As you can tell, we’ve decided to smash the weekly reviews idea in favor of posting every review separately. Now that doesn’t mean that I’ll write less reviews, just that people won’t have to dig through hordes of reviews in order to find one in particular. Publicists and bands like it more as well. :) Unfortunately, that idea will not include the shortlists. That’s because they’re small and it would be an utter pain to post twenty reviews in one day that are about five sentences or less. So think of this as your EP and Demo round-up every month. This is where new talent is born, and where towers are built.
Orbital Frame – Orbiting Catastrophe (2014 Spotlight) – This amazing experimental technical death metal band is currently unsigned and I cannot tell for the life of me why. First of all, Orbital Frame sounds like death metal in space and I literally mean that. Not only do these guys play off-kilter, but there’s also some absolutely tremendous keyboard playing here, which really seems to add more depth and dimension to the act, especially on later cuts on the album, when the keyboardist is truly allowed to shine. Let me put it this way, “Purging the Deceased 4:10” has a piano moment and a stab at gore vocals, which the listener won’t expect judging from the first portion of the song.
“Orbiting Catastrophe 8:30” drops all the firepower for a trippy X-files moment, which only sought to dazzle me even further and showed me the true power that these guys possess. You can’t tell me that just any band can throw keyboards into the mix and play like this either, because there’s just something about those keyboard compositions here that work so well for me. It’s something that you’d like more if you were a fan of keyboard and synth-based music like myself, and it’s not something you’d expect to hear in death metal.
While it’s true that some listeners won’t even be interested in this kind of stuff, wondering why there’s so much keyboard (and where in the hell did that awesome solo come from?) on the release, I find that it adds something more to a style that I thought was almost played out, like if Vitalij Kuprij joined a technical death metal band.
These mind-boggling compositions are what keep me listening and to be honest, I’d love to see them live. “Aphelion 5:21” brings in a moment that is absolutely astounding to my ears, as proggy Theremins play in tune with a calm atmospheric vibe made by gently tapping drums and slow acoustic rhythms. Then we’ll get an equally wonderful guitar solo, making me wonder who the hell these guys are and what planet they’re from. “Nemesis From The Skies 11:21” ends out the EP on a grand note, punching in pummeling brutality along with brain-shattering guitar compositions, and keyboard orchestral fare.
The whole thing sounds like balance and chaos in the same song, as it slips from insanity to calm moments of peace, albeit with the same harsh vocal uttering, the occasional guitar solo and stratospheric moments in prog mastery. Once again; who are these guys, where did they come from and why in the hell are they not signed? The fact that this EP escaped my ears last year is a grave sin and someone must be punished. Guards, bring me my punishment stick!
(4 Tracks, 29:00)
Emerged – Letting Go Of Certainties (2014) – Emerged is an instrumental progressive metal/rock band from the Netherlands and this their demo, more or less. Though I like the mix of heavy crunch, proggy rhythms and fascinating melodies (at times) I feel as though I’ve heard all of this before. Now not many people may be aware of the oddly intriguing legend of Cynthia Witthoft, who has either written or stolen dozens of compositions in Poland, marking them as her own. There are ridiculous amounts of her albums floating around the net, and the work that these gentlemen do here sounds almost exactly like most of it.
The Bird Of Paradise was always one of my favorites, and I’m quite reminded of that style here. It’s not a bad thing however, it’s definitely something I would put vocals on and listen to for my own enjoyment (because yes, I do that) or simply use for vocal practice. I’m certainly enjoying these compositions however, because it has been an unearthly amount of time since I’ve heard those Cynthia Witthoft meanderings and this record seems to hearken back to them.
Emerged offer a truly potent set of melodies and almost unreal solo efforts above all, which is what kept me listening. Though not a long demo, it definitely shows a band with a large amount of promise. I’m just not sure if they can do it without a frontman. There aren’t a lot of instrumental acts out there who become all that well-known these days. That being said… Need a vocalist, guys?
(5 Tracks, 29:00)
Curse Of Samsara – Breaking The Curse EP (2015) – Though the recording is rough, these guys seem to play a type of progressive death/thrash with a scratchy throat, a capable drummer and a guitarist that loves to play technical and proggy stuff. Thing is, it actually works. The frontman has conviction, the thrash riffs feel warm and menacing, and the drummer manages to keep up the pace well enough for it not to be all that boring. Sometimes things will delve into completely different territory (Abyss 5:07) and the guitarist will unleash a beautifully out of place (but rather impressive) solo. But these things only work to show you all of the things that these are capable of.
Breaking The Curse feels very much like a demo EP in most regards, but it’s still a damn good one. If I could see into the future, I see these guys recording another one with a stronger production value, possibly a little more change in their coffers and more room to spread their wings and show the world their true power. I feel that this isn’t even the final form yet for these guys and when it comes, we’ll all know it.
(5 Tracks, 21:00)
Multinational Corporations – Jamal Al Maut (2015) – This Pakistani two-piece have made one of the more interesting grindcore records I’ve heard so far. While you can certainly expect heated bouts of drumming and slightly warm riff melodies, the fact that these guys don’t exactly play by the Grindcore rules interests me. There are a few unconventional ideas here, especially on “Penniless Pride 3:06” where all of the speed is completely scrapped for atmosphere. Mostly punk, but with a dash of death and black metal, there’s much more to this record than meets the eye and I’m betting that I can say the same for the band. The record is just about as long as the breaks I get at the day job, but it’s just enough to show what they’re capable of. This EP has really been getting the attention of reviewers since its release and sits at an 88% on MA right now. But I’m going to give it a decent 7/10 as I feel there still are a few things that the band could improve on. If you’re into stuff like T.O.O.H. before they jumped the shark and released that revolting patriotic album, then you’ll certainly like this disc.
(9 Tracks, 15:00)
Smothered Bowels – Thorax Driller (2015) – Smothered Bowels is a Russian quintet who seem to revel in the realms of goregrind and death metal. The lyrics are literally printed out as they are spoken, which will ensue a great deal of hilarity among the listener, especially the oddball entitled “Mohammed Had A Little Lamb 2:32” which will surely become a favorite among your children. The record even ends with a jaunty accordion backed piece called “Manifestation Of Self Sodomy 4:01” which got the toes tapping. If there’s one thing I can say about Smothered bowels (other than the fact that there are some unexpectedly ripping solos to be found in the mix) is that this album is catchy as hell. From the first listen it caught my attention and I’m still enjoying it here on the second. Perhaps my brain has leavened to mush, but there’s something to Smothered Bowels that makes them stand out on another level from the gore bands that they are trying to emulate and parody with this record. Make no mistake, there’s some top floor gore on this one and you need to insert it into your record player or your sphincter, whichever one is available.
(9 Tracks, 21:00)
Black Mare/Lycia – Split (2015) – It’s odd that we get anything related to darkwave or with a gothic sort of feeling on it, which is what this split offers. Not so much on the Black Mare side of things, but definitely on the Lycia side. As for Black Mare, they come off as very mysterious and heavily atmospheric rock that sometimes reminds me of the great SubRosa. Anyone who even sounds remotely close to that style is worth recommending I feel, and that’s what you’ll get here. Problem is, there’s only one song and it makes me wish there was a whole album attached to this. I’d have liked that. When Lycia begins their foray into the wonderful worlds of darkwave, I am once again reminded of why I like bands like Black Tape For A Blue Girl, Audra and of course, Lycia. A small semblance of acoustics play along with light, yet airy rock riffs as a female vocalist gently coos whilst the fragile tone of the frontman encapsulates nothing but pure emotion. I have always thought that there was something very deep and magical about the world of darkwave music and I would certainly love to review more of it, if submitted. This split is best played in a candlelit room, or by the light of a full moon. You’ll know what I mean when you hear it.
(7 Tracks, 11:00)
Antiversum – Total Vacuum (2015) – If you’re looking for atmospheric doom/death, then you’ve certainly come to the right place with this album. Quite like Portal and those who follow in the footsteps, there’s an air of mystery lurking about on this album and you’ll be able to feel this mystical darkness right from the very beginning. The band is exceptionally crunchy when they’re not playing around with guitar-based atmospheres, and more often than not make me think of a death metal band that is literally being sucked into a black hole. A minor complaint is that things still seem a bit muddy, but one can’t deny that it goes with the atmosphere. I’m just not sure if this kind of music would work with a higher and clearer production value. Antiversum are good at what they do, and if you enjoy Portal and all of their clones, you’ll find something in this one. I’m not saying that the album isn’t good, but it seems that whenever a band becomes popular for a certain style, other acts always want to emulate it for some unknown reason. What happened to trailblazing?
Shrine Of The Serpent – Shrine Of The Serpent (2015) – Portland’s Shrine Of The Serpent (featuring members of Aldebaran) craft thundering semblances of terrifying doom, backed with whisky soaked growls courtesy of Todd Janeczek who is also one of the band’s guitarists. Yet there are additional vocals and guitar licks being performed by John Boyd, whilst Garret Hubner handles the drums. You can hear the early Paradise Lost influence (or current, if you’ve already taken a gander at the “Beneath Broken Earth” video) emanating through this slow but menacing beast, as it rips open your skull and lets the doom in for about a half an hour. I shall reiterate that this album only seems to recall the very earliest and darkest of doom/death, before the days of clean vocals, keyboards and other meanderings. Shrine Of The Serpent have made a doom/death record that sounds like it could have been made about twenty years ago and it’s a great appetizer if you’re still waiting for the new Paradise Lost disc to surface. My little review here doesn’t even manage to describe the thundering torrents of tumultuous doom in play here, but I’m almost certain that those who have been looking for the doom, will find the doom here. I get a lot of doom metal albums, but the infernal noise and horrid monstrosities lurking within this beast should more than wet your palette. Highly recommended for all fans of the doom, everywhere.
(3 Tracks, 29:00)
Possession- Anneliese – 1585 – 1646 (2015) – This is an EP release from Possession, who look almost ancient in their band photo. But that’s a good thing, because they come with a sound that’s just as ancient and menacing as you might expect. I don’t feel that “Obscurity” should have been paired with “Visitation” (which both total to an over nine minute track) but when the latter piece comes onto the stage, it delivers with a horrific mixture of black and death metal that seems highly rooted in the golden age of extreme metal. “Ceremony 4:41” pumps us full of doom and slight groove before it launches into an absolute onslaught. Fans of a classic extreme metal sound will certainly fall head over hooves in love with this one and it’s easy to see why.
First of all, the band clearly has studied up on the greats of the genre and manages to continue their communications in an unbroken form. Though a recent release, the record certainly seems to echo and embody the genre’s pioneers, while breathing in a little bit of new life to their compositions, which in essence makes it an evolution.
But you don’t care about all that. No, you just want to know that it’s a fearsome slab of metal that you can bang your head to and scare the shit out of the neighbors with. Well, these guys will definitely have your neighbors constructing crucifixes around their property and watering their yards with holy water. (By the way, there’s nothing truly special about holy water – it’s literally just regular old water that was blessed and bottled by a priest. No doubt it was used as a religious scam back in the dark ages. People will buy manure from you if you can get them to believe that it’s a sacrament.)
But this record has nothing to do with manure (and is no way even comparable to it) and will get your head banging and horns raised high into the air. Possession has a lot of potential and I’m sure their LP will be a killer spin as well. If you’re looking for a mix of black, death and even some doom that you can sink your teeth into, then look no further. I’m not sure what in the hell exactly happened between 1585 and 1646, but I can definitely assure you that it was metal.
(4 Tracks, 25:00)
Sect Pig – Self Reversed (2015) – Sect Pig is an absolute fucking enigma. No one knows who they are and where they came from. All we know is that they’ve released two EP’s and this is their second. Considered “experimental black metal” I’d almost put this closer to experimental blackened grindcore than anything else. Taina Tirado actually got a hold of this one before me and described it as “being drug into a torture chamber and gutted alive” (which actually happens in a visual novel I’ve been reading… try to guess) which is an accurate description, as moments of mind numbing insanity come backed with ferocious blasts and horrendous vocal utterings. In between these heavy sections, there are atmospheres in which a rather intriguing spoken word piece takes the forefront, as non-conventional instrumentation forms the background. It brings on a bit of an airy quality, as the gentleman in the spoken word pieces describes a great deal about serial killers. It’s all quite fascinating, but I’m not sure how many extreme metal fans will actually accept the balance of insanity and uncomfortably calm atmospheres that emanate from this recording. Nevertheless, I simply must recommend this bizarre experiment and I think if you enjoy the sounds of guts being puked out, drums being battered and the soft atmospheric stuff that I described, then you’ll find a match made in… well, hell. Not for the squeamish, but an adventure into psychotic madness that’s certainly worthwhile.
(1 Track, 18:36)
Bladecatcher – Obverse (2015) – Bladecatcher is a one man project from the former songwriter of Njiqahdda. Though not very long, it definitely reminds me of interstellar dump trucks filled to the heft with gravel, traveling through various star systems as the sounds of space ebb and flow around them. But there are quite a few meteor showers to be had here as well. Though quite universal, Bladecatcher is also considered slam, so you’ll definitely hear some elements of that as well. It’s certainly not a record that could be classified using the “wigger slam” terminology I’ve heard though, as this appears to be the kind of stuff that might be way over the heads of most people. If I could use the word intelligent and well-crafted slam, then I will. But if it then no longer sounds like slam by that definition, then I feel a great achievement has been made in destroying stereotypes. If you really want me to be blunt, I’m hearing a lot of doom, technicality and even a section that seems partially inspired by (the gods) Bal-Sagoth. All in all, I feel that the record is just too short and being composed by one single man, it seems to put a lot of larger efforts to shame. He gave us nine minutes of intrigue. Now I feel that I’m going to have to wait a little longer for the other twenty.
(3 Tracks, 9:00)
Shotgun Suicide Victim – Vapor Porno EP (2015) – You never really know what’s going to become of this crazy catgirl, but her next incursion seems to have melded seventies porn music with her usual forays into electronics. While I didn’t really understand the idea behind the very first track, I almost think that the second cut “6:12” is something I could hear in a video game. It reminds me of the sort of music you might hear in a playful Japanese shmup, with a kawaii art style (Have I lost any of you yet? Kawaii means cute in Japanese.) and I’m rather quite fond of its airy atmosphere. Basically what she’s done here, is to add more of a dance-feel to the piece, plopping in more beats and speeding up a saxophone to the point where it seems to be full of helium. As for the vacuumed and trippy sound of “Ecc01Loli–Jamz 5:06” it’s definitely something you haven’t heard before. It seems to continue through the speedy nature of the final cut on the EP, but I don’t really seem to care for it and it seems sort of rushed. Shotgun Suicide Victim does a lot of this stuff for fun, but she still manages to offer a unique and unheard style in electronic music that we haven’t heard.
(4 Tracks, 17:00)
Grieved – Samaritans (2015) – While I love the album cover and some of the riffs in this slightly doom influenced metalcore disc, the album as a whole really doesn’t work to persuade me. I’m sure the modern core scene will find something to like in this gloomy act of rage, but I’m hearing a lot of the punk influenced metalcore that I’ve heard since Every Time I Die and Dillinger started. If you’re looking for a very angry shouting match backed with fierce and menacing guitar riffs, I think you’ll enjoy the youthful malice locked within this recording, and some of its atmosphere as well. I can’t even say that it’s a bad album, because it clearly sounds like Grieved have their formula and are very good at unleashing it on the masses. But to me, it just sounds like an angry man shouting amok, with an equally angry group of musicians. Could it evolve from here? Perhaps, but time will tell.
(8 Tracks, 17:00)
Gra/Gnosis Of The Witch – Split (2015) – This split between Gra and Gnosis Of The Witch features both bands sounding kind of raw and quite furious, except for the fact that Gra contains a deeper vocal approach than Gnosis Of The Witch. Additionally, “Valitus Ja Kaipuu 5:59” begins with acoustic folk and features far more song structure than Gnosis Of The Witch’s “Fórn Dauðaorð 7:06” which is too long and extremely repetitive. There’s a nice section of gloom in the middle, but the end of the track seems to play out the same tremolo about four or five times too many. We get it, you love the way that fucking riff sounds. But to be honest, I shouldn’t be hearing that same riff for more than three minutes (which is what it felt like.) The band definitely manage to change things up a bit afterwards however, making their approach a little more interesting than some of black metal’s earlier phases, whilst keeping it as kvlt as a frozen mountain of ice and snow and frost giants. Gra seems to bridge into death metal, but Gnosis Of The Witch definitely keeps it kvlt. So it’s up to you to determine the winner. At the end of the day, I think both bands managed to convey the atmosphere quite well. Just make sure that you listen to this one in a harsh environment, like during a monsoon or fierce blizzard. On second thought, perhaps that’s not such a good idea…
(2 Tracks, 13:00)
Full Scale Riot – Depopulation (2015) – If you like classic hardcore like me, (before it fused with metal, emo and screamo and everything else) then I think you’ll find something intriguing about Full Scale Riot. These guys like to pound it hard and heavy, with a frontman that shouts against the system (and does it rather well from a lyrical standpoint) and a slew of backing musicians who were definitely inspired by Biohazard, Madball, Body Count early Hed P.E. and others. I don’t mind rapping in this music either, because it fits. If you don’t like rapping mixed in with hardcore shouts and thrash moments, then you might want to look somewhere else because this is the core of that music. What I’m hearing here is a very strong hardcore act that hopefully will get some recognition and could grow even larger with time. I’m starting to hear a slight resurgence of old school hardcore and that doesn’t bother me. In fact, I’d like to hear more of it. This is the genre untainted, so take it as a history lesson.
(6 Tracks, 22:00)