Due to reasons I won’t explain (and trust me, they’re rather quite pathetic) I wasn’t able to get this up yesterday. But lo and behold, here it is for your viewing pleasure, the third installment in our “Get all of the remaining 2014 records reviewed even though it’s 2015”list. Cormorant takes the top of the list, as its fucking amazing, with one man project The Dark And Bleak following just behind. Interesting death/djent act Arsafes comes in next, followed by Ad Extirpenda, who unexpectedly blew me away. There are other great reviews here too, like The Deathtrip, Slugdge and Opium Warlords. Give them all a listen!
Cormorant – Earth Diver (2014) – While the beginning of Earth Diver might sound like some big Opeth tribute, that will quickly be erased from your mind after hearing the band launch into furious black/death metal influenced work, then take it right back into Opeth atmospheres. And I love it. Every single fucking bit of it. So Opeth isn’t making death metal anymore. Big deal. We’ve got plenty of acts out there trying to one-up the formula and do something new and original, like this. If the melodies, blast beats and ferocious scowls don’t get you, then I’m sure that the progressive muscularity certainly will. Just hearing a band that can combine these two things and not wind up in a convoluted mess is evidence enough for me that Cormorant is a name that more of us should be familiar with. We just should. Now some of the songs definitely jump heavier into the realms of black metal and you can certainly feel the corpse-painted fury of the ancients, but Cormorant feels like a weird mix of Opeth and Agalloch as well, which culminates in a worthwhile sound that sounds just as produced as it needs to be and leaves me fucking speechless. I didn’t expect the torrents of doom in “The Pythia 6:16” either, which definitely is a good sign. It means that they’re doing even more experimenting with this intriguing little mixture they’ve concocted here and it makes me think that we’ve heard only the tip of what these guys truly have to offer. When I say black metal, I mean black metal – you can truly hear the fury unleashed on this record and the tremolos smoldering with a fiery potency that might even burn you if you get too damn close. It’s just that kind of record folks and I don’t think you’re going to throw it over shoulder that quickly. Every time I listen to this thing, I hear something new. And that’s because a lot of work and effort was put into it. That’s coming from one musician to another. Earth Diver is a finely crafted record and definitely one of my favorite releases this year. I honestly can’t recommend it enough and I’m sure you’re going to have a blast listening to it. By the way, this is the band’s third release and THEY’RE STILL UNSIGNED! You’d think a record like this would be snatched up by some of the big guys, I could definitely see it on Candlelight, Profound Lore, Relapse, Season of Mist… but no one’s interested and I’ve no earthly idea why! Someone needs to pick these guys up, because this is the kind of music that’s actually worth spending a paycheck on. Definitely give these guys a listen and see if you agree with me. But if I had a magic 8-ball in my hands, I’m sure that it would point to yes.
(8 Tracks, 58:00)
Ad Extirpenda – Cathartic (2014) – From Nantes, France comes Ad Extirpenda which is in all actuality a very stellar symphonic black metal act. The entire record seems to be based on 13th century political and religious turmoil, which in turn sparked the crusades and the Spanish inquisition. Though the quality of the record feels under produced, there’s definitely a spark of potential laden within this slight progressive and classically influenced style of black metal. Apart from the familiar tremolos and scowl approach that one might expect, there are the beautiful key passages, gothic organs and even some atmospheres laden amongst the madness that immediately let the listener know that these guys pack a punch. Additionally, there are some rather potent solo efforts crammed into this performance, which is actually a whole lot more interesting than it might sound at the start. You can’t blame the band for a low quality production value, because I’m sure that’s what they have at the moment as far as funds go, but I’m quite sure that the keen listener, the listener who doesn’t care about music as long as they can truly hear and feel it; will definitely pick up on the skill and talent of the act as a whole. To be honest, there’s not really one word that I could say to persuade you not to check out this album. It’s just far too advanced for that. These guys are just far too talented. This actually sounds like it took all six members of the band to write and perfect and the result is nothing short of brilliant. Though it’s still black metal at its main core, there’s so much going on in Cathartic that we certainly should be hearing more from these gentlemen in the future. I’d certainly like to hear what they’ve got to offer us next time around, as I’m reminded of The Meads of Asphodel when they first started out, and you see what a grandeur they became over time as well. Hopefully Ax Extirpenda will continue in that tradition of offering us a sort of black metal with something different. Different is good.
(10 Tracks, 49:00)
Arsafes – Ratocracy (2014) – I have no idea as to who Arsafes are, or where they come from. But I can tell you that you need to get your ears on them and fast. When I first heard Ratocracy, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the Devin Townsend style theatrics offered up in the beginning definitely took me by immediate surprise. Then the band moved into a sort of modernized death metal approach and features one of many collaborations, with some of them being Jakub Zytecki (Disperse), David Maxim Micic (Destiny Potato) and Chela Rhea (Coal Chamber, White Empress) among others. For the most part, there’s a definite Devin Townsend meets pummeling death metal on this record, which actually combines elegantly beautiful passages well with blistering heaviness. Definitely expect a mix of potent, mind-blowing clean vocal delivery to go with this djenty, but well-meant brutality. It’s not like any record I’ve heard in a while, so I definitely wish I could have covered and spotlighted it last year. I just didn’t have time due to requests, life issues and whatever in the hell else was going on inside my cranium at the time. While the thing is as I’ve said, rather djenty; there’s no reason that I could not recommend this. If the synths aren’t powerful and the drums aren’t pummeling enough for you, than you might just need to get your head examined. These guys definitely studied the best of Devin Townsend’s formula and took it into a more modernized and completely respectable level. This is a modernization of a sound that I actually feel comfortable with and it’s one of the best djent records that I’ve ever heard in my life. There are even a few songs that the band does without the onset of guests, and the frontman proves that yes, he can do both the clean and the heavy vocal approaches without the use of anyone else; but it’s definitely wonderful when you get the extra talent on some of these killer tracks. This thing actually comes with some bonus covers as well, like Rihanna’s “Cockiness”, Strapping Young Lad’s “Far Beyond Metal” (Done justice, even without the Maggot Master) and oddly enough, G.G. Allin’s “Drink, Fight and Fuck” to close the disc. Two of the covers also feature guest vocalists, so there’s even more collaborative muscle to be found within the confines of this recording. All in all, it’s truly great. It might be a finely crafted djent/death metal disc at its core, but they’ve done so much more with it than any other band out there doing the same style. This is how you break boundaries and snap expectations in half. This is the enigma known as Arsafes and I really hope this won’t be the last one that we hear from them. Definitely check out this release.
(14 Tracks, 65:00)
Devilment – The Great And Secret Show (2014) – Since MA doesn’t consider these guys metal, there’s not much information on them other than what the band’s Facebook provides and even then, it doesn’t tell me what other bands the current members of Devilment were in. All I know is that one of them was standing in as a drummer for Maiden. At any rate, this project which came as an unexpected full-on collaboration between that of the original composer Colin Parks and Cradle of Filth frontman Dani Filth developed into a full-fledged act and this is the result of that very collaboration. Now I will say that Parks definitely has a pocketful of thrashing riffs and grooves, but he’s also in charge of some extremely memorable lead melodies and you’ll know when you hear them. As far as Dani is concerned, he doesn’t completely use his trademark vocal style on all of the tracks so for those who don’t like his screams, you won’t hear quite as much of them here. In fact, he uses more of a poetic thrash vocal style that sounds a little different, yet will still be quite familiar to Cradle fans. This record does come with a few solos, and every song seems to feature a different element so as not to have the band repeat themselves. But to some, it might just sound like a different take on Cradle of Filth, since the vocal delivery is much the same, just not in tone. Though I must admit that it is a little different, it’s still a worthwhile project and it should sit well for fans of his previous work. There’s also enough gothic atmosphere on the album to make it sound right at home with the style and performance that we’d expect from Cradle. Sometimes even female vocals are featured on the album, just as they were in Cradle. Are you sensing a pattern here? So in a sentence, it’s very much the same but different enough to set it apart from that of the Cradle work. It sounds like a more modern take on the gothic metal that Cradle have done, but it doesn’t come off as being ham-fisted or feel saccharine. For an album titled after one of Clive Barker’s most intriguing tales, it certainly lives up to its potential and comes off remotely solid. It’s a record that I can certain get down to and fall in love with the grooves. I guess if you really liked Nymphetamine as much as I did, then you’ll certainly find something here as well. At any rate, there’s a cover of “Beds Are Burning” which also features Bam Margera. It’s never been my favorite song (would rather have heard “We Didn’t Start The Fire”) but it works I suppose, and it sits as a nice closing piece for the record. You know, apart from the cast-off “Psycho Babble” and the orchestral horror mix of “Even Your Blood Group Rejects Me” which I can’t even tell apart from the original piece. Nevertheless, it is a good performance and sounds just like something we’d expect on an album from the aforementioned. But just remember, it’s not Cradle Of Filth. Well, not quite…
(13 Tracks, 70:00)
Eskhaton – Worship Death (2014) – Basically, Eskhaton is an atmospheric death metal band with a whole hell of a lot going in the drum section and riffs aplenty. They sound like the kind of band who is going at nine-hundred miles a minute and they make that point clear in each and every song. Though crafted rather well, it offers force and fury at it’s standpoint and little else. But if you came for flying solos, rambunctious drums and thick guttural growls, than I’m sure you’ll be more than happy with this one. Sometimes they use sound clips and effect to illustrate their points (which is unheard of in bands like this) but they do actually work here and manage to make the atmospheres of war and death even more warlike and deadly. I guess there’s nothing like hearing the sounds of death metal and bombs being dropped at the same fucking time. Whoever these guys are, Worship Death sounds like they want the whole fucking world to end. As I said, there’s not a whole lot real substance here, but if you’re looking for utter chaos, mist and warmth, well you’re sure to find it. This album sizzles with the heat of a thousand suns and it’s even possible that the disc itself could be radiated. (Although probably most of us are now, due to all the radioactive stuff in the air) So before I grow a third arm or a great big horn in the center of my head (wouldn’t mind that) definitely go check this one out if you’re in the mood for something really fucking destructive. The album itself has some sort of demon on it that looks like Slogra from the Castlevania series, but it really should have a big fucking nuclear blast on the front cover, a massive explosion where people are on fire and melting, you know – one of those real shocking “how could they ever make something like that” kind of covers. Demons are nice, but I’d prefer something that fits the image of total fucking chaos on the cover. Of course, I might also be one of the only people out there who can listen to this stuff and eat an apple at the same time… and a piece of cheese. Because nothing goes together like destruction and healthy eating, right?
(11 Tracks, 44:00)
Opium Warlords – Taste My Sword Of Understanding (2014) – Here’s another record that I’ve been trying to review for a long time now, but for some reason or another have just not been able to do so. Now the first two songs on the disc definitely have the feel of doom, but seem to drone on for a little bit. “The Land Beyond The Pole 4:30” in particular takes on an electronic feel. However, when the doom finally comes to the forefront, “The Self-Made Man 12:13” delivers in more than normal doom usually does. The song doesn’t just crush with overpowering torrents of pure doom, it also features some rather psychedelic instrumental moments and changes the way that we think about doom metal completely. But “The God In Ruins 9:42” is where the album starts to get a little strange and it features one of the most off the wall vocal performances that I’ve ever heard on a metal record to date. It almost lingers on comedy, but is musically just a slew of acoustic riffs melodies, with a rising crescendo of still rather light doom riffs. It almost begins to sound ritualistic towards the end of the piece, but it certainly makes its mark. “The Solar Burial 8:09” observes mainly atmosphere with a darkened vocal approach, as it drones and allows the doom to break through just as we might expect for um… doom. “Mount Meru 14:12” features a sort of almost whispered, yet scathing vocal approach as it goes into clean towards the end and reminds me a little of something I would expect for avant-garde metal like Ulver. Throughout the record, several different atmospheres and styles are definitely attempted (as you can see) which means that you’re almost walking into a sort of convoluted avant-doom record. And in a way, you are. But Taste My Sword Of Understanding is nothing if not inventive and manages to crush all of your expectations about the genre in an instant. If you’re looking for a weird mix between Ulver and Candlemass, then you might just find it here. This is a fresh approach that could use a little bit of work, but still manages to come off rather potent in the end.
(9 Tracks, 72:00)
Slugdge – Gastronomicon (2014) – I didn’t get a chance to review the last Slugdge album and it would seem that I barely got around to covering this one as well. But in actuality, Gastronomicon proves to be another worthy effort from the still yet unsigned act which combines black and death metal with clean vocal passages that work to remind me a lot of Emperor’s Prometheus record. Sometimes hefty growls will appear on the record as well as chugging grooves ala Fear Factory, but there’s so much class on this record in the nature of structure that you’re not going to cast these guys off as a simple modern metal act. They do seem to have their own way of doing things however and even employ a few djent riffs into the mix, which don’t seem to bore me as much as I would have expected, regardless of how many other acts employ the same manner of djent these days. That being said, I don’t think that this record is quite as strong as the band’s debut, which offered a much different approach and didn’t feature all these djent riffs. At any rate, you’ve got a mix of black metal, djent, technicality and death metal all on display here and they’re showcased with a memorable amount of musical muscularity and shining clean vocal moments. The frontman could actually form a completely different band around his clean vocal prowess and I would definitely check it out, much as I like the growls and scowls and black metal howls. All in all, Gastronomicon shows the band delving deeper into the abyssal realms of black metal, while still keeping things a bit modern enough for the current scene. You know how I feel about that, so let’s not delve into it any further. At any rate, you’ve got a very strong act here and I think future efforts will continue to mutate the formula in numerous other directions. Definitely give it a listen on Bandcamp.
(8 Tracks, 45:00)
The Dark And Bleak – Delineate (2014) – Though I haven’t heard it, I was told by a colleague that the debut album from this one man project wasn’t all that special. It’s purely speculation, but the colleague I’m talking about here knows a lot about music and has rather good taste in it. However, Delineate really seems to change things quite a bit and my colleague additionally noted that they “sound like a completely different band.” The album opens with “Voice Of Desire 5:14” which starts things off on a rather gothic tone, but if you keep listening you’ll find that the record does manage to creep into death metal. The drums pound right along with the guitar riffs and the synths appear to decorate the background. It’s quite odd as to how the harp sections aren’t completely drowned out as well as the synths in lieu of all the vicious metal that’s being played, but they aren’t. There’s a lot of structure in these songs as well, with the addition of all the effects and non-metal instruments lining up perfectly and not being too high or too low in the mix. It’s really a work of art, which sounds like it could have been performed by a full band… but it wasn’t! Additionally, the mastermind also utilizes some worthwhile guitar solos amidst all the pomp and manages to create a wonderfully dark and whimsical soundscape that is topped off with voraciously thick growls. By the way, did you know that he actually does all of this himself on stage? I’m not quite sure how either, but to pull all of this off by himself and perform it live on the stage, The Dark And Bleak is really something. Delineate is the kind of record that you just don’t expect it to be at first, but then it becomes that which you hadn’t expected and you’re glad for that. Delineate offers a more polished effort from the band that sees the gothic and technical death metal elements melding together perfectly and with a real sense of purpose. I’ll admit, some of the riffs used on this record are so bizarre, that I didn’t even know you could make a guitar sound like that. Some musicians might argue that it’s just “out of tune noise” but I think these little tweaks in the system make for a rather unexpected trip through what sometimes sounds like Necrophagist in Swallow The Sun’s graveyard. Because it’s an approach that I’ve never heard from technical death metal, I definitely have to recognize it here (and of course, I’m sorry for the lateness) and I’d highly request that you give it a listen. The Dark And Bleak is becoming something insanely noteworthy and I’m sure that the keenest of ears will catch on to and notice instantly the grandiosity of a record that one man is making by himself. Whether you like one man projects or not, this act proves that you don’t need a whole fucking band to elicit greatness; and it only takes one insanely driven and skilled individual to create a masterpiece, which is exactly what this is. It might start up a little slow, but that’s just the calm before a truly memorable storm. The Grim Tower heavily recommends that you grab a copy of Delineate from the band’s Bandcamp page. It’s definitely worth the money as well.
(10 Tracks, 48:00)
The Deathtrip – Deep Drone Master (2014) – Formed from members of Thorns and Dodheimsgard, this experimental black metal project is definitely something to take note of. The atmosphere is certainly rather dank and nihilistic, with just enough a production value to keep it sounding raw as well as audible. Eerie riff melodies utter in the background, while the frontman puts on an absolutely enthralling and sadistic performance that seems just as insane as it is theatric, take for instance “There’s Something Growing In The Trees 4:29” for example. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a black metal piece like that before. But that’s why one gravitates to this sort of band and I feel that he captures that essence of “intelligent insanity” quite perfectly. It’s actually not a bad thing to hear the man uttering a bit of clean vocals on the disc, sort of reminds me a little of Nemtheanga’s work in Primordial and it comes off just a little more authentic than the normal scowls you hear in black metal. It sounds to me like an individual who is a bit tired of what people think that black metal should sound like, and instead decides that he should determine his own style and approach for the band. All of these guys are veterans as well, so if anyone should have the say in what the future of genre should hold, it would be them. Now I know that some kvltists might be turned off from this album because it’s just not raw enough or sounds a little bit different and that’s fine with me, as I enjoy a record that feels fresh, which is what Deep Drone Master feels like. There are still the familiar tremolos, but not an endless assault of blasts and I’ll even throw in the sheer fact that the guitarist doesn’t really seem to care that he deviates from the formula of black metal in order to produce a fine lead melody. I guess you could tie much of the band’s sound to that of melodic black metal, but there’s so much of an oblong approach to the very musical style of the performance, that it really doesn’t grasp completely onto that genre-tag or any other, for that matter. The Deathtrip truly produce a sound that is both grim and memorable, making for a rather solid record that sees most of its power in the vocal performance. I still think that the band has even more evolving to do, and I would definitely like to hear even further iterations of this evolution. But I will say that there’s enough going on in Deep Drone Master to keep you hooked. The vocal performance here alone is worth a purchase of this one of a kind black metal experience.
(10 Tracks, 42:00)
Crystal Crow – Once Upon A Midnight Dreary (2014) – This is the debut from the German gothic death metal act and what can I say? It’s quite promising. Though the croons could use a little bit of work, the frontman certainly commands a menacing and ravenous sort of growl, the kind that also launches into a bit of a rasp and goes great with the chunk and melody that you’ll hear on this record. As you might expect, the synths and pianos are also featured here amidst pipe organs, making me think of a more operatic Type 0 Negative crossed with Moonspell. As I said, there is especially a lot of crunch and organ on this record and even though the vocals aren’t quite on the mark, I’m definitely not upset with what’s on display here. When the riffs get heavier, the vocals get fiercer and more often than not, you’re going to want to hear the heavier vocals a little more than the operatic ones. Especially with as many chunks as there are here and more down-tuned riff slams than you might expect for death metal, so it’s actually a little tough to consider this death metal in a musical sense other than the vocal approach. I guess it’s more simplistic in that manner than anything else, but it’s certainly catchy and should appeal to those who aren’t looking for a complete overhaul on the genre as we know it. But I’m not going to smack them to the side for getting groovy more often than not. Tracks like “World Of Lies 5:26, The Raven 6:56” and “The Beast Within 6:49” definitely show the band at their best and I’ve even added “The Beast Within” to my phone playlist and have played it more than once. Maybe it has to do with my Nu-Metal beginnings, as a lot of that stuff was where I first cut my teeth and I can still get into the simplistic chugs that are featured here. But to be honest, it’s only their debut and surely we can expect more evolutions to come in the future, depending on how well this album does, of course. Once Upon A Midnight Dreary shows a band with a lot of potential and yet, still a lot of work ahead of them. It’s a decent enough release that I think newcomers will enjoy more than older heads, but sometimes that’s just how it goes. At any rate, it’s worth giving a listen and I’m sure you’ll find a few tracks on there to like if you’re into this kind of approach. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but a couple of the tracks here did manage to grin with sadistic glee and I guess that counts for something.
(9 Tracks, 52:00)