Hither came Conan… Err, I mean here’s the first week of another new idea I’m trying out for the Tower, the Request Week. Now, the Request Week is something a little different from the traditional weeklies that we do here, as it consists only of albums that are either sitting on my desk or have been submitted via our contact form. I try to keep an eye on these as much as I can, but keep in mind that I’m not going to be able to get to everyone and take care of the millions of promos I’m receiving at the same time (especially now, when I’ve got well over fifty records to listen to this week alone) but I will do my best. These work like a shortlist, but the only difference is that longer reviews can exist if necessary. If your record needs a couple more lines of text in order to properly describe it, then it will certainly get them. Keep in mind that just because a review is short, doesn’t mean that the album wasn’t good. Some stronger efforts can be rather straightforward, so they won’t require an essay. Nervochaos takes our top spot, with Destroying Divinity and that creepy IRM record following just behind. Beyond that we’ve got Teeth, who certainly manage to bite.
Nervochaos – The Art Of Vengeance (2014 Spotlight) – Brazilian death metallers Nervochaos are already back with another release and this one is surprisingly slower than their last incredibly speedy effort, To The Death. But being that they just released a massive box set spanning seventeen years of Brazilian chaos, the fact that they’ve slowed things down hasn’t dulled the band’s edges one bit. Pound for pound and track by track, these guys prove why they’re so fucking memorable and they do it with all the grooves, leads and solos that we’d expect from a great death metal record, which is exactly what this is. I mean, do I even need to tell you who Nervochaos was influenced by? Unless you were born in the last ten years and have never had an interest about the progenitors of Swedish and American death metal, then there’s no need to describe the already apparent. These guys came to bash your head open old school style and there’s no question that you’re going to hold this one in just as high regards as every other death disc in your collection. Not everything delivers an amazing performance, but nearly every piece on this disc offers enough firepower to matter in the long run. Nervochaos have proved their mettle now for longer than some of us have been born and that says something about the experience and quality of the material here. It’s inspired by the old guys, so it’s going to sound like the old guys. And like it or not, the old guys still sound a hell of a lot better than some of the new ones. Yeah, I know there’s a large group of people who like slamming each other’s faces off and I respect that crowd as I do with all meatlheads; but to me I feel that this is where the true spirit of death metal lies. Though the album is short, it does exactly what it is supposed to do and nothing more. Call it a retread all you want, because I’m not listening. Nervochaos is death metal that actually makes me step back and take notice. From my previous spotlights and reviews it is probably getting much easier to learn my tastes in metal and if you haven’t realized it by now, I really seem to dig these classic approaches. Definitely get your hands on The Art Of Vengeance. The Grim Tower highly recommends it.
(12 Tracks, 41:00)
Caveat – Kobayashi Maru EP (2014) – Caveat is an interesting approach to doom/death with its thick mix of sludge and stoner elements, as well as some calming atmospheres that don’t actually seem quite as funereal as you might expect; not to mention the use of a couple of classic rock solos. Obviously, the blues is strong with this one and it’s that kind of groove that I can dig from the very start. Fortunately, it’s those stoner melodies and rocking grooves that carry on throughout the album albeit in a well-structured manner that seems to hide the true potential of this band. It’s not a very long performance, but it’s one that seems to stand out a great deal from other acts in this genre. Although there is some definite doom/death to be had here, there’s a lot of that other stuff I mentioned and even some progressive spirit to be had in the release. I’m not sure what Caveat are doing, as it sounds like they might be that one band with a new approach to doom/death that nobody’s ever really heard before. Perhaps it’s time for people to go out there and hear this groovy, proggy, sludgy, deathy thing. Don’t let the year go by without sampling this one.
(5 Tracks, 27:00)
Obduktion – Mors Janua Vitae EP (2014) – Here we have a record from Greek legends Obduktion offering up an interesting approach to death metal that not only respects the classics, but manages to add a bit more punch and pizzazz to what otherwise might have been a rather stale performance. Sections of the record come in with thick bass riffs and golem gravel, while others allow for some thrashier ends and the occasional solo. Obduktion aren’t reinventing the wheel, but Mors Janua Vitae shows signs of a band willing to push the boundaries of death metal, while still keeping it classic, not classy. There’s not much here, but it’s honestly enough to keep my eyes focused on the band and looking forward to their future efforts (and most certainly willing to check out their past ones as well). I would’ve wished that we could have gotten another couple of songs on this EP, but anyone who purchases it shouldn’t be let down.
(2 Tracks, 6:00)
Ak’chamel – Fucking With Spirits (2014) – As the British comedy group Monty Python would say, “And now for something completely different.” Which is exactly what Ak’chamel is. First I will assuredly assure you that this is not a black metal album, nor is it any sort of metal release at all. Nevertheless, there is something interesting here, especially if you like the sound of deep ritual. Now I have really no earthly idea as to why the album is called Fucking With Spirits, because it doesn’t seem to be that sort of ordeal. I mean, the work here sounds quite ethereal, if not a bit odd. It seems like voice clips from rituals attached to oddly hypnotic instrumentation which seems to be a little dark and ghastly. If you’re thinking that this is one of the more glorious occult albums where the wonder of the unknown is explored, then you’d be wrong. Rather there is something very uneasy about the type of odd ritualism performed on this disc and I can’t really recommend it to those who are worried about inviting things into their presence. But for those who wish to explore the facets of this two sided-LP which is probably even more spiritually potent in its wax based form, definitely give it a try. The Grim Tower is not liable for anything that seems to come in through this working, so be sure to have prepared your workspace accordingly. As a studier and former practitioner (or at least not for the moment) of the occult, I highly recommend caution while utilizing this album in conjunction with a solitary or group ritual. Some people just go out there and think that they can use any old music to get them into the ritual mood, but that’s probably the worst thing that someone can do. Obviously the work here was used to summon something, or many somethings, so keep that in mind before using this to concoct whatever incantations or sigil workings you intend to do. Fucking With Spirits is indeed the kind of record that seems to be just that, so it’s certainly not for the squeamish. If you like noise, atmosphere or have a deep seated love for all thing occult, then definitely pick up a copy of the record and preferably on vinyl even though I cannot play it (because I can’t figure out how to work this record player) in such a form and this review is strictly based on the digital version of the disc. Just as Crowley’s work is more powerful when utilized on vinyl, so will Ak’chamel’s be as well. This being said, I highly recommend this album to those to which it calls. You know who you are.
(7 Tracks, 34:00)
Reaction – Kill The Parasite (2014) – This is the first album from Italian thrashers Reaction and it’s actually quite good. At first I thought was hearing a standard issue thrash act, but there is something to the leads and guitar work here that might be worth further exploration. Maybe it’s the solo in opener “Behind Your Mask 6:14” or the proggy bits that appear on its second cut, “Betray The Last Time 5:05” but there’s definitely something intriguing rising up from the bubbling broth here and I’m apt to get another taste of it when these guys unleash an even stronger effort in the years to come. I rather didn’t expect a ballad in the form of “Lost 7:13” however, which seems like it wants to be a cross between one and “The Unforgiven” quite badly. Though I appreciate the effort, I don’t really think we needed that one. Obviously Reaction is caught up in the throes of experimentalism, which is certainly not a bad thing, but means that thrashers have no real idea what to expect from the disc. I also don’t seem to get along so well with the frontman’s vocal approach as it is a little thick, but that’s beside the point considering that there is something on Kill The Parasite that even the vocals don’t manage to screw up for me. In my opinion (which is what you’re here for) I believe that this album is merely just a foundation for something which will be far greater in its second or maybe even third iteration. There’s a band bubbling with talent here and as I’ve said, I’m smelling the soup. It smells like thrash does when it’s not completely trying to sound like every other thrash band, like DAM for example. Maybe Reaction isn’t on that level yet, but they will be. Metallica is an obvious influence here, but so are a whole lot of other things… which is why I’m giving this record the attention it deserves. Don’t go in expecting thrash album of the century, but keep your ears open for a few unconventional ideas that spoke to me. That’s how innovation is made.
(9 Tracks, 46:00)
Ne Spitsya – The Diving (2014) – This Russian rock act seems to enjoy passionate and melancholy atmospheres, wherein no sort of heaviness can be discerned in any way, shape or form. It’s very much an intimate sort of piece which matches the cover art perfectly. The drums actually play a large part of the backing on this record, which also utilizes the acoustic guitar as well as keyboards and pianos which add to the passionate and slightly airy vibe of the piece. All of the lyrics are sung by the male vocalist in the band’s native, but that’s alright for me as it adds a bit of a cultural presence and feels unique. This probably won’t appeal to many of the metal fans, but if you’re a person who doesn’t mind soft rock done with a melancholic appeal that is surely to appeal to those who don’t mind a little bit of subtle passion and beauty, then you are sure to find something wonderful in Ne Spitsa. I really like the record to be honest, especially “To Explode 4:30” which I’ve probably listened to about ten times already. I don’t even know what the song’s about, but it’s very catchy and if you’ve got an open mind then I’m sure that you’ll enjoy it and the rest of the album. Ne Spitsa is one band that could work well out of Russia and I think they’re definitely worth investing your time into. It was an effort much different than I expected, but in the end I’ve found it quite enjoyable.
(11 Tracks, 41:00)
Septem Voices – Bez Vesny (2014) – While not my kind of thing in particular, this Russian group seems to be a bit like Ne Spitsa, except with the female vocal element that makes it sound like a mix between classical pop music with slight soft rock elements. The female vocalist is certainly talented, but I really don’t think that myself in particular is the target audience for the record. But that’s when it begins to heat up utilizing some metal elements in the form of heavy riffs and solo work. This would put the record more towards classical gothic rock and maybe even alternative metal like that of Lacuna Coil. Keeping in mind that upon the second track, the whole sound of the disc changed completely. Electronics and heavy riffs came barreling right into the mix, changing my first impressions of the album completely. But make no mistake as that classical vibe with the almost operatic female vocal style still remains despite the fact that the band have shown an increased sense of punchiness which seems to distort greatly from the disc’s odd opener. Perhaps the title track wasn’t the best to start out with, as it does a great job at hiding what kind of band you’re actually going to be hearing for the rest of album, even though I’ll admit that the aforementioned style seems to change a little bit more with each song. There are only four pieces here and it’s quite a short performance, but I do think there’s something to be said about the experimentalism of it all, and the sheer fact that the band doesn’t want every track to sound similar to the one that preceded it. They have the right idea, but I’d like to hear even more of the metal influences that seem to pervade the record in future material. Again, Bez Vesny is a very short performance, but it certainly holds promise. This band really could have made every song sound exactly the same, but they utilized different musical faculties in order to make each track stand out. If you can find a copy, please give it a shot if you like classically influenced alternative synth metal.
(4 Tracks, 16:00)
Teeth – Unremittance (2014) – Post deathers Teeth remind me a heck of a lot of Ulcerate and in particular the band’s latest effort, Vermis. But Teeth are not just a copy/paste sort of act in that sense as there is a lot of ingenuity here and quite a bit of promise. While yes, I am hearing loads of delayed riffs and a heaping ton of gravel from the band’s frontman at times, there’s something that sounds almost punk and almost mechanical in the sound of Unremittance. One could say that Meshuggah was an influence here, but for the love of God, this isn’t a fucking djent record and we’re forever grateful for that. If we were to compare this record to an emotion, it’s quite easy to see the album as an all-out expression of rage and despair which it captures perfectly. This isn’t the kind of record that you put on to jam to, or to really enjoy. It’s more or less something I would compare to catharsis, even though I’m certainly not saying that you can’t enjoy the record (and the awesome violin playing that comes in towards the end). There’s something about the record that definitely seems punk, seems hardcore if you will – but there’s also something that sits well in the realms of death and doom here as well. Unremittance seems like the sounds of rebellion, with its almost “we’re not going to take this shit anymore” kind of vibe and I think that’s what makes part of its appeal. It is one of those records that you can put in if you’re sick of your 9-5 and your boss and your life. It’s the kind of record that sort of illustrates just what kind of incredibly fucked up world we’re living in these days and how gloomy thinks can seem to a growing number of people. But if you’re depressed, you’re supposed to take a pill right? Obviously something is wrong with the whole of humanity if depression has reached such a high level of the populous as it has in this age. Even I feel a little bit of the nagging demon at times, so I understand this expression quite perfectly and by listening to this record I can release stress in a way that seems to subconsciously cleanse my mind of all negative faculties. Well, not all of them. We’ve still got another record to make after all. But getting back to the heart of the matter, I must certainly recommend these pale and lurid landscapes to those who feel as if their entire world is crashing down. The word unremittance actually means “a refusal to pay” which seems to match the band’s attitude displayed on this piece. They won’t bend or bow or submit themselves to any ideal, nor any form of control or slavery.
(7 Tracks, 27:00)
Inferion – This Will Decay (2014) – Formed in 1995, this is the third album by Floridian black/death metallers Inferion. It’s supposed to be a bit of a long piece, but that seems to be its downfall. Rarely it’s ever that I say there are too many tracks on a release as I usually like to hear everything, but there are a ton of tracks on this record that seem to just go nowhere in comparison to some it’s stronger tracks. And I’m having deja vu during this review as I feel like I’ve written it before… how bizarre. In any case, the band do manage to belt out a few melodic death metal influenced blackened/death tracks on the disc that are actually worth checking out and most notably I’m reminded of In Shadows And Dust era Kataklysm on some of them. But then again I’m hearing a little Dark Tranquillity and even then, some regular old black metal. But nothing truly stays the same for long as this essentially one man project (Literally the brainchild of Nick “Thor” Reyes with the assistance of a bass player by the name of Frank “Ysgar” Gross) seems to incorporate so many different styles and influences that things can become lost in the mix. Seriously folks, there’s just a lot of ideas going on in this recording and at times it’s tough to tell what’s what. Sometimes even the guitars seem to mush into the mix a little bit, making the whole thing sound at times like a thirty instruments all playing at the same time with no room to breathe. Even so, that’s a mild complaint at best because the material here is strong enough to even rise above the awkward mixing and it definitely demonstrates a notable effort in the realms of black, death and melodic death metal music. The fact that the band can seamlessly switch between death and black metal and the more melodic stuff is tantamount to their playing ability and it means that Inferion is still making applicable material almost twenty years after their inception. Granted, they haven’t made a whole heap of records in that period, but this release at least shows that they’re not timeworn and can still concoct a memorable and out of the box performance that will greatly appeal to those with a penchant for black, death and melodic death metal respectively. Even despite some of the tracks being a tad lackluster, the lack of solos (there’s only a couple here) and the mixing job at times, I’m still recommending that you pick up a copy of This Will Decay. It’s a record that you’re going to have to listen to all of the way through first, but I guarantee that it will grow on you regardless. It’s not a catchy album, but it’s still going to be the kind of record that you won’t forget easily in comparison to others of its type. There are a ton of bands doing this style, but they don’t manage to do nearly as proficient a job as is done here.
(14 Tracks, 56:00)
Serpent Seed – Debris Of Faith (2014) – A new polish black/death act formed from members of Slain, Iugulatus and Lugburz, this act seems to emphasize black over death, allowing the coarse growls of Aryman and the drumming of Wojtass to serve as the fronting and backing for guitarist Jatssa who seems to be a huge fan of traditional black metal. Basically, it’s Jatssa’s love for black metal riffs and the death metal background of Aryman and Wojtass which allow the mixture to meld quite as well as it does on this disc. To the black metal fan, it might even be a bit tough to spot any truly thick death metal sections. Yet there are some smashing guitar solos (which might seem unkvlt to some) that although seem unexpected, are definitely acceptable as far as I’m concerned. These rocking moments actually add some spice to the performance and I’ve already said before that I’m glad the solo has come back into black metal. I’m also glad to hear thrash riffs in places as well as that death metal influence that I was mentioning a lack of earlier. It’s there, but it’s definitely dragged down by the weight of black metal and sometimes the performance really seems to smell like mid-era Satyricon (as I’ve no fucking idea what kind of music they’re trying to make now). Of course I can’t really go wrong with a hymn to the dark mother “Mother Night 5:21” especially one that’s been done with so much attention to detail as has been done here. Musically, there’s nothing wrong with this disc and it’s a shame that not a lot of people will hear it because of other more popular acts, but this is definitely the kind of disc that people will be calling a sort of lost gem a few years from now. The vocal production is a little rough and could be a little more polished and higher in the mix, but other than that it truly feels like a wonderful meld between these two fierce genres with the frostbitten sounds of black metal getting way more play time over the death metal neck-breakers. Debris Of Faith is certainly the definition of black/death and I think you’ll find some enjoyment in it, especially if you lean towards the more black metal side of things.
(7 Tracks, 37:00)
Primal – Prophetae (2013) – PrimalOne is back with another interesting black metal release, this one only a year after the Obled record that I reviewed earlier. Prophetae is more of an atmospheric record wherein the instruments truly seem to makeup the prime composition of the disc, while the vocals seem to be truly otherworldly and sound a bit like gibberish. In that sense, you really don’t gain anything from the vocal section of the performance and I really wouldn’t have cared if they were on the disc at all. That’s how useless the vocals on this record are. Imagine it as if you’re listening to a record backwards and you’ll get the idea of the heavily filtered Polish native vocals. Sure, it’s probably a fourth-dimension ritual or something, but my feet still seem to be firmly planted in this one. What I really like about the album are the melodic and slightly otherworldly compositions, many of which cross a tad bit over the ten minute mark and allow for a maximum moment of contemplation. But once again, the vocals seem to ruin that completely for me. I just wish they weren’t there to begin with because they even seem to take away from the mood. When I’m listening to the album and trying to absorb it’s matter into my consciousness, it feels like there’s a sort of barrier in the vocal element and that makes it tougher for me to receive. Perhaps it might sound like some sort of alien transmission to you, but I’m just sort of lost on the whole thing. I understand completely what he was trying to do, but I’m just not able to feel it in the way that I would like. I still think you should check it out, at least just to get a feel for what has been offered here as this fourth-dimension based material is still truly uncanny and it’s quite raw in the kvlt sense (if you’re into that sort of thing) so you might find something in this blend of mysticism and malformed traditional black metal.
(5 Tracks, 56:00)
IRM – Closure… (2014) – No, that’s not the sound of a dalek fizzing out. It’s actually the sound of IRM’s Closure which is certainly one of the most bizarre and interesting atmospheres that I’ve ever heard in my life. The record does have lyrics and on some of the tracks you’ll be able to hear them quite well, but for the most part it sounds like I am indeed hearing a wavelength transmission from the last remaining denizens of a war-torn alien world. Perhaps it was channeled from beings in another galaxy who had been watching us flourish for quite a time and decided to return back to their planet to find that it had been war-ravaged. Having seen the looming destruction of our world, portions of this album seem to be a last ditch effort in order to prevent what happened to their planet, from happening to ours. But this description doesn’t count for the entire album either, just the first couple of songs. In the third part of Closure (8:49) what sounds like a music box and the whooshing of waves appear along with what sounds like the voracious whipping of a machine slaves. I really don’t know how else to put that, really. but it’s something that you’ll not soon forget. Some pieces of the record are rather mellow however, like the sixth part of Closure “2:33” which almost sounds like a form of programming using vocal symbols and sounds. Perhaps this is similar to the patterns that one might use to brainwash an individual’s consciousness into following something that it normally would not be inclined to do. You can actually read the lyrics for this piece in the manual… err, booklet (but who is to say that it isn’t a cleverly designed manual?) and you’ll find a great deal of symbolism there as well. It’s literally built on a cacophony of words and major phrases, but I’ve no idea what any of it means. Especially the small snippets of partial narratives. Either IRM is trying to show us how the powers that be are controlling the minds of celebrities and high ranking officials, or they’re extremely obscure artists, with a vision that I’m not sure any could rightly describe. What exactly is Closure? What does DEAD-TIME-BLIND, DEAD-TIME-ONAN stand for? It’s a three word piece that is literally printed throughout the booklet, as the accompaniment is wildly hypnotic and in both ears I even began to feel a slight sensation come over me. To be brutally honest, I think that the kind of material IRM make might literally scare the hell out of a few people and make them think that they’re being consciously controlled just due to listening to the album itself. It’s the kind of record that I could see people running in fear from had it been played for an unsuspecting audience, and the kind of thing that would make people insane had it been played over the loudspeaker of a retail store, like Walmart for example. Could we really have the sort of insanity display as predicted in The Signal? There are sections of this album which might appear silly due to the vocal effect used, but there are a few pieces in the core which might conductive to programming. It’s a very intriguing concept that I’m not even sure if the actual artists could describe entirely. Nevertheless, I’m recommending this because I’ve quite simply never heard anything like it. If it makes you some sort of mind-controlled puppet to a force that you or I have never heard of, then I suppose that is just an unfortunate side effect. But you’ll have to excuse me, as I think I’ll have to put a brief silence on this “experiment.” My head’s feeling kind of funny…
(9 Tracks, 49:00)
Destroying Divinity – Hollow Dominion (2014) – Destroying Divinity are back with their first album in four years and it’s quite a monster of death metal might and majesty, as you’d expect. Every track on the album unleashes the full fury of hell, as it fills with rampaging drums, thick yet melodic leads and a mixture of hoary growls and sharp rasps, depending on the tune. There’s definitely a technicality to this performance, but it’s not so much that it takes away from the traditional death metal of the album at its core. While not an overly long release, the material that Destroying Divinity produces here is more concerned with quality rather than quantity. It’s certainly an admirable death metal effort, a good album by all means, and I’m quite sure that the pummeling unleashed with this force of fire, slight unconventionality and solo-riffic might will not be taken lightly. Four albums in and it’s safe to say that Destroying Divinity is looking quite strong, as they continue to employ the influences of the ancient masters as well as the whimsical nuances of the current school of death metal. It’s a great melding of past and present and a worthy adventure for death metal veterans and newcomers alike. If you can’t find something in this record, then you’re probably just not a fan of death metal period.
(8 Tracks, 33:00)