February 29, 2016

Couch Slut - My Life as a Woman

By Matt Hinch. Pardon my French, but My Life as a Woman by NYC’s Couch Slut is one batshit fucking crazy album. And as I tend to feed off the music’s energy as I write, pardon the rest of my French in advance.
By Matt Hinch.

Pardon my French, but My Life as a Woman by NYC’s Couch Slut is one batshit fucking crazy album. And as I tend to feed off the music’s energy as I write, pardon the rest of my French in advance. This is also the part where I kick myself in the (soiled) ass for not getting wise to the album until long after I should have. Probably had something to do with that super provocative cover. I believe my wife said something along the lines of “Jesus fuck! Don’t let the kids see that!” It might be a while before I let my girls listen to it too. Such things lead to nightmares.

Couch Slut grab you by the fucking balls (or whatever body part is deemed most painful) and toy with your sense of normalcy like a killer whale tossing around a seal in a steel cage with psychoses wrapped in razor wire laying all over the place. By the time it’s over sanity is but a fleeting memory and your body is left just as broken.

Musically you can’t really pin it down, or hold it down for that matter as it’s a sickening, squirming beast of feral hardcore, sludge and disorienting noise. As if that weren’t enough, Megan O’s horrific screams explode with intensity, often breaking under the pressure.

Every track is worthy of mention as each has the capacity to blow your goddamn mind. But breaking them down like that would be far too structured for this mindfuck of an album. You’ll hear huge breakdowns with the band crushing on one plane while one guitar tattoos the spine with sharp tremolos on another, or repeated, heavy-handed haymakers battling with nerve-wracking, squealing feedback. Just to start.

Elsewhere you get sludgy plodding or wicked mid-paced stomping, raucous cacophonies of aggression and fancy, and Megan’s pseudo-rambling adding to her screams of total and absolute catharsis. You’re subject to painful rawness and shifting momentum throughout, from heavy post-hardcore to sludge to all out noise. The whole time Megan’s territorial pissings frighten away the weak and fragile.

It’s all over the map. It’s weird and uncontrolled. Melody meets distorted reality. Freestyle sax shows up. Doom casts a dark shadow and unpredictability is par for the course. It’s angular, noisy, discordant and seriously fucking mental in all the best ways.

My personal favourite and perhaps the most straightforward track is “Replacement Addiction”. It’s got this speed-punk freakout leading to a highway groove that smashes through walls of insanity in slow motion, eventually breaking into some killer hardcore with Megan tearing out her own lungs because who needs to breathe anyway?

My Life as a Woman is definitely the stuff of nightmares. Not fantastic ones though, real life nightmares. Ones that break down the mind and reform it in twisted new configurations. It’s desperate, unsettling, and wholly physical on one level while mentally scrambling on the other. It’s an exhausting album bound to affect you in indescribable ways.

Crank it up, break some shit and let its insanity become your insanity.

Fuck me, I need a drink.

February 26, 2016

Oranssi Pazuzu - Värähtelijä

By Karen A. Mann. Finland’s experimental black metalists Oranssi Pazuzu have always reveled in defying genres and expectations. On their fourth album, Värähtelijä, they take their expansive, avant garde creations and
By Karen A. Mann

Finland’s experimental black metalists Oranssi Pazuzu have always reveled in defying genres and expectations. On their fourth album, Värähtelijä, they take their expansive, avant garde creations and send them into the sonic stratosphere. The result is a harrowing and darkly psychedelic journey to the center of your mind.

The first song, “Saturaatio,” is takeoff, beginning with ambient noise and rolling drums that explode into buzzing sound effects, horror show organ and wacky wah guitar. After a frenzy of blackened guitar, you settle in for a steady cruise over a devastated landscape.

Oranssi Pazuzu 2012. Photos by Webzine Chuul.

Each song is like a new, unexplored planet where terrifyingly strange and beautiful noises await, and Oranssi Pazuzu is happy to inject you into a pod and hurtle you off into the atmosphere to experience them.

The album hums along, winding its way -- and often doubling back on itself -- through tribal drumbeats, odd time structures, blackened freak-outs and soothing sounds. Throughout, Singer Jun-His’ trademark angry, inhuman vocal sound especially unholy on Värähtelijä, like a demon who is deeply disturbed by your visit, and is going to hover behind you, wailing and pleading, for the remainder of your journey. The album finally spirals back down to earth on “Valveavaruus,” which ends the album on a quiet, reflective note.

February 25, 2016

Morast - Demo

Written by Ulla Roschat

Morast is a pretty young four piece band from NRW/Germany. They introduce themselves with a demo of four songs of blackened death doom with an overall playing time of about 26 minutes. It's dark and evil, heavy and downtuned, like this kind of music ought to be. Unusual though, for this kind of music is the bracingly clear production, which brings a powerful depth to the sound and supports the thick atmosphere and groove rather with crisp drums and bouncy strings than with blurriness.

The riffs, most times, are going more into a midtempo direction than being really slow, still there's a sense of slowness due to their dragging and depressing heavyness. Occasional black metal outbursts and touches of dissonance provide momentum and enhance the already bleak atmosphere. The vocal style ranges somewhere between bellowed and almost spoken, even whispered, but are always dark and menacing.

The four songs, of which the first three have a length of about six minutes, the last one is eight minutes long, share an overall atmosphere of a depressing, bleak darkness, but they all have their own focus in mood. While the first song "Purging" turns from a brooding doom vibe into some blistering black metal ferocity, the second one "Error" has the most overall doomy feel, with a great sense for dramatic twist. The third "Alleingang" sports the most dissonant tunes to create a spine-tingling eeriness, and the last and longest one "The Cold Side of Bliss" with its dynamic and propelling drumwork adds an almost hypnotizing, psychedelic mood.

This demo is a very convincing debut release, which really leaves you wanting for more of this Black 'n' Doom groove.

The song "Alleingang" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 105

February 24, 2016

Make - In Pursuit

Written by Karen A. Mann.

I wrote last year that The Golden Veil by North Carolina’s Make was the best album I’ve ever heard by a North Carolina band. I am lucky to live in a state with a very strong music community (not just metal), so I knew that was a strong statement, but months later I still agree. A trio from Chapel Hill, Make has been active for years, but seemed to burst into greatness (and garner a lot of well-deserved praise in the process) with that one release. That album is a brilliant mixture between unstructured distorted, instrumental ambience and pure lumbering, bellowed rock songs.

In December, the band suddenly released a two-song EP, In Pursuit, which picks up where The Golden Veil left off.

Photos by Karen

The EP begins with “Always Waiting for the Bigger Axe to Fall,” an 11-minute instrumental piece that gradually moves between pure noise to a simple, slightly distorted, melody, that grows into a slightly funky groove.

“Between the Ocean and Your Open Vein” is shorter at 5:28 and is also instrumental, but begins with a structured beat that gradually becomes more layered and shimmering.

With only two songs, In Pursuit leaves the listener just slightly unsatisfied, which is one reason why it’s best as a companion to The Golden Veil and is perfect either as a precursor or a coda to that release. Hopefully it’s also a bridge to another transcendent release from this remarkable band.

February 23, 2016

Skáphe - Skáphe²

Written by Kaptain Carbon.

Artwork by H.V Lyngdal

When approached to review Skáphe’s second full length, I was ecstatic. To begin, 2014 was the year I started skipping down the harrowing path of the Fallen Empire label. Through much of my indulgent sampling, I quickly became aware of a variety of bands and releases that had little to no information about them, save for some weird pictures and frightening music. Skáphe’s 2014 self titled debut was a dizzying effort that towered over other releases of that year, leading me to use the terms “suffocating” and “vertigo” in the most affectionate way possible. Two years later, I am scrambling to find other adjectives to describe Skáphe², which for all intents and purposes, may be the full realization of this band and their descent upon the world.

Similar to many contemporary black metal bands, and even a theme among many Fallen Empire artists, Skáphe² adopts the numerical system in terms of titling songs. This is different than their debut, as Skáphe had actual, albeit cryptic, song titles. The numeric titling system fits with not only Skáphe’s music but most of black metal, which strives for a sense of anonymity. Skáphe is not as anonymous as other Fallen Empire bands with clear connections between acts Misþyrming and Chaos Moon, yet their music begs for deprivation in identification. When fully subjecting yourself to themes of abandonment, devastation, and gleeful pandemonium, it is more exciting to not know the name of your assailants. This followup to their 2014 debut follows these trending themes, however, as where breathless death once existed before there is now a deluge of experimentation and frantic skirmishes.

It is difficult sometimes to explain how qualities like chaos, madness, and debilitating glee can be entertaining. The 6 tracks on Skáphe² roll by with no real clear beginning or ending between each makes the whole affair maddening and exhilarating. “I” begins as if it was a transition from another song, quickly rolling the listener into a skirmish with an invisible foe. The spaces between songs that are there are merely just pauses for breath before the next punch to the throat, and you enter a space where seemingly uncomfortable qualities of music become positives. The highlight of Skáphe² comes with its 8 minute “climax” as a slow wander up a downtempo mountain, which borders on drone and atmospheric nothingness before descending into the foreseeable briar patch of insanity.

For all intents and purposes, Skáphe² is listed as black metal, though when listening to their two albums, the lines become blurred as to what qualifies it as such. There are instances of blast beats, harsh vocals, and atmosphere indicative of black metal, however Skáphe sees the need to take those elements and run them through in a random order, possibly backwards. The intended effect is a sense of vertigo that does not stop at physical discomfort, rather an existential one. If one enjoyed the looseness of Misþyrming’s Söngvar elds og óreiðu and the abandonment of Chaos Moon’s Resurrection Extract, then Skáphe² is going to be a grand walk in the park and by park I mean hellish craggy landscape.

Sometimes people talk abut what heavy metal will sound like in the future and what the next breakthrough will sound like. I am not implying that Skáphe is the future of metal, rather whatever will come and break expectations in heavy metal will probably not sound like things before, and will perhaps sound terrifying in a genre of already scary tones. I feel Skáphe is skipping down that harrowing path and darkness is beginning to close in. If begged for one simple adjective to describe Skáphe², it would be chaotic. If allowed more of an elaboration, it would be formations of systems and organizations within that chaos that are even more terrifying than lawless order. If pushed even further it would be a deviant sense of fascination as that chaos formed a wave to rise up and engulf oneself whole.

February 20, 2016

Kowloon Walled City - Grievances

Written by Matt Hinch.

Kowloon Walled City landed on my radar back in 2013 with Container Ships. I was floored and pretty much said as much when I reviewed it. The heavy-ass sludge played right into my wheelhouse. Fast forward to 2015 and the California quartet put me right through that floor, through the mailroom into a dank, lonely subbasement of despair with their Neurot debut, Grievances.

Centered upon “our complex relationships with work and the power our employment – and employers – have over us” the lyrical content has the ability to really connect with the listener. Grievances are part of our workaday lives and KWC capture all that frustration and yearning through an avalanche of soul-crushing tone, monstrous riffs, torn-flesh guitars and vocalist/guitarist Scott Evans' vocal laments.

There's a lyric on “Backlit” that sums up the general tone and feeling of Grievances: “You walk in defeated.” Unless you're one of the fortunate souls that finds their job a source of utter joy, feeling defeated before the day even starts is a reality. The album grabs hold of that and holds you down for the duration. It's hard to crawl out from under the ponderous rumble of their downtuned and plodding sludge, especially that of Ian Miller's sickening bass.

Pain and desperation percolate through the album, saturating the listener. Few albums are able to induce such feelings so wholly no matter what the circumstances. When Jon Howell's guitar bends and wails under unendurable stress, the bass groans like a Monday morning wakeup call and the castigating drums of Jeff Fagundes force you into submission, the urge to curl up and die is nearly overwhelming.

Evans' often frustrated yelling speaks with a voice reserved for solitary catharsis. That of bloodletting laments we direct at closets, pillows or random fellow commuters that can't hear our misery over the white noise of their own existence. It's an every-man voice.

Yet the listener can't approach Grievances from a completely negative perspective. Sure there's more than enough nastiness and melancholia to label the album depressive but one has to look deeper, listen harder and think.

There are melodies there, rays of sunshine that reflect hope and the good things in life. No matter how much working life drains the psyche, or KWC's oozing sustain and precipitous drops into despair turn you into a pile of liquid flesh and tears, there's always something to look forward to. By sewing up the cracks caused by their interminable crush with careening chord changes and deceptively bright melodies, KWC bring together an accurate picture of life's conflict as many experience it. It strikes a balance, not always equal, but a balance between a desire for escape and its realization however brief or fleeting.

Few albums in 2015 were as affecting as Grievances. The artful take on “post-sludge” sinks deep into your core. It will drag you down in the low times and help you when it's time to soldier on. Air your grievances. Let the heaving riffs, screaming guitars, vocal pain and bludgeoning percussion give you the strength to keep going. Grievances is a terrific album for rattling your cage but also gives you the tools to escape.

February 18, 2016

From The Metal Archives Vol. 1

[When I add labels to the Metal Labels on Bandcamp page I usually scan their releases looking for anything interesting I might have missed. The reviews on The Metal Archives are a great help when doing this: a couple of great reviews
By the reviewers from The Metal Archives.

[When I add labels to the Metal Labels on Bandcamp page I usually scan their releases looking for anything interesting I might have missed. The reviews on The Metal Archives are a great help when doing this: a couple of great reviews means an album I should probably check out. With this new series I'd like to share some of my finds.]

Artwork by Dana Volynets

"Now while all the staples of one man bands are present (Burzum influence, jack-of-all-trades instrumentation, effect-laden vocals, etc) what sets this particular release apart from the rest of the flood is the overall presentation. Not exactly lo-fi but most certainly not crystal-clean production lends itself to clear presentation of all the instruments involved. The guitars have just the right amount of grit to their sound to give them the proper 'black metal sound' without sounding like the generic swarm-of-bees that plagues much of the genre. Sorrowful, yet strangely uplifting, riffs dominate the entire album backed up by simple, but effective, basslines that thankfully can be heard (why the bass continues to be the red-headed stepchild in black metal is beyond me...). The drums help augment what obviously is a guitar-driven album with the cymbal work deserving a special mention. Whether the drums are holding a steady beat or blasting away, the amount of crashing going on with the cymbals is relentless. Vocally, Wind employs a disgusted croak that comes across as more of a subdued rage than a pissed-off Popeye like Abbath from Immortal." [read TheFinalSleep's full review here.]

"Don't be fooled by the basement/bedroom production of this album, its walls of titillating fuzz are 100% hypnotic. Each riff leeches love and emotion from the listener. That is can have such an effect with a droning drum machine, and Rex's cookie crumbling throat salivating across its tones, is nothing short of miraculous. "No Stars Will Shine" opens the sadness with a series of original and amazing riffs that created an instant attraction, romantic and hissing and fuzzy and more somber than a truckload of gothic and funeral doom kids at a Tim Burton film. What's more...this storm of savage emotion does not end on this album, ever. Close your eyes and let the "The Quest of the Dark Lord" crawl across the black & white landscape of your grim subconscious...a shadowed figure reaching up to extinguish the sun and drag the stars down into its essence. "Black Paintings in the Sky" creates the perfect, driving seaside hymn, like plague victims lain across the black stones of a rocky pier beneath an overcast sky. "Oh Chants Make Hear My Splendor" is faster, Rex has not forgotten that he is a fucking blackheart. I could write another paragraph for each remaining song on this album, I enjoy it that much." [read autothrall's full review here.]

February 16, 2016

Slaves BC - All is Dust and I am Nothing

By Matt Hinch. I've known about Slaves BC due to their heavy Twitter presence but that's as far as it went. Until now. All is Dust and I am Nothing will make even the most time-strapped of posers stand up and take notice. The concept album
By Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Josh Thieler from Slaves BC.

I've known about Slaves BC due to their heavy Twitter presence but that's as far as it went. Until now. All is Dust and I am Nothing will make even the most time-strapped of posers stand up and take notice. The concept album based on the Book of Ecclesiastes shows up as the first entry beside “vicious” in the dictionary. And viciousness is a virtue Slaves BC refuse to deny from beginning to end.

The opening salvo “God Has Turned His Back” wastes no time subjecting listeners to the aural tortures riddling the album. Caustic vocals berate as hammering guitars and harried drums raze the ground in a maelstrom of sludge and hardcore. That combination is a common theme but not the only one to surface.

Slower, more doom-ridden tempos pulverize while black metal runs swarm and distort. That sort of fervour courses through the album casting a misanthropic shadow over the prevailing savagery. As a testament to the overall intensity, even when Slaves BC prolong the agony they still drive hard exerting an inexorable pressure on the listener. Not oppressive so much as a stranglehold.

It's basically an all out assault. Steamrolling riffs methodically assert a death metal presence, feedback burns synapses, dissonance hides in the wreckage, and those unrestrained vocals leave absolutely nothing on the table.

Slaves BC move effortlessly from speedy hardcore derivatives into groovy sludge or blackened hybrids keeping the listener on their toes and looking over their shoulders. But that thrill of “anything goes” is what will keep the listener firmly defending the “Repeat All” button.

For such a complex company of genre styles, the battle plan is relatively simple; show no mercy and leave nothing but a path of destruction through heavy, infectious riffs and dark atmosphere. And anything you catch from this diseased album is going to be fucking nasty and incurable.

Prepare thy selves. Lace up your Doc Martin's, put an eternal scowl on your face, load up on painkillers and hide that sweatpants boner because it all boils down to one word: KILLER.

February 15, 2016

Label Spotlight: Iron Bonehead Productions

Written by Kevin Page.

Iron Bonehead Productions of Germany has scoured the earth since 1995 to find all that is evil, disgusting and nasty to release for our listening pleasure. There seemingly isn't a month that goes by without a new band serving up their debut demo, EP, or full length album of vile filth. So on that note, here's 3 bands and their initial recorded material for you to enjoy.

Hailing from Poland/Germany, Chthonic Cult has spit forth from the raging hellfires, I Am the Scourge of Eternity (what a great title, isn't it?). Raw and bestial black/death, which is what you come to expect from an IBP band, but with enough doom and restraint to prevent it from being a sloppy and unpolished affair. Normally music of this ilk doesn't reside in tracks ranging from 8 to 14 minutes, but somehow it works.

Cover art by Ryanimator

Spanish blackened death metallers, Altarage, serve up two songs of ugly misery over the course of 10 minutes. Blasting drums, soul ripping vocals and heaving guitars. Consider this as an introduction to the band, which already has its full length ready to be released on February 26th [which will include the two songs presented here]. If you remotely like this on any level, the follow up will melt your insides.

Artwork by Paolo Girardi

With Italy's Blasphemonger currently on hold, vocalist/bassist R.R. Bastard found something else to keep himself busy: Ripping Death. Thrashy death metal is the order of the day on Tales of the Ripper and a band sounding like it's having (dare I say this about an Iron Bonehead release) FUN. Filled with bouncy and catchy riffs, the first three songs just roll right into the next. Rounding out the package is a cover of Cianide's "Rage War" along with some sweet Paolo Girardi artwork.

February 12, 2016

Eight Bells - Landless

By Justin C. So this is the part of the review where I need to tell you what sub- or sub-sub-genre this album belongs to so you can decide whether you hate it or not and move along accordingly. But Eight Bells' newest, Landless, presents that problem I'm always happy to have: an album that exists in its own little universe.
By Justin C.

Art by Nate Burns

So this is the part of the review where I need to tell you what sub- or sub-sub-genre this album belongs to so you can decide whether you hate it or not and move along accordingly. But Eight Bells' newest, Landless, presents that problem I'm always happy to have: an album that exists in its own little universe. Gun to my head, I'd say it's a mix of doom and psychedelia, but it's not typical of either of those.

As on their last album, The Captain's Daughter, Melynda Jackson handles guitar and vocals and Haley Westeiner is on bass and vocals, but they're now joined by Rae Amitay (see also, Immortal Bird, Thrawsunblat) on drums. Landless may be a step down in heaviness from The Captain's Daughter--although you'll still find some choice outbreaks of vocal and percussive violence--but it's several steps up in composition and songwriting. The songs all have a familial resemblance to each other, but without falling into the trap of being repetitive. There's a melodic sensibility that weaves through all the songs, and it's a sensibility that all the instruments carry.

The riffs alone are a masterclass in theme and variations. Jackson throws out a riff, then revisits it as a tremolo version, or a staccato version. Sometimes the band lets a song break completely, like "Hating" at the five-minute mark, but bits and pieces of the song's main themes float through the ambient section, riding on the bass and distant drum swells. Remember how I said this album isn't typical of doom or psych? This is the place where that line is drawn. There's some trippy stuff happening here, but it's not some jam band's 17-minute-long free-jazz exploration or an endless doomy slog. Likewise, the slow build in the album's longest track, "Landless," is just the right amount of anticipation before the screaming/blasting/tremolo explosion. And you'd be hard-pressed to find an earworm as persistent as the delightfully off-kilter riff in "Hold My Breath" from most pop bands, let alone a doom or psych outfit

Jackson and Westeiner's chant-like vocals, sometimes in unison, sometimes harmonized, sometimes drifting apart completely, adds an ethereal vibe to the proceedings. In a way, the album feels like a 40-minute-long meditation, or maybe a soundtrack that's broken free of its movie, insisting on being front and center. It might put you in mind of a lot of different things, but in the end, it's weird, engaging, lovely, and brilliant.

February 11, 2016

Suppressive Fire - Bedlam

Written by Karen A. Mann.

Artwork by Pär Olofsson

You can get a sense of what Suppressive Fire has to offer just by looking at the cover art for their debut full-length, Bedlam. In a burning, apocalyptic urban landscape, a snarling wolf stands his ground in a circle of masked fighters as a Kylo Ren-esque overlord towers over the scene.

This is nihilistic, blackened military thrash; inspired by the Teutonic masters Kreator and Sodom, as well as Death and Toxic Holocaust (Joel Grind mixed and mastered the album).

Photo by Karen A. Mann

There’s no build up, interlude or anticipation with this band. Instead Suppressive Fire blasts you right in the face with the first note of “Ceasefire,” then slams you with a full-on tremolo-picked assault. The only mood you feel is sheer adrenaline-rush fight-or-flight terror as you’re thrust headlong into the blood-and-flesh-filled trenches.

Photo by Karen A. Mann

Bass player/vocalist Aaron Schmidt delivers lyrics like “the war will never end” and “death, the only goal” in a caustic death growl. Each song feels like a new battle where the nameless and faceless will be mown down mercilessly with blast beats and searing guitar. The war continues on songs like “The Hellwraith,” “Nazi Face Melter” and “Coup d'état,” which showcases some Thin Lizzy-inspired licks.

Suppressive Fire does occasionally slow down, as on the opening, doomy riff of “Thy Flesh Consumed,” and the beginning of the final song, “Bedlam.” But such interludes only offer a brief moment to catch your breath before being sent back into battle.

Check out Karen's blog for more photos and a live video of “Nazi Face Melter”.

February 10, 2016

Tanagra - None of This Is Real

Written by Calen Henry.

Cover artwork by Gary Tonge

Tanagra sounds like five guys who met while playing Magic: the Gathering, discovered they were all also into Sci-fi, history, and power metal and thought it might be cool to start a metal band. Surprisingly, not only did they actually start the band, they self-released a phenomenal record.

Tanagra are from the US, but play power metal that’s deeply indebted to the European masters of the genre (as evidenced by their fantastic throwback album art and band logo). The album is chock full of catchy riffs, singalong choruses and awe-inspiring shredding but they’re not simply slaves to the genre forefathers. Tanagra's not afraid to shake things up, and that’s what elevates them from solid power metal to the single best “indie power metal” band I’ve found on Bandcamp.

Tanagra write about the future, Back to the Future, Magic: The Gathering and the American civil war, but have an edge to almost every aspect of their music that makes their earnestness seems more badass than silly. Power metal can sometimes come off as almost laughably earnest, both subject matter and delivery, but the dark side Tanagra show keeps that at bay.

The guitars sound dirtier than usual for the genre and delve into black and death metal riffs complete with blast beats. The vocals are delivered in a lower register than power metal's usual falsetto with some grit reminiscent of Chris Black’s vocals in Dawnbringer, prior to Night of the Hammer. This is mixed with some great backup harmonies like those employed by Woods of Ypres and Thrawsunblat. There’s the odd falsetto accent too, but they actually accent the songs, rather than taking them over.

The musical variety is held together by excellent song writing. Riffs and vocal hooks flow seamlessly together. Each part of each song is in service of the songwriting, rather than showmanship. Near the end of "10​:​04 PM", for example, the song breaks into a 5/4 riff that I didn’t notice till I’d listened to it about a dozen times. Probably because the main riff in the song is so excellent.

The production deserves credit as well. Everything sounds clean, but not sterile and the album measures a nice DR 8, which isn’t amazing but is certainly better than average from the genre

To top this all off the album is Pay What You Want on Bandcamp. Trust me, you want to pay something for this gem.

February 8, 2016

Short and to the point 1

Written by Aaron Sullivan.

Artwork by Dusty Peterson

Behold! The Monolith return with their third full length, Architects of the Void. This marks the first album with their new line up since the passing of bassist/singer Kevin McDade. Initially they tried to go as a three piece with guitarist Matt Price doing vocals and new bassist Jason Casanova. But the final line up was formed when Jordan Nalley was added to handle vocal duties.

It may have taken a while to solidify the new line-up. But this new album proves it was worth the wait. All the things you’ve come to love about this band are all still here. The outstanding musicianship, the heavy sludge, the progressive nature of the songs, and the balls out thrashing assault. An ass kicker from start to finish.

Blake Green is one half of Wolvserpent. He also has an Ambient side project called Aelter. We'll add one more to that list. His black metal project called Il'Ithil who’s first offering, Ia'Winde, was one of my favorites of 2015.

This is raw atmospheric black metal. Songs are bleak and fast paced. So cold and frostbitten you may feel the need to put on a coat. Buzzing guitars layered over beautiful melodies. His harsh vocals perfectly drowned in the mix. Only two songs, but it leaves you wanting more. For fans of Striborg and ColdWorld.

Painting by Aron Briggs

Volahn’s Aq'ab'al album was another of my favorites of 2014/2015. I saw these guys open for Wolves In The Throne Room in 2014 and was blown away. So when I picked up this album my expectations were high, and they were met.

Raw, uncompromising, in your face black metal. Vocals are throaty and remind me of a howling wolf at times. Songs feel progressive, never really staying in one place with one riff for very long. The addition of acoustic passages add great dynamics to the albums. Had the pleasure of seeing them live twice last year and the songs were even better live.

From Montreal come Big|Brave and their album, Au De La. To describe this album is no easy task. As they take from Post-Rock, DOOM, Noise and sprinkle in a few other genres for good measure...

A three piece with no bass. Songs are heavy and sparse. Guitars go back and forth from droning ambience to crushing riffs. Drums are HUGE in sound and scope. Vocals waver between chants and blood curdling screams. When brought together they become songs that hypnotize the listener. An amazing album.

Illustration by Viral Graphics

From my local scene comes Trapped Within Burning Machinery with a new album titled, The Filth Element. As you read the title I’m sure you are reminded of the film The Fifth Element. That is no coincidence. In fact each song title is a character from the film with each telling their story.

As they are a local band for me I was able to sort of witness the progression of this band from their first album and it is breathtaking. Hearing these songs for the first time I knew this album was going to be stunner. The emotions contained within this album are brought forth in way I had not heard from a band like this since the days of Asunder. The ability to go from these beautiful melodic guitar harmonies to crushing riffs is a thing to behold. With a single sustained note they go straight to the heart. They prove once again that even when quiet, music can still be heavy.

February 6, 2016

Hyperion - Seraphical Euphony

By Andy Osborn. The term ‘Dissection clone’ gets thrown around a lot. While not necessarily an insult, it attempts to classify the many bands trying to recreate the glory of Storm of the Light’s Bane; one of the most game-changing albums in modern extreme music. It may not have been the first to fuse gorgeous melodies
Written by Andy Osborn.

Cover Art by Alex Tartsus

The term ‘Dissection clone’ gets thrown around a lot. While not necessarily an insult, it attempts to classify the many bands trying to recreate the glory of Storm of the Light’s Bane; one of the most game-changing albums in modern extreme music. It may not have been the first to fuse gorgeous melodies with the frostiness of black metal and death metal guitar wizardry, but it certainly was (and arguably still is) the best. The album immediately and obviously influenced Dissection’s Swedish cohorts like Dawn, Vinterland, and Sacramentum, but its grasp reached much further than those short-lived bands of the 90s. A second wave of these talented tremolo titans later appeared with the likes of Thulcandra, Dark Fortress, Istapp, and - of course - Watain.

It’s not hard to see why this sub-sub-genre is so often emulated. It’s complex, intense, and absurdly fun. The songs are built upon ridiculously catchy guitar leads that are ever-changing, and most bands make a game out of how they can construct, rearrange, and inject more intrigue into the foundations. There’s a defined set of ingredients, but the recipe is open-ended enough to allow for endless experimentation. But for every one of the well-known acts that do the style some sort of justice, there are ten more that play a sloppy, second-rate bastardization of it. It can be hard to wade through the murk.

So it’s rare when a debut comes along and nails the sound, but Hyperion did just that. Hailing from - nevermind, you can guess where - their debut, Seraphical Euphony, is an absolute monster, and the result of hard work and patience. Sticking it out in various forms for almost a decade, they waited until the stars (and their tumultuous roster) aligned before putting this amazing record together over the course of two years. It’s something the world was waiting for, we just didn’t know it yet.

While the aforementioned slur certainly applies, the band does so much more than play a sound that’s been obsessed over for two decades. The six-piece dive in with full force, worship their masters, and attack the style with such confidence it feels like they’re one of the progenitors. What they bring to the sound is a bag of tricks that seems to never end. The most prominent of these, acoustic guitar interplay, was featured on the original Great Work, but Hyperion use it to an extent that never feels contrived or thrown in because they ran out of ideas. For once it actually works as in intro to an album, and it acts as a perfect homage to “Where Dead Angels Lie” on “Flagellum Dei”.

Rare for the style, keyboards also appear throughout the album, though they’re used appropriately; as an Emperor-esque accent rather than a bombastic crutch. But the secret weapon Hyperion employ is one that just makes so much sense for their sound: a triple guitar attack. The fact that this isn’t just studio trickery and can (I assume) be replicated live is a dedication few bands have. Their melodic leads are brought to a whole new level when doubled in size and can shift to play counterpoint off each other while the rhythm section barrels forth without any loss of harmony.

It’s not only these flourishes or even the songs themselves that impress, but the album as a whole. It’s presented in such a way that proves it wasn’t random assortment of tracks thrown together. While the first three proper tracks are fairly similar is style and substance, Hyperion switch gears halfway through the album as “Moral Evasion” first soothes with some light piano then explodes into epic melodeath to keep things interesting and show they have a few more influences at play.

After this halfway point the band tries a few new things and, unsurprisingly, they work. There are more solos, tempo shifts - okay, maybe a tad too much acoustic guitar - and the band even tries their hand and gang vocals at one point. It’s as if they’re growing over the course of the release and exploring who they are as a unit, and it’s beyond impressive. “Blood of the Ancients” closes out the whole thing with a brilliant finale as every member launches a full-scale assault on the senses to overwhelm before abruptly disappearing.

Hyperion set out to play a style that’s easily dismissed, and they impress on every level. For a debut to be so precise in its intent and execution is rare, and this new Swedish guard is doing much more than making their countrymen proud - they’re forging a new path out of old tools. Every second is engaging, and the album's individual parts are just as rewarding as the sum. If Seraphical Euphony isn’t the best work in this style in its twenty year history, it makes a damn convincing claim for it.

February 5, 2016

Odyssey - Voids

Written by Professor D. Grover the XIIIth.

Greetings and salutations, friends. I, your venerable Professor, have joined you today to discuss a band near and dear to my own heart, Spokane-based instrumental trio Odyssey. I've been a vocal proponent of the group since hearing their Schematics EP several years ago, and an album and two additional EPs later we find Odyssey releasing a second full-length, titled Voids.

Over the past few years, the trio (consisting of guitarist Jerrick Crites and the Brothers Hilker, bassist Jordan and drummer Lukas) has been quite active, not only with Odyssey but also as three-fourths of the instrumental rock group 3H, a band that also features the talents of the Hilker clan patriarch Fred. In a remarkably short time period the three have honed their considerable talents to a fine edge, expanding their prog-metal sound with rock influences and establishing a solid identity as artists.

This brings us to Voids, a release that pulls together the stages of the band's evolution into a single cohesive package. Voids deftly mixes the bass-grounded heaviness of the early years with the more guitar-oriented experimentation of the group's recent releases, and the finished product is a perfect culmination of everything Odyssey has been building toward to this point. The album features some of the band's heaviest material since Schematics ("Before There Were Eyes To See", "Delineation"), but there's plenty of room left for extended guitar soloing and stripped-down melodic passages.

Odyssey have never been shy about their influences, and Voids seems to derive a fair amount from Dream Theater and Rush, but these influences are never heavy-handed and don't feel forced. They're a natural part of the band's DNA, an insight reinforced by familiarity with Odyssey’s previous work, and like any great band, the integrate the music that has inspired them without becoming mindless imitators. Crites and the Hilkers possess the necessary level of talent and creativity to pull off such an integration and make it look easy in the process.

In a previous review, likely from the long-defunct Number of the Blog, I discussed how Odyssey play music for the love of music, because there's not really a lot of money in prog metal, and I stand by that statement now. Listening to Voids along with their previous works, it's really apparent that there's a constant drive to better themselves as musicians and songwriters, to progress their sound organically without losing the identity that makes them unique. They create this music out of passion for their craft, and although it may seem like a cliche, that doesn't make it any less true.

It's been my great pleasure to witness firsthand (well, sort of) the evolution and growth of Odyssey. With the sheer number of bands fighting for your attention on a daily basis, it’s easy to become jaded and cynical when it comes to music, grumbling about the good old days (even if you were in diapers for the good old days). But it can be comforting to know that there are still bands like Odyssey who are out there making quality music for the simple joy of creation. To borrow a phrase from The Stranger in The Big Lebowski, “I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' they're out there. Odyssey. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.”

February 4, 2016

Nonsun - Black Snow Desert

Written by Karen A. Mann.

Listening to Black Snow Desert, the debut from Ukrainian instrumental doom/drone/blackgaze duo Nonsun, is like taking a pilgrimage through a constantly changing landscape. The journey is long, and at times quite arduous: The album comprises two CDs, with the shortest song topping out at 8 minutes. The sounds contained often fit the album’s title: dark, cold and empty. Songs build slowly, and often plod to their crescendo. There’s no shortage of scraping, screaming and crashing sounds. But after those crashes, the sonic landscape often shifts, and moments of pure, shimmering beauty emerge.

What makes Black Snow Desert such a compelling listen is the band’s ability to create opposing ideas -- harsh vs. soft, dissonant vs. melodic, empty vs. full -- and mold them into a coherent yin-yang fabric of sound that demands engagement from the listener. This isn’t music that you can just turn on as background music and then go about your business. There’s too much to miss, and the payoff from fully immersing yourself in the sound is too great.

Black Snow Desert begins with “No Pity for the Beast, No Shelter for the Innocent,” a 15-minute plus opus that slowly builds with droning guitars and distant cymbals. Veering into shoegaze at its warmest, fullest parts. The album alternately plods and glides along, through colorful, shimmering and exotic passages on “Peace of Decay, Joy of Collapse,” and scraping destruction on “Heart’s Heavy Burden.” It finally throbs, then explodes to an end on the final track, “Rest of Tragedy.” You can’t help but feel slightly spent at the conclusion of Black Snow Desert, but as with any good trip, you’re eager to make the journey again.

February 3, 2016

Label Spotlight: Unspeakable Axe Records

Written by Kevin Page.

Unspeakable Axe Records hailing from Athens, Georgia got its start in 2013 as a sub label of Dark Descent Records. Their primary focus are bands with a more thrash oriented sound than its parent label but there's still plenty of death metal and crossover on their roster. Every release is a pure homage to its respective genre. No experimentation, no avant garde, just pure unapologetic wear your influences on your sleeve like a red badge of courage metal. On that note, here's 3 of their recent releases for you to check out.

Existing in one form or another since 1985, bay area death/thrash act, Insanity, return with original vocalist/guitarist, Dave Gorsuch leading the charge. Since their debut album in 1994, Death After Death, they've released 3 compilations, a demo and an EP. Now 21 years later and they have their sophomore full length, Visions of Apocalypse. It's cliche to say a band has an old school sound/feel/production, but this album sounds like it was written and recorded in the late 80's and just finally released. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking, so give it a listen and see if I'm wrong.

Cover art by Ryanimator

Atlanta, Georgia three piece thrash band, Sadistic Ritual, return with their second EP, Edge of the Knife. Sorta an Americanized version of old school Kreator meets Destruction (musically and vocally) with enough slop and dirt to keep the catchy riffage from sounding too 'happy go lucky'. Pure thrash metal that doesn't require anymore adjectives or run on sentences from yours truly. Get crackin'

Cover Art by Rachel Truskolawski

Scorched, from Delaware, serve up some meat-n-potatoes 1990's death metal on their debut self titled demo. I'm not really sure why they're calling this a demo since the production is perfectly acceptable for an EP. Normally, back in the day a demo was 2-3 songs, but here they give you 6 tracks over 17 minutes. There's nothing original going on here yet they don't really sound like any one particular band. It's like they took everything about 1990's death metal and threw it into a blender and the cohesive elements rose to the surface.

February 1, 2016

Premiere: Urgehal - Aeons in Sodom

Metal Bandcamp proudly presents our first ever full album premiere, featuring the new, and final, Urgehal album Aeons in Sodom, which will be released February 12 on the Season of Mist Bandcamp.

Urgehal, one of the most consistently well-reviewed long running bands on Metal Archives, were struck by tragedy in 2012 when band leader Trondr Nefas passed away. Now the band has collected his final material into one last album, one last savage blast to honor his memory.

The press-release reads: "Nefas' masochistic screams are too unique to replace, so the band have enlisted the services of venerable Scandinavian metal scene icons to contribute vocals. Featuring the unique vocals and personas of Nocturno Culto (Darkthrone), Nattefrost (Carpathian Forest), Nag (Tjusder), Niklas Kvarforth (Shining), Hoest (Taake), Mannevond (Koldbrann) and more"

Aeons in Sodom is full of ripping black/thrash riffs and slithering solos (always an Urgehal specialty); combined with the veritable smorgasbord of black metal vocalists it is a fitting testament to Trondr Nefas' legacy and also a monument to the origins of Norwegian Black Metal.