February 26th, 2014 at 8:35am
Agael – ‘Trost’ (Naturmacht)
Genre: Black Metal
After releasing his debut back in 2009, the German one man black metal project Agael returns with Trost.
He mixes standard black metal with mellow ambient sections. Intense mid-tempo riffs are punctuated by lengthy instrumental parts. Many tracks have a slow build from ambient to moderate to extreme and back again. The vocals are buried rather deep in the mix, with the guitars getting plenty of exposure. While there are some lulls, Agael nicely blends beauty and brutality.
Andi Deris and the Bad Bankers – ‘Million Dollar Haircuts…’ (Armoury)
Genre: Hard Rock
Longtime Helloween vocalist Andi Deris returns with his third solo albumMillion Dollar Haircuts On Ten Cent Heads. His backing band are the Bad Bankers, young up and coming musicians that he hand picked for the project. Like his other solo releases, the music is more hard rock based with a heavy modern rock approach.
The record stumbles out of the gate as the album opener, “C**K” & “Don’t Listen to the Radio (TWOTW 1938)” is cliché and gets the album off to a rocky start. The record dramatically picks up with the amazing “Blind,” which features a patented Deris melody that is insanely memorable. The mellower Deris writes the better and more honest the material comes across. The back end finishes very strong for another solid solo release.
Aypheros – ‘Ascendet Novissima Tua’ (PRC)
Genre: Black Metal
It’s interesting to hear the ashen interpretation of black metal from far-flung corners of the world. Santiago, Chile’s Aypheros, crank out the old school Morbid Angel and Satan sound. The production is as evocative of the eighties as the tunes themselves, such as they are.
One of the year’s best song titles, “Shamhamphorash,” appears in front of the album’s eight tracks. The title might be a recitation of evil incarnate or the Chilean name for psoriasis, but it’s a fine jolt of Emperor outtakes and a hint of protean Finnish growlcore.
Crematory – ‘Antiserum’ (SPV)
Genre: Gothic Metal
Germany’s Crematory are back after a four year break with their twelfth full-length release Antiserum. Throughout their twenty-three year career, the electronic and gothic influences have increased and added diversity to their songwriting. Pushing the electronic element to its fullest potential, they have collaborated with EBM artist Elmar Schmidt to compose the music.
The band shifted its sound in 1999 with the addition of vocalist/guitarist Matthias Hechler. His vocal approach brings a sense of accessibility and his melodies are immensely catchy. The title track, “Until the End” and “If You Believe” capture the band at its finest. The symbiotic vocal performances between Hechler and longtime growler Felix bring the songwriting to a deeper dimension and the result is one of their best releases in a long time.
Dinner Music For The Gods – ‘Beautiful and Treacherous’ (Self)
Genre: Instrumental Metal
One of the challenges of instrumental metal is keeping the listener engaged throughout the album. That challenge is met and exceeded by the Las Vegas band Dinner Music For The Gods on Beautiful and Treacherous.
They transition seamlessly from smooth jazz to blazing metal in the blink of an eye. One minute it’s a prog fest, the next it’s a more traditional take on Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” World music influences add even more flavor to the songs. The musicianship is outstanding, especially the guitar work, and there plenty of hooks and clever riffs. A lot of instrumental albums you can appreciate,but not necessarily enjoy. With this one, you can do both.
Doom’s Day – ‘The Devil’s Eyes’ (PRC)
Genre: Heavy Metal
The resurgence of occult inspired heavy metal has been making a huge impact on the metal scene with Ghost and In Solitude leading the way. Canada’s Doom’s Day are back with their sophomore effort The Devil’s Eyes, and their growth has been tremendous. Lead vocalist DooM utilizes different styles of singing to add a ton of diversity.
Opener “The Offering” is filled with huge riffs, blazing double bass and a classic mid range King Diamond meets mid era Paradise Lost vocals. The doom heavy “Watery Grave” is reminiscent of Clouds era Tiamat with its plodding riffs and the clever use of the organ. A huge improvement over their debut and at just under 40 minutes, the record is easily absorbed.
Folge Dem Wind – ‘To Summon Twilight’ (Aural)
Genre: Black Metal
The French band Folge Dem Wind have been around in various incarnations since the late ’90s, and To Summon Twilight is their third full-length.
Their sound is mainly traditional black metal with a lot of variety. There are intense, blast beat driven parts as well as more subdued and melodic sections. At times, like during the title track, there’s even a bit of black ‘n roll influence. The flow between the mellow and extreme is smooth, a testament to their musical dexterity.
Hopeless Youth – ‘Disgust’ (Candlelight)
On their full-length debut Disgust, Montreal’s Hopeless Youth have found an ideal medium between brooding angst and digestibly adrenalizing punk. The quintet shape melody into their music, but they’re sneaky about it, making sure the brunt of the experience is tense and rapid-fire.
Hopeless Youth waste precious little time delivering their message via granite-rough riffs and bark-gnawing vocals. But the showstopper must be the drums that pound merciless and flawless from start to finish. Even if you were paying strict attention, Disgust will end up catching you off guard with diesel tracks like “Ghost” and “Abomination.”
February 25th, 2014 at 7:45am
Agael - Trost (Naturmacht)
Atacama Death Experience - Wasted Time And Broken Bones (Cimmerian Shade)
Aypheros - Ascendet Novissima Tua (PRC)
Chthonic - Ián-Bú DVD (Eagle)
Devil’s Heaven - Heaven On Earth (Helldiver)
Doom’s Day - The Devil’s Eyes (PRC)
Esoteric Youth/Caïna - Split (Swarm Of Nails)
Folge Dem Wind - To Summon Twilight (Code 666)
Hopeless Youth - Disgust (Candlelight)
Horizon Ablaze - Dødsverk (Code 666)
House Of Lords - Precious Metal (Frontiers)
Jagged Vision - Harvest Earth (Retro Futurist)
Jesters of Destiny - Fun at the Funeral Re-Release (Ektro)
Lenore S. Fingers - Inner Tales (My Kingdom)
Lethal Dosage - Consume (Battleground)
Metalocalpyse - the Doomstar Requiem: A Klok Opera Soundtrack (BS)
Morfin - Inoculation (FDA Rekotz)
Omnium Gatherum - The Redshift Re-Release (Candlelight)
Pantera - Far Beyond Driven 20th Anniversary Edition (Rhino)
Sado Sathanas - Homos Harmartia (Naturmacht)
Shattered Hope - Waters Of Lethe (Solitude)
Stamina - Perseverance (My Kingdom)
Vanden Plas - Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld (Frontiers)
W.E.T.- One Live In Stockholm CD/DVD (Frontiers)
Will Of The Ancients - To Our Glorious Dead (PRC)
The Wounded Kings - Consolamentum (Candlelight)
February 19th, 2014 at 8:27am
Aborted Fetus – ‘Private Judgment Day’ (Comatose)
Genre: Brutal/Slam Death Metal
All that you need to know is ‘brutal/slam death metal’ and Comatose Music and you’ve got the gist of it. Aborted Fetus play bottom of the barrel, slam/ brutal death metal with gore laced lyrics, burped vocals, and ‘slammy’ breakdowns interspersed with a few blast beats.
There’s nothing here remotely interesting, as you’ve heard it all before from bands that are infinitely better. Stick to Putrid Pile for your slam fix.
Artificial Brain – ‘Labyrinth Constellation’ (Profound Lore)
Profound Lore Records
Genre: Death Metal
Space and sci-fi are fairly common lyrical topics in metal, especially in genres like progressive and power metal. The debut album from the New York band Artificial Brain covers celestial topics, but in a genre you might not expect. Labyrinth Constellation is a death metal album.
Pummeling blastbeats give way to galloping grooves and some trippy semi-progressive sections. The gurgling vocals are only semi-intelligible, so you really don’t know what they are talking about except through the song titles. Artificial Brain change things up frequently and the songs are well-written, a good combination for repeat listens.
Ass to Mouth – ‘Degenerate’ (Selfmadegod)
If anyone forgot that drinking and getting high were extreme music pastimes, Poland’s Ass to Mouth are here with a reminder. Their second full-length album is the aptly titled Degenerate, a 20 track case of grindcore with an affinity for Leaving Las Vegas samples.
The music on hand is appropriately fun and dirty, take “Drunk & Stoned,” for instance. Devil-may-care song titles of drinking and anti-authority are carried by tireless drumming and Jakub Ziomkowski’s ragged shouts and growls. For a grind record, one could do much worse, but the bar closes far too soon on Degenerate. It’s never good when a grind album outstays its welcome.
Bodyfarm – ‘The Coming Scourge’ (Cyclone Empire)
Cyclone Empire Records
Genre: Death Metal
The Coming Scourge is a trip back to death metal’s heyday a la Asphyx, though with a crisper production bringing it to modern times. Even when the double bass drums are kicking and the ferocious riffs threaten to obliterate mankind, melodic guitar solos keep Bodyfarm well-balanced.
The band puts out aggressive flashes on “Unbroken” and the title track, but vary the songs to avoid complacent songwriting. The stirring, momentous tunes are saved for the last third, including a rousing performance of Bathory’s “Enter the Eternal Fire.” A wider release gives Bodyfarm’s second album a fighting chance to make waves among death metal enthusiasts.
Coffin Dust – ‘This Cemetery, My Kingdom’ (Unholy Anarchy)
Unholy Anarchy Records
Genre: Death Metal
Filthy dirty death metal; Coffin Dust is just that from their album art to the crust ridden riffs they bring to the table. “Ancient Rites Of Buried Evil” is a powerful opening song that would fit well into either the US or European field of death metal.
Gritty production takes This Cemetery, My Kingdom back a solid 20 to 25 years, which can only work in its favor. For all of the positives of this album, the back end isn’t nearly as strong as the opening few tracks, but for fans of OSDM this is one of the best of 2014 so far.
Cripple Bastards – ‘Nero In Metastasi’ (Relapse)
Cripple Bastards are a long standing outfit of Italian grind. Combine that with the endorsement of one Mike IX Williams from Eyehategod and you have a good idea what comes next with Nero In Metastasi. Nearly unrivaled anarchy follows throughout this grind beast and fans of Pig Destroyer will find themselves right at home.
There’s plenty of riff based madness and more foreign language short grind than Wormrot themselves could shake a stick at. Relapse Records have found themselves another winner and any fan of modern grindcore should do themselves a favor and pick up this fun and chaotic album.
Down Among The Dead Men – ‘Down Among The Dead Men’ (CycloneEmpire)
Cyclone Empire/Metal Blade Records
Genre: Thrash/Death Metal
Down Among The Dead Men are a veteran trio out of Denmark, with vocalist David Ingram (Benediction, Bolt Thrower), who mixed up the genre Legos on the kitchen table and used all the black ones to build a squat castle of crusty, thrashy death punk metal. It’s impressively tight and never lets up on the beats per second.
Lyrics are polished gems of the usual death prattle, but delivered with sincere vitriol. DATD have a sound as dark as obsidian. The songs rage and roll, crash one into the other with mosh pit abandon. After it’s done, it doesn’t linger for long, but does leave surprise bruises in weird places.
Embryonic Devourment – ‘Reptilian Agenda’ (Deepsend)
Genre: Death Metal
Embryonic Devourment have been kicking around for about ten years or so, but Reptilian Agenda is my first exposure to the band. I was expecting, more or less, typical brutal death metal, but, instead, Embryonic Devourment play a rather quirky form of technical death metal with a few jazzy influences and fluid guitar work.
Although interesting with a few good songs, Reptilian Agenda suffers from some shoddy production with a thin sound. The musicianship is more than competent, but comes up short against the heavy hitters of the genre, namely Gorguts, Ulcerate, and a handful of others.
Flotsam and Jetsam – ‘No Place For Disgrace – 2014’ (Metal Blade)
Metal Blade Records
Genre: Thrash Metal
Smashing onto the metal scene in 1986, Arizona’s Flotsam and Jetsamwere one of the leaders in the second wave of the early thrash movement. Their first six records are bona fide classics, in particular the first two. Now twenty-six years later they have re-recorded their sophomore release, No Place For Disgrace.
While reworking the songs, the tempos have been slowed in some instances and Erik AK just doesn’t have the vocal range he once displayed. Along with the title track, “Escape From Within” and “I Live You Die” the songwriting is sensational. I can understand the band thinking they can improve upon a classic but unfortunately it rarely, if ever, pans out. Stick with the original, as it is one of the best thrash albums ever released.
February 18th, 2014 at 7:56am
Aborted Fetus - Private Judgment Day (Comatose)
Adrenaline Mob - Men Of Honor (Century Media)
Artificial Brain - Labyrinth Constellation (Profound Lore)
Ass To Mouth - Degenerate (Selfmadegod)
Benighted - Carnivore Sublime (Season Of Mist)
Bodyfarm - The Coming Scourge (Cyclone Empire)
Coffin Dust - This Cemetery, My Kingdom (Unholy Anarchy)
Cripple Bastards - Nero In Metastasi (Relapse)
Cynic - Kindly Bent To Free Us (Season Of Mist)
Down Among The Dead - Down Among The Dead (Cyclone Empire)
Duskburn - Atum (Cimmerian Shade)
Embryonic Devourment - Reptilian Agenda (Deepsend)
Enthrallment - The Voice of Human Perversity (Rebirth the Metal)
Empty Flowers - The Air You Found (Translation Loss)
Flotsam and Jetsam - No Place For Disgrace: 2014 (Metal Blade)
Fuoco Fatuo - The Viper Slithers in the Ashes of What Remains (Iron Tyrant)
Godhunter - City Of Dust (The Compound)
Gridlink - Longhena (Handshake)
Kamchatka - The Search Goes On (Despotz)
I Killed The Prom Queen - Beloved (Epitaph)
Issues - Issues (Velocity)
Junius - Days Of The Fallen Sun EP (Prosthetic)
Knowing2fly - Here On My Feet (Bakerteam)
Lies Of Nazca - Aleph (Rogue)
Lionize - Jetpack Soundtrack (Weathermaker)
March 15 - Our Love Becomes A Funeral Pyre (Svart)
Miserable - The Halloween Dream EP (Native Sound)
More Than A Thousand - Volume 5: Lost At Home (Good Fight)
Mystifier - Wicca Re-Release (Greyhaze)
Nebelung - Palingenesis (Temple of Torturous)
Omnivore - Omnivore (Unspeakable Axe)
Omotai - Fresh Hell (The Path Less Traveled)
One Machine - The Distortion Of Lies And The Overdriven Truth (Scarlet)
Pale Divine - Cemetery Earth (Shadow Kingdom)
Royal Bliss - Chasing The Sun (Air Castle)
Sahg - Delusions Of Grandeur (Metal Blade)
Sammal – No. 2 (Svart)
Sarke - Aruagint (Metal Blade)
Skindred - Kill The Power (Red River)
Slough Feg - Digital Resistance (Metal Blade)
Soreption - Engineering The Void (Unique Leader)
Spewtilator - Goathrower (Boris)
Suicide Silence - Ending Is The Beginning: The Mitch Lucker Memorial Show CD/DVD (Century Media)
TrenchRot - Necronomic Warfare (Unspeakable Axe)
Tyrants Blood - Coven (Tridroid)
Zoax - XIII (Siege Of Amida)
February 18th, 2014 at 7:53am
February 12th, 2014 at 8:50am
3 Years Hollow – ‘The Cracks’ (Imagen)
Genre: Hard Rock
The Cracks is the debut album from Illinois rockers 3 Years Hollow. While radio friendly, it has plenty of crunch to go along with the melodies.
The album was produced by Sevendust’s Clint Lowery, who also makes a guest appearance on “For Life,” which strangely enough has more of a Disturbed vibe than a Sevendust one. And like Sevendust, 3 Years Hollow have enough edge to appeal to some metal fans and enough accessibility to be embraced by rock fans.
Burial Hordes – ‘Incendium’ (Hellthrasher)
Genre: Black Metal
More than five years after their last full-length, the Greek black metal band Burial Hordes return with their third album Incendium. Their sound has grown more diverse, as they’ve added more weapons to their musical arsenal.
In addition to the typical tremolo-picked black metal riffs, you’ll also hear plenty of melody. Dense blastbeats give way to rollicking grooves and even some reasonably mellow sections. The vocals are more death metal than black metal, with guttural growls being the norm. There are still a few higher pitched black metal rasps as well.
Drawers – ‘Drawers’ (Kaotoxin)
Genre: Sludge/Stoner Metal
Mixing stoner and sludge metal, France’s Drawers have returned with their second full-length album, a self-titled affair that’s not as angry nor as progressive as their 2011 debut All is One. Instead, it hits a lighter note, sweetly balancing huge quirky riffs and bruising, infectious melody.
While Niko Bastide’s vocals are nastier and the band’s overall sound is a bit more grisly, Drawers play in a similar key to that of Florida’s Torche. Grooves and good vibrations run parallel to all of the record’s grungy, metallic passion, and the result is an awesomely fun, unassailably heavy record that is, to be certain, all about love.
Gholas – ‘Litanies’ (Dullest)
The New Jersey band Gholas are one of those artists whose sound is difficult to categorize. Their latest album Litanies explores, well, a litany of styles and genres.
Doom, sludge, post metal, shoegaze, drone, noise and punk are some of the influences you’ll hear, along with a few others. They play with intensity and passion, embodied by Bob’s strained vocals. In an interview, he says he actually passed out while recording vocals on the album because of the physical strain. You’ll hear that effort in every note. And even though the sound is hard to pin down, the quality of the album is evident.
Lay Down Rotten – ‘Deathspell Catharsis’ (Apostasy)
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Germany’s Lay Down Rotten have ‘journeymen’ written all over them. A string of albums that straddle the line between melodic and semi-brutal death metal have landed them squarely in the middle of the second tier, a status that shows no signs of changing with Deathspell Catharsis.
Playing chunky riffs with a booming, mid-paced tempo that segues into the occasional blast beat, Lay Down Rotten employ a typical and formulaic approach to death metal. There are a few catchy songs, though, with moments of melody that appear in slower passages with pleasing guitar solos, but the one dimensional vocals of Jost Kleinert do little to elevate the music.
Mantar – ‘Death By Burning’ (Svart)
Genre: Sludge/Noise Rock
Mantar’s Death By Burning is what happens when two angry Europeans combine AmRep noise with some seriously blackened rock. And for a two-piece band with no bass, there’s surprisingly enough low end on this debut to level an entire city block. You see, Mantar are magicians, people. Warlocks? Yeah, let’s go with that. More evil.
The riffs on these ten tracks are dirty and infectious, the band eschewing speed and finesse for slow and mid-paced brutality. Oh, and the drummer sounds like he pounds his kit with Brontosaurus bones instead of sticks. The spoken word/instrumental track “The Berserkers Path” ends with the line: “They serve one master, that is destruction.” That sounds about right.
Mystifier – ‘Wicca’ (Greyhaze)
Genre: Black Metal
Alongside Blasphemy and Beherit, Brazil’s Mystifier were on the forefront of the early black metal movement. Performing brutal unfiltered black metal, their debut release Wicca was ahead of its time and on the precipice of the movement. Long out of print, it is now being re-released with a bonus DVD featuring two distinct live performances.
The production is raw and lewd, which fits the material perfectly. A cross between early Sepultura, Sodom and Bathory, Mystifer succeed when they slow the tempo down to break up the monotony. The vocals are beyond guttural, even by today’s standards and there is a looseness to the music that works to the material’s benefit. It’s more remembered for being iconic than the actual songwriting.
Solstice – ‘Death’s Crown is Victory’ (Into the Void)
Into The Void Records
Genre: Epic Doom Metal
Band founder Richard Walker and the self-proclaimed “boorish loudmouths” of England’s Solstice haven’t graced us with original songs since 1998, making the Death’s Crown is Victory EP their eagerly anticipated return to the battlefield.
At 26 minutes, it’s a generous helping of tasty, slow-cooked riffs, perfect when paired with fist pumps and mead indulgence. With Judas Priest’s anthemic grandeur and bouncier rhythms, Solstice fuse epic doom with mutton-and-taters classic metal, building upon Candlemass’ tried and true foundation to create an album that swaggers victoriously and rocks with power, grace, and surprising sophistication.
Stilla – ‘Ensamhetens Andar’ (Nordvis)
Genre: Black Metal
Following up a successful debut release is always a tough feat for any band to achieve. With the release of their sophomore effortEnsamhetens Andar, Sweden’s Stilla have not strayed far from their original formula and have tightened up the production. The vocals, while still harsh, are delivered with a greater clarity and are much more effective this time around.
Taking a heavy influence from ’90s black metal their sound is plastered with blast beats, tremolo guitar riffing and a healthy dose of symphonic elements. The songwriting is layered and atmospheric as four of the seven songs are over seven minutes in length. Sung in their native tongue, the material is steeped in tradition and carries an aura of authenticity.
The Unguided – ‘Fragile Immortality’ (Napalm)
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Former members of Sonic Syndicate make up the bulk of The Unguided,which is evident by listening to their second album Fragile Immortality.Fans of their previous band will see that the two groups share a few aspects, including the dueling harsh/melodic vocal styles and upbeat keyboards prevalent in the mix.
The band straddles the boundaries of melodic death metal and metalcore, never fully committing to one side. The vocals and lead guitar work are strong, but the lack of stand out tracks hinders the record’s value. Fragile Immortality will have limited appeal beyond the fan base that came over from the Sonic Syndicate days.
Van Canto – ‘Dawn of the Brave’ (Napalm)
Genre: A Capella Metal
The drum was the first instrument man invented. Germany’s Van Cantoare the leader in the a capella metal genre. They use their voices and Bastian, their drummer, to knock out a mutant Nightwish goes Broadway kind of European power metal with all its usual heraldic allusions. The vocal sandwich of male, female and silicon chip is state-of-the-art for whatever art this is.
The ‘instrumentation’ is the equivalent of air guitar as interpreted by doo-wop vocals squeezed through boxes bright with red and blue LED displays. The songs are operatic and energetic, but as is the bane of a capella, the covers of metal classics are the most entertaining. Their versions of “The Final Countdown” and “Paranoid” (replete with voice-sample guitar synthesizer) are worth the price of admission.