Grim Gauntlet February 2019: Day One

Deceased – Ghostly White (2018) – Deceased, a veteran death metal act that needs no introduction, have returned on the scene with what I’d consider to be a definite landmark album. If you were expecting Deceased to jump the shark this time around and start playing more modernized or core influenced riffs, then I’m simply here to tell you that you’ve got the wrong band. With a vocal approach that strays as far from modern cookie monster growls as possible and a guitarist who isn’t afraid to add more melody into what these days can be a bland bludgeonfest (even though that’s what the kids seem to like) as far as death and BDM are concerned, it’s great to hear real riffs on this album. At this point I can discern the classic influences from whence said riffs appeared, but it only gives me more appreciation for a band like Deceased who’ve never felt the need to pull any punches. Again, this might be a little “less heavy” than what some of you are expecting, but it comes screaming out of the classic age of metal. Ghostly White is conceptionally brilliant and has caught my attention far more than a lot of the modern approaches to death metal, which I think are mostly missing the point. Don’t forget that you are supposed to be writing songs and providing an atmosphere within the riffs and melodies that comprise those songs, rather than sinking into brutality for brutality’s sake or just a mix of mist and metal. The best thing about this record is how it shows that the classic building blocks of metal will stand the test of time, no matter how many times they’re dressed up and regurgitated into something else.

(8 Tracks, 54:00)

8.5/10

Einherjer – Norrone Spor (2018) – Black metal has undergone a great deal of change over the past couple of decades, and some people want it to be annihilated outright in favor of clean hipster meanderings on the genre. Eiherjer however, don’t give a shit about appealing to social standards and instead have crafted what I would consider to be one of the more memorable black metal discs out there. First and foremost, it is a disc where every track doesn’t sound like a carbon copy of the other and I find that quite essential for this genre. Secondly, there are actual riffs utilized on this recording. These guys took their time and tried to write the most memorable black metal album that you can in this day and age, which is a real feat. It’s also nice to hear that solos aren’t too kvlt for these gentlemen, which only seems to provide proper icing on the cake for me. Though I cannot pronounce even half of the song titles on this disc, I definitely think that the more open-minded of black metal kvltists will find something to like within this modern age production, yet raw edged experience. Once again, you will hear legitimate riffs on this record. These riffs won’t get swallowed by the drums and you won’t be drowned in a sea of blast beats. “Fra Konge Te Narr” would be just one of many cuts that I found reminded me of the blood soaked early days of Bathory and Venom, which is refreshing to hear in an era where so many bands are considered about mist and blast beats. Sometimes it’s that eighties metal edge that reminds us what kind of music we’re listening to. And try as you might hipsters, all of the modernisms that you can throw into black metal won’t kill the spirit of the genre for those who have been jamming it since you were in diapers. If you really love heavy metal and not just black metal theatrics, then you’re going to find exactly what you’re looking for in this surprisingly potent blast from the past. I simply cannot recommend Norrone Spor enough. If you missed it, it’s time to go back and give it a listen. You’ll be glad you did.

(10 Tracks, 47:00)

9/10

Hexvessel – All Tree (2019) – I must say, I certainly wasn’t expecting such a pagan folk explosion as this from an act that just a few years ago dazzled me with trippy hippie landscapes and musings of death. It becomes apparent that this record is conceptually based around the horned god (most commonly known as Cernunnos) or the green man, if you prefer. The disc definitely has a sixties feel quite like their previous outing, but it features more acoustics and comes across much like common pagan folk music. I actually considered suggesting it to a gentleman that I knew who worked with these kinds of pagan folk artists on a regular basis, even though this is obviously a one-off number for a band of this caliber, who seek to be evermore eclectic with each release. I won’t say that we’re hitting Blackmore’s Night territory here, but there are definitely more than a few passing resemblances to acts of that caliber. All Tree is also very catchy, sometimes even ritualistic. It doesn’t feel as if you’ll need LSD or DMT to enjoy it, but a little bit of weed might go a long way with this one. I certainly feel that this album works better if you’re trying to wind down and probably isn’t the kind of thing you’d want to entertain at a loud party. It’s also better listened to with headphones and in solitude. Especially when we get into the recording’s deepest track, “A Sylvan Sign” which is better listened to in the forest, or maybe while walking through the woods. It almost feels like it was written in the deep forest, but nothing would feel more authentic. Some of you of course might look at All Tree and wonder what in the hell Hexvessel are doing, but if you consider the path they’ve been heading towards over the past few releases, All Tree sounds like a logical conclusion. It’s a breath of fresh air from all of the heavy efforts that I’ve been receiving on a daily basis and I feel that change of pace is essential for even the most devoted metal listeners. Hexvessel have created that change of pace with All Tree, there’s no doubt in my mind.

(13 Tracks, 45:00)

9/10

Lucifer’s Child – The Order (2018) – Even though the record might at fist feel like a blast fest with opener “Viva Morte” I’m more han thankful to hear the album’s title track giving me obvious and appreciated Rotting Christ vibes. Imagine my surprise that these gentlemen aren’t afraid to incorporate riffs and solos as well. Hmm, at this rate, black metal might be moving into the strongest era that it has ever had. Honestly, moving away from kvlt landscapes where so many constraints are put on the genre might be the best damn thing that’s ever happened to this genre. Then you have “Fall Of The Rebel Angels” and it’s incorporation of thrash metal, screaming solos and everything that we haven’t heard from a Satanic black metal act in years. Maybe it was good for media rags like MetalSucks to take the piss out of the genre, because bands are worrying less about the atmosphere and more about the composition – mainly just playing heavy metal and having a good fucking time. Though let’s be honest, theremin do help. I love this kind of experimentation, nearly showcasing a band that is taking Rotting Christ’s formula a bit further than arguably what they’re doing now. “Through Fire We Burn” features a little bit of jingling bells, but it explodes into pulse-pounding metal before heading into a light atmosphere. I won’t give the record full marks however, because it does dip down into resorting on far too many drum blasts and blander compositions than this band is capable of as we move our way towards the end. Thankfully, “Sister Farvel” manages to end the disc off with a composition that is on par with the melodic splendor of Rotting Christ’s “The Raven.” I’m sure that you’ve already got the new Rotting Christ disc, so pick up Lucifer’s Child if you need another helping in the same style of black metal. In some ways, Lucifer’s Child surpassed Rotting Christ; but in other ways they’ve fallen behind. Whatever the case, this is definitely the kind of refresher that we need in the black metal scene right now.

(8 Tracks, 43:00)

7/10

Ohhms – Exist (2018) – With an extremely punchy effort that mixes sludge, post-metal, alternative rock and atmospheric experimentation together in a great big mixing pot, we have one of the more memorable posty experiences that I’ve heard in recent years. But it’s not just the bass crunch or the catchy pop-stylings in opener “Subjects” (which doesn’t actually hurt it by the way, at least these guys are being honest about their influences) that caught my attention, but the mere fact that these gentlemen know their way around a proper atmosphere, and ever since Neurosis arguably coined this genre way back when; a strong atmosphere has been one of the largest backbones to the genre. Parts of the record are just plain dreamlike before heading back into pummel territory and with some songs coming in at a little beyond the twenty-minute mark, there’s not much else I can say. That being said, you also have “Calves” and “Lay Down Your Firearms” which are each about six minutes or so. Compared to the dreamscape of “Subjects”, “Lay Down Your Firearms” sounds like a punk-fueled fiasco that mixes in a little bit of Converge and Neurosis to equal out to something far more brackish than we might have expected. It’s the catchy, radio rock sensibilities that this band has that make me feel something special though and I think there’s definitely a spot for them in the alternative market; even though the performance that I’m getting here is bass-heavy enough to bring down walls at a loud enough volume.

(4 Tracks, 44:00)

7/10

Painthing – Where Are You Now? (2018) – Painthing surprised me with this death/doom effort, reminding me much of early Graveworm and Tristania, a sound that we seldom hear today – no matter if we’re calling it Gothic metal or funeral doom. The clean vocals are plenty morose and fit the haunting keyboard efforts that are littered throughout most of this disc, along with the pounding drums and occasional prog factor that pops up in a handful of areas. It’s nice to hear prog theatrics every now and again, but Painthing don’t forget that they’re a death metal band. A funeral death band, a Gothic death band, whatever you wish to call it – these guys hit the mark with nearly every single cut. Moonspell fans will also notice more than a passing resemblance to Francisco Rebeiro on the record, which was a surefire plus for me. I mean, you could think of Painthing as like a different shade of Moonspell, but that would be like comparing apples to vampire fangs. While catchy guitar melodies are the name of the game as well as Dracula’s favorite vocal approach, there’s a little bit more to be said within the synths, which can make it sound like “Dracula In Space.” That’s not a cut against them however, because at least someone is experimenting with this genre instead of paving over the same roads that we’ve endlessly paved since church organs were paired with guitar riffs. It is also worth noting that Painthing are a slower act, which allows them to work their atmospheres rather than immediately pummeling you over the head with furious death metal. The bass lines are heavy enough though so you’ll still get pummeled, but they match up perfectly with the golem growls utilized throughout most of the album, even though some of the cleans could admittedly use a bit of work. Guitar solo sections definitely seem to add a bit of spice into these slower moments though, so the listener is not being asked to chew stale bread and I personally felt entertained throughout the whole experience. I also think that a band like Painthing might be able to bring the sound of traditional Gothic metal or Gothic death doom (again, It is getting difficult to decide what kind of sub-genre this needs to be classified into) back into the mainstream, where bands like Theatre Of Tragedy and their “pop masquerading as metal” stylings have been stinking up the place for a bit too long. It’s almost as if the masses have forgotten what Gothic metal truly is, so I really do hope that Painthing might be able to turn that around. This is just the kind of kick the gut that the scene needs right now. With “Who Are You Now?” Painthing show the world that this kind of music isn’t dead yet. Let’s just hope that this late 2018 release doesn’t become overshadowed by the music of the current year.

(8 Tracks, 56:00)

8/10

Obzon Geschopf – Master Of Giallo (2018) – The eighth album from an act that likens itself to Down, Pantera, Alice In Chains, White Zombie, Type O Negative and even Motley Crue has released what they’d consider to be his heaviest album yet. Boasting guest appearances from bands ranging from everyone from Accept to Cradle Of Filth and even Dio, stating that a lot of work went into this one is an understatement. Even so, the press release seems to greatly exaggerate what is actually being offered here, and that is mostly a down-tuned style of hard rock that relies heavily on grungy atmospheres and feels a bit dated in some aspects. That being said, this guy is a definite guitar virtuoso and lights up the room with several dazzling solo offerings, even if the back-end of the act is kinda, well… stale. There aren’t too many songs on the disc that don’t sound alike and the vocals are indeed an acquired taste. I’m reminded far too much of what appears to be a mix between the Painkiller PC game soundtrack and the WWE Attitude Era wrestler entrance themes. In the artist’s defense though, he lists the nineties as an influence and I can certainly hear that on this recording. Occasional growls are utilized as well, but they seem to come in at rather inopportune times and add little to the performance as a whole. I do like portions of “The Black Gloves Of Terror” and the finale, “Giallo Forever” which works as a creepy synth rock track and has a great deal of promise. I would have rather this had been the landscape for the album, instead of the nineties hard rock and grunge influences that I had been hearing. “Giallo Forever” actually shows a lot of promise for an artist with eight discs in the bag and a professional level mastering job, but the fact that it and only a handful of other songs managed to catch my attention means that money just can’t buy everything when it comes to down to recording an album. Though yes, the guy can certainly play the hell out of the guitar and this record showcases that. Aside from that aspect though, Master Of Giallo shows little else.

(10 Tracks, 48:00)

6/10

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