Album Reviews Shortlist (January 2015)

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Well here it is, folks. These albums mostly cover November with Acid Age being a December release. Next month’s shortlist will be made up of December and January respectively. We have Bloodlash blowing away all of the competition and my mind at that, along with Skelethal, Metal Machine and Selene making definite waves this month. As a matter of fact, there is so much good material in this list that I just couldn’t fit it all! So definitely get your hands on the Ghoulgotha, Vircolac, Axx Of Hate and several other albums listed here. It may be 2015, but there are still some great releases from last year that beg to be heard!

Bloodlash - Drowning Amidst The Nebulae

Bloodlash – Drowning Amidst The Nebulae (2014) – There’s a whole lot going on in this EP from this five-piece. I mean, there’s literally so much going on that it’s tough to just call it progressive death metal. It most certainly is progressive in the very sense of the word, as it dazzles with all sorts of different styles, riffs and atmospheres. These guys just can’t sit still and even if you don’t like the thick accented clean vocals, you’ll still find something truly intriguing and ultimately promising about such a beast which I cannot completely describe. There’s definitely a lot of Opeth influence here, but also some metalcore influences that appear along with rare obscurities that you’ll just have to sit down and listen to for yourself. It’s not a record that sits on any one genre, but definitely cements a progressive presence like the kind that I would expect from a Japanese act. But this isn’t a Japanese act, it’s from a completely different country and it has the potential to leave other artists lying in the dust. I truly can’t believe that all of this was captured on one release – there’s enough material here for at least three records. This EP is more than a nice appetizer, but I’m whetting my plate for the main course. Let’s see what these guys can do with an hour or more!

(4 Tracks, 22:00)

10/10

Morbosidad - Tortura

Morbosidad – Tortura LP (2014) – Morbosidad is definitely old school death/thrash with the same sort of black metal elements that you’d expect from Sarcofago, except that this approach is a little bit bleaker and seems to be even more rebellious than that which inspired it. It’s the kind of record that comes and kills and does little more after the fact. Tortura is a “what you see is what you get” situation and there’s little more that needs to be said for it. If you like Spanish death/thrash with black metal elements, then you’ll surely find something here.

(4 Tracks, 14:00)

6/10

Skelethal - Interstellar Knowledge Of The Purple Entity

Skelethal – Interstellar Knowledge Of The Purple Entity 12″ (2014) – While I was indifferent about Skelethal’s last effort, this one actually piqued my interest in such a way that I can still recall it even after all the material I’ve heard prior to it. Not only do these guys have their hands firmly gripped around the concept of traditional death metal, they’re also not afraid to throw in some moments of experimentation in the computer generated synth pieces. Sometimes it might sound a bit like Alice In Hell, but I think these whimsical pieces sort of go quite well with the skull bashing that pervades the majority of the listen. Don’t go into this album thinking that they’ve saturated their memorable death metal approach with twinkles, because they haven’t. They’re just there in small spurts. Even if you don’t like them, the Morbid Angel influence and thrashy might of this album is enough to make you at least cast them to the back of your mind in lieu of the “metal” part of the performance. I must admit that when you’re trying to sound like Grave or Entombed and decide to throw strange atmospheres into the mix, it can sound a little bit awkward. But that doesn’t hold these guys back from delivering a performance that surely crushes more bones than it observes the sounds of the night sky. It sounds like death metal the way that Grandma used to make, and there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll be begging for more of it after this short but potent experience. Definitely get your hands on Interstellar Knowledge Of The Purple Entity regardless of the added nuances. You’ll find something awesome in here.

(5 Tracks, 21:00)

9/10

Toxoid - Aurora Satanae

Toxoid – Aurora Satanae (2014) – This thirty minute EP offers black metal (just in case you couldn’t tell from the title.) But I can immediately sense a problem from the very start and it’s the loudness of the vocals. This is a familiar problem because it also plagues my own record. I’m sure the vocalist thought that his vocals needed to be up higher than the rest of the band, but then you’re not able to hear the drums and tremolos all that well because his vocals are so damn high. He’s got a notable scowl approach, but it really doesn’t need to be that boisterous in the mix. Just a few notches would help. Other than that, you’ve got a decent enough black metal approach that tends to stick towards melody and tradition even though once again, the vocals are so loud in the mix that they completely take me out of the performance. I’d give this record a little bit of a higher score if I didn’t find the loudness of the vocals so annoying.

(6 Tracks, 29:00)

6/10

Anti Clone - Hands Sewn Together

Anti Clone – Hands Sewn Together (2014) – This is the first EP from these UK based industrial nu-metallers and they’re one of the best at the genre that I’ve heard in years. Seriously, these guys have a lot of promise and could blow up almost immediately. I also like the fact that the harsh vocals utilized on the record aren’t faked and they’re actually quite scathing. Inspired by Marilyn Manson, Mudvayne, Slipknot, Taproot and others, this new-school attempt at my generation’s idea of mainstream metal is actually quite pleasing to the ears and it even manages to incorporate some literal metal elements in more of a way than some of the nu-metal groups did back in the day. What’s more is that there’s a little track on here called “1984 4:42” which grabbed my interest immediately to a point where I pulled up the video and witnessed a rather strong image from the band, which probably would have been on MTV2 or Fuse back in the era when they still premiered music videos on the television. At any rate, I’m quite a fan of this disc and I really hope these guys will be able to put out a proper full-length this year. There’s a lot here for people like me who remember and still enjoy this sound. If you’re not ashamed of nu-metal, then you should check this album out too.

(5 Tracks, 22:00)

8/10

Astrakhan - A Tapestry Of Skin

Astrakhan – A Tapestry Of Skin (2014) – This slightly trippy post metal four-piece seem to envoy creating the same sort of sounds you might here in early Baroness and mid-era Mastodon except for the fact that it’s even a little more modernized than what you’d expect there and edges very closely to radio-rock territory, sort of like a post-hard rock. But while that description is all well and good, is the band actually worth checking out? Well, yes. If you enjoy progressive soundscapes in the vein of Tool and in some cases Chevelle, you’ll find this mix between the stoner atmospheres of post metal and the accessible tones of hard rock to be quite a trip. And yes, they even threw in a couple of captivating solos which only help to add to the beauty of the piece. I’m not truly familiar with the band, but if A Tapestry Of Skin is truly built from the foundation of demo days and represents the band having not released a proper LP yet, then I’m certainly apt to hear that hopefully forthcoming full-length. Some sections of the release do get rather heavy, almost incorporating a ritualistic punk type atmosphere in which phrases are belted out in a way that one would utilize if they were attempting to summon or conceptualize something through will. In the end it’s a great little recording that shows a band with an overwhelming amount of promise, especially if they can truly figure out what sort of sound they want to have. “Cupid’s Fist 5:11” is a definite breakout hit, but if they wish to pursue the heavier side of the post genre, there’s plenty of power to be found there as well. Definitely worth giving a listen.

(4 Tracks, 24:00)

8/10

Axx Of Hate - Risen

Axx Of Hate – Risen (2014) – If you’ve ever wanted to know what a thrashy mid-era Carcass with clean vocals might sound like, then these four colorful fellows have just the kind of album that you’ve been looking for. It’s quite certain that Jeff Walker’s throat of glass was an influence on the band’s frontman, with an almost power of melodic metal semblance found in the clean backup vocals. Make no mistake about it, as Axx Of Hate is clearly a sort of death/power mix and I find it highly promising and appetizing to my personal tastes in metal music. There’s only about twenty-eight minutes of music here, but as much as I like Carcass and power/melodic metal, it’s more than enough for me. Still a decidedly raw approach, but time can only see these guys get stronger and hopefully more recognized. This is talent for sure; it’s just at a foundational level. Please give it a listen, because I REALLY think there’s something here and I want to HEAR more of it.

(8 Tracks, 28:00)

8.5/10

Gale - Vol 1

Gale – Vol.1 (2014) – As seen on tour with EyeHateGod and Godhunter, Gale is a unique post metal artist who seems to mix atmosphere into his thick approach as well as clean vocals in an almost Neurosis meets Godflesh style approach. I must say that I certainly prefer the more instrumental pieces here to the ones that feature harsh vocals, because it makes the band sort of stand out and not sound like everyone else… and I keep wondering if “To Build A Fire 5:03” was taken from the short story of the same name (If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it as it’s one of the most depressing works of literature I’ve ever read.) Vol.1 doesn’t offer all that much in the way of songs, but it certainly offers a wealthy mound of performance potency with its noted attention to detail and willingness to step out of the box more often than not. Sometimes it even samples black metal, which is NOT something you would expect to hear from the post genre. Let that last sentence give you a reason to do some thorough digging. Definitely check this promising mix of moods and atmospheres out, as it is just so much more than ordinary post-metal.

(5 Tracks, 26:00)

8/10

Fubear - Hopeless

Fubear – Hopeless (2014) – When a bunch of stoners get together and make rock music, Fubear is what you get. Taken from the word “fubar” which means “fucked beyond all recognition” this great play on words also doubles as one hell of a rock band. It’s debatable as to whether or not we could call them metal or just hard rock, but even so it’s still relatively intriguing music that I think fans of both stoner rock and indie rock will sit outside the venue for while they pass a blunt around. There’s even a bit of soul to be found on the piece, as it carries a discerningly seventies hippie vibe throughout. Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em.

(5 Tracks, 21:00)

7/10

Riwen - Riwen EP

Riwen – Riwen EP (2014) – There’s a weird black metal meets hardcore vibe at the very beginning of this record. I can’t exactly place it, but I’m definitely hearing a Satyricon approach to the tone of “Nature Calls Us Back 3:32” which actually excites me a little bit. It doesn’t stay that way, but it’s nice to hear such a furious and somewhat experimental act as this playing with frost-bitten punk riffs. They even weave a few into the closer “Karlsgrundet 5:59” which certainly helps the vibe, as well as the use of depressing violins and delayed tones in order to create an almost meditative atmosphere. It’s definitely not the same old hardcore album that you’ve heard a dozen times before, so I won’t give it the same old score either. Definitely a good EP that you should really be checking out!

(3 Tracks, 12:00)

8/10

Ghoulgotha - Prophetic Oration Of Self

Ghoulgotha – Prophetic Oration Of Self 7″ (2014) – This is one of those 7″ EP’s that has really mind-blowing cover artwork. it’s the reason you buy a 7″ vinyl, so that you can listen to the weird, awkward approach to death metal while looking at all the interesting images on the album cover. To make this listen even more enjoyable, don’t really look at the cover until you put in this ridiculously avant-garde approach to death metal, and then once it starts you’ll need to stare at the cover and allow it to be your visual representation of the audio. As far as the musicality goes, these guys are extremely tight and almost craft a sort of death metal in the vein of Phlebotomized, Demilich or Timeghoul. “Prophetic Oration Of Self 8:00” is definitely more along the lines of weirdness, while the much slower “Disintegration Paradox 4:55” seems to capture a slower, doom-laden pace that heats up closer to the end. While not nearly as experimental, it’s still a memorable performance. Both songs seem to show a very promising act in Ghoulgotha and I hope that we’ll get to hear some more material from them very soon.

(7 Tracks, 12:00)

8/10

Bones - Awaiting Rebirth

Bones (Belgium) – Awaiting Rebirth 10″ (2014) – Bones bring on the death metal in just the way that you’d expect them to. When not pounding the pavement and unleashing ghastly chants to the demons of the underworld, they utilize interesting moments in song structure that keep the listen from being boring. There’s a lot here that you will remember and it’s never really boring. With ease they jump between doom, death and even sections of black and progressive metal in order to give the listener a glorious platter of unadulterated evil. Even the solo sections are delivered with a certain finesse, making this band seem leagues above all others with the name Bones. My advice is to change their name to something that’s not already been taken, because they’re far too good to be getting mixed up with another established act. I would go with something more obscure, which matches the music unleashed in this piece. I don’t think of Bones when I hear this, I think of cruel dimensions in the nether realm, vicious voids where strange alien life forms dwell… a space where no one will hear you scream. It’s sort of like an alien graveyard, if you will.

Child Bite - Strange Waste

Child Bite – Strange Waste (2014) – I didn’t really care much for these guys live, even though they’re a great bunch of guys and I enjoyed head banging along with the frontman in the crowd during last year’s Housecore Horrorfest. However this EP release seems to rub off a little better on me. The band does display the same amount of energy that do onstage and there are certainly some interesting sections explored as an experience that sounds like Clutch fusing into Dillinger takes place. The record skipped past me the first time I heard it, but now I’m seeing how the band got signed and there’s really no question in my mind that there’s some definite talent here. It’s arguably a bit disjointed, but I can certainly say something for the energy unleashed during this performance. If you’re looking for something that’s rough, rowdy and all over the place with a sort of Neil Fallon vibe to the vocals than you might find something here. This sounded like punk onstage, but it doesn’t sound that way here. Definitely give these guys a chance, this record is one of those that you just don’t hear every day and I guess I’m going to have to give it the kind of score that demonstrates that.

(9 Tracks, 19:00)

8/10

In The Company Of Serpents - Merging In Light

In The Company Of Serpents – Merging In Light (2014) – These two burly gentlemen produce a sort of ritualistic and thunderous post metal and sludge mixture, quite like you’d expect from two burly gentlemen. One handles the drums and the other pounds the bass and while belting out vocals in much the same way that we’d expect from practically any post-metal band, especially Neurosis who seems to be their biggest influence. I like their more atmospheric tinged work far better, but they definitely do a decent enough job of bringing about any already well-paved form of post metal. If you liked Neurosis back in their heavier days, then you’ll find something here.

(3 Tracks, 21:00)

6/10

Infra - Initiation On The Ordeal Of Lower Vibrations

Infra (Portugal) – Initiation On The Ordeal Of Lower Vibrations (2014) – What kind of music might three Portuguese guys hiding in the shadows while wearing black leather jackets make? Ah, you guessed it immediately. Of course, this is black metal! It’s raw, vehement and full of fire. The production is certainly warm, but it doesn’t tinge on boredom and provides a rather dark listen that at times sounds a bit triumphant. Sometimes a doom-laden atmosphere is involved, but that only seems to make the blistering sections on the record hurt even worse. For the most part you’ll know what you’re getting immediately and it’ll certainly appeal to you if you like this sort of atmospheric and at times rather punishing black metal. While not overly long, it’ll still leave you with a bit of a chill that glides across your skin. You’ve been warned…

(2 Tracks, 12:00)

7/10

Corrections House - Cortez The Killer

Corrections House – Cortez The Killer (Single 2014) – This cover of “Cortez The Killer” is something much different than we’d expect from Corrections House. First of all, it has an acoustic and slightly folky feel to it. I don’t know if I like it better than some of the other versions I’ve heard of this song, but it’s never a bad thing to hear a new side from an act that we thought held no new surprises. There’s not really much to it, but if you’re curious to hear it, it’s definitely worth a listen. I don’t think as good as anything on the band’s latest record however.

(1 Track, 5:23)

5/10

Witchrist - Vritra

Witchrist – Vritra 12″ (2014) – Witchrist are back with a new 12″ which features more of their extremely fuzzy blackened death metal-like stuff. It’s good, but just like the LP that preceded this album; I didn’t think it was all that great. While I can definitely appreciate the abrupt turns that some of these pieces take, these guys have always sounded to me like they could do something more. I mean, “Haruspex 4:29” has interesting twists and turns as I’ve mentioned, while “Transmuting Rituals 1:47” comes out like a pummeler. If anything, there’s a chance that Witchrist is finally on the cusp of becoming something more than what they’ve showed me here. You know, I just gone done listening to a batch of black/death promos and quite a few of them sounded just like this. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it does grow tiring to hear the same styles regurgitated over and over again. If you’re a fan of this style though, you’ll certainly find something to like in Vritra. I feel like I should be more interested in this act, but strangely, I’m not.

(3 Tracks 10:00)

6.5/10

Metal Machine - New Generation

Metal Machine – New Generation (2014) – This is the band’s first single from their untitled 2015 album, even though I should be rolling out a review for their 2014 Free Nation record quite soon as it blew my face off. There’s definitely a power-thrash vibe here going on, kind of like if Judas Priest and Iced Earth got together and I’m certainly digging it. The riffs are classic, the track feels full of fire and force and hell; I’d like to go see these guys live. It’s the kind of track that captures one hell of a chorus and you’ll want to hear that chorus repeated time and again. Can’t wait for that new disc guys, this is going to bust some heads and bring back what I like most about the majesty of metal.

(9 Tracks, 47:00)

9/10

Selene - Paradise Over EP

Selene – Paradise Over EP (2014) – This is the Irish symphonic metal act’s second EP and it truly sounds like a professional effort that fans of the genre and labels should be taking notice of. Just like Tarja was the voice of Nightwish, Shonagh Lyons is definitely the voice of Selene. As I listen to Paradise Over I’m definitely reminded of a younger Nightwish, perhaps Angels Fall First era, when the band hadn’t exactly blown up yet, though showed plenty of potential. The keyboard work is stellar and true to tradition, while the guitar sections definitely manage to highlight the metal sections quite nicely. There are also some nice solos to accompany the potent choruses in this record. Though it’s a short offering, it seems to be only a mere chunk of what this band can offer to the genre and I’d highly recommend this passionate Irish symphonic metal offering to all those who would enjoy it. The band also has another EP, Among The Frozen which was released earlier in 2013. Given the material I’ve heard from Paradise Over, I’m sure that the material on that record is just as good. Which begs the question… when is the LP coming?

(6 Tracks, 26:00)

9/10

Vircolac - Codex Perfida

Vircolac – Codex Perfida (2014) – Vircolac play a sort of experimental and melodic black metal that should be quite familiar to you, sounding like a mix between the eighties scene and the darker age of the genre. You can hear those eighties style drum fills on the record, which remind me of Reign In Blood, but this is not Slayer record. You see, Vircolac also truly love atmosphere, especially the kind that sounds like it just leapt out of a horror film. There’s no doubt that Slayer and Sabbath are just as big a portion of this band as the Norwegian metal scene of the late nineties and the French black metal scene of today. It’s awfully intriguing to hear the new school style melding in with the old, not to mention such dreadful soundscapes, which only help to embellish the evil laden within this monsterpiece. Vircolac sounds like a worthy contender in the black metal scene and this acrobatic effort seems to be just what they’ll need to propel their way to glory. If you like to hear furious blast beats modes of experimentalism and eerie soundscapes, and then Vircolac is without question, right up your alley. Definitely give it a listen.

(4 Tracks, 24:00)

8.5/10

Acid Age - Drone Shark Ethics

Acid Age – Drone Shark Ethics (2014) – These three young Irish guys like to thrash, as is apparent from the record I’ve been presented with here. But of all those willing to thrash, are these guys good enough to make the cut? Well, even though it’s a rough effort I’m definitely hearing some potential here. The first cut on the record just showed me their musical skills, while the vocals came in a bit later in a sort of punk fashion, yet it also included a sharp yell and some growls. Not a bad mixture, as it shows they are doing something new. It’s still very tough to hear at times. These guys definitely like to play around a lot, but they definitely have musical talent and the leads demonstrate it pretty nicely. Problem is I sometimes find myself laughing at the vocals on this thing, because they’re a little outrageous as well as the lyrics. I mean, the musical skill is definitely prominent, but it’s going to be tough to take these guys seriously. Unless they don’t want to really be taken seriously at all… I’m not real sure at this point, but I can say that if you’re adventurous enough and extremely drunk, this record might a lot of sense to you. I’d like to hear them with a bit of higher quality production, so I could actually discern things a little better. But if you like drunken Irish fun and good thrash, then I think you’ll find something in Acid Age.

(13 Tracks, 28:00)

7/10

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