Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sodomizer - The Dead Shall Rise To Kill (2007)

Screw this NWOAHM and "neo-thrash" bullshit, South America has been churning out endless amounts of kick ass 80s homage for years. Leather and bullet belt sporting Brazilians Sodomizer are no exception. If the cheesy arse chainsaw logo and comfortably generic cover didn't tip you off, this is an old school thrash fest with more riffs than Hetfields scrap book.

If the words Accept or Metal Church don't force an involuntary spasm of head-banging and a horns salute, this album might not be for you; this is by the book 80s thrash worship. Every aspect of this album oozes denim and bad hair with songs like 'Heavy Metal Horror' and 'Undead Revenge', resplendent with horror movie samples and cheesy intros . Its all about the tripartite riff pattern followed by a variation, Araya style screaming vocalizations and banshee wailing solos. 'Blessed By The Virus Of Death' is one of those "lull you into a false sense of security" openers, with a monk chant leading you into a slow strummed melody. Of course, just as you're getting comfortable in drops some trademark thrash riffage and an 'Angel Of Death' scream. Tastefully clean solos, rumbling bass and understated distortion carry this album through a time warp.

So, it's hardly original. And it's a little repetitive. But who gives a fuck? This is thrash. In an age where people are more interested in what colour Matt Heafy has painted his nails than the fact Lamb Of God are making a living butchering Testament riffs, we need bands like Sodomizer.


Arsonist Lodge - Perkele, Antikristus Ja Väärä Profeetta EP (2007)

Here we are with an arson oriented anti-christian aural assault. With a logo that's cornered the market in spiky burning crosses n' clubs, suitably grim cover and name like Arsonist Lodge, Finnish soldier of Satan Diabolus Sylvarum (ex Nightside) leaves little to the imagination.

Appropriately titled opener 'The Beast Awakens' trudges like a Yeti through the tundra. It rides an icy dirge of chilling Immortal-esque slow burn riffage before dropping into a repetitively simple yet immediately catchy crunching riff march. The short, sharp 'Gegen Kristus' commences with a frustratingly familiar film sample and spews forth with the glacial venom of a Frost Giant with hemorrhoids. Final track 'The Deathking' burns with forbidding blizzard intensity, introduced via Mako movie quote. It's an epic composition of wintry madness, driven by relentless black metal buzzsaw guitar and refreshingly varied drumming. Pausing only briefly for some guitar led ambient resonance this isn't for the faint of heart.

Originality be damned, some days you just want to sit back and let the blast beats roll. Respectful Immortal worship from a promising purveyor of blasphemy.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Imperium Dekadenz - Daemmerung der Szenarien (2007)

Riding upon the momentum of last year's debut ...Und Die Welt Ward Kalt Und Leer, the German duo has returned with another work of misanthropic majesty. I hesitate to truly compare their sound to Austrian gods Summoning, since they lack the synthesized percussion, Tolkien lyrics and overall bombast of that outfit, but clearly Imperium Dekadenz is shouting at you from the same place...the distant castle walls and frosted, forested mountainous regions of legend.

Each of the anthems presents a wall of guitars backed by tasteful synths, over which the vocals of Horaz soar with a forgotten grace. The jangling ambient guitars and whispers of "Into Breathless Sleep" immediately part to herald the glories of "Der Dolche Im Gewande", and much of the album alternates between these mid-paced charges over the landscapes of eld, and softer acoustic counterparts. In short, the entire affair seems like a tribute to a lost German kingdom. Perhaps my favorite tune is "Nebelbrandung", unforgettable with its soaring, grim landscape and subtle touches of guitar melody and male choral vocals.

I translated the album title as "The Twilight Scenario" but I fail when it comes to the tongue of my distant Germanic forefathers so take that as you will. This is a solid album throughout, it will certainly appeal to fans of epic black metal, especially those of you who favor a good raw atmosphere over the highly produced battle metal coming out of Europe these days. Highest recommendations to fans of Summoning, Angantyr and Blood Fire Death-era Bathory.

I'd also recommend their debut, a killer they have not quite surpassed with this, but certainly equalled.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Soulless - Forever Defiant (2007)

It's rare that an American band can truly capture the form and feel of Sweden's Golden Age of melodic death metal, generally the attempts devolve into metalcore masturbation and tacky moshpit manipulation. The third album from Ohio's Soulless is a monster of an effort, however, a firm yardstick across the knuckles of their pedestrian peers. It's almost as if this one album makes up for all the garbage the US has been spewing into this genre for nearly a decade.

Soulless does it all correctly. Jim Lippucci's vocals snarl with the proper dosage of Lindberg venom, the songs are well-structured, just about every riff here meticulously crafted and applied with melodic grace amidst a technical death-thrashing blunt force trauma. The result isn't just another notch in the belt of the melodeath genre, but an album that will appeal to most fans of the metal riff. Technical enough to keep the interest of basement virtuosos aplomb, but savagely catchy enough to stand alongside the Rusted Angels and Jester Races of the world as a timeless celebration of the carefully balanced attack so intrinsic to this style.

Each of the 14 original tunes is consistently superb, you are getting a lot of meat for your money. Among my favorites were "The Price of Life" and "As Darkness Dawns", the latter of which has some of the best riffs I've heard this year. The band is not above a break in the action such as the great acoustic piece "D-Composition", and the album is capped off with a cover of "Kill the King".

Amidst the endless, leaking, stagnant vats of Swedish wanna-be Black Dahlia Earmurder porridge in the States, Soulless have crafted a timeless entry into a genre many have given up for dead. The next time you are shuffling through your records, fawning over Heartwork and Slaughter of the Soul and wondering why 'they don't make 'em like these anymore', stand yourself corrected. Forever Defiant may just be the greatest American melodeath album I have ever heard. It actually matters.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Aeon - Rise to Dominate (2007)

I've been waiting for this one for a while. Aeon's debut full-length, Bleeding the False, is one of my favourite death metal albums. It showcases a mildly technical, brutal, catchy, and unremittingly blasphemous attack on all that is holy. This hasn't really changed on the new album. The first thing I noticed when I fired it up is that, while the first album was a head-on onslaught, the pace has been upped even further. Rise to Dominate rarely ever lets up, lending it an extremely brutal aura, yet also making some sections blend together as breakneck metal is wont to do. The guitars are again completely ripping, and quite similar to the style on Bleeding the False. Some of the songs seems derivative, such as the first, which sounds just like something by Hate Eternal, or the second, which I know I've heard before but can't place. However, even if the songs are familiar, they're still wrapped up in a tasty Aeon shell and ready to please. The drumming is just as ferocious as always, thanks to Nils Fjellstrom of Dark Funeral legacy. The singing, another highlight of the first album (which showed off extremely vicious growling combined with crystal-clear enunciation), was my majour concern for Rise to Dominate, thanks to the myspace teaser. It is true, the vox have taken a minor turn for the generic, most likely due to the increased pace of the music, but they're never unpleasant, and quite often just as brutal.

One thing I wanted to specifically talk about is the lyrical content and presentation of Aeon, seeing as that was one of the most notable aspects of their first album. While they are just as single-mindedly anti-Christian as before, they don't seem to pack that same simplistic shock factor. Perhaps I'm missing more lyrics due to the lowered clarity of the singing, but they seem to be much less extreme and more serious. There are no songs analogous to "God Gives Head in Heaven" on Rise to Dominate - "Caressed by the Holy Man" starts out with a sinister sample of a little girl and keeps that tone, rather than taking a humourous bent as you'd expect it to. I'm guessing Aeon want to be taken more seriously, and are cutting back on the tongue-in-cheek lyrics. While I do miss laughing aloud at their music, I can't fault them at all for taking this approach.

With a meatier production, courtesy of Dan Swano, and a reinforced focus on their style, Rise to Dominate presents a strong advancement by these brutal Swedes. I do not feel that this album is nearly as memorable as their first, but that does not stop it from being as heavy as Helel Ben Shachar's hatred for everything sacred.

Aeon believe in Satan, and Satan believes in them

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wormtongue - The Solstice Funeral EP (2007)

Hailing from the hotbed of black metal that is Richmond, Virginia we have one-man Wormtongue with The Solstice Funeral EP. Four lengthy tracks (and the ever present intro) of Tolkien influenced epic black metal with a folk leaning.

In fitting with the Tolkien influence this EP is driving black metal of epic scope. The songs flow between folksy acoustics and your usual tremolo fuelled distortion, supported by tastefully subtle keyboards. Hastoth also an ear for melody, none of the aggression is compromised as soaring guitar leads are delicately weaved into each composition. 'Year Of Cicada' is a particularly melodious affair, exuding an epic bombast only usually found within the unicorn riding realms of power metal. Each track appears to roll towards a climactic crescendo before retreating into an acoustic break or diaphanous keys.

Another wonderfully atmospheric slice of some of the best of black metal and probable contender for "EP Of The Year". The soundtrack of the Riders of Rohan.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Senthil - Septisemesis EP (2007)

Alright, it's time for another funeral doom release that probably none of you will like, but that I absolutely love. Senthil is easily the most fucked-up band I've heard. Jumping right in with some Nattramn-esque shock factor, the singers in this Texan band purportedly choke themselves with chains to create some of the vocals, and you'll believe it listening to the music. Shrieks, choking, roaring, gurgles, and general throat-mutilation saturate their music as if it were a recording of the most disgusting torture ever performed in a mental ward. The music is suitably dirty, plodding, and pensive. This is stripped-down, gritty, suicidal blackened funeral doom, so don't be expecting anything close to complex songwriting. Atmosphere is everything here, and there's nothing quite as sick as this. Of note on this album are the toned-down presence of guitars and the increased usage of backing synths, creating a more subdued and thoughtful sound.

While I'm not sure if I like this more than their split with Bosque, Septisemesis shows a strong refinement of Senthil's sound, and a worthy new offering. Hopefully the recent loss of one of their guitarists to suicide won't cripple further material from these sick fuckers. Don't check this out if you have no love for the extreme slow n low.


Bloodhorse - Bloodhorse EP (2007)

Hailing from Boston (ew Red Sox), Bloodhorse deliver some mean stoner sludge metal. This EP, clocking in at 35 minutes, is a fine start for the three-piece outfit off the Translation Loss label (who also happen to feature one of my favorite bands, Byla). It recalls almost a blend of Sabbath, Mastodon, early Clutch, and Monster Magnet, that combined with some awesome songwriting could make Bloodhorse a major player in the stoner sludge genre down the road. It's hard to describe the riffs on this album, I guess "infectious" would be the best term, as all of the songs are catchy in a way that stoner sludge/doom often isn't.

There's a lot going on with this record, it's apparent that the guys behind Bloodhorse know what they're doing, they know the type of music they're playing and they know how to give their music a certain spin to make it fresh in a perhaps oversaturated genre. This is definitely worth checking out, even for an EP, and I for one really anticipate what Bloodhorse has in store for the future. The vocal work here is buried in the mix, almost complementary to the music instead of its own element. It reminds me a bit of the singing in Om, except not done in a chanting manner. Included on the EP is a cover of The Who's "Sparks," I've never heard the original but Bloodhorse's version is pretty cool. All in all some cool stuff here.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nauthisuruz - Sanity Funeral (2007)

Ok. So the logo is pretty naff. And the psychedelic-blood-vomit-swirl Stonehenge album cover is a bit dated. It's also self-produced "symphonic black/doom/avant garde metal with elements of neo-classics and electronics" from Russia. But don't let any of that put you off. Nauthisuruz may very well be Russia's answer to Summoning.

To call this album "epic" or "synth-laden" would be an understatement akin to suggesting that Paul Gilbert plays "a bit" of guitar. Though essentially guitar driven atmospheric black metal, half the album is comprised of ambient noodlings between each of the "proper" tracks. The blend between them is fairly seamless for the most part and the synth allows a majestic flow between each composition (see 'Purification of Energy' and 'Occult Reality'). The album as whole therefore is a complete piece that's much more than the some of its parts. It's a musical journey that ebbs and flows between soothing synth and distortion driven aggression. Close your eyes and you may find yourself fleeing the Nothing aback Falkor, before plumetting toward an abyss and into a climactic battle against Gmork.

The distant, ethereal vocals are textbook Summoning, but a broader range is showcased on the more aggressive numbers such as 'Chaos Is Eternal' or 'Deep Rage'. The wispy distant production is carried through to the guitars but without losing a meaty punch during the faster sections. An occasionally soaring lead punctures the mix, wistfully carried by the complementary strings. The synth work itself is blended naturally and at no point becomes overbearing, nor are the programmed drums an annoyance. It's a little rough around the edges in places admittedly but the album is carried with a feeling of majesty.

If only more bands listened to Summoning instead of trying to re-arrange tired At The Gates riffs. This isn't so much worship as homage with enough distinctions to stand out on its own. It's not quite perfect, there's a few clumsy sections and some of the ambient tracks don't add a whole lot to the proceedings. Either way, Nauthisuruz are very much deserving of one those "awesome favourite new band that no-one will ever hear about" titles. Given that all three of their albums are available, for free, from their website there really isn't any excuse. Sombre, beautiful, aggressive and majestic all at once.



Defloration - The Bone Collection (2007)

Despite receiving regular flak from various circles in the scene, Cannibal Corpse remain an influential institution within death metal. Given this, you can barely swing a dead baby without hitting sound-a-likes. Germany's Defloration haven't so much taken pages from CCs book as torn the cover off and replaced it with their own.

Obvious comparisons begin with Rödel's vocals, being more than a little Corpsegrinder, albeit perhaps a little more guttural. Fortunately there is the occasional dual vocal layering in the usual form of high/low, the high in this case taking the form of a ghoulish growl. Riff wise we're looking at later era CC with the technical bent. The songs are built around repetitions of variant, spiralling riffs, (lacking Webster style in-your-face bass however) and apart from the closing track barely approach four minutes. Said track, 'The Bone Collection II - Crushed Bones And Empty Bodies' does add a little Candlemass via Nile briefly, but quickly degenerates into a Swedish style riff bonanza.

So, you might hear a bit of 'Psychotic Precision' in the 'The Last Breath' or a slight 'Hammer Smashed Face' breakdown in 'The Frozen. Originality isn't Defloration's strong point. What they do pull off however is taking some of CCs stronger moments and funneling them into an entire album. It may be a little samey, but its played with aplomb.


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sickening Horror - When Landscapes Bled Backwards (2007)

Death metal is a somewhat tough genre to crack these days. At some point it appears to have turned into a big competition. Bands competing to be the most brutal, desperately creating 30 minute albums of inaudible riffing in A standard and ridiculous phased vocals. At the same time other bands are turning out mindbendingly technical death metal with such incomprehensible riffs and solos that they're nigh on impossible to recreate more than once without serious tendon damage. And then there's those that combine the two. Along the way sadly, they all appear to have lost the ability to write actual songs with atmosphere. Its enough to make you want to stab fanboys in the face with a copy of Scream Bloody Gore. Sickening Horror are another entry in this technical brutality competition. They're particularly fanboy faptastic given the involvement of human drum machine George Kollias.

With these sorts of albums its difficult not to view them as a random collection of riffs and bass licks assembled to a backing track of blast beats. When Landscapes Bled Backwards suffers slightly in this department given that there is generally little coherency and flow through the album due to the stop-start staccato riffing and relentless blasting. However, this is clearly a musicians album, and as expected the drumming is the dogs bollocks. We're treated to whirlwind display of breathtaking riffs and as is the staple for tech-death the bass tends to remain muddied in the mix but is given room to breath on occasion. Vocals on the whole are pretty dull, nothing more than a staple death growl.

Much like Behold... the Arctopus this is either a waste of time or a wondrous wankfest. Even if you love this I challenge you to remember a single riff by the end of it. Bands like Nile, Anata and even Necrophagist can blend technicality, brutality and still craft some memorable songs. Sickening Horror can't.

3/10 (if you value song writing)

9/10 (if you masterbate nightly to a picture of Karl Sanders and use a Necrophagist shirt as a wank rag)

Le Grand Guignol - The Great Maddening (2007)

With the unfortunate demise of Arcturus there is gaping hole left in the whimsical realms of pomposity inhabited by the black metal avant garde. Though technically a re-release, Luxembourg's Le Grand Guignol (formerly Vindsval) are clearly looking to fill said hole with their batshit insane beauty The Great Maddening.

This epic journey through eccentric fantasy is, as you would expect, all over the place. Leading us through the gates like a deranged Ringmaster is 'Circus Lausenheyser'. This riff n'synth menagerie of an introduction is presumably what Solefald's next album would sound like if Danny Elfman produced it. And then we're off. Fuzzy guitar, a variety of alternating clean/black vocals (both male and female), pianos and strings (including a shamisen) are all encased in bouncing bombast as we tour the Circe du Insanity. With some neoclassical moments reminiscent of Ensiferum and whispy synth work evocative of Hollenthon The Great Maddening is masterful slab of symphonic metal.

An avant garde symphonic metal album with hints of black metal rather than the other way around, its not as guitar led or aggressive as it's comtemporaries. However, for those dissappointed by Solefald's more recent efforts and still annoyed by Vintersorg's vocals this is the perfect album


Kaamos - Scales Of Leviathan EP (2007)

Given both the connotations and existing musical output associated with the word "Leviathan", you're setting yourself a fairly high target by implementing said word. This posthumous EP from Swedes Kaamos is in some respects appropriately named.

Crunching Swedish death metal of the fairly brutal kind is the order of the day here. A muddy yet audible Swedish production a la Unleashed drives the releases fuzzy low end riffs and beastly death growl. All in all this a gritty, if slightly uninspiring release that has its moments. The dominating chorus of the title track is suitably heavy whilst the thrashing charge of 'Seven Demons' and Slayer-esque solo of 'Blood Has Stained The Cross' will get your head banging. Closer 'Spirtual Funeral' is a pleasant surprise, taking the form of a doomy, trill riddled Black Sabbath homage that's incentive enough to check out the back catalogue.


Ravencult - Temples Of Torment (2007)

Athens. Ancient home to Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum. Modern home to Rotting Christ, Septic Flesh, Necromantia and now Ravencult. Although this may be a debut album they're not exactly fresh faced after two demos and an EP (on which 'The Nightsky Codex' first appeared). However, despite such a prolific heritage Temples Of Torment takes a straightforward Nordic approach to the genre.

Evoking both the grim and frostbitten stylings of Immortal as well as the charging, viking bombast of Enslaved what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in old school aggression. 'In Times Of Demise' in particular is a perfect example of the Immortal/Enslaved mix. Opening with a Bjørnson style charging riff it marches in to the trademark Immortal sound of piercing, jangly, resonant chords and throaty rasping. There's no time to fuck about with lady vocals or ambient synth noodlings, this is a down the line black metal assault.

It might be lacking slightly in variety but it's all executed with such conviction you can't help but be impressed. The clean but meaty production helps a great deal, as usual the bass is completely buried but the guitar tone is deliciously ice cold. Perhaps not essential, but well worth a run through.


Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Pax Cecilia - Blessed are the Bonds (2007)

I'm not a huge fan of anything post-hardcore. I can enjoy small amounts of Envy and a couple other skram bands, but the genre has never really struck me as interesting. The Pax Cecilia, however, provide a fresh take on the style with the inclusion of neoclassical and ambient aspects. The first song, "The Tragedy," is one of the best on the album, creating a beautiful atmosphere using piano and strings. As opposed to most in this scene, the singer handles the soft vocals superbly. These low-key, thoughtful parts are the highlight of the band, and are spread well throughout the album. Eventually the song builds up to the typical chaotic, heavy skram climax, yet even these parts are relatively pleasant. "The Tomb Song" follows in much the same vein. The next two songs are more standard post-hardcore fare, providing nothing really interesting but still not of bad quality. From then on the album sticks to instrumental pieces, with vox only popping back in for the tranquil closing song.

Blessed are the Bonds really has a great atmosphere. It's also much more unique and intriguing than most post-hardcore, at least to me. The band is unsigned, and also sends out their album for free if you email them, so check em out and give some support.


Friday, August 3, 2007

Catholicon - Treatise on the Abyss (2007)

Imagine this. Log, to refer to them endearingly, decide simultaneously that they have become too mainstream and are not reaching enough of the metal populace. Their obvious conclusion? Create brutal deathcore with an aftertaste of sympho bm. That's right, they've got your over-the-top pig squeals, shit-heavy chugging, out of control drums, and atmospheric synths all mashed together into a generic mess for you to choke down.

The band does manage to conjure up a decent vibe in their slower moments, most likely because here the drummer is actually playing within his skill level. Sadly, and predictably, everything else is boring when it's not irritating. For a band that's been around since 94, Catholicon really don't seem to have taken things too seriously in regards to their music.


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Persecutor - Army Of Damned [Demo] (2007)

Hello Poland, how are you? Happily pumping out endless amounts of shit-hot death metal no doubt. While not necessarily of the same world renowned caliber, Poland has also been known to pump out some fairly competent thrash. Persecutor (not to be confused with Polish thrash metal band Persecutor) are another hybrid thrash affair, with a fairly seemless blend of death and black metal (mostly in the vocals) wrapped in a thrash shell.

Beginning the Blitzkrieg with some Cannibal Corpse meets DiGiorgio Testament tech-death-thrash, it's an impressive whirlwind cacophony of stop-start riffing, spiraling bass and banshee wailing guitar. 'Nuclear Hell' opens up with a riff more than a little similar to Pantera's 'A New Level', but ups the pace and adds an intriguing dual vocal layered assault. There's isn't a great deal of riff variation across this demo and the "solos" are fairly one dimensional but its enjoyable nonetheless. Insert generic statement about potential and full lengths here.


Blood Island Raiders - Blood Island Raiders (2007)

Blood Island Raiders are another London band, this time comprised of some well respected members of the local scene. Of particular interest (apart from resident Zakk Wylde lookalike guitarist "The Reverend") is the bassist Pete Theobalds, former (founding) member of Akercocke. Unfortunately this isn't corporate satanic progressive-stoner-doom-death metal. What we do have however, is some fine fist pumping mid-paced metal to smoke, drink and/or drive to.

Essentially its Orange Goblin with a hint of Viking Skull and a touch of The Fucking Champs paying homage to the traditional metal of The Obsessed and Trouble. Kicking off with 'I Am The King' and one of those stoner-tone riffs that it's impossible not to love, it sets you up nicely for the rest of the album. There's more than enough "Woah yeaaaaah! Alriiiiight!" to last you a six-pack and a few joints. You've got your usual crunch-driving riffage, tasteful soloage, Warren's meaty pipes and a groovy bass undercurrent throughout. In the spirit of scene comradery there's even a few guest spots; the epic six plus minutes of 'Rust' features the grindcore turned hippy guitar of Bill Steer, though I'm not entirely sure what Team Brick and MC Disaster Lung contribute.

Neither groundbreaking nor revolutionary, if you want layers of depth and complexity then you're looking in the wrong place - this is a boozy background album. Not something you'll spin often, but enjoyable when you do.


End Of Level Boss - Inside The Difference Engine (2007)

Self professed (cliché alert) "worshippers of the riff" End Of Level Boss rose from the ashes of Hangnail, and since their inception have made a few ripples in the pond up in London. Touted as one of those stoner rocky doom metalish type bands they actually exhibit few if any of the qualities attributed to either genre. Instead they're a rather odd-beat amalgamation of early 90s heavy alt-rock, Isis/Meshuggah/Cynic riff progression and slight Voivodian discordancy. As intriguing a combination as that sounds, the execution is sadly a little tedious.

The basic formula for each song is essentially the same. A handful of discordant riffs repeated with some variation, complemented by fairly generic gruff vocals, at times dancing between Chris Cornell and Daniel Johns with the odd John Garcia moment. There's a Larry Lalonde style Primus solo thrown in ('Mr Dinosaur Is Lost'), a few quieter moments ('Inskintivitus') and the mostly instrumental 'Words Have No Meaning' comes off like a cross between Meshuggah's 'I' and Kyuss' 'One Inch Man'. All in all, if you've heard one song from the album you've pretty much heard all EOLB have to offer.

Despite the potentially exciting combination of influences and nods to slightly left-field metal bands, it's essentially one of those albums that feels like one long tedious song. Not completely terrible, just decidedly average and mostly unengaging.