Friday, December 28, 2012

Weapons to Hunt - Blessed In Sin

Weapons to Hunt play mid to fast paced death thrash with a streak of swe-death and some, but not a lot of melody. The riffing is somewhat like the old Florida death/thrash style, but the feel is more like Swedish death metal, though not as crushing as the Sunlight sound, a bit more streamlined for thrash. The vocals are pretty smooth for growls, not ferocious nor emotive, they're solid and fit the music well, but they're not really distinct. It's a style with plenty that is familiar to any death metal, comfortable but not exceptional.

The riffing is solid, and it sounds best when they juxtapose it with something a bit slower or more melodic. The band is at their strongest not with, but all around these sections, since it contrasts and makes the faster sections seem faster and more aggressive. Sometimes they thrash away for a long time, getting monotonous - more than a few similar riffs in a row and their effect is diminished. There's nothing extremely fast, but there's not much that's slow either, a lot of it blends together into death metal that's a bit faster than mid paced, a bit slower than high speed thrash, and works its way into where what it is doing is predictable, it's going to be somewhat aggressive and fast, but it isn't highlighted by the arrangements nor the rest of the music. WTH could display their strengths better if they framed their riffs a bit better with subtle or overt dynamic changes.

The drumming is good, it stands out at the right points due to separating riffs and moving the music with fills when it's not blasting. Still, it does get stuck in the same monotony that plagues and otherwise strong performance by the whole band. They've got one speed that they're comfortable at and they cruise at that a bit too much. Any breaks around that tend to offer a strong point where they found something else that'll fit well, though it gets a bit rough at times, it is welcome.

Weapons to Hunt don't reinvent anything nor are they the best at what they do, they're one of many Swedish bands in a sea of good bands, but if you're a fan of the death end of death/thrash, you'll probably enjoy this. You know what you're getting.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Carcariass - Killing Process

Circa 2006

For some reason my mind forgot to remember how I first heard about this awesome French tech-death band's third album. Then I remembered what drew me to it. The opening of first track Watery Grave, I must say, must have impressed me when I first heard this album as much as it impresses me to this day. Not only does it really sound as if you are being submerged in a vat of acid, but shows the prowess of the band as a whole. I must have played the beginning over and over just to be sure that I was not dreaming of something that awesome. Raphael Couturier's bass playing is excellent throughout the whole album but there is more to this fantastically performed album than this seventeen second introduction.

Aside from bass duties, Mr. Couturier also doubles as the vocalist also. However, this time his abilities, though not horrible, present one of the few setbacks about this album. Only two thirds of the album's songs include vocals and the albums best track, in my opinion, Lost In Agony, is unscarred by what seems to be forced death metal vocals. Musicianship is where these three metaller's shine. The vocals at times seem out of place, had they had more edge and anger to them its possible that they would go over extremelly well however for the moment, detract from the music. With thier sound, as melodic as it is, clean or semi-clean vocals may have worked better than a full death metal attempt.

The guitars on this album are incrediblly played. Pascal Lanquentin nails every note with a vengeance. His leads are incredible especially in songs like Lost In Agony, Burn In Peace, and Mortal Climb. Rhythmically he is also impeccable, landing riffs like a veteran pilot landing a plane on a fiery runway. Though his playing is pristine, a more powerfull guitar sound would have numerous benefits. Unless your playing this album in the ninety decibel range, you may notice a lack of power. If they overdubbed the guitars in the recording, I cant fathom how weak the guitar sound was in the beginning.

Drumming is provided by Betrand Simonim. Quick, accurate and varied, the drumming is also precise like the rest of the musicianship however, like the guitars does suffer slightly from a lack of brutality.

The songwriting on this album is, I can honestly say, far superior to many bands at a higher level of stardom and noteriety. Hooks adorn this album like bodies in a morgue, and in a way that doesnt give the stench of trying to sound more mainstream-oriented. The fifth song, a short instrumental, possibly serving as a break, is unnecessary. The rest of the songs are well composed. Though Carcariass seem to favor the mid tempo, there isnt a lack of faster material to sink your teeth into.Watery Grave, Killing Process, and Burn In Peace are standout tracks though the final track, Lost In Agony reveals the genius these guys are capable of. Mortal Climb, Winds Of Death and Under Concrete are strong songs also however at times seem out of place. All in all however, from start to finish, this is a fantastic album that sadly, im sure, has gone overlook by many prog-death, tech-death fans.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Master Fury Delay

There is a slight delay right now due to the holidays and some family things going on which are delaying the Master Fury CD release so as of now, it will be the first release of 2013.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Shadows In The Crypt - Fanatical And Ready To Die


My initial encounter with Shadows In The Crypt was in Philadelphia while checking out my good friends in Haethen perform through some of their newer material and to check out the fascinating Hivelords' live show. Shadows In The Crypt was on third or second or something. I watch the first two songs, felt underwhelmed and bored and went back to the bar. Later in the evening, I was passed their "Fanatical and Ready To Die" demo. Though quite bleh live, this demo is actually fairly decent and would inspire me to see the band live again should they play locally. It's no secret that the band is black metal by their logo though their moniker hints at melodic death metal, in my opinion, and the artwork on the release fits neither. It's actually one of the very few gripes I have with Shadows...

This would, by my standards be considered a demo. It is a CDr with handwritten titles and presented in a plastic sleeve. Far too many bands I see live I ask if they have anything physical to give me and usually about eighty percent say they have nothing. Kudos to the band for putting out a physical release of some sort. Initial listens reveal capable guitar playing, especially with the leads on any of the four tracks which are executed very well. Though the drums are programmed, they are programmed competently and sound like a real drummer in the patterns. I notice in spots that the programming tries to be quite true to a real drummer. Vocals are typical and generic and are probably the weakest part of Shadows..., at least on this release but that could be due to the biggest problem here.

The mix on the tracks is not consistent. The levels on opening track, and title track, "Fanatical (Ready To Die)" are way louder than the output on other tracks. The difference is apparent as soon as second track The Great Apocalyptic Storm begins at a significantly lower volume . The consistency in this regard sounds haphazard. Other noticeable problems appear on this track such the hotness of the rhythm guitars during the solo which leads to audible clipping and the vocal panning which was most likely overlooked. On both the opening title track and the punctual second track, the vocals are set entirely to the right speaker. This is thankfully correctly in third track, "Lamb Betroth To The Harlot," though the overall volume here is lower yet again compared to the second track and at the 3:56 mark is a bad edit and the song has a full four seconds of silence at the end which hurts the energy built up by that song going into final track, "The Abyss Open Wide." and the third track - the longest at six minutes - may actually be lower yet! In the future, Shadows needs to correct these things to reach their full potential. Vocals panned to one side renders the focus on them negligible and secondary.

The songs themselves though are not bad. Opener, "Fanatical...," does hint at some more modern metal influences such as in the palm muted chugging under verses and the solo section. Vocals, though emotionally presented on all of the tracks are monotone though moments of clean vocals and lower, deeper bellows dot the nineteen minute demo. The guitars are natural sounding on the album though they push the peak decibel levels too far in "Fanatical...," and I would much rather have had the same production as on third track, "Lamb Betroth To The Harlot," which is smoother, clearer and sounds less - in a bad way - distorted. This track is also my favorite on this release. It incorporates several different styles of vocals including raspy and snippy black metal vocals, some lower register grunted moments and demonically narrated moments. There are some atmospherics at work on this track too during the bridge to the central instrumental section where keys lay a slight melodic fog. The second half of the song, which follows, contains strong solos and leads and memorable rhythmic variations. "The Abyss Open Wide," once again makes use of the several vocal styles at use on the release and follows in the footsteps of "Lamb...." but an out of place melodic death metal riff and generic solo rhythm prevent the final few minutes of this track from being particularly rewarding.

Perhaps my main point in regards to Shadows In The Crypt is that, just because a band doesn't impress you live, doesn't mean that they won't provide something more interesting in a different format. I'm going to give them another chance live because this isn't a terribly bad demo and, I think, it's better than a lot of other more mediocre releases I've heard from local projects. I don't know how well the band will fare against far superior international acts and I expect that there won't be too much interest in this outside the local scene until Shadows in the Crypt can create something more effective and a little less generic which, based on this demo, I think they have the ability to do. There's a lot of positives here but still some work needed in other places.

12/26/2012 Edit: According to the band this demo was intended to be a way for people to check out the album should they not want to actually purchase merch. There is a professional release of this with lightscribed discs and proper packaging for those that purchase the release. What I reviewed is simply that which was handed to me at a show.

Okketaehm - Stones review #6

Another excellent review for Okketaehm's Stones. This one once again by Goul's Crypt.

"I was on my way out the door one early winter morning in freezing Denmark. I got in the car to go to work on the hitherto coldest and snowiest morning this year, and like so many times before I was going over my CDs to find a couple to bring on the trip. I was going to go with some Entombed and Darkthrone, feeling like listening to some old school stuff, but then I found Okketaehm's promo "Stones" from Contaminated Tones Productions and thought I might aswell give a listen on the way to work. Though the total play-time of Stones is a mere 18 minutes of grey, wintry, space-like ambience and raw black metal the demo never left the car's CD player even though the trip is almost 40 minutes each way.

It was early, the climate was frosty and the road to work was long. Having only ingested some toast and a cup of luke-warm coffee I wasn't much in the mood for anything as I began my journey through the soundscapes of Okketaehm. The music that met me through the speakers was well befitting of the desolate roads. Stones consists of various parts of icy black metal, dark ambience and something that borderlines white noise mixed into one long track of 18 minutes, and all these parts in conjunction with masterful production lead my mind to things like the vast emptiness of space, void-like depression and mist-veiled frostscapes. Characteristics I normally attribue to bands like Darkspace, Ash Borer and Paysage d'Hiver. I admit I at this point wasn't much focused on my driving.

Let's not kid ourselves, ofcourse Okketaehm isn't perfect or innovating, but it sure as hell did make my drive to- and from work a lot more enjoyable. Okketaehm provides incredibly accurate atmospheres, and while you at times wonder wether the music is still on or someone is just vacuumcleaning in a nearby room it simply adds to the enormous impact the half-melodic black metal pieces of Stones presents."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hamnskifte - Födzlepijnan


Working early morning shifts the past few days has been ideal to invest time in Sweden-based Hamnskifte's Födzlepijnan. It's been particularly cold here the past several mornings and so this instrumental album has echoed those chill mornings with it's tranquil pace and crisp production. Of note to me outside the music available is the really excellent artwork of a tribunal in secret courtyards and hidden cloisters. Originally recorded in 2010, the album is a welcome retreat from all the more traditional variants I've been pouring over the past few weeks. All six songs are folky representations of slow moving and subtle arrangements. I would label the arrangements strictly as repetitive but, while often times this is looked at negatively, this is an album which calls for that method of composition, even if it isn't executed perfectly. Thrash shouldn't be repetitive, neither should Death Metal and, in many cases, Black Metal but when we are looking at none of those, and aside from one or two glimmers of distorted guitar, possibly not even really Heavy Metal in any way, it's important to look at what the music wants to be and is intended to stir within the cauldron of the psyche.

The album is primarily structured around melancholic chord progressions, strummed gently and accompanied with folky instruments including organs, bodhran drum, bells and according to the promotional flyer for the release, "self-invented percussion instruments." This works well for Hamnskifte and the pacing on the release, which is slow undoubtedly, is well done. Songs range from four minutes up to a Skepticismic twelve minutes long. The breakup of the tracks is done nicely as well. Both the opening track following the intro and the second track afterwards are shorter songs with the former, "Ther Skall Wara Grat Och Tandagnisslan," droning through a melody that is reminiscent of anything Katatonia has done recently while the second song is more folky with more of an emphasis on guitars and less droning hum. The album starts of nicely with these tracks and after the immediate thirteen minutes of slow patient music, a kick me up is needed.

"Foglarna Warda Fanga Medh Snaror," the third track and second longest on Födzlepijnan, is really the only track where distorted guitars are noticeable and yet, they play little part in pushing this track above the shoulders of the others on the album. The distorted guitars fascinate me for the period they exist on the album. They sound clear and natural though I can hear the guitarist strumming them which makes me believe they were recorded very quietly. It's a strange combination of sounds. On the one hand the guitars sound very natural and on the other hand, there are indications that they've been doctored due to the low recording volume. In "Foglarna..." the guitars disappear after three minutes of repetition in progressions and the last five minutes are purely ambient resonance which provides as much of that well needed kick as half a plate of tasteless food with tap water. I desperately clung to hope for a stronger final two tracks.

"Dageligh Beredelse Emoot Dodenl," and "Uthi Thet Ytterste Morckret" are better than the previous tracks by an amount equal to half of the difference in quality between poor Chinese food and poor Italian food. Dageligh rides too hard on a simple progression interspersed with a bridge riff of no contrast though the repetitive nature of the song highlights what the band should focus on more often: the subtle addition of instruments to the arrangements. While "Dageligh..." is preoccupied with allowing new instruments to attempt to push the song forward, final track "Uthi..." - a twelve minute long monster - is keen to allow the hidden details of the song reveal themselves slowly during it's span. I almost feel as if the main guitar track drops in volume slightly to allow the listener a window into the undulating and swampy sounding background drone of what sounds like a Shruti Box. The drums here are prevalent and it lends the song a very folky and tribal undertone.

Hamnskifte's Födzlepijnanis a slow moving mass for sure with all the songs being slow, patient and soothing. I enjoyed the trance-summoning power of the structure (or non-structure) and for early morning drives in the freezing cold it was a nice break from all the other more generic material that I sift through but in the end, as an album this is most likely very much too repetitive for folk-oriented listeners and not heavy enough for those into Drone and really sub-tempo music. It falls into a place somewhere between - an instrumental album of folky yet slow and droning music that could be happily survived in a video game where your character is walking through a middle eastern marketplace or on a desert highway. In a metalhead's collection this may not fair as well as in the collection of a Brian Eno fan. Ultimately, the tone and vibe is beautiful and relaxing even if the overall songs do have some drawbacks.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gates Of Eternal Torment Review #1

The first review of the Gates of Eternal Torment tape is in! I think it emphasizes what this demo is all about:

From Destructive Music

It’s time for a cold dark slab of Depressive Black Metal from the ever blossoming or should that be deeply withering US Black Metal scene! GATES OF ETERNAL TORMENT are new on the scene and is the one man project and brainchild of Firthornn, and this debut demo release entitled ‘Imprisoned Beneath The Ice Of This Cold Black Void’ has a really old school doom and gloom feel to it, in both it’s bleak artwork and the grim face of it’s lengthy title!

What you get with ‘Imprisoned Beneath The Ice Of This Cold Black Void’ is a classic piece of Black Metal savagery muffled by it’s shoddy production values, so the end result is a distorted cacophony of distressed desperate vocals, catchy blast beats and drumming sequences and a truly bleak perspective on just about everything. Within the four tracks on offer, and the soul crushing lyrical statement that comes with this release is a blistering cry of anguish, reaching outwards seeking solace from the gloom of this world, and on a more musical level exploring the self made cave of sound that is feels the Gates of Eternal Torment is playing from!

Those of you who like streamlined modern sounding Black Metal will hate this. This is a release for the more old school Black Metal fan, those who can dig through the dirt and grime, see past the poor production into the very blackened heart of the music. It’s underground potential is enormous, that’s for certain but generally this is an emotionally crippling bout of Black Metal brutality!

Black Chalice Sold Out

The last copy of Black Chalice's Submission has been purchased. The release is now sold out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Drudkh - Anti-Urban

Circa 2007

Drudkh is undeniably one of the most accomplished and consistent black metal band in the scene today. With five albums already released, Roman Saenko has clearly proven his ability to craft truly emotional black metal to a degree unmatched save for few current bands. This 10" EP proves his ability even further. Roman has written two songs for a medium which doesn't normally suit the epic scope of past Drudkh masterpieces such as "False Dawn" or "When The Flame Turns To Ashes." Even though the songs are limited in time, somehow they elude this seemingly inescapable restriction. "Fallen Into Oblivion" seems to last for hours, a constant wavering spiral into depressive depths.

The production is as crisp as one could expect from Roman; all his work is accompanied by an incredibly deep and dense tone. The guitars are unconquerable, standing tall and thick, like a bastion of immense size that would make the ancients in Jericho envious. Layer upon layer of subtle details are built up to give the music an absolutely magical quality. The drums are also well produced and crisp and offer little to complain about.

For some the repetitive nature of Drudkh's music may be a distinct low point. In the case of repetition, on this EP, the characteristic repetition is heightened to substantial levels. "Fallen Into Oblivion" is nothing but repetitive yet never loses momentum. What could be a major turn off to many instead works; the song never releases its hold. Once within the song, one truly feels as if falling forever, never grasping, nor expecting an end to the fall. "Ashes" also exists by this repetitive formula yet with vocals and a more nuanced and toyed with melody, is more involved. Very subdued vocals are added to tease the listener into focusing not ON the music but INTO the music.

Lastly, the packaging is beautiful and depicts the remnants of the Ukranian city Kharkiv during World War 2. Clearly this is centered around Roman's open nationalism and native feelings. The orange record is a nice feature and has, as one person mentioned, "an earthly hue for an earthly album." Ultimately, as a final product this is a beautiful work of art.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Narrow House - A Key to Panngrieb


When it comes to slow, doomy music very few bands outright sound like Skepticism but Narrow House is one band that is obviously influenced and enamored by that full-on wall of synthesized weight expelled at the speed of flowing mud which still manage to take a somewhat left-field inspiration and tweak it to be still unique.  Though slightly more guitar driven than the past several Skepticism releases, A Key To Panngrieb is still a load of mass crawling through the murk towards an unsuspecting child.  Ukraine's Narrow House prove that no one is able to escape the influence which Funeral Doom, Drone and other Doom offshoots have had on the metal sound scape in the past decade. More and more bands are opting for this style and, consequently, more and more bands make it harder to stand out and impress.

Opening track "Poslednee Pristanishe" is a looming figure over a helpless animal. Like the other four tracks on Narrow House's debut, it is slow and persistent. There is no way you could jog to any of these tracks - unless you have incredibly long strides - even if the length of them would be perfect for a long period away from civilization. It's in "Poldsednee..." which we are introduced to the patience of the band. The album opens with a long three minute introductory segment and then climbs through an undulating series of melodies. The rhythms remain very singular and simple across the whole album but that doesn't prevent other tracks from not standing out or being tedious. "Psevdoratunok" contains some dynamic volume shifts coupled with prominent drumming and vocals over a slick flowing guitar that still is texturally frictional while in "Steklianniu Bog," the third track, cello is prominent in summoning howling vistas and atmospherics and is accompanied with an excellent final four minutes of sound scape imagery and piano layers.

One of the definitive aspects of the band that really intrigues me is the arrangement of the tracks. In many ways it is very traditional in it's structure in terms of Funeral Doom and in other ways the band have tried some different things. The guitar playing of Oleg Merethir is mixed below Petro Arhe's drums and Atya's Keyboards. They itch often and you never forget they are there under what is really the music's more prominent instruments. Vocals are most prominent, as is expected but the bass is also very audible and where you really encounter the twist is with cellist Alexander. With the addition of another low-register string instrument the arrangement of the other instruments becomes important. A bowed cello would be masked by loudly mixed guitars and is emphasized here because there is room between the instruments to place another component. When you hear the cello play many of the melodic parts of the music such as in  "Steklianniy Bog," there is a ghostly hum emanating from beneath the common instruments. It's a different look and they score here because of it. In many places I am listening solely to hear what the cello is doing or will do.

Narrow House do a great job at building up to great moments in the compositions and the thirteen minute long Steklianniy Bog is, once again, a highlight in this regard where nine minutes after the initial dirge chimes, bellowing and windy scenes are coaxed from layers of keyboards and cello to, at least for me, send shivers down the spine. This strong standard of songwriting is also evidenced in second track, "Psevdoriatunok," with it's sense of vacancy in comparison to the rest of the album. It clears a hurdle that most albums never do in this style - remaining interesting past the first track. While the cello certainly helps, the six minute track breaks up an album which has already been running for over fourteen minutes and allows the listener to 'reboot' for the following two tracks.

The final track is a cover of Esoteric's "Beneath This Face," which is well done but at the same time emphasizes the deficiencies of what Narrow House have done on other parts of the album such as the lack of faster parts and more typical riff based moments to create intensity. Even so, they do a great job with this track and without knowing that this was a cover, the song ends the album on a massive high note. It being a cover though is a bit of a let-down though as I would much rather have heard another of their own original songs round out the final parts of the album. To end the album with a cover like this seems like it's a cop out. They picked an awesome track to end the release but it wasn't their own track.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Beyond - Enter Transcendence

Though Enter Transcendence is a measly seven minutes in rotational length, the two tracks here exemplify what Beyond did on their awesome first demo, "Relentless Abomination Vortex," and profit with some stronger recording and production standards to really release a truly punishing sampling of old school occult Death Metal influenced by a mix of bands such as Incantation and Grave. Beyond continues to do everything right, even on this 7" from the artwork to the dying moments of the music. Once again Beyond capitalize on excellent artwork, this time courtesy of Arnus Profanus, depicting the removal of a decomposing man's soul at the hands of a cabal of cloaked figures. The inside of the gate fold provides lyrics and a collage of live shots which, though invoke memories of older cut and paste collages isn't quite as nasty. There is a wonderful "thank you" list as well while the back is simple with the band's logo and the track-listing. Iron Bonehead have done a great job with their production of the release and the effort there is echoed in the music as well.

"Hidden Temple Of Obscurity" is immediate and urgent, an ascending chromatic riff launches the song off into chaotic syncopation. The guitars are the main focus on Enter Transcendence. They are mixed as loud as the vocals and this pushes the drums back further than would be ideal but you can still engage each instrument. Like on their demo, the bass is distinguishable and fills in the bottom end perfectly. Vocally, the performance is excellent even if the lyrical content is mundane. "Hidden Temple..." summons forth the images of a demonic ceremony while "Treacherous Revelation," engages in a less common subject for death metal - secret places in the desert which house "experiments on lifeforms from beyond this world." For me, "Treacherous Revelation" is the better song here. It's more driven and at times sounds warlike. After a good two full minutes of blasting, Beyond devolve into a riff that should have appeared on Left Hand Path or Into The Grave but never did.

What Beyond have done here is build on the strengths of the demo and improved where they needed to improve. The songwriting here is far better. Both songs are enjoyable and vicious. There are no awkward transitions in either of the songs and they flow nicely. The longer tracks on "Relentless Abomination..." dragged slightly but on Enter Transcendence there is no dragging unless it's dead bodies from classified government and military installations in the Nevada desert. For death metal fans, I don't see how this wouldn't be enjoyable. The only drawback here is the lack of another fifteen or twenty minutes of in your face madness. This is like sipping on fine wine at a tasting but leaving the vineyard without a bottle to enjoy later on. Let's hope these guys get a full length out soon.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Necrosadist - Abstract Satan

Though I enjoyed Necrosadist's previous EP, The Alpha Nihil, I have to be fair and say that I was somewhat unsure whether Menthor and Dictator would be able to craft an album full of material that was at once interesting and never tedious - both characteristics which reared their head on the EP. I headed into this hoping that Necrosadist would hone their songs to better combine the traditional black metal riffing with the textural experimentation in a more consistent and fluid combination. Once again Daemon Worship Productions is behind this release and predictably the release is branded to appeal to the underground fan... Another black metal release, more sleek packaging and the standard parameters have been fulfilled.

So is "Abstract Satan," interesting and nonconforming to stereotypes? A two minute introduction leads to the title track which is, unfortunately not that interesting and the first hint we hear of some of that textural exploration of the EP is in third track "Rising From The Earth," which decides to phase in and out like a dusty record about four minutes through the six minute track. It is like a woman with a baggy sweater smiling at you. Maybe there is something nice underneath later on in the evening... I predicted fourth track "Golems of Flesh" would be a more typical black metal track - it pretty much is. It's one of the shortest tracks on the album at a meager four minutes and even manages to squeeze in thirty seconds of blast-beat potshots.

The album has some stronger tracks though like "Obsidian Sphere," which musically is atypical for black metal but not for Dictator since at times it hearkens back to some of the material he did with his eponymous project. It lashes out and phases away into some Mediterranean / Egyptian melody three-quarters through and though this particular theme is not reminiscent, the reversion to melody is something which Dictator did on Dysangelist. Even amidst four ten minute tracks, there was a heavy emphasis on the melodies and phrasings. We see that at times in this track as well as in "From The Virulent Entrails of the Virus Christ," which not only has one of those drawn out 'Yeaaahhhhh' head bobs that accompanies all novel song titles, but it may be the most memorable track on the album. From the moments when the bass shines through the murk to the Trey Azagthoth solo that sounds like dolphins communicating with their dead ancestors to the weird fabrics stitched together for the second half of the song, it is more of what I was hoping from Necrosadist on this release than the previous tracks

The overall tone of the album is quite strong for a "raw" black metal band. It's not really that harsh. The guitars are smoothed out like some watered down plaster of Paris. It sounds more like an early 90's death metal album than a black metal album. If it weren't for the vocals and the myriad dying banshee noises, porpoise mating calls and reptilian squish-squashing the album could sound like Incantation being played by those species. But in the end, when I consider the whole album, I can't help but feel that the whole thing is quite average in the end. There are so many bands doing this; the murky black metal swamped in reverb and blackness with occult imagery and "experimental" leanings. It just so happens that most of these bands do not create a full album worth of interesting and captivating material. Plenty of worthy parts, sure, but nothing complete. There are plenty out there that will love this but for me, it's been there done before and it doesn't hold up to other projects in the same garage.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Psychobliss - Dreams of Dystopia


Originally while looking for things to review, I came across Psychobliss' posting requests online for reviews so I mozied on over to their bandcamp page. I decided not to review the project on my own. I figured I wouldn't have many nice things to say about a project that has a name worthy of a forgotten mid 90's local project whose CD resided for many years in a used record store bin. Two days later, I get an email from Dan Stollings - who is credited with all the instrumentals - asking to review their album. Oh well... I had hoped for something resembling Virgin Black and got something sounding as if it was created solely to fulfill a girlfriend's whim. I'm not saying that both Dan and Kyla Pavelski aren't together on this project. I'm just saying like a lot of the music sounds like the dumped aside 'riffs' and melodies of something else. The whole thing needs some work really - both the mix, songwriting and the appearance.

I'll tackle the mix first since so many of the issues on the album could be fixed with equalization and a different focus. The largest drawback here is that all of Dreams of Dystopia sounds extremely light. The loudest instrument other than Kyla's vocals is clean guitar. The distorted guitar is so set in the background of the music that it's even difficult for me to really consider the album having much in common with other heavy metal or even avant-garde albums that have similar styling. A perfect example would be opening track, "The Coldest Years." Even at the end of the track where Dan employs a lead guitar, opted for is a clean guitar with some echo and reverb instead of a distorted guitar which would have added some strength to the album. Throughout the track the buzzing guitar sounds like static in the background, hidden behind misty clean guitars. Even when the distorted guitar is highlighted, it is particularly subdued and used the way in which a DJ would use scratching between two measures of repetition. Across the album this is basically mimicked across the entire five tracks. I don't understand why the guitars would be mixed so low... Louder crunchier guitars would have made this release sound much more confident. Programmed drums do nothing to make the release feel more natural and less forced.

Though I don't have too many qualms with the songwriting there are a few points to be made. The combination of the vocals and the melodies are so tightly linked that there is a serious predictability factor here. I know where the phrases are going before they get there. It's the difference between riding a train across untraveled wilderness and commuting to work every morning. It's watching a bad movie multiple times because someone else likes it. This creates a very syncopated album which works in opposition to the fluidity which works in Psychobliss' favor. The strongest possibility for Psychobliss exists in this fluidity and ephemeral vibe. On a better note, there are some well placed melodies and harmonies on the album such as in Drifting Away which, for me, is the best song on the EP. It's not saying much though as the others such as "Finally Dead" and the lamentable "Don't Leave" are wretched in almost every way.

The biggest thing holding Psychobliss back is the irony of what they believe their music to be and what it really is. "Psychobliss, a new revelation of Dark metal, hails from the desert capitol of Phoenix, Arizona." There really isn't anything new about what Psychobliss are doing. Female vocals over semi-melodic music with distorted guitars - barely there distorted guitars. Lyrically, this could be pretty much anything. What it definitely isn't is what Psychobliss state they want it to be or intend it to be. On "Finally Dead," Psychobliss state "This is a depressive black metal song..." and while the lyrics are barely passable as Depressive in any sense, the music is in no way Depressive Black Metal in the sense that most people understand it to be what with the metal-core breakdown mid-song. In fact the most DSBM attribute about this particular song is that Kyla uses some screamed vocals in the track. Psychobliss' sound more like recent Katatonia with thin and whiny female vocals than the genre they claim to be.

Psychobliss can do a few things to change for the better. The biggest thing they need to change though would be their mixing. I understand the desire to have a different sound then others but I feel that they would have that uniqueness even if they just made the overall sound heavier and more guitar driven. Or, they could have more chance dumping the distortion altogether. Also, perhaps the band simply doesn't know how to describe themselves. They aren't really a dark band so labeling themselves as Dark Metal doesn't work and claiming that their songs are depressive black metal is about as out of the loop as calling Metallica avante-garde. This is a case where it would almost be better for the band to not label themselves as anything and let people just listen and judge. Also, I know this may sound harsh but the lyrics and presentation of the vocals really needs some work as well. Amateurish would be a valid critique here. Dan Stollings probably shouldn't sing or should take vocal lessons if he wants to do anything other than the whispered vocals. His voice sounds small and self-conscious, thin and nasally. Kyla needs less work but she needs to find a way to project more power and strength. Her vocals are also often times thin and weak.

- Orion

A tale of two high school lovers with a goth rock project, never having created music before, but having heard some of it, so they're sure they know what they're doing. It's a lot like someone who has seen someone drive a car and thinks they could do it, or a person who watched a documentary on scheming roulette and thinks they too could pull it off. Back down to Earth, this sounds like the equivalent of someone who spent an hour watching a documentary and thought they could pull it off, presenting their first attempt without refinement or even preferable equipment.

I have never heard anything this lackluster. I suppose the intent could be that the droning, emotionless nature of this music is the point of "depressive" music, but it doesn't explain the disjointed songwriting and brutally boring performances. One moment it sounds like a garage band covering Madder Mortem's softer moments, the next the drum machine plays a blast beat and the music turns as black as a sheet of paper in dim candlelight. It takes until halfway through the second track to understand that this isn't going anywhere and this music has nothing to offer but a shadow of mediocrity, a term that makes as little sense as this album.

The emotion that these five songs conjure best is sympathy. These sullen lovebirds croon their hearts out and sound pathetic. I do have a measurable amount of pity hearing the forlorn songs, thinking it couldn't get any more boring, then hearing their attempts at black metal vocals while MIDI drums click and I suspect there is a guitar somewhere in the mix, but not where I can hear it. Sympathy might be had for that if this was produced using Cakewalk in 1997, but in the final days of 2012, I connect with this music as little as I would have ten years ago as a high schooler. Knowing that the creators of this music were born in the 1980s, I hope they're either inexperienced enough to learn from their mistakes, or they're already fast-tracked on the way to giving up. This is even more pathetic than the "douchebag playing guitar" (singer-songwriter) genre spearheaded by John Mayer and Plain White Tees.

Do they really want to share this with the world? It might be cute (not a good adjective for "black metal") if they kept it to themselves, but it's almost as embarrassing as the black metal Nazi fashion show exhibited by certain "private" releases. It's as bad as the band's name, though it could be worse if they were juggalos, which the name might also fit. "It could be worse" also takes away the only achievement left to credit the release with - I've heard worse, so this isn't the bottom of the barrel, it's just pathetic. There's no sense of musicality, no memorable songwriting, and not a single part that I could identify as being redeemable. Rather than a train wreck, they're sitting in the assembly yard, enthralled with putting the screw and nut together, blissfully unaware that they're supposed to hold other parts together.

 - Steve

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Forefather - Ours Is The Kingdom

 Circa 2006

When I first started writing this review I found that I had a hard time thinking of something to say. Whether that's because I'm running out of ideas, I'm not sure however is it possible that it also says something about this album? Is it possible that Forefather's Ours Is The Kingdom just lacks something to talk about? Personally, I don't think that it does. Wudagast and the album's title track are awesome songs. The great melodies in songs like The Golden Dragon make this such an awesome sing along album. I guess that I am just running out of things to talk about.

The production on this album is pretty good. Athelstan and Wulfstan's guitar playing is really good. The tone is a bit trebly, however not the kind of trebly that gives you an earache or anything. It doesn't sound like a TV on that one channel that doesn't come through. Its more like the sound of over used amplifiers and home built distortion pedals. The bass would usually be a bit clangy for my taste however on this particular album, it works well. The drums are something that I'm unsure of. Either they are programmed or the drummer is like a fucking metronome. Vocals are pretty good, the clean and harmonized vocals are fantastic the other vocals - being along the lines of a black metal sort yet not quite as harsh - are done well but detract in some places. The overall recording is also very well done and professional.

The song writing is awesome. These are songs that you can listen to over and over and enjoy them every time. Especially closer Wudagast and fourth track The Golden Dragon. They are all strong compositions with varied melodies. Some riffs are pure classic. The harmonized riff at the end of Smashed By Fate is a call to be heard by all warriors. The instrumental The Sea Kings is... interesting yet brings forth memories of voyages across dark fjords and battles with pirates and the Kraken and cuts the album in half as the center track.

Overall, a strong album with a lot of great stuff and not a whole lot of filler. Album highlights are definitely Wudagast, To The Mountains They Fled (a relentless headbanging number to be proud of with one of the best instrumental sections I've ever heard), and title track, Ours Is The Kingdom. Whether or not this band is already at their prime only time can tell however firing up or burning up, this album is a solid slab of metal that can be enjoyed by just about anyone who is into heavy metal.