal. Albums are made of songs, and Diamonds has a few. From opener "Midnight Vice" the sleazy vibe of a raucous night on the town with nothing to lose sets in, a feeling stolen from Anthem's self titled debut. Tracks like "Nightmares" or the awesome "Live For The Night" are almost straight off Dokken's Tooth And Nail, a combination of rougher songs like "Don't Close Your Eyes" and Iron Maiden's Killers. Though duds like "Roll The Dice" and "High Roller" break the momentum, the majority of songs keep the album's pace set at pedal to the metal.

Title track "Diamonds" is a three and a half minute instrumental highlighting the band's instrumental prowess and also a desire to progress in the face of their revisionist tendencies as the song ends in a strange, Floydian ambient rock jam like Meddle meets Sabbath's more experimental moments in a bed under a blanket with the cover to Return To Forever's Romantic Warrior printed in perfect detail. Grasp that one. Still, the abilities of this band as musicians are apparent throughout the disc. Tobias Lindkvist's takes an almost singular influence from Steve Harris - gallops, fills, even the tone I can hear him trying to achieve is all Harris circa 1980 just a little more gooey. Jonas Wikstrand is capable on the kit, utilizing everything possible to yield maximum metallic volume. Sadly, though his playing is tight and very traditional - basic and simple during verse and chorus but spreading out when the opportunity arises - it sounds lifeless often, and I can't determine whether it's him or the production. Guitarists Joseph Tholl and Adam Zaars are, as on Into The Night, phenomenal though I would've liked their guitars to be mixed louder.

Olof Wikstrand (I can't find any information on if he is related to drummer Jonas Wikstrand though by the looks of them, I am going to wager this is the case) is undeniably the force behind Enforcer, and I think you can hear in his voice that he really loves this music. His vocals are heartfelt first and foremost. Across the album he really prefers the higher ranges but never really wanders into a battle with those dreaded nasally high pitched wails. It may have something to do with age but he doesn't have that rasp to his voice, and its edge would definitely help add some intensity to the album. Regardless, there is some sort of strange grit there, a certain harshness which is unmistakeably metal in every way. I think he sounded more aggressive on Into The Night though. I also love how under produced his vocals are. There are no imposing effects added though Olof's voice is not totally parched either. At the most, there has been a lot of layering done. Most parts are dubbed it seems, to thicken up the vocals during choruses especially. The chorus in "Katana" has at least four vocals dubs itself.

Speaking of which "Katana" would be my favorite track if "Live For The Night" just wasn't such a hit and run, left then right, crush and kill classic metal track. The only thing that could make this song better is if Razor or Motorhead or even Midnight had recorded it instead. Without being too critical though, "Katana" is easily the most complex track on the recording and it hurts. Aside from a pig-sty sloppy digital edit at 4:14 - not the only one on the album either - coming out of the solo just making me shake my head at, the song is flawed. It is held back by a strangely un-metal mid section, jostled around like a rock climber, struggling to gain a foothold on what seemed to be such an easy face. The first two trade of solos sound tired; rehearsed twice too many times. Luckily, the second solo is doesn't quite disappoint. The thing is that, the longest track on the album, and the most involved has to be damn good. And this one just isn't up to par. Also, completely unrelated but "Walk With Me" really sounds like it should be a bonus track on the re-release of this album fifteen years down the road from now.

For revisionist heavy metal with some character, Diamonds is a strong candidate for anyone's collection looking for something new but not too far from what the genre has grown up with. This is truly a classic styled metal release, quirky, mired in controversial issues (I've been accosted by metal fans for wearing a black metal band's t-shirt while playing Keep It True... how do traditional metal fans in some countries feel about the guitarist for Tribulation playing in a traditional metal band?), a controversy waiting to appear. I would never put this next to some of the newer albums which I feel really convey that classic metal fist in the air, air guitar to the heavens posturing like Metal Inquisitor's Doomsday For The Heretic - an album I've overlooked and underrated for the past few years but which has enamored me now - or Shadowkeep's Corruption Within - a nod to Fates Warning's Spectre Within but placed in a modern context. Diamonds may have been up there were some of the filler removed, like the ungodly "Running In Menace" and the production was just a bit less 'dull.' What I really think Diamonds is though is a prelude a great third album.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Live Doom - Decaying Citadel / Mortum / Gorematory / Pharaoh

Though my involvement with my college radio station forces me to censor the price for this gig, it's less than getting fast food. If you REALLY want to know, email me and I'll let you in on the price or you can check it out at Decaying Citadel's myspace. Should be a good time.

Anyway, a few reviews coming up. A review for Enforcer's new album Diamonds has been written, I just gotta type it up. Also, reviews of Kaarmekristus' Ajan Lopun Alku and WinterRealm's Ouroboros soon as well. More stuff seems to be trickling in so there should be some more activity as far as reviews goes in the next few weeks.

I may or may not do a review for Infinitum Obscure's Sub Atris Caelis also but it depends on how I feel... It seemed like a pretty average release after three listens but maybe a few more will change my mind.