Friday, October 30, 2015

Surtur - Descendant of Time





I've been following the Bangladeshi scene rather closely the last few months after hearing some awesome material from Nafarmaan and Eternal Armageddon. The talent in the Dhaka scene is easy to overlook; the country can't export anything physical, cultural barriers are in place by way of language and contacts, and a lack of western interest in the nation by metal media outlets too busy watching powerhouse factories like Sweden, Germany, and the USA provide little networking opportunities. In the case of Surtur, their new EP/Demo Descendant of Time is a prime example of what kind of quality can be found in these isolated niches. While several influences are apparent, most notably for me is the similarity to Heathen's Victims of Deception. It's not far off to also invoke Voivod or Kreator as well.

There is still some work to be done with Surtur; all three songs carry baggage when it comes to the compositions. Even so, generally, a lot of strong unique riffs are ordered to give the impression that the band is thoughtful about the flow and movement of tracks. Title track, "Descendant of Time" is a good example of this, as the track falls into some extraneous riffs mid-way through that take up time but add little to the track at hand. "Demolisher," seemingly the 'single' with a live video circulating on youtube and a very straight forward arrangement of the typical three-minute thrash track, is the most complete track. The blistering last third of the track following a segment of off-beat syncopated riffing presents the most memorable combination of riffs on the release. Also, the main solo in "Maggot Filled Brain," should reap some raised eyebrows simply due to execution.


The production is also enjoyable. Clearly this is not polished and pristine. There is a fiery guitar tone which emphasizes details within the riffs while retaining a "live" feel. The drums are another example of the strong production. The drums sound very natural and absorbent. The material is presented with energy and urgency - a common trait of Bangladeshi metal that I've heard - in a way that a lot of the bands of the party-thrash ilk simply can't match. This is a worthy demo for thrash fans.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sloth - Slow As Shit


I don't think any self-respecting fan of Doom could not be coaxed into checking out a album called Slow As Shit from a band named Sloth. Continued explanation that the album combines the vastness of recent Earth compositions, the stonery-sludgy nature of Sleep's Holy Mountain, and the immense drum resonance of Catacombs, would indicate that anything less than jumping out of your cushioned throne to seek out this treasure of material would be unacceptable. Furthermore, the inclusion of subtle nuanced details and depth provided by electronic threads throughout the album should appeal to those looking for that next sound in their doom lives. With a total playing time of over forty minutes in seven tracks, Sloth have not inundated with a demanding time-soaker, but offered a memorable and chill experience to pass your free time while relaxing or enjoying some unexpected free time. This is a truly essential recording for stoners, doom fans, and music lovers.

Opening track "Green Sunrise" sets the mood and style for the rest of the album after intro, "Meditate," primes your ear canal with echoing ringing dissonance. "Green Sunrise" begins the scenery crawling with call and response riffs, gargantuan drum strikes, and the plump bass lines which Slow as Shit will be notable for. Electronica penetrates the doom to punctuate how layered the material really is. Fourth track, "Call of the Sloth," truly stands out with immense riffs culminating with harmonized guitars weaving over a landscape of tense rolling bass and fuzz. Initial listens were enjoyable and this anthemic song immediately appealed to my inner headbanger, yet was softened by the fuzz enough that I felt I had never left the foggy realm Sloth had invited me into. Followed by the riff-heavy "Nothing By Leaves," the middle block of tracks break apart what could have been a nice peaceful listen in the same style as Mountains' Centralia. The murky samples in this track, hidden vocals, and ghostly screams lending a gritty smear necessary to help tug Slow as Shit firmly into the doom genre and out of the post-rock / shoegaze arena so many want no part of.

Sloth decided to end Slow as Shit with "Smoke N' Sleep," a funky, bouncy, bong-hit to leave the album reeling in your mind. After the four minutes of synthesizers plopping drugged out carnival depth charges, it's likely you'll just need to take a moment to consider that the album ended as it did. It's a whole different vibe from the rest of the release but fits, somehow, with the rest of the material. It's an epitaph to what is a stoner/sludge delicacy rarely tasted. As if they could have ended it any other way. I've really enjoyed listening to this album over the past few months. A real burner here.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Yfel - The Depths of Hell


Yfel: (n) Acronym: Yet-another Fucking-armon-nicholson Edition LP. 2013's The Depths of Hell is one of four full lengths Armon released that year - the third actually - and the only officially black metal album. At this point, I'm mainly left asking myself what the main differences are in his projects. This one is decidedly more black metal influenced in sound but the death metal influences of all his other projects anchor the music once again. It's the one factor that, in my opinion, holds Armon back in some regards; the inability to shake off what is a subliminal influence in a project in which it is not needed. Yet the distinctive Armon personality that drifts in the underbrush of all his projects is also one of the fascinating things about listening to them; how many ways can Armon be Armon in different genres?

With Yfel, the majority of the material is blackened death metal. It just so happens that the majority of the material is tame and derivative. When we get the doomy, moody aspects of other projects fingering through like Jim Carey extricating himself from the Rhinoceros in Ace Ventura in a couple tracks Armon gifts us with some more interesting material which is less generic. A perfect example of this is "A Cold, Dark Fog" which is a standout by it's individuality on the disc, as Armon crafts a genuinely beautiful piece of music that contrasts well. It's a momentary respite from the onslaught of extreme metal. A similar patient and moody lapse appears before the ignition of final track "The Black Seas of Infinity," as well as partway through as a twice-recurring theme.

The majority of the material, however, staggers along with tremolo riffs and double bass sounding too tight and clean to do this black thrash death stuff really well. "Omnipresent Emptiness" ends with a very structured tempo-drop of ringing notes. There is little character to the event. Opening track  "The Might of Lucifer" doesn't make Lucifer sound too mighty with a clean guitar section halfway through. Lyrically, as on Licrest's Misery, often when the lyrics do poke through, we catch glimpses of words which do not entice. In "The Might of Lucifer," we get 'dead prostitutes,' as content. I don't know what filleted hookers have to do with Satan. "Baptized In Demon's Blood" is mildly enjoyable, mostly for the chorus section, but only if you'll find enjoyment from screaming 'baptized in demon's blood, baptized in hate'.

Not a lot of stand outs here and the two songs that interest me are the least connected to the material on the album in style. I'm still waiting for Armon's masterpiece. This isn't it.

Friday, October 16, 2015

CTP-028-I: Acid Cross / Kriegg / Hellripper - 3 Way Split Tape

Blistering speed metal / Thrash from these three maniacs. Out November 10th . Pre-orders being accepted now. $4. There is no reason to not get this. Limited to 100 copies. 




Sunday, October 11, 2015

KnightOwl, Thunderforge, Sonic Pulse, Dainsleif, and Forevers' Fallen Grace @ The Wreck Room Oct. 10, 2015


I've never done this before, but I went to a show completely blind - I didn't know a damn thing about any of the bands before going. From the names and logos, it seemed like they all leaned towards traditional or power metal genres - and I'm extremely picky about clean vocals. Although my musical tastes are generally elsewhere in metal,  I'm really glad I went.  

The atmosphere was noticeably friendly. Everyone seemed to know each other: lots of hugging, audience members singing along with lyrics, and there was even a dragon puppet bandied about (yeah you read that right). The Wreck Room venue was essentially a cleared out billiards side-area with a bar, which was also part of a pizza shop. Pretty ideal and stereotypical metal setup, but the overall sound is good, tons of accent lighting, and the projector screen behind the bands was a nice touch and it was mostly used as a massive banner.

KnightOwl

This four-piece band has a nice power metal setup where the guitar player and singer/keyboardist happen to have voices that harmonize quite well together. Not to diminish the drum and bass work, but the trade off between guitar and keyboard leads and the vocal harmonies are really KnightOwl's strong point. Despite the florid keyboard work, I never really got a European "flower metal" kind of vibe from the band because they kept a hard edge to their sound. This was in no small part due to the rhythm section. You could tell that the lead guitar player was extremely into playing the music, because with every note he struck on the guitar he acted like a dozen of puppies were crawling all over him.

Thunderforge

Before any of the bands had started, some metal was being played via Youtube over the PA system. As Thunderforge then started to take the stage I heard some amazingly wide vibrato operatic vocals and figured some background music was still playing and thought "wow I really really need to see what band that is because it sounds like Bruce Dickinson and Luciano Pavarotti had a son." Then I saw that it was Adam Morini of Thunderforge (who looks like Christopher Maloni of Law and Order: SVU fame). Holy shit does this guy have some serious pipes! Here's the thing though with Thunderforge:  every single band member in the five-piece is an exceptional musician. I could write on for quite a bit about the minutia of the band's excellent songwriting, but it's sufficient to say it was incredible. These guys also know how to put on a hell of a live show - playfully slapping/biting at each other while playing, crawling through the wild audience, and pin-balling around the stage like particles of uranium. I wouldn't be surprised to see a big label sign these guys, the bandcamp link doesn't do their sound justice - they're even better.




Sonic Pulse

When I saw the drummer wearing a beer helmet with the word "party" written on it, it was pretty safe to assume Sonic Pulse were a party-thrash band, and they even introduced themselves as such. These guys have a rough and tumble approach to thrash and sound a bit on the dirty side. The music seemed almost a bit too fast for the band and kind of a messy wash of guitar solos at times. I thought it may have been a stylistic choice since these guys could obviously play their stuff, but when they covered Hanger 18 you could tell for sure that they were off a bit. Not a bad band by any means, but their live performance could definitely be tightened up compared to how their recordings sound (much more progressive than they came across live). I'd recommend them for fans of Municipal Waste and party type lyrics, hell, I'm pretty sure they did a metal cover of the Adventure Time show theme during their set.


Dainsleif

First off, you've got to appreciate the dedication of a folk metal band that plays their set in viking attire. I'm not talking burlap sacks either, these guys looked the part and their leather shoes looked really comfortable. Their sound was pretty much what you'd expect from a viking themed folk metal band. They used a laptop to provide some backing sounds and intro sections - and it worked pretty well, though you have to imagine a keyboard player would be a useful addition to their lineup. I also appreciated how they powered through some feedback as the sound guy had walked off. I've seen bands awkwardly stop in that kind of situation, and playing through is more professional and less awkward for the audience. I'd compare them to the more upbeat folk metal stuff like Korpiklaani and Eluveitie, but this style isn't really my thing, so those may be questionable comparisons.
 


Forevers' Fallen Grace

Closing out the night, Forevers' Fallen Grace had an energetic set that included covers from Mercyful Fate and Iron Maiden. I mention these covers first because it gives a good sense of the band's overall sound. It was really refreshing how vocalist Mike Ferro knew exactly where his range was and didn't try to force out anything really high pitched despite the glaringly obvious King Diamond influences in his approach. The guitar players traded off leads and harmonized really organically with top notch precision over a strong rhythm, so I wasn't surprised to later read that the band formed in 1999 - the experience shows. Also, I'm pretty sure that the band's drummer Jim Norris had the biggest kit of the night boasting a dozen cymbals that he definitely made good use of. A strong act worth following if you dig the vocal style.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Religious Malediction - The Rituals Of Invocation Remains Child


Religion Malediction from Bangkok formed several years back, producing a demo, split and EP before putting out The Rituals of Invocation Remains Child - one of the most engrish titled albums I've heard in a while - as their debut album. The band features two members of Shambles, who I know through their Black Candles Magnetic Doom demo on Ancestral Terror Productions (and also how they still haven't received their allotted copies of the demo - a charge levied against ATP from a few other individuals I'm in contact with), and three shared members of Lotus of Darkness - an offshoot of Religion Malediction. The name of the conflict here is raw black metal. There isn't really any disguising the aim of the band. There is no extraneous genre inclusionism... no mass appeal... no obviously shrouded attempts at being original... just hateful cold metal negro.

The introductory track, "Intro," isn't really an intro. It has some introductory styled chanting ambient crud, but then ends up with some raw black metal riffs at the end... as if it was going to be a longer normal sized track and the band forgot that they didn't finish writing it. "Ancient Enchantment From the Figured Body" is the first named track on the album, featuring the album's identifiers: wooden blast beats, a lot of buzzing riffs, and subtle guitar details. Stylistically, there is a lot of Transylvanian Hunger here and also early Mystifier lurks. "Eternal Misanthropy," the album's longest track at nine minutes, opens with a wayfaring mid-tempo riff in the Nordic style which the band repeats...well... almost eternally. There are uptempo sections in the central region of the track which give it just enough variation. It's probably too long but I'm cool with it because it's a track where some of the riffs deserve extra playing time just so they can be crammed deep in your memory structure. I just wish the drums suited it a little better. I also really like the plurally-innebriated "Possessed By Evils." The "Outro" produces more dark moody shit that will make you feel like you've been 'possessed by evils'.




Issara's guitar tone should be a primary focus; it's very thin but tonal clarity is superb and frigid. Unfortunately, the guitar is set back in the mix like morality in Dennis Rader's mind. I would have liked to hear the guitars a little more pronounced, but the atmosphere produced by having them distant is distinguishable, frosting our ears with grimness. The snare is the most prominent instrument in the entire mix which, depending on your preference, could be a terrible thing here if you don't like a tinny and tight sounding snare. The drums are loud and natural sounding but very dry emphasizing the skill level of Thinnarat, but not truly fitting into the album's overall "raw" style. Even just a hint of some reverb would be a major help in melting the drums into the mix. Anukul's vocals are screeches and rasps of throat-scraping caliber. I'm sure he can barely talk in real life. Tossapon's bass is ploddy. He inherits space in the mix due to the lack of low-end from the drums and guitars, earning him free reign to basically do whatever he wants and be heard easily, but he generally plays along, occasionally dumping a well-rehearsed run into vacant space.

Overall, this was actually an enjoyable listen. Its not going to be my first choice to put on if I were looking for blistering raw black metal but I'd listen to it before a good portion of other mundane garbage. Religious Malediction is doing some really neat things with the genre that, while not totally unique, are of a quality worth taking note of. The songwriting is mature as evidenced by Religious Malediction's use of strong transitions, twists and bends in the right places, varying combinations of instrument arrangement, and memorable riffs. I think the only thing holding this back from being recommendable to the body politic are some minor production related issues which are likely to dismay what has become a less heady black metal audience.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Znafelriff - Ruin



The best way to enjoy whiskey is neat, because you aren’t dulling the flavor or watering it down. So if you take your black metal the same way, then Znafelriff’s Ruin EP is a nice stripped down and pure style of black metal that doesn’t have the all too familiar raw-production burning taste. Spackled with killer tempo changes and heavily relying on expressive raspy vocals, it’s a breath of fresh air how the band switches things up while still adhering to quite conservative approach to the genre.



Efficient composition goes a long way. Many of the melodies have guitars playing low notes for two beats, followed by higher notes with some interesting snare hits to complete the measure (e.g. “Heisere Stille” and “Ruin.”) It’s a nice feel because even really straightforward riffs get a sense of martial momentum. More importantly, this rhythmic interplay is an obvious sign of how well integrated the band is. Simple riffs become compelling because of the rhythm, simple blast beats become interesting with addition of coherent but dynamic vocals with a relatively light touch of reverb.

Not that I could tell from just the music, but the band apparently has a sense of humor about black metal. You’ve got to imagine that this played a role in keeping the project’s music interesting because the EP really follows in the footsteps of a lot of raw black metal bands without devolving into a bunch of dry monotony. Still, this isn’t the kind of music where you should expect catchy hooks or even a showy riff. It works well enough for the EP, which clocks in at around twenty-one minutes. It’s nothing groundbreaking or exceptional, but the EP is easily strong enough to merit listening to whatever Znafelriff may offer in the future.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Extermination Angel - Demo 2015



Don't let the charming guitar introduction misinform you. There is nothing mollifying about Extermination Angel's new demo, primitively titled Demo 2015. Dropping a payload of refined War Metal in shorter bursts than normally utilized, Extermination Angel will leave the hardened metalhead soft in the knees. I really like these ultra-impact demos with short songs. They give a quick snippet of a band's talents and leave one wanting more - the goal of a demo. I haven't been following the band since their Demo 2009 landed in my lap - likely in the form of a tape from somewhere - but there are a few minor adjustments which have aided them in crafting potent metal once again, just in a more direct and furious manner.  Especially noticeable is the change in vocalist from Shawn to the vocals being provided by guitarist Heavy Barbarian. Vocals have become more death metal and less hardcore sounding. I don't know why the band didn't just have Barbarian do vocals previously. They fit perfectly. The addition of a new bassist, Lord Penthouse, is the other lineup adjustment. The new songs have less breakdowns and more malignant tumors of death. I get a distinct mixture of Hellhammer and Bestial Warlust. It's a combination I like a lot.



Whether it's the crushing mid paced assault of the latter half of "Formation" or the blitzing hurl of opening track "War Torture," Extermination Angel offer fans of the extreme a perfect eight-minute nightmare. There's not a huge amount of music here to consume but it's all digestible, very flavorful, and tastes a little like that scab you picked off your arm the other day and decided to munch on. Nineteen second "Exterminate" is essentially a lead in for "Never Be Born Again" which once again draws forth the power of churning mid-paced riffs before tripping headlong into the grindiest section of the release invoking Utopia Banished era Napalm Death. If any of this sounds worthwhile - which it should - take my advice and get the demo from the band. My only complaint would be the album art and the sketchy transition intro (which might be fine on the tape...).