Friday, March 31, 2017

Acherontas : "Amarta (Formulas of Reptilian Unification Part II)"






On their newest slab of darkness the Greek band opens the album with the double bass  that gives them a more  melodic death metal sound, but the album as a whole should be called black metal.. They are in the same dark region sonically as Mortuary Drape. They get a little more blasty and aggressive on the second song. This is their 8th album so they have clearly been fine tuning things over the years. There is a vocal that does lower growls, but they are largely a gruff narrative. Riff wise things have a little more hook to the darker thrash tone of  "I AM Ness".

The songs are fairly compact , no long wandering epic bouts of excess. While they keep a brisk pace to " Sopdet Denudata", it feels like it wanders to close to traditional black metal to make the most of their own sound. By the time we get to the dramatic ritualistic recitation the song has grown on me. "Yesod Inversum" is a good balance of savagery, darkness and composition. The guitar lines are more flowing and fluid with these guys than they are with most black metal bands, so the melodies are always cutting through. It's the more triumphant galloping riff to "Rosa Andromeda" that catches my ear. Another vocal that has haunted the album with it's ghostly moan returns on this song. They do not rip into many shredding solos and the single no sweep they do leave hanging work more with the song it self.

"Savikalpa Samadhi" is darker and eventually builds into a slower section where it sounds like another spell is being cast. The title track goes for a more sweeping grandiose quality with it's guitar melodies soaring out above it. The vocal is generally the more dramatic narrator voice, so the guitars have to carry most of the weight. While it won't make the trip over to my iPod this album was an enjoyable listen and I'll give it an 8.5.





Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ides of Gemini : "Women"





Bands change. Not all are fortunate to change into something that I might call the perfect blend of goth rock and metal. This band from Los Angeles who are not strangers to this blog have done just that. Now putting down her bass to focusing on singing  Sera Timms, finds her voice even more colorful and energetic. While the Siouxsie influence is there is not just limited to that and has a reasonable sense of who she is.  Lyrically this album is thematic as all the songs are about women both rel and fictional. The guitar tone is less metallic and more death rock for "the Rose". The more doomy direction they used to dwell in has evolved into something with more of a NWOBHM feel to it. The chorus however have a more sinewy energy to them rather than being big anthems.

"Heroines Descent" almost feels more like an interlude until the vocals come at the mid way point. "Swan Diver" finds them getting way more in your face metal with a killer riff for the verse.  The drums are more brooding and powerful for the grungy "the Last Siren" . Emma Ruth Rundle lends her voice to "She Has a Secret". It's not a duet more of textured layering.  The guitar that plays around the vocals works really well. Tara Connelly of Clay Rendering joins them to layer some more vocals. This time it doesn't work as well as the song before it. There is more of a narcotic drone to this song. I do like how it gets darker and more sonic rather than heavy in the metal sense.

Overall this album is a good direction for this band. I'll round it up to a 9 and see how it sits on me. The only challenge is some of the songs on the second half of the album that lay off of the more explosive energy kinda drone and I almost fell asleep to this album, but I am pretty tired.

While They Sleep : Les Fleurs Du Mal





My two favorite sub-genres of metal are funeral doom and depressive black metal. This band from the Ukraine plays a dark and dirty form of black metal that moves at a slow throb. I appreciate the very deliberate pulse which is a nice break from blast beats all the time and forces them to write songs. This is more at a Burzum like tempo and while what they do works really well it feels like it need some variation approaching the end of the second song. The vocals are a mid range scowl. There sounds like there is distorted filter put over them or they could have just really tapped into some cool cvlt production tactics. It makes me think of interviews I have seen with Varg saying "Give me the worst mic to use".

"The Frame" kind of gets lost in the fuzz the songs tries to plow through sometimes speeding up into blast beats. While they are more feral on this one I would not say this evokes a depressive feeling. The guitar might be creepier and more melodic than your average blasty mcnasty black metal that is normally speeding past you , but I feel the album is beginning to sound very mono-chrome. I can see where this is different enough to gain some attention in under ground circles. By the time it picks up for the more savage "the Vampire" things have already begun to become a blur.  On second listen I could hear a more subtle angular Deathspell Omega quality lurking under it.

The title track really didn't blow me away. It worked off of a similar pulsing throb that is just enough out of time to seem like it's dripping out of speakers. I think the layered guitars would come across stronger with better production. But that is going to be a selling point to some. While I give these guys enough credit to say the are not just blending in with the blast beaten masses the are not the first project I have heard run with Burzum in this direction. I'll be generous and round it up to a 7.



 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lydia Ainsworth : "Darling of the Afterglow"

I get so many albums in my in-box I am sure there is a great deal of awesome music I might be missing out on as I can't listen to everything and unless something seems like it's going to be dark enough for me it gets passed over. So she is lucky she happened to be wear a leather dress in one of her promo pictures that made me more curious.  The vocals are beautifully layered against slick piano driven pop beat that focuses on being steamier than it does trying to make you dance along. This Toronto native's back is  classical music and film scoring. I can hear the cinematic quality, but it's not rigid like classical music can be. Her harmonies are pretty amazing. The second song is not as smooth, there is more movement and layers. The choice of instrumentation is interesting this is one of the best produced albums I have hear in a long time. The clarity of every thing that feels like it is surrounding you is immersive even at the album's most intimate moments.

"Ricochet" pulls back in more firmly by my heartstrings. It's one of those moments when the sounds hit me where I am at emotionally. "Afterglow" feels like a 90s ballad that Kate Bush or Sinead O'Connor might have written,so I am on board for that. "Open Doors" is more of an ethereal drift until the odd change of pace that introduces guitar in the mix that drives the song like something the Police might have done in the 80s. "Spinning" has more of the kind of movement that drew me into this album in the first place. The fret-less bass on here is a nice touch. "Into the Blue" doesn't really set it self from other Euro-pop as much as the other songs on this album.

Her piano cover of "Wicked Game" is not as dark as Chris Isaak's version. It is not as fragile as you might think it would be.  "I Can Feel It All" is smooth groove that finds modern electronic pop colliding with 90s songwriting.  "WLCM" lyrically is more powerful for me. I think when she really gives her self room to pour emotion into the song that she is at her peak. The album ends with "Nighttime Watching" feels very Kate Bush to me as well. I'll give this one a 9.5 and see how it sits with me, some of the most breath taking songs balances the songs that run into more common pop zip codes.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Tusmörke : "Hinsides"






What is happening here ? This is my first thought upon hearing the opening track from the Norwegian band's new album. There is a flute and they are singing in our native tongue here, but the wacky has been dialed way past 11. There are some electronic sounds in play from the keyboards that are way up in the mix making this sound like Kraftwerk with a side of folk. It is unique and not bad though, not dark enough for me and a little more on the upbeat side than what I would typically want to hear from them. The synth heavy version of the band does lead them into a proggier place. After reading their promo package the band has admitted this is going to be a less gloomy affair and feels like groove is in the heart of darkness.

"I Feel Like Midnight" reminds me of new wave Alice Cooper, so that's an easy sell and goes to prove just because you are pulling out all the key boards it doesn't have to be happy. "Rykende  Ruin" or "Steaming Ruin" is big grandiose prog, that doesn't pull me in until the big "In the Flesh" like ending. "Lyssky Drom" gets off to more of a flower child like start as it floats on a cloud  smoky folk. The bass line begins to guide the song into more brooding shadows. I am unsure of the kazoos that end the song, but oh well.

The album ends with the 24 minute epic "Sankt Sebastian's Alter" which celebrates the 666th anniversary of the Black Death hitting Norway. The drummer gets to flex his chops on this song.  Three minutes in and they are taking a break for a folk break down, so this is going to be a long and winding road. 24 minutes always seems excessive for me and I am generally opposed to any song being longer than the "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner". There are some darker undertones introduced to the song around the four minute mark . Things really darken in a more dramatic fashion at the seven minute mark. This does make me wonder where can they go from here and pulls me back in. There is more of a building simmer that feels like they could get heavy if they wanted. Instead they go in more of a psychedelic jammy direction. I suppose if I was tripping I would not mind being taken on this journey.  At 12: 44 it does happen and they do get into a heavier stomp. Live this would be a lot of fun and the overall song length is what keep this song from really winning me over 100%.

I'll round this up to a 9, as managed to pretty much win me over with the changes in direction. Some elements are more of my thing than others , but none of it steps on the toes of the other parts that are in motions which is impressive considering how much is in play here.


4.3

Saturday, March 25, 2017

the Ruins of Beverast : "Exuvia"



 This German project is back in less than  a years time with more music. This time it seems like things are going in a darker more death metal direction. The album Opens with the title track which finds this project feeling more like atmospheric death metal with major melodic touches. Clean sung vocals are sprinkled in. The guitar solo towards the end really rips and makes it hard to hate on this guys for opening their album with a fifteen and a half minute song. There is a doomy and dark vibe to "Surtur  Barbar Maritime". The double bass is really killer and the arrangement is strange enough to lure me in. Things stay dark and creepy for "Maere". The overall mood of this album is pretty incredible as it takes you on a journey root in a throbbing darkness coated in fog.


They use lots of layers, even what sounds to be bag pipes going into "the Pythia's Pale Wolves". This song also uses an almost Alice Chains like minor harmony in the clean vocals that start it off.  By the end of the song it accelerates into a more blackened death. The vocals dropping down in to a wild feral growl that gurgles in the distance."Towards Malakia" feels almost more like a Urfaust. It even has the low baritone vocals that are sung at a bellow. The song drones along on a similar riff before breaking into blast beats which is the only part that really strikes me as being black metal.

"Takitum Tootem" works off more of a chaotic drone. Low gurgled death metal with an evil sounding atmosphere to it. It does build up after a chanted break down into a more sonic swell that is suitably the high point and brings the needed climax. However as a whole I don't think it is as compelling as what they achieve earlier in the album. Overall this album is pretty fucking incredible in terms of what the create as far as the mood and the over weight of the darkness these songs summon. This used to be a project that was in my periphery and I checked out when they released something , but this is their best work to date and places them on my radar. I'll give this a 9.5.



This is being released on May 5th.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Steel Panther : " Lower the Bar"


Hair metal ...cock rock or whatever you want to call the metal from the 80's that held a glam tinge and packed arenas, is what Steel Panther is. These guys are more of a parody, but in the process make some good music by mistake. It opens with a some what subtle ode to anal sex. There have more similarities of Bon Jovi  and Van Halen's more metal moments than anyone else. While they are a parody of the big hair school of metal I listened to in adolescent they are still clever song writers. The lyrics to "Anything Goes" are funny, but I am not sure this is the same level of songwriting that they show on the first song. The chorus is like "Cherry Pie" ,which is admittedly a more main stream take on the genre than I was into back in the day, but in this context it works better than say the Darkness. Lyrics seem to be the main hook of this album, because if you put the lyrics to "I Remember You" to "Thats When You Came In"  it would not be the same.

"Wrong Side of the Tracks" is lyrically not much different from Faster Pussycat did on a regular basis. The melody and verse riff to this one is better than everything so far except for the first song so they can be semi-serious as needed. There is a more surreal grunge like filter on "Now the Fun Starts". Thus far it takes itself a little more seriously and might be one of the album's strongest songs as it deviates away from your typical cock rock. We back to more humorous tone on the grittier "Pussy Ain't Free". Which is as serious as a song like that can be. There is more of power-ballad like tone to "Wasted Too Much Time" . The big chorus of "I wasted too much time  fucking you" is catchy enough and keeps me from thinking of it as filler.

There is more of an upbeat "Fair Warning" era Van Halen feel to " I Got What You Want". The chorus reminds me more of Ratt. There is a more of "Ice Cream Man" meets Guns N roses vibe to "Walk of Shame" which is the first song that hit me as filler so far. "She's Tight" feels like their take on "Talk Dirty to Me". The chorus reminds me of Cheap Trick. There are also a couple of bonus tracks which are pretty decent , but for the purpose of this review we are sticking to the basic album tracks. I'll give this one an 8.5, it's pretty decent for a parody.

9.4

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sabbath Assembly : "Rites of Passage"





It my be the addition of a second guitarist , but this album kicks off a lot heavier than I remember these guys being. Female proto-doom bands where almost a thing 5 years ago when bands like Blood Ceremony and Devils Blood really rose to prominence, Guitarist Kevin Hufnagel who has played in both Gorguts and Dysrhythmia , brings a technical prowess to the riffs. This makes them winding and angular while still holding a more classic metal chug. There is a darker touch to doom to "Angels Trumpets". Jamie Myer's alto is dramatic and exclamatory, she almost sounds like a witch from a Hammer horror movie from the 60s. I do not think once we get into the meat of the song that it doesn't draw you in until oddly enough a more tech death like riff surfaces and then they lock in behind it.

"I Must Be Gone" is darker and in some sense more melodic though it broods over the song before committing to it. It does build up, but I don't feel I really connect with it as much as I did the first two songs. More melodic layers are gradually introduced as the album progresses.  I lose time and fail to see where the darkly moody "Does Love Die" ends and "Twilight of God" begins. "Does Love Die" feels more like a neo-folk intro to the next song which would thus kick into the jams like a power ballad. It's the lonely wail of the guitar solo in "Does Love Die" that helps blur these lines , until I got a second listen in. Then I can hear the weird atmospheric ebb down that marks the beginning of the next song. It's has a creeping riff with a delay heavy clean to that smooths you back into the build up.

There are several things to like about this album. The fact it's proggy , but still has a darker mood coloring it. There is an almost Voivod like dissonance to "Seven Sermons to the Dead".  It also feels like Fear of God in how the vocals attack the chugged chorus like section. The closing song "the Bride of Darkness"  has an almost Iron Maiden feel to the way the riff gallops. There is a stellar almost Frank Zappa like solo going into this song's third act that is worth taking note of if you are into that sort of thing. While this is a guitar players album the riffs never seem like they re being written with 'Would this sound good to solo over ?" in mind. This is a pretty solid album, I am not sure how much air time it will get on my end , but can respectfully round this up to a 9.

Spectres : "Condition"



Well things have gotten interesting for these guys. They must have started doing a shit ton of drugs if this is the same band . If it is and the link of their Bandcamp page doesn't really help in the regard, then they have gone in a more A Place to Bury Strangers direction. There is some noise going into "Dissolve" but this song and the two before generally glide into shoe gazed out post-rock. The vocals are mixed further back and not as Joy Division of a croon which was the first thing that clued me into the fact this might not be the band I was thinking it would be. The noise does get out of hand and the coat of abrasion is a distraction to the angrier Sonic Youth tone of  "Neck".

"A Fish Called Wanda" relaxes back into a more reflective place. The vocals are breathy and chanting as the song grooves along it's own drone. There is a hypnotic droning element to most of these songs. The opener is murky where "A Fish Called Wanda" has plenty of room without being uncluttered to the point of minimalism. There is noise rock explosion to the dynamics of "Welcoming the Flowers". This harsher tone beocme the path the album begins to take you down. The feedback becomes a grating coating of distraction from what could otherwise be a pretty decent if not sleepy song when it comes to "Welcoming the Flowers".

" End Waltz" is another feed back beating for your ears to bleed to at high volumes. Why it's an instrumental and not just the beginning of the song that follows , I don't know. I'll call it an interlude. The album end with one of the albums more dynamic moments "Coping Mechanisms" which actually has really good lyrics something that is not always common with this sort of thing. I'll round this up to an 8, some of the noise could have been dialed back to allow the songs to shine more.

Cherry Glazerr : "Apocalipstick"



Here is a wacky indie rock band that works best off best clever, though they can build into a more punk infused punch on the opener "Told You I'd Be With the Guys". The lyrics are just as smart as the arrangements especially on "Trash People". There is a little post-punk and 80's new wave on "Moon Dust" which has a Police like swagger in the jangle of the guitar. In their most aggressive they don't get much more worked up than older Sleater Kinney. "Moon Dust" is more effective to my ears as it goes in a moodier place. The pick the pace up into more of a garage punk on "Humble Pro". This one is more straight forward and while it works for this song I don't think a whole album of this would work for me.

The singer has a good voice that can pull of the more balladic "Nuclear Bomb". There is certainly and element that might remind you of some of the more radio friendly riot grrrrl rock from the late 90s. The synths are the main thing that set them apart from the Elasticas of Alt-nation. There is a creep to "Only Kid on the Block"  then they transition into a more playful tone on "Lucid Dreams" . The melodies have a lighter mood than the synth line dancing behind. It's a good balance of organic and electronic sounds.

The beginning of "Sip o Poison" reminds me of Rasputina, but the energy reminds you of their punk tendencies. Though we are never talking hardcore punk, just aggressive without being metal and have more of the snotty recklessness to it. That ebbs back to a more introspective jangle on "Nurse Ratched", this builds into a more intense dynamic, not sure heavy would be the right way to describe it unless you are talking about "She's so Heavy".  "Instagratifaction"  is a more straight forward rock song. There is an interesting middle section that is more melodic.  One of their strengths is they do not pay by the rules when it comes to songwriting and throw lots of curve balls. They would obviously be lots of fun live. There is a slower almost Sabbath lumber to the title track that closes the album. Overall this album is sonic and compelling indie rock that's familiar in some ways , but they are very much their own person so for that I am going to round this up to a 9.5 and see how it sticks to my ears.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Royal Thunder : "WICK"





I really loved "Crooked Doors" I wore it out. This means the bar is held pretty high here. So I was uncertain of the slow droning riff that accompanies the more circular chant of the first song. They don't come out swinging like they did on the previous album. I went back and gave this song another listen after hearing the entire album, and it made a little more sense , but didn't really grab me. The snarl Parsonz summons on "April Showers" sounds almost like Blackie Lawless. This song snakes around but drones less than the opener and has more balls to it. She has a greater grit to her voice on this album for sure, but they have really backed off on the distorted when it comes to the guitars. Sure there is almost an "Amorica" like soul to "Tired". The only problem is they are not the Black Crowes. While she tries some interesting things with harmonies and less rock-centric melodies, it is not as focused as the previous albums. By the time we get "We Slipped" which is pretty uptempo, you might as well resign yourself that the metal trapping that gave intensity to other albums has been shed. The rock jangle is going to be hard pressed to grow on me in the same way the last album did.


 There is a more Led Zeppelin boogie to "the Sinking Chair". This is much closer to what I want from these guys. The distortion could have been more amped and taken the chugged section to a heavier place so this is production choice. She lets her voice go into more of harsher metal scream at some points, though this song is more of a mid seventies vision of metal that what metal is by today's standards. The very stripped down "Plans" marries a starker version of Janis Joplin to the Black Crowes. I like this one more than I thought I would when it started. Her soulful vocals really sell it. There is much more piano on this album than I remember them using in the past. I also have a much harder time envisioning how these songs would translate live than I do with their other work.



"Anchor" works for me right of the bat. It's not metal but has rambling moodiness that connects with me and feels more powerful. The vocals and guitar work together much seamlessly than what happens on some of the other songs. The atmosphere and the brooding that drives the title track both immediately work for me. It does kick into a harder rock direction. The shadows that color the mood are obviously of importance to me. There is a more stripped down intro to "Push" than what the song ambles into which feels more like a lost Jeff Buckley track. The vocal performance really sells this song. While it rocks more and moves pretty fluidly it seems like "Turnaround" is one of those songs that is going to need to grow on me.

The hypnotic winding western tinged riffs that these guys do so well are invoked on "the Well" . The doing go to the obvious big rock chorus off the back and build tension. There are metal influences under the surface but I would not say this is a metal album. By the album's third act it becomes obvious they have remembered who they are and what they should be doing. The album comes to a close with 'We Never Fell Asleep". There is a dagger like quality to how the lyrics are spit out on this one and they gain some punch as the song progresses.   Overall this one shows the band growing away from who they where and that takes some adjustment if you are invested in their old sound, but I'll around this one up to a 9.5.
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Mastodon : "Emperor of Sand"

Living in Atlanta it's hard to gauge just how big of a deal a new album from Mastodon is outside of the microcosm here. It feels like more of a fully realized vision that the past two albums. "Sultan's Curse" doesn't find the band returning to the death tinged sludged fury of "Remission", but they do deliver what fans of the band have come to expect from them over the years. When I say "Show Yourself" is the band's poppiest song yet, it's not disparaging considering I love Taylor Swift, and this is one of my favorite songs on the album. To their credit it is poppy in the same way as Queens of the Stoneage can be. there is a really good groove to "Steambreather" . Brann seems to get the spotlight on the vocals for this one, and is a little more soulful of a vocal than I typically expect from him. "Roots Remain" finds Sanders more typical baritone bellow doing a call and response with the drummer's now more soulful tenor. While this song is not prog in the same way the term once described the kind of mathy ventures they embarked on. There are now longer passages that defy the formulaic arrangement motif, with guitar solos sprouting out around them. They get more metallic on " Word to the Wise". It's concise and a more straight forward rocker than most on this album. The guitar solo finds a section where you find they have more room to stretch out and dig into their playing. There is a more prog metal tendency on "Ancient Kingdom" which also recalls others songs from other albums. I think they are had already raised the bar higher for themselves by the time we get to this song. Some of the mathy riffs that seemed like they were missing earlier in the album crop up in the more upbeat "Clandestiny". While there is nothing new the vocal trade off, everything fits really well on a melodic level. Two minutes in things the break down further shine light on their prog tendencies. There is a robotic voice that being to murmur. "Andromeda" which eventually features a guest vocal from Kevin Sharpe of Brutal Truth, has a heavier under current to it. The vocal hook plays out nicely on the chorus and there is a well balanced blend of the elements you expect from these guys. The obligatory appearance of Scott Kelly happens on "Scorpion Breath". Kelly's performance is more of a metal growl than anything we have heard recently from Neurosis. "Jaguar God' might be the band's first power ballad. It's a half a shade darker than the bulk of the album and takes me back toward some of the more compelling moments of "Crack the Skye" which likely the album I got the most repeat listens to. The signature angular picking of Brent Hinds is allowed to take center stage midway into the song when things pick up. Overall this might be the band's best album since "Crack the Skye" so it will be making the much envied trip over to my iPod and then I will see how it stands the test of time. For now I'll round it up to a 9.5 as some of the songs that didn't hook me in as strongly as the groovier poppier numbers still have room to grow on me. "like" us on Facebook... https://www.facebook.com/abysmalhymns/

Friday, March 17, 2017

Isenordal : "Shores of Mourning"






This album takes a few listens to really let sink in. There is a lot going on and while in some ways the dark folk is blended with black in a manner like Agalloch these guys have their own sound. Seattle is not the first place I would have thought these guys came from. The title track opens their full length debut. One thing this band has going for them is they are very dark. There drummer is good, but some times rushes them into faster sections and clearly wants them to lean more into the black metal when I think they could milk some more doom out of these songs. There is a piano intro to "Of Winged Fire and Crawling Shadow".  This atmospheric beginning lends itself to some really nice guitar passages.When the metal does kick in it's black. The vocals has the hateful nasty rasp to them. The more galloped trash inspired riffs are pretty bad ass. and in the guitar harmonies you can hear where their chops are.


There is more of a an Agalloch quality to the whispered rasp of the vocals against the acoustic strum of "Pyres at Nightfall". It is more darkly romantic where Agalloch has a more hipster folk thing going. The doom part of the equation doesn't really kick in until "Tear the Veil of Dreams" Thew first few minutes of the song find the black metal vocal laying onto of a bleakly lush arrangement that is not really metal at all . When the lower growled vocals and distorted chords ring out then we are deeper into metal waters. Female vocals haunt the background of  the song in when the double bass kicks in and things speed up into blast beats. "A Gallows Prayer" is another sprawling 11 minute song

The album closes with the woeful "Cleansing Rites" which marries black metal vocals to and almost My Dying Bride brand of dramatic metal. The violins really add a lot of texture and along with the keyboards things get gothic it works well with what these guys do. It's their drummer who seems to tempted them back into stepping on the gas and launching these songs into black metal. I like how the vocals are layered midway into the song before things slow back down. Overall this album sucks me in enough for repeat listens to earn being rounded up to a 9. I might grow on me further certainy at some of my lower points today it resonated with me.

4.5

Pallbearer : Heartless







Things have changed , but this is very much still the same band just venturing further down the road away from the sub-genre funeral doom they came from.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

HIDEOUS DIVINITY : "Adveniens"






There is not question this Italian death metal band knows how to blend their technical skill with convincing brutality. The first song steam rolls you, then the second song they eventually give you the hooky chant to latch onto. These guys know what they are doing. This album sounds massive and while this is not my favorite form of death metal I like the sound they are hitting me with. WIth members of Aborted and Hour of Penance on their ranks the 3rd album is dialed in to the max. "Passages" they begin to get a little mired down in the huge sound and at one point I think I am listening to another song when we haven't gone anywhere. They continue to throw a lot at you on "Angel of Revolution" and at times this kind of playing even hits the velocity that it sounds rushed.  At times it reminds me of "Legion" era Deicide if they took a bunch of meth and couldn't concentrate on the verse chorus format. I like the use of samples on "Feeding off the Blind".

There is a touch of Morbid Angel about this whole album, but filtered through more of  modern metal attack, it's more like post- David Vincent Morbid Angel on "When Flesh Unfolds". "Future in Red" catches my ear again, but the song before it blasted by in a blur that I did not even feel the need to pay attention to. "Embodiment of Chaos" really doesn't divert drastically from the carnage filled oath they have already paved. If you have gone the entire album with out noticing the drummer is a monster of a machine then his cyborg nature can no longer be denied . In fact that is probably him on the album cover.  Guitar wise they don't feel the need to really shred a shit tone, which plays to their favor more guitar solos would just clutter things up. I don't remember if I have really heard that much as far as solos go this entire album which means if they were there they were not memorable.

While these guys are better than most of the tech death metal out their, I'll give this album a 7 as most of these songs sound the same. If you are into this kind of thing then round it up to an 8. This is not what I normally listen to when it comes to death metal thought they pull enough from the classics to make me admit they know what they are doing.



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All Hell : "the Grave Alchemist"





The Asheville band is back with their debut for Prosthetic Records  album opens with a darker take on thrash that might remind some of Possessed. The song is smartly written so it's not just ripping past you like reckless punk. There is a little more of a Venom like snarl to "Necrosophia". There is a darker blackened feel to "Wed the Need", The vocals are rasped in a more thrashy sneer, think a more sinister version of old Kreator. There is another touch of black metal, if we are talking Darkthrone's more black n roll days on "Vampiric Lust". Then we get into the meat of the more stagnant racing with "the Castle". They slow it down a fragment on "Laid to Unrest" which is a more satisfactory head banging experience as they begin to remind me more of Skeleton Witch.  They even speed things up to a more howling blast beat, but it feels more thrash than black metal to me in it's intention.

The first touch of a darker punk than has touches of death rock rears up on "Memory Tomb" this is a really needed dynamic shift as things were starting to get a little stale. They finally hit a more moshing groove on "the Madness out of Time".  There is something that comes closer to being a hook and almost able to live up to the bar set by 80s thrash.  "The Thing In the Ground" and "Return of the Reaper" both feel more like filler to me though if you are a hug fan of  balls to the wall thrash, then it might do more for you. "Elixir" is more punk influenced and finds the drummer sounding more into his playing. They care more about their song writing again on "I am the Mist".

The album started off strong and then kinda got mired down in the speed of their metal. So here is a word to the wise when it comes to thrash, go back and listen to some of the classic albums from back in the day and then perhaps you will see even the non- Flotsam and Jetsam like bands such as Coroner or even Forced Entry wrote songs that go stuck in your head without vocals that were yodeling. These guys have promise in the moments that stand out where you hear something darker and different. I'll give it a 7.5.




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Junius : “Eternal Rituals For The Accretion Of Light”






I have been a fan of this band for several years so jumped on the opportunity to give this a listen. I really like the stark Interpol like vocals set against the dramatic harder rock back drop and the album opens right where I would want them to be. There are large doses  of post-rock flirting with the more rock side of metal in it's drive. "Beyond the Pale Society" is even more emotionally charged than the first song and it's clear this album really sounded great and has a darker undercurrent. I some ways this is  thanks to the keyboards. They pretty much become a Deftones tribute band on the song "A Mass For Metaphysicians". This gets cleared up a little on the chorus, but I am a little at odds as to why they wanted to spoil a good thing with such a obvious attempt to cop the Deftones. the more atmospheric passages that wind out of this song do help redeem them.

"Clean the Beast" continue to find them employing a sense of drive and even harsher screamed vocals to accent the chorus, but I think most metal fans would still be reluctant to call this metal. Once again their yearning to be the Deftones is a distraction when it comes to parts of "the Queens Constellation". I can deal with the more Cure like touches of atmosphere that keep "TelePaths and Pyramids" floating.  They continue to redeem their Deftones tendencies with the almost Dead Can Dance like "Masquerade in Veils" . So one lesson to learn here kids is , I don't care if you rip off the bands I love, but even the Deftones don't want to sound like themselves these days.

They close the album on a less epic note than expected with the last two songs being  "Heresy of the Free Spirit" and "Black Sarcophagus" . This is an album where the song titles are harder than they are. Despite the Deftones moments which are somewhat forgivable and seldom consume the whole song, this album is very moody and melodic with more balls than your hipster post-punk, so it has that going for it enough for me to give it a 9 and a few more listens. "like" us on Facebook...https://www.facebook.com/abysmalhymns/

Author & Punisher : " Pressure Mine"





We have been big supporters of Author & Punisher here for some time so glad to hear him back at it with the new ep before he transitions over to Relapse records. The first thing that stands out is the moody melodic vocals. The thump of the beats lurch ominously under it. There are a lot of layers and atmosphere to the first song. The second song also finds the machine offering more of a loving grace on the song "Pressure Lover". The vocals are pretty impressive as the float through varied levels of effects some more sinister than others. This song gets darker than it does aggressive, which I have no problem with as it offers a much different side to this project.

"Nazarene " is even darker it reminds me of "Year Zero" era Nine Inch Nails, though there is less of an emphasis on the beats and more on the maze of melodies and synths woven around the song. It is a few degrees heavier than the first two songs. There is a murky lethargy cast over the sluggish beat to " New World". The song reminds me of Gotye if filtered through a morphine drenched nightmare. While this one is almost like a torture ballad, it doesn't connect with me as strongly as the first few songs.  There is a much more interesting beat to "Black Wand". The vocals float up near the top of his register in almost a head voice. It also sounds like their is barely and effects on his voice. Knowing his work I am no surprised if there is some political under currents to the lyrics of this one, but the song still works for me.

This is a less punishing version of the Punisher side of this project. I think "New World" will grow on me so I will go ahead and round this one up to a 10. It's a pretty bold move on Shore's part considering how he typically plays with metal bands so has a fan base rooted in heavier music, but this moodier side is welcomed at least by me at the end of the day it comes down to the fact that these are good songs.



 

Morbid Flesh : "Rites of the Mangled"





Not matter the genre darkness is what I look for to make things heavy. I hear more Tampa in this Barcelona band's second album than Sweden. The end result is something dark and punishing. The vocals are a low , but powerful gurgle. The guitar solos fire out from the corners of the songs. While it is more rapid fire 'Burn the Entrails" doesn't stick to me as soundly as the opener. It becomes a wall of sound charging at me with not defined form to make it a song that I would return to. The slower turn it takes two minutes in is a wise choice.While it makes more sense than the previous song , " Banished to Oblivion" is still not as good as the opener , but is heading back in that direction.

"Heretics Hammer" finds them entrenched in the single minded aggression that characterizes death metal. The vocals are way forward in the mix. Everyone else has their foot to the gas as they accelerate this mean machine deeper into hell. The more melodic solo section really helps the song. There is a stormy drama to the intro of "Feeding Mallows" but it descends into the more typical death metal aggression. The double bass on this song cuts through the somewhat murky mix. The guitar solo section gets creepier for this one which elevates it above many of the other jack hammer riffs this album has offered. They lock into a more powerful chug and it shows that when they chose a more dynamic path it pays off for them.

"Incantation" sounds more like a darker vision of Cannibal Corpse than the band Incantation. This song kind of breezed past me on the first listen. On the second listen I noticed little flourishes of guitar. The accented growls that make the chorus do create more of a hook that your average death metal. There is more of a mainstream Cannibal Corpse like groove to "Evil Behind You" . This also makes the song stand out as one of the more thoughtful pieces on this album even when the brakes come off and it races away. This is a pretty solid death metal album even if it doesn't
  break any new ground I could just leave it one and let it play, so I will give it a 7.5.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

GJENDØD : "Nedstigning"

Pretty much run of the mill black metal with good ugly vocals until I noticed some time of whispery vocals layered underneath it that made me check my head phones. Anytime you can make me check my head phones to see if I am going crazy then you did something right. Even with out the mid fuck I like the second song better as it slows down and gets majestic. There is a slight depressive feel to things even when they launch off into more of a blast fest for "Hapet Falmer" it does slow down into  more of a Burzum pace, and then it strikes me that I own all the Burzum albums so that is why I am not blown away by this .

"Kvalt Av Fornuft" works off of a more blasty mc nasty formula. At this point in time I am looking for looking for black metal bands  to give me moments that do not own their entire identity to 90 Norwegian black metal. "Utrydd  kind of drifts out of the previous song in a buzz of blasting .It then follows a the kind of path into the woods you might typically expect from a project like this. The last song offers a little more variation, but little is the keyword as it is only a marginally shift in the blast beats. The vocals are gurgled in a pretty menacing fashion, but they don't beat the likes of Lifelover, so it is not enough to keep me engaged. /

I think giving this album a 7 is more than generous. If you really want something that takes you back to the days of early Burzum but with more in the way of synths then this si worth your time. If you are a die-hard fan of black metal I would be surprised if there is anything you have not heard done already on here aside from the whispered vocals which I am beginning to suspect was just anacidd flash back on my part.

Space Witch : "Arcanum"










Living up to their name these guys can be the doom metal equivalent to kraut rock and in fact employ some synth sounds that are taken from the annuls of kraut rock.As the band's second album it  would be properly enjoyed to the fullest extent of the bong as a sound track to sailing out of your mind and over your couch in the late night hours. The riffs bubble out of the distortion like the liquid in a lava lamp. The first song is pretty drug droney until the ten minute mark the it gathers more muscle for a more burly steam roller of a riff. I think their strength is how they are able to keep you engaged with some kind of guitar melody and I will be the first to admit I am a tough audience for this sort of a thing as I am a singer and listen for voices. So if you are going to engage me with instrumentals your work is cut out for you.

"Astro Cide" starts off with a more relaxed proggy feels and then tenses up midway in and vocals come in. The are a husky bark that is not really a growl until the end of phrase or so. It speeds up into an almost black metal section at the end.The vocals to "Hex " are a more dramatic exclamation than what Kylesa used to do , but are in the same vein with pseudo occult poppycock for lyrics. It starts off as typical sludge and midway into the song things begin to get trippy as the more atmospheric jam centered elements of the song begin to take over.

The album ends with the 12 minute " Battle Hag". It takes them about four minutes to really get to the meat of the matter and lock into a big droning metal riff to give this the propulsion it needs. At the eight minute mark they start weaving in some guitar melodies and while this would go over well live at high volume this song is not something I can personally hear my self listening to on a regular basis.  That doesn't take away from the fact that these guys are really good at what they do, so much so that I will give this album a 8.5

Friday, March 10, 2017

Planning For Burial : "Below the House"



 How this project eluded me , I am unsure, but this album put them firmly in my radar. It took forever for me to make it past the fourth song. I kept going back to listen to first three songs again. I was not expecting the album to start off as heavy as it does. Then it's pretty much what else could you ask for from there, I mean Thom Wasluck is a visionary blending shoe-gaze and post-punk pretty seamlessly. This is the album I wish Jesus made after their "Silver" ep. There is a break in the sonic density when it gets to "Warmth of You" which relaxes into a more introspective Cure like form of pot-punk.

Then at the 5th "song" the album takes a turn into a few more ambient pieces, which are good for what they are , not the sort of thing that will make it over to my ipd. He begins to form more tangible songs after this interlude of  sound with  "the dull knife". This is a two part concept the first song more distorted and sludge like in the weight it hit you with.  The second part is almost twelve minutes and a much more dynamic and sprawling post-rock affair. It comes out of a more compressed mood that carries a some what indie folk with a minimal drone, there is a certain honesty in his singing voice that I appreciate here. you know how I feel about long songs , but at the seven minute mark I finally looked up to see where we were, so it goes by in a very fluid fashion.

The title track is another descent into weirdness that is more of an outro as it rides on a hushed chant and some droning notes being sustained on a synth. The sounds are manipulated in varied ways , but it would be a stretch to really call this a song and is more like another piece of experimentation. When I interviewed Emma Ruth Rundle last night , the first thing I did was recommend this album to her. With that in mind I have to not only recommend it to you dear reader, but give it a 10, as the actual songs are perfect when he decides to make actual songs. While the more ambient droning pieces won't make it to my iPod , I can accept them more easily because it is clear when he is setting  his intentions on writing a song and when he is just making art in the form of sounds.

Released March 10th on the Flenser


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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Cvlt Nation Sessions -The Cure's "Pornography"


While My family over at Cvlt Nation always picks albums I love when they choose to put these tributes albums out, they have made things extra difficult for themselves. Not only is the Cure one of my all time favorite bands, but "Pornography" is my favorite cure album ."Hanging Garden" should be heavy do to the darkness with the razor sharp guitar melody is slinging out you. Annex got the bat-cave reverb right. Their singer can't muster the same level of desperation Robert Smith had. This version just doesn't have the same punch.

 You can really hear the influence the Cure had on today's indie rock when you hear Lunch's cover of " A Short term Effect ". They get the job done better than most with this one, but once again the mood is more indifferent than tapping into the visceral outpouring of heart the original had. It's my first time hearing Flowers and Fire, so "Hanging Garden " is a pretty tall order.  They seem to have a natural murkiness to their sound.The vocals are a little weak and the more lo-fi wall of effects keeps things raw, but less focused tonally.  Curezum the metal Cure tribute act. They must have chosen the name as a joke, because they sound nothing like Burzum. What this project does to is got with the rasped metal vocals.   vocals , While I like their idea, I think it loses a little of the song in translation.

One of the best songs on the album is undoubtedly Kaspar Hauser's cover of " the Figure Head" which effectively captures the mood of the original without losing their own sense of identity. There is a very feel to this one. The vocals might be the best on the album thus far. This one is the first to really impress me. Then comes Aztec Death's version of "A Strange Day". The indifferent vocals once again drop the ball. The guitars are doing some pretty cool stuff, not really capturing the heart of the song. Ambersmoke throws "Cold" out the window and opts to make noise instead.

The title track is a tall order to tackle. They throw on some swirling noise to provide the smoke and mirrors of approaching this goth epic.I like the effects on the vocals. I think the kind of punk sneer to the vocals misses the point of the melody.  I think where many of  these bands go wrong is the detached coldness they approach these songs with. It was how Robert Smith really poured this overflowing emotion into what he did here that makes the album so powerful. Some people say they can't stand Robert smith because he is so whiny. These are tortured lamentations. These bands might have done better with "Three Imaginary Boys" I'll give this a 7.

Ghost Bath : " Starmourner"




After "Moonlover" came out the internet got black panties in a wad due to the mix up or deception as to where these guys are from. I the process they might have forgotten how good that album was. With "Starmourner" there is no mention of geo-graphics, the focus is just music. The album opens with a piano piece before going into the first song "Seraphic". Once again the band instills a more mainstream sense of metal into some of the guitar harmonies. Based on the first minute of the song you would not think it was black metal until the flurry of blast beats. The drumming feels more in your face on this album. The vocals are mixed back into the blur and almost more like shrieks that remind me a little of the Body. I guess this off sets the melodic guitar playing. The guitar playing steps into the spot light even further around the three minute mark with a dizzying pattern they hang onto an accelerate under.

"Ambrosial" slows it down a few degrees to allow the composition to have a greater range. I am most impress with the lock into the pounding drone of the riff at the five min mark which I think offers the kind of pay off the song needed. The go into a direction not far removed from "Moonlover" on "Ethereal". It has some of those more post-rock punches that Deafheaven uses. "Celestial" goes bigger and more majestic from here and everything clicks better for me on this song. "Angelic" kinda breezes by, but "Luminescence" is more interesting and engaging int where they guitar melodies take things. The production and layering of the guitars is a little weird. At times it sounds like guitar karaoke in how it sits so forward over the rest of the music.

Things get more aggressive for "Thrones" . All the guitar melodies remain in play and blast beats return. Here I also notice the vocals have more of a Deafheaven like growl to them and are not just shrieks. While this sound is pretty effective for them it really is not breaking any new ground, but if you like what this band does then this certainly caters to more of the black side of that equation. By the time we get to "Elysian" the songs are starting to run together with the upbeat guitar melody of this song the only thing that is making it stand out for me. "Cherubim" finds them punching with a more conventional metal tone at times.

At this point in the album it's clear they are getting the job done and delivering what their fans expect, but not really blowing me away with this. I do like when they get back into the more expansive post rock influenced melodies like the ones they dip back into for "Principalities" . It might be one of the album's best songs. It makes me think why were they not going in this direction the rest of the album. I'll give this album an 8.5 as they succeeded in doing what they needed, but I do not feel it beats out "Moonlover" . If you are a fan of the band it should however hit the spot you want it to thus lies their success.


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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Svart Crown : "Abreaction"




The project of French guitarist/ vocalist JB Lebail is releasing it's fourth full length. This time their vision of blackened death metal is even more textured and melodic. It opens with a gloom filled dirge that slowly builds and then retracts back into atmosphere before accelerating. When it does it uses a very syncopated hammering. The second song is more death metal and while well preformed didn't offer many moments that did much other than blast right past me on the first listen . On the second listen I heard more of a break down midway through, but it didn't have the kind of urgency you typically think of metal engaging you with. "The Pact : to the Devil His due" slows back down and finds some eerier melodies mixed in. This song breaks down into some darker elements that appealed to me much more than the second song, even though the break down made things drone on a little
more.

They cross over the line into more straight up death metal on "Upon This Intimate Madness" . It is however very well done death metal that engages me more than some of the album's previous moments. "Khimba Rites" is another more death metal tinged song. This one once again required a second listen for it to sink in where is where I have been at with this whole album. There are so sung vocals, they are a baritone chant, so wont really offend those of you who hate clean vocals and far from selling out. Things continue to darken for "Orgasmic Spiritual Ecstasy".  "Emphatic Illusion " once again finds the band heading down a middle of the road death metal direction, but this song emphasizes the fact this album stands great from a production stand point which is fairly consistent for the band. I'll give this one an 8, yet another solid album from these guys who continue to deliver, if you like the lines leaning more toward the death metal side of your blackened death metal and are a fan of bands like Behemoth then check this out.

 





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Floods : "S/t"

Here is a band out of the Brooklyn scene that isn't conforming to what their cohorts are doing and takes black metal in a more progressive sludge like direction.  The album is dense and they do get credit for not just throwing blast beats at you. The snarling vocals that sit back behind the guitars gives every song as some what uniform feel as they tend to phrase everything in a somewhat similar fashion. It is clear these guys are into Mastodon as much as they are into black metal. So with that said the riffs can take on a herky jerky angular quality. Not that Mastodon is the only band to do that sort of thing , but at one time it was clearly their bread and butter. The drums have a very stormy quality to them as they pound in circular fashion around the guitar.

"Coercive" almost has more of an old Converge feel to it. The more spastic and unhinged side of Converge and obviously Today is the Day, influenced Mastodon early on so you can hear some trickle down here. 'Stations " find things galloping out into a more metallic and black metal sound. The song really gets good when it slows into more of a stomp. "Angels of Failure" rages on in a more straight forward fashion than the other songs. While it feels more like black metal than some of the other songs I think this band's strength is not trying to be Mutilation Rites , but adding their other influences which take more of a back seat hear

I'll give this album a 7.5 . It got off to a strong start and then like a little kid trying to run down hill to fast it's legs got the best of them. With that said if you are looking for some black metal that has other elements because a-you are tired of the black metal you have or b- you like the idea of black metal but unsure if you want to commit to Burzum. Then these guys are a pretty good entry point for a novice.

the Obsessed : "Sacred"



While I am more of a St. Vitus fan, the Obsessed is just as much Wino's show. For me there was always more of a rock n roll feel to this band which I hear as being more upbeat than St. Vitus. So if you are trying to find the liens between doom and stoner rock. I would say that St. Vitus is doom where these guys are more stoner rock or more often in the case of this current incarnation of the band stoner metal. It opens with a more uptempo song, but I am more impressed with the double bass drive to  "Punk Crusher" that finds Wino's voice sounding better than it has in recent memory. The title track has a good groove to it , more on the rock n roll side of what they do, The vocals have plenty of room to fall in with the riffs. I like this better than the rock n roll side they show after this one on "Haywire" which makes it apparent that Wino is the next in line for Lemmy's throne , because even though "Haywire" is not really what I want to hear from Wino, he is making that kind of timeless rock n roll that Lemmy did with Motorhead.

"Perseverance" has more of a Deep Purple groove to it. The drums even have a Zeppelin like swing to them in places. The production is really dialed in and while Wino's vocals are high in the mix it works for the more mainstream feel of these songs. There is almost a ZZ-Top feel to the call and response nature of the interplay between the vocals and the guitar on "It's Only Money". "Cold Blood" is an instrumental that's decent for what it is , but I perfer the darker turn the verses to "Stranger Things " takes . The more Led Zeppelin blues boogie side with a tinge of metal on " Razor Wire" which has a somewhat silly chorus, but it's all in good fun I suppose. "My Daughter My Son" finds me checking out a little and not holding my attention.

They drive straight ahead with the more meat and potatoes rock of "Be the Night".  The darker more doom oriented tone to "On So Long" is more of what I have been looking for. "Cross Roader Blues" really indulges his need for slide guitar. I will give this album an 8. I think he sounds great here and production wise this is pretty solid. This is more fun drinking music than the more introspective depressive side of St. Vitus, they are obviously two different projects and this new direction makes that clear with out polarizing old fans.





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Classics? - Accept : "Restless and Wild "





Here is a new column where I am going to give another listen to album long hailed as classics and see if they have rightly earned their places in the revered halls of hollowed metal worship. This German band I have always respected, and liked some of their stuff but never clicked with me I picked this album because it does have my favorite song "the Princess of Dawn" on it. I caught these guys in the late 80's opening for W.A.S.P , but Udo wasn't in the band so it almost doesn't count. I always thought of them as a poor man's Judas Priest and while I can hear that on the opener "Fast as a Shark" , I like the title track better. Udo 's rasp gives them more of an edge than most Priest, though Halford is twice the singer he is.

"Ahead of the Pack" kind of wants to be "Heading out On the Highway"  which only proceeded this album by a year. The riffing is pretty straight forward arena metal, which now almost borders on hard rock when put in the context of today's metal. I like the reverse delay put on the song before the solo. As 80's metal guitar solos go , they are not memorable, but tasteful for what it is. "Shake Your Heads" has the deliberate Scorpions like beat with the pulsing bass following it. Udo's goes up higher into more of  AC/DC like register. The sing along chorus is a little on the silly side and if some did that today it would seem dated.

I think their songwriting is at it's best on a song like "Neon Nights". It has a darker side than the more cock rock bluster we have heard on this album up to this point. I think Udo's voice sounds great in the lower croon here as you can feel more emotion in his singing. But then there is the clownish "Get Ready" . You tend to forget about this song as it's followed by the much heavier "Demon's Night". This song hits all the right places for when it came out. For 1982 this was some pretty heavy shit and you can hear how it certainly influenced a band like Exodus.

When it comes to song titles it certainly doesn't any dumber than "Flash Rocking Man"  It is dumb Camaro drinking beer rock, "Don't go Stealing My Soul Away" is marginally more metal. Lyrically it is not as silly. Then comes the best song" Princess of the Dawn". The longest song on the album has some stunning guitar interplay.In how this album finally pans out I'll give it a 9 so it falls short of living up to "Sin After Sin" or "Number of the Beast" if we are talking about what the truly classic metal albums are, but to know where your metal came from it's worth a listen or 3.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Immolation : "Atonement"




If you are quick to think bands like Ulcerate created their brand of dark and dissonant death metal, the new you need to get caught up on is Immolation has been around since 1988. They are old pros at their brand of death metal, which might not sound as evil or satan fueled as Morbid Angel or Incantation, but they have a certain sonic desolation that should be taken just as seriously. To their credit they have never fallen into some of the odd excursions a band like Morbid Angel has. Not to knock Morbid Angel as they are likely at their prime my favorite death metal band.

The parts I find  that make a song like  "When the Jackals Come" less interesting to my ears is more of a problem with death metal as a whole  in that it relies on a single minded aggression. At the end of this song, that is varied with some interesting guitar melodies. They do a better job of catching my ear on "Fostering the Divide". This is mainly due to the stellar drumming of Steve Shalaty formerly of Deeds of the Flesh. When it does constrict into the more over aggression, at least you have been given a breather going into it. The slower darker groove of "Thrown to the Fire" works a lot better for me than the more in your face speed fest off "Rise  the Heretics".

This album sounds greats and they have really big powerful sound going into "Destructive Currents" but from a songwriting perspective aside from being heavy it sounds like everything else. They prove they are capable of doing more on "Lower" which is actually a great death metal song with the vocals contributing to the song rather than being a growled after thought. The speed picks back up for the title track and the challenge is obvious when you are playing hammering fast death metal how to keep it interesting? They do find a groove toward the end that could set a mosh pit on fire, but as far as all time greatest metal songs go, the bar has not been raised. Things do improve and groove with "Above All" .

By now you are wondering why I am being so hard on these guys and already have this album penned on your best 2017. The reason is these guys have been doing it since 88. We have the two principle songwriters in the band. So these guys should have their shit abut as finely tuned as you could ask for. They do to some extent, All of the sounds are dialed in to the 9th degree. But I want the compositions to be just as air tight and on some songs they are. "the Power of Gods" is not one of those songs. If you just want a sick ass guitar tone and double bass kicking your face off then you are in luck , but you are probably only a teenager if that is all you still want out of music.. They redeem themselves with "Epiphany" which has a nice hooky groove to it. Overall even with the high expectations this album is pretty solid , I'll give it a 8.



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Plagues : " The Great Dark Devotion"



From the opening track of their new album it's apparent where they are getting it right. In some ways similar to a band like Woe, these guys do not live and die by the blast beat affording the songs to find their own way to come to life. The vocals are a very blown out and ugly howling. The production is dense and nasty in the right places without sacrificial the over all sound. Even with all they have going on for them in the first song it makes me ask what else can they do? "Abyss" trades out some of the mood established in the first song for more of the primal savagery.They are able to due this in while still hooking you in with the riffs. The howling vocals took over on the slowed sludged stomp of "Ascension" . The first song where the more black metal elements hit a rabid place of meeting noise and intensity occurs on "Dust " where the tremolo picking becomes a blur and doesn't connect with me like the first things songs did.

While it's very angry 'Winter Tomb" gets them back on track in terms of song writing. "Hell" has more of a burly Swedish death metal feel in line with what Entombed once did in a few spots. It raging along at a more manic almost d-beat like punk pace that gives it a whip-lashing thrash. At this point in time no new ground is being broken . I took a break from this album and came back to find the energy of "Sins" welcomed me back. It has a snarling aggression that blends there more d-beat style with the black metal in an older black metal style that dirties up what Celtic Frost used to do.Is it the most original song on the planet...no , but it works for what is going on here.I like the darker throb of the 11 plus minute closing hymn "Devotion" . Once again these guys are not reinventing the wheel and there is a pulse not unlike that of a band like Inquisition, but it is done with a more feral honesty. I'll give this album a 9, they put heart into it, though it's not something I can really hear myself having to have on my iPod, it's good American black metal for fans of that sort of non-corpse paint and running on anger brand of metal.

7.3

In the Company of Serpents: "Ain-Soph Aur"





This is not my first time checking this band out though it is the first time that have graced our blog here.   They have returned with doom tinged sludge to hammer you with in a manner that still has melody and attention to detail in the song writing. Judging from the opening track perhaps even more so than what we have heard from them previously. After repeat listens it's clear these guys are taking it to the next level.  There is a more fluid momentum that engages you with the vocals not just limiting themselves to the typical sludge bellow as they start of sung in more of a  throaty yet hushed baritone similar to what Neurosis uses at times. The lower roar does not wait to long to chime in. The riffs wind around the drums in an angular groove that is sinewy and forward thinking. Not only the first song cover a wide range of dynamics but this is the tone of the album as a whole going from a more oppressive doom sound to the band finding themselves  in more of a blue boogie groove by the time we get to the last song.

We begin to seem them break away from the obvious metal direction on the more Nick Cave like "Crucible" which sounds like something from the Twin Peaks soundtrack. The raspy croon of the vocals is a wink towards Scott Kelly for sure. it does build into a more gloomy form of sludge. "Merkabah" is dark but not metal. The acoustic guitars on this one sound great. The vocals are still in the smoky croon, so it keeps a similar feel to the previous song. The album is brought to it's climax with "Limitless Light" which takes a much more straight forward path towards sludge. It rides the line between sludge and doom with the down trodden lethargy the riff throbs with, but the underlying empowerment of aggression in it's mood is what tips the scales in the direction of sludge.  You could also ask the simple question does this fall more in line with "Through Sliver and Blood" or  "Turn Loose the Swans".

They are very effective and hammering you with the weight of their heaviness and managed to throw a twist of blues into it.I'll give this one a 9 as I think they get the job done and this album really takes it to the next level the last song is pretty cool but not as awesome as the first so keeps it from being a perfect ten, but worth your time if you like sludge for sure.
ITCOS Teaser from Frank Guerra Productions on Vimeo.



3.7

Connoisseur : " Over the Edge"




The most aggressive stoner metal you will hear. These blend a broad range of metal and punk influences to create something that at times comes very close to being death metal thanks to the growled vocals. The second song "All Day Every day" is only 41 secons long, but doesn't come across as grind core. There is more of a punk attitude to "Maxium Hashism". The bring in clean guitar tones for "Boulevard or Broken Bongs". The vocals are heavier than the almost indie rock like shuffle of the music under them. The only problem with some of these songs that is under two minutes is I find myself not being able to distinguish which one is which. The transition from "Weeding out the Weak" into " It's lit" is the first time this happens. Even though there is a pause and "It's Lit " more like a quick grinding ditty.

They hook me back in for "Live to Smoke".  They punk hooks that they employ remind me at times of  S.O.D and even some of the more yelled punk vocals reaffirm this connection for me. "I'd Rather Be Smoking Weed".  There is a slight crusty feel to " The Answer". This album could have very well come out in the mid 80s when punk and metal were really crossing over like this, as I can hear hint of even the Cro-mags sprinkled in. "Mala Yierba" has a fucking mean riff driving it. My rule is cool riffs alone do not make a good song, and these guys have the cool riffs, but keep them coming in a way that crafts them into good songs. Their energy makes up for the straight forward approach they take.

The problem with punk influences is they are bound to cross over into the kind of punk that I don't like which happens on " the Doctor" .  I like how "Plague Mask" drifts into a darker almost black metal like place. At 3:36 it's the album's longest song. There is a very melodic guitar riff that leads into the bong worship on "Cashed Out" , but it's more of an outro than an actual song unto it self. I will give this one an 8.5 I liked it way more than I thought I would going into this.