Thursday, June 30, 2016

Quinta Essentia : "Initiates Of The Great Work"




At first the dark thrash of this Alabama band holds some impressive menace , this is a little deceptive in regards to what they sound like for the duration of the album. It is clear that they have an ear for melody, even amid the razor attack of guitar. The songs often throb like some of Slayer's more introspective moments. The vocals have more of a death metal snarl to them. If you really want to dissect these guys you could even call them blackened death metal. You can tell not only do they put a lot of thought into the guitar solos, but it's obviously the part of the song they are looking forward to the most.  Death metal proves to be one of the colors they paint the songs in on "the Stone as a Key" which also features a burst of clean vocals that are well sung. They are belted out in a power metal like baritone. Clean vocals are more dominant on "Flight Without Form". The guitar playing continues to dazzle it seem like each song is loaded down with more solos than the song before.But if you took the riff rule we have here..."cool riffs alone, do not make a good song" and multiplied it by five them you would know how much I value guitar solos. I want to know you are able to pull out the chops, but if that is all you have then it is just wanking.

Here the line between wanking and being a serious metal band finds it self at a cross roads that leaves it's fate in the hands of "Master of Masters". It proves to be rather shadowy melodic death metal. Nothing special, but well executed."Aside from the more snarled vocals "Mystical Union" falls in line with a more conventional approach to metal. "Lunar Power" is the best song on the album thus far , even though it abandons the growling for a more power metal like sung vocal. Things slow down and get darker.The guitar solos fall over a section that is a little Iron Maiden like. This is followed by an instrumental that is just an excuse to showcase guitar solos, and doesn't come across as heavy at all, but rather masturbatory. The title track follows a more Opeth like formula, leading off with a more death metal gallop and falling into a melodic sung chorus. While the guitarists can let loose when it gets time to follow, they take much fewer risks when it comes to employing any kind of off time riffing. They lyrics are spit out a little awkwardly. "the Elixir of Liberation" is more of a standard death metal fare. At four minutes there is not a lot of ground to be covered when they bathe the middle of the song in a guitar solo. Not one but two guitar solos take up almost half of the song. I'll round this album down to an 8 since the emphasis is so clearly guitar solos. They pay homage to classic metal so fans of darker thrash from the 80s while find plenty to head bang to on this one. One of those times when it I was going to need something like this in my iPod I would go download Dark Angel, which sounds like a good idea right about now. Deathgasm is releasing this July 29th.

6.7

(-16-) : "Lifespan of a Moth"




The 7th album from this band who has been slugging it out since the 90s. On the second song things pick up from the weighty lumber they hit you with on the first song. While the vocals still have a distorted filter on them, there are different effects as well to give them a slightly wider range of their roar that varies in the level of anger they channel.They hit even harder on "the Morphinist". Not sure the vocals are really all that interesting on this song, but mood is rather uniform at this point in the album and solidifies their bull dozer sound. The more thrash gallop to "the Absolute Center of a Pitch Black Heart" is pretty effective and what the album needed to retain it's momentum.The vocals are kind of an after thought at times. The distortion on them is similar to that of the first song. The drumming is very solid and the cymbal work reminds me of Slayer in places.

"Gallow Humor" drags along, it's ominous , but collides against the rule here that cool riffs alone do not make a good song. It hangs on what is a powerful riff for five minutes and the subtle shifts are not enough to really carry it. "Secrets of the Curmudgeon" rumbles on building off of sounds we have already heard and presenting them in a more compact manner, the bass player proves himself on this song. The album's best song is the more dynamic "Pastor in A Coma" that finds a more melodic riff creep in to give them a much needed shift. They are back to the more pummeling attack this album is rooted in on "George". I was not really sure what to expect going into this. These guys are the finely tuned machine they should be after playing for this long, I guess I expected a little more experimentation and melodic depth, but this album is really solid for what it is I'll give it an 8.5. It comes out on Relapse Records July 15th.



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Violent Femmes : " We Can Do Anything"






The Violent Femmes at one point and time were one of my favorite non- metal bands. "New Times" is the last album I checked out by the Violent Femmes. They have lost their drummer and now on this album have the drummer from the Dresdan Dolls on this album, though he is now out of the band and one of the dudes from Horns of Dilemma are playing the drums. The opening song finds Gordan Gano and Brian Ritchie doing their thing, it's just a much less inspired version of what their thing used to be. The rambling folk side has taken over here. "I Could Do Anything" has more of a country skip to it, but it is a far cry from "Country Death Song". They lyrics about fighting dragons are rather silly. This is way to happy and lacks the cynical lash that their lyrics use to have to offset some of the strummed cheer. Not sure why everything on this album is a sing a long. My wife just asked if this was System of A Down, so clearly it doesn't sound like their classic days and the zaniness is out of hand.

"Issues" makes more of an attempt to recapture who they once were. There are hint that they once had a more punk side on "Holy Ghost".  They slowly warm back up into themselves. Gano was never the best singer, but put a ton of emotion and heart into what he sang and at least we get a fraction of that here. Things continue to improve with the more ballad like "What You Really Mean". It doesn't seem like they are trying so hard and it is just coming naturally. The folk country of "Foothills" finds the shoe almost fitting, but being forced on as they once again try to hard. The same could be said perhaps to a lesser degree on " Travel Solves Everything" . They sound like the same band, but is their heart really in it? "Big Car" comes even closer to taking you back to the late 80s, but falls short of bar they have already set for themselves.

The country jangle is a little more thoughtful on "Untrue Love", though the chorus has too many layers of vocals and arranged as neatly as they once were. The close with the upbeat "I'm Not Done" that couples Bob Dylan rambling with gospel, which Dylan himself has done before, but at least this feels a little more honest. I'll give this album a 7.5, so it's a far shot from "Hallowed Ground" or "Blind Leading the Naked".


Monday, June 27, 2016

Phazm :"Scornful of Icons"





This is fairly straight forward death metal with a tinge of darkness to it. There are hints of a Watain influence here, along with stuff going back all the way to Slayer and Mayhem. The double bass propels these guys at the speed of more conventional metal, which is a mix of varied styles, as I think we have past the era of metal that in some way will not have the influence of black metal upon it. To this band's credit to come from France there is way more of a Swedish feel to what they do than the typical Deathspell Omega shadow that seems to be cast out over bands coming from France these days. Which is a shame because at one time, not so long ago France had some of the best metal coming out. The second song is under the four minute mark so they prove they are not bound to long winding epics. This song also has more of a thrashy feel to it. The thrash continues but with a much thicker groove on "the Soothsayer". By the end of the song Behemoth is coming to mind. Things accelerate to a more raging pace and the production of the vocals seems to have changed a little by the time we get to "the Godless Pope".


"Howling For You" brings out a much bigger riff and finds the band almost in a more Judas Priest like place. While it might not be as consumed with rage is its a more thoughtfully written song that resists the urge to blast off until the final minute and then returns to the more accessible metal riff. There is a more dramatic pound to "Conquerors March". It doesn't maintain a march for very long and reverts to a blur of speed for the verses and only becoming deliberate for the chorus to create a more black metal dynamic. The title track is more powerful it also finds them falling back into a more Behemoth like place. Female vocals chime in to create a more melodic build toward the end of the song. The keep up the energy level, but the last song is just a little bland to me. I'll give this album a 7.5. I rounded it down as their was nothing about it that really wowed me as to who they are as musicians. I do think they are good at what they do and have potential so would be up for checking out where they go from here.

 




Sunday, June 26, 2016

Virus : "Momento Collider"



The weirdest prog gallop of the year award could very well go to the opening song on this band from Norway's new album. The vocals are a little stiff coming across as a more of a declaration. The bass player is really getting it as he weaves his way around the pocket and guitar tone is much different than anything else in prog metal. The vocals are really the only thing that aren't connecting with me. Things continue to weave down a weird path on "Rogue Fossil". Here the spoken vocals are a little lower and have an almost post-punk feel. Less metal influence surfaces on this song and it sounds like a more jammy version of Television. It doesn't start gaining any rock traction until midway through.For what they do these guys place an emphasis on being concise even among the jammy with most of the songs staying in the seven minute range.

There is a more stacatto drive to "Dripping into Orbit" . This creates a King Crimson like tension, before they go wandering out into jam land. "Steamer" just kind of wanders out of the previous song ,which had locked onto a jamming groove and refused to let go. I'm not sure how that is progressing, but whatever.  Two and a half minutes the math morphs into something with a little more drive to it, while still dazzling you with the subtle acrobatics. The guitar playing is effective yet understated and serving the bigger picture. The drummer and bass player are the real stars on this album. By the time we get to "Gravity Seeker" I have resigned myself to the fact that these vocals are not getting any better. There is more of a rock punch to the song, but I would not refer to it as been heavy. They actually bust out an impressive guitar solo on this one.


The tempo picks up on "Phantom Oil Slick"  at nine minutes it's one of the album's more sprawling songs. It doesn't get interesting until the darker more mellow break down and then they actually progress from there. Even though the vocals annoy me, these guys create some very interesting sounds so I'll round this album up to an 8, it's prog rock that doesn't make you feel like a dork.
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Kayo Dot : "Plastic House On Base of Sky"





You can fool some of the people some of the time. It never fails to surprise how many members of the music press have very limited knowledge of music. When you hear an album that i totally derivative of another band and you not able to put your finger on it when it is glaringly apparent then there is a problem.The culprit here is Metal Sucks. For these guys to not recognize how the new Kayo Dot is pretty much a tribute to early Roxy Music is ridiculous. These purveyors of click bait are more concerned with being trolls and social justice warriors, than to recognize the obvious. Kayo Dot does try to obscure this fact by creating chaotic Brian Eno like waves of synths. But Eno played with Roxy Music so we are in the same ball park, the first song that has an originality to it is "Magnetism". It takes some 80s synth sounds and makes a more aggressive form of kraut rock.

Their singer still tries to imitate Bryan Ferry. The guitar tone on this album isn't bad it just sits a little too far back in the mix. They continue to coast along with disjointed atmosphere keeping these songs from congealing and varied synth pulses just swirling around without making contact. It begins to try to rock a little by the end of the song, but gets bogged down in the synths. The albums goes back to wanting to pay homage to Roxy Music on  "Brittle Urchin", which closes out the album. This band is known for being experimental and has changed with every album. This is a turn for the worse here. The song writing and heaviness are gone. They don't have to have the metal elements to be a good band, there previous album was dark. This is just a scrambled mess that never really goes any where. I'll give it a 5. I like Roxy Music , but I'll just go listen to them when I am in the mood. This was just released on the Flenser.


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Profantica : " The Curling Flame of Blasphemy "








Blackened Death metal is a cross of genre that gets through around for a variety of reason, more of than not it's a little dissonance here , some blast beats there few bands really get the balance right. This is pretty charred by the filthy flames of hell. The brand of death metal they tried darkening down was pretty filthy to begin with. Song writing isn't the forte hear, but I am cutting them some slack because of the mood they are managing to create. The bass sound almost overpowers the guitar. The drums are very big and this album is produced in a way that creates a cavernous sound without having to drown every thing in re-verb. The gurgles and gasped snarls that compromise the vocals generally come across as something for an atmospheric effect rather than being something that is a centerpiece to the song with a story to tell or emotion to recall. It's tormented gasping all the time. The first thing that really sounds like a song is "Host Over Cup".

Some of the charm from their sound begins to wear a little thin by the time we get to the more straight ahead pounding of "Rotten Scriptures". The dish out even more of a pounding  on "Yahweh Rejected" but they are also becoming boring and beginning to lose me. These songs are all around the three minute mark so they are not hard to endure. Their bass player is pretty beastly, which is not something you normally hear from this type of music. His thump adds a great deal of weight to what they do. These songs begin to become what you hear is what you get with little to no surprise. They get much rougher on the 35 second 'Vile Blessing" which is more of a lead in to"Curling Flame", They go full blast ahead here.

I'll give this album a 7, their bag of tricks quickly shows itself to rather limited and pass the half way point the moments that really engaged me become far and few between.If dense and brutal are more your thing  this does create a pretty fiendish mood. Hell's Headbangers releases this July 22nd.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Cure at Lake Wood 6/24/16



Last Night it was my wife's first time seeing the Cure and my 5th. They played a shed called Lakewood Ampitheater in Atlanta. Remind me to never go see an out side concert in Atlanta again during July or August. Since the Cure is one of my favorite bands,  when I say favorite bands I don't mean some one I'm really into at the moment, I mean I have been listening to them for 26 years, so we have a life time relationship, built on their music providing a sound track to my life. So it takes some one of their magnitude to drag me out to one of these things. I'm not a fan of big shows, used to enjoy them more, but my growing disdain for other humans is brought out when attending one almost to the point of being a distraction. We got to the venue shortly after doors were opened. Were sitting in reserved seats on the floor, where we waited for the Twilight Sad. I reviewed their album yesterday, if you want to known more about this Scottish band you can read about them
here...http://abysmalhymns.blogspot.com/2016/06/the-ghosts-of-2014-twilight-sads-nobody.html

I'll say this about them...the singers voice was strong, he was very energetic and into it, though my wife said he couldn't be any gayer, I think they began to win the crowd over by the time they left the stage, so good job guys, you are solid in my book. So we ran into the one friend I saw the whole night at the bathrooms. I saw Facebook posts, about people going to the show and afterwards, but saw no one else there I knew. Which is weird for me.  So the Cure went on by 8: 10 so it was light outside for the first hour of their set. The wandered on stage, Robert Smith came to the edge of the stage and stared. Aside from Smith the band was Gallop on bass, Jason Cooper on Drums , Roger O'Donnell from the Psychedlic Furs and Reeves Gabrels from David Bowie's band on lead guitar, who I did not recognize, He looked more like a bearded Bernie Sanders, so I assumed it was Porl Thompson.  I have seen Gabrels several times with Bowie, so it really surprised me when I found this out after the fact. They opened with "Plain Song" which seemed off energetically. Gallop was playing notes that sounded like they should have been played on guitar so I am not sure what was backing tracks or not.



Things started to improve with each song Reeves didn't really seem to be into on "Pictures of You" and only appeared to be doing a bare minimum. Granted many of his parts were textural, when he ripped into a solo I was surprised as I thought "Wow, I never knew Porl could shred like that". Of course it makes sense now. Cooper's drumming began to impress me once they got to "Closedown". He has been with them ever since  "Wild Mood Swings" so he has been on the kit every time I have seen the band, so aside from not being high and just mesmerized by Robert Smith, I suppose I was able to take the entire band in more objectivly. It did take use at least getting the song "High" for things to begin soaring to life. Here I noticed Smith was singing some of the songs in a lower key, as I couldn't sing along with them like I was singing along to the album. I've seen them play " A Night Like This Before'", but it's a great song, one of their more up beat songs that doesn't get under my skin.  "Push" moved their performance up another notch and is where connection wise with the crowd things took a turn. At this point Robert had also commented how it was fucking hot, so for the rest of the show in an almost Spinal Tap like manner fans were set up around the drum risers.




It was a older crowd than I expected going into this, they were still fairly engaged when not on their phones for "In-Between Days" .  "Last Dance" had a little more of a rock drive to it, which was fine by me is of the darker side that I prefer when it comes to the Cure. Of the post- 90's Cure songs "the End of the World" was pretty well recieved which was surpringing given the general age of the crowd, who obviously connected the most with songs that came later like "Just Like Heaven". Speaking of the hits "Love Song " was played a little more up tempo than the radio version. The moments I found the most engaging were when they seemed to jam out a little more. "Jupiter Crash"  from "Wild Mood Swings" created a little bit of a lull and  I would have sacraficed to have heard something off of "Pornography", "Want" from the same album proved to be a better choice.  I am unsure if I had ever heard them play "From the Edge of a Deep Green Sea" it's live when I realize how much I really like "Wish".  The musicianship from every member of the band was high lighted on this song.



"The Hungry Ghost" from the " 4 : 13" album is another one that I could have lived without, though the more modern era of the band I could stand to re-visit as there was some good stuff buried in there. The main set ended with "Prayers From Rain " and  "Disintegration" both of which proved to be very powerful songs.  The first encore brought the disco like shimmy of "Shake Dog Shake" which I heaven't heard them play before, but "the Top" is not my favorite album by them as I am not a fan of Andy Anderson's drumming, once again it gave Cooper a chance to put his own touch to the song. "Burn" is one of my favorite Cure songs, while it was good to hear them play it live it didn't have the punch I thought it should, but this was followed by "A Forest" , "Lullaby" and "Fascination Street".  All three sounded great with "Fascination Street" almost bringing out the old goth dances from me. If our row wasn't crammed full with jack assess and I had more room it would have happened, as the heat generally had me miserable, so I focused on the music.


"Wrong Number" is a silly b-side, I had never heard them play. Not their best song by any means. The encores kept coming. The mutant funk of "the Walk" went over well. "Doing the Unstuck" began the procession of their more upbeat pop songs. The big one being "Friday I'm In Love" which in mind is tedious as it's the one song people bring up when it comes to the Cure, so it's like their "Iron man " or "Tom Sawyer" a song that defines them in the minds of some though it is not a clear indication was what they really sounds like. I was ok with "the Perfect Girl" and stayed around for it, though I told my wife if they play  "Love Cats" or "Close to Me" then it's all over and they are not playing anything from "Pornography" so  I would be ready to go. We left midway into "Hot, Hot, Hot" which I took as the signal there was no more of the gothy Cure to come, which was a good call on my part as we heard "Close to Me " on the way to the car and they ended with "Boys Don't Cry". I have no problem with the Cures silly pop song's since the bulk of their work is more melancholy and sonic, I just don't put the bulk of their radio fodder on my iPod. While I was glad we avoided "Love Cat's I wish they would have played at least one song from "Pornography">


Terminal Gods : " Wave / Form"





Well the Love Cats have been out of the bag for some time and post-punk in all it's varied forms doesn't need a revival anymore, it's back , perhaps not as big as it once was but really what genre of music is? This British band takes Sisters of Mercy like grooves but takes the dance out of them and replaces it with  more of a punk drive. Their singer puts a little more into it than the monotone Ian Curtis narration, that my wife used to refer to as "the voice" with a slight disdain. There is more of rock sound to "Changing of the Guitar" which sounds like R.E.M, sampling the riff from "Lucretia, My Reflection" and doing their "Green" era thing over it. "Monolith" has more of a creep to it as their introspection brings a little more shade to their sound.


"Movement" goes into more of a Midnight Oil direction with it's bass driven take on radio rock of a bygone era. They do remember the importance of vocal hooks from the New wave days. The bring in more of dark wave, synth heavy sound on "Connection & Rapture", it reminds me of Vnv Nation's less symphonic and more aggressive moments, though you could insert many bands who use a similar formula into this equation.

They go into a more straight forward punk slanted version of post-punk, with the bass maintaining a dominate role. "Electric Eyes" feels like Billy Idol covering "I'll Stop the World and Melt with You". Though there is more of a hard rock pulse to it."Cold Life" is rather plodding and fails to really engage me.One of the album's best song's is the darker "Hey Day" which takes the glum up to 11. The album as a whole is not an 11, but rather a 7.5 as it hits more than it misses, some of it's more straight forward rock moments could benefit from more atmosphere and the band is at their peak when allowing themselves to give into their dark side.



Friday, June 24, 2016

The Ghosts of ...2014 : Twilight Sad's "Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave"




This band is going to be opening up for the Cure. Thought I would dig back into 2014 and review it ,so you can decide how early you want to get there. It opens with a very Radiohead like piano line in the background of a sullen yet dreamy mid paced indie rock in a similar vein to Glasvegas. My wife though the vocals sounded a little like Morrissey, and I hear the comparison, but Morrissey's passionate indifference influences the style of most indie rock singers. These guys are very dynamic and like their effects pedals. The get a little ore upbeat on the second song. In there more rock moments they sound like Interpol if they didn't worship Joy Division. "I Could Give You All That You Don't Want" picks up at the chorus. These guys are hooky with out being pop, calling them post-punk would imply a tension that is not here. Melancholy indie rock is a more fitting description.

The formula for "It Never Was the Same" is actually the same as the other songs they just tossed in  an effects heavy guitar "solo", by solo we are not talking shredding here. The National comes to mind on this song, but the Euro vibe is pretty dominant. There is a surprisingly cheerful vibe to "Drown So I Can Watch", then it's off into a darker gloom of synth pulsing bass line of "In Nowheres" This is one of the best songs on the album. The vocals sit back further in the effects and every thing has a more shoe gaze like filter over it despite being on of the album's more driving songs. The title track is a more droning and hazy, not their best songwriting thus far. "Pills I Swallow" falls in line with the rest of songs and adheres to their formula., the vocals are most understated in the verses. "Leave the House" is delicate and floating in effects. I think the biggest challenge for these guys live is how the song would translate into a more organic setting live.

The album ends with the ballad"Sometimes I Wish I Could Fall Asleep" which is not the most compelling song on this album and almost makes his wish come true. I'll give this a 9 it could grow on me. You might not be inspired to catch these guys on their own, but it's nothing to suffer through. I will check out what they do in the future and let this sit on my iPod. I like the mood, much less upbeat and dancy than what you think of from the Cure and it never gets dark enough or melodramatic enough to invoke the g word.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Witherscape :"the Northern Sanctuary"





I haven't checked in much on Post - Edge of Sanity  Dan Swano in recent year, despite being a fan of  Edge of Sanity.  So I am going into this hoping that kind of vibe is what this band is about.  The first few songs are along the lines of a heavier Symphony X without all the wanking, The vocal trade off is similar yet Swano can go into actual death metal growl." In the Eyes of Idols" packs much more of a punch. At times  this project might remind you of Opeth, but keep in mind Edge of Sanity came before Opeth so Akerfeldt was influenced by Swano. There is more rock injected into "Rapture Ballet" complete  with  Evergrey like vocal melodies that even hold hints of W.A.S.P in the phrasing. There are some power ballad like moments at are contrasted by death metal sections. After the  which first song it doesn't accelerate into anything monstrous, opting to marry almost  Whitesnake like melodies to  crunching build ups.

For me the more ballads scratch the itch that Iced Earth once hit. Most power metal is too happy for me and never packs the punch I want it too. Here these guys are not heavy like death metal despite   Swano pulling out some powerful growled vocals, At times the music swirls behind him more like the Cure. There is more of a prog metal groove to "Divinity". "God of Ruin" returns  to more melodic territory and hard rock vocal passages. The more impassioned vocals that come at the two minute mark are really strong. Under other circumstances many of the parts to this puzzle would come across as being cheesy if used in a different context.


The title track  that closes the album is 13 minutes long. Four minutes in things get pretty heavy as far as this brand of melodic-death metal goes. They also get pretty proggy too. "Blackwater Park"i a good frame of reference for how heavy things get, before they coast of into the trippy waves of 70s prog synths. If you are like me and don't give a fuck about a new Opeth coming out because those guys have become pussies, then you will appreciate the more metal moments captured with this album. I'll give it a strong 8.5. Century Media will be releasing this July 22nd.



7

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Denner / Shermann : "Masters of Evil"



Here is the full length from the two ex- Mercyful Fate guitarists. Former King Diamond drummer, Snowy Shaw is playing drums on this and I'm a little confused why he didn't at least take care of the vocals in the studio as he is a better singer than this guy from Cage, who coated their first EP in a ton of cheese. Singing lyrics like 'we drink the angels blood" this should sound dark not like frilly pirate shirt wearing power-metal. The bottom line is obviously this guy isn't King Diamond, nor do I expect them to find some one to rival King Diamond, I just want something better than what this guy does. The problem with wasting time to put out mediocre metal is this is prolonging the Mercyful Fate re-union that may or may not come after King releases his next album. They do capture an ounce of the theatrical flare with a shade of darkness on "Son of Satan" , but most of this is lost when they launch back into to the more power metal like gallops. To Sean Peck's credit he hits some very Ripper Owens like notes.

There is a little more thrashing attack to "the Wolf Feeds at Night". Lyrically this is really rough. The riffs on this album are an improvement from the EP. When their singer goes into a more Ozzy like tone, he sounds much better. Once again the guitar solos are the most ripping aspect of their music. Shaw's drumming is good, the mix is a little weird his kick sound could have been given more love. "Pentagram and the Cross" is a less impressive display of their legendary status, as it's like pumped up hard rock. The title track is more metallic. The drumming fills the chorus perfectly and it sounds like the bass player is pretty on point when he emerges from the edge of the mix. Though when everything drops out later on in the album so his tone lays bare, it's kinda shitty, but it might be more of an issue in how it was eq'ed.  I guess this answers the question of what would Candlemass sound like if Ripper Owens started singing for them is answered here. Peck goes after some of the higher notes in his register with a strained grit that reminds me a little more of  Matt Barlow.

There is a darker guitar tone to the opening of "Servants of Dagon". The mood is not maintained for long and begins to fall apart at the chorus. They at least get more aggressive on "Escape From Hell". Lyrically it's another less thoughtful moment as it deals with drag racing against the devil. The main riff reminds me of "Painkiller". The album ends with "the Baroness". Five minutes into this one they try to pull off a melodic section similar to "Melissa" and it goes horribly wrong. This is however better than the ep, but can't come close to even touching King Diamond's least inspired solo work,so I'll give it a 7.5.

Psalm Zero : "Stranger To Violence"




Clean vocals find themselves fighting to be relevant in heavy music today. This project's previous work, certainly took an honest stab at melodic hard rock.Here the vocals are little more dead pan and almost sound like the singer of an indie rock band jamming with A Perfect Circle. The title track that opens the album finds the guitar a little lower in the mix and allow the vocals to dominate the song when they might have been better served sitting back in the mix. On "Pay Tomorrow" the vocals continue to sit awkwardly in the spot light on a mix that almost makes this sound like karaoke. Things get a little heavier on "Real Rain", in someways it sounds like Helmet and Godflesh jamming in a goth bar. But it continues to feel like they have over estimated how interesting the vocals actually are versus, what they think the vocals are capable.

Some of the synths and more melodic guitar parts that flow through the songs  make it seem like a soundtrack to an 80s movie is playing in the background as they were recording. The guitar retains more heft on "Not Guilty". I seem to remember real drums on the previous album versus these programmed drums. If some one tells me these drums are not programmed then I will hope the producer gets eaten by rabid snails. Aside from the rather bland clean vocals, most of the problems with album line in the production. When the album tries to drive forward in a heavier direction the production is letting the gas out of the tank. The problem is if you are combining metal with any kind  of  post-punk, goth or industrial, then I am your fan-base, if something is preventing you from winning me over then you have rather unfortunate situation on your hands, because you are making the kind of music , I not only want to like but try to hunt down everyday.

The song writing on " Stolen By Night" manages to pull it together enough to re-engage me. "White Psyche" might make some questionable choices when it comes to the synth sounds, but over all it a pretty wroth while song with interesting lyrics that don't high light the fact this guy has been singing this way almost the entire album. The acoustic guitar and proggier synths that wander around "Oblivion's Eye' find the continuation of odd choices continuing. The guitar tone improves when the song builds up. I'll have to round this one down to a 7.5, as the lo-fi mix is a distraction for me. I think this project continues to be ambitious and will always check out what they do , I just don't think I'll get much play time out of this one. Profound Lore is releasing this July 15th.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Iskra : "Ruins"





I'm going to try and listen to this objectively , is what I told myself after taking a sip of my coffee and and pressing play on the new album by a band who is often credited with birthing "anarchist" black metal. Anarchism and black metal really don't mix when you think about the fact that Jesus was the first anarchist, so go put that in your pipe and smoke it. But Iskra is not really black metal, they are a hyper-crust punk. Their is some black metal influence, but thrash is just as big of an influence. Lyrically you can't make out a word of what is being screamed so their propaganda falls on deaf ears. The first two songs sound like they are both one song and the third really doesn't have much to set it apart from those two.The snarling continues on "Traume". Lead screamer Danielle, stays in a similar mid range for her ranting.

The guitar gets a little more metal to create an almost Immortal like sound at time and blast beats come and go. But this is more driven by anger than darkness, which is one of the leading reasons these guys are more speed-crust. By the time I get to "Nihil" it's all beginning to run together in it's single minded aggression, until things slow a little for more of a break down to get a little heavier. To me throwing things at you really fast is not heavy it's just fast. So a lot hinges on the moments where they are more intentionally with their riffing. "Illegal" proves this point by being a sloppy blur that has way more in common with punk. "Aegis the Victor" and "Illegal" continue with the monochrome sound that is further exacerbated by the one dimensional vocal style. There are a few commanding chugs here and there, but the rule around here is "cool riffs alone don't make a good song." Good thing most of these are quick and to the point.The more annoying grind core like blasts, don't really feel like they are followed up with enough of a pay off for me and at times this becomes noise.

The breaks on this album are broken as it hurdles off course. The drummer has chops and the rest of the band for better or for worse can keep up with him, but 9 songs it I find this band becomes a test of endurance to see how much of the same thing can I keep having my ears abused with. Regular readers of the blog known I am a huge fan of black metal, so I have no problem with fast, I have a problem with lack of dynamics. Three songs later and it sounds like I am on the same song, sure there are some Slayer like punches here and there that catch my ear, but as a whole pretty bland. I really don't care what kind of message you think you have if you are writing very one dimensional music.I'll give this a 4. Souther Lord is putting this out July 1st.


Monday, June 20, 2016

The Browning : "Isolation"






Though this is the band's third album, it's my first time giving these guys a shot. At first they seem like they are just a metal core band with some industrial strength electronic leanings. This first impression might not be inaccurate, but there seems to be a lot going on under the hood of this mean machine. Heavy like Meshuggah at times, but without the math, I am not sure these guys are more accessible. It's not until the title track that I hear something that doesn't sound like tanks colliding on the dance floor. While the synths provide some atmosphere they still try to bull doze you. It's not until the anime sounding electro of "Dragon" that the synths begin to win their war on the djent like guitar chugs and dominate the song. "Fallout " is the first song to feature sung vocals on it's chorus, which gives this song an edge when it comes to standing over the sonic wasteland of post- apocalyptic chugging they take you to.

Industrial metal is nothing new and many bands were heading in this direction in the 90s the fact these guys are doing it in 2016 like this makes them a bit of an oddity. These guys are dark and angry enough for me, but at times the heavily processed wall of guitar feels like it chugging similar patterns and the songs begin to sound the same to me. Once we are on "Spineless" I really begin having a hard time telling what song this is and what is separating it from the song before it. I like the sounds they are using to make this music there just needs to be more colors to them, The first song that achieves this to some extent is "Hex". These songs are not trying to really create grooves, which is what you would expect from a band that uses such heavy doses of electronica. "Phantom Dancer" might uses the word dance in it's title and lyrics, but that is where it begins and ends. The softer whispered vocal gives it more of a nu-metal feel, which this could appeal to fans of Static -x.

The first ounce of booty shaking is stirred up on "Cyrosleep" which has a rave til dawn synth line. Aside from this is falls in line with the other songs, putting the lashing of power chords high on the list of their priorities. There is is almost a trap-rap feel to one of the synth melodies on "Disconnect". Thank the gods they are not rapping, was my first thought , but I spoke to fast as that comes. The final song is rather nondescript, blending in with the rest of the album and while this album doesn't totally hit the brown tone, it's not breaking any new ground either, making these guys pretty much a one trick pony. I'll give it a 6.5.

Terra Tenebrosa : "the Reverses"



The imagery of this mask wearing trio can be a bit of distraction. These Swedes do have a very dedicated following, but then again so does Insane Clown Posse, so I am giving this album a shot to see what is with the hype.I do like the fact that they are very dense, dark and heavy. The vocals seem to benefit from the moments effects are drenching them. They are a blackened gurgle that reminds me of the demon voice King Diamond does on "Them". There is not much power put behind them.It's not a deal breaker on the first song, but I can see this being a problem if this is all this guy has got. I do like the industrial elements and how big and chaotic things are. I had already hear "the End is Mine to Ride" going into this so there was not much in the way of surprises here. Upon a second listen the vocals are still this song's biggest problem. After a dark noise interlude comes the next proper song "Where Shadows Have Teeth" these guys are like a creepier version of Behemoth covering Skinny Puppy. Unlike Behemoth the pay off never really gives you the releases though reaching the destination of heavy.


"Exuvia" offers a little more of a groove and plenty of weird atmosphere. The bring more metal to the party with "Fire Dances". This is a little more of a payoff, but is rides the line when it comes to obscuring it in almost too many atmospheric noises, to the point of sounding like if Boris re-mixed an Emperor album.It's also hard to tell if they vocals improved on this one or not.Some of the fat could have been trimmed on this one. While I can appreciate not using dynamics in a predictable fashion the lack of developing things like long droned out sections into anything after extended sections of working off the tension, is a waste. I'll round this down to a 7, it's more the internet hype of their fan base, making them the thinking mans Jugglos. 3.9



 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Converge :"You Fail Me" redux




I normally don't do re-mixes are care about re-masters, but after reading an interview with Kurt Ballou, I decided to give this a shot. There is a warmer fullness that is tangible in "Last Light". The vocals sound like they are not as muffled as I remember them being. Aside from having a fuller sound to it's attack "Black Cloud" pretty much sounds the same. So have not fear none of the album's teeth have been pulled. "Dropout" is just as raw and nasty as it was when I first heard it, if anything the drums might have more crispness to them. This also makes more a cleaner explosion on "Hope Street". It might be my ears but the chaos to "Heartless" sounds more controlled. There doesn't sound like the gain is squealing off the edges of the guitar and gives the guitar a sharper punch.

The opening riff to the title track doesn't seem as dense at first, but there are more dynamics that find it filled out as it progresses. It's easy to hear how Converge inspired a generation of angry young bands. The sonic swell to this song has always been a favorite of mine. "In Her Shadow" is Ballou's favorite track from this album, so I am expecting it to be given a lot of love. The clean jangle of guitar strums out a droning pattern.Jacob's voice sounds more centered in the mix and is a decent stab at actually singing. He is more expressive than he is an actual singer. At the end of the day it still feels like more of an interlude than an actual song. "Eagles Become Vultures" is more what you expect from the band. The vocals sound like they are sitting back into the guitars more.The drums do have a little more presence. The heavier punches that it builds into sound about like they always did the bass is just more pumped up.

The new addition "Wolves at My Door" is pretty much worth the price of admission. For Converge it's more mid-tempo. The vocals don't come across like a spastic after thought but seem to have some purpose. "Death King" is more of a spazz out. It's more organic and less raw. Which might sound like an oxymoron, but the guitar is thicker and warmer. I know about this time they got some mean distortion pedal from Japan and it sounds like some of the snarl that it carried has been toned down. "In Her Blood" sounds more focused. The more shouted vocal sits back in the thick of things. I can make out some of Jacob's lyrics better on this mix. The biggest change to this song and the album as a whole is the bass and guitar are no longer competing for the same sonic space. The drum heads sound like they are more tightly tuned and the guitar is eased back to make "Hanging Moon" sounds more like a pumped up Fugazi song. This album was great to begin with , things have just been tightened and placed on more solid footing, as few sounds have been brought out of hiding along the way.



Saturday, June 18, 2016

Forteresse : "'THÈMES POUR LA RÉBELLION"



This Quebec based black metal band, blasts into things with a feral frenzy that is very calculated in it's rage. They have more in common with Agalloch than Darkthrone. It's kind funny as this album is an exploration into their heritage, that if a Scandinavian band did the same thing they would be branded as nsbm or racists for having that kind of pride, but since Canadians are not seen in that light it's just fascinating lyrical content. The lyrics are snarled in such a way that they are largely buried by the wall of guitars that goes speeding by.Truth be tole their attack of their instruments is fairly nondescript. This could be any black metal band that came out in the past five years. There is a fair balance of atmosphere, but nothing that really makes me take note and say o.k this is their signature.

There are some cool sonic moments on the third song, but it hovers in a blast beat blur with the faint clean vocals that fly through the background offering the most color. "Le sang des Heros" finds the band flashing their teeth their most fiercest intensity. It's easy to get caught up in the power the race along with, but if you listen really closely what else is there?  Are the type of person who is impressed by heaviness alone and need little more to sustain your listening interest or do you care about nuance? Oh, but black metal isn't about nuance...you scream. Well the best black metal is. The shock of the second wave is over and done with. There will never be another "Blaze in the Northern Sky" nor does there really need to be. Not that they are trying to recreate what Darkthrone did, but I am not really hearing who they are.If who they are is sounding like everyone else, then how can that be what black metal is about? If I am asking too many questions of metal, then go back to sleep.

While they have speed, they some how manage to keep the songs from sounding too similar though conforming to the norm. So I find myself listening for what is different? What sets these guys apart. I got that they can play a blast beat. Their drummer is good. If he sucked this album would have been doomed. It's not until "Vesperales" that more cascading pattern emerges and lifts this into a more dynamic place sonically.The last song is an extended outro that really could have been cut down to conserve bloat.They guys have excellent energy and execution for that I'll give this album a 7.



Wyrding : "S/t"




The vocals can either be the selling point or the deal break for this band. The crooned from a very low baritone to create a very goth like quality. They are being called funeral doom and I am not sure how fitting that is. It is slow. I do give them credit for some really beautiful movements as they shine a light into the gloom. Not sure why something in the water is not computing all the way with me on this one I think it's because the metal element is toned down and the guitars are not coming out to really give this balls. It took me being midway into the second song to realize what the problem was. The mix is really murky and the drums don't pound the point home like they could. They layered vocals don't work as well as Type- O on "False Concept of Voyage". I do like the fact they don't feel the need to really drag these songs out into long sprawling pieces that lose their purpose. The vocals feel like very depressed psychedelic music on this one.

On the fifth song the guitarist chooses to play a single note guitar solo styled melody, that while elegant does nothing to create then kind of oppressive thump that doom needs. Sure there is plenty of atmosphere, but that alone isn't making this album heavy. I think we have enough melodrama and need more meat on the bones of these songs. If it's slow core dark wave, then that could work, but that is not what this band's intention seems to be. The bellow of the vocals is a little pitchy when the croon comes back in on "Ahold A Wren" , but I do like how he smooths out some of the notes to blend them into the cracks of his voice. The only thing a little off putting are the flat notes leading into some of the phrases. If this is a stylistic choice then it's not a good one. The guitar solos also leave a gap in the low end that the bass alone is not capable of filling.

"Agony in Being" is a two part song. The first song brings in a gurgled guttural growl that oozes in under acoustic guitar. Once again the lack of distorted guitar supporting this with the needed crunch leaves the low growl as the only metal element. I am a little turned off by the fact this is allowed to wallow in the atmosphere and become dynamically flat. The second part of "Agony in Being" is more ghostly and experimental. They allow some of the sonic expanses of synth drone on. So asking yourself how much atmosphere can you take is a fitting question before entering this album. They were off to a good start so it's a little disappointing to hear it fall apart at the end. I'll give it a 6.5 as the first half has some very compelling sections.

Spire : "Entropy"


This black...ish band from Australia brings the ambiance of darkness with a lush sound that surprised the hell out of me, as it lulled me into it's misty water. Like fog it rolls in. By the time we get to the second song there is a very murky chorus of low chanted vocals that capture a Tombs like feel. The kind of darkness being churned out here will appeal to fans of earlier Atriarch. This crawls along a hazy line where doom meets black metal. The vocals are mainly screamed in anguish. The song throbs more than it tries to inspire any head banging. The pace does pick up, but one thing I like about this album is how it doesn't rely on blast beats. The third song is just a long droning interlude. So for the purpose of scoring this review won't be counted as a song.

The go into more traditional black metal on "Void". When it slows into a more deliberate throb with more articulated harsh vocals and a more sung chant, the song regains my attention. It other wises numbed me into a trance becoming background music. They even have a a song that is under three minutes which is unheard of for a black metal band these days. Sure they close with a 14 minute song, but at least I know they are not totally dependent on lulling me into a trance. The title track does take it's time building into the actual song. There is a very despairing drift into the shadowy pound.It's a very gradual burn into this hellish landscape painted in grim sonic textures. .The roars are allowed to echo into the backdrop.It is an impressive and emotive outpouring, but not sculpted into anything really resembling an actual song.

I'll give this album an 8.5. It's the nature of the beast for  what they are doing to focus more on the feeling they are creating rather than pressing these into songs. While the rule around here is "cool riffs alone do not make a good song" these guys are able to side step the conventional bounds of songwriting by pulling you into how these songs feel and it goes beyond riffing into sonic textures that wrap you in. Not sure if that makes sense to you, so give this album a listen at the link below.

This album is being released by Iron Bone Head on August 19th.




Friday, June 17, 2016

The Top 10 Metal albums of 2016...so far


Ok, this one took longer than our pop/rock list. One or two of these bands could have crossed over into that list, but they have enough balls to be here. These are ranked by what I have listened to the most weighed against the impact of the album and how it scored here at the blog. But it could have been a master piece , but if it didn't inspire me to listen to it a ton then an album I listened to more would be better. Keeping up? Then lets move on to the best Metal albums that the year has offered us so far. If you want to hear more there is a link to each full review with media.

10- Metal Church - "XI"

 This one made it over to the iPod and got more listens than Ihsahn whose album certainly should get an honorable mention here. It's perhaps not had the staying power that some of the other albums ranked higher have. They came closer to the top of the heap than many of their peers who have come back this year to make it feel more like 1988 than 2016.

 http://abysmalhymns.blogspot.com/2016/03/metal-church-xi.html



9- Abbath- st

Immortal has been slugging it out longer than Queensryche over who owns the rights to their name leading guitarist and front man Abbath Doom Occulta decided to just release this album under his own name enlisting Creature aka Kevin Foley who is Benighted's drummer to pound along with Gorgoroth bassist King ov Hell. So a Immortal / Gorgoroth super group is what we are looking at here. It is though the material on this album are the songs that were written as the follow up to the 2009 full-length "All Shall Fall". It is currently not in rotation on my iPod, but I will give it another shot as the album captures this kind of aggression well and the time I did spend with it colored my black heart impressed.

 http://abysmalhymns.blogspot.com/2016/01/abbath-st.html

8- Howls of Ebb - "Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows"

 This project out of San Francisco is bringing some of the wonderment back to death metal. Death metal all too often defaults to re-hashing what Incantation and Morbid Angel have already done. Little time is wasted digging into the meat of the metal on this one. The helter skelter sense of groove and trippy atmosphere that make this band so awesome are all intact.Overall this albums brings to life everything I could want from them. More progressive than just death metal loaded up on a ton of drugs. The bass playing is some of death metal's best this side of Cynic, who lets face it are off in the land of elves with Rush at this point in time. The experimentation is tempered with aggression, though it's not just a monochrome brutality. http://abysmalhymns.blogspot.com/2016/03/howls-of-ebb-cursus-impasse-pendlomic.html



7- Eight Bells - "Landless"

 Things have changed for this band since "Captain's Daughter". I felt they had potential on that one and here they have fully realized. The drumming shows vast improvement as they open with the doomy "Hating" . The title track finds the band taking on more of a trippy post- metal ambiance to a  riff that feels like it spirals down before ebbing down into a softer sung section.The vocal melodies are stronger on this album as well and more love and care went into the song writing. Any doubts as to the metallic nature of this band is put to rest by the blast beat section this song hangs on with the vocals taking on more of a harsher growl when it slows into more of a punk beat.The song does drone me out a little though I got sucked into the black hole of the inner webs reading about the whole Phil Anselmo thing just when they hit the section of minimalist ambiance.

 http://abysmalhymns.blogspot.com/2016/01/eight-bells-landless.html


6-Voivod - "Post Society"

 Voivod has always been light years ahead of their time. Since "Target Earth" the band has locked into a sound that takes the classic tones from "Dimension Hatross " and pushes it forward in a modern production. This ep is the quality of both songwriting and production as "Target Earth" in fact the arrangements might be even more progressive,  like the surreal breakdown on the title track that kicks the ep off. They have always been able to shift in a very organic manner from one movement to the next . What amazes me more upon hearing this is how true they are to their legacy even though half of the original members are not on this recording. Chewy and Rocky did comprise the live band on their last pass through the states with Napalm Death and both really do justice to the Voivod legacy.

 http://abysmalhymns.blogspot.com/2016/01/voivod-post-society.html



5- Anthrax-"For All the Kings"

 Anthrax used to be one of my favorite bands and to this day "Among the Living " is without a doubt one of the best metal albums ever with "Spreading the Disease" not too far behind. I hung tough with the band for the first six albums, even liking Jon Bush's first album. Then we grew apart.  "Worship Music"  saw the return of singer Joey Belladonna, but I never gave it a shot. Age might have helped Anthrax here , because with age Belladonna's voice is lower than even on "Persistence of Time", but it gives him more aggression, which might have helped on albums like the almost too happy "State of Euphoria". There is younger blood injected in the band as Jonathan Donais from Shadows Fall is now in the band.They exceeded my expectation and this album is still in rotation.

http://abysmalhymns.blogspot.com/2016/01/anthrax-for-all-kings.html


4- Graves At Sea- "The Curse That is "

 I had been waiting for these guys to drop a full length as the splits and eps were great, but wanted something more to sink my doom hungry jaws into. Doom begs to be questioned here right from the eleven minute title track that opens the album.  It's an odd evolution that includes the bigger production value this album has. It finds them thundering into your ears with something more akin to a stoner rock version of "Through Sliver and Blood" era Neurosis. Some evolution an be expected considering the line-up changes that have yo-yoed the band about. The vocals are still mean in their ample grit coated screams. The guitar has warmed up a bit. Perhaps it is the time they took in the studio to perfect their tone versus previous releases which have had a rawer, angrier sound.

 http://abysmalhymns.blogspot.com/2016/03/graves-at-sea-curse-that-is.html



3- Katatonia- "the Fall of Hearts"
 The gloomy Swedes were almost sent to the pop rock list, but have enough metal on this to make here even though they have pretty much become a prog band at this point. The Opeth like cadence that builds the opener when the distortion is stomped on makes sense considering the acrobatics the guitars have already engaged in leading up to that point. "In Absentina" ear Porcupine Tree might also come to mind. This is not to say there is not plenty of the band's own DNA all over this song. Jonas' vocals are unmistakable.The album is very crisp from a production stand point, which lightens the shade of gray cast over these songs. Jonas doesn't have the same melancholic desperation fueling his vocals, yet he doesn't stray from his style.It's weird as it's not as dark as previous releases, but packs more of a punch.

 http://abysmalhymns.blogspot.com/2016/05/katatonia-fall-of-hearts.html


2-Nails- "You Will Never Be One of Us"

I have predicted 2016 as the year grind-core  and power-violence breaks through into the metal mainstream. What Weekend Nachos failed to deliver is being jack hammered into your face by this band.  Their guitar tone is as nasty as you can get and still play riffs that hold together actual songs. Even then when I used the word songs here I am describing sharp bursts of anger. Grind-core has never been my forte, typically because of the genre's limited range of dynamic expression. Coloring with only the red crayon of anger can limit what you do, this band from Southern Los Angeles colors with this crayon so well, I know what I'm in for and can hold on for the jolting ride.The heaviest album on the list for sure.

 http://abysmalhymns.blogspot.com/2016/06/nails-you-will-never-be-one-of-us.html


1-Tombs-"All Empires Fall"

 What happens on Tombs new album should not come as a surprise considering how they have evolved with each album. The last album might not have been as dark as the previous, but Mike Hill and company continue to evolve. With the inclusion of Fade Kainer into the fold on "All Empires Fall" it made me think the industrial influence that has lurking under the surface would rise like Godzilla. This is not the case. They make it clear the metal isn't going anywhere. They kick the fucking door down with a neck crushing riff.The only thing wrong with this release is the fact it's an EP rather than a full length, because it leaves me still wanting more.
 http://abysmalhymns.blogspot.com/2016/03/tombs-all-empires-fall.html

Crvel : " Sombras"





It may not be politically correct to contemplate if the egregore of where a band hails from effects what kind of music they will be effective in making. But there is some merit with black metal, so this is worth considering when it comes to goth, death rock or what ever brand of post-punk you might want to refer to Crvel as. They have a very rough garage punk sound, but the feeling that the music should evoke is not connecting for me. Is is Mexico? Los Angeles is a dirty and warm place so you would think that would not effect it. William S Burroughs did tons of drugs in Mexico, so the junkie sleaze factor should not effect it either. But the first three songs on this album have all run together with no dynamics and their native tongue not lending itself to the articulation to invoke the feeling death rock should give me. It was not until the 4th song that this happened. They slowed down and actually sung some. Go figure.

There is a spastic skip in the step of "Reflejos" and the really crude bass tone doesn't give this song the back bone it needs. When the guitar backs off and you can hear the bass it sounds like it came from a pawn shop. Perhaps if they tuned it, who knows. "Vision Nocturna" cruises along at the same speed. So once again we are face with songs that all sound the same and the dialect of the vocals is only making matters worse. When they try to yell and get a grittier vocal sound like Bellicose Minds nothing gets any better. Perhaps if it was just totally harsh screaming it might not be as obvious. Once I'm over half way through this album it becomes a test of endurance. The punk speed is the only thing they really get right. Perhaps if they went in more of a Germs direction that would work better.

"Fabula" doesn't find things improving much. The drummer is the best of this bunch, with vocals being the worst and the guitar somewhere between the two. When we are at the last song ...well it sounds just like the bulk of this album. The same speed for every song and the same three chords too. I think it's safe to say I'll skip any more death rock from Mexico. This might be the lowest score of any album I have actually made it through as this gets a 2.5.


Black Fucking Cancer : s/t


With a need for speed this nasty black metal band might attack their songs, but from the opener they do so with some thrash sensibilities. The Slayer influences is more tangible than any fetish for Darkthrone they might have. I did have to take a second listen to the finer points of "Acid Ocean" which follows the more polished arrangement of the opening track.The chanted vocal behind the blasts add a darker layer to their sound. They hit you with razor sharp riffing . This is not just throw a mic in a dark room and go wild with blast beats, which might be to the dismay of less discerning fans of black metal who go for any old blast beat. The energy they hit some of these chord progressions does have a raw power than reminds me of 1349 in places. The members of this band also hail from the projects Sentenced to Burn and Circle of Eyes. If that means anything to you. Some of the fat could have been trimmed from the 12 minute "Acid Ocean" namely some of the feed back that bridges into the song's final act.

Things slow down and find the black in an actual groove for "Blood Stained". They are unable to restrain themselves and hurl their instruments back into a blast beat. "Sinnritualvoid" lingers in feedback. In threatens several times in the first four and a half to become an actual song , but fights the urge to do so.  When it does it's more double bass driven. The blasts soon follow and thankfully only for sparse spasms, until the six minute mark. "Wall of Corpses" just kind of falls out of the previous song as this album begins to become more of a blur and lose the personality it was appearing to establish for the sake of being a feral mess. "Wall of Corpses" doesn't waste your time with drawn out sections of feedback. "Exit Wounds" finds itself dominated by the drums, which more often than not are locked in a blast beat. The darker more doom infused section midway into the song is a more powerful sonic statement than when everything was racing at the speed of chaos.

They indulge in some more atmospheric noise on the last song. Once they are galloping ahead into the brimstone, the blast become over indulgent and every thing begins to lose its luster as rusty blur of noise. I'll round this down to a 7.5 as it has some powerful moments at the beginning but started to lose me on the final two songs, but even then there were some moments that connected.


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Scorpion Child : "Acid Roulette"




This band got some buzz on some of the sites that pirates sail past, so I wondered who the fuck are these guys. The answer is this Texas band plays big stoner rock in the vein of Wolfmother. Their singer's cocaine fueled tenor almost borders on cock rock. It reminds me of when grunge hit big and all these cock rock band's were trying to find something more like Mother Love Bone to transition into. Badlands was one band that made some great albums during this time, though I can't say I have really hunted them down to hear how they have stood up over time. I will say the rock harder than Ghost, which isn't saying much and have more honesty in their sound than the Darkness, which is another back handed compliment. "My Lady In Black" doesn't impress me as much as it's very middle of the road retro hard rock. Strangely I can hear how this band is equal parts In Solitude and Faster Pussycat. Even with the weird synth parts the title track is no where as psychedelic as this band thinks they are. They make old Monster Magnet seem like Spiritualized in comparison. Both the melody to the verses and the little jam in the middle of the title track impress me a little that what's been offered so far on this album.


 They remind me of a more rock n roll version of Fastaway meets Mind Funk on "Winter Side of Deranged", overall it's energetic but not their most inspired songwriting.They hit more of a Rainbow groove on "Twilight Coven" the chorus doesn't hit like it needs to, but the songs better than most. The singer is so far at his most impressive here to have the kinda power to belt it out in a manner that would bring Dio to mind. They go the ballad route on "Survives". This song makes me think of the mock rock star they had on the show Californication. "Blinds Man's Shine" is weird mix of White Stripes and Motley Crue. There is a similar sleazy strut to "Moon Tension", the vocals sound like there is a little more thought put into their placement. The tone has already been set for bar friendly rock n roll, I am sure the more you drink the better this band sounds. "Tower Grove" gets back in the more proto-metal direction, Diamond Head could certainly be a reference point for these guys. As cheese filled as it is " I might be Your Man" is one of the more well written songs in the second half of this album and make me think of what Savatage might sound like if they went cock rock. They stay in this same pattern for the rest of the album. I am not sure what the hype is about, if you missed cock rock the first time around you might round it up to an 8 from the 7.5 I am going to give it. What I liked is the energy they had when they are really locked into their moments which are larger than life, rather than when they come across like a parody of their influences.


A Tribute to Slayer





So Metal Hammer released a Slayer tribute album. Slayer is going to be hanging it up soon, but it's clear the mark they left on extreme metal. Let's face it, there would not be such a thing without them. Carnifex went for the scream at the beginning of "Angel of Death". It was a little weak, but at least they tried which is more than I can say for Slayer these days. If this is death core than it sound more like death metal to me than hard core. There guitar tone is not as dialed in as Slayer's , but Rick Rubin didn't produce this so they are going to have clicking double bass and less venom in their tone. Battlecross has more of a Skeleton Witch sound, but does a decent job with 'War Ensemble". Once again the chug is lacking on a production standpoint. I'm not sure about Apocalyptica's medley of " South of Heaven and Mandatory Suicide" being the best investment of studio time. Of course Enslave is going to deliver the goods with their cover or "Jesus Saves". It is a surprising choice for them, I thought they might pick something more melodic. It sounds like it could have been recorded in their earlier years, either way they nail it.

I didn't know Hypocrisy was still around. Their bass tone sucks, but they get the job done otherwise with a barked death grunt for vocals. Of Krisiun is going to beat the hell out of "Silent Scream". It is a rather one dimensional attack, but we are talking Slayer not Iron Maiden here so it works. Cataract is a band I have never heard of before, but they summon the best guitar tone so far. The vocals are spit out with anger, but the lyrics are still present. This sends these guys to the top of the heap when it comes to really doing Slayer justice. One of the other high lights is Dark Funeral's take on "Dead Skin Mask". Their guitarist can really shred when he feels like it. Six Feet Under prove just how limited Chris Barnes' vocals are with their attempt at "At Dawn They Sleep". It is the worst vocal performance on the album where stellar vocals are not in high demand. Vader's cover of "Reigning Blood" reminds me of pre-"Beneath the Remains" Sepultura. This was fun and made me want to listen to the original version of these songs. This is more of a mix tape rather than a tribute album, as the release dates of this are a little suspect , but I'll give this an 8.



Castle :"Welcome to the Graveyard"





They have a 80s metal chug to their ominous brand of hard rock. Singer Elizabeth Blackwell has some grit to her harrowing blues tinged belting. If you ever wondered what would  Royal Thunder have sounded like if they had come out in the 80s instead of this decade, you might have a rough picture. There is something rawer to what Castle is pounding out. They cross over into more of a NWOBHM style metal with a side of jamming on "Veil of Death".  So what separates them from the rest of the vest metal pack that rose to power five years ago? Well that is something I'll attempt to answer from this point on.

"Flash of the Pentagram" sounds like Motorhead jamming with Judas Priest on the verses. The chorus has an interesting melody , but it sounds like it's pasted in from another song. Their guitar solos are more blazing examples of rock gods, than trying to be too cool for school, like some of the vest metal bands who went for a fashionably retro guitar tone. "Traitor's Run" finds the chugs beginning to run out of steam. The more introspective and darker turn in a more melodic direction works well at the beginning of "Down in the Cauldron Bog". When they bust in with the solo this makes for a heavier dynamic. The song writing is not as refined for the closing "Natural Parallel" which goes back into riding the same galloping that has been clomping all over the rest of this album.Still this album is a lot of fun and was an enjoyable listen with some stellar moments. I don't think it will make it to my iPod, but these guys are not apologetic about their old school metal influence and take it on head first. I'll give it an 8, Van Records is releasing this July 15th.

Stuck Mojo : " Here Come the Infidels"






I am not sure why Bonz is not involved in this comeback. Rich Ward is still doing his best with original drummer Frank Fontsere, to come up with catchy groove metal riffs. The turd in the punch bowl is Canadian rapper Robby J Fonts. Granted rap metal in and of itself is thought of in the same light as hair metal.If you are going to do it then you need someone who is not going to sound like some kid you found doing P.O.D at karaoke. There is a little more of a punk aggression to "The Business of Hate", the vocals on this song sound like it's all Ward. "Rape Whistle" has solid enough riffs to carry it, but when you album is resting on the shoulder's of a rapper, make sure he is not from Canada. Nothing against Canada, I'll take Rush and Voivod any day of the week, I think the ghettos of Canada are about as hard as the Wal-Mart parking lots of Iowa. So when says to "step to him and you might get shot" it's hard to take him seriously. it's Ward's input that keeps this song afloat. While Ward might get more of chance to shine in Fozzy, he rips a pretty mean solo on "Verbal Combat".

They go more of a Linkin Park route on "Destroyer" by indulging more in their hip-hop side. In all fairness this approach sounds a little less dated. The verses of "the Worst Person on Earth" are some of the album's heavier moments, the song is still packed with pretty effective hooks and if this came out 15 years ago it might sound a little fresher. "Fire Me" is well written, just a little middle of the road. "I am Legion" tries to get a little darker, but the verses are pretty lame thanks to the all to white boy rapping . "Tambourine" is about southern belles and could have come right from 1994. For rap rock they do a good job of it on "Blasphemy" to close out the album. They show signs of improvement as the album progresses, and Robby J might not grow on me, but fills in the gaps of Ward's riff's in a way that are less annoying.

The deck is really stacked against them, but they stick to their guns and don't try to make Myspace metal or djent, if they became a hard core band I suppose that might be the only safe way to go, but they are themselves for better or worse. I'll give this album a 6.5, round it up to a 7 if you never grew out of this sort of thing, if that is the case you might have been missing it and then it might go down on your top ten for the year, there is no accounting for taste in the trailer parks of South Georgia.








Scour : "s/t"





With grind core on the rise as I have been predicting, Phil Anselmo's new super group teams pig destroyers with cattle decapitators for a decrepit birth on heaviness with a blackened streak to it. Phil goes with more of a grind core meets death metal approach to his grunts and growls , they blast ahead on the second song, and weave back and forth for varied levels of blackness. The songs are longer than what say Nails does, but there is a similar density. Nails is more grind core and truth be told has catchier riffs that what is going on here. I do like the chant that Phil converges into as " Clot" reaches it's end. Phil still retains an impressive growl and is no doubt steeped in varied genres of extreme music. This is even heavier than his Illegals album. Perhaps not as grind core as the album he did with Anal Cunt, but these are actual songs and not outbursts.

"Crooked" is under the two minute mark, so I had to listen to it a second time to really form an opinion on what is going on here. They are obviously trying to blacken things up, by the time they get to "Codes" and Phil is screaming about vampires. The wheel is not being reinvented, nor is the steel when it comes to what this album is adding to heavy music. "Tactics" is just an atmospheric interlude, so there are really five songs not six on this EP. The final song "Tear Gas" is an unrestrained blast fest. Pantera fans will be surprised by how heavy this is, but for metal heads who have adapted to the times this is just business as usual. The first solo is ripped on the last song. If those kinda things impress you then you will join the masturbatory fury, but I think the closing riff is more impressive.

I was little torn when it comes to scoring this album I could round it up to an 8, due to sheer heaviness or round it down to a 7.5, because that is all there is and these guys are pros who could have brought more to the table when it comes to the originality of the song writing. If you are a regular reader here then you would not be surprised by the direction I would go in, since at the end of the day it's all about the song. July 15th is the date Housecore Records is releasing this sonic kick in the nuts.