June 27, 2015

Weapons of Thrash Destruction

By Andy Osborn. Dammit. Just when I thought the wave of new, interesting bands from Greece was dying down, this deadly duo had to appear. Both with new albums this year. Both bio-inclined, as it were. And both annihilating a genre many of us know has grown stale over the years. But despite all the similarities
By Andy Osborn.

Dammit. Just when I thought the wave of new, interesting bands from Greece was dying down, this deadly duo had to appear. Both with new albums this year. Both bio-inclined, as it were. And both annihilating a genre many of us know has grown stale over the years. But despite all the similarities, they’re different enough to offer two perspectives on the style and prove that when done right, thrash can be as powerful a force as it was 30 years ago.

Artwork by Andrei Bouzikov

Bio-Cancer are easily the more extreme of the two. They take what thrash was in its earliest form, a mishmash of all things deadly, and channels it into a modern, extreme form. And extremity is clearly the focus, as the album never relents and only grows more intense and blistering in pace.

The band as a whole is constantly firing on all cylinders and withering them into molten cores, but vocalist Lefteris is their weapon that’s the true force of destruction on Tormenting the Innocent. His insanity-driven, manic delivery is largely incomprehensible in the best way possible, as if possessed by a fire-spitting demon fighting to escape his body. The guitar attack is largely built of the promise of speed-infused, if not overly memorable, riffery. But they switch things up just enough to keep things interesting while staying firmly grounded in their trash attach. The hellish melodeath bridge in “Boxed Out” would make Kalmah proud, the cello intro to “F(r)iends or Fiends” soothes, and the blistering, grinding attack of “Haters Gonna… Suffer” is bewildering. The aforementioned title and contained Liam Neeson audio clip made me want to hate everything about that song, but it reminds me that grin-inducing, headbangable fun is the whole point of this type of music. I know what I’ll be drinking heavily to this summer.



Artwork by Roberto Toderico

While Biotoxic Warfare also stick to the extreme side of thrash, their attack is based on the battle plan forged by the likes of Kreator and Morbid Saint. Kicking off the album with a clear nod to a certain Slayer intro, it becomes immediately clear that they take the more traditional approach. Less insane and more predictable than Bio-Cancer, this is straight-up thrash for thrash lovers.

There’s little ground being broken by these sleeveless Cretians, but their worship is worthy. With a sense of groove and more sustainable tempo, this new quintet is making music more interesting and biting than any of the OG heroes still drudgingly putting out albums as they enter their fourth decade. The guitarists have the Hanneman-Kerry thing down pat, seamlessly trading off leads and solos and keeping the whole band on their toes. Re-thrash has been a four letter word for a while now, but Biotoxic Warfare prove that there’s still a healthy room for the classic sound done right.


June 24, 2015

Bell Witch - Four Phantoms

By Justin C. I should have hated this album the first time I listened to it. It was a Monday morning, I'd slept poorly, and on top of being on my way to work late on a day I needed to get a lot done, I discovered too late that I had a hole in my shirt. I was somewhere between Charlie Brown and the guy in Munch's "The Scream" in terms of mood
By Justin C.

Cover art by Paolo Girardi

I should have hated this album the first time I listened to it. It was a Monday morning, I'd slept poorly, and on top of being on my way to work late on a day I needed to get a lot done, I discovered too late that I had a hole in my shirt. I was somewhere between Charlie Brown and the guy in Munch's "The Scream" in terms of mood, which would normally call for some steering wheel-punching, shouting-at-other-drivers blackened metal, not creeping doom. I needed to get fired up, not droned out, but for whatever reason, I queued up Bell Witch's Four Phantoms. Imagine my surprise when instead of bumming me out, I was rolling on a wave of staggeringly good doom.

Photo by Invisible Hour

I liked Bell Witch's last one, Longing, just fine, but I was in no way prepared for the huge leap forward they'd take on Four Phantoms. All of the usual metal writer cliches fail here. It's ridiculous to call this music "face ripping" or "gut punching" or "toe severing" or anything else of that ilk. I struggled to think of the proper metaphor, but the second track on the album, "Judgement, In Fire: I - Garden (of Blooming Ash)" (the band's punctuation is as dense as their music on this one), finally gave me clarity: The opening percussion explosions in the song are the volcano eruptions, and the bass and vocals are the slowly seeping lava. You can't set a metronome low enough for most of these tempos, but the flow of the music will pull you along regardless.

The songcraft is excellent here, which is saying a lot for an album whose shortest track is over 10 minutes and whose longest track is pushing 23 minutes. That's a lot of space to fill and a lot of places for boredom to creep in, especially with music at such glacial speeds, but I never get bored. The vocals range from understated cleans to deep growls, and the bass, which straddles both rhythm and melody, shows just how melodic you can be on an instrument that usually hides in the shadows. Listen to the opening strains of "Suffocation, a Drowning" or the vocal harmonies about 6 minutes in and tell me you don't get chills. I dare you. The drums are minimalistic, but offer the perfect backbone to this meditative music.

Photo by Invisible Hour

As I've said in other reviews, if you play music this slow and with parts this naked and vulnerable, you have to squeeze every drop of musicality out of every note. You can't hide behind a wall of effects or technicality, and damn, Bell Witch makes every note count. There's not a throwaway moment on this album, and given some of the bloated beasts you find in underground metal these days, what higher praise can you give? Plenty of people have already talked about this album, and I'm shamefully late to the party, but if you blew this off because you usually like something more frenetic, I urge you to give it a try.


June 23, 2015

Crawl - Old Wood & Broken Dreams

By Ulla Roschat. With their first full length album Old Wood & Broken Dreams (2014) Atlanta based sludge trio Crawl delivers a chunk of sludge metal that is deeply rooted in southern tradition. It’s bluesy, swampy, heavy, with a thick and sticky atmosphere infused with the smell of whiskey and weed
By Ulla Roschat.



With their first full length album Old Wood & Broken Dreams (2014) Atlanta based sludge trio Crawl delivers a chunk of sludge metal that is deeply rooted in southern tradition. It’s bluesy, swampy, heavy, with a thick and sticky atmosphere infused with the smell of whiskey and weed, executed with a laid back attitude, still destructive as hell.

The album starts with a short instrumental intro track "Crack Tea" and sets the mood with fuzzy blues ridden stoner riffs that hint at the heaviness yet to come. And with each following song, the album gathers intensity and heaviness. The second song “Don’t Kid Me” begins with warm acoustic sounds that soon get wrapped in droney distortion, the next one "Pilldust", again an instrumental track and one of the two longer songs (11:33) on the album, adds hypnotic, minimalistic rhythms that build into doom riffs to finally merge into a psyched out stoner jam.

The Buzzov•en cover "Useless" brings yet another quality of intensity to the album. The vocals here are charged with an extra portion of filth and brutality - a well made new dress for this classic. The longest track “Nigredo” (12:35) uses its time to carefully create massive heavy sludge riffs that evolve from a driving desert-y groove. A quiet ambient "neurosis-like" second part with clean vocals carries the song slowly back to its beginning with a spaced out version of its initial rhythm. A variety of moods and dynamics are in here to enjoy.

And the last track "3 A.M. and a Loaded Gun" is the darkest and most depressive one. The otherwise omnipresent and dominant bluesy, swampy sludge gets twisted here into a cold, bleak kind of sludge, infected with industrial noise, charged with crackling electricity.

Old Wood & Broken Dreams is six songs of traditional southern swamp sludge, soaked in muddy blues and drone sounds, heavy and destructive, but subtly flavoured with stoner grooves, HC beats, psycho rhythms and quiet acoustic parts, blended into the mix in such a skillful way that all comes out pretty organic and contributes to the overall laid back feeling and the high tension dynamics as well… as if this weren’t a contradiction at all.

The song "Useless" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 85


June 21, 2015

Hey, Check This Out! #1

Hey, Check This Out is meant to be an irregular column of DIY reviews, presenting just the basic facts about albums that we wanted to give a full review but for some reason it never happened. First up is 3 very different bands from USA. Enjoy. Band: Replacire. City: Boston, Massachusetts.
Hey, Check This Out is meant to be an irregular column of DIY reviews, presenting just the basic facts about albums that we wanted to give a full review but for some reason it never happened. First up is 3 very different bands from USA. Enjoy.


Band:Replacire.
City:Boston, Massachusetts.
Genre:Hits all the right tech metal notes.
Interesting fact:Vocalist Evan Anderson Berry also plays guitar in Immortal Bird. Check out the awesome Replacire Eyeball Teeth Skull shirt.



Cover art by Dorian Cleavenger.

Band:Dofka.
City:Cleveland, Ohio.
Genre:Dokken. A darker and slightly harder Dokken, but still.
Interesting fact:Jim Dofka has contributed a guest guitar solo to each and everyone of Pharoh's albums.




Band:Sovereign.
State:Arizona.
Genre:USBM at it's finest.
Interesting fact:To our excuse this one took it's sweet time getting a full Bandcamp release. Mixed and mastered by Chris Grigg of Woe fame.


June 18, 2015

Sunset in the 12th House - Mozaic

By Kevin Page. Upon hearing that famed guitar duo, Sol Faur and Hupogrammos, formed Sunset in the 12th House, I was all in. How can the original masterminds behind Negura Bunget and (currently) Dordeduh, not get you excited? They are joined by fellow Dordeduh drummer Sergio Ponti and bassist Mihai Moldoveanu
By Kevin Page.


Upon hearing that famed guitar duo, Sol Faur and Hupogrammos, formed Sunset in the 12th House, I was all in. How can the original masterminds behind Negura Bunget and (currently) Dordeduh, not get you excited? They are joined by fellow Dordeduh drummer Sergio Ponti and bassist Mihai Moldoveanu (Beat Bang!, JazzyBIT) here on their debut album, Mozaic, 57 minutes of unmeasurable beauty.

The band describes their sound in a very general sense as psychedelic post rock and traditional oriental music. While I agree you can consider that a starting point, it goes way beyond that. Yes, it has some chuggy driving guitars at times, but nothing too crazy. You'll also hear progressive rock and metal. But what really makes Mozaic shine is the ethereal underlay always omnipresent, whether lurking in background or commanding center stage. The depth it brings to the music cannot be understated. Combine all that with the gentle upbeat picking of the guitars and it really is something to behold.

I know prog rock/metal can be very self indulgent (at least to my ears) and many bands get caught up in guitar wankery. Thankfully, none of that exists here. Everything is done tastefully with no fat to trim anywhere. These songs exist in their own time and space.

At the end of the day, what really makes this album stand out and cement itself as a supreme piece of music are those moments you can point to in each song and say "there, right there, THAT gives me chills". The simple fact that I can pinpoint this in each song is a testament to what an achievement the band has accomplished.

(have a listen for yourself).
  • The first 2 1/2 minutes of "Seven Insignia".
  • The 2:50 mark of "Arctic Cascades", gentle upbeat picking of the guitar.
  • The 6:05 mark of "Paraphernalia of Sublimation" and again at 8:05.
  • The 1:30 mark of "Desert's Eschaton".
  • The beginning of "Ethereal Consonance".
  • The 1:58 mark of "Rejuvenation", the only song to features any vocals (and they happen to be of the harsh variety).



[Also check out Kevin's interview with drummer Sergio Ponti over at No Clean Singing].

June 16, 2015

False - Untitled (2015)

By Matt Hinch. I like to think that False named their band thusly as a big middle finger to all the agoraphobic pimple-farmers who actually give a shit about trooness. I couldn't give a rat's ass where a band is from or
By Matt Hinch.

Album art by Nicole Sara Simpkins

I like to think that False named their band thusly as a big middle finger to all the agoraphobic pimple-farmers who actually give a shit about trooness. I couldn't give a rat's ass where a band is from or how lo-fi their production is, or whether or not they use keyboards. Okay, maybe I do care about keys but if I like them I like them. And in the context of False, I like them.

As opposed to other, more symphonic bands False know how to utilize the keyboards in a way that compliments the bleak, raging black metal without ever trying to dominate the sound. Those times when the keys do find their way up in the mix are done with purpose and don't overstay their welcome. So when it comes to Untitled (the LP not the EP) it becomes difficult to articulate the glorious majesty the band displays. This release feels more focused (despite epic lengths), more determined, more driven by the cold fire that burns remorselessly into your very soul.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

Swarming across your senses for a hour Untitled's main tone is one of abject desperation and helplessness. Like it needs to escape. It is always in motion, whether that's through furious tremolos or shifting into doomier movement depends on the moment in time. A time which stops completely when False are given the focus they so richly deserve.

As a good opening track should “Saturnalia” encapsulates all the elements that go into the whole album. The manic black metal kicks in hard and early with subtle keyboard washes turning a little bizarre, eventually setting the mood as the track slows to a crawl and the guitars give the keys room to breathe. “Saturnalia” eventually rises from those doldrums (atmospherically speaking) on an even more windswept path. One can feel the power and fight but also a painful intensity that carries into the other four tracks.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

“The Deluge” continues the bleak and chaotic journey with ruthless rhythms yet at times switches from straight-line determination to an almost jaunty feel, like moments of clarity, or rather, the innocence of insanity temporarily dragging you to untold depths of despair and loathing.

The final two tracks “Entropy” and “Hedgecraft” clock in as the longest with the former breaching 15 minutes. It has an easier lead in but still rages as hard as any. It's also one instance of the use of choral vocals, as well as stunning riffs appearing out of nowhere to confound the listener with their ability to not only flatten soundscapes but also build them up.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

The seed of anguish and helplessness is injected deep on “Hedgecraft” with razor-sharp tremolos needling into soft flesh. It's by far the most emotional track. The haunting melodies lurking like shadows in contrast to the phenomenal and frantic percussion are enough to bring one to tears. For all that however it's also bloodthirsty and terrifying. Here, as in general, the emotional weight is held by the instruments but the vocals, however indecipherable, are essential. The reptilian rasps grip like talons around the now completely exposed listener, ready to rip their head off and drink of their flowing essence.

The way the track builds into a heartbreaking and complete catharsis is near overwhelming. Everything comes together in a dense ball of bass-led intensity only to instantaneously unravel and drift into atoms.

Untitled leaves the listener spent but in a state of black metal bliss. Anyone who's followed the Minnesotans already know what they are capable of and False more than deliver to expectations. Melody, atmosphere, menace, speed, turmoil and compelling songcraft position False as leaders in the USBM scene and Untitled as one of 2015's black metal victories.

June 13, 2015

Nocturnus - The Key

Being a latecomer to metal means there's so many classic albums I haven't yet heard. Now another one, Nocturnus - The Key from 1990, has just been released on the Earache Records Bandcamp. Generally hailed as one of the first death metal albums that added keyboards to the mix, but also for the unusual "occult meets sci-fi" theme

Cover art by Dan Seagrave

Being a latecomer to metal means there's so many classic albums I haven't yet heard. Now another one, Nocturnus - The Key from 1990, has just been released on the Earache Records Bandcamp. Generally hailed as one of the first death metal albums that added keyboards to the mix, but also for the unusual "occult meets sci-fi" theme and its stunning technicality. Album downloaded - me and my trusty headphones are ready to dig in!

Back in November 2012 Earache opened their Bandcamp page with a modest 5 albums. Back then Islander from No Clean Singing ran this piece featuring his wishlist of albums to be added. Fast forward to now, most of Islander's wishes have been granted, and the page now sports a respectable 64 albums. But my contact at Earache is still taking requests (yes, I asked for Nocturnus), so let me know in the comments section: Which classic Earache albums should I hear? And which ones do you want to see on the page?



Morbid Angel's Covenant and Domination albums won't be added though, trust me I've asked. Earache own the rights to these two everywhere but the US.

June 10, 2015

Nightslug - Loathe

By Ulla Roschat. It’s no secret that I am “fan extreme” of Nightslug from Düsseldorf/Germany. I’m addicted to their special brand of sludge since their first demo from 2011. I called it "the epitome of sludge" and their first full length album Dismal Fucker from 2013 truly lived up to that title.
By Ulla Roschat.


It’s no secret that I am “fan extreme” of Nightslug from Düsseldorf/Germany. I’m addicted to their special brand of sludge since their first demo from 2011. I called it "the epitome of sludge" and their first full length album Dismal Fucker from 2013 truly lived up to that title. Now the band is back with their second full length album Loathe. If its predecessor was the apocalyptic nightmare, the demonic roller coaster ride, Loathe is the apocalypse itself and the demons unsheathe their terror from their ugly faces, pour their nihilistic hate and disgust through your speakers all over you.

Photo by Webzine Chuul.

Nightslug's unmistakable style of a nasty, heavy, HC tinged sludge, that’s so heavenly abrasive and filthy, is as destructive as always. This time they add even more noise and industrial flavor than they did on their first album. On Loathe everything is permeated by it. The reverberating distorted vocals sound like the last trace left of humanity, drowning in an avalanche of this bleak industrial noise. The song structures are straightforward (reminiscent of their demo songs), and make everything raw, violent, heavy, thick and add more destructive energy and bleakness.

With Loathe, once again, Nightslug bless us with their vicious ferocity and filth that seem to emanate directly from hell.

Photo by Webzine Chuul.

The song "The Thrill is Gone - Repulsion" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 89


June 6, 2015

Monolord - Vænir

By Calen Henry. Monolord sell a patch with a picture of a divine hand reaching out of the clouds to press the switch on a foot pedal simply labeled “FUZZ”. That image sums up their first record, Empress Rising a fuzz manifesto
By Calen Henry.

Cover Art Julio Reyes

Monolord sell a patch with a picture of a divine hand reaching out of the clouds to press the switch on a foot pedal simply labeled “FUZZ”. That image sums up their first record, Empress Rising; a fuzz manifesto commanding doomheads take notice and feel their bone shaking riffs, right from the first fuzz drop. Underneath the fuzz though and the absolutely killer riffs ran a strong psychedelic undercurrent emphasized by echo drenched vocals.

Vænir shows the same band coming into their own a bit, having already shown their devotion to the Riff and the Fuzz, the two stoner doom gods. The riffs are still stunning, and the vocals remain largely unchanged but the band isn’t afraid to shake things up a bit. They’re less obsessed with crushing tone and have crafted a more varied record with lots going on. The songs meander through riffs and themes rather than hypnotically droning the same few massive riffs (there’s still lots of that though). It makes for a more varied and somewhat pleasant listen, not quite as crushing as Empress Rising, but with more to reward repeated listens.

The result is not unlike Pallbearer’s Foundations of Burden; an undeniably mature sophomore release that leaves the first record as a still compelling statement of intent. Like Foundations of Burden, though, the maturity causes the band to tread closer to sounding like other doom bands. The use of semitones, and increased variety makes Vænir sound closer to Black Sabbath than Empress Rising did. That is by no means a criticism, though, merely an observation.

Vænir shows that Monolord are the real deal. They got everyone’s attention with the massive Empress Rising and Vænir shows they’ve still got lots to say echo-drenched, incomprehensible, and difficult to discern over the massive riffs though it may be.

June 4, 2015

Dragunov - 637

By Justin C. Paris-based duo Dragunov has put out an excellent instrumental EP called 637. The longest song on the EP is 6:37, and the shortest song on the EP is also 6:37. Keen students of mathematics will have figured out
By Justin C.


Paris-based duo Dragunov has put out an excellent instrumental EP called 637. The longest song on the EP is 6:37, and the shortest song on the EP is also 6:37. Keen students of mathematics will have figured out by this point that ALL five tracks are exactly 6:37 long. Tristan, the drummer, explained to me that they hadn't intended to make this a 6:37-concept album, but when the first couple of songs ended up the same length, they decided to go for it. I didn't even notice it at first, which is a little embarrassing, but on the other hand, it's a good thing from a musical perspective. If I'm not having moments of "This song is tooooo loooooong" or "I wish they'd explored this idea more", then I know the music is in that sweet spot of holding my interest completely.

The band self-describes their music as "garage post-metal", which I think is pretty apt. It has the kind of dissonant riffing and wide dynamics you might expect from post-metal, but the guitar sound is dirty and crunchy, and they're not afraid to go for simple-but-effective riffing, as demonstrated in the beginning of the second track, "Adin". "Adin" also demonstrates how effective the musical basics can be when done right. A sample in the middle of the song is accompanied by sustained guitar chords and a pulsing drum beat that quiets and swells. A lot of bands in the post-metal world rely on a simpler formula of quiet-LOUD-quiet-LOUD to break up the music, but it's easy to forget how much a subtle ebbing and flowing in dynamics can add to the musicality of a song.

The songs on this EP are always full of motion. The band doesn't bother with conventional song structure, but they don't devolve into chaos, either. The riffs are catchy, but the duo never grinds them into the ground with over-repetition. And their sense of dynamics is far from the only tool they use from the musical toolbox. Midway through "Tchetyre", we get a fantastic little alternating-note riff that eventually explodes into a more furious variation. Album closer "Piatt" has some great call-and-response sections, with a distant-sounding guitar leading off with an idea, followed by full-bore explosion based on the same idea. This all leads up to a fantastic, sawing riff that plays the EP out.

I haven't seen much mention of this band outside from a post from our brethren over at No Clean Singing, but 637 is a gem of instrumental goodness that deserves much wider recognition.