Album Reviews Shortlist (February 2015)

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I’m glad that I got this out, because I’ve got so much backlog to take care of next week. I have a couple of physicals sitting on my desk that I need to review, among other things. I’ve also enlisted the talents of more writers, who will soon undergo the dreaded “tower of tribulation” in order to see if they’ve got what I’m looking for in a writer. This is the last of the 2014’s (as far as the shortlist is concerned) and is primarily made up of December and January releases. Black metallers Spire topped the list along with dreamy symphonic black metallers Grimoire as well as modern black metallers Unsacred and post black/doom black metallers Dead In The Manger. So to make a long story short, nuanced black metal approaches have won the day here at the Tower. There are loads of other albums here that are worth giving a listen though, so give the list a good look through and hopefully you’ll see something you like.

Next week, we’ll have Week 135 ready. Enjoy!

Spire - Metamorph EP

Spire (Australia) – Metamorph 12″ (2014 Spotlight)The last short album I heard last year, Australia’s Spire is a great way to end 2014 on a relatively strong note, even if it is February. The band play a very unconventional style of black metal, which seems to denote ritualism, or perhaps just obscuration. I even witnessed the howling of tortured souls in a few instances, which seem to bode well with the frontman’s raspy utters, sounding more like a dank thing from the abyss than anything else. Musically, we’ve heard some of the riffs utilized here a billion times before on other ritualistic black metal albums, but Metamorph doesn’t stink of the same unchanged black metal undies that many of the ritualistic bands in this scene have been utilizing. Just like Portal, they seem to really have a hold on just what it takes to make a truly memorable atmosphere, electronics even sometimes included for extra effect. Metamorph is nothing if not innovative and shows me right from the start that these Aussies offer an approach that is all their own. Take heed and listen to each one of these tracks, and you’ll notice a sort of outrageous and unpredictable atmosphere that would be worth buying the tickets to go see live. When I saw Portal live for the first time, I was blown away by the atmospheres that they provided on the stage. I’m almost certain that Spire will prove the same sort of bedazzlement on the stage and they’ll make such a name for themselves that you won’t even need the (Australia) tag after the band’s name anymore, because they’ll be more popular than the original Spire. I’m sniffing out greatness here and I feel that it’s only just begun…

(5 Tracks, 27:00)

9/10

Sodom - Warpath EP

Sodom – Warpath EP (2014) – Though this EP only contains one brand new track (the aforementioned) and three live cuts, the single is well worth hearing. Sodom has definitely jumped right into black metal, almost completely writing over their previous thrash material as they opt for a new edge. While it’s uncertain as to whether or not the rest of the record will sound in this vein, it certainly makes me anxious to hear it. The live cuts are “The Saw Is The Law 4:57” which includes a sample of “Bird Is The Word” (I’m not kidding) as well as “Stigmatized 2:51” and “City Of God 5:37.” They’re performed rather well here, but I’m interested more in the single than anything else. They could have held off on these live cuts and made them bonus tracks for the new album instead.

(4 Tracks, 13:00)

7/10

Nekrofilth - Filling My Blood With Poison

Nekrofilth – Filling My Blood With Poison LP (2014) – If you can’t hear the punk riffs in Nekrofilth, then you need to clean out your ears. There’s a definite grit to the riffs here, but it seems to straddle the realms of thrash and punk pretty well. It’s also exceptionally raw, like they recorded it in the garage next door. However, the band actually sound like they know just what the hell they’re doing on this record and it seems to have the right kind of “fuck everyone and everything” atmosphere. It’s also extremely filthy, so at least the band’s name matches their sound. I mean, one of the songs on the record is literally called “Get Fucked 1:10” so that should pretty much give you an idea of what you’re in for here. Surprisingly catchy, it even includes a cover of GBH’s “Necrophilia” which obviously seems a heavy influence on the band. I’m even hearing a little bit of Motorhead there, but I guess I’m really going back on that one. At any rate, this filthy little disc is worth a filthy little listen, that’s for sure.

(11 Tracks, 25:00)

7/10

Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus - Synkka Tuuli

Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus – Synkka Tuuli (2014) – This short and atmospheric dose of black metal comes as the result of Mika Mage as an ode to his Finnish homeland. The problem with the recording however, exists in the drum programming. It’s quite noticeable and will probably irk the lot of you. While Mage succeeds with his riff melodies and his keyboard sections, the drumming is just so thin and bland that none of this will matter. It’s just “tap, tap, tap, tap, tap” over and over in the same ridiculous pattern. The only real areas where Synkka Tuuli shines are in its keyboard sections which even rival that of Varg’s compositions, particularly Hildsjalf. Right now it’s just a small project, but I see things getting more interesting in the future. Let’s just hope either his program or programming skills with those drums get better as well.

(7 Tracks, 30:00)

5/10

Portal - Blood Of Kingu - Split 7

Portal/Blood Of Kingu – Split 7″ (2014) – Having had the privilege of seeing one of these aforementioned acts live, I can certainly tell you that it was an experience that I will literally never forget. But there was a reason why the Brisbane experimental death metal outfit sounded a bit different here than they did as of Vexovoid and that’s because “Trapezohedron 4:10” goes all of the way back to 1999. Portal were just learning the ropes at this point in their career and although it sounds like Portal in the way that we remember them, the listener will notice from the start that this version of Portal just wasn’t fully fleshed out. It’s an alright song, but nothing compared to their current work. As for Blood Of Kingu, they seem to offer a pretty solid blackened death approach that you’ll notice, but probably won’t remember for the rest of your life. All in all, it’s a decent split, but nothing to write home about.

(2 Tracks, 9:30)

6/10

Truth Be Known - By Any Means Necessary

Truth Be Known – By Any Means Necessary (2014) – Truth be known are punks at heart, but you can still that they love metal just as much and particularly the kind with a harsh fronted scowl. It almost feels like they want to be Toxic Holocaust, but with even more of a punk edge and I suppose that’s fine. The release is loaded with voice clips from movies and hard hitting punk influenced metal that doesn’t offer any respite or clean vocal… Ok, so maybe I misspoke on that one as I have no earthly idea what in the hell is going on with “Throwback 5:06” and its soothing soft rock break. But I will tell you that it works when the heavy stuff comes roaring back in. Truth Be Known have a lot of merit, but I think I’d like to hear more diversity in their material and hopefully they’ll deliver that next time around. Still, there’s some promise here and maybe we could have a band that breaks the punk metal and thrash mold.

(14 Tracks, 29:00)

7/10

Unsacred - False Light

Unsacred – False Light (2014) – Three piece black metal act Unsacred play a very rowdy style of black metal that while a little hard to discern as far as the melodies are concerned, it does manage to elicit some extremely potent vocals as well as thick uttering of bass and drumming that will surely pound you right through the wall. Even though some of the songs slowdown in tempo, it doesn’t take very long for them to get back to ripping your face off. But to be honest, Unsacred seem to offer the spirit of black metal at its absolute purest, bringing back the majesty of the greats while mixing it in with a little bit of modern influence. But being that this is roundabout what we do in Torii sometimes, you’ll see no real complaint with me. So while it’s not quite as “kvlt” as you might like, there’s definitely a forceful black metal presence here and whether or not their blazing through numbers like “Idle 2:26” or taking a more atmospheric (yet still extremely weighty) approach with “Sun 3:28” it’s easy to see why these guys will still matter in the next few years. If you’re looking for a modern black metal bite, than you’d better be careful, because False Light definitely bites back.

(7 Tracks, 21:00)

9/10

Apocryfal - Aberration Of Mind

Apocryfal – Aberration Of Mind (2014) – These Finnish death metallers love their black metal atmospheres and frontman Pasi Vastamaki makes me think of a truckload of gravel being dumped into a cemetery, as his approach sounds oddly unusual, yet works on the introduction. But let’s forget that for a minute, because even though it was mildly intriguing, it wasn’t even a chunk of the performance offered here. No, what you’ve got is definitely a solid death metal romp that starts off with a fury and continues to unleash that fury for the entire length of this release. The drums are heard first, showing that Juho Suomi is a real beast behind the kit, as well as man to play with definite precision; while the twin guitar team of Mikko Homanen and Juha Lausamo manage to deliver just as well as should be for death metal. It would have been nice to hear a few solos, but the band seems more intent and bone grinding and Vastamaki seems to enjoy physically suffocating the listener with his vocal presence on the record, which will be just fine in retrospect. Dan Swano took the time to master this one and it sounds great, so you definitely should pick up a copy as there’s quite a bit of promise here, especially on that intro…

(5 Tracks. 18:00)

8/10

Garotting Deep - For - Void Asceticism Split

Garotting Deep/For – Void Asceticism Split LP (2014) – Straight from the nether regions of hell, we’ve got two atmospheric death metal acts and each seem to deliver their own brand of grime and grandeur in their own devastating way. Garotting Deep bring about a misty and rather thick atmosphere, wherein all manners of screams, growls and shouts are uttered. The drums seem to be especially thick here and they open right into torrents of sobering doom. Sometimes they appreciate a moment of silence, but that silence always come backed with even more gloom and doom than before. A Wardruna cover of “Heimta Thurs 3:26” ends their side of the split as they take Warduna’s beautiful sense of ritualism and throw mounds of dirt, filth and evil on top of it. For are next, as their even thicker performance comes backed with an even thicker growl, bringing even more dark and brooding evil into the mix. Let me tell you folks, this is one record that stinks of the hoary abyss and if you’re into an approach that will leave you to look behind your shoulders, than I’m sure you will enjoy the dank and plentiful evil cooked up here. I mean, “Spraekjo 3:19” sounds like hell itself and will probably scare the shit out of any normal person. So there’s another reason why this split is indeed worth picking up.

(6 Tracks, 30:00)

8/10

Grimoire - Laorasie Des Spectres Rêveurs

Grimoire – L’aorasie Des Spectres Rêveurs (2014) – Grimoire is a beautiful one man black metal project that seeks to combine melody in with stargaze elements in a package that comes off rather electrifying. There are some clean vocal moments on the album, but it’s ultimately safe to say that the vocal and even metal elements on this release don’t seem to be as appealing to me as what the composer does with keyboards alone. For instance, the album’s closer “Cantilene Celeste 4:08” is filled to the brim with extravagance, something that you seldom hear in metal or any kind of music these days, really. It sounds like something that one who has died would expect to hear upon their entrance into the spirit world and it is a sound that seems to capture not only the grief of existence, but the nuance of life in another form. While yes, the drums on this record blast as well as any other and the guitar melodies are truly brilliant, it’s great to hear that he can utilize the same feelings in a nonmetal fashion. This EP is very short, but it shows promise in yet another band with the name of Grimoire. Definitely check it out if you like bright and ethereal melodies mixed within your black metal. This is a release that I found quite memorable next to all of the others that I had to listen to during that week, so I’m happy to give it the respect it deserves.

(4 Tracks, 25:00)

9/10

 

NileNilexistence - Existence In Revelationxistence – Existence In Revelation (2014) – This extreme death metal band from New York has their debut album to release sometime this year, but this is a small snippet of what they can offer, which seems to consist of machine-gun drumming, absurdly high vocals (but they seem to work being this high in the mix) which consist of mainly growls and the occasional scream. But the real meat of the package seems to be in its structure. Maybe it’s a little too early to tell, but there’s something in this band that makes me think they’ve got some real impact. I hear little bits and pieces of things that other bands aren’t doing, like obscure black metal injections and other oddities that will immediately make me care about them. Now I’m not real sure as to how much of this will be put into the actual album, but if “Screams Form Silence 9:26” is any indicator, than I’m quite sure that this record will be worth hearing. Unless this is the actual record that’s going to be mastered and later released. But that seems a little short to me. Hopefully we get more material in the final; these guys are capable of real greatness.

(2 Tracks, 15:00)

7.5/10

Slup - Dramatorgie

Slup – Dramatorgie (2014) – Czech grind/death and gore fanatics Slup revel in filth and disgust just as much as they do in punk, which Dramatorgie proves. If you can’t tell by the cover, you’re in for a fine round of pornographic extremity that will pound your face off and have you laughing all at the same time. Throughout most of the album, Slup really seem to play their own way, but they keep the nature of grindcore (especially the punk parts of it) intact as they go through several different modes of experimentation. The record is as silly as it is inquisitive, yet it also delivers a well-rounded performance that I’m sure grind fans will love. You get your piggie squeals as well as your death growls and all sorts of other weird instances wrapped up all into one peculiarly odd package. Dramatorgie reminds us why curiosity killed the cat, but you’ll still be interested in its pleasant mix of pungent porn and pustulence. Yes, I said, “pustulence.” Because it fits.

(13 Tracks, 25:00)

8/10

Violent Hammer - More Victims

Violent Hammer – More Victims (Demo) (2014) – Extremely rough and hard to hear, but undoubtedly fierce and full of spunk; these four haggard looking gentlemen make a sort of sludge/death that features a sort of crazed howl as the main source of vocal. But don’t let the static fool you, because there’s definitely some merit here and Slayer certainly had a noticeable influence in the demo’s myriad of guitar solos. But for the most part, More Victims seems to want to pound down and offer a rather rabid approach, something that sort of reminds me of an even fierce EyeHateGod, but with even that of a black metal tinge. I’m still not exactly sure if this is black or death metal, but I can tell you that it seems to feature the extremities of both and is actually worth checking out, even though it’s only a rough demo. There’s a lot to be had here, but there’s also a few places for improvement. At any rate, it’s still a very intriguing little performance and surely seems reminiscent of what you might hear from them on the stage. I’d hope a label picks these guys up, because I’m hearing major potential. I wonder what the next album will bring.

(6 Tracks, 17:00)

7.5/10

Nunslaughter - Burn The Cross

Nunslaughter – Burn The Cross 7″ (2015) – Nunslaughter are just so fucking memorable that they catch almost everyone’s attention. Case in point, I was staying over with some friends during a Super Bowl party and a female friend of his brought over this rocker Christian girl who had been scrolling through my mountains of records and out of the blue announced, “Who’s Nunslaughter? Let me listen to them.” While it’s uncertain as to whether or not she’s scrubbing out every orifice with the blood of Jesus or she just purchased this record along with Venom’s Welcome To Hell, there’s no doubt in my mind that it offers just enough Nunslaughter to chew on until their next album or EP offering. The first version of “Burn The Cross 1:55” features the vocal rasps of Don Of The Dead, while the second version features the grittier vocal tones of Jim Sadist. Either way, you’re getting hard-hitting thrash and speed metal packed with a demonic vocal approach that you’ll love until the very end of the listen. “Ride My Nightmare 2:21” and “All of The Dead 2:00” are also featured here as well and they seem to fit well along with the two versions of the title cut. All in all, it’s a great listen as we would expect from Nunslaughter.

(4 Tracks, 8:00)

8/10

Perdition Temple - Sovereign Of The Desolate

Perdition Temple – Sovereign Of The Desolate 7″ (2015) – This short offering from Perdition Temple brings forth just two tracks in the form of the death and thrash that makes up the title cut (very much like Nunslaughter) and a just as punchy cover of “Weltering In Blood 2:38” by Blasphemy. You should already know what to expect from the battering, but keep your ears peeled for pummeling drums, razor sharp riffs and the same sort of raspy grit that you’d expect in Nunslaughter. That’s not to say that Perdition Temple is a sound alike, but they certainly have the same vibe. Go pick this one up with the Nunslaughter record and you’ll be a very happy person.

(2 Tracks, 6:00)

7.5/10

Phantasmal - The Reapers Forge

Phantasmal – The Reaper’s Forge (Demo) (2015) – This US two pieces play a mix of classic heavy metal, thrash and black metal. It sounds like Venom sometimes, and other times it can slightly recall that of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate respectively. The disc has a decidedly old school feel and has enough going for it to appeal to those old heads who’ll dig it. I still think that some of the new heads out there will think this is “mom and dad’s music” but that’s fine, because I’m already old enough to have raised children all of the way to adulthood and this is definitely my kind of music. It’s dark, evil and feels like metal should. But it also has the classic spirit that you just don’t hear too often these days. Don’t call it a throwback, because there’s some definite potential here. The production value for the demo even sounds good, which isn’t something you hear often for a demo recording. Definitely give this little disc a listen. It’ll darken up your day.

(3 tracks, 14:00)

8/10

Gypsy - Twisted Levity

Gypsy – Twisted Levity (2015) – Gypsy offer an even more old school sound, one that even seems to recall a little bit of Poison as well as retro-rock, which seems just fine for me. It’s feel good music, with a little bit of psychedelics and a feel which seems to give off some rather positive vibes. If you’re willing to take a little break from the slaughter, you’ll find something quite interesting in this little rock band, which feels true to the very roots of rock and roll. It’s about rocking, rolling and having a good time during it. There’s catchy melodies and catchy choruses abound and it’s pretty easy to describe as far as that’s concerned. The frontman could use a little bit of vocal work, but that’s fine, because the band is so young at this point in time. At any rate, they’re doing a relatively good job and I think it’s worth a listen for all you retro rockers out there. There’s even a little bit of Iron Maiden influence in places and some nice solos uttered on my personal standout, “Turned Into Stone 3:29.” So definitely give it a chance, as this disc offers a little some of everything. It even comes with a demo of “The Shoemaker 1:58” just in case you’re interested.

(6 Tracks, 18:00)

7/10

Bestial Invasion - Demo

Bestial Invasion – Demo (2015) – Well the frontwoman of Bestial invasion might be a heavy metal beauty, but I’ll have to play the honest card and say that her vocal approach is a little difficult to stomach. The accent is very thick and that’s no problem, but it seems a little off-key and that’s not alright. On the other hand, calling them experimental thrash suits the band greatly, because these guys are all over the place, albeit in a good way. Musically, this would be an absolute, well… beast. It’s extravagantly technical and actually even a bit jaw-dropping as far as the wild structures are concerned. A Morbid Saint cover of “Damien 2:46” is included, where the vocals seem a little better in the mix, but there’s still some work to be done here and I don’t think these guys will suit everyone. Still, it’s got some promise, even still. Definitely give it at least a listen, so you can hear what I’m talking about.

(2 Tracks, 6:00)

6/10

Dead In The Manger - Cessation

Dead In The Manger – Cessation (2015) – If you’re looking for another odd approach to black metal, than look no further than these four guys in black winter jackets (which might soon become a thing) with distorted faces. But it’s not just black metal as other genres come into the mix at times, like our old friends post and doom. You might not expect them to lay on the doom very thick, but there are sections in which they actually seem to enjoy it. The riff melodies even seem a little different for black metal, as there’s almost a progressive style to these melodies that would fit right in Tool. But it’s definitely black metal and you’re most certainly not getting anything that even sounds so much of an inkling like Tool. These gentlemen actually have a lot to offer with this little disc and you’ll notice that right from the start. I did on the very first listen, which means that there is some real potential here. Whether they choose to revel in somber (yet still proggy) atmospheres or their intricate brand of black metal, or even some good old doom, these gentlemen are indeed perfecting a noteworthy formula and I do believe that the best is yet to come. This disc is a must for all fans of traditional black metal, post metal, doom and experimental approaches to normal music. It’s not certain that traditionalists will find what they’re looking for here, but I’m sure all those who want to hear something a little unique for the genre will come crawling. Definitely worth checking out.

(6 Tracks, 26:00)

8.5/10

Discourse - Sanity Decays

Discourse – Sanity Decays (2015) – Discourse sounds a lot like post-hardcore and that’s probably because they are. oddly enough, I’m hearing a riff or two in album opener “Cure 2:28” that seems like it might have been inspired in the Norwegian winterland, but by all means they’re not black metal. Not even close. You’re definitely getting a balls-out hardcore approach nonetheless, comparable to Madball, Hatebreed and several other acts out there; except with the use of certain riff oddities that present the music in a little bit of a different, yet familiar way. Discourse seem to deliver a knuckle bashing approach with nearly every song on the disc, and even though the vocal approach comes off a little one-sided, at least the musical element doesn’t lack. It’s not really my cup of tea, but I’ve certainly heard worse in the genre and it’s a good listen for when you’re working out. I’m sure these guys will offer a wild performance on stage however, so you might want to check that out. It’s a bit chaotic both musically and vocally, and it seems to be the equivalent of being ground into a fine paste. If that sounds like something you’d be into, than pick it up.

(10 Tracks, 27:00)

7/10

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