October 13, 2018

Deadbird - III: The Forest Within the Tree

By Nate Garrett. There’s a reason why bands that come from Arkansas are so powerful. The entire area is haunted. Ask certain people there and you’ll get certain explanations. Their theories will range from spirits carried along the river
By Nate Garrett.


There’s a reason why bands that come from Arkansas are so powerful. The entire area is haunted. Ask certain people there and you’ll get certain explanations. Their theories will range from spirits carried along the river, to restless Native Americans reaching out from their burial mounds. No matter what you call this ominous force that permeates the Natural State, Deadbird has always been one of its strongest channelers. The band has been dormant for a decade, and now it has returned with its best album.

Opening track “The Singularity” features intimate acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies reminiscent of the dark melancholy of Alice In Chains. A swirling undercurrent generates a sense of foreboding beneath the beauty of the music. According to guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schaaf, the sound in question is a recording of a massive glacier calving (look it up). This is a fitting introduction to the album, as the looming end of humanity has always been an inherent theme of the band’s music.

“Luciferous Heart” is a romping rock and roll masterpiece. Layered guitars exchange classic hard rock riffs under a barrage of harmony vocals that sound like The Allman Brothers if they were from hell. The mid-tempo swing is disintegrated by a pummeling gallop during the bridge. This section resides somewhere between Black Sabbath and High on Fire, yet remains distinctly southern. The song then slows to a crushing crawl, proving that Deadbird is still among the best bands in the world as far as southern sludge is concerned.

“Heyday” is another epic track that runs the gamut of Deadbird’s creative arsenal. Like its predecessor, this song features haunting vocal harmonies, impossibly heavy riffs, soaring guitar harmonies, and enthralling dynamics. Next up is “Alexandria,” the most unexpectedly catchy track on the album. This is the closest thing to a single Deadbird has ever recorded, and it works. Remember when Baroness was more brawn than brains? That might get you in the right ballpark. The verse/chorus structure is streamlined for maximum potency, and the vocal melodies are as infectious as they get.

“11:34” is an instrumental, a compelling bassline awash with guitar harmonies that wouldn’t sound out of place on a classic Metallica or Priest record. But as always, Deadbird carves its own path, and the music is accompanied by the nighttime sounds of an Arkansas forest. You can almost feel the ghosts I mentioned earlier in this review. “Brought Low” is a heartfelt, bone-deep song about depression, driven by expert control of dynamics. It thrives upon the interplay of light and shade that bands like Led Zeppelin understood was so crucial. The verses are vulnerable and fragile, and the chorus is pure aggressive release. This song ends with one of the best riffs you’ll hear from Deadbird, or any other band for that matter. The last section in particular manages to be unpredictable and still viscerally moving at the same time. “Bone and Ash” is the most overtly heavy song on the album, connecting the dots between crust and post-metal. This track is pure aggression, an assault of d-beat brutality counterpointed by the groove of southern-fried doom. “Ending” is both the conclusion of the album, and the final chapter in the trilogy of subdued interludes. It’s the closing movement of a masterfully constructed piece of music.

Deadbird III: The Forest Within the Tree is a sprawling portrait of the heartache, longing, joy, depression, exhilaration, magic, misery, and hope that informed all the greatest music from the American South. This is the blues by way of Neurosis, southern rock via His Hero Is Gone, gospel that praises the best of classic metal, and soul that only life experience can produce. Deadbird lives.


Nate plays in Spirit Adrift and Gatecreeper.

September 28, 2018

Scorched - Ecliptic Butchery

By Matt Hinch. Back in August, I saw Scorched play at Migration Fest. I knew enough about the band that I wanted to stick around and watch them instead of going to a bar with my friends. That says A LOT. It wasn't an easy decision but it turned out just fine.
By Matt Hinch.

Arwork by Misanthropic-Art.

Back in August, I saw Scorched play at Migration Fest. I knew enough about the band that I wanted to stick around and watch them instead of going to a bar with my friends. That says A LOT. It wasn't an easy decision but it turned out just fine. 2016's Echoes of Dismemberment made enough of an impression that I was happy to reacquaint myself with their brutal style of death metal in the live setting. A mere two months after that earplug workout they've released another exercise in gruesomeness with Ecliptic Butchery.

Here we see the Delaware death crew taking the horror off the planet. They brought all the gore with them though. Blood still sprays in zero gravity! Just look at the song titles. “Blood Splatter Eclipse”, “Exhibits of Torture”, “Barbarous Experimentation”, “Dissected Humanity”, you get the idea.

Sound wise Scorched keep things pretty brutal. More California death than Florida to these ears. That's just how I hear it anyway. Heavy either way. While they have the chops to pull it off if they kept it fairly standard, they don't keep it standard at all. There are more than enough tempo changes to keep things interesting and some sci-fi synths/samples give it flavour. A song like “Mortuary of Nightmares” has it all. It's a total neck-breaker with galloping riffs, a sludgy part, chugging beatdowns, and percussion that kicks you while you're down.

Elsewhere they channel Cannibal Corpse (and not just with the vocalist's circling headbanging), work in some creepy organs, fall into a pit of doom, and even rub up against some d-beat rhythm. Throughout though the atmosphere one feels is truly dark and horrific. They don't necessarily do anything specific to set that feeling up. It's just part of the whole package. Well, save for the cavernous death growls. They suck all light from the room and enhance the death/doom quality woven into their precise instruments of aural torture. Let's not forget the slick, incisive solos that tip their hat to the mighty Slayer though, as they strengthen a certain familiarity. In my opinion anyway.

It's also my opinion that if you're going to play death metal with a sci-fi twist, do it like this. Keep the brutality. Keep the groove. Keep it death metal. Give the listener something they can sink their teeth into and chew on for a little while. That way if you aren't the kind of person that can discern lyrics, you can still wrap your mind around everything else hurtling you towards your demise. 2018 has been a pretty solid year for “traditional” death metal and with Ecliptic Butchery Scorched add their name to the list.

September 21, 2018

Abysmal Torment - The Misanthrope

By Bryan Camphire. Maltese metalheads Abysmal Torment churn out mighty intense brutal death. Their music is ultra complex, and their releases are totally unrelenting from start to finish. They play their own brand of brutal death metal
By Bryan Camphire.


Maltese metalheads Abysmal Torment return with their fourth full-length in a dozen years. Their music is ultra complex, and their releases are totally unrelenting from start to finish. They play their own brand of brutal death metal with an extra emphasis on the moshpit. Yet, this new record, The Misanthrope, doesn't divulge its secrets easily. The torrents of blast enshrine the majesty of this release like the walls of a fortress shield the riches of the keep.

With The Misanthrope, Abysmal Torment have upped the ante on all levels of their music including the production, squashing the mix with massive amounts of compression so that it sounds as loud and as in your face as can be. It's easy to view this type of production with disdain: it's very modern; it's the type of thing done by nauseating bands like Metallica today. Truthfully, I had to lower the bass on the equalizer on my car stereo while listening to The Misanthrope just so that I could hear more of what was going on with the guitar work on this release. I can not think of any other musical release I've heard that has this much kick drum in it, both in volume level and in quantity. This was off-putting for the first few spins. Then it drew me in. The bold-faced velocity of Abysmal Torment's full frontal assault beckons me inwards to look for subtlety in the eye of their mile-wide mayhem.

Indeed, subtleties abound in the music of The Misanthrope. The intricacy of this set on display more than makes up for its lack of dynamics, like a church ceiling that transfixes you despite your lack of faith. No doubt the sheet music for these songs would be liable to make a person cross-eyed. The details are dizzying, yet ever so meticulously composed and executed. Abysmal Torment are surgeons of slam, precise and exacting after they lay you out flat.

The emotional thrust of this brickmason-like music is what becomes so surprising about it over repeated listens. Tracks three four and five are a highlight for me, and each of them make me feel like Beavis and Butthead on speed as I listen. This is one of the bands best slight's of hand: amidst their unrelenting onslaught - riddled with odd meters, delivered at blistering speed - it's the groove they deliver that hooks you and riles you up.

I became such a big fan of Abysmal Torment over the years that I've scoured the rosters of many a record label that peddles this type of brutality - including Pittsburgh's venerable Willowtip Records, home to this release - and have found no other band who produces this sound with such finesse. They almost make it seem easy. If you're a fan of hyper complex rhythms, listen to the first track on Abysmal Torment's 2009 release, Omnicide, and try to count it. That song continues to mesmerize me many years after first hearing it.

The band has stayed true to their trademark density on The Misanthrope. Like Abysmal Torment's colossal records before it, I'm certain The Misanthrope will trickle clues to its mysteries that will seep slowly into the consciousness for many years to come.