Things are a bit behind at the Tower. Chalk this up to working on my day off, which set everything off balance for one day. At any rate, here’s the 2012 list that I figured would serve as a good holdover. I also have something very important to write in addition to Week 106, which you should see Wednesday, if not Thursday. After which, I’ll jump right into Week 107 on Saturday as normal. I apologize for the delay, but sometimes life happens. Though judging by the list, this one might be well worth waiting for…
Thousand Leaves – Early Years Of Sorrow (2012) – There’s not much to say about these guys that can’t be gained from listening to the disc, but they’re hands down one of my personal favorite Touhou melodeath bands from Japan. These guys actually took those At the Gates and In Flames riffs to new heights, as they use their style of incredibly fierce and volatile death metal to illustrate some of Zun’s flashier musical soundscapes. But not only that, these two guys are actually quite skilled musicians. You’ll notice some interesting structural ideas throughout the piece, in addition to powerful melodies that made albums like Colony so fucking memorable. This album serves as a compilation of their best work, but it’s definitely worth picking up. From the sounds of the disc, it sounds like most of the material has been re-recorded. The quality on this thing is also great, leaving you with a fucking memorable record for years to come. I’ll have a review of the group’s actual 2012 full length, Lunatic Dawn later.
(12 Tracks, 50:00)
Kataphero – Life (2012) – Entirely by coincidence, we’ve got another melodic death metal act which reminds me vocally of Rotting Christ. But then upon further analysis, I discovered that the band is actually Brazilian. Yet what’s funny about the whole album is that it sounds so Greek in nature with the operatic theatrics, orchestral portions and vocal style that it’s very difficult to believe. Apparently, these guys were inspired by acts like SepticFlesh and Rotting Christ and thought that they’d try their take on it, like Brazilians do with thrash. Fortunately, this is actually a powerful and memorable release in which each song sounds different from the others and carries its own vibe throughout. Everything that we’d expect for melodic death metal is here, but on a much grander and at sometimes a much more threatening scale. True, there’s a weak instrumental called “Sophorosyne 3:08” at the end of the disc, but you can just skip it and go back to the greatness of opener “Thanatolatria 5:15.” Though short, this Brazilian experiment in the Grecian death metal sound is actually worth a listen. Give it a shot!
(9 Tracks, 35:00)
Chthe’ilist – Amechthntaasmrriachth (Demo 2012) – As the name implies, this is a demo from a band that I want to put out much more than what has been offered here. Apparently they briefly split to create the mediocre Zealotry album, but that’s peanuts compared to what’s offered here. Other than the fact that I can’t pronounce the title of this demo to save my life, there’s actually some quite interesting swampy progressive death on the disc. There’s a little bit of djent here and there, but I’ve yet to hear thick gravel and trilling (gotta love the trilling) on this record which makes me think that either the vocalist has a serious sleep condition in which he falls asleep for a few seconds and snores, or that these guys threw the tablets in the water (still looking for them by the way if you’ve got them) and summoned one of Cthulhu or Dagon’s minions to take the vocal helm. Perhaps it’s just that opening track (and no, I’m not giving you the title because it’s nearly a mile long) that had a whole lot of djent riffs, but I will say that some of the ideas used on the disc as far as vocal work and song structures definitely work to outweigh what djent riffs are used. But as long as they use them in addition with other riffs (as is being done here) the performance is fine. As I’ve noted. I want to hear more from this band and with a demo this strong, you will want to as well. Brutal death metal is a large chunk of what these guys are, but they have an odd quality about them as has been shown in bands like Wormed, which makes them stand out from their peers. All in all, it’s an interesting piece which shows a great deal of promise from the band. But for the love of all this is metal, a debut album that I could actually pronounce would be nice. You think that’s bad? Just try pronouncing the album’s closer, “Ve’coiitn’aphnat’smaalà 6:30.” Give it a shot; I believe it’s a free album or a NYOP (Name Your Own Price) download on the band’s Bandcamp page.
(4 Tracks, 21:08)
Burden Rage – The Spiral Black Hole (2012) – This Argentinian death metal has some promise as well and you might have first heard them on a 2010 tribute to Carcass, performing the classic “Embodiment.” Well, there’s still much to show from these guys as The Spiral Black Hole continues to showcase what they do best – putting a hole in your skull. Maybe “Nightmare 5:48” doesn’t quite hit it out of the park, but with “Thy Blessed Darkness 4:41” the interesting melodies, precise drumming and monster-like gravel certainly help to decorate a worthy death metal act. Throughout the disc they further demonstrate these slightly technical and slightly progressive approaches which combined with such a fierce and versatile sound, help the band’s performance to come off surprisingly pungent. Maybe the guitars need to be turned up a little in the mix and the drums could use some thickening too, but if this is the first disc you’ve got to offer and it sounds like this; well I’m not going to fucking complain too much. Seriously, there are more structural changes on this thing than I can shake a stick at; but the band doesn’t miss a note along the way; with the frontman able to jump immediately into each and every one of them. Even if they want to get a little light-hearted and remind you that these guys aren’t actually monsters playing the music, and that they do enjoy looking at the sunset on the beach like the rest of us – the majority of this effort is just as crushing as it is artistic. If you missed out on this, go back and check it out. This little disc is bursting at the fucking seams with promise.
(9 Tracks, 46:00)
Chris Holmes – Nothing To Lose (2012) – Even though it’s my first rendezvous with Chris Holmes’s music, I’ve got to say that there is plenty of interesting and comical material to be had here. It’s got kind of a dark, depressing sort of humor that’s entirely in a league of its own. Chris doesn’t sound so great on this album vocally, but who cares? The band can play pretty well and despite that it’s not an amazing production value, some of these tracks really stand out. He was one of the founding members of Wasp and has been in several other bands since then. Obviously, this music doesn’t sound anything like Wasp; it’s sort of a dirty metal/rock with a jazz influences and bit of an odd feeling overall. By the way, for those of you who saw the 88 documentary about hair metal (The Decline Of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years) in its prime, this is that guy who was drunk in the pool. It was a pretty controversial moment. I had no idea this was that guy. From the sound of this record, his outlook on life hasn’t changed much. The album’s opening and title track “Nothing To Lose 5:52” is about having bad luck and the second track “Loser 3:27” is about what you could expect it to be. Next there’s “They All Lie And Cheat 6:23” which gives a very pessimistic point of view of relationships. He once married Lita Ford and now he’s married to Catherine Sarah Holmes, who he wed when this album came out. A little more info on this album will show that he and his wife actually produced, managed and distributed it. So this is all coming out of their pockets. There’s some great instrumental moments on here like “Jazz Song 7:18” and “Heartbeat 6:38”, but then you’ve got wonders like “Mormon Moron 3:47” which speaks for itself. I’m not even going to tell you about that one, you just have to hear it. It’s one of those kinds of things. All in all, there’s hits and misses on the disc for sure; but it’s definitely not one that you’ll forget anytime soon, whether that is for all the right reasons or all the wrong ones. With that being said, the man can fucking play and this album certainly shows that. The next album, Shitting Bricks is due to release soon. I think I’m already becoming a fan.
Chrome Waves – Chrome Waves (2012) – This morbid black metal act comes on decently enough with their overly melodic riffs and a definite air of gloom. The vocals aren’t quite the scowl you’d expect, but the passion is there. “Height Of The Rifles 6:54” opens the effort with more of a black metal sense, while a funerary setting composes “Light Behind A Shadow 6:34” which sounds more like a core attempt at blackened doom. “Eyelids At Dawn 2:45” has your interlude, like “Hearts Over Feathers 2:06” has your intro. “That Cursed Armored Train 4:50” stands out quite a bit though, as it seems to show the band at their best. Once again, some of you might not like the Randy Blythe style of vocal on this disc, but there are certainly some tracks worth checking out. The cover has a woman and a horse on the front cover, which is something that my mother would probably like. Of course, the music is an entirely different thing. It’s worth a shot if you black/doom mixed in with a little bit of core.
(6 Tracks, 28:00)
Netra – Sorbyen (2012) – Netra also put out a new release in 2012, but it’s certainly much different from the material that he put out a little earlier. This is actually a more electronic influenced piece and it contains several different atmospheres amidst the dreary palette of emotions that we expect. Everything sounds programmed except for the guitars and the vocals, which seem to elicit a goth-splattered croon throughout the piece. I’m actually reminded a bit of Manes here, which might be good news for those of you who are still waiting for the band to return to its former glory. To be honest, the disc only contains about eight songs with the added element of vocals, while the title track “4:26” and last three tracks on the disc before the closer (totaling in at about 14:00) are purely instrumental pieces. Some have metal influence and some do not. And whenever I encounter a horde of uncontrollable and ravenous simians; I am sure that Netra will slay them if I just holler out his name. He proudly declares this fact on the album’s lengthy closer, “I Shall Slay The Monkeys 8:46.” By the way, don’t expect any harsh vocal elements on the disc, because there aren’t any to be found. Netra seems to be playing more to the standards of his post-black influences and this is where we get the beefed up electronics. Yet in the end, it’s a decent enough disc which shows some definite promise in both the man’s programming, guitar playing and dreary vocal prattling’s. It’s like an electronic funeral… for monkeys, as you might expect.
(12 Tracks, 70:00)
Medico Peste – X: Tremendum Et Fascinatio (2012) – I don’t really know much about this black metal band, but they’re alright I suppose. From what I’ve gathered, dark atmosphere is the name of the game here; complete with mist, dark chants and other assorted occult meanderings. The drums bash when they need to, while the guitars play a mix of post black metal and traditional black metal riffs, all while keeping up an atmosphere. I mean, there’s a few they could have left out like “Meanwhile In Gehennom 2:20” with its droll boringness, but it’s certainly not a bad disc. If you like your black metal full of atmosphere with some soundclips here and there, in addition to somewhat memorable drumming and certain unwelcome and threatening natures; then these guys are here for you. And they’ll probably do roundabout the same thing on the next disc. But I’m not going to complain too much about an album that contains the traditional black metal romp of “The Sigil 4:26” because that’s where the band keep me most awake. I just wish there weren’t so many dull moments on the disc.
(7 Tracks, 41:00)
Drottnar – Stratum (2012) – A friend of mine tried to convince me that these guys were terrible, but I’m just not hearing it. Not with this album, anyway. From what I can tell, Drottnar are a technical black metal act with plenty of interesting song structures as well as a memorable drumming approach and your ordinary scathing vocalist. But it’s not in the vocals where these guys shine, as the phenomenal drum arrangements in “Slave 5:07” will show you. Drottnar exists to create some of the most technical black metal that I’ve ever heard devised, yet the approach still sounds hinged in the roots of the genre. So what I’m getting is basically a new approach to an old style of music, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing to those who don’t mind change. Perhaps there are those of you who don’t feel that black metal should mix with technicality like that of Revocation, but Drottnar seem to make me entirely okay with that notion. If you like black metal that goes ten thousand different ways at once, then check out Drottnar. Once again, I’ve never heard anything like it; but I knew that it was bound to happen sometime. It’s basically black metal for tech-geeks, so a word of warning on that if you’re not already aware from the first couple of sentences in this review. These guys pretty much play black metal and the guitar itself, from front to back. But you’re never going to believe what the band do on the very last few seconds of the disc during “Wolves And Lambs 5:40.” I don’t believe that I’ve ever heard guitar amps sound like that before in my life. That my friends, in the mark of experimentation. Surely, Drottnar’s best days are ahead.
(8 Tracks, 38:00)
Ron Wasserman – Power Rangers Redux (2012) – Like a blast from the past comes one of the soundtracks that got me into heavy metal in the first place. I’ve always been into heavier music. If not rock, it was guitar-laden 8-bit soundtracks. But when Ron Wasserman (he was going under a false name at the time) created the music for the 90’s Power Rangers television show, I found a greater love for heavier music in this vein. The rest was history. At any rate, still dubbed “the heaviest soundtrack to a children’s show in the history of mankind” Wasserman still proves that he’s got it in his fifties, about the time that this was recorded. Saban has no part in this, so it’s coming out of pocket and is available on Bandcamp for a small fee. Only problem is, the drums are programmed and they weren’t on the original Saban version of this soundtrack. I can tell you that for a fact, because I found the damn thing on an internet search a few years ago and was quite upset that they had voice clips in the middle of the tracks. But that drummer could be felt behind the kit, whoever the fuck he was.
At any rate, Ron went ahead and re-recorded eleven of the most popular (and not so popular tracks) from the series here for your enjoyment and nostalgia. Of course, the opener is the main theme; proving that the Power Rangers theme was in fact a full-length metal song, although with a Japanese influenced chorus (remember that Power Rangers is an American form of a type of show that was quite popular in Japan, like Kaiju) that we all know. Ron’s also still got the same trademark slight nasally vocal approach; but that’s fine. It’s how we remember him. Nobody gives Mustaine shit (well, there’s Super Collider) about his vocals, so I’m not going to jump on Ron for that. Some of the instrumentations on this album aren’t quite as fierce though, which makes me think that some of the guitars are actually programmed on the disc. Ron seems to have just sung. Whatever band they found to record the originals, they should have dug those guys up and re-did this stuff. People do want to hear it done with a full band.
As cheesy as some of these tracks are lyrically, you can’t tell me that they’re not given some love composition-wise. New sections were added, which include more solos (“Combat 4:59” for example) and a weak female vocal portion during an acoustic break on major album highlight, “We Need A Hero 5:36.” Oddly enough, Ron also shows that he created the original Lord Zedd theme (2:40) which is just as ominous and menacing as he was. Remember that the original creator for Lord Zedd was on Face-Off and actually got eliminated in favor of other work. I’m still shocked that the creator of possibly one of the most horrifying characters on a children’s show got voted off in favor of someone else. Lord Zedd scared the shit out of me when I was younger, but now I think he’s one of the best characters in my childhood aside from some of the interesting characters on Ninja Turtles. This is also making a comeback, as I’ve noted earlier. But yeah, everything that you remember is here (including some weaker and less played tracks like “Hope For The World 4:36” and “Cross My Line 3:14.” And yes, the Green Ranger also got some love on the disc with his theme (3:02) re-recorded towards the end. let me tell you something, when you were nine or ten, maybe even eleven, the Green Ranger and the green candle kept you on your fucking toes. I was so upset as a young boy to find out that he’d lost his powers when the candle went out. Oh yeah, I’ve got a good memory about that kind of thing. Lastly, I’ll add that they also covered one of my other personal favorite tracks, “5-4-1 2:24” which I have no idea what the fuck means. I always erroneously thought it was “All The Fight For One 2:24” which sounded badass, because it’s like taking on all opposition by yourself, the Rambo approach. But nope, it’s something really strange instead.
If you can reminisce about classic Power Rangers like I can, (with the Pink Ranger that every one of us thought was hot, until they realized what Rita Repulsa looked like in real life) and not all the new stuff (I can’t even believe the show is still going on. Do they even still use metal?) then you should check this one out from Ron Wasserman’s Bandcamp page. It also comes with instrumental versions of all the tracks offered here. I don’t know how many points you can give for nostalgia, but I’m just glad to hear these tracks offered back to the fans in any way possible. I’ve even heard from an ex-guitarist in one of my old bands Unholy Sacrifice, that Slipknot would actually play the Power Rangers theme in its entirety with vocals and all onstage. I’ve been looking for footage of this for years, because I think they could do it justice and I’d like to hear Corey’s vocals on that track. I don’t believe they do it anymore though. Go get your copy today, nostalgia rangers!
Highlights: Go Go Power Rangers, Combat, Lord Zedd, We Need A Hero, Go Green Ranger Go, I Will Win (21 Tracks, 85:00 including instrumental versions, 11 Tracks, 44:00 Original)
Dodsengel – Imperator (2012) – Dodsengel really put a ton of effort into this two and a half hour black metal beast. But wait, it’s not just black metal as you’d expect from their last release either. Apparently, the band wanted to go all out this time. They could swansong this and we’d be happy with it as a finale. This two and a half hour black metal ritual begins with some chants “XXV 4:17” and then goes into “Sun On Earth 3:35” which is decent enough with its background chants, blasting drums and a mix of scowl and growl on the vocals. Riffs are as you expect, lotsa tremolo. High vocals will also make their appearance here as well as operatic influences. Again, they went all out. An intelligible instrumental then plays before “No Beginning, No End 7:12” comes into play. Pretty little riff melodies enter into this piece as well as atmosphere, and some of those “sick to your stomach” melodies also make an appearance here. Am I also hearing some electronics? After that, we’ve got “Momentum: On The Devil & Death 7:05” which sees the vocals reverting to their most primitive. “Holy Metamorphosis 8:32” comes next, with its light atmosphere and use of clean vocals in the mix. There’s also some prog influence here and you can kind of expect to become more prevalent later in the piece. “Apoph-Ra 4:52” uses a bizarre element to illustrate female chants alongside the harsher tones, creating a sort of continued ritual on the piece. “Pneuma: Sidpa Bardo 2:01” serves as a nice interlude for the disc as Crowley’s famous “Hymn To Pan 11:18” comes next. I’ve only heard it put to music by the now defunct occult rockers Rhea’s Obsession, so to hear it again in this format is a great thing. As you would expect, he expresses the poem in a sort of ritual. Of course, I’ve used it myself in ritual many years ago. It’s quite a good poem to the horned god of witchcraft at any rate. You know, the one that they crossbred with Dionysus to create Satan? Go study your mythology boys and girls, it’s what composes the current generational beliefs. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think too many black metal fans are going to care for this poetic interpretation, but I don’t mind it especially when they kick it up with heavier portions and bring in a sense of choir on the vocals. It’s almost like they were channeling Therion on this disc.
We’ve got a long way to go, so sit tight. “Asphyxia 8:56” comes next with its dreary tones, again falling farther away from black metal. But this dark and almost operatic tirade seems to work for me, especially when the front man’s inner King Diamond is channeled. You can’t tell me you’re not feeling something at the 6:00 mark of this one. Holy shit, that’s just pure awesome.
“Leap 5:15” brings things into somewhat deathier tones and it’s certainly welcome. “Stellar Masturbation 5:46” continues the thundering soundscapes a bit further. The rest of the songs continue about the same approach, that is – until we get to “Upon The BEAST She Rideth 8:29” where atmospheres creep back in as well as more operatic and extreme atmospheres. This one’s a highlight for a reason. “Ascending Beyond Good And Evil 8:05” continues the atmosphere with some otherworldly and tones and more of that feminine vocal chanting. “Your Glory 4:16” adds some odd effects that in areas make the band sound like they’re in a tube. And there are more female backing vocals here. “Attainment 4:10” sounds a bit bland, while “ΚΕΦΑΛΗΑ: Sabbath of the Goat 4:09″ brings in the opera once again, and to great heights. It’s one of the best tracks on the disc I think. “Darkness 16:44” comes next as the longest atmosphere on the disc which gets a little rambunctious. “The Supreme Ritual 10:47” ends the disc with raw production on purpose. They literally change production value on some of these tracks, which is a first for me I must say! It’s just a really long ritualistic black metal piece for kvlt folks. The disc ends with a short outro of dark ambience and some chanting.
I’ll be honest and say that this is the last thing I expected from Dodsengel. It’s quite different and probably ruffled some feathers in the process. Some people were probably questioning their sanity, while others got it. It really is a very long commitment to make and I wonder why they decided to use all of these songs on this piece. They really don’t have to come out with another album ever at this point, I think they’ve made their point clear with this exhaustive thing. If I hear anything else from Dodsengel again, it’ll be too soon. Now comes the hard part. How in the fuck am I gonna grade this?
Highlights: Hymn To Pan, Asphyxia, Upon The BEAST She Rideth, Attainment, Possibly more (22 Tracks, 2.5 hours)
Dordeduh – Dor De Duh (2 CD 2012) – Another long album, but this one comes from Dordeduh, who decided to give their self-titled debut album an interesting manner of title in that it not only is the band’s moniker, but that it means something as well. After some chanting and tribalism’s, the band finally get down to playing metal and you realize it’s all in their native… but then you realize that there’s some definite 60’s prog going on in here too. On “Jind De Tronuri 16:19” for example, you get black-prog riffs to illustrate tribal chants and harsh grunts which do enter into the realms of black metal when they wish. “Flacararii 6:42” does about the same thing, even ripping some Enslaved riffs completely off. But you can tell that Enslaved are a major influence to the band. They covered “Ruun 7:11” On the second album for fuck’s sake! I could do without “E-An-Na 8:24” it just doesn’t work for me, really. Despite the electronics. “Cumpat 7:28” on the other hand I like, due to its 60’s influence and the rush right into black/death realms. “Dojana 4:45” serves as a nice ritualistic folk closer to the disc as well. The disc comes with the Valea Omului EP, which is a great addition and introduction to the band. This features a much darker version of “Zuh 13:46” entitled “Zuh – Cu Tunetul Munților 6:28” and a rougher version of “Cumpat 6:40.” Finally, Enslaved’s “Ruun 7:11” is covered, and they really do bring their own orchestral and tribal flair to the track.
Dordeduh aren’t for everyone, and their tribal approach to proggy black metal might sound quite a bit odd. But there’s nothing out there like them and I’m sure that if given another shot (because I’m really not sure if this album was a hit or miss, but I’m thinking the latter) they’ll be able to display their talents in a much more matured sensibility. But what’s offered here is certainly worth checking out if you haven’t heard it.
Highlights: Jind De Tronuri, Cumpat, Dojana (9 Tracks, 98:00)
DVOLV – Into Cimmerius (2012) – DVOLV is supposed to be an industrial nu-metal act and you can certainly hear it on the first track, “Null 7:22.” The drums are programmed, but thump while the vocals are fierce and a rapping approach is attempted. It’s not going to be everyone’s thing, but I found some of it interesting. “I 4:23” was kind of weak, especially with the bad rapping. “Eternus 6:16” tried to fix things up a bit, but damn. This thing sounds worse now than when I listened to it earlier. Where was that interest I was talking about? Maybe it’s “Drift 5:00” where I found something of merit. But there’s nothing there but drone. Alright, what about “Rift 6:53” then? Things kick up a little more, but I can’t say that it’s much different from what the band offer with the rest of the songs. And what’s that odd effect they’re using on this thing? It sounds like someone’s making popping noises with their mouth. “Wake 4:14” is next, as it elicits a strong atmosphere and I’ll give him points for attempting a memorable vocal performance here. But it still falls kind of flat. The title track (4:03) seems to be alright, but it’s nothing worth rattling on about. “Paradox 4:44” is decent enough, it sounds like he’s trying the Spyder (PM5K) vocal approach a lot on the disc. “Fade 5:17” has malformed electronics in some sections that still need some work. “Eyeon 5:31” is forgettable. “Black 3:17” tries to be extremely heavy but comes off as rather noisy. The album ends with “Float 7:09” which is where you’ll hear a few interesting things here and there. Clearly DVOLV need some work and maybe with future albums they’ll get better. But if you disagree with me, then check out the album on the band’s Bandcamp page. Maybe you’ll hear something here that I didn’t. It’s pretty mediocre for the most part, which is definitely deserving of the score that I’m going to have to unfortunately give it. Forget what I said, as there was little here to interest me after al
Highlights: Wake, Into Cimmerius, Float (12 Tracks, 64:00)
Folkearth – Valhalla Ascendant (2012) – Folkearth finally decided to come back with the metal, and it’s been a while because we definitely needed it. Lending their talents to this awesome release are numerous skilled musicians, (as always with Folkearth releases) but unlike 2011’s Minstrels By The River, this album is the most metallic that I’ve heard the act since By The Sword Of My Father. Additionally, it’s also one of the band’s strongest albums in years. Not only is the production quality crisper, but the performances in both the folk and heavy metal departments are quite potent and feature folk metal at an all-time best. Scathing pieces like “Solstice Fires 4:08” and “Hrolfr, The Viking 4:46” fill the listener’s ear with blistering drums, black/death and thrash metal elements, as well as some ultimately memorable solos and vocal work that reminds me a stone golem and a goblin dueting. Yet there’s also influence from the dwarves, as well as Elfish fluteotherapy. While a few lighter hearted tracks still make their ploy with clean male and female vocals, this is still one of the most brackish selections of recordings that I’ve ever heard from the band. I had thought that maybe they had tired of the metallic influences, becoming softer with each album; but that seems not to be the case. I’ll even go as far to say that this Folkearth at their absolute best. I really don’t remember what took the cake as 2012’s best folk metal release, but whatever it was; it would have had to have been a fucking masterful piece to top the effort presented here. If by chance you skipped over this disc and enjoy folk metal done with the right amount of beauty, vigor and viciousness; then you had better give this album a spin. I’m not sure how easy it will be to get, but it’s definitely worth the extra effort. Definitely recommended.
Highlights: Valhalla Ascendant, Solstice Fires, No Mercy, Winter Enthroned, Hrolfr The Viking, Dragon’s Blood, The Brave, Sails In The Wind (10 Tracks, 44:00)
Words Of Farewell – Immersion (2012) – These guys have somehow managed to make a slightly drearier and more modern approach to melodic death metal as funneled through Dark Tranquillity in their heyday. I’m actually noticing quite a bit of similarities in the riff style and even somewhat in the vocal approach, which makes tracks like “Ever After 5:14” sound like Michael Stanne is on the mic. But there’s one song in particular that really stuck out to me and it’s because of the keyboards and jolly riff melodies. Parts of this song actually remind me of the happy melodies used on the Kirby video game soundtrack, and the keyboards have an airy feel which helps to accentuate that fact. These guys might not have known they were utilizing elements of the happy Kirby atmosphere into their music, but there’s no doubting that these guys weren’t at least partly inspired by that or Touhou themes. But then again, we’ve already got a Touhou melodeath act and they’re great. Yet if “End Of Transmission 5:11” wants to invoke a Japanese influenced keyboard shitstorm on me, I’m more than happy to welcome it. I like this song so much that I want it on my personal playlist. Though it’s not just the keyboards – these guys really sound like they’re playing this one with meaning. I feel this fucking track, folks. I feel the solos, the vocals, the passion – this is how you make memorable metal. Sadly, after that marvel; the rest of the album just can’t hold up to the greatness of that one fucking track. “On Second Thought 3:49” tries to though, and I admire the effort; but even the Pac Man solo can’t win it for me. It sounds like someone dumped a bag full of Soilwork riffs onto the floor and started playing solos at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with that however, even the vocalist screams “Yeah!” to show that he’s having a good time – but in the end it’s just not as good as the previous number. Goddamned Kirby keyboards. And you know that the band’s going to give me shit for this, but I’m sorry. I can’t help what I heard.
So what we’ve got here is a band that’s been clearly inspired by Japanese culture, especially video gaming; (There’s a song on here called “Vagrant Story” for crying out loud) and they play to their influences. Yet that’s only analyzing the very surface of what could turn out to be a very noteworthy act. These guys know what they’re doing and they display it to a powerful extent here. I’m just curious as to what a more mature effort will sound like and it seems that I’ll have my chance later this year when The Black Wild Yonder releases. At any rate, these guys seem to be carrying the torch once held by Dark Tranquillity, In Flames and Soilwork, (with some Opeth excursions) though that’s certainly not a bad thing. The real question is, can they keep it lit?
Highlights: End Of Transmission, The Great Escape, Vagrant Story, Sundown Serenade (10 Tracks, 48:00)
P.H.O.B.O.S. – Atonal Hypermnesia (2012) – This industrial doom act is decent enough, but they craft some awful long songs and seem to fade into the atmosphere. But perhaps that was their point after all. The most prominent thing on this album is the drumming, which feel like large steel trash cans are being pounded while iron-riffs keep up the atmosphere. In a way, I feel like it’s been inspired by Godflesh, but also by heavier acts like Batillus. It’s good for what it is, but I don’t think it left a lasting impression on me other than a few areas in which the music got surprisingly ominous. But if you want to hear something that sounds rustic, steely and well “metal” in the truest sense of the word, then this project should certainly wet your palette.
(4 Tracks, 57:00)
BONUS: Celtic Frost – Prototype (Demo 2002) – Well, here’s your bonus content. What this is, is an extremely rare and unreleased prototype demo from the legendary Celtic Frost. Obviously this comes off the heels of Tom’s industrial project Apollyon Sun; yet it also shadows some of what would later become Monotheist. The album begins with “Helter Skelter 4:42” which is obviously a Beatles cover. And most interestingly, this track is pure electronics. Tom uses almost a whisper on the vocal approach as well, which is something alien to anything that Celtic Frost would have been known for. In all honesty, this sounds like something that would have better served as an Apollyon Sun B-Side. “Totgetanzt 5:15” sounds like an eerie, yet danceable number which also seems to be bathed in the electronic nature of Apollyon Sun. Clearly, the next record from Celtic Frost was originally going to be an electronic piece. I’m not sure what the metal community would have thought of that one. “The Dying I 4:49” came next, and finally allowed guitars to be a part of the sound. There’s definitely some down tuned influence on the piece, but you can start to hear the harsher vocal tones here that would soon become prevalent on Monotheist. However, this is not a bad song despite the simplistic hard/rock nature of the piece. “Beautiful End 4:31” came next, with a sort of goth/electronic element, and you have to at least give Tom the points for trying a gothic croon on this one. However, it just doesn’t work for me – I just don’t think he has the pipes for it. “November 6:38” followed shortly after that, being the longest track on the album. It’s surprisingly great, hence why they decided to use it on Monotheist under another name. The melodies are crisp, the electronics potent and the whole band is trying so fucking hard to be Tiamat. Female vocals also back this piece, with Tom attempting his croon once again. Here, it doesn’t sound quite as produced and I think that with the better production of the eventual release; the song sounded much brighter. It’s a different side of Celtic Frost. But I welcomed the gloom that would later become Monotheist and then Triptykon. “Deep Inside 4:50” tried the Tiamat thing again, but with the worst vocal approach that I’ve ever heard from the man. Whew, what a chorus. It sounds like needles going into my ears. I could’ve hit that better. What in the hell were you thinking? “Relinquished Body 5:23” brings the dirty gloom of what would later become Monotheist, but Tom actually tried to do more than use the same vocal approach that he has been abusing since that album. “Human Dirt 3:32” continues that same dirty gloom rock approach. “Human Dirt” is the last notable song on the demo, with some interesting ideas – but they were later flourished on Monotheist with better production. There’s a slightly ghostly feel to the music as well, the gothic/electronic elements are still here in full force. The last two tracks are rap, and you might have heard them on YouTube. Unfortunately, they sound like a band confused. I’m not sure if these two were just put on as jokes or the band was really trying to add hip-hop to their repertoire. But “Get Wicked (Grail & Dagger) 1:35” seems like an unfortunate misstep. “Hip Hop Jugend 5:17” sounds like a Rammstein approach, which I’m quite confused about as well. While the music doesn’t sound bad, the vocals are a bit odd for… Celtic Frost. But then Monotheist came out in 2006 and all this confusion was nulled. Despite the odd vocal choices, this album has some surprising musical content. They could have just given the music to some other band to play around with, since they’re not going to be using these tracks again ever. But wait… isn’t there a new Triptykon album coming out? I wouldn’t be surprised if maybe something from these sessions appears later on down the line. I’m sure he’s still got the music and isn’t afraid to use it. As a matter of fact, the djent riffs are probably cooking up right now; just in case the new album fails. If anything, Celtic Frost show with Prototype just how willing they are to make a buck. Then again, this is the band that was responsible for Cold Lake and that kind of says it all.
Highlights: Helter Skelter, The Dying I, November (10 Tracks, 46:00)