September 30, 2013

"With no internet, this record would not exist" A conversation with Luc Lemay from Gorguts

By Justin C. Luc Lemay of Gorguts was kind enough to talk to me for a while about the recording process of Colored Sands, what it was like to work with other hugely talented musicians, and how they made it work
By Justin C.

Luc Lemay of Gorguts was kind enough to talk to me for a while about the recording process of Colored Sands, what it was like to work with other hugely talented musicians, and how they made it work without them all being in the same geographical place. I also (lamely) try to convince him to make guest spots on many other albums.

Artwork by Martin Lacroix

First, congrats on creating a remarkable piece of music with this album.

Thank you very much. That was a labor of love.

When you first started writing this, did you have any concerns about working with musicians who weren’t located in the same place as you?

Actually, from square one, when I decided to get another Gorguts record done, I had John [Longstreth] and Colin [Marston] in mind right away, and it was Big Steeve [Hurdle] that told me about them... Steve wanted to be a part of the project, but back then we were already doing Negativa together, and we’d done Obscura together, and I wanted to have a different experience. Not that the experience was not nice or fulfilling with Big Steeve, but since it was possible for me to live something new and have a different experience, I wanted to have all new people. Then Big Steeve told me, “You really gotta check this guitar player out,” talking about Kevin [Hufnagel]. It’s two-for-one in the sense that he already plays with Colin, so everything should be easier, schedule-wise. Then we went to his place and he showed me a couple videos of Dysrhythmia live, and I was like, “Holy smoke!” I was blown away by Kevin’s playing, so right away, I really wanted to have him in the picture. So then I e-mailed everybody on their respective MySpace’s, and everybody said yes. It was like it was meant to happen with those people.

It’s nice to get 100% agreement right from the start.

Exactly. It’s not like I had to look around for a guitar player or a drummer for a month or two. It really clicked, and I really wanted them to be in the picture. I was a big fan of John’s playing on Dim Mak’s Knives of Ice, because I was a big fan of that record. And Colin, I was totally impressed by his Warr guitar playing, and I said to myself if this guy has the ambition to play those kind of instruments, I’m sure it’s going to work out well on the creative aspect for making a record.

So how did the writing process work? Did you exchange files?

Yeah, the way it worked is that, with me living in Canada, I’d write, say, a whole song by myself. And from there, I’d write all the riffs in the right order that they appear in the song, and I’d write them in tablature... I’d send Kevin, Colin, and John an mp3 of the song, just me playing along with a click, and then there would be the manuscript for the music... For a couple of songs, I also did a structural graphic, like we would do in analysis class, back when I was studying composition.

Then, first thing I knew, a month later, Colin would write me back and he would have written the whole bass line over the music. Then Kevin would send me the track with the bass line and all his guitar over my track of music. I gave them complete freedom to write whatever they wanted, unless they did something that didn’t work with the music or didn’t fit with the aesthetic of the music, but they just nailed it every time. We barely changed a note here and there. It was like, first draft, bulls-eye. They were fans of the band before, so they understood the aesthetic of the band, but the thing is, they wrote bass and guitar tracks in the Gorguts aesthetic in the way that they see it. As I always give as an example, if you have three people and ask them to draw a table on a piece of paper, you’re going to recognize the object right away, but everybody’s going to draw a table in their own perspective. If you asked me, for example, to write a riff in the style of Slayer, then I’d do it my way. You could recognize the aesthetic there, but that doesn’t mean my friend is going to do it the same way as I, so that’s how it happened with them writing. They surprised me every time. That’s important when you have a project with people, you need to be surprised by them, you need to be inspired by them. And that’s the case with these musicians.

Thinking about Dysrhythmia, they’re certainly well within the genre sphere of Gorguts, but it would certainly take a very subtle touch to not only bring their own personal piece to it, but to also respect what you’ve already accomplished with the band.


Were you surprised at all that you were so close to the same page right off?

Taking a step back, totally, because you can have an amazing player, but you’ll never get along together. You need to have a good relationship to share ideas. In life, it’s not always easy to click with people, you know. The older we get, we know what we want, and it’s like, “Well, I love the way he plays, but personality-wise maybe it’s not my thing.” It wasn’t the was just perfect with everybody. It was smooth sailing. It was awesome to share ideas, and we weren’t at the point where we completed each other’s sentences, but almost! They’re amazing people, and great personalities, and that’s very important for me as well. It’s not all about the music...I need to have fun. If I don’t have any fun, then forget it. I’ll just be home, and I’ll write all the stuff myself.

Did you feel like anything was lost in the writing process because you weren’t eyeballing each other in a room?

Not at all. All the records I made previously were made collectively, like being in the same room in the same time. For instance, Obscura, the way we wrote that, Steve [Cloutier], Steeve, and I would spend a week in our own corners coming up with riffs. The week after, we’d get together on a Monday, and we’d jam back then 5 or 6 days a week, all afternoon, having dinner together and jamming in the evening as well. Every song on Obscura, besides “Rapturous Grief,” took 2 days to write.

But this time around, having them living in NYC and me in Canada, we don’t hear in the music that it wasn’t written with us in the same room. Of course, we tweaked little arrangements. For instance, I had an idea for a drumbeat, and John and I got together one-on-one for a couple songs to get the drums together. Once we got together as a four piece, we’d play a song with all the string section together, and Colin would have one line sticking out that was very strong, and we’d say, “Oh, what about John doubling this line to underline it?” That’s the kind of tweaking we did together, but other than that, we didn’t have to change a melodic line in the music. We just made the arrangements more subtle. From the first draft, it was boom--bullseye.

You can definitely hear that. In a way, I wonder if it helped a little with that setup, because the music is so intricate. Everyone could have a little private time to think about what they wanted.

Exactly. Back in Negativa, Big Steeve was a big fan of improvisation, and me, I just hate improvisation. Never liked it. I don’t like having three people stare at me while I’m in my head with ideas and researching a theme. I like more being in my own shell, thinking about stuff, and writing, like someone would do writing a book. That’s the way I like. Not that I don’t like working on music collectively, but we need to have 95% of the substance there. Other than that,’s not my cup of tea.

Do you think this is the future? Maybe we’ll get more world-wide collaborations?

Maybe. It’s a personality thing as well. Maybe some like to have on-the-spot collective, “Let’s work on a song from scratch to finish,” but for me, it was perfect. I’m a very busy person, and Colin is super busy, Kevin as well. They each have three or four bands each. John is the same, he tours a lot with Origin... But with no internet, this record would not exist.

Might we see you guesting on any Krallice or Vaura records?

Maybe. [Laughs.] Or maybe I can sing on a Dysrhythmia song or a Behold the Arctopus song.

Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.

Thank you, thanks for the interview. I couldn’t be more thankful for the press and all the people so far and the fans I’ve briefly met being on the road for two weeks. I couldn’t be more thankful for the response to the music. I’m so happy. So happy. It’s the only word I can find! [Laughs.]

All photos are from the Gorguts gallery, except for the live photo of John Longstreth which was taken by Ross Grady.

September 29, 2013

Grave Upheaval - Untitled

By Dave Schalek. “Murky, moody, and atmospheric” comes to mind in describing Grave Upheaval, a very dark and disturbing death metal band from Australia. Featuring members of both the monstrous Portal and Impetuous Ritual, it comes as no surprise that Grave Upheaval continue a proud tradition with extremely downtuned death metal played at a generally slow pace.
By Dave Schalek.

“Murky, moody, and atmospheric” comes to mind in describing Grave Upheaval, a very dark and disturbing death metal band from Australia. Featuring members of both the monstrous Portal and Impetuous Ritual, it comes as no surprise that Grave Upheaval continue a proud tradition with extremely downtuned death metal played at a generally slow pace.

Photo by Dave Schalek

Rather than just being a carbon copy of either Portal or Impetuous Ritual, though, Grave Upheaval wisely chart a slightly different course by emphasizing an unbelievable sense of density and weight; a vibe greatly enhanced by a thoroughly bottom heavy production. Think bands such as Witchrist/ Diocletian, and you’re in the ballpark. A rather surprising amount of variation occurs within a nearly impenetrable layer of murk as the pacing alternates between that of a glacier and a chaotic whirlwind. The slower moments pile on the atmosphere and allow the listener to catch some of the riffing, which would have otherwise been buried. Adding further to a weird sense of unease surrounding Grave Upheaval are some hauntingly delivered vocals, as well as the band’s choice to eschew a title to the album, or to the individual songs for that matter.

Photo by Dave Schalek

Although not particularly original, the debut full-length from Grave Upheaval will certainly attract listeners of similar acts.

September 28, 2013

Vygr - Vygr

Creator-Destruktor is a small label with more than a few metal goodies available on their Bandcamp. There's Patience and Perseverance, the debut full-length from Gypsyhawk (who signed to Metal Blade and subsequently split up), Thin Lizzy influenced Heavy Metal that's warm, melodic, and pretty darn good. And there's Vygr.

Creator-Destruktor is a small label with more than a few metal goodies available on their Bandcamp. There's Patience and Perseverance, the debut full-length from Gypsyhawk (who signed to Metal Blade and subsequently split up), Thin Lizzy influenced Heavy Metal that's warm, melodic, and pretty darn good. And there's Vygr.

Vygr'a debut Hypersleep is muscular post-metal. Heavy Blog is Heavy called it a "dichotomy of huge lumbering riffs and melodic atmosphere" and "a damn fine addition to the genre". They also said it approaches "the archetypal post-metal sound", which may be why I prefer their self-titled EP. It's a 2011 re-release of an EP from 2008 with the addition of a new song. And it's terrific.

Compared to Hypersleep, Vygr is heavier, doomier, and the songs are more direct in their approach. The vocals are harsher, the guitars sound angrier, the production is less clean; in general there's more focus on the sludgy aspect of the post-metal sound. Many of the riffs are terrific; my favorite being the huge payoff riff in "Avulsion", that follows an exemplary buildup all the way from the atmospheric instrumental "Drifter". In short: A great EP.

September 27, 2013

Plague Mask - The Frailty Of Human Existence

Written by Ulla Roschat.

Art by Václav Trajer

“Blackenedstonerrocksludgedoom …..thats a word right????” That’s what you find in the info section on Plague Mask facebook page. Well, I’m not really sure if it’s a word or not, but it describes the basic blend Plague Mask offer on their EP The Frailty Of Human Existence (2013) quite to the point. The EP comprises of four songs and lasts short but sweet 14 minutes and 23 seconds. Thankfully, short as it is, no second of it is wasted, every moment is filled with the abovementioned blend of blackenedstonerrocksludgedoom plus some extra spices to create four compelling songs.

The first song “Sink And Drown” is a kind of an ‘easy’ introduction. Although it has, like all the other songs, an underlying menacing and eerie atmosphere, there’s also a somewhat lulling and seductive force especially in the strong melody, the guitar part near the end and the contrasting vocals that are something between a deep growl and a hardcore scream with a unique abrasive, rasping touch to them. (Is it possible to fall in love with vocals? Yes it is, it happened many times to me and it happened here.)

The first half of the second song “Harvest Of The Dogs” is a sludge/ doom/black metal assault with a lot of changes in tempo and intensity, then after an abrupt break it turns into a spacey ambient soundscape that finally drowns in a sea of bubbling sounds. “When We Become The Last Burning Star” then (my favorite track of the EP), plays with tempo changes even more and the vocals in the slow parts are most intriguing, providing a creepy doomy atmosphere with their stunning rasping touch.

The last song “Botched Swimming Lessons” is the complementary piece to the first song. While the first one was the alluring intro, the last one is a fast angry HC ridden blast that definitely leaves you wanting for more and suspecting there’s a lot more potential to evolve and run riot. Not only the last song leaves you wanting for more (and not only the bewitching vocals either). The Frailty Of Human Existence experiments and plays with contrasts, tempo changes and musical styles to create cohesive but varying moods. It leaves a hint and a feel of this quite young band (formed in 2011) band being capable of refining their already individual style.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 25, 2013

Horseback / Locrian - New Dominions

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

This release is a collaboration between two experimentally-minded, blackened drone and doom-influenced bands: the deep, bubbling madness of Locrian and the more agitated, buzzing restlessness of Horseback. Originally released as a very limited vinyl pressing featuring only two tracks, the digital release sees the addition of three new numbers and the entire project has been remastered by James Plotkin (Pelican, Nadja). Pooling their efforts and aesthetics, these two groups have created a spare, alien landscape.

New Dominions is primarily defined by its sense of distance. The echoing, ritual-like vocals seem to come from far away, as though the listener is winding their way through a series of labyrinthine stone hallways, and behind a faraway door a dark rite is taking place. The structure of the record is lonely and unsettling, giving the listener the impression of being both isolated and also watched or followed. Full of deep shadows and dapples of putrid, ugly light, New Dominions is a great soundtrack if you're in the mood to give yourself nightmares.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 24, 2013

Anagnorisis - Beyond All Light

Review by Andy Osborn.

Cover painting "The Enigma" by Gustave Doré

Kentucky has become a hotbed for extreme metal in recent years. Austin Lunn, known for his work in Panopticon and Seidr, is unquestionably the state’s metallic godfather, so it’s no surprise that Anagnorisis used to count him as a key member. But the group has grown and expanded since his departure, creating a sophomore full-length that he must be proud of.

Subscribing to the Scandinavian 90s-revelling school of USBM, Beyond All Light drips with potent ambience, a slave to the dark and dank. Not unlike UK newcomers Lychgate, the band mixes their sanguine foundation with a crushing concoction of death-doom that amps up the metallic tension to a whirlwind of extremity. This thick, complex atmosphere is heavily coated with a sheen of keyboards that seeps through every audible crack and crevice so it’s no surprise that the beautiful madness of Emperor is heavily channeled here. “This Cursed Blood” is clearly an homage to the newly-reunited Norwegian masters through and through; spewing relentless hellfire with every available tool.

The thick fog of keyboard layers and amped-up low end result in a production not normally found on a black metal album. It's almost as if the instruments themselves take a backseat to the overall atmosphere as the tidal wave consumes and corrupts with its enveloping churn. But while it’s clear the band has no shortage of ideas, it unfortunately becomes apparent that this is their first foray into making songs past the five minute mark. Cohesion is occasionally lost as the instrumental forays drag just a little too much or become expected. The schizophrenic “Bountiful Godless Life“ begins as an incredible Dimmu-esque opus before being dissected by an acoustic reverie and devolving into less bombastic fare. Meanderings aside, Beyond All Light is still a remarkable work that surprises at every corner with the unexpected guitar solo or vocal change that brings a sublime sense of wonder and terror throughout.

The band have released an incredibly in-depth video chronicling the writing and recording process of Beyond All Light. It shows the quintet’s devotion to the dark arts and how they have progressed since the release of their 2007 debut, giving an interesting backstage view that most never get to see. And it seems their hard work has paid off, as Anagnorisis prove to be another gem in the state more renowned for its bluegrass and bourbon than black metal.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 22, 2013

Ephemeros - All Hail Corrosion

Review by Justin C.

My first classical guitar teacher had a quirk that I only came to appreciate later on, long after we'd parted ways. Whenever he played something during a lesson, even if it was a snippet of a song or part of a technical exercise, he performed it. Anyone who's taken (or given) a musical lesson knows that it's pretty common for a teacher to quickly demonstrate something, whether it's a bit of technique a tricky rhythm the student's not getting, and it's often done in a fairly offhand manner. Not for this fellow, though. He would sit up, arrange himself into the perfect playing position, and make music. Even if he was just playing two notes from a scale, he approached them with the utmost musicality.

I share this anecdote not because you're particularly fascinated with my own musical history, but because it helps explain why I think Ephemeros's album All Hail Corrosion is so compelling. This is epic funeral doom, slow-moving and full of menace. The album only has three tracks, with the shortest one clocking in at nearly 11 minutes. The vocals are roared, and the instrumentals are simple and restrained. If you listen to just an excerpt or two, you might be forgiven for thinking that any power the music has is through drone and repetition, but that's far from the case. The riffs might come in the form of slow, single-note lines, but the musicians ring every bit of musicality they can out of every note. The melodies may evolve slowly, but it's not a matter of waiting through 20 repetitions to see what changes. They play every phrase like it's the first one on the record, and every one of them sounds fresh. You don't wait around for a blast of noodling or a killer riff that disappears as quickly as it arrives--you take in every long, low, buzzing note.

There are plenty of great moments that could be singled out--the creepy, alternating-note guitar figure that opens the first track, or the first vocal howls and thundering bass and drums that erupt after the guitar line has had plenty of time to set the stage. There's a haunting outro in the second track, and there are some fantastic, sludgy guitar harmonies in the final track, a track that builds into a restrained fury before coming to what, for this band, is almost an "abrupt" ending. But picking out the little interesting bits almost does the album a disservice. I think to really appreciate this, you need to let the whole album sink in on one setting, carrying you along on its crushing, hypnotic journey.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 21, 2013

Modulus - Entanglement

Review by Sean Golyer.

Album cover by Jack Haas, Kayla Knudson, Mitch Schooler

I think it goes without saying when you’re writing about an artist from your local scene, especially a friend, there will be an air of bias. This brief write-up is no different. Modulus’ first release, Entanglement, is a solo record that has been in the works by Nerves’ bassist Mitch Schooler since 2009. I’ve heard bits and pieces of it as it grew during the writing phase and watched as the project came and went over the years. Working on a Bachelor’s degree, practicing, writing, and playing live with the phenomenal Nerves (who released their debut EP earlier this year), then finding the time to work on this project is no easy task. I’m genuinely happy for Mitch that he finally got this off of his chest.

Much like the journey of this release’s creation, the music itself is a rollercoaster of sound, fury, and technicality. It’s mechanical and precise in every way, but not entirely without soul. Ever so briefly between the multitude of blasts, breaks, and overall discord of musical movements come moments of slower, bass-driven grooves and synthy atmospheres. The structure of each song throws all convention out the window in favor of calculated chaos. The only constant here is change. The songs are showy and indulgent in length, speed, dissonance, and technical ability, but it couldn't be more proud of it. It’s a deadly concoction of progressive, hardcore, thrash, groove, and tech-death all packed into roughly 30 minutes of music.

Though the album is a blast to listen to, it’s not above fair criticism. The lack of a vocalist, while not a deal-breaker by any means, is noticeably disappointing at times. I understand it’s a solo album showcasing Mitch’s instrumental prowess, but there are certainly spots throughout the album that I felt some vocals would’ve really glued this whole thing together. The disjointed nature of it all could’ve used that unifying element. The drums may also be a point of contention for some, but I argue that their robotic, perfect nature plays into the overall theme and feel of the EP.

At the low, low price of “pay what you want”, you really can’t go wrong on this one. It may not be Necrophagist’s mythical return, but it’s certainly a fun fix for my fellow tech-heads who crave new blood in the scene.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 19, 2013

Malacath - Songs for the Destitute

Review by Aaron Sullivan.

From New Hampshire comes the one man Black Metal project Malacath with his three song E.P. entitled Songs for the Destitute. To some degree it is one song bookended by two acoustic spoken word passages. Those words taken from "The Outsider" by H.P Lovecraft. The middle track is mid-paced Black Metal with buzzing guitars, a layer of keyboards, and drumming that never blasts but is mixed perfectly to add punch. Vocals are very reminiscent of Nathan Weaver of Wolves in the Throne Room fame. Added to the song is also the sounds of nature. Rain and thunder to be exact. The middle section is bathed in it, completed by a kind of gregorian chant. The E.P. reeks of atmosphere. You can almost smell the rain soaked forest floor. There is also a hint of DOOM in these songs much in the same way Velnias pulled off so well in last years RuneEater.

According to his Metal Archives page he has a split and a demo also. I have not heard them and they are not to be found on his Bandcamp page unfortunately. But with this E.P. alone he has made a fan of me.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Atheist - Unquestionable Presence

An Autothrall Classic. Originally published here.

In 2010 Season of Mist released Atheist's comeback album Jupiter, and it has been available on the Season of Mist Bandcamp for some time. Now the rest of Atheist's full-length albums have been made available as full album streams. To celebrate that we reprint Autothrall's review of the classic Unquestionable Presence album from 1991.

What is it about bass players and touring bus accidents? In the 80s, we had Cliff Burton whisked away from us before he had arguably reached his prime. Shortly after the dawn of the following decade, it was Roger Patterson of Atheist, whose technical grandeur and potential was admittedly limitless. It's tragic, really. Patterson got so far as to be involved in the writing and pre-production records of the band's second full-length Unquestionable Presence, but the talented merc Tony Choy (Pestilence, Cynic) was brought in to waltz about the final product. It was a sensible choice, Choy was certainly up to the task, and in a strange twist of bitter irony, Atheist had created what I must say is their best album to date, though most of them are comparable in overall quality.

Kelly Shaefer from Atheist, 2011. Photo by Metal Chris.

Here, the band had dialed up its jazz and groove elements to bolder extremes than the debut Piece of Time, and also come up with some far more catchy guitar lines in general. You still get the feeling that you're being jerked around through the A.D.D. compositional technique that the band is known for employing. Very often some superb riffing melodies will emerge and then vanish all too quickly, tantamount to the listener's frustration. Like Piece of Time, it seems as if the band are forcing such collisions, tripping over themselves to impress the audience by how quickly they can cycle through material. A tactic which has been used countless times since Atheist, by a myriad of technical death and thrash artists trying to outgun one another in both proficiency and brutality, and perhaps this band's greatest (and most unfortunate) influence upon the genre they matured through. However, this considered, Unquestionable Presence is still an impressive album with a wealth of acrobatic gallantry persisting through each track.

Jonathan Thompson from Atheist, 2011. Photo by Metal Chris.

"Mother Man" wastes no time indoctrinating the listener with the band's increased curvy jazz aesthetics, Choy plucking through a dazzling rhythmic flume whilst the schizoid death/thrashing commences through spikes of precision violence and Shaefer's barking snarls. As with much of the album, you've gotta listen closely to the subtext, and by this I mean the bass, it will twist your mind straight off your spine, though some might not welcome the inherent funkiness. The title track is slightly less bewildering, but more impressive as a song, with a spacey clean fusion intro marred by squelching bass and then a jamming whirlwind sans vocals, but I really love the graceful arching of the guitars behind the verse at about 1:00. "Retribution" sounds like it might have belonged on Death's Human, only far more memorable, spastic and fluid. I was a little taken aback by the teensy chugged intro to "Enthralled in Essence", but then the band almost instantly turns towards an epic melody and a convocation of desperate, shifting speeds.

Travis Morgan from Atheist, 2011. Photo by Metal Chris.

At this point, the band were probably well aware that the listeners' eyes were spinning in their sockets as if they were living slot machines, so we're given about a moment of tranquility at the opening of "An Incarnation's Dream": clean guitar passage akin to something Fates Warning might have pulled around this time, and then a thick, rhythmic implosion, as if some cosmic gate had opened above a peaceful, natural scene on some unexplored planet. This track is a curious one, with a strange swerve towards funky bass, shredded solo and chugging miasma, ultimately one of the least impressive on the album, but not uninteresting. "The Formative Years" goes for a more direct, charging thrash sequence before it morphs into unhinged jazz/death oblivion, a hyperactive string of hammers that play upon your mind like piano keys. "Brains", however, is one of my favorite individual songs here, with its frenetic strains of delicate, domineering tech death that we've since heard from countless younger bands possibly one unaware that it had already been done in 1991; "And the Psychic Saw" is a wonderful closer, another favorite and I just love the glorious desperation and rapid melodic mutes beneath the first verse.

Chris Baker from Atheist, 2011. Photo by Metal Chris.

For all the shit we give Scott Burns for much of his lackluster, samey sounding productions, one must admit that he achieved his success through a number of quality recordings. In my humble opinion, this is one of his best. The guitars are clean catapults of spatial expression. The bass is omnipresent, like standing in rush hour traffic without the big city slowdown. Steve Flynn is a titan behind the kit, and Shaefer sounds great, never mixed in too loudly against the musical backdrop. Unquestionable Presence naturally deviates away from the subterranean, occult and gore soaked indulgences that the more orthodox death metal bands would pursue, asking the broader questions about life and our place within the universe. 1991 was the year that the death genre would first begin to truly explore its progressive possibilities, with Pestilence and Death also unveiling their evolutions, and while I don't enjoy the Atheist contribution quite so much as the less frantic Testimony for the Ancients, it's certainly close in quality. Occasionally too frantic for its own good, and falling shy of perfection, but this is unquestionably worth owning.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

This version of Unquestionable Presence is the 2005 remaster with 9 bonus tracks, 5 of which are demo recordings featuring Roger Patterson on bass.

September 18, 2013

Deus Otiosus - Death Lives Again (demo)

Danish death metallers, Deus Otiosus, have uploaded their one and only demo, Death Lives Again from 2007, to their Bandcamp. I'll simply quote the press-release email I got, and let you enjoy it.
The demo was created in 2005-2007 when Deus Otiosus was a studioproject for Anders Bo Rasmussen and Henrik Engkjær. The latter also played in Victimizer and Church Bizarre during those days. The drums were played by Lars Groth who was then active in Crucifix – a death metal band that played a lot faster than Deus Otiosus are known to do. Lars’ drumming style certainly put it’s mark on the songs, so they have their own distinct character compared to the bands later material.

Since then Deus Otiosus have become a full band and main priority for all involved. Last year the band released their second album Godless on Deepsend Records (Gorguts, Dawn Of Demise, Coffins), and while the band is working on new material they’ve released this little piece of Danish metal history for free use.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Dragged Into Sunlight - Widowmaker

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

Cover art by Sindre Foss

There isn't a great deal of aggressive music that profoundly disturbs the listener in a primitive, primal way, an aspect that causes the hair on the back of the neck to stand up and something deep in the pit of the gut to feel cold and sour. Dragged Into Sunlight are one of the few bands capable of producing music that feels genuinely dangerous. Their last full-length, Hatred for Mankind, was a lovely atrocity, but dwelt a little too much on the theatricality of evil, incorporating many sound bites and samples into the work, making it feel at once a bit slick and cluttered. Widowmaker has pushed beyond the manicured surface of foulness into a rotten heart.

Photos by Karen A. Mann

The three-song album is best consumed as a single monumental track, one that follows the basic three-act structure of any narrative. The first track is all build-up, gathering tension, at once mincing and predatory, the awful and delicate approach of something huge, reeking of blood and tipped with talons. When the torrent of violence comes with the beginning of the second track, the savagery is almost a relief. Dragged into Sunlight combine the bleakest atmospheres of black metal, which hit the back of the throat like oily smoke, with the rich, textured despair of fine doom and the physical, sadistic ferocity of death metal. It's not often to encounter music this conceptually sophisticated and well executed that also, in its most secret depths, simply hates you.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 14, 2013

Nomadic Rituals - Holy Giants

Review by Aaron Sullivan.

Back in April I reviewed six up and coming DOOM bands out of Ireland. The first being Nomadic Rituals who have returned with a full album entitled Holy Giants. The DOOM heard within is slow, low and crushing.

At first glance it seems the new album is actually just the three songs from the demo with two new ones added on. But that is not totally true. The demo was the skeleton of the first three songs. With this album these songs are fleshed out with better production (also mastered by the one and only James Plotkin) and extended in length in some cases. They once again open with "Don’t Fuck With Giants" and it helps set the tone for the album. Oppressive DOOM, vocal’s that ranges from Death style to rasped Blackened screams, a hint of ritualistic psychedelia, and just enough atmosphere to keep things dark. The two new songs, "Burning Planet" and "An Accepted Human Condition", are welcomed additions. The first having, from what I can tell, an environmental theme. The closer clocks in at over 15 minutes bookending the opener nicely.

While not a reinvention of the DOOM wheel it is an album that sees a band making their mark. All and all an impressive step forward from an already impressive demo.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 13, 2013

Prosanctus Inferi - Noctambulous Jaws Within Sempiternal Night

Written by Craig Hayes.

Artwork by Paolo Girardi

I'm not suggesting you should ever judge a book by its cover, but if you didn't know a thing about Prosanctus Inferi, then a glimpse at the band's Bandcamp page is going to tell you ninety-nine percent of what need to know — without even hearing a note. 

Firstly, you're going to discover that the Colombus, Ohio-based band is being released by harbinger of all things foul and ferocious, Nuclear War Now! — so there's a clear expectation as to Prosanctus Inferi's pummelling temper already. Furthermore, the artwork for the band's latest album, Noctambulous Jaws Within Sempiternal Night, features a fantastically detailed and hellish landscape by Italian artist Paolo Girardi, along with an utterly incompressible logo. And, finally, you'll find occult themed and tongue-twisting song titles like, "Nuptial Hymens Burst Forth Slave Carrion", "Gestation Within the Lunar Miasmic Envelope" and "Seminal Moon Born Orgy of Birth". 

Photo by Carmelo Española.

Add all that up, and it'll be no surprise to find that black arts and netherworld worship is indulged, and that the stench of Morbid Angel mixing with the reek of a slew of contemporary blackened death merchants is strong. That said, although there's nothing surprising per se about Noctambulous Jaws Within Sempiternal Night, that isn't to say that Prosanctus Inferi doesn't dispense some gloriously nasty and nightmarish black and death metal. 

The band was founded by Jake Kohn (of Father Befouled and Black Funeral fame), so you'd expect something blasphemous and hideous, and Prosanctus Inferi's debut full-length, 2010's Pandemonic Ululations of Vesperic Palpitations, and 2011's Red Streams of Flesh EP, certainly met with applause from fans who enjoy their metal old-school, caustic, warped, and sounding liked it was crafted in the steaming waste pit of a slaughterhouse.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

Noctambulous Jaws Within Sempiternal Night isn't any different. Tracks such as "Maternal Tongue of Sempiternal Evil" and "Phantom Lust For the Pulse of Flesh" are seething masses of vermian rawness – all writhing and gloomy blitzkriegs of repulsiveness, digging their way out of the rotting intestines of some hideously worm-ridden demon. With wrath, perversion, and unpleasantness galore, Noctambulous Jaws Within Sempiternal Night is putrid and horrid, which is, of course, exactly why it's also so enjoyable. Fans of acts like Antediluvian, Ignivomous, or any of Nuclear War Now!'s other sacrilegious and throat-slitting fare, would be aware of the label's roster of uncompromising artists, and Prosanctus Inferi aren't interested in easy or lightweight melodies either. In saying that, Noctambulous Jaws Within Sempiternal Night isn't quite the bespattered album you'd presume. There's clarity and crispness in the production, particularly where wailing solos and ascents up the fret-board ring out like a '80s thrash tribute to the likes of early Slayer or Sodom — and that grants the album a certain depth and a tasty vintage tang. 

Photo by Carmelo Española.

In all, Noctambulous Jaws Within Sempiternal Night, is a half hour or so of ceaselessly ugly brutality, and much like a repetitive punch in the face, there's nothing remotely subtle about its intent. Prosanctus Inferi's set out to make an abrasive, evil and barbaric album, all filled with grotesque amounts of desecration and destruction, and that's exactly what you get. Those seeking wunderkind technical wizardry had best look elsewhere, but if you're after chaos, carnage, and grisly audio violence, then the yawning bloody maw of Noctambulous Jaws Within Sempiternal Night awaits. 

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

You can see more of Carmelo Española's Prosanctus Inferi photos here. Some of them were used inside the gatefold of the Noctambulous Jaws Within Sempiternal Night LP.

September 12, 2013

Colosso - Abrasive Peace

By Justin C. Colosso's first full-length, Abrasive Peace, floats somewhere on the spectrum between death metal and technical death metal. The songs are adventurous and complex, but they rely less on blazing speed and neck-wrenching shifts and more on the interweaving of different, contrasting layers.
By Justin C.

Colosso's first full-length, Abrasive Peace, floats somewhere on the spectrum between death metal and technical death metal. The songs are adventurous and complex, but they rely less on blazing speed and neck-wrenching shifts and more on the interweaving of different, contrasting layers. If you're worried that it won't be hard hitting enough, though, don't be concerned. Although the album was largely composed and recorded by one man, Max Tomé, he got a guest to handle the drums. And man, what a guest: Dirk Verbeuren (Soilwork, Scarve, many others). Needless to say, the percussion is insane in the best way possible.

The album is available as name-your-price, but a fun bonus for those who pay a non-zero amount is that you get a copy of the lyrics and the rhythm guitar tablatures. The various riffs in the tablature are named things like, "Thrash Riff," "Drone Riff," and "Epic Riff," and those names actually give you a good idea about what you'll hear. The guitars come in waves, both contrasting with and enhancing each other. After a brief bit of electronica, the opening track, "Anthems of Chaos," builds on an angular, stabbing riff that's soon joined by a soaring solo line. All of this is done over thundering drums that are equal amounts intricate, furious, and precise. "Pattern of Disconnection" has one of my favorite pairings, with fast churning riffs alternating with a sustained, drone-like line. Even more interesting are some of the lyrics that get paired with this musical maelstrom. Midway through "Pattern of Disconnection," the droning line helps punctuates the lyrics, "I walk along, walk alone / To find the essence of survival. / But in the end, what really matters / Is inner peace." "The Epiphany" ends with a short spoken-word piece that urges listeners to start creating and follow their passions because "life is short." I don't put a lot of stock in the actual lyrical content of a lot of metal--I'm sure I have songs on my iPod that are about dragons and hobbits--but I'm impressed with the fact that what could devolve into silly motivational platitudes are delivered in a way that isn't preachy or condescending. They come across as genuine, honest pieces of someone else's hopes and philosophies. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they're delivered in a low, back-of-the-throat death metal growl.

And those drums. Those crazy, virtuoso drums. There's a point midway through "Thou Shalt Not Be Benevolent" where Verbeuren does a rhythmic switch that I can't even follow, in spite of being a musician myself, but it's completely hypnotic. The fact that the drums are always well balanced with the other instruments is also a huge plus, since this kind of artillery can easily overwhelm the rest of the music.

Since Abrasive Peace came out, the group has grown to a full-fledged four piece, and they have a new EP called Thallium scheduled for an October 14 release. At the time of this writing, I've been able to listen to a bit of it, and from what I've heard so far, we'll be getting even more of what makes Abrasive Peace so enjoyable.

Take Over and Destroy - Endless Night

by Justin Petrick. Take Over and Destroy or TOAD for short, is a band out of the dry heat of Arizona. They have brought upon the world their original sophomore release Endless Nights; a fluid mix of sludge, death, thrash, rock and roll and pure fun. The opening song, "Taste of the Grave" starts from a pummeling roar into a strong central groove.
By Justin Petrick.

Take Over And Destroy or TOAD for short, is a band out of the dry heat of Arizona. They have brought upon the world their original sophomore release Endless Nights; a fluid mix of sludge, death, thrash, rock and roll and pure fun.

The opening song, "Taste of the Grave" starts from a pummeling roar into a strong central groove brought out by the sludge like guitar riff; add solid drum fills and a vocal performance that will make a listener take a second guess at what type of music they are actually enjoying. The Hammond organ that spends time as the main source of tension and ambiance is worked solidly throughout the song and by the time the song really starts going it is over. As the next song "Cosmophobia" begins with the solid thrash groove and haunting melodies of the guitar work and added synth backing. Once again the Hammond Organ reveals its presence and adds that sinister feel to the song. With mid song pace changes and a bridge that reminds you how fun listening to a great band with a scary vision can be, this song continues to show what these guys can do in a more extended burst.

The solos on the album are tight but everything seems a little compressed in the time and speeds of the songs. This is not a criticism as much as an observation, that the restrained nature of this album lends itself to the anticipation of what could be next for the band. But TOAD has definitely created a memorable album. With strong songs and solid (muddy, like it should be) production, it is a fun trip through the dark and macabre from a band that has left us wanting for more. Much more!

September 10, 2013

Your Last Wish - Desolation

Review by Justin C.

Cover art by Bob Skelton

Your Last Wish's 2012 album Desolation is available on Maple Metal Records's Bandcamp page. Your Last Wish is a Montreal-based band that plays a thrashy, galloping style of melodic death metal. There are riffs galore, tight percussion, and even the occasional walking bass line. How often do you get to hear something like that in any form of death metal? Not to mention that frontwoman Roxana Bouchard provides immensely satisfying harsh vocals. She's got some great low growls, but her black metal-style highs will strip the paint off your walls. Fans of Arch Enemy and (the now-defunct) Light This City will find a lot to like here. The music may not wander very far from the usual paths of melodic death metal, but I'd also argue that their songwriting is more interesting than your standard-issue melodeath, and it hasn't gotten boring for me on repeat listens. Desolation is the band's second full-length, and I'll be very curious to hear what they come up with in the future.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 8, 2013

Fuck the Facts - Amer

Review by Red.

Artwork by Mel Mongeon

If there's a takeaway from Fuck the Facts' new EP Amer, it's that these seven songs could easily be expanded into something even better.  Or they can remain as they are and just be awesome.  The EP runs for 17 minutes and there isn't really a dull moment included.

Mel Mongeon's familiar scream is joined by a lower-pitched death growl this time around.  I'm not sure if it was present on Die Miserable, their previous LP.  It's definitely welcome, as variety in the vocals never hurts.  Six of the seven tracks are in French, while the lone English track is a doomy little piece that could segue quite well into the band's slower, more contemplative material.

Photo by Distortionplus.

It sounds like the band is having fun here.  There is a vibrant quality to these tracks that is immediately audible.  And when the band is having fun or is excited by what they're playing (both of which are applicable here), the listener usually can't help but be taken along for the ride.  As reviewers and listeners, I think most of us underrate experience for the sake of concerning ourselves with innovation (or the lack thereof) when analyzing a piece of music.  Experience and professionalism serve Fuck the Facts quite well.

Are they reinventing the wheel?  Hardly.  Amer is enjoyable and that's the point of it all.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 7, 2013

Battlefields - Agassiz

Artwork by Seldon Hunt.

Init Records is an example of a non-metal label with some interesting metal/metal related releases (in this way they are similar to Sargent House). Among the metallic treasures on the Init Records Bandcamp are the debut full-length from Wolvhammer, an early EP by The Howling Wind, and the EP Agassiz from 2011 - the latest release from the band Battlefields.

This is sludge, but not the extremely raw and harsh kind. According to this interview with Brooklyn Vegan, Agassiz lyrics deals with the destruction of the old world and the rebirth of a much more cruel new world. Lake Agassiz was an immense glacial lake, that 12,000 years ago would have been the worlds largest freshwater lake, dwarfing all the current Great Lakes put together. But there's nothing glacial about the music either (sorry, couldn't resist).

Battlefields songwriting is focused and the songs on Agassiz are fairly short (6 tracks - 27 minutes), though they cover a lot of ground. You'll hear black metal influences, and post-hardcore style melody. Quite a few memorable riffs, screamed and growled vocals, blast beats, and even a solo or two. Here's a review by the always dependable Don't Count On It Reviews; below is the player, you know what to do.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 5, 2013

Oaks of Bethel - Discography I + II

Oaks of Bethel is a side project of the prolific Njiqahdda, that mixes black metal, both harsh and adventurous, with drone, doom, and ambient music. Since 2009 Oaks of Bethel have released 8 full-lengths, 13 EPs and 1 split. The two Discography albums collects everything from the debut The Folk and the Ground to the double-album The Ghosts That We Are from 2011. More than 9 hours of music. And in chronological order except for The Folk and the Ground which begins the second part of the discography. When I enquired whether this was intentional or not, the answer was "Not really on purpose or in error, it just happened to work out the way that it did."

Which, without over thinking it too much, is also an indication of the way Oaks of Bethel works. Ian from Don't Count On It Reviews interviewed one of the two brothers behind Oaks of Bethel, and asked him "Would you say that Oaks is perhaps a bit more forward thinking than you intended it to be when it started?". The answer was basically no, plus "As fans of long songs (and winding journeys) to us it happens naturally; we just write and record. The result is what it is". And it is some of the most unique sounding music, metal or otherwise, you'll ever hear. As the review of The Folk and the Ground from The Metal Archives states "Absorbing this [music] is almost like watching a storm start, stop and pass".

I'll feature some of my favorite songs from the Discography albums, and from a couple of later eps. First up is from their third full-length Starfire, Chasms and Enslavement. Three relatively short numbers (short for Oaks, that is) lead up to the magnificent "Winterscape and Frozen Lake". A slow and utterly doomy beginning, with great examples of the Oaks vocal styles; horrific croaks and droning voices, both heavily distorted. The droning middle section features drum machine work straight out of an 80's video game, and the epic ending fully evokes a frigid winterscape with a lake clutched by permafrost.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

The title track from the Plague upon Plague is one of the largest sounding Oaks of Bethel songs. The doomy riffs, the massive echo on the vocals, and the drum machine working overtime creates a sense of enormous object flying dangerously fast. So much that when the poor machine takes a breather it is almost a relief. Everything about "Plague upon Plague" is larger, the spacey droning section in the middle lasts 8 minutes, and the riffs in the last third are nothing short of colossal. "Plague upon Plague" is a great example of a song that functions more as an epic journey than an actual song.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Compared to "Plague upon Plague", "Cyclic" almost feels like Oaks of Bethel's stab at a single hit. I exaggerate off course, but some of the riffs are almost catchy, and it feels more direct and accessible than most of their songs. And certainly more like a "real" song than "Plague upon plague". The track is from the double album The Ghosts That We Are which Jon Rosenthal from The Inarguable reviewed here. He writes that Oaks' "textural black metal hymns call for longer releases and attention spans", and has this advice/warning for new listeners "This is not an every day listen; it's a commitment".

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

"Orange Triad" is an instrumental EP. The title (and sole) track is 24:36 minutes of guitar goodness. Featuring a lovely guitar sound, where waves of distortion pushes the song forward on top of the insistent drum rhythm. Actually the drums patterns and guitar/drum interplay are among the best produced by Oaks of Bethel; there is tension created by a hold and release technique in the playing. But most of all the huge drone/doom chords on the guitar just sounds so good.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

"Disembodied I" might as well have been an instrumental too, whatever vocals it has is buried deep under the guitars. A slow, industrial doom riff is transformed by synths into an insistent krautrock style workout. Pretty progressive (though still quite harsh), and also pretty far removed from anything resembling black metal. One of those delightful surprises you'll find in abundance among the Oaks of Bethel discography. Dig in, I'm sure you'll find something you like, and probably also something you wont. But that is what it is.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 2, 2013

Gorguts - Colored Sands

Written by Justin C.

Artwork by Martin Lacroix

It's been a good year for comebacks. Byzantine and Misery Signals, just to name two, returned after 5-year hiatuses to deliver solid, crowd-funded new albums. But 5 years is really a drop in the bucket compared to Gorguts, who hasn't released a studio album since 2001's From Wisdom to Hate. With 12 years gone and only one original member, mastermind and vocalist Luc Lemay, what kind of beast do we get with Colored Sands?

From Maryland Deathfest VIII. Photo by Distortionplus.

First, check out the new line up, none of whom are musical slouches: Colin Marston (Krallice and Dysrhythmia) handles the bass, Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia, Vaura) plays guitar, and John Longstreth (Origin, Dim Mak, and many others) is on drums. One could reasonably wonder if this new album would just be Dysrhythmia with vocals added, but there's no denying the sonic similarities between From Wisdom to Hate and Colored Sands, in spite of the 12-year gap. I think that's a testament both to Luc Lemay's vision and his new bandmates' respect for what's already been achieved. That core Gorguttian sound is here in spades: The musicians are comfortable with dissonance in the same way most musicians are comfortable with a C major scale, the rhythms are complex and ever-shifting, and song structures are anything but run of the mill.

From Maryland Deathfest VIII. Photo by Metal Chris.

Those elements were fully present in their past albums, but that's not to say there's been no evolution. This album sounds lush in a way that I don't hear in their previous work. That's probably in part to the excellent production, but I think it's also a function of the song writing. Check out the chiming, eerie guitar lines in the album opener "Le toit du monde" ("Top of the World"). It's a sound they return to throughout the album, and it's one layer among many that makes this album sound so rich. The guitar and bass twist around each other, sometimes trading roles of melody and rhythm between each other. The drums shift easily between delicate minimalism and full-on blasts. And then there's the sheer beauty. The title track, which is one of my personal favorites, starts with a haunting and complex melody before opening up into a full roar, with grinding riffs made up of chords so harsh that just writing them down would have gotten you burned at the stake during the Middle Ages. Do you want even more strangeness in your death metal? Well, "The Battle of Chamdo" is a chamber music piece played by a string quartet, and perhaps the weirdest thing about it is that it doesn't sound at all out of place on this album. (In a recent interview, Luc Lemay mentions that he's written a violin sonata he'd like to see recorded.)

From Maryland Deathfest VIII. Photo by Carmelo Española.

You often see Gorguts described as technical death metal, but to be honest, that's far too reductive. This isn't an album full of blazing displays of technicality, even though the musicians are more than capable of it. Even calling it avant garde doesn't make a lot of sense, because to me, that phrase has taken on the connotation of "weird for the sake of being weird." Colored Sands has a sound that's easy to get close to, in spite of the wild sounds coming out of it. It's not simplistic by any means, but the complexity of it goes far beyond how many notes or polyrhythms somebody can stuff into one track. I often find that technical death metal or avant garde music in general requires a lot of effort. With the best of music, the effort is worth it, but it can also be tiring. But with Colored Sands, all I know is that as soon as I finish listening to it, I want to hear it again immediately.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]