November 29, 2013

Imprecation - Satanae Tenebris Infinita

Written by Steven Leslie

Cover art by Chris Moyen

Imprecation has finally released their debut full length 22 years after forming. The band released a couple of cherished demos and an EP before disbanding in 1998. Anyone interested in checking out the band’s early works can find them all collected on the compilation Theurgia Goetia Summa. The band announced their return in 2009, leaving underground death metal fans salivating until the release of Satanae Tenebris Infinita via Dark Descent in 2013.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

Their first full length follows the template laid out on their early works, but with a renewed sense of spite and vigor. The easiest reference point for what this sounds like would be Incantation, a band who needs no introduction to fans of blasphemous underground death metal. Eschewing the technical precision of modern day death metal in favor of a demented and sinister atmosphere, this album takes you back to the days when death metal was more about feel rather than who could play the fastest or most intricate riffs. And what a feeling it is.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

Roaring out of the gates with the unrelenting violence of "Blood Dominion", the aural bludgeoning hardly ever gives the listener any chance to breathe. While the tempo varies between speedy dirges to more mid pace stomps, each song hits like a 10-ton brick to the face. Those who like their death metal filled with killer riffs will find plenty to enjoy on this nine-track beast. There are also some tasty solos thrown in to spice things up. Never self indulgent, they fit perfectly into the songs and rarely ever overstay their welcome. The subtle use of synths also aid in creating a harrowingly sinister atmosphere. Death metal bands take note; this is how you use synths without degenerating into the realm of cheesy pompous self-indulgence. The vocals don’t offer that much variety, but Dave Herrara’s (also of black metal bands Bahimiron and Morbus 666) guttural emanations fit perfectly within the bands sonic framework. The production on this album is quite fitting. It is clean enough to make out each instrument without sacrificing any of Imprecation’s sinister atmosphere. Fans of sepulchral death metal rejoice because Imprecation has put out an album worthy of their hallowed legacy. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another 15 years until we hear from them again.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, black metal, Carmelo Española, Dark Descent Records, death metal, Imprecation, Steven Leslie

Bölzer - Aura

By Steven Leslie. Bölzer are an obscure black/death band out of Switzerland who have just released their debut EP through the mighty Iron Bonehead Productions. Honestly if you consider yourself a fan of black/death metal you will love pretty much anything Iron Bonehead has released. But getting back to Bölzer, this is an all around excellent EP
By Steven Leslie

Artwork by Alexander L. Brown

Bölzer are an obscure black/death band out of Switzerland who have just released their debut EP through the mighty Iron Bonehead Productions. Honestly if you consider yourself a fan of black/death metal you will love pretty much anything Iron Bonehead has released. But getting back to Bölzer, this is an all around excellent EP that has me anxiously awaiting a debut full length. These three tracks offer up an enthralling listen. Overall this is a death metal record, with the black metal influence seeping in more through the atmosphere of the music and some of the lyrical themes explored.

Musically Bölzer generally avoid the all out brutal onslaught favored by so many of today’s death metal bands, in favor of a more dynamic musical attack. What makes this EP so interesting is the variation between chaotic noise and catchy guitar melodies. There is a constant ebb and flow as the riffs go from distinctly memorable and hummable to atmospheric chaos. The drumming likewise varies from all out blasting into a more rocking groove. The vocals are also quite dynamic, ranging from sinister howls to a more standard death growl you might hear on something from the Ross Bay Cult. In the hands of lesser musicians this could easily turn into disjointed chaos, but Bölzer manage to blend everything in a way that it comes off as perfectly natural. This all combines to create an enthralling and hypnotic listen. Highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of catchy as hell atmospheric death metal.

Tagged with 2013, black metal, Bölzer, death metal, Iron Bonehead Productions, Steven Leslie

November 27, 2013

Yellow Eyes - Hammer of Night

Written by Matt Hinch.


Caught in a deathlike silence, the night is still. Gently falling snow lays down a bed of white amid the darkness. Shadows suck the moon's light from the forest, leaving the division of dark and light stark and definite. In the stillness a creature cowers against the cold. Hiding. Hiding from the light and the death it brings. For in the shadows it is safe from the prowlers of night, the hunters in the trees or those slinking between them, silent as the night itself. There is small solace taken in knowing death would come swiftly, but the fear is real and ever-present. They are always there. Watching. Waiting. Those Yellow Eyes.

On Hammer of Night, Yellow Eyes evoke those feeling of terror, fear and grace through six searing and dynamic tracks. Pounding drums beat with the frantic pace of a frightened heart. Black metal tremolos soar through mountain forests and glide through the valleys on the wings of majestic melodies. Desperate and raw vocals call on ancient forces to temper the fire that burns inside. The visceral screams buried deep in the mix speak with a barely restrained desire for expression of dreamlike fragments of a more complex whole.

Dramatic songs embody a deep reverence for the hills in which they were conceived and recorded, and by extension the greater majesty of earth's wonders. From the way light falls on the landscape in the face of a setting sun, to the bone chilling cold howling through proud pines, every aspect of nature's raw beauty is represented. Danger and darkness, light and longing, fear, forgiveness, cold and warmth, heartbreak and healing are all there in the careening riffs and undulating melodies.

Through the seething might of USBM, Yellow Eyes recognize our need to respect that which nurtures us instead of being a blight upon her surface. Humanity; a festering sore consuming the life giver unchecked.

The Hammer of Night falls heavy in the forest leaving a hole into which the listener is swept in the lightless cold of night. It beckons to be explored only to swallow whole those who dare enter its embrace. There are Yellow Eyes down there in the darkness and they are calling to you with a sinister elegance and a feral soul. Heed the call of one of the year's best black metal releases.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, black metal, Matt Hinch, Yellow Eyes

Bloody Panda - Summon: Invocation

Written by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.


This release is a creative reinterpretation, or re-visioning, of Bloody Panda's acclaimed Summon, which was originally released by Profound Lore in 2009 and subsequently re-released on vinyl by 20 Buck Spin. The resulting aural cacophony is now being made available exclusively via a digital download. Bloody Panda invited an incredible assembly of doom metal and experimental artists to remix and otherwise experiment with the songs on this album. The results are startling, schizophrenic, and brilliant. Highlights include Mick Barr's (Ocrillim, Krallice) version of "Grey," retaining some of Yoshiko O'Hara's vocals while combining them with spiny, abrasive, intensely textural guitars; Portal's barren, apocalyptic, and intensely unsettling version of "Saccades II";' and "Gold" by G. Stuart Dahlquist and Edgy 59 (who haven't worked together since the demise of Burning Witch in 1998), which evokes the atmosphere of an unholy rite, with agonized guitars and demonic vocalizations lifted by Gerry Mak's Tuvan throat singing. Summon:Invocation is incredibly intense, a shattered, expansive sonic landscape. The album is an exercise in aural psychological horror, the essence of difficult music.


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Tagged with 2011, Bloody Panda, doom metal, drone, Natalie Zina Walschots, sludge metal

November 26, 2013

Northless - World Keeps Sinking

Written by Justin Petrick.


Epic, is the feeling one gets while listening to the new Northless album World Keeps Sinking. Hailing from Milwaukee, WI this quartet showcase an impressive combination of sludge, doom, drone, and post-metal in a comprehensive, yet fluid and accessible way. From the opening track "Last of Your Kind" to the beautiful and atmospheric "Passage" Northless keeps a strong grip on the music. Centrally a sludge album, Northless does a most impressive job of alternating between the low and slow mechanics of sludge to the faster hardcore pacing while never losing the central feel of the songs.

The complicated nature of these songs showcase the care that went into crafting them. The 15-minute musical vehicle that is "Passages" is a complex and intriguing ride through an angst ridden story; with a mix of progressive tempo it changes into a sweet longing melody that has a few hooks sprinkled in for good measure. As you listen to you feel how the ever evolving atmosphere is moving and how you want to move with it, deep down into the depths from which it came. Northless continues this feeling throughout the album, making a connection to the listener.

Northless are by no means re-inventing the genre of sludge but what they are doing is owning it like few bands have done before them. They do more than plod out riffs, they make the listener feel and they make the listener care. Developing a strong relationship with their sound this album moves from common sludge album to something special and something that needs to be experienced. You don’t know it yet but your senses have been longing for World Keeps Sinking.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, Justin Petrick, Northless, post-rock, sludge metal

Arescet - The Crackling of Embers

Written by Majbritt Levinsen.

Artwork by Marika Hyldmar

Arescet is an atmospheric black metal band hailing from Århus in Denmark, that with their debut 2-track EP/Demo released something quite noteworthy. I was really taken when I first heard the tracks, and they have been played a lot ever since. This review has been laying in a notebook collecting dust since July, and in notebook I mean one with papers in it. I hand wrote the first draft while sitting in the backseat of a car listening to the demo on repeat. The band has changed drummer and name (to Sunken) in the meantime, so I better get this review in digital form before they do that again.

The Crackling of Embers might not be anything new under the atmospheric black metal sun, but it speaks to me in a strange way, or actually the drum does! The first two words you’ll read on my handwritten notes are in capital letters and reads: "THE DRUMS", followed by 3 exclamation marks!!! The guitars almost becomes a backdrop as the drums takes on the lead, and I find myself engulfed by them. I like the sound of drums and I'm struck by the skills it takes to play them - that goes for all black metal drummers out there!

From the first grinding noise that slowly grows in magnitude, like an ancient deity rising up from the dark, humid, moss-grown and rotting undergrowth, the opening track slowly raises and stretches itself into something powerful and mysterious. I am taken away on a journey, carried by the good, but also lonely feeling the guitars indulge in my stomach, my chest and in my mind. The bass is audible and for that I’m glad! The vocal is typical harsh crowlike black metal roars. Sadly I’ve not been able to dig up the lyrics for this release and some (most) of the words are lost to me, but frankly I don’t need to know what the songs are about, the music speaks to me all on its own. But sometimes the lyrics opens up another dimension to the tracks and I like to read them!

Both tracks offers great variation in speed and moods and has some really nice and lengthy, slow, almost droning passages, that gives the tracks new life making them both breaths and evolves. As I stated above I've been listening to this release a lot since I bought it on Bandcamp and I can honestly say that I have not yet grown tired of it, and it is only a demo! I’m so looking forward to hear what comes next from Sunken in the future!


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, Arescet, atmospheric black metal, black metal, free download, Majbritt Levinsen, Sunken, The Crackling of Embers

November 24, 2013

Derkéta - In Death We Meet

Written by Kim Kelly.

Cover art by Richard Schouten

Comebacks and reunions have lost their sparkle. They’re a dime a dozen nowadays, fueled by rising guarantees and nostalgia and buoyed by fans' all-consuming urge to see a band play "the old shit." Missed Carcass or Emperor the first time ‘round? No sweat, they’ll be right over (provided the money’s there). Nostalgia is now a thing of the past, but what of the bands that never got a chance to fade away? Derkéta's 2012 opus In Death We Meet may have felt like a comeback, but, improbably enough, served as their first proper introduction - one that took them nearly twenty-five years to make.

Far away from New York's brutish glamor or Florida's swampy heat, an ex-member of pioneering all-female death/doom band Mythic came together with two like-minded Rust Belt ladies and unwittingly launched what would become one of American death metal's unsung greats. It's taken nearly two decades for them to start getting the kind of recognition they so richly deserve, and even now, their first (!) proper album In Death We Meet is still flying further below the radar than one might like. The band's decision to quietly release the album themselves cut down on hype; I only found out the album existed during a chance encounter at a MDF distro stall, but happily plunked down those ten bucks faster than you can say "essential purchase."

Photo by Roy Stewart from Embalmer

There's never really been a core lineup, so to speak - members of Nunslaughter, Mythic, and now Cattle Decapitation have lent their talents to the cause, but at the heart of it all has been Sharon Bascovsky, a slight woman with a penchant for tuning down and possessed of a hugely powerful, caustic roar that'd bring Beelzebub himself trembling to his knees if he found himself on the wrong end of it. Joined by bassist Robin Mazen, drummer Terri Lewis, and guitarist Mary Bielich, Bascovsky has crafted a masterful collection of morbid, unerringly brutal death metal songs that would sound right at home on the band's cult Nineties output. They proceed at a relentless, measured stomp, shrouded in grim resolve. There isn't the faintest whiff of sterile modernity about it, and for good reason. In Death We Meet is the sound of a "Record" button being pressed on songs that have been hanging in the ether since 1990. Dérketa sounds old school because they were there - they lived it, and what's more, they created it. They helped build that fucking school, brick by muddy brick.

Photo by Roy Stewart from Embalmer

The album itself is everything a fan would want, and more. In Death We Meet feels far darker and heavier than your run-of-the-mill OSDM recording. The weight its creators carried on their shoulders press down upon its chords, and the album is intensely personal for reasons beyond its long gestation and perennially uncertain future. As Bascovsky shared with me during an interview last year, the title track on In Death We Meet was inspired by and dedicated to the memory of a close family friend who'd passed away unexpectedly. The death she screams of is not the glorified, incense-swathed reaper of popular metallic imagery; it's deeper than that. This death is all too familiar. Its hands aren't icy cold, but cool and papery, marked with hospital scars and bitten fingernails. It's death in its reality, not its fantasy - a heavy realization, a struggle to understand, and ultimately, the yawning chasm of rage, confusion, and grief that awaits us all. Derketa howl into the void, and come back gasping for air and clawing for purchase.

Photo by Roy Stewart from Embalmer

They have awakened from the cold embrace of their premature burial once more, and seem stronger than ever. Happily enough, Derketa have been playing live with a new drummer, and one can only hope that new material is forthcoming. Above all, they're survivors, and have fought hard for this second chance to shine. It's been a long time coming.

Hail the Goddess(es) of Death!


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2012, death metal, Derkéta, doom metal, Kim Kelly

November 23, 2013

Red Dawn - Ironhead

Written by Craig Hayes.


Way back in the ‘80s, when I was a teenager with a resplendent mullet, the explosion of fantastic metal bands appearing on the scene often made it seem like all it took to make great music was denim, leather, and a hefty amount of amplified attitude. Obviously, some actual guitar-god and/or frontman genius was always a bonus, and a stack of Marshalls as a backdrop helped enormously too, but there was a rough-necked, unbridled enthusiasm to the metal scene back then, where many bands exploited metal’s over-the-top attributes to their nth degree.

Thankfully, plenty of bands today still exhibit a devotion to metal’s early sonic signifiers and, more importantly, to that accompanying gusto–and that’s certainly an attitude that Wellington, New Zealand-based five-piece Red Dawn shows in its commitment to energetic and definitive heavy metal.

The band’s new EP, Ironhead, offers 30 thundering minutes of driving metal, where visceral thrash meets the hammering harmonies of NWOBHM for a hugely enjoyable and bombastic journey overall. Red Dawn features in its ranks one of New Zealand’s best drummers, Steve Francis–who’s appeared before on Metal Bandcamp, sitting behind the kit for black metal (and gutter-punk-friendly) outfit Bulletbelt. With Red Dawn, Francis steps away from the bitter and bloodthirsty mood of Bulletbelt, to rip into the full-bore supersonics of power-metal. And with Ironhead opening with the heavy-weight ignition of a Harley-Davidson (followed by a lyrical thread that sees the, “Bonds of society now forsaken”) the grease-streaked, turbo-injected metallic tone is set for the entire EP.

Thematic call-backs to the likes of Saxon and Manowar are there on “Ironhead”, with Ed Hintz’s vocals bringing the Dickinson and Halford operatic highs, while guitarists Andrew McGregor and Dan Hayston weave a mix of early Megadeth-esque riffing around the gallop of Iron Maiden. “No Man an Island” takes its inspiration from the metaphysical poetry of John Donne, casting it in a more modern light as mid-tempo melodic thrash, fiery NWOBHM-worthy soloing, and the corpulent rumble of bass catapult the song along.

Red Dawn brings tales of historical import on “Death March of Bataan”, tackling the grim reality faced by US and Filipino troops at the hands of Japanese forces in World War II; and martial percussive bursts, and bombarding, breakneck thrash set the song’s warlike temper perfectly. Elsewhere, the lightning-strike of “Rootshell" delves into lyrical themes of cyber connections and Big Brother intrusions, while “Prisoner” sees Red Dawn explore the psychological surrealism of the cult TV show of the same name with a grand cinematic epic–all dispensed with fitting traditional metal gravitas.

Ironhead’s production finds a great balance between the scrappy bite of upbeat guitars, wonderfully histrionic vocals, and the band’s crunching and propulsive rhythm section. The EP contains abundant six-string spiritedness and ramps up that vintage sense of old-guard metal theatrics without ever drifting into pastiche, which sees Red Dawn’s triumphant songwriting fall into the orbit of similarly expeditious acts like Enforcer, or Holy Grail.

Overall, Ironhead finds the grunt and punch of the likes of Manilla Road, Slough Feg, or Judas Priest blending with speed metal’s shred (right at the point where that whirlwind scene was evolving into thrash). Red Dawn hasn’t forgotten the whole-hearted enjoyment to be found in the unadulterated, fist-pumping metal of the genre's early years, with firebrand sprints up the fretboard seeing traditional and thrash metal melodies and solos duelling, and Hintz’s vocals having full-blown ‘classic’ metal frontman written all over them.

However, as much as Red Dawn’s stentorian songs draw from the strengths of metal traditionalism, it’s also important to point out that Ironhead doesn’t set out to further the reach of any retro-metal movement per se. Instead, while the EP successfully underscores that metal’s fundamentals are as powerful, propulsive, and entertaining today as they ever were, Ironhead also exhibits a rock-solid contemporary groove in parts. That proves that while Red Dawn has looked over its shoulder for inspiration, it’s definitely looking forward too–no doubt with a steely gaze set on securing its rightful place, in metal’s future.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, Craig Hayes, heavy metal, Red Dawn

November 22, 2013

Void Meditation Cult - Sulfurous Prayers of Blight and Darkness



You lose some, you win some. Thantifaxath recently decided that they didn't want their music on Bandcamp any longer, not even just streaming, leaving the Bandcamp page a little bare. Shortly after that I got mail from Hells Headbangers Records telling me that Void Meditation Cult decided to "letting us offer this for digital download" - "This" being Sulfurous Prayers of Blight and Darkness their 2013 split with Sperm of Antichrist. Or rather with themselves - Void Meditation Cult is the continuation of Sperm of Antichrist, and Sulfurous Prayers Of Blight And Darkness is the combination of the titles of demos from the two bands.

Photos by Carmelo Española.

The four tracks from Void Medication Cult are the standouts. Thick stomach churning detuned death metal riffing overlaid with monstrous vocals - like the guttural voice of some unspeakable being from the foul crypts. The unsettling atmosphere is straight out of the most blasphemous black metal; it is greatly enhanced by the slithering whispered vocals - like a giant snake god given human form - and the very effective use of ominous floating synths. The four Sperm of Antichrist tracks are rawer, and lack some of the features the make the other truly great: The guttural vocals, and the atmospheric synths. They are not bad at all, but it is interesting to see how small effective changes to the formula makes a better concoction. If Void Meditation Cult can improve their dark craft like this in the course of two demos, it gives me high hopes for an eventual full-length.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, black metal, Carmelo Española, Hells Headbangers Records, Void Meditation Cult

November 21, 2013

Wolvserpent - Perigea Antahkarana

Review by Aaron Sullivan.


When one thinks of hot beds of American metal Boise, Idaho isn’t exactly first on the list. But with the latest from Wolvserpent that all might change.

I was originally introduced to them in 2008 when they were called Pussygut with the song She Hid Behind Her Veil… . Admittedly, the band name was all that left an impression. By 2010 they had ditched the Pussygut name in favor of Wolvserpent. But up until seeing them live a few days ago I had paid them no mind. Not really sure why I even decided to go see them since I had not even heard any of their material since my first encounter. But I hadn’t been to a show in some time and figured why not. Man am I glad I did.

Photo by Taylor Keahey.

Wolvserpent is a two person band consisting of Blake Green on guitars/vocals and Brittany McConnell on drums/vocals/violin. They play what would be described as Drone/DOOM. Along with that are hints of Post-Rock, Ambient, Black Metal, and enough atmosphere to paint a picture by. Think Sunn O))) meets Godspeed while living in the woods with Wolves in the Throne Room. The drumming is bassy. Her toms are almost as big as her bass drum. They are played like rhythmic chants rather than keeping time. Blake’s guitar can go from post rockish drones to DOOM crushing riffs all in one song. What I love is that his heavy guitars are never overly distorted or distract from the atmosphere of the songs. Never trading one for the other but instead always keeping a balance. Vocals are shared. Brittany’s being clean and ethereal. Blake’s are anything but. A mix of throaty growls and blackened hisses.

Photo by Taylor Keahey.

This a two CD/L.P. album that is about total immersion. The atmospheres created within are all encompassing for the listener. With songs well over the 15 minute mark that is no easy task. But they pull it off masterfully. Since buying the album at the show it has been on a constant rotation. There is no doubt this will be on my year end list.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, Aaron Sullivan, doom metal, drone, Relapse Records, Taylor Keahey, Wolvserpent

November 19, 2013

Code - Augur Nox

Review by Andy Osborn.


Enslaved and Borknagar are two of my favorite all-time bands. There’s just very little sweeter to my ears than black metal aesthetics combined with progressive theatrics, slick guitar work and the occasional cleanly sung chorus. So I was beyond upset with myself for not having heard Code before the announcement of Augur Nox, their first album in four years. I have since binged on their back catalog and fell in love with their brand of mind-bending extreme metal that forgoes darkness and evil for something less tangible but equally disturbing. In the years since sophomore album Resplendent Grotesque the band has changed drastically and now boasts only a sole original member. But on their third full-length the English/Norwegian quintet have been able to keep the fire burning hot and stay true to their unique sound all the same.

Original singer Kvohst’s mind-bending and varied vocal performance was a defining piece of the Code identity, so even the most seasoned throat-burner would have trouble living up to his mystical aura. Switching between fire-breathing proclamation and preacher-esque clean passages, newcomer Wacian follows almost the exact form as his predecessor while even wrestling with similar deeply poetic and thought-provoking lyrics. Few people in this world could pull off such a niche approach, and the Englishman nails it. Vocal similarities aside, there are notable differences in approach taken by the band on Augur Nox. For one, the tracks are far less direct. While the band’s earlier work was firmly rooted in progressive tendencies, the songs had easier to decipher hooks that boasted a slightly firmer structure. But it’s rare that experimental-leaning bands ever ever pull back the reins with age so the new approach isn’t exactly shocking. Twenty minutes longer than their previous effort, it’s a massive, complex work nigh impossible to fully grasp as there’s no limit to the ever-flowing textures. When all seems relatively quiet, there always seems to be something hiding just beyond the veil; quiet, undecipherable whispers, ethereal echoes dancing across the soundscape, a bass fill humbly working its magic almost unnoticed. This leads far past their previously traveled realms and treads into the lands of experimentalism where the likes of Arcturus and Solefald reside.

Code play right into my tastes, so it’s no surprise I can’t speak highly enough of their work on Augur Nox. It’s an album that’s going to demand half a dozen spins just to scratch the surface, even when the melody and energy hit you immediately. But all this espousing can only go so far, as this is a work to be appreciated with an open mind free of expectations. Fans of metal extreme and calm will find much to appreciate in Code’s approach to the dark arts, though those seeking something that adheres solely to one or the other may be disappointed. A balancing act to be sure, but the multinational collective pull it off once again, this time on an even tighter rope.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, Agonia Records, Andy Osborn, Code, progressive black metal

Germ - Grief

Review by Andy Osborn.


Tim Yatras has been high on my list of favorite musicians for a number of years. One of the most prolific heavy musicians in Australia, his insatiable work ethic has seen him acting as a key member in over a dozen bands in just the past few years. Not least of those projects was atmospheric black metal duo Austere, so it was a huge disappointment to hear of their dissolution shortly after the 2009 masterpiece To Lay Like Old Ashes. But shortly after Tim announced Germ, his first completely solo venture. Germ’s debut, Wish, was easily one of the most unique 2012 releases in the realm of metal. It sprayed electronic, pop and rock elements all over his unique depressive black metal canvas into something unlike anything I’ve heard before. Now, just a year and a half later, we’re given another Germ album that tinkers with the original formula and presents a more focused effort that’s erupting with genre-bending creativity.

After opening with the ever-expected ambient intro, Grief bursts forth with the incredible “Butterfly,” a shoegaze metal anthem that fuses infectious melodies with massive guitars. The lovely voice of Amesoeurs’ Audrey Sylvain dances deftly before giving way to the main man’s tortured howls. These may take some getting used to for those not familiar and their juxtaposition with the upbeat music is jarring to be sure, but that just adds to Grief’s unique charm. It’s at once hopeful and utterly depressing, laying the world bare while trying to make something out of devastating despair.

It quickly becomes clear Tim has re-invented his project once again. Although it has much in common with the debut it feels more focused, toning down the experimental nature and making something more refined. The electronic elements still feature heavily but they’re no longer a driving force in the songs. On most of the tracks the relaxed synths give way to the huge wall of guitars and act as a thickening agent rather than primary ingredient. Over an hour passes with no two songs sounding alike, each with its own bleak personality fitting for a Tim Yatras release. Both his clean and haunting vocals are few and far between, which gives more room to his spacey instrumental arrangements and lets you get lost in his melancholy dream world.

Grief is a cross-sectional snapshot of a multi-talented artist’s brain. With so many styles of music and differing moods in and between songs it’s a difficult beast to grasp. But the parts that shine are undeniably impressive and prove that the Tim Yatras approach to metal is one of the most creative in the world. It may not be for everyone, but the amount of risks and new ideas brought forth is staggering; a true testament to a peerless mastermind.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, Andy Osborn, Eisenwald Tonschmiede, electronica, Germ, post-black metal, shoegaze

November 17, 2013

Krieg - The Black House & Patrick Bateman

By Dave Schalek. USBM forefathers Krieg probably don't need much of an introduction, but little has been heard from the band since the release of The Isolationist a couple of years ago. However, regardless of the relative lack of activity
By Dave Schalek.


USBM forefathers Krieg probably don't need much of an introduction, but little has been heard from the band since the release of The Isolationist a couple of years ago. However, regardless of the relative lack of activity, Krieg appear to still be very much alive and well as mastermind Imperial has expanded his band's presence on Bandcamp. Two classic releases from Krieg, The Black House and Patrick Bateman, are now available for purchase.

Krieg 2012. Photo by Carmelo Española.

The Black House was originally released in 2004, but has regained a higher profile in metal's collective consciousness recently by being named as one of the Top 100 Black Metal albums of all time in a recently released special edition collector's issue of Decibel Magazine. Coinciding very nicely with the album's inclusion on that list is the release of the album on Bandcamp.

A vile blast of misanthropic hate, The Black House is an abrasively loud example of fast black metal that is probably closer to its Scandinavian brethren than most USBM released at the time. A fine example of pure black metal, The Black House is highly recommended.

Krieg 2012. Photo by Carmelo Española.

Patrick Bateman, an EP exploring the title character of the book American Psycho, also was originally released in 2004 and pretty much continues where The Black House left off. Fast black metal with riffs cascading up and down the fret board, Patrick Bateman is characterized by a slightly deeper sound than The Black House, but is stylistically very similar. What shines through on both releases, though, is Imperial's vocal delivery of pure hate, the obvious backbone of Krieg.

Here's your chance to get acquainted with some classic releases from Krieg.




Tagged with 2004, black metal, Carmelo Española, Dave Schalek, Krieg

Universe217 - Never

By Kevin Page. Change. I'm not quite sure how I even stumbled upon this one. I've never seen or heard the band mentioned on any metal sites or through friends, so I guess seeing "experimental doom metal" made me click on it out of pure curiosity.
By Kevin Page.


I'm not quite sure how I even stumbled upon this one. I've never seen or heard the band mentioned on any metal sites or through friends, so I guess seeing "experimental doom metal" made me click on it out of pure curiosity.

What exactly is experimental doom metal anyways? I still can't answer that question. But I can say this is one of the best albums of 2013. This Greek band has been around since 2005, this being their 3rd album, released by the Greek label, Venerate Industries. Vocalist, Tanya Leontiou, is the standout here (no offense to the bandmates who do more than an admirable job in the song writing department). She reminds me of a metal version of Ann Wilson from Heart. Yes, the Seattle rock band from the 70's (who are still going strong mind you). Tanya's voice is powerful, soaring and dripping with emotion, without ever going too far to make you think it's being forced or trying to sound retro. It just oozes naturally. Musically this is doom metal, no huge surprises there. There's a hint of that old school vibe and feel, but its in the background and never screams out too loudly. A plethora of bands these days are on the whole "let's be retro, its the trendy thing to do, I can squeeze onto that bandwagon". Thankfully, Universe 217 is easily able to avoid this, mixing modern doom with some subtle nods to the past. If that's too "experimental" for ya, I pity thee


Tagged with 2013, experimental doom metal, Kevin Page, Universe217

November 16, 2013

Atma Weapon - Dark Tower

Review by Justin C.

Artwork by Larson Kilstrom

Atma Weapon is a self-described progressive metal band from North Carolina. They apparently take their name from a big baddie in Final Fantasy VI, but the only thing I know about the Final Fantasy series of games is that one of my neighbors in college played one or more of them obsessively. I could probably track him down on Facebook and get an exhaustive critical analysis, but let's stick to the music instead.

Progressive metal is a fair label, but I think more than anything, this is honest-to-goodness hard rock of a quality we don't see much these days. If there were any justice in the world, bands like Nickelback would stop terrorizing our fragile planet and be replaced with more bands like Atma Weapon. That's not to say it's bland, but rather it occupies a middle ground on the rock spectrum that hasn't featured much to get excited about for a while. The centerpiece of Atma Weapon's Dark Tower album is a six-song suite of sorts, titled simply "Dark Tower I-VI." It's a very cohesive unit, almost like a mini-symphony, with lots of groovy melodic themes recurring throughout. The lyrics are, for the most part, cleanly sung, with a few blackish growls sprinkled throughout. The timbre of Mick Armstrong's voice reminds me a bit of the late, great Jeff Buckley, and I mean that as high praise. Metal fans (myself included) can be a picky lot about clean singing, but unless it gives you some kind of Pavlovian rage response, I'd recommend you give this a chance anyway. I really like Armstrong's harsh vocals and wouldn't have minded more of them, but his clean voice is also very good, and I really loved some of the little vocal harmonies here and there, like midway through "Dark Tower II." There are also bucket-loads of groovy, hard-rock guitar riffs, and these are backed by a solid-as-granite rhythm section. The riffs get plenty of space on their own--in fact, "Dark Tower IV" is a proper instrumental-only showcase--but there's still a nice balance throughout the "Dark Tower" tracks. This isn't a guitar album with vocals slapped on top, nor is it just a bunch of backing tracks for the vocals.

If there's a weak spot on the album, it comes with the final two tracks, which at least in name are not related to the "Dark Tower" suite. "Dark Dreamer" is a serviceable rocker and fits in well enough with the mood of the "Dark Tower" songs, but the album's closer, "Miss Misery," doesn’t work well. At over 8 minutes, it's one of the longest tracks on the album, it's repetitive, and as you might guess from the winking, radio-friendly song title, it leans dangerously close to the generic hard rock I slammed earlier. The credits list a co-writer who's not a current member of the band, so it's possible that's why it stands out so much. I don't want to beat them up too much over what feels like a bonus track to pad out the running length, but I think they would have been better off leaving this as a concept-album only. Those six "Dark Tower" songs really feel like one 30-minute-long musical idea that ebbs and flows, but never drags. You're not going to hear anything here that's going to blow the top off your head off, but I think of these songs as what you might get from an old-fashioned, master craftsman. I keep thinking of a traditional, hand-crafted watch. The technology inside may be the same works that have been in watches for quite some time, but what makes a piece like that stand out is the brilliant skill and attention to detail brought to bear, and that's the kind of creation that Atma Weapon has show they can deliver with the "Dark Tower" songs.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, Atma Weapon, Justin C, progressive metal, rock

November 15, 2013

Imperial Triumphant - Goliath

Review by Dean Brown


With black and grey cover art of an execution scene whereby the accused is about to get skull-crushed by the unforgiving weight of an elephant, New York's Imperial Triumphant (comprised of the rhythm section of Relapse’s latest signees Pyrrhon, a second drummer named Kenny Grohowski, and guitarist/vocalist/orchestrator Ilya Goddessraper) set out a stark marker before a jagged note of the band's music is even heard. It's a cautionary image; a "back-out-now" moment for anyone unfamiliar with the oblique nature of Imperial Triumphant's past songwriting.

The follow up to the band's 2012 full-length debut Abominamentvm, Goliath, takes the title of everyone's favourite lost haven of hedonism, Sodom and Gomorrah, for its two tracks totalling 13 minutes and change. The godforsaken consequence of two fools engorging on the forbidden fruit also provides the inspiration for salacious lines like, "Condemnation! Ye Sodomites. Decadence: gluttons of wine and hallucinogens". In fact, the decadence and opiatic disarray doesn't stop with the lyrics; it probes its way right through to the music.

Goliath is a dizzying blackened death metal free-fall without a foothold in sanity. Yet there is coherence and trajectory to the jazzy turns of both songs, and the band's ability to evaporate and reconvene in another related dimension speaks of the fork-tongued Deathspell Omega, or even Dysrhythmia's disregard for linear boundaries. Inhuman intonations beckon at the beginning of "Sodom" leading us through momentary mantric chants that get lost in Gorguts-ian riff surges that detonate with delirium-inducing atonality. This queasy, ill-begotten discordance builds itself an impenetrable fortress during “Gomorrah”, but there is also a cinematic pulse to the pacing of Goliath's stride that no amount of side-winding shards of riffs and alien harmonies (Colin Marston even appears with a complimentary Warr guitar solo), chaotic blast patterns, and nauseating tempo changes can mask. And therein lies the ingenuity: Imperial Triumphant's gift for writing wide-screen yet bewilderingly technical blackened death is subtle in showing its grand design. But peer far beyond the allure of the "holy orgy" and Goliath’s truth is laid bare upon the "altar of whores", a left hand turn down the "path to Hedon".


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, black metal, Dean Brown, Imperial Triumphant

November 13, 2013

Vastum - Patricidal Lust

By Justin C. 20 Buck Spin has released Vastum's second full-length, Patricidal Lust. Fans of the old-school, scuzzy death metal they played on their first album, Carnal Law, will find a lot to enjoy here, if "enjoy" is the right word to use for a band
By Justin C.

Artwork by Paolo Girardi

20 Buck Spin has released Vastum's second full-length, Patricidal Lust. Fans of the old-school, scuzzy death metal they played on their first album, Carnal Law, will find a lot to enjoy here, if "enjoy" is the right word to use for a band that bravely treads so far into uncomfortable lyrical territory.

Vastum 2011. Photo by brandi.

Patricidal Lust continues the twin vocal attack from Daniel Butler and Leila Abdul-Rauf. They nicely avoid the cliche of rough male vocals and pretty female vocals by having both singers growl. Their vocal deliveries are similar enough to mesh well, but different enough in pitch and timbre to justify having dual vocals. The riffs are also a great mix, from the Sabbath-y album opener of "Libidinal Spring" to the chugging of "3 AM in Agony" and the doomy crawl of the opening of "Incel." The band hasn't wandered far from the style of their debut album, but their songcraft is tighter, and the tracks are more engaging. While listening to the title track at work, I found myself pounding away on my keyboard rest to the slow-motion thrashy riffs, and given the generally high level of reserve I try to practice at work, that's quite a statement about how this music can draw you in.

Vastum 2011. Photo by brandi.

The title of the album and track titles like "Repulsive Arousal" give a good indication of the lyrical content, but it's not all shock value. Abdul-Rauf's lyrics, "The object of my affection / The source of my agony!" hints at a deeper analysis of human psychology then you'll see in less accomplished music. I generally try to avoid reading other reviews before writing up my own, but I think Brian Krasman over at Meat, Mead, Metal nails it when talking about the lyrics: "...it may sound like the band is writing about sexual depravity, and they are. But not of the slasher film, skeleton-feasting-on-a-female’s-genitals kind of way. Instead, they examine what’s going on in your head, how these things can form you and warp you as a human, and the very real, very scary things that go on in this realm every day." It may be a horror show, but it's a thinking man's horror show with a truly excellent soundtrack.

Tagged with 20 Buck Spin, 2013, Brandi, death metal, Justin C, Vastum

November 12, 2013

Vastum - Patricidal Lust

MOBILE PREVIEW
By Andy Osborn.

Artwork by Paolo Girardi

Vastum are a revelation. The crust-tinged, mid-tempo death metal they play sounds only mildly interesting when described on paper, but the way they package and present their form of crushing aural chaos is nothing short of brilliant. Back-and-forth male to female vocals is something normally reserved for cheesy gothic bands but the Bay Area filth-mongers use it to add a dynamic normally not seen in the genre. The odd solo or bridge coax out the melody hidden beneath the band's thick trill-filled riffs, pulling them out of the gutter just long enough to cleanse your palate of the toxic fumes. Songs pound and stomp ever-forward, beating all in their path mercilessly into pulp and beyond. And while these characteristics were evident on their 2011 debut, Carnal Law, every aspect has been honed and improved upon in Patricidal Lust.

Vastum 2010. Photo by Taylor Keahey.

The clarified production makes the album slightly less filthy than its predecessor, that is, until you look at the album art or lyrics. The band spews forth tales of sexual perversion and the mental anguish that goes with it, a much more serious approach than the comically gore-splattered works found in the book of USDM cliches. And such abject reading material requires an appropriately toxic soundtrack, and Vastum deliver with this deadly serious piece of mind-fuckery.

Vastum 2010. Photo by Taylor Keahey.

Albums that remain at more or less the same tempo can make for tough listening, but Vastum end the ritual before any hint of monotony; each track is perfectly placed and adds a new twist on their unique, defined sound. They know what they want to create, and they create the hell out of it. Battling line-up changes and tragedy - producer Jeff Davis was killed in a motorcycle accident halfway through recording - it’s lucky the band even managed to keep alive this piece depravity worship. But the gods of the gutter were smiling upon them, and with their blessing present us with one of 2013’s finest slabs of death metal.

Tagged with 20 Buck Spin, 2013, Andy Osborn, death metal, Taylor Keahey, Vastum

Creative Waste - Slaves to Conformity

Guest review by BreadGod from Servile Insurrection

Artwork by Hamad Al Najjar

Creative Waste is a deathgrind band from – of all places – Saudi Arabia. Not only that, but they've been around since 2002. To be more precise, the band members were writing music as early as 1999, but it wasn't until 2002 that they saved up enough money to buy some instruments. Due to the hostile environment they resided in, an entire decade passed before they manage to release a full-length debut. It's called Slaves to Conformity, and it's awesome.

This album is raw, ravenous, politically-fuelled deathgrind. The drums sound like an engine of total destruction, constantly releasing a torrent of rapid blast beats and relentless double bass. The snare has this gritty quality that gives it a greater impact, and the double bass sounds like the galloping hooves of a thousand iron horses. Talal al-Shawaf does a great job on the kit, especially when he throws in a couple fills, but I also enjoyed the guest performances of former Dying Fetus drummer Kevin Talley. He appears on the songs “Cradle to Grave” and “Novus Ordo Seclorum”, and he adds a different mood to the music. Whereas the other drums are raging assaults, Talley's performance is like a storm that builds up before unleashing unholy terror upon you.

The vocals consist of a low, hoarse shout that reminds me of Misery Index, another deathgrind band that's well-known for being politically-charged, so that vocal style fits in quite well with what Creative Waste has made. They're the angry cries of an entire generation that's sick and tired of being oppressed, lied to, and sold into debt slavery. They're revolting against the government, the cronies who support their tyranny, and the international bankers who control them both. The guitars are awesome as well. They have a thick and crunchy sound that again sounds similar to Misery Index. The riffs are a simple mix of death metal and grindcore that are designed to be aggressive and sound great. There's a touch of groove to them and there are certain moments where they take on a black metal sound. It's a cavalcade of excellent brutality.

I never expected something this awesome to emerge from Saudi Arabia. I'm also quite surprised at how vocal they are about their hatred of the government and the status quo. These are brave men, I tell you what. I love the music too. Everything about it is excellent. It's a brutally honest display of unrelenting fury and you need to listen to it right now.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2012, BreadGod, Creative Waste, grindcore

November 10, 2013

Wormlust - The Feral Wisdom

Written by Craig Hayes.

Artwork by Metastazis

You could argue that trying to maintain any semblance of sanity in this world is a totally mad idea itself. Obviously, it helps us get through the day if we don’t scream bloody murder in other peoples faces about the things that blight of our existence. However, madness often seems like the only sane option when the world outside the window looks like a Hieronymus Bosch painting engulfed in flames.

Of course, that desire to rage at the world is one of the prime reasons we all love metal in the first place. It’s always been a crucial vent and weapon for our endless frustrations, and many a black metal band has taken utter delight in pouring scorn on this reality with ill-intentioned and demented abandon.

The greatest black metal bands have always leant hard on unhinged thematics and musicality to push sinful and embittered missives, and Icelandic one-man black metal band Wormlust does the very same. Formed by H.V Lyndgal in 2006, Wormlust’s full-length debut, 2013’s The Feral Wisdom, is 40-plus minutes of deranged black metal on a outer-space and schizophrenically soundtracked acid-trip. Songs like “Sex augu, tólf stjörnur” and “Djöflasýra” surge through psychotic second-wave screeds, detour off into ambient interludes of Lovecraftian terror, and then come blasting back with blistering darkness – choking Hawkwindian and Tangerine Dream-like atmospherics to death in the process. “Á altar meistarans” drifts through a Hammer Horror and synth-filled universe, “Iður úti” features 10-minutes of astral projections and discordant left-field explorations, and all together, The Feral Wisdom makes for one of 2013’s most fucked-up (i.e best) and unique black metal experiences.

The album perfectly balances bone-chilling and lo-fi causticity with more technical and progressive nuance that repeated listening brings to the surface. Much of the album calls to mind the sci-fi horror film Event Horizon. With Wormlust taking divergent tangents – one hell-bound and the other celestial – and combining those into an all-encompassing cinemascape, where the duality of music offered finds a connection right at the heart of fear.

All the Kosmische passages are woven in as integral features in the overall eldritch canvas – and speaking of art, you only need check out the Haight-Ashbury via downtown Hell cover art to grasp the vibe here. Swirling swarms of riffs throughout the album create a pitch-black vortex with the gravity to drag you in, and the weight to hold you there, forever. And Lyndgal’s deranged shrieks and whispered mutterings from the abyss only add to the hellish hybrid of psychedelia and sinisterness.

The Feral Wisdom features exceptionally strong songwriting, with songs that are clearly experimental in tone but never lose touch with the earthiest and most grotesque black metal – no matter how far they stray into the cosmos. The album is replete with incantations to the madness of the void and of this world, and the crawling chaos of its icy riffs, hallucinogenic keyboards, and jagged blast-beats wrenches open the portals to other dimensions; taking the nightmares that haunt our subconscious and fusing them to iniquitous abominations that lie beyond.

Exposing those links between a vast and uncaring universe and our own primal and terrestrial fears is nothing new in metal. However, The Feral Wisdom captures those connections with the kind of apocalyptic dread that disorientates and then dominates.

The Feral Wisdom is highly recommended.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, black metal, Craig Hayes, Wormlust

Eibon - II

Written by Ulla Roschat.


Being a fan of both, Otto Dix’s artwork and Eibon’s music, I was indeed immensely intrigued, when I saw Dix’s triptych Der Krieg (the war) as cover artwork of Eibon’s second full length album II (released April 2013). If the band was inspired by the artwork to create their music, or if they chose it subsequently is beyond my knowledge, but if there ever was a cover artwork to match the atmosphere of the respective album, I’d vote for this one.

The album consists of “only” two songs, the first one "The Void Settlers" being about 19 minutes, the second one "Elements of Doom" nearly 24 minutes long. The two songs belong together like two sides of a coin, with a similar inner structure showing different faces and aspects of the same story. And as I feel the music strongly connected to the painting, this is the story of war, which is always a story of violence, chaos, pain, despair, hopelessness and suffering multiplied by the futility and cynicism that is inherent in war itself.

Dix’s approach to these extreme atmospheres and moods in Der Krieg is to fill a large space (of wood in this case) with paint - different colors and depictions to create a myriad of detailed different scenes to be composed into a comprehensive image of misery. Similarly Eibon fill the large space of two long songs with sound. Their colors are mainly sludge, doom, black metal, ambient post metal and even psychedelic space rock - everything that is suitable to create a complete and cohesive image and atmosphere. The songs are carefully and intricately structured, composed of a bazillion different build ups and climaxes, different dynamic drives and tensions. Large parts are instrumental, the vocals rather work as an additional layer than as a constant presence. For one thing this gives room to the brilliant instrumental work especially in the driving space rocky parts with their excellent bass and drum work for the guitars to swirl and spiral around them and for another thing the vocals have their own strong moments of appearance.

What this Parisian quintet achieves here is not only that two songs of about 20 minutes seem to pass in no time, this is merely the effect of what’s far more stunning. It is the huge complexity of structure with an incredible amount of depth and texture created into a vigorous intense soundscape with an organic atmosphere without drowning the details. The fact that the whole affair was recorded live in one take surely enhances this vigorous intensity a lot (and definitely stimulates my desire to attend a live show of these five guys). The production rounds all out well, saving the filthy abrasive grit in the sound as well as the deeper details.

If intended or not, II absolutely captures the atmosphere and emotion of Otto Dix’s painted art and transforms it into a richly textured soundscape.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, doom metal, Eibon, sludge metal, Ulla Roschat

November 8, 2013

Beaten to Death - Dødsfest!

Written by Matt Hinch.


Norway's Beaten to Death burst onto the scene back in 2011 with Xes and Strokes. That album came out of nowhere like a pillowcase full of bricks at a teenage slumber party. They wasted no time and released a live DVD titled At Rockefeller in 2012. I've only heard the recording but B2D were as tight as you'd expect from a band that records 100% live. Apparently the fire was still burning hot enough for these grindcore planet smashers to bring us a new ode to awesomeness in Dødsfest!

As with Xes and Strokes, Beaten to Death take less than 20 minutes to grind your eardrums into a bloody pulp. The guilty parties of Martin Rygge and Tommy Hjelm (guitars. also of Insense), bassist Mika Martinussen, drummer Christian Svendson (Tsjuder) and She Said Destroy vocalist Anders Bakke take every iota of frustration and expunge it with reckless abandon.

Not a moment goes by where at least one element of this construction isn't defining extreme. Okay, maybe the funky bit in “Obliteration of Nekromantheon”. Even that gets the funk out in a hurry. That's the way it is with Dødsfest!. Nothing sits around long enough to get comfortable. B2D are constantly shifting from tire burning grind to intricate melodies and crushing and sludgy doom passages.

As mentioned, there's always a measure of intensity. At least one member is always going completely off the rails in some respect. If it's not Bakke's Travis Ryan-level vocal gymnastics, it's usually Svendson's flattening percussive madness. Dude can lay down some serious blasts, and his double-kick work in “Vinni Butterfly” is just one of enough “Holy Fuck!!” moments to pop a nun's cherry. Another being Mika's growling bass on “Krepsekamp”. So gnarly.

“True Norwegian Internet Metal Warrior” features not only some of the most heavy hitting downstrokes from Rygge and Hjelm but also some of their best guitar interplay as well. Not to mention how that title shows off the band's sense of humour. (“The Flesh Prince With Swell Hair” anyone?)

Dødsfest! is the kind of record in which the listener is forced to be active in the experience. Passivity is not an option. The rousing choruses of “Dov, Dovere, Dod” and “The Egg Thrower” connect with that emotional core and pull out the compulsion to scream along with unstoppable force. Beyond the vocal level, B2D inject enough groove to get the head moving (“Aspen Hellweek”) if you're not already actively looking for targets to slam your body against.

Enough can't be said of Dødsfest!'s intensity. Knowing it was recorded live in the band's rehearsal space no doubt adds to that feeling. It's grind as fuck yet kept in check (sort of) by those ever-sweet melodies and moments of monolithic riffs. An electric energy powers their high octane grindcore. Monstrous tone, fantastic drumming and one of the most engaging and diverse vocals performances to be heard this year mesh with dynamic songwriting and tight playing to make the tracklist of Dødsfest! one knockout punch after another. Learn to bob and weave, son, or you'll find yourself on your ass.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, Beaten to Death, grindcore, Matt Hinch

November 7, 2013

Loss of Self - Twelve Minutes

Review by Justin C.


Just in 2013 alone, we've seen a lot of different flavors of black metal. There's the Indian influences in Dressed in Streams, the orchestral works of So Hideous, and the woodsy hammered dulcimer of Botanist, just to name a few. What else could be left? Well, how about pop black metal? I don't know if that's the best description of Loss of Self's new full-length, Twelve Minutes, but it's the phrase I keep coming back to. It may all sound a bit nutty, but just hang in there--you're going to see some very un-black metal adjectives used in this review.

The opening track, "Paradise Overgrown," is a strange, twisty affair, and although it's a great song, it's both a good and bad introduction to the rest of the album. You'll hear some of the elements that are common to the rest of the record--raspy black metal vocals, jangling guitar lines, and what could almost be described as "relaxed" blast beats. The song hangs just on the edge of chaos, but what comes up in the next track, "Isolt," is even stranger. The guitar riff could easily be from a guitar-pop or indie song, and check out that ascending, melodic bass line. Does it sound...happy? What kind of major-key madness is this? Granted, even with these poppier sounds, we're not hearing some kind of bubblegum black metal. The riffs sound like they started out more or less happy in life, born into an introspective rock songs, but they've spent some time on the bad side of town, drinking and getting into trouble. Deep down, they're the same riffs they were born as, but behind the smiles and preppy clothes, there's something dark and sinister about them.

This vibe runs throughout the album. I'd even call the bass downright bouncy in some tracks. But understand that I don't use words like "bouncy" or "happy" as criticism--like some of the strangest metal I love, this mash-up of sounds adds a surprising freshness and uniqueness. And this is still black metal (even if some might argue that point), so there's plenty of menace on tap. "The Free Intelligence" has a grumbling, sludgy guitar riff set in opposition to the jaunty bass line, and of course, those vocals are as harsh as anyone could want. The more I listen to this album, the more I hear, even though most of the songs are fairly short--none of them even breaks the four-minute mark.

I suspect that some people will find the contrasting elements a bit too much to take, and I can understand that, but I think this is an album that rewards an open-mind and repeat listens.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, black metal, Flenser Records, Justin C, Loss of Self, post-punk

November 6, 2013

Aluk Todolo - Occult Rock

Review by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.


Photo by Pedro Roque.

Despite being only eight tracks in length, Occult Rock is a hefty double album, as all but one of the songs are at least ten minutes in length. The experimental French black metal trio continue to develop their distinctive sound with this slab of noise — a signature aesthetic that borrows a lot of tone and texture from drone, funeral dirge doom and atmospheric metal, but delivered at a much more aggressive and acerbic pace.

Photo by Pedro Roque.

The sheer length and difficulty of the album make it a ritual of endurance, as the sound bites and sprawls, spreading across a vast, prickly landscape. It's not all formless exploration, however; the last two tracks, especially "VII," have much more post-rock structures to them, and while they still swoop and grope, feeling themselves out gradually rather than following a fluid narrative, there's more of a sense of order, which is refreshing. This is a big and unwieldy album, but also one that feels uneditable, whole in its vastness.

Photo by Pedro Roque.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2012, Aluk Todolo, black metal, Natalie Zina Walschots, Pedro Roque, rock

November 5, 2013

Axeslasher - Anthology of Terror, Vol. 1

By Dave Schalek.
By Dave Schalek.

Cover art by Ken Sarafin

Do you like pizza? Do you worship Satan? Do you like your old school thrash metal scathing and gore obsessed? Well, if you answered “Yes!” to all of the above, boy, have I got a band for you! Southern California’s Axeslasher slash their way through Anthology of Terror, Vol. 1 with well produced, vicious thrash metal that straddles the line with Carcass-inspired death metal very nicely.

Short songs are anchored by plenty of riffs from band mastermind Justin Lascelle, and a bludgeoning percussion perfectly accompanies the assault, an assault definitely marked by a certain tongue in cheek humor with plenty of references to pizza, classic horror movies, and other old school tropes. Toss in a great album cover reminiscent of the glory years of Ed Repka, and you can’t ask for much more from a self released debut. Patrick Bruss of Crypticus fame twiddles the knobs, giving the album a dense weight.

A short album, Anthology of Terror, Vol. 1 is an excellent start for Axeslasher and hints at things to come.


Tagged with 2013, Axeslasher, Dave Schalek, death metal, thrash metal

November 4, 2013

Vhol - Vhöl

By Dave Schalek. Profound Lore Records recently added the (almost) self titled debut full-length from so-called super group Vhol to their Bandcamp catalog. Vhol is comprised of various band members from diverse groups such as Agalloch, Hammers of Misfortune, and YOB, amongst others.
By Dave Schalek.

Cover art by John Cobbett

Profound Lore Records recently added the (almost) self titled debut full-length from so-called super group Vhol to their Bandcamp catalog. Vhol is comprised of various band members from diverse groups such as Agalloch, Hammers of Misfortune, and YOB, amongst others. Given this pedigree, you’d expect the music to be of a high caliber, and that’s exactly what you get. Vhol’s music is a bit hard to describe, though. The music sounds almost nothing like the various band members’ other projects, but, at the same time, it sounds exactly like you would expect from such accomplished musicians more or less coming from the same geographical area and related scenes.

If that sounds confusing, it is, but Vhöl is sort of a weird mix between Cascadian black metal, crust/ punk, and the progressive approach and iconography of Voivod. That’s an interesting mix, to say the least, but the description gets further muddied when you toss in some clean vocals sung with harmony and melody that share the stage with lower pitched growls. You might be surprised to learn that Mike Scheidt of YOB does the vocals.

The music is fast with a jangly, almost trebly tone. Scheidt’s effective vocals have a tendency to soar, giving the music a very uplifting feeling. What really anchors the sound, though, is the amazing drumming of Aesop Dekker, giving the percussion a very infectious, raucous tempo that showcases the band’s nods to crust and punk. Accompanying the percussion very nicely are great bass lines from Sigrid Sheie, also of Hammers of Misfortune.

The debut from Vhol will initially be a challenging listen for some listeners. But, the challenge is worth your while, as the payoff is rewarding.


Tagged with 2013, black metal, crust, Dave Schalek, heavy metal, power metal, Profound Lore Records, Vhol

November 3, 2013

Shataan - War Cry Lament



Shataan's War Cry Lament is as far removed from orthodox frostbitten Black metal as you can get. It opens with a two minute flute instrumetal, after which you are treated to... well, electric folk music really. The Cvlt Nation review labels it "blackened folk drone" and that works. The guitar playing by Shataan is almost aggressively clean, in surf guitar kinda way, and the drums by Murdunbad are primitive but serviceable. Shataan's mix of spoken word and eerie howls, tells the tales of the annihilation of the native people, the destruction and subsequent rebirth of civilization, and the passage of the soul through Limbo. But it is Vohlan's flowery bass lines and little melodies that lifts War Cry Lament musically. Check out the bass riff at 4:30 in "They Who Died for the Ghost Dance", and the intricate bass and guitar interplay in the frenetic conclusion to "Passage of Limbo". An interesting album.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2011, black metal, Crepúsculo Negro, Shataan