Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Forestfather - Hereafter Official Release Date: 7/5

The official Forestfather - Hereafter release date is going to be 7/5. All preorders will ship that date and the preorder price will no longer be offered. If you plan on getting a copy of this pastoral masterpiece of Black Metal, be sure to order a copy before July 5th to save $3.00 on the order. Simply email me.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Aeternus Patches Are Here!

Super thanks to Patchmaster for the help in getting these put together. Patches will be $7 Shipping included in the USA. Add $1.00 for overseas shipping. Official Aeternus patches for those that refuse to purchase bootleg product. Email me.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dröne - L'Inconnue De La Seine

Dröne have been around since 2006 or something apparently and no one took notice, probably because the post-rock / shoegaze style which Markus Byth creates under  the name, though done well - if that even means anything when you're basically strumming chords with massive loads of reverb over them - is just so top heavy with bands that are better known, have a little more originality and can cross-market their product. Isis, Pelican, Jesu, Alcest... it's a combination of all of them but without the trademarks of something that is it's own. That's a problem. A big problem, when after nine full lengths, no one has heard of you. The band has forty four followers on facebook compared to over ten thousand who like a band as unmentionable as Jesu. Maybe people just don't care about the genre that much. It's almost a genre which is simply "easy" to do and so it exists. Go ahead. I'm ready for all the one man shoegaze artists to come and attack me. Calm down, I know that somewhere out there are more involved and complex projects in the genre. Dröne is not one of them

In regards to L'Inconnue De La Seine, though it's run of the mill - excellent background sleeping music. The sappy reverbed chords and distant cleanly sung vocals are everything that makes people like this stuff. The song is well recorded, sounds naturally recorded - which it probably was knowing that these people put more effort into tone as opposed to trying to mold a song into something more than idle guitar strums - and the drumming complements the simplicity of the chords and flow by not over playing but not underplaying. I don't know how well I'd handle a full album of stuff like this though, after the twelve and a half minutes of this track, I was ready to blast S.O.D and spin the copy of WASP's The Final Command I found the other day. It's a single... it's free... I doubt anyone into this stuff would have a huge amount of hatred for this and I can appreciate it for being a relaxing buffer between all the other harsh stuff out there. There's just better, more interesting material in the style out there.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Metal Law - Lawbreaker

Metal Law have a name which is so clever and so approachable from a traditional metal fan standpoint that it's not surprising in anyway at all that they are from Germany and basically appeal only to people in Germany. They are just one of a bunch of bands which have accepted that the whole traditional metal / power metal genre is worth investing time into only if you live in or near Germany. There is something intrinsic in the band's style which appeal directly to German metal fans. I remember playing a few fests in Germany and every single person was basically there to hopefully hear something that sounded like Manowar, Judas Priest or Iron Maiden. It's no surprise that Metal Law, in their song Metal Law, on their album Lawbreaker (an obvious homage to Priest's Breaking The Law) name drop references like small skinny suburban white kids knock back cans of PBR and Coors Lite. It's a scene within a scene which exists for itself and supports itself and now and then someone from another country likes a band or something. If there is one thing Germans know, it's how to spot a mediocre traditional metal band and enjoy them without shame. I wish I could do the same.

The album cover is basically all you need to see to know precisely what the album is going to sound like. Let's run down the checklist! Dungeons? Check! Metal Law must have some elements of epic, early US Power metal prevalent. They may even have grandiose complicated twin guitar leads like Attacker's Battle at Helms Deep which the cover reminds me of if you switched the giant insect wasp creature with the most stereotypical metalhead dude ever. Chains? Double Check! Not only is the metal dude, we'll call him Jasper, chained to the wall, but his guitar has even been chained up, just to be safe it doesn't get away. If each brick in the walls could be wrapped in chain, they would be. Jowita is such a talented artist, it's so bizarre how bands ask her for incredibly cliche and easy artwork to make instead of coming up with awesome original ideas. I mean, Lawbreaker could have had album art of so many awesome things like giant metallic authoritarian cyborgs crushing Bieber fans or the severed bodies of criminals being eaten by mechanical amoebic creations... Metal Law instead go with James Hetfield in handcuffs in a dungeon.

Metal Law effectively sound more like Manowar than any other band they so eagerly throw mention at. The epic movement and flow of the songs screams out tracks like Revelation (Death's Angel) or "Sign of the Hammer" or any number off tracks off those first five legendary albums. Interestingly enough, Metal Law are best when they are embracing that style. "Heroes Never Die" gets my pick for best track and it happens to be the most Manowar-y of the songs here. While other tracks are happy to stare directly in Manowar's direction, "Heroes..." looks over at Manowar, hangs out with Manowar, gets drunk with Manowar, then pretends it's Joey DeMaio on Halloween dressing up like Ross the Boss. The opening acoustic intro reminds of "Defender" with Karsten Degling singing straight into your heart. His vocal melodies on this are the strongest on the album as well. The pace of the song is spot on, it builds slowly into the climax chorus. "Lawbreaker," the title track, is also cool with its pseudo-progressive metal intro before it become another Iron Maiden pulled punch.

The album has a few duds though. "Right to Rock", "Between Dark and Light" and "The Caravan" do little for me. They get lost amongst the other tracks on the album and lack any real character. "The Caravan" has some character but its the same character that would killed off first in a bad horror movie. It's the obnoxious kind of character that tells old jokes no one liked to begin with. By the time The Caravan rolls around, I've heard the song five times already on this album alone. It's not particularly bad but it's just one mediocre track too much. "Right to Rock" and "Between Dark and Light" are between good and bad somewhere but I can't justify them being on the album when tracks like "Crusaders..." and "Heroes..." are so good. "Right to Rock" just doesn't have enough punch or heaviness or epicness or distinctiveness to follow "Crusaders..." even if the leads are interesting. I think the drums in this track are what bothers me but I can't put a finger on it.

Honestly though, there is a lot to like about Metal Law's music. It's got a lot of heart and it's produced just right to sound acceptable by cautious metal listeners but not so produced as to frighten away veterans looking for that rough-edged underground hit. As are most of the Metal on Metal releases, this one also happens to be way over-mastered but even with that issue, the guitar tone is still that of an honest hardworking everyday metal band. Leads are vivid and crisply played and are the definite highlight of the album. Karsten and Thomas Parchem are obviously talented guitarists when it comes to leads and intricate guitar phrases but too often I feel they overplay and snuff out some of the rhythmic parts. For example, "Between Light and Dark" has them playing leads over the bridge vocals which detracts from the impact of the following chorus. I wish that instead of simply dub leads over riffs, they spent more time on the actual rhythm riffs themselves. Most are straight forward and forgettable. Even the intro to "Crusaders of Light" is ploddy after the tense and excellent build up in the intro track. The song ends really strong though, which is one of the band's strengths - once they get into the heart of a track, they keep it interesting and varied and interesting. Their other strength - they really write very good overall songs. If Metal Law can become just a little more unique and original, they have a good chance of appealing to US Heavy Metal fans as well as their German base.

Heretic - A Time of Crisis

Heretic are a groovy power/thrash band perhaps best known for being fronted by Mike Howe shortly before he joined Metal Church. The band met an untimely end after his departure following their only full-length in 1988, but over 20 years later they have returned with Julian Mendez, the vocalist on their debut EP, along with founding guitarist Brian Korban and a powerful support crew with a few more veterans. Still loyal to the 80s heavy metal style, they released this sophomore effort in 2012.

The band finds their groove, quite literally, somewhere between faster heavy metal riffs and mid-paced, groovier riffs. They don't get to a full-on thrash speed, rather finding their power in the hefty tone of the vocals. Mendez has tons of grit and power and a respectable melodic range, but he mostly focuses on the force of his mid range - a strong complement to the riffing. Nearly all of the energy from the songs is derived from the driving force of the riffs and vocals, which have quite a bit of power in them, though they could use a stronger complement. The drumming is fairly constant in following the direction of the guitars and vocals, staying on pace with the song, but it could drive the music a bit more in emphasizing the faster parts and providing a bit of rhythmic variation in the slower parts. The snare seems to be a bit low in the mix, buried beneath the vocals somewhat, especially for this style of music. A higher pitched vocalist leaves more room in the mix at the frequencies that the snare cuts through, just a small detraction from a band
that otherwise fits together well.

It seems as if the high points on the album come when the band provides a bit of variety, be it the up-tempo parts of "Tomorrow's Plague" or "Heretic", the rock and roll of "Child of War", or the melody of "Let Me Begin Again". These differences help emphasize the force of their near-constant propulsion of the mid-paced thrashing, which is certainly the band's forte, but not their only strength. In a way, they're on one track and they stick to it while swaying to either side at times.

One of the nice highlights of the album is when they break down their approach into even groovier territory on "Betrayed" and "Police State", where the music feels trampling and anthemic, still the same headbanging riffs that they consistently deliver, but the force and grit of them comes across quite forcefully and very nicely in the slower parts of these tunes. Similarly, the faster tracks and sections are still quite similar to the others, except for the tempo, but it provides a pleasant and powerful variation of the band doing what they do well - power thrashing. It's quite an appropriate genre label as they manage to blend the power of their vocalist with thrash riffs that are quite groovy - that's just what their music feels like, and they're the same type of style as Metal Church and Sacred Reich. They stick to what they do quite adamantly, and it's good heavy metal, but it wouldn't be hurt by a bit more variety in speed and melody.

A Time of Crisis is sure to please if you like well-produced, mid-paced heavy metal with a strong foundation of old school metal mixed with a more modern, groove/thrashy approach and a powerful vocalist who contributes percussively while still keeping some melody. If this doesn't seem like quite your style, perhaps this is one to pass over - this isn't one of the strongest of this style, rather a nice example worth a listen if you enjoy it. It is consistent, but not standout, good if you like the style, but a bit repetitive if you're not really into it. If you like California thrash metal, Manowar style heavy metal, or you're from Germany, you'll likely enjoy this album.

Midnight Funeral - Visions Through The Dark Memories

I should have known and guessed that Midnight Funeral would be awful but just how poor was unexpected. I expected just some generic lo-fi bedroom black metal that, although not exciting or original would be listenable for the three song duration. Instead, "Visions Through The Dark Memories" spewed forth a storm of what may be the worst music I've ever heard. Most frighteningly, this demo came out AFTER their full length debut which, I must admit, I will never touch unless threatened by the dudes in Aetherius Obscuritus or should someone hold a knife to my cock while wearing a John Wayne Gacy clown outfit and holding a two-thirds empty bottle of Sailor Jerry's. The problem here is mostly two fold. Poorly written songs and poorly performed instrumentation.  Pretty lame artwork on the front cover too. Overall, this sounds like a retarded Darkthrone clone but you probably already knew that.

The title track to the demo is the better of the three tracks but not really. "Visions Through Dark Memories" starts with some chanting and sample crow sounds before devolving into an allergic tremolo guitar tone. While the guitar lack all bass definition, the actual bass guitar is either playing completely different notes or is out of tune completely. Also, the drums are often out of sync and time with the rest of the music. The whole demo this is not fixed. Nineteen minutes of out of tune and out of time lo-fi bedroom black metal. It's the stuff which renders the common opinion that there are too many bands with recording ability proven. I can't believe this found it's way to me. The worst of the tracks has to be the final track, "Lucifer's Majestic Creation," which sounds like someone put the other two tracks from the album over each other and then pressed the "go" button. The one aspect of Midnight Funeral which I can't complain about, strangely, are Count Leviathan's vocals which are actually pretty good.

Other than that though, if the absence of bedrooms - and thus the absence of bedroom black metal - could be enacted through law or something, we should consider it. These kind of releases do nothing for anyone. Midnight Funeral couldn't have though that this sounded good. Why even put it out publicly? It just clogs the market, makes black metal fans resentful and perpetuates what is quickly becoming a supportable hypothesis that bedroom black metal bands are going to kill the genre through the sheer quantity of terrible, generic and poorly played black metal in comparison to crafted black metal art. I get the urge for fans to try their hand at putting out demos but at some point, quality control is needed. If Midnight Funeral continues with more releases, it would be hard for anyone who's heard this release to care at all about giving them a listen. The disgusting aftertaste of this release is just too strong for many to give the band a second chance.

I don't normally post my notes but I thought these were warranted by how easily I gave up trying to point out specifics on the final two tracks. Yes, these are what my notes look like.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Black Sabre - High Speed Warrior


This year I got thrust Black Sabre's demo CDr titled "High Speed Warrior" into my hands at MDF by Carmine - I think - after he saw my Manilla Road backpatch. "Hey you must like traditional metal! Here's my demo!" Ahhh, the glorious freebies of metal festivals. Honestly these free gifts at MDF have been decent for me. Warmaster handed me their demo four years ago and this year they put out the awesome Pyramids of the Necropolis. I've gotten stuff from Dimentainon and Sectioned too plus a ton of unmemorable stuff. Black Sabre's sound could be compared to Axe Battler however less refined. Elements of Iron Maiden and Cirith Ungol are prevalent. The band cites Exciter too but I don't here the similarity really. Black Sabre are nowhere near as fast or aggressive. The demo came in a simple folded printout holder featuring black and white artwork, some band pictures and, in my case, what looks like a beer stain. Perfect!

The whole thing lasts eight minutes. Three tracks are all just at the three minute mark. Opening track "Midnight Rebel" is a quick track with fast shouted vocal bursts and some high pitched wails courtesy of Seax vocalist Carmine Blade. Not bad, not particularly excellent either. The weakest of the three tracks. The highlight of the track is guitarist Baron and some of his leads. Second track, "High Speed Warrior," is my favorite track. At times Carmine's vocals rekindle fond memories of Cirith Ungol's Tim Baker and his iconic vocals on Frost and Fire. Final track, "Iron Heroes," has a memorable intro riff and is well written but the riffs afterwards don't seem to catch my attention. The demo's overall vibe is positive though. Three guys that really like metal and just want to occupy their time with writing some music. You can't fault them really for that and I've heard plenty of stuff that starts with the same attitude become much more. I'll keep my ears on these guys to see what they do next. It may turn out to be really excellent. You never know.

Lionel Pryor and Ambiguity Live at St. Vitus - 06.06.2013

Sometimes small shows are great shows! Sometimes unexpected events turn out to be awesome events! Such was the case last Thursday. I had nothing to do after an early shift at work. It was a shit day with nasty on and off rain. Facebook perusing produced a random show - that show being Lionel Pryor and, what I thought, was four or five other bands - at the always happening St. Vitus in Brooklyn. I had no reason not to make the drive and check out a band which I've been keeping an eye on since releasing their Collateral Jamage compilation. Either way, I made the lonely trek over three or four bridges, found a parking spot and did my part to support what I thought would be a well attended show. It wasn't. Maybe five people were there.

I started the night with a game of billiards down the street - which I won - and a couple Brooklyn Lagers at Al's Bar. The bar was originally also a show spot hosting the likes of Cro-mags and The Melvins before their renovation. Band stickers dot the walls, the bar is much more laid back than the better known Vitus. For those that prefer smaller crowds and less noise definitely a good place to hang before bands at Vitus though the beer selection there is not anywhere near that of Vitus which carries the excellent Kelso IPA along with a handful of other brews. No pool table at Vitus though and free games at Al's if you're done within six minutes so players that can run a table playing 9-ball or straight pool could possibly get a ton of games out of the machine.

I headed over to Vitus about eight expecting the show to start at 8:30. I spent the half hour talking with the bar tenders and St. Vitus sound man, Brohammer bassist and all-around nice guy Nick Cageao. After that half hour had ended, another half hour passed by before the show actually started. First band Ambiguity, an eccentric two-man improvisational unit fronted by Bob Ross look-a-like Harold "Fro" Davis Jr. on guitars and Drew Drumz on... well.. drumzzz. The ambient third track was probably my favorite though it was atypical for their sound which often had big chunky chords paired with interesting tribal beats. The band was dynamic, and didn't take themselves too seriously, ending their thirty-five minute set with a track parodying Queen's Flash Gordon titled "The Hardcore Adventures of Thrash Gordon," which had no relation to the track musically.

Lionel Pryor were excellent. They were able to recreate their progressive instrumental sound perfectly live. Most impressive for myself was bassist Andy Longo. His incorporation of multiple styles and techniques on bass was interesting to watch. Slap, alternating and even tapping out entire movements were commonplace. Tonally the band were excellent with great separation between instruments thanks to Nick. The three-man group played a mix of older tracks like Caster Troy - a misspelled reference to the 1997 John Woo film Faceoff perhaps? - and newer material off their new album Azhdahak. My only complaint was the between song banter which detracted from the progressive mood of their music. Talking with them later outside they came off as total stoners which, when looking at the album art and song titles, should have been expected. A bunch of really nice guys though. Andy's 1920's bow tie and suit creeped me out a bit. There I said it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cerebrum - Cerebrum

The year is 1994. Death metal has been and will be forever a lasting legacy of brutality. Just as there are heroes of war and peace, there are heroes of death metal. Cerebrum are not one of that bunch. Cerebrum are the soldiers that were given orders, slept too late in their foxholes and marched into the rest of their unit dead and dying. Plainly stated, this is simply a demo far too late and far too banal to warrant much attention. It's not like these guys are Savage Death or some other pro-death metal band from the mid 80's way ahead of their time. It's 1994 damnit! Hell the only reason I'm presenting it to you is so that I can take the tape and file it away forever without having to worry about if I forgot something in my desire to review my whole collection of music. Perhaps the only interesting point is that Cerebrum were born out of the most unlikely of death metal pits. The United Kingdom is not really known as a womb of death metal excellence. It's acts like this that provide the evidence to back up the poor quality of material from the individualistic island nation.

We're greeted by a weird tuxedo - or mask maybe - and two pairs of eyes (that's four eyes). It looks like Shredder's helmet got caught in a copy machine. No lyrics are provided which doesn't really bother me because I doubt tracks such as "Diced Entrails" or "Gore Feast" would reveal any particularly interesting phrasings. "Rotting Corpses" and "Obscene Autopsy" could provide maybe slightly better lyrics  but once again, I doubt it. The band most likely had very little ability in being creative. This was their only release, belated in terms of relevance, and with not so much attention paid to details like there being no lyrics, no labeling on the tape and no thank you list - a must have with all demos of this era to prove you knew people and that you had legitimate connections to get shows and exchange tapes. Maybe no one wanted this tape? Somehow I ended up with it.

There is little to discuss about the release musically. The songs are mostly mid tempo to fast but not exceedingly fast tracks with the riffs being built around tremolo picked series of notes with little attention paid to variety. Cerebrum would have been helped significantly with time spent to make the progressions of notes more interesting and less predictably. In almost all the songs, the riffs change and move on the quarter note beats. There is little rhyme or reason to transitions such as in last track Rotting Corpses where the track switches between several riffs in the introduction without any sense that those riffs were important or necessary to the rest of the song. The band aren't bad musicians but I don't get the feeling they really know how to make a competent track. After another two or three attempts, the band may have been able to create something at least worth a listen or worth a purchase from a dumpy second hand bin.

If I had to pick a favorite track I guess I would pick either the opening track, "Violence In Our Time" or fourth cut "Diced Entrails." "Violence In Our Time," which - aside from a more interesting title / possible lyrical theme - may only be good because I hadn't heard the rest of the tracks. It doesn't differ from the rest of the demo's music. "Diced Entrails" has several redeeming qualities. The lead at about the halfway mark is short and twisted - perhaps not on purpose - and is followed by a few other lead parts. The vocals on these tracks, as on the others, are nothing to rant or rave about. They are low and hoarse. The songs lose interest after the second or third track. It took me four listens to get the last track after a waning attention.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Nocturn - Shades of Insanity

Nocturn, another forgotten early 90's death metal band from the Netherlands. The band split up pretty much immediately after putting out their 1991 album, Estranged Dimensions. Other than that, all they have to show for their efforts was this 7" single containing the title track which would end up on that full length a year later and a track called "Travelling Beyond" which would not be heard elsewhere. I got this off some random distro several years back for pretty cheap so, there must have been a ton of these made but you can get a copy pretty cheap on several websites devoted to this sort of thing. I did see one person asking over $100 for a copy but I doubt it's worth anywhere near that much. The label, Old World Records, put out a handful of random crap in the early 90's including several Cry of Terror releases. Notable for New Jersey collectors though is that Old World Records put out the awesome Fleshcrawler EP by Holmdel natives Dirge which contains some awesome left field death metal.

The album comes with a promo insert of other albums from bands like Cry of Terror, M.F.D, Thorns and Diet of Worms - all of which I have never heard. Definitely will be checking out the Cry of Terror releases though as well as some of the label's other oddities. Also included is an insert with the lyrics to both "Travelling Beyond" and "Shades of Insanity." The lyrics are pretty awesome death metal lyrics with a little more than typical gore topics much in the vein of other bands from the area at the time who seemed predisposed to write about other things besides hacking up prostitutes with gardening implements. The cover I really love. Old school death metal artwork featuring a slightly comedic looking skeleton arising from a landscape clearly not of this world. The Grim Reaper hovers in the background imitating the album art for the "Can I Play With Madness" single. There are skulls - apparently the size of a rhinoceros - in the background not fully shown but it looks like their owners died in middle of an awkward sexual encounter.

The music is pure old school death metal and shares similarities with other bands from the Netherlands out at the time. Though not as pile driving as Asphyx, there is the same attention to melody evident. What would The Rack sound like if played with a less body-grinding guitar tone? Nocturn sounds a whole heaping lot like Gutwrench's - a band I desperately need to review their Wither Without You demo - faster moments. Opening track to this short 7" is the title track, "Shades of Insanity," which starts off with a Bolt Thrower-esque melody. The rhythm section of brothers Robert and Stef Weerkamp on Bass and Drums respectively is tight and provides a great foundation for guitarists Brian Haverkamp and Edwin Woerdman to toss leads and melodies on top off. Most of this first track has a plodding tempo. Vocalist Boudewijn Bruggeman (B.B) has a raspy, hoarse voice not nearly as guttural or low as other memorable acts. Second track, "Travelling Beyond," appears on this release only. It's faster than the title track, kicks into a breakdown a little over a minute into the track, continues on with some fast thrashy drumming. My favorite vocal moment appears during this breakdown. B.B croaks out the lyrics "A part of their machines... crying behind his iron mask," where the breakdown shifts to a slightly bitter melody.

This 7" is what death metal is all about for me. The playing is honest, mistakes are evident on tracks in places but it doesn't really matter because there is so much character in the songs. It's not some pristine release. Classic underground death metal from a band that barely received any attention but their wax is still circling around out there because there is something within that makes it good enough to not throw out. I think this is better than just good though. The two tracks here show Nocturn as a band with some legitimate potential which they realized on their full length, "Estranged Dimension."

* I listed this as New Jersey Metal for the reference to Dirge and their EP released by Old World Records.