Album Reviews Shortlist (December 2014)

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Despite being worked to death near the Helliday season, I managed to get this one out and I’m certainly happy that I was able to get it done before the end of the week. Inspiring black metallers Ascension take the lead this week by a landslide, having released one of my favorite EP’s of the year. Bog Oak, Isenblast and Toothgrinder also managed to craft some very interesting EP’s that stood out from the rest of the pack this week. I also reviewed the Denderah EP and it’s a must for Nirvana and grunge music enthusiasts. Next week I’ll be trying to survive the Helliday retail rush and rolling out Helliday lists at the same time, as well as Week 131 where we will have some smashing reviews to come from acts like Necrophagia and Primordial. Stay tuned and don’t forget to tell your children all about the Krampus.

Ascension - Deathless Light

Ascension – Deathless Light (2014) – Well, what can I honestly say about an act as promising as Ascending from the first few notes? Impressive. I mean, it doesn’t take a fucking rocket scientist to tell that this is a truly intriguing passage, which only helps to encapsulate a band full of entirely competent and ridiculously skilled musicians that may round out to being one of my favorite black metal acts yet. Though I’ve heard this album once before, I feel that I need to hear it again just to absorb that wonderfully grim and textured atmosphere. You’ll have to excuse me for a minute, as I’ve stopped typing momentarily just to enjoy the awesomeness of the piece. Who are these guys and who summoned them to our world? Not only do these gentlemen deliver unmatched textures, uncanny grimness and an atmosphere that feels as far removed from the light as humanly possible, they also deliver some of the most awesome solo efforts that I’ve heard on a black metal release. Really? This is only an EP? The goddamned full-length record is going to be a bloody masterpiece. If you want to know what one of the best black metal albums of 2015 will be, it’s definitely going to be that next full-length that these guys release. This is the kind of decision that was an instant no-brainer for me. More please!

(2 Tracks, 15:00)

10/10

Torturerama - It Begins At Birth

Torturerama – It Begins At Birth (2014) – Tortrurerama might sound like the name of some cheap 80’s sadomasochistic horror flick, but they’re actually a pretty damn strong death metal act. The release is only about fifteen minutes long, but these Entombed, Grave and Dismember worshippers bring the traditional sound of Swedish death metal roaring back into your ears with unmatched ferocity. It’s the kind of record that you can put in immediately to get a quick fix of old death done in the modern age. Sure, you can put in any of the classic records from the band’s influences and get the same effect – but this one is going to come in handy if you’d like to hear a few new cuts in that same style.

(4 Tracks, 15:00)

8/10

DEOAG - Tour De Anal

DEOAG – Tour De Anal (2014) – Though these guys might really put the brutal into brutal death metal, Tour De Anal reaffirms the fact that I just can’t get into piggy squeals to save my life. But while not every song is draped in the same fast-paced in and out style that surely affirms the “grindcore” tag on the end, the band still don’t manage to do a whole lot for me. Nevertheless, if you want pounding drums and a mix of punk and groove riffs with a whole lot of disturbing vocal effects, then I’m sure you’ll find this tour through the anus quite memorable. But it’s just not my cup of tea, personally. Fortunately, there’s a cover of the Entombed classic “Wolverine Blues” on here that I find a welcome addition.

(20 Tracks, 28:00)

5/10

Bog Oak - A Treatise On Resurrection And The Afterlife

Bog Oak – A Treatise On Resurrection And The Afterlife (2014) – Bog Oak make a very interesting mix of stoner doom and post rock (Neurosis, Subrosa and especially Black Sabbath come to mind) and death that sounds like it was made by two dudes and a chick, which is actually true. But although the little shrew might not appear that intimidating, this woman is clearly poised and ready to destroy in only the most devastating of fashions. For those of you who still don’t like female vocals in extreme music (you can GTFO) you’ll probably find everything dulled by the performance, but I digress and admit that I cannot see through your eyes in any realm of thought, especially not after what I’ve heard. The performance on this dark and gloomy disc is just so damn memorable and I’d pay to see these guys live, just to see what they’re capable of onstage. There are a couple hints of clean vocals on the record as well, but I really think that these guys (and gal) have a good thing going in Bog Oak and I’d certainly to hear more from them. One of my favorite EP’s of the year, for sure!

(4 Tracks, 20:00)

9/10

Forced Kill/The Black Mass/Hard Action – 7″ EP Collection (2014) – Technically this is a collection of three different EP’s that you can purchase separately, so I’ll say a little bit about each as if it were its own record.

The Black Mass starts us off, with a ten minute disc and the only one that actually contains an intro. I wasn’t quite sure what the music itself would entail, but it sounds like a sort of punk with occult lyrics and a dark vibe. There is also the use of keyboards on the record, which gives the music a unique edge. Very promising. (7/10)

Forced Kill reminds me a lot of Rigor Mortis, especially in the vocal aesthetics and that’s a great fucking thing. This is the kind of thrash that smashed you in the face and doesn’t mince words about what it is. There are a lot of thrash acts out there, but Forced Kill really seems to bring the true spirit and aggression of thrash to the table. (9/10)

Hard Action is the last one here, with a stunning performance that reminds me a lot of The Misfits, especially on “Dead Dogs 3:26” which is a catchy little punk earworm that works perfectly for the release. It’s also a surefire sign that Hard Action has exactly what it takes to make it. I saw the reunited Samhain a few months back and these guys sound a heck of a better in my opinion. Its Misfits worship done right and I’d definitely like to hear more of it. This is the kind of punk I like, so let it be known. (10/10)

All in all, there are three strong releases here and I’d advise you to check them out.

(7 Tracks, 23:00)

8.5/10

Graveyard Shifters - Brainwashed By Moonshine

Graveyard Shifters – Brainwashed By Moonshine (2014) – Graveyard Shifters consider themselves to be crust/punk n’ roll, but then again there’s that ugly crust word again which is just a technical way of saying punk metal, as that is exactly what this EP offers. But what’s different about these Finns, is that they actually break out of the boundaries encompassed by punk metal and add actual melodic death metal elements to their sound along with that classic rock essence which I described earlier. The band’s namesake track “Graveyard Shifters (Necromance) 2:36” is definitely the best cut on here, even though the rest are pretty solid as well. I really hope to hear another heaping helping of rock, punk and death metal on the next one too as this is an act I can certainly bite my teeth into. Definitely get yourself a copy of it, if you can track one down.

(5 Tracks, 15:00)

8/10

Isenblast - Unleashing The Demon Scourge

Isenblast – Unleashing The Demon Scourge (2014) – The oddest thing about this black metal album is that when I press play, it sounds like the first song is already in progress, like they just decided to play the last half of “A Fire Of Knowledge And Power 4:48” first, because it was much stronger than the opening half. I can’t really blame them however, as most of these extreme thrash acts always delivered in the latter section of the song just as these guys seem to be showing here with the song’s last first half. If that makes any sense. This is the Detroit act’s first EP and it already sounds highly promising however, with each song seeming to take on its own nature, like “Unleashing The Demon Scourge 6:15” which sounds heavily triumphant at times, especially due to the highly skilled drum acrobatics which you’ll discern almost immediately. But in all that these guys do, they manage to play black metal that has a certain passion and spirit of the old school, as I’m reminded of acts like Sarcofago who really took the best parts of thrash metal and blackened them up quite a bit. I don’t know how it is really, I guess you’re not really supposed to bang your head and throw up the horns at a true black metal show; but damn it, when the guitar solo creeps into the mix and slaughters as well as it does on “Nocturnal Offering 5:48” I couldn’t fucking help but to do so. So if a bunch people want to stand there and frown while the band plays, that’s fine. But this record seems like only a piece of a performance that could really blow the roof off the place. If these guys are in your area, you need to go seem them live and pick up a copy of this EP at the show, so that you can jam it home. Highly fucking recommended.

(4 tracks, 21:00)

9/10

Harvest Gulgatha - I

Harvest Gulgatha – I (2014) – These guys seem to be a thinly produced death metal band with some thrash and atmospheric elements, in addition to the tolling of doom and even black metal. That’s a good mixture and even despite the nasty hissing noises from the guitar, you can tell almost immediately that these guys are doing something different and interesting. Maybe because of the rawness it carries a sort of sludge vibe, but no matter what they create it seems to be dark, dank and far beyond driven (as yeah, I’m hearing a little of Pantera and even EyeHate God influence here.) I is a record with many facets and each one offers a different sound for the band. I wish more acts would do this, because one-sided bands can get rather old after a while. But it’s not that I want to hear Venom play power metal or anything.

(5 Tracks, 18:00)

7/10

Toothgrinder - Schizophrenic Jubilee

Toothgrinder – Schizophrenic Jubilee (2014) – Toothgrinder remind me much of acts like Every Time I Die and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Just in listening to this record for a few seconds I can already sense those influences right off. But I like how loosely the material is structured, showing that these guys have little boundaries. It’s definitely core influenced, but it can switch between being astronomically heavy and incredibly artistic at the same time. Aside from all the progressive bits, therein still lurks the all-too familiar djent riff, which leads me to wonder what these guys will sound like after the djent craze is over. But I’ll tell you this, Toothgrinder definitely has a good thing going here and I highly recommend it to fans of schizophrenic core. And yes, there are some clean vocal sections that appear on the record in addition to quite a few spirited guitar solos and lead melodies, so I’m rather quite pleased with this. Could we be looking at the next Dillinger?

(5 Tracks, 17:00)

9/10

Kult Ofensivy - Nauky Ruznic

Kult Ofensivy – Nauky Ruznic (2014) – From the opening note, I could tell it was black metal. Familiar tremolo melodies intrude as blasts ensue and a sort of grim vocal approach seems to echo out in the artist’s native. The track seems to just be entitled “Parts I Through V 26:02” which says to me that this is really just a demo recording of sorts, to show people what the artist is capable of. Though I feel it’s a bit droning, it still sounds and feels like raw black metal with a strange sense of hypnotism in relation to melody. Throughout the piece that same flow seems to continue for nearly half an hour, which I still find a bit much to plow through; and I amount it out to a reviewer’s nightmare. It does a great job at sounding like black metal, but there’s no real sign of a real tempo change or anything else as one song flows directly into the other with slight breaks between each. This record is like chewing on wood and it’s full of splinters.

(1 Track, 26:02)

4/10

Sepulchural Temple - Self Titled

Sepulchural Temple – Sepulchural Temple (2014) – I’m not sure what Sepulchural Temple were trying to do with this record, which seems to contain one song, a short outro for that song and another song with its own short outro. It seems a little incessant. However, both songs (“Salvific Dance 8:34” and “Sepulchral Temple 6:39”) seem to deliver a slightly raw, yet pungent package that is steeped in both black and death metal and sounds like it came roaring right out of the unholy pit. Despite the rawness of it all, I can still hear and discern the guitar melodies, which seem to have a sort of eerie, yet Arabic vibe. These go along quite well with the dual vocal approach that consists of screams and growls, most being done simultaneously. Sometimes the band blast, but these guys seem more interested in the melodies and atmosphere and that’s completely fine with me. I really hope Sepulchral Temple has a full-length in them, because I’d really like to hear it. That being said, the outro tracks seem completely unnecessary on the record and it would have been better if they could have slapped two other full-length cuts on it as opposed to them.

(4 Tracks, 16:00)

8/10

Mangel - EP

Mangel – EP (2014) – A German one man melodic black metal project formed by the main songwriter of power metal act Involution, Mangel compares his music to that of Wolves In The Throne Room, Farsot, Woods Of Desolation and many others. It was recorded in a small student room, but still sounds rather robust in terms of production and feels like a record from the nineties. After a short piano interlude, “Finstere Nacht 5:41” got rolling and it definitely delivers in the tremolo melody department. The frontman’s sharp scowl also adds to the traditional nature of the piece, as every bit of the record truly sounds audible and rather quite promising. There are actually a few sections in which progressive twinklings appear (hence the Farsot comparison) and even a nearly instrumental offering to top it all off and show what the artist can truly do by himself. It’s always great to see an artist balancing two genres side by side and that’s what I’m hearing with this EP. Once again, it’s definitely promising and I’d like to hear more in the future.

(4 Tracks, 16:00)

7/10

Henosis - Apotheosis Pulsio CLVI

Henosis (Chile) – Apotheosis Pulsio CLVI (2014) – What seems to start off in a black magic ritual fashion soon envelops into raw and rowdy death metal just the way that you’d expect it to be. Although I’ll have to admit that the effort itself seems a little stiff and it sounds like the band is recording in a box, even though I can hear for myself that they’re quite skilled in the genre and could really prove to be of merit possibly with their next release. This is definitely the kind of atmospheric death metal that sounds a little bit like early Death and Portal perhaps, but without all the flamboyance. It’s rooted in old school death metal traditions and is going to sound like a real treat for those who like their death metal as rough as possible. Thick gravel, fiery riffs and even some rather captivating melodies seem to make the performance worthwhile in addition to the solid drumming. Henosis sound like a band that could do great things if they can just stick with it and keep playing their music to the masses. Though this record might sound a little tinny, don’t count them out just yet. There’s something intriguing to be found deep inside this realm of Chilean ritualism. Normally I’d give a record like this a 5 or a 6, yet even I cannot deny that a solid performance lies within this offering.

(5 Tracks, 22:00)

7/10

Shiran - Warm Winter Day

Shiran – Warm Winter Day (2014) – Shiran is an alternative metal project mainly consisting of a guitarist and a large busted beauty that is as attractive to the eye as she is to the ear. The formula is quite simple, showing the raw approach of the female vocalist who doesn’t sound quite as polished here as she soon will with an EP this presentable. The guitarist seems to love his prog and his djent, which actually translates well into the mix and makes for a pleasing experience that will sound even better after a label has picked them up and given them that high class production job that will get them pasted into the minds of several rockers and alternative metal fans, as well as even the goth crowd. There’s a lot of potential here, but it still requires polish and I’m sure that will come. As a fan of female vocalists in metal, I definitely feel that this EP is only the beginning for Shiran. Their reign in the alternative heavy metal scene has surely only just begun. Certainly recommended for all those who are looking to hear the next big thing in the genre at a rougher stage in the evolutionary process.

(5 Tracks, 21:00)

7/10

Cult Of Fire - Ctvrtá Symfonie Ohne

Cult Of Fire – Ctvrtá Symfonie Ohne (2014) – Cult Of Fire are an experimental extreme metal project that literally exudes with beautiful melodies and almost ethereal soundscapes. It’s most definitely heavy as hell however, as a fierce melodic black metal sound seems to compose the core of the experience. But it all seems like so much more, as the pure sense of majesty that flows forth from this offering is unlike any that I can sanely describe here. It is something that you must certainly listen to, especially while doing something amazing. Whatever that might be. Perhaps it works well during sexual intercourse. If so, let me know. Or don’t as I’m not interested in your private life. It makes me feel as though it accompanies an RPG of sorts, but then again it feels like sailing music. Some of the best sailing music that I’ve ever heard though. When this guy releases a full-length, I know for sure that I’m going to want a copy for myself. Absolutely unmatched.

(2 Tracks, 13:00)

9/10

Orcultus - Endless Hate & Misanthropy

Orcultus – Endless Hate & Misanthropy (2014) – The band considers themselves to be raw Swedish black metal, which sounds nice and all; but awfully grainy and full of static. I guess this is when rawness comes down to the point of repetition and boredom, where everything starts to mesh together and sound like static whilst a barely audible scowl can be sort of heard back in the corner somewhere. I don’t even understand the use in playing leads on the record when you can barely discern them at all. Thankfully, they got their shit together on debut full-length Black Rust and I’d definitely recommend that over this demo. The record is ultimately unbearable and even the Kult Ofensivy that I reviewed earlier is much better.

(3 Tracks, 13:00)

2/10

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Cadaveric Fumes/Demonic Oath – Entwined In Sepulchral Darkness (2014) – This split between the two acts starts with Cadaveric Fumes who seems to be just a little rough around the edges but manages to make the same mixture of black and death that we’d expect from this sort of split. The only difference here is that things are more based more along the lines of instrumentation and don’t really feel as good as they did with the demo. But Demonic Oath on the other hand is a one man project which sounds truly memorable from the very start, with an extreme sense of ritualism and death. This is the kind of stuff that you hear once and never forget, especially if you love that sense of grim, atmospheric death with loads of melody, like this project contains. I only see one guy in the photo, but it sounds like I’m hearing several and that means that this gentleman is exponentially talented. With his thick gravel echo and recallable death riffs, the two songs on this piece are definitely what I would come back to on the EP. The Demonic Oath side of this split definitely conquers over the Cadaveric Fumes side, showing that the label truly have a powerful act in the awesomeness that is Demonic Oath. With just “Soul Redeeming Carrion Rite 5:56” alone, I’m already hearing mounds of great things, that just add up to death metal that you won’t be throwing over shoulder in lieu of something else. And as you might expect, the thick drones of doom that sometimes appear only help to further bring in the crushing atmosphere of the disc. The performance from Demonic Oath is more than worth the price of this disc. Let’s give him the chance to make a whole fucking album!

(4 Tracks, 22:00)

8/10

Psycroptic - Echoes To Come Single

Psycroptic – Echoes To Come (Single) (2014) – The new single from Psycroptic is here from the band’s as of yet unknown forthcoming record to be released early next year and it’s certainly going to be promising to tech/death fans. Aside from all the precision, I’m getting an interesting use of clean vocals in addition to the normal hoary bark from the band’s frontman. There’s definitely a little bit of core influence on the album but I like how they’re sort of embracing a more extreme side of metal and the drums blasts seem to help that idea come across. I couldn’t really get into the last one, so I hope that this new record really pushes the boundaries and brings the “death” back into the technical death metal that these guys are supposed to play. Perhaps the track runs a bit longer than it should, but I’m sure that fans would be impressed with this one as I like it a great deal more than the entirety of The Inherited Repression. The song actually contains some muscle this time around and it’s definitely good to see that they’re packing meat onto what was such a skeletal husk of technicality and core on that previous release.

(1 Track, 5:39)

7.5/10

Nunslaughter - Perversor - Split

Nunslaughter/Perversor – Split (2014) – Nunslaughter come first on this split, which is only a mere smattering of the awesomeness on their new full-length, Angelic Dread. Never have I heard a man so pissed with a band sounding angered enough to back him and “Impure Thoughts 2:08” seems to convey my thoughts exactly about the subject of sex. “Bless The Dead 2:03” only continues the onslaught with more death metal elements, as it shows that these guys are capable of keeping my attention with short muscular songs; a feat that few other bands can accomplish. As Perversor come into the mix, the furious blasts of drums and thickly growls begin to emanate forth creating an atmosphere that sounds similar to the death/punk/black style that Nunslaughter employ, yet seeming like it’s being played by a slew of mountain trolls and a possibly a goblin at times who comes into the mix to belt out a few lyrics. I don’t like it as much as Nunslaughter, but it’s still a strong performance that goes well with the EP. I definitely prefer the album’s closer “Venomous 3:19” over the band’s first offering “Master Old Temple 3:19” however. His shriek is much better than his growl and that makes for a more potent moment on the release, not to mention the drumming on the track, which is far more interesting than the first cut as well. That being said, it’s a record that’s still worth checking out as both bands manage to offer up a solid performance with each side.

(4 Tracks, 10:00)

8/10

Denderah - Ad Hoc

Denderah – Blue Lotus EP (2009 EP) – This is the band’s first EP (and apparently you will now be able to get a copy of debut Hadhoc for purchase as they’ve just uploaded it) which definitely offers a treat for Nirvana fans, especially with “Blue Ruin 3:05” which sounds like a Nirvana relic from days gone by. I hope these guys really can resurrect grunge, because it had more balls than the current hard rock scene of today. Think about it. Would you rather hear this, or Linkin Park? “Me So Stupid Now 2:24” seems to continue the heavier flow rather well, as “Over Eggs And Embryos 3:51” brings out a grunge ballad and “Rise 2:44” sounds a little raw, but memorable. All of Blue Lotus sounds quite raw, but who knows? It might become as heavily coveted one day as Tool’s Opiate EP.

(4 Tracks, 12:00)

7/10

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