Blistering Indian grind act, Anorectal Ulceration, slice and dice helpless listeners into the remains of which they depravely grunt about. This type of grind is not normally associated with India but that is by no means a cause to ignore them. The twelve-minute long EP / Demo From Flesh To Liquid Mess is rotten from front to back. "Snuff Film With The Zombies" gives proper salutations with a mix of early slow and later fast grinding rhythms. Ultra-low growls scour the surface of the material in appropriate gurgling manner. What is noticeable is the tightness of the drumming in coordination with the rhythm section, as evident in "Arterial Damage By Injecting Fermented Urine" or "Erectile Dysfunction Caused By Successive Blowjob," which is my choice cut. For a more fun-filled vibe, "Spew Assault And Deep Penetrations on Open Wounds," is sure to instigate some sloppy frolicking. Samples separate some of the tracks to allow some breathing room, but that breathing room is filled more or less with the wafting odor of horror and death. The nine songs speed by, as all of them save the opening track are roughly one minute long. With a classic tonal splurge of low-end brown notes and relentless percussive violence, there's little to condemn. Perhaps just a slight bit more variation in the guitar riffs and melodies and one or two off-paced tracks would have perfected this release. (Orion)
Ascended Dead - Promo 2012 (2014)
The promotional version of Ascended Dead's Arcane Malevolence EP, this demo version was put together to distribute on tour. The EP and the tape are the same. Ascended Dead do the Incantation style well, as they effectively pound through a litany of riffs in the most frantic manner possible. Vocally, uproot Pillard and transplant Van Drunen and you've got a good idea of what to expect. Ascended Dead do try to capture some of their own essence however by breaking into some explicitly memorable melodies, such as that in "Emanation" or the slower, Horrendous-esque culmination to closer "Blood Consecration." While the musicianship here is of an extreme caliber, a special nod goes to guitarists Jon Reider and Ian Lawrence who make themselves known throughout the recording by viciously slicing and dicing through the rhythm section with wild solos and leads. While I acknowledge that "Blood Consecration" is the deepest track, with a multitude of sections and leads and even the beautiful slower melodic segments towards the back end of the track which shows the band's depth, I still like "Emanation" the best. It's enough to make one want to listen multiple times to these four songs. It's also enough to simply buy the full length. Which I did.
BloodElk - Frontier (2017)
In juxtaposition to the norm of "more listens yield more substance," BloodElk's album, (or EP if you take into consideration the lenth) Frontier, which initially seems to give the impression of potential nuances to be revealed after several outings, instead becomes less and less interesting as the nuances disappear to be replaced with a continuous dross of similarity. The unfortunate casualty in all of this: the subject matter and content. With epic stories such as that of John Franklin's search for the North-West Passage, or the tale of Simon Girty or Simon Kenton, the subject matter would be perfectly served by any number of more epic backgrounds including Manilla Road-styled USPM, Bathory-esque Heavy Metal in the Blood Fire Death vein, Epic Death Doom like Disemboweled, or Candlemass / Solitude Aeternus oriented Doom. I could even seen a Norwegian Black Metal band giving a good go of it. But short and stubbly grinding sludge like Napalm Death circa Scum giving EyeHateGod a rimjob? Not really conducive to the story-telling aspect of these yarns. Even the sole longer track, Kenton's Run, just meanders in and out like waves crashing on a rocky shore. Perhaps these bursts of grind and momentary repetitiveness that seems so primitive and cheap are also the best representation of the tribulations and torture explorers faced on the frontier, and for that, perhaps BloodElk and Frontier are spot on in their presentation of these sordid lost stories, but if you're not going to dwell and ponder the philosophical connection between the structure and form of the material to it's lyrical content, you're left with a lot of blasting and bleating but not a lot honoring the brutality of these topics.
Descenery - Stillborn Monolith (2017)
If you get past the first twenty six seconds of the first full track on Descenery's Stillborn Monolith, "No Way," and do not retract immediately, then the probability is high that you're either deaf or simply in the band. This Russian group follows fairly closely in the late 90's early 00's vein of metal, laden with keyboards and clean vocals interspersed with screamo-inspired (or uninspired) vocals over the lowest common denominator Gothenburg melo-death. We're looking at Dark Tranquility married to Sonata Arctica here. Objectively there is nothing wrong with the musicianship but subjectively there is everything wrong with this recording. I've given the record a full four listens so that others don't have to listen to it. In a nutshell, the limp wristed riffs and bland melodies that are strummed beneath D-grade Killswitch Engage folly are further marred by an emotionally devoid mix in which even the attempts to add color with some drawn out noise, such as at the end of the title track, sounds forced and planted as if an enemy agent were there, telling you "look, I told you that I could have heart!" Occasionally Eastern European and Asiatic countries are several years behind in cultural exchange musically, but there is no excuse for taking the most mundane influences and further stripping them of whatever coating may have protected the material from the prying ears of critics. I'll note that as soon as I heard "A Man, Anew," which features female vocals, I simply said to myself, "Really??" Maybe there are still people out there that would find enjoyment with overlapping Nightwish and Katatonia's most recent banality, but there are also humans that enjoy Desperate Housewives, the three hundredth installment of Harry Potter, and golden showers.
Doomentor - The Second Ceremony (2015)
Solid Death Metal awaits on this two-song single. Doomentor are one of only very few bands that I've come across who have a definite influence from Master's Hammer in their sound. The strummed chord-progressions in the chorus in opening track "Maligne" and compositional arrangement of the tracks hearken back heavily to Ritual. The mixture of clean guitars and other theatrical elements, included appropriately, in the two tracks also are unique and original and present a complete view of what Doomentor can do. The tight rhythmic approach which Doomentor focuses on can be attributed to Celtic Frost-isms. Raspy vocals occasionally drawn out into slithering drawls are not the sole linguistic tool here. "Nocturniae Monumentalis" also has some clean vocals incorporated into the arrangement for good measure and add further to the theatrical exposition. A contemporary comparison would be NY's Throaat so for local readers that have fallen in love with who I think are a top-ten in local bands, Doomentor should be on the radar.
Interment - Life Here After (2016)
This compilation from Necroharmonic is the totality of early Finnish death metal band Interment's output. This includes three tracks released in demo and 7" format in 1990 and another four tracks that were available from a previously unreleased rehearsal capture. Low, gutteral vocals and twisting melodies comprise the fundamental structure. There is a Floridian influence in their sound, as evidenced throughout with Johannes and Samppa's guitar solos and rhythms being quite indicative of Trey Azagthoth's style on Altars of Madness. The three demo tracks are all very much in this vein. Once we get to the rehearsal tracks there is a breakdown in consistency. With "Sun I Sense Your Power," we get a different vibe than the rest of the material with an almost punk simplicity for periods. Gone are the twisting weaving riffs and melodies. It's an extreme difference in rhythmic style, even if the solos have similarly wild in nature, and the instrumental track sounds more like Metallica's "Orion" than death metal. While the compilation is a great listen for die-hard death metal fans, particularly those who focus on the Florida or Finnish scenes, the ultimate sentence here is 'interesting but not necessary'. Sure, the demo tracks are cool, and sure the background of the band - as revealed through a comprehensive inner layout with interviews and summary - is worth knowing, but there isn't enough material here to seek out unless you're interested in expanding the collection for archival reasons.
Licho - Podnoszenie Czarów (2017)
This Polish outfit is yet another obscure group doing their own experimental version of black metal. Szturpak approached me with the material and initially I went back and checked out what I could find of their previous material which surprised me with exactly how experimental it was. Podnoszenie Czarów is evidence of a trend I've seen in black metal over the past few years. I call this trend the Katamari Damacy effect; Black Metal is a genre which absorbs all the other genres and styles that it comes in contact with, and it rolls up into this giant ball of sound that is at once a solid form and yet also full of gaps and crevices which are left unfilled. Licho experiences some of these gaps throughout what is a rather plodding and syncopated album. Licho is bass heavy and structured around the bass drum combination but where Licho falls short is in the depth of the song writing and the extent of the experimentation, causing some songs, such as "Niech Tnie" to feel more like a bizarre alternative rock song, than experimental black metal. The album intro track, "Zachodzi" doesn't set up second song "Zadarte" in any real fashion. Nevertheless, Licho have some moments where they show promise. Vocalists Dominik and Szturpak growl and grimace their way powerfully and grittily throughout the record. Patyr's bass playing combined with Grzegorz' drumming is a prime example of a precision rhythm section. If I had to pick a top track, I would go with the chilly "Sianie". Thin and icy tremolo guitar melodies abound as the combination of textures and rhythms manifests into something with a lot of tension and bleakness.
Mandatory - Ripped From The Tomb (2012)
Mandatory are a chronological nightmare to listen to. Adrift Beyond was an hour full of tracks culled from throughout their catalog along with some newer material so it's follow up, 2012's Ripped From The Tomb, one would assume, would be full of new material. Hah! Too easy! Ripped From The Tomb is actually Mandatory's first full length, recorded in 2003 and never before released. Once again we are getting tracks which we've heard before but this time in the form they were originally intended to be released. The production here is expectedly rooted in the Swedish Death Metal style with HM2's buzzing and chugging. You know what you're essentially getting but I will point out a few minutia which I noticed. "Exelution" is perfected here in it's initial form and lays to rest any notion that the recorded version on Adrift Beyond is superior. The original version cuts a full twenty seconds from the song and still sounds larger. The Dutch Death Metal scene's coloring which was seen on the 2010 full length is nowhere to be seen here. This is all Swedish and so the band's (specifically Sascha Beselt) influences from Entombed, Grave, Dismember, Nihilist etc are in full force. It is both a blessing and a curse, as there is less depth to be found on Ripped From The Tomb and the songs are less twisting and mentally taxing, but the simplicity and immediacy of the death here is not to be slighted. This energy and power is aided by a thirty five minute run time. Ripped From The Tomb is worth it if the tracks on the Exiled In Pain compilation only wet your appetite as there are a few here not present there.
Putrid Yell / Eaten Alive - Vicious Manifestation of Horror and Death (2014)
This Iron Bonehead 7" is a super quick blast of two death metal bands, Chile's Putrid Yell and Eaten Alive. With a whopping twelve minutes of total content, I'm not entirely determined that the record is worth the potential price to import them from overseas but it's good enough to tack onto a larger order if you're buying from the German distributor or find domestically. Putrid Yell are a dense and murky style of death metal heavy on the low end rumble with a massive amount of down tuned weirdness. Rod Nihilist's vocals are quite demonic and gutteral adding to the general disgusting nature of their sole track, "Wrenching Putrid Yell." Eaten Alive's "Mangled In The Morgue" is also a jumbled and muddy death metal track, which is overall swampy and trodding. The two bands together fit well together on the release. Both incorporate slower, demonic-tinted death metal with extremely low growling death metal vocals. For my money, I felt the Putrid Yell track was more engrossing and interesting, as trounced through several different hideous auditory biomes, while the Eaten Alive track was more straightforward and didn't seem to offer as much variety. Both tracks were well enough written to not give off questionable criticism. I'm not sure, however, that this record, even if it gives a positive introduction to both of these bands from Chile, will be enough to draw in listeners with the quantity and quality of good death metal being released lately.
Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes - This Time It's For Real (1977)
This Time It's For Real was the second Southside Johnny album. Notable are the songwriting credits. Steven Van Zandt is responsible for eight of the ten tracks writing credits, two of which "Love On The Wrong Side of Town" and "When You Dance" have Springsteen co-credited. Zandt also produced the record. Southside Johnny's vocals, while offering a huge presence and emotional dynamic on the record, are complemented by a swath of backing musicians which fill in on horns and backing vocals in the Jersey Sound style which Springsteen and Southside Johnny popularized. Highlights include a stirring Aretha Franklin cover of "Without Love," the slow and sultry "First Night," and the album's most complete original, "Love On The Wrong Side of Town." The latter has an almost Billy Joel-esque piano-vibe yet is driven by Al Berger's pounding walking bass lines and the big brass section that forcefully bridges the chorus and verse. Al Berger's bass playing is a highlight across the record leaping from the record like a tiger roaring from a hidden spot in tall grass; a metaphor which becomes reality on final track "When You Dance." This Time It's For Real is a classic Jersey gem from the glory days of the Jersey Shore sound.