Without further ado, we’ll now commence the second week of Corona Chan Reviews. Some might be a bit longer this time, depending on the release reviewed.
The Medea Project – Sisyphus (2020) – Sisyphus is the name of a character in Greek mythology who was forced to push a boulder up a hill, only to have it fall back down again (I can relate to him as far as truck unloading and retail stocking are concerned). I’m not sure how much of a resemblance The Medea Project (and no, not that Medea) has with him, but I can say there is a kind of desert wasteland feel to the whole thing that is accentuated with blistering death metal (To Know Us Is To Fear Us) and unexpected moments of electronic (though not robotic) atmosphere. The disc reminds me a great deal of stoner doom in lieu of it’s massive bass nodes, but it also has a few moments in which agony is explored in lieu of funeral doom. All in all, I’m quite pleased with the work even though it is a bit raw in some sections. However, I find that the disc should not be completely polished, nor should his vocals – this is pretty good shit, no matter how you slice it and I’d certainly like to hear more.
Biff Byford – School Of Hard Knocks (2020) – If you’re stuck in your house during the quarantine and looking for a good mixture of rock and metal to pass the time, then you’re going to love this very first solo effort from Saxon frontman, Biff Byford. I’ve loved Byford’s work ever since I had gotten my hands on a Saxon album (Unleash The Beast) at a pawn shop nearly twenty years ago – I’d never heard them before that and I’ve been hooked ever since. Well, some of the tracks here sound just like Saxon and you’re gonna love the hard-hitting “Worlds Collide” as well as the ancient thunder of “Pedal To The Medal” and “Hearts Of Steel.” I’d also be remiss to forget about “Pit and The Pendulum” which is one of the unexpected epic moments to come out of this rocking little disc, which you’ll also find is filled to the brim with blazing guitar solos. These monumental efforts appear on rockers like the album’s title track as well as the sorrowful “Scarborough Fair” so other than a few less than stellar pieces like “Me and You” and “Black and White” you’re still going to have a great time with this one.
Controversial – Second Genesis (2020) – As an attempt to bring back the hard-edged sound of nineties industrial metal, Controversial seem to have the right idea. Not only does the band utilize a certain standard of industrial minimalism apparent in early Skinny Puppy, but the KMFDM and Ministry-esque guitar riffs really bring me back to an older era of this music that I really loved. What’s more, is the use of voice clips to build an atmosphere, something that I’ve always believed in when it came to proper industrial. The dance-rock of “Violence” carries a bit of an early Rammstein vibe to it, with the kind of political message that this kind of music was always heavily based in. “Commercial Breakdown” is another one that got my head banging, with it’s powerful messages of corporate brainwash, a problem that we’re having in not just the selling of physical products, but actual media. “Let The Monster Out” carries a thrash vibe, almost reminding me of the electro-metal that comprises the current Doom Eternal soundtrack, albeit with more balls. Not that I have a problem with that soundtrack in particular, I just would have liked it to be a bit heavier. The vocals are pushed towards the back and have a harsh element, reminding me of early Grendel in some instances. There are a few songs on the disc that tend towards a lighter side of things like “Crying” and closer “Is This The Best” but you’ll find that eighty percent of the experience is dedicated to pounding your face in with punchy electronic metal that definitely appealed to me and might just be the kind of soundtrack that you need right now. Honestly, I think the lyrics of “Wolf or Sheep” seem to be extremely relevant to right now as I didn’t expect a viral outbreak to result in such oppressive government overreach. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t get to the point where “Forge Ahead and Kill” becomes even more relevant. If you’re looking for angry industrial metal that doesn’t beat around the bush and just gives you the medicine straight, then check out the disc and stay safe out there, folks.
Serpent Noir – Death Clan OD (2020 – If this record proves anything, it’s that one man can kick ass all by himself if he’s got the tools of the trade. I’m sure there were a few session musicians on the album and they’ve all done a great job with this record as well, but seeing one guy in the promo images and matching that with what I’m hearing is astounding. These grim, aggressive hymns to Asmodeus and Astaroth among other good friends of mine are nothing less than passionate and they’ve also got a death and slight thrash metal edge, which sometimes amounts in a few more guitar solos. I’ve said it once before that I’m glad guitar solos are coming back into this music and they never should have left in the first place. This disc is raw, unhinged and perfectly occult laden – I just can’t underestimate how demonic this thing sounds.
Lucifer Star Machine – Devil’s Breath (2020) – Lucifer Star Machine are a rather unique act who combine punk rock, post rock, metal and even blues, making for what I would consider to be a very refreshing musical treat. I also like that these gentlemen simply give no fucks as the high octane “eat dust” loudly proclaims to all “motherfuckers” that they should “eat dust.” I miss when songs were as straightforwards as that, without a million people asking what kind of significance the words could mean. No, this isn’t a situation in which hipsters should discuss the environmental applications of consuming soil, it is more like “if you’re too slow, then eat my dust motherfucker.” For those of you who aren’t interested in “dust eating motherfuckers” there are also a ton of great numbers like the surf-rock influenced “Cruel Hearts” as well as the thrashy “Evil Blood” and my favorite, “Midnight Crawler” for obvious reasons. The bottom line is that these guys know how to rock and perhaps had there been a competent mainstream rock media as well as a pandemic not going on, I’m quite certain they would be a household name by now – Sum 41 got famous and these guys remind me of a far better and much more mature version of those guys, so maybe someone will finally catch on to what I think could explode in rock right now.
Fotocrime – South Of Heaven (2020) – It is going to be very difficult for me to review this one, because I’m such a damn fiend for new wave music, especially if it contains rock or post rock elements. When I heard “Love Is A Devil” I found myself definitely anticipating what might come next, but was a bit disappointed with the vocal element. To be honest, the vocal approach turned me off for most of the album and I was completely taken out of the vibe. This is no offense to the artist, I just didn’t come out as enthusiastic about South of Heaven as I expected I would be. Again, the instrumental part of the album definitely matches the tone and style of the classic eighties retro sound that Fotocrime were going for, so I still recommend it to people who enjoy this style as I do – Maybe you’ll like the vocals a bit more than me and really dig the album. That being said, it would be foolish of me to say that I didn’t like anything as “Expulsion From Paradise” definitely hit me and I’ll give them that.
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within (2020) – Folks, I cannot even begin to describe how difficult it is to review an indie band with a similar death/doom style to what Bleak Bill and I perform in Torii. I don’t want to review the disc based on our standards, because they may not be the same kinds of standards that the band have. So I decided to cover it merely on merit and not substance. Namely, is it a good album? Well, “Shores” starts us off with a calming instrumental, while waves crash on the ground and prepare for a doom-laden onslaught of vocal punishment. “Spiral Down” features even more atmosphere as it sticks to a more clean-laden vocal approach that also brings with it a notable solo effort. The melodies on “Burn” are quite strong as well, as it showcases an appealing instrumental moment. I almost thought that “Autumn Days” was also going to be instrumental until death metal gutturals pounded my ears. Good stuff, I’d say. This is definitely their heaviest moment, but there’s still a coffee break in between for good measure. More death metal is featured on “Tried To Leave” but you’d never know it at first. The track grows rip-roaringly heavy in a matter of minutes. Then later, there is a slight break in the heaviness as with all of these pieces up to this point. It seems that Ashes Of Life want their music to not only hit you over the head, but to be contemplative and that’s an exceedingly rare feeling in heavy music these days. It’s also not a bad thing. Even closer “Dying In The Snow” features a sorrowed sort of solace, right before it utilizes a few more minutes of death metal pummeling and then finishes up on just a solemn a note as it began. Ashes Of Life might be similar to what we and other death/doom or atmospheric death/doom acts perform, but they’re certainly not like too many acts that I’ve come across. There’s far more time to think on this album than you’d expect, so if you’re looking for an album for those quiet night drives home (pending the pandemic, of course) then you’re going to find what you’re looking for here.
Angel Grinder – Confessions Of The Damned (2020) – Angel Grinder craft a form of death metal with a notable sense of groove and progression. The song structure isn’t necessarily straight-forward, in some ways which wind up creating fierce drum bouts, screaming guitar solos and a loud vocal bark that doesn’t come off too cookie monster and reminds me a great deal of early Death. The record is a bit raw and a bit of polish couldn’t hurt, but aside from that listeners are getting an experience that they’ll enjoy. As the band focuses so much on heavy grooves, this the kind of disc that would really benefit from a “bass-boost” option on your device. That isn’t to say that the whole thing is an outright slobberknocker though, as the eerie “Exile” comes out of nowhere to deliver what almost feels at home in the world of Doom or Dead Space. So many of these little instrumentals could beef up indie games, I have no idea why developers don’t reach out to these artists – with everyone “learning to code” and games soon to be flooding out at a speed even faster than they’re already being released, there is going to be a large market for these kinds of compositions. They’re getting a lot of praise from major outlets, so you may want to check them out!