Grim Observations (9/12/2019)

This past month of August has been awfully pleasing to the ears as far as releases are concerned, with September moving in as even more long-awaited discs manage to find their way onto the market. I’ll be discussing those as well as a handful of submissions that I happen to have here.

First on my list is the newest offering from death metal vets gone deathcore, Illdisposed. My former colleague always said that he gave bands a three strike rule in regards to fuck ups and Illdisposed unfortunately managed to not only meet those strikes, but kept surpassing them with each new release. Thankfully, their core musings have gone out of favor as I would suspect that deathcore and that trend as a whole (as well as djent, finally) is going out of style. Hence, these gentlemen have gone partially back to what they knew and were good at. The result? Well, it feels a little too late as far as I’m concerned and you can tell that these gentlemen are growing a little long in the tooth. While “Reveal Your Soul To The Dead” certainly encapsulates the atmosphere that we may expect from traditional death metal, I found the record to be very bland as a whole, with nothing of note to really grab my attention. It is definitely a death metal album, but feels a bit flat and needs some retooling. I love the fact that Illdisposed are finally getting back to their roots, but I feel that with a little more effort, they may be able to come close to the ear-shattering moments of their earlier eras.

However, the same can not be said for Shadow Of Intent, a band that I felt was at first some sort of core musing until I gave their newest album, “Melancholy” a listen. Note that I am not at all familiar with the band’s catalogue prior to this recording and cannot compare any of it to what I’ve played dozens of times. I feel that there are touches of Graveworm, Soilwork and Septic Flesh to be found here, the Graveworm influences more prevalent than the band probably are even aware of. I know that Graveworm haven’t been a thing for ages now, but their early work is clearly sampled here, particularly within the gothic synths and eerie pianos, in addition to the dual growl and scowl vocal style. Additionally, I love the fact that the band’s axeman is not afraid to belt out these absolutely unexpected moonlight guitar solo efforts which only enhance the enjoyability of the album. The real icing on the cake here is “The Dreaded Mystic Abyss” which showcases everything that the band is capable of and is worth a listen for even those metal fans who do not have a taste for the harsh vocal stylings apparent for the majority of the album. This cut is mesmerizing and I’ve played it several times just by itself. This could have been the only track on the disc and I’d have been fine with that. The disc features many moods though, and perhaps that is it’s downfall – at least so far as the title cut is concerned. So much time is spent building up the piece via the piano that only one chorus line is muttered. It could have gone on for a minute or two more. I’m extremely impressed by “Melancholy” and hope that the band will continue in this direction and not skip gears and give me Voltron or something with the next outing.

Chmcl Str8jckt was offered to me as a hearken back to classic Wax Trax, which I hope label legends KMFDM will soon follow suite with “Paradise.” 2019 has seen so much of a nineties rehash that I’ve actually considered changing my look to something a bit more… dated in the hopes that culture will come back around, or at least one could hope, anyway. Much like classic Wax Trax, the production and overall lyrical content feels right at home with that era. There are a lot sexy BDSM type tracks and quite a few based on murder, particuarly the murder of women, which is becoming a taboo subject in extreme music of all forms, for some reason. A song like “Cut Deep” may upset your angry feminist, but I’ve been hearing things of that nature for years and “Fantasy” definitely balances it out. Then you have “Meathook” which is more or less right at home with the kind of cold industrial and rather creepy atmosphere that one would expect from this kind of music. It makes perfect sense that the album is entitled “Wrtchd Thngs” and with a loving tribute to the “Baphomet” tying it all in a bow, the record sounds right at home with the progenitors of eighties and nineties industrial. Bands like Killing Joke, KMFDM, Skinny Puppy and even early Grendel (regardless of the fact that they came out later) seem to all play a role in Chmcl Str8jckt’s sound and these influences make the experience memorable.

Unto Ashes have also released a new album with “Pretty Haunted Things” which I’d consider a hearken back to their early work. It seems that almost every band is digging backwards and the results have been quite staggering. The album is truly melancholy, with bright synths and definitely captures the haunted atmosphere that you could tell they were going for. There are also some tribalisms apparent, as featured on the Gary Neuman cover of “Dying Machine.” Moving further along we have “White Noise” which continues to set the atmosphere as “Not Here” brings me into a moving piece not unlike music found in an utsuge novel. Unto Ashes have succeeded greatly in bringing about the kind of soundscape that not only comes off brilliant, but pretty creepy – and that’s difficult to do. At first, you think that it might be a good album to play while in a dark room, but there’s a definite sense of dread not unlike a horror film in some areas to be had here and that may bring about discomfort. That being said, it hearkens back to and age where Goth was not merely a fashion trend peddled by young women on instagram. “Pretty Haunted Things” shows a band that is still doing what they do best even several years later.

Sinner have returned with yet another Spanish influenced album called “Santa Muerte.” Keep in mind that their last album was titled “Tequila Suicide.” I’ve obviously told you my thoughts on “Dragons” from their last one, which I considered an out an out anthem for men who are going their own way and understand how even some of the most gorgeous women they’ll ever come across could in reality be savage beasts and cost them everything. It has happened and it will continue to happen. I have even seen people that I have worked with in this industry report it happening to them via social media. Now that’s neither here nor there, but “Dragons” will always retain it’s sting as far as I’m concerned and it remains a relevant track for the times. However, it might seem that neither the band nor the label might have wanted this kind of attention, considering the violent incels and angry as hell red pill ragers out there in the world, men that I feel are confused, frustrated and in need of serious mental help and guidance. I couldn’t blame them for not wanting to get involved with all that madness, so that is why I felt the majorly unexpected change to what I would consider to be a brilliant female vocalist. Yes, for the first time in their career, Sinner now have a frontwoman and she’s quite remarkable. Lyrically, I did not find much of the material to be all that catchy and wouldn’t consider this to be their finest moment in those regards – however, I did find the record to be quite potent in a few areas, like in it’s title track, “Last Exit Hell” and what else was it? Oh yes, “What Went Wrong?” I may as well note “Lucky 13” as well, which is a killer cut too. In any case, there’s a mixture of AOR, heavy metal, blues and even a few melancholy moments to be had…

Okay, so let me go back a little bit with this one now that I’m giving the disc a relisten. I promise, we’re truly professional here at The Grim Tower. In all actuality, scrolling through a couple of these cuts did remind me that I enjoyed more than half of this disc and found it incredibly catchy. I suppose I was getting Sinner mixed up with another band, because there’s plenty to like this time around. Just as Sinner is going to take all of their fans by surprise with the introduction of female vocals, I’m doing a complete one-eighty with this review. I mean, after you’ve heard, “Wolf” it soon becomes apparent that “Santa Muerte” is one of the band’s finest moments. As for new frontwoman (and I think I can really use that term as she has full reign on a couple of tracks) Giorgia Collelouri, I’d say that Georgia knocks my socks off – especially when it comes to a dazzling little cut called “Misty Mountain.” Sure, Georgia’s a real fox, but eyes up gentlemen – this one’s playing for keeps and she’s got some of the most impressive pipes I’ve heard in this genre in quite a while. Trust me, just one listen to “Misty Mountain” and you’re going to fall over in astonishment. I actually had to make sure that what I was hearing here was real, especially after having listened to dozens of female frontwomen in bands throughout the world. Mat Sinner definitely has an ear for talent and you can hear it impressively displayed here. She then decides to tear up “The Ballad Of Jack” which reminds me a little bit of Nightwish’s folk iterations, just without all the pomp. There’s also a cut here called “Fiesta Y Corpas” which still has me curious as to why or how the band got involved in so much hispanic culture as of late. Not a bad decision, but an awfully odd hit out of nowhere. All in all, “Santa Muerte” truly stands out from the pack and is another surefire sign of victory from a band that have been making great rock music for over thirty-five years now.

Next I have “Phantoms” from Azam Ali, who has combined the chant-heavy music of her native culture with electronic faire to an astonishing degree. Not far removed from latter era Qntal, I sense a sort of spiritual essence flowing through the disc that amounts to something not too far removed from a cybernetic ritual. “Phantoms” definitely feels that way, as it evokes a haunting a cold sensibility; yet embodies a sense of warmth from the vocal performance contained within. The whole thing I found to be quite mesmerizing.

I was also asked to cover a track from Draagyn called “Majesty” which at first felt like a somber acoustic and this I found boring. Though as I kept listening, she definitely took me by surprise with the inclusion of drum blasts and ferocious black metal. The sullen vocal approach soon turned to harsh, raspy vocals accentuated by the synths in place. Thankfully, “Majesty” does not hang on those blast beats and some grooves were implemented to keep the approach quite fresh at the end of the day. As Draagyn is a solo project with no real intent to release a full album at current, so this is all we are getting right now. More music will be released, but only when she sees fit and that’s fine with me.

The black metal collective Zloslut also asked for a review of their latest album “Sahar” which I found to be a fine mix of dissonance, black metal and a small hint of death metal. The songs are all quite long and certainly play up on the dissonance, evoking bands like Deathspell Omega and Behemoth in several instances. Love them or hate them, DSO built the foundations of dissonant black metal and we see that continuing here. Maybe there’s a tad bit of Blut Aus Nord to be found here as well. Whatever the case, I found the performance to be quite fierce, though not too disimilar from their peers in the genre. “Sahar” isn’t going to reinvent the wheel for dissonant black metal, but it certainly does have it’s merits, particularly on “Shadowdwellers Tyranny” which seems to invoke the most dissonant atmosphere of the whole performance. The record isn’t anything I haven’t heard before, but it certainly won’t fall out of favor with fans of the genre, who are always looking for vehement and nihilistic atmospheres to wrap themselves up in like a sleeping bag.

Mefitis sent me their newest offering “Despair” which I found to be quite exhilerating. What started out as a form of black metal with a proggy solo in opener “Cetus” soon became a completely different beast. While still retaining a black metal sound, the progressive instance came out further with “Ecdysis” and it’s almost Opeth inspired solo. I’ve already heard the new Opeth by the way and don’t even recall hearing solos this memorable on it. Now, “Desecrate” is when we start to find some intrigue, with the scathing vocals permeating all manner of my being. The finale comes in the form of “Lotophagi” which takes a completely unexpected turn as a sound not too far removed from smooth jazz soon takes the reins, only to later roll into an amazing set of melodies. Although the performance is rough and fuzzy, it is well meant and I don’t think you’ll have a problem discerning the many riff transitions apparent on this electrifying release. Though short, “Despair” requires a second listen. The disc might begin in a black metal fashion, but what it transmutes black metal into makes the whole experience worth the price of admission. There’s more than just promise here and I’d like to see it evolve further in the future.

Another band that caught my attention this month was Nyss, with their latest album “Depayser.” Nyss combine elements of dissonant black metal with painfully sorrowed woodwind contributions, equalling out to an experience that sounds melancholy, though doesn’t forget the core of the performance; which is in offering a frightening black metal aesthetic. What’s more, is that the melodies involved here are quite proficient as well as the disc’s numerous solo efforts. Opener “Let The Devil In” is a experience just in itself, as static finds it’s way into the piece as much as haunting spoken word vocals. Then you have the ending melody segments, which are just remarkable. Hummable, even. With “Bitter Tears and Grave Dirt” the band attempts to meld their love for progressive black metal in with their love for all things sullen. It feels very black-pilled, but manages to echo the despair of modern society. There is even a section of the song in which to calmly lament the decay of our species. Like most black metal, Nyss are an example of a genre evolving to fit a broader palette of listeners. Then you have the Mayhem-esque thunder of “Firece Down In The Blood and Piss” which moves into brooding territory, where I feel the very heart of the piece is considered, however blacked it may be. There’s nothing like turning a fiery piece into something far gloomier and closer to the kind of vibe that black metal should carry with it. The album finishes off with “Know There Is Art In Death” which ends the performance on a decidedly heavy note. “Depayser” is gloomy, melodic and blistering all at the same time, which is a feat that few black metal acts can pull off as seamlessly as this one.

The last one I have is from an act called Global Scum, and the disc is entitled “Odium.” While the title reminds me of an old Windows 98 game where the survival horror genre had been changed into a very unique strategy RPG, I found the performance to be something completely different. It’s defiitely a form of groove metal, albeit evolved groove metal. Sometimes death metal portions are utilized, sometimes electronics and sometimes the whole thing tinkers around with dnb on an unexpecte number called “BackBeats.” Now, this might catch listeners off-guard, wondering “where’s the beef?” as there is no metal to be found here, but rest assured that the disc offers plenty of blistering metal that quicky goes from nu-metal heavy to Pantera heavy and even visits as I’ve said, some death metal realms. This is the kind of tinkering that I think needs to be done in metal and this era of musical genre babies is probably the best thing for a sound that is too often copied and very rarely made unique. I’m quite pleased by the offering here and hope that further experimentation will occur in the future. “Odium” is a very promising note to leave out on, and I apologize for not getting to it sooner. Albums like this one are why I’m doing this work to begin with.

Now, I could always review the new Tool record “Fear Inoculum” as I’ve heard it about a dozen times, but I would rather you check out what FlightOfIcarus has to say regarding it over at Metal Trenches. Their link can be found on our sidebar.

– The Grim Lord

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