Week 105 (March 19, 2014)

There have been quite a lot of solid albums this week; I think I may have given out more 8’s than was truly necessary. But I’m just calling them like I see them. Nothing really terrible this week, other than one disc that just rubbed me the wrong way and another that was just kind of run of the mill. But hey, we’ve got some seriously strong spotlights in the form of Shadow Host, Unsacred Seed, Nocturnal Breed and Pavillon Rouge. All four of these albums have good things to offer for the most part – and that Shadow Host record is one of the best thrash discs that I’ve ever heard. Stand by for more reviews as I’ve still got some 2012’s and 2013’s to post in a quick list.

And now, here’s Week 105!

Shadow Host - Apocalyptic Symphony

Shadow Host – Apocalyptic Symphony (PR2014) – This is actually the fifth full-length release from Russian thrashers Shadow Host and it boasts a classic 90’s thrash sound with influences in Testament, Blind Guardian, Forbidden, Artillery, Evile and others. It also claims to not contain any keyboards, drum samples, or re-amped guitars. The album declares itself to be nothing more than pure and honest thrash metal. But let me stop beating around the bush and tell you that what I’m hearing here definitely seems to meet that claim. In all of the thrash bands that I’ve heard, Shadow Host definitely stands out as memorable; at least as far as this album is concerned. There wasn’t anything on the disc that felt like boring or “just mediocre thrash” to be honest and that was a good thing, as one gets their fill of run of the mill groups quite quickly these days.

Alexey Markov fronts the band, and you may already be familiar with his work in Starsoup. But don’t expect any rock or prog injections into the material because of this, because I can assure you that Shadow Host is definitely 100% thrash metal. I was kind of skeptical at first, because I wasn’t sure if Alexey would really be as good in thrash as he is with other material, but this album showcases an impressive and memorable vocal performance from the man. I also need to mention the band’s founder in guitarist Alexey Arzamazov, as well as the other axeman in Yury Naletov as both of these gentlemen show exactly how thrash should sound, complete with dueling guitar solos and memorable melodies throughout the whole of the piece. Alexey barks, while Artem Molodtsov bashes the hell out of the drums. Once again, there’s no special editing done here; just the same breathtaking performance that you’d see if you went to one of their live shows. Shadow Host is not bullshit thrash, they’re real thrash. Not just a bunch of kids fiddling around with early Metallica, but seasoned musicians who know their craft. Alexey also hits some powerful melodic choruses, which work to make the band’s music not only instrumentally proficient, but catchy as hell. Check “Empty Eyes 5:01” for example. While there’s just one unfortunate ballad on the disc called “Seeds Of Sorrow 5:59” it’s at least better than some ballads which mistakenly get put on thrash albums, I still have no idea what it’s doing on the disc though. Without it, the album would have been perfect.

So not only can these guys play well, they can also keep you entertained and wanting more. That’s unusual for thrash these days, especially when it’s in its traditional construct. People like to mix black and death metal elements in these days and that’s fine with me; but it’s rare that you get a good thrash for thrash’s sake act these days, and that’s just what Shadow Host are. They’ve got all the elements I care about in thrash metal; like pounding drums, screaming guitar solos, memorable vocals, and steroid injected song structures. With a sound this fucking good, Shadow Host should be more known among the metal community. They’ve certainly paid their dues to the gods of thrash with this disc and I’d be a fool to not recommend it. If you’re looking for thrash, ignore the headlines and check out this great import from Russia. What Vladimir’s doing in Crimea has nothing to do with these guys, so don’t let political motives get in the way of checking out awesome Russian bands like Shadow Host and Little Dead Bertha. Apocalyptic Symphony is absolutely fucking essential.

(10Tracks, 49:00)
9/10

Cultfinder - Hells Teeth

Cultfinder – Hell’s Teeth (PR2014) – Cultfinder are a blackened thrash act that sounds very much like The Crowned, but with a little bit more punk influence and some unfortunately rough edges. Just like The Crown, Cultfinder’s work is based in Satanism, devils, Hell and fire – but it’s just not as good as Hell Is Here or Deathrace King. Nekroskull plays punky Crown riffs while Rob Belial sounds like a demon with a lozenge in its throat. And Wilbrahammer is really not providing near the amount of kick that this record should have. Even though there’s some skill displayed on the disc and they show that they’ve got a suitable command of doom-influenced melody on standouts, “The Devil’s Whore 5:11” and “Morbid Breed 4:26” the album’s short spurt of an opener “All Conquering Death 2:54” doesn’t leave me with anything but boredom. However, you’ve also got “Drink To The Devil 4:50” which shows the band’s strongest performance on the disc, with an extremely catchy chorus. I guess the album grows on you after a while though, and on this second listen I don’t feel as apprehensive as I did during the first time. It’s obvious that Cultfinder have talent, they just haven’t gotten to a point where it’s been properly displayed. This is a nice little appetizer, but hopefully the main course will be much more appealing.

Highlights: The Devil’s Whore, Morbid Breed, Drink To The Devil (24:00)
7/10

SystemHouse33 - Depths Of Despair

SystemHouse33 – Depths Of Despair (PR2014) – Another band I don’t know all that much about, SystemHouse33 (I’ll just call them SH33 for short) seem to be a sort of djentcore act much in the vein of the million Meshuggah clones that I’ve already heard. The riffs structure and time signatures are all too familiar as the vocals come off a bit harsh, yet forceful. The drums also have a mechanical quality to them, but it’s all just so mechanical that these guys are practically a Meshuggah tribute band. There are sections where the band differs from that approach however, as they throw groove and rock elements in sometimes. “Resistance 4:13” has a bit of merit in its slower riffs, guitar solo and vocal gravel, but other than that; this album just doesn’t have much to offer those who like djent. If you like djent based music, you’ll probably love these guys and should check them out. But I’m tired of the djent trend and I only accept those kinds of riffs when they are used in conjunction with other riffs.

All in all, I was quite bored the first time that I heard SH33 and I’m quite bored with this second listen too. They just didn’t do it for me, because the progenitors of the sound (Meshuggah) are light years ahead of this. Remember Koloss? Anyway, it’s just not going to be enough to matter for me and is completely run of the mill. It’s not that SH33 aren’t trying, it’s that they just aren’t doing anything memorable enough for me to take notice. But again, if you like djent based metal in the vein of Meshuggah, then you would certainly like this band.

Highlights: Resistance (7 Tracks, 22:00)
5/10

The Gardnerz - Exiting Reality

The Gardnerz – Exiting Reality (PR2014) – The Gardnerz always make interesting doom and this two part piece is no different. Lyrically, the first part of the piece is about awakening to see things as how they are and how your actions affect those around you. The second part is a liberation from all that, a sort of closure.

The first piece is almost seven minutes long, (6:54) and it’s full of thick doom riffs, slight thrash and melody pieces as well as technicality and deadly gravel. One thing’s for sure, these guys have a hell of a frontman. There’s a few signs on the track that show they shouldn’t be using the clean vocals very much, but at least they’re trying to separate themselves from the rest of the pack with this interesting approach to doom/death. A nice (but not over the top) solo plays on the track as well, along with some Death influence later on in the piece. And we noticed it, guys. Damn, that solo is beautiful.

The second piece is almost five minutes long (4:53) and it opens right into technicality, already showing that the band wants to leave their “same old doom” notions far behind. But this could really work for them. As the riffs get a bit deeper and darker, My Dying Bride influence comes in on the vocal element as more of that prog-era Death influence comes in, complete with a little guitar jizz. Doom influences continue as the piece concludes.

The Gardnerz still have my interest, but as far as this release is concerned, there’s just not enough here to go on yet. I like what they’re showing me but I want to hear more. Eleven minutes just isn’t enough. I’d like to hear what these guys will do with thirty minutes or an hour-long full length recording. If they’re planning on really making a name for themselves and their “deadly doom” then I’m sure that a full album’s worth of material would surely cement their talent. I still recommend that you check this out, because it offers a nice bite of something grand. It’s like getting a small nibble of a delicious meal that’s currently being cooked as the chef offers it to you and says “taste.” This is just a “taste” of what they have to offer, but I’m still waiting on the gourmet meal to finish cooking.

By the way, you can get a free digital download of the piece at http://www.digmetalworld.com so be sure to give it a listen.

(2Tracks, 11:00)
7.5/10

Nechbeyth - Coerce Creed

Nechbeyth – Coerce Creed (PR2014) – Just by looking at the cover, I can tell that this is some kind of black metal. You’ve got an angel with a trumpet in his mouth, with a covered eye. I think I know what this could be referring to, as it seems to be a one-eyed salute. The first track “Intro and KSMT Oath 4:54” begins as an interesting intro, something about radiation catching people on fire and turning everything to dust – I think it was taken from a speech on a documentary. After the speech, some slightly hypnotic leads (which sometimes reach out into space) follow the path of thick frost and ominous drumming. But then “Ruination Conquest 4:54” comes in only decently. The drums seem to be a bit too thick in the mix, with the mix of gravel and scowl only audible throughout the fog of drums and guitars. I can’t stand the ultra-low-fi quality of bands like this, as it’s extremely hard to hear what the hell is going on. But it certainly sounds fucking chaotic if you like the sound of that. I’ve just heard much of this before. Alright, so “Eradication Vertex 4:42” is next, sounding just like the same fog as the last track. As a matter of fact, I was just told to shut my door as it was interfering with the television in the next room. The commenter said “it sounds like a bunch of static” and I said, “yeah, exactly.”

Without saying much more about this album, I can assure you that if you do indeed enjoy ravenous carnage and static, then you will fall head over heels in love with Nechbeyth. I wouldn’t personally care if I ever heard them again, as this is pretty fucking rough on the ears personally and I maybe if they get the storm worked out on their next album, it might be bearable. but this is an MLP rip, which might mean that the disc sounds much better on a vinyl record. Once again, if you like your music entirely chaotic, then definitely pick up this shitstorm of madness and fog. Yes, fog. This album sounds like the studio in which these guys recorded this thing could have been on fire. So check this out if the sounds of infernal chaos be your bag. It be not mine. At least, not in this fashion.

Highlights: Intro + KSMT Oath, Lynch Directive (22:00)
4/10

Ribspreader - Meathymns

Ribspreader – Meathymns (PR2014) – Ribspreader is nothing new for The Grim Tower. We’ve been reviewing their discs for quite a while and this year’s Meathymns is no different. The only thing that I really regret on this album is its cover. The evil looking Jesus image trying to take a bite out of himself is interesting; but I was really kind of surprised (and upset) that an album called Meathymns didn’t actually consist of a series of death metal based hymns to meat. I also think that a better design for the cover would’ve been an entire church sanctuary made completely of meat, with meat people wearing meat clothes, bowing before a cross made of meat. It should have also been one of those kind of albums that small like something, perhaps freshly cooked steak with seasoning. But then again, I don’t think that Ribspreader would want you to literally eat their music, hence the warning “Do Not Eat!” on the back cover of the disc. Nevertheless, it probably would make you want to go cook a steak after a while. Of course, I don’t know how well that would do in a record shop either as you’d have employees or customers constantly getting the urge to buy steaks by the pound. Damn, I’m getting hungry just by writing this interview. As a matter of fact, the very song Meathymns makes me think that someone is grilling steaks in space. That’s fine, just as long as they bring one down here for me to munch on.

As for the album, it’s Ribspreader and you should know by now what to expect from these guys. Its traditional Swedish death metal in the most traditional and grueling sense imaginable. Think Grave and Entombed on this one, because that’s what you’re getting. Regurgitation perhaps? But who literally cares? Ribspreader gives us the same fearsome approach that they’ve always offered, dating back to the early history of traditional death metal. Thick grooves, pummeling drums, vocal gravel and sometimes a solo or two. Now there’s one song on the disc that goes above the normal “less than three-minute mark” of this album, but “Skeletonized 5:13” doesn’t add the extra time for clean vocals, or pianos or even melodic riff melodies. There might be a hint of technicality on the disc in places, but for the most part this is how death metal sounds. If you want to show a kid what death metal is, just hand them a copy of Meathymns. Yeah buddy, that’s what real death metal vocals sound like, not the stomach punches that you’ve been hearing.

(9Tracks, 32:00)
8/10

Unsacred Seed - Frontiers

Unsacred Seed – Frontiers (BR2014) – Unsacred Seed are an experimental melodic death metal act who also incorporate electronics into the mix. But the first thing that you’ll notice on the album is just how thick the gravel is, making Frontiers sound more like the brutal death style of classic Cryptopsy or Cannibal Corpse than the style that you’d expect for metal with as much melody as has been shown here. There’s also a screamer on the disc, but they seem to duet throughout much of it as the guitars work to decorate the chunky drum work and meaty bass riffs that seem to place this music in between Swedish melodic death metal and American brutal death metal. It’s an odd mix that works and should definitely appeal to fans of both genres respectively.

Now I will say that because these two different styles (namely, the amount of melody and immense brutality) are being mixed together in such an odd fashion, there’s just a little bit that gets lost in the mix. We lose some guitar melodies to the hammering drums in “The Gods Themselves 5:59” but with the next track, “Eyes Of The Universe 4:43” these kinds of melodies are showcased a bit better, at least in the beginning. The production is just a little rough this time around, but there’s no doubt that these guys have talent and I’d certainly like to hear where they’ll go in the future. I have a love/hate relationship with “Temporal Distortions 5:22” however, because I feel that too much of the bro-core vocal approach is used on the song, despite some awesome melodies. If they could have switched out the gut-punch vocal with the screams, I would have more respect for the track as a whole. Come on guys, that’s like putting dirt in my ice water.

At any rate, I do believe that with multiple listens, the amazement of this album will surely be felt; as such with the wondrous closing melodies of “The Watchers 5:38” (because if you’re not affected by that, then you don’t have ears) and several other breathtaking passages that breathe between the fierce bouts of interstellar carnage on the disc. Lyrically, the album is based on many scientific ideas (and science fiction elements) in addition to metaphysical themes, but these ideas come off so violently that even if you don’t care for the lyrics, you’ll certainly dig the approach that the album has to offer. I haven’t heard anything like this before, to be honest. These guys can literally light the universe on fire when they’re not pounding it with a meteor shower. Heavy as fuck, yet also beautifully rendered; this is one hell of an album. Definitely get your hands on it when it comes out. There’s no way that you’ll be regretting traveling through these frontiers.

(8Tracks, 44:00)
9/10

Pavillon Rouge - Legio Axis Ka

Pavillon Rouge – Legio Axis Ka (BR2014) – French electronic black metallers Pavillon Rouge are at it again with a brand new album of industrial mayhem. From listening to the disc, I am somewhat reminded of their fellow countrymen in The CNK, with even the same militaristic sensibilities intact. In some ways it sounds empirical, but that’s not when it sounds increasingly melodic and scathingly harsh at the same time. The electronic drumming helps the band to sound like a truly authentic mix of electronics and black metal and that is most important to me. Because there are several bands who claim to mix the two, with the metal being a heavier element than the electronics. So these gentlemen did it right and created a noticeable and agreeable balance between the two. Could you dance to something like this at a rave? Possibly. Tracks like “Droge Mach Frei 4:44” certainly have a bit of a dance-beat to them, not to mention a flying guitar solo or two (because why not, folks?) to keep things interesting. The question is; would you do some kind of weird headbang-dance to this kind of music? I don’t know the logistics for that exactly, but I know that I would certainly attempt it.

The fierce militarisms in “Mars Stella Patria 5:45” are certainly recognizable, especially with the backing for the track sounding like a melodic take on Skinny Puppy. Which I’ve got no qualms against. There’s actually a bit of German industrial grooves on “L’enfer Sait, L’enfer Se Souvient 4:35” as well as slow churning gears and whining guitars on “Pedre Le Jour 4:55” which really goes deep into black metal. Then we have “Kosmos Ethikon 3:42” which as you might expect, sounds quite atmospheric and features the whispering winds of space, as well as thumping dance grooves. This song is mostly instrumental, but it shows just how talented these guys are at making a dance-club ready piece that’s actually quite memorable. Oddly enough, the beginning of “Notre Paradis 3:12” has a rhythm that makes me think of Tupac’s classic “Gangsta’s Paradise.” But I’m not sure that was intentional. However, all they would really need to do for a cover version of this classic rap hit albeit with a more atmospheric and threatening notion would be to scream out the original lyrics for the song. People might actually get into that, as funny as it might seem. Ten Masked Men tried it after all. (On second listen, those are the actual lyrics for the song, just not the rapped parts – would like to hear the rapped parts; maybe I can see that live? But hey, I’m a vocalist; so I could just add those into the track and see how the full cover might have sounded in scowled raps.) “Legio Axis Ka 1:22” is just a short and slightly orchestral interlude that comes right before the dancey black metal of “Klux Santhur 4:34” which ends the disc on a melancholic note, replete with violins and speeches. There are many speeches spread throughout the album, but unfortunately I can’t understand French all that well, so even though I’d like to understand what they’re saying and the philosophy behind this piece, I can’t. But I’m not going to give them points off for that, because it wouldn’t make sense in retrospect.

I actually think that Legio Axis Ka is a step up from the band’s previous effort and shows that Pavillon Rouge is evolving into something far more interesting than what they showed on their last disc. Though that disc was more black metal than this one, I feel that this disc is truer to the electronic/industrial sound that the band was going for and it sounds more realized than the last album did. On the other hand, those of you who preferred things a little more frost-bitten might be upset with some of the things done on the disc. But I’m quite pleased with what has been offered here. Definitely give it a shot if you like electronic/industrial music and black metal, as well as memorable and unexpected melodies. So far, I think it’s my favorite disc from them yet.

Highlights: L’enfer Sait L’enfer Se Souvient, Aurore Et Nemesis, Pedre Le Jour, Droge Mach Frei, Kosmos Ethikon, Notre Paradis, Klux Santhur (11 Tracks, 48:00)
8/10

Nocturnal Breed - Napalm Nights

Nocturnal Breed – Napalm Nights (PR2014) – The band’s first album in seven years finally comes upon us as a successor to the band’s previous release, Fields Of Rot and the band consists of former and present members of Dimmu Borgir, Satyricon, Aeternus and Gehenna, who have each (with the exception of Aeternus) released absolutely horrible records as of late. Apparently, these guys knew when it was time to book it; and when they finally did come together to make this album, it was all worth it. Nocturno Culto guests on the black/thrasher “Speedkrieg 4:55” and also does some backing vocals on a few other tracks.

Now as far as the album as whole is concerned, it’s very much a mix of black and thrash metal; but not so much of a strictly black/thrash album. For instance, the opener “The Devil Swept The Ruins 5:27” features a bit more groove and thrash than it does speed as well as some rather light-hearted and classical solo sections towards the end of the track. Most black/thrash sounds exactly like “Speedkrieg 4:55” which is good with Nocturno Culto’s addition of course; but as far as the song is concerned, it’s quite basic. “Cursed Beyond Recognition 6:51” features some great opening leads, as it definitely rolls right into black metal realms. So far, this band has shown me three tracks which are each completely different from each other. And that’s a memorable effort that’s worth waiting seven years for. “The Bitch Of Buchenwald 4:19” sounds a bit like Im-motorhead, while the nearly thirteen minute long title track (12:52) features some prog tinkering and technical stuff with a vocal approach that’s a mix between a high pitch Rob Halford and a scathing notion used in most black metal. But the frontman is not only capable of this approach, as he demonstrates other vocal styles on this record. “Thrashiac 5:50” plays with basic thrash, but with a more invigorated vocal scorn, making the frontman sound like he’s royally pissed about thrashing. The next three tracks just thrash, while the closer “Krigshisser (D.N.K.) is pure black metal and not even one bit thrash. It’s not expected, but it’s welcomed. These are some of the best in the business doing a tribute to what has now become a classic approach to black metal. So of course it sounds good.

Without saying much more about the songs, I can already affirm the fact that Napalm Nights is a truly great fucking record, from guys who are still trying to prove that they’ve got it. Maybe all three of the bands that put out shit this year, which these guys were apart should take a look at this album and see how well they’ve done with these classic styles – instead of going opera with Dimmu Borgir, maybe we should go back to fucking black metal. Maybe instead of the slow and droning tirades which composed the current Gehenna and Satyricon albums, both should go back to black metal. Satyr only made “Phoenix” a single because it was the only decent song on that whole fucking album and my friend nearly wrecked his vehicle while falling asleep to Gehenna’s Unravel. We could have literally blamed his death on such an awful album. And this is why Nocturnal Breed sounds so good right now. These guys sound like they know what they’re doing, and that’s because they’re doing what they know. You listen to these guys and tell that they weren’t in the mood to make slow and boring tirades or operatic froth; they just had to because that was the image. Give any of these guys an instrument and they’ll show you here on Napalm Nights what kind of music they’re capable of making. You know what? Even if the new Dimmu Borgir is loaded to the brim with djent riffs and deathcore vocals, I’ll be able to turn back and look at this little release on a small label like Agonia records and smile. Because I know with Napalm Nights, the true talents of these men have been displayed to immaculate perfection. Get off your ass and get this motherfucking album right now. You’ll enjoy listening to it while you build a campfire to burn your copies of Ahadabra, Satyricon and Unravel. Nocturnal Breed is what metal is supposed to be.

Highlights: The Devil Swept The Ruins, Speedkrieg, Cursed Beyond Recognition, Napalm Nights, Krigshisser (D.N.K.) (10 Tracks, 64:00)
9/10

Sammal - No 2

Sammal – No. 2 (PR2014) – Finnish prog rockers Sammal make rather cheery prog rock on their second record, entitled No. 2. The label describes them as a sort of best friend, making you think of them as a sort of band to pick you up in bad times. But yeah, that’s kind of what they are. Not all music has to be quite so vicious, nor melancholy; and sometimes it’s nice to chill out and relax to a fun prog rock act like these guys. “Vankina Varisten 3:23” sounds like a groovy little prog rock party, complete with elements of folk music. “Pelin Taikaa 3:00” brings in the fuzzy keyboards as well as a smoke friendly atmosphere, so smoke it if you’ve got it. “Tuuli Kuljettaa 5:57” slows things down a little, as it takes things down a more somber route; but that eventually picks up into a keyboard backed joyride through the forest. “Neito Maan 4:24” makes me think I’m on a tropical island somewhere, which would be nice. There’s also a bit of folk instruments on here as well, so it’s a tropical island with folk elements. The last track is “Tahdelle Kuolemaan 4:00” ends the disc with a bit of a melancholic moment, but it’s slightly backed by the use of light-hearted instruments which help the thing to sound a bit more inviting.

Yeah, Sammal’s second release has a slight mix of cheery and somber moments. However, they make sure that even the more downtrodden of these aren’t complete whine fests. There’s still plenty of healthy prog rock here, as well as jovial keyboards and some wonderfully playful guitars. If you’re in the mood for something to relax you after a rough day, then put on the pleasant sounds of this release, which probably goes rather well with something else, if you get my drift.

(5Tracks, 20:00)
7/10

Portal - For All That Is Damned To Vanish

Portal (Swe) – For All That Is Damned To Vanish (PR2014) – As I’ve denoted, this isn’t the Portal you think it is. Instead, it’s a Swedish melodeath effort that goes by the same name and will probably have to get changed eventually, due to the popularity of the other act. It even says Portal on the cover with the letters “swe” directly after the band’s logo. These guys must really like the name Portal, because they’re fighting to keep it. The album itself is relatively short however, and only offers about seven minutes over a half-hour of music. But what is offered on this disc is worth checking out. “In The Steps Of Forgotten Gods 4:32” came in like a sledgehammer with its fierce drumming and its influence from bands like Kataklysm and Amon Amarth as most notable. There’s a slight groove-jam portion in the song too, which keeps things interesting. Additionally, the song doesn’t keep the same style for long and welcomes clean vocals in places, showing that they also took some influence from Amorphis. All in all, quite a warm welcome. Groove death opens “The Grand Gesture 3:34” as it takes a dive into sorrowful, yet memorable realms. “On Far Trails 3:53” keeps the formula moving, as the band’s pummeling also ties into its heavily varied structure, which makes these guys sound incredibly fucking tight. At about the 2:35-2:42 mark, something is going on with the guitars and drums that I can’t even describe. These guys have remarkable talent this early on, which is worth taking note of.

The album is chock full of amazingly tight, melodic and vicious numbers; making me think that there’s really something here and I’d like to see it further flourish. Though the band has yet to really change their overall tempo, (I’d like to hear what they do with something slower, like in the vein of Amon Amarth’s “Amon Amarth” or “Where Silent Gods Stand Guard” for example) what they’ve offered is a definitely strong effort that’s recommended for any fan of traditional melodic death metal. It’s not filled with bright melodies, but there are some lighter riffs on the piece that allude to that sense of melody. For the most part though, the disc is crushing, matching the cover image quite well. Though I would consider this a solid album, I think that it’s still worth picking up and examining. Once again, there’s something definitely here and I think with further efforts, this band may fully mature into something really fucking memorable. They’ve already left a mark on me with this one; I just need to hear more variation to see everything that Portal is capable of. And please, change the name. These musical structures are so tight that someone’s going to take notice of them, so when that happens it would be less of a legal hassle to just pick out something else for the band’s moniker. Besides, you don’t want to have your fans thinking you’re Portal, as they make a completely different style of music that’s not even in the same category. That’s like me picking Opeth (US). It’s not going to work for long and belittles your talent. So please, remedy this as I’m sure I’m not the only one who has harped on it. A band with as much potential as is found on For All That Is Doomed To Banish should not be forced to live in the shadow of another, more famous band. The effort on this record is quite clearly, much better than that. I certainly recommend that you give this album a listen.

(9Tracks, 37:00)
8/10

Omnizide - Death Metal Holocaust

Omnizide – Death Metal Holocaust (PR2014) – With vocals by Nox of Craft and music written by Anders of Avsky, this new album and collected EP comes off a fierce torrent of Swedish black/death. “Rotting Flesh Parade 4:36” serves as a slimy opener to the disc, complete with thick drum work and murky guitars. The whole thing sounds like it was recorded in a dark and dusty basement somewhere, but that lends to its charm. The thing feels warm and acidic, which is how you want this music to sound and you know it. “No Remorse 2:27” comes in thumping just the same, with the continued Nox’s continued snake-like rasp. I’m actually quite surprised that there weren’t snakes in the basement where they recorded this thing, as I figured these vocals might be a sort of sadistic mating call. But once again, that’s what we want. Expectedly, the sense of black metal overpowers the sense of death metal on the record; even though both approaches can be felt on the disc. And is that punk I’m hearing on “Monolith 3:37?” Yeah, I think there were a few punk riffs on the track, but you’ll have to listen closely. “The Eternally Damned 5:08” gives a nice big slice o’ doom, complete with the vocal venom, which as I’ve said would lure snakes right out from the nearby swamps. “Crystals Of Death 4:16” sounds like a death metal track with black metal vocals and that’s perfectly fine, as “Dead Planet 3:10” brings about mass brooding brutality, with the same vocal approach. “Damnatio Ad Bestias 3:05” continues that brutal approach right through to the album’s technical closer, “Nuclear Strike 5:06” which sounds like a punky sort of black metal, when it’s not adding in groove elements and such. And that’s the end of the band’s main record.

The EP consisted of just two main tracks, the title track “Pleasure From Death 4:45” which starts with people getting slaughtered by a knife, as even rougher production value comes into focus. This is good though, as makes for an even warmer release. Nox sounds much different on this album, he sounds like what would happen if you scowled into a fan. It’s kind of a common approach to some bands however. As for the track, it’s got a heavy thrash influence as well as some punky and black metal elements and a rocking solo. It basically says, “here’s our influences and what we’re capable of” which is what the EP was intended to do in the first place. “Desecration Art 4:55” is the last track on the EP and on this disc as a whole. It seems to use the sound effects of someone digging in the rain, possibly a grave of some sort. As the melodies come in, we’re greeted to bleaker passages and what sounds like a normal black metal affair, with a little bit of doom pushed into the mix. But there’s nothing wrong with that at all. It sounds fine to me and works well with the song.

I really feel that there’s a lot to offer on this one, especially if you like the older approaches to death and black metal. It really sounds like death metal done by black metallers and that’s exactly what it is supposed to be. If you don’t think your death metal is black enough, then I’m sure that Omnizide can help you with that. These guys have done a phenomenal job with this metal transmutation and it leaves you with an overall approach that captures the mood and doesn’t lead to boredom. It’s also not that long of a disc, even shorter without the added EP tracks. Nevertheless, Omnizide didn’t need a large platter to display their talents. This small plate of festering snake carcasses drenched in tar with a side of nails and whiskey laced with cyanide is just enough to satisfy your taste for metal at its most unforgiving.

(10Tracks, 41:00)
8/10

Morfin - Innoculation

Morfin – Innoculation (PR2014) – California’s Morfin sounds like Death, Gorguts and Skeletal Remains. Skeletal Remains also sounds like Death, so that means that Morfin sounds pretty much like Death and Gorguts. But I’ve yet to hear the Gorguts, unless this is earlier Gorguts we’re talking about. Not surprisingly, there’s also a cover of Death’s “Leprosy 5:20” on the disc. The frontman puts on his best Schuldiner, while the drummer pounds and the guitarists put on their best Death tribute riffs. Also not surprisingly, the same studio (Executer Studio) that recorded these guys also recorded Skeletal Remains. This means that there’s an early Death revival movement in California. These guys are literally making more early era Death records, more or less. But there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when they’re done right. To be honest, these guys don’t miss a beat. Whether it’s speedy tracks like “Dark Creator 5:43” or blistering numbers like “Cryostasis 3:34” or slower numbers like “Lethal Progeny 4:22”, these guys continue to prove why Death really started the whole sub-genre movement in the first damn place. I’ll also have to be honest with you and say that there’s no new ground covered on this album either. Well, maybe the oddity of “Primordial 1:13” seems a bit out of place, but for the most part; it’s Death, Death and more Death. I mean, it’s Morfin, Morfin and more Morfin.

You know what? They’ve got this tribute band to Death playing as headliners (for even Septic Flesh, believe it or not) for Hellfest this year. But maybe France should look to this movement right in the USA for its headliners. Not only can these guys play old Death songs, they also managed to write new ones in the same style and that’s interesting enough for a tribute band I think, what about you? The bottom line is, if you’re looking for classic Death and you don’t actually want to hear Death; then check out Morfin. They’re just as good as Skeletal Remains and Death during that particular period of their legendary career.

(10Tracks, 44:00)
8/10

Godhunter - City Of Dust

Godhunter – City Of Dust (PR2014) – Godhunter bring along a dirty dose of sludge that’s just about as raw and unhinged as possible. On my first listen, I really didn’t understand the vocals. The frontman has a really muddy approach, slightly hardcore gut-punch, but a little thicker than that; making for something that actually works well with the ungodly thick fucking leads and occasional bits of groove and blues that you’ll hear on the disc. The band’s photos show that they’ve toured with Clutch and they seem a good fit for that kind of tour, but make no mistake – these guys sound fucking violent as hell. That frontman is pissed, and if you read the lyrics (and I’ve never seen lyrics with so many footnotes) you can understand why. But I get it myself, the whole fucking country is falling apart; while the planet is sick and everything that can go to shit is going to shit. And if you understood anything about inflation, you’d know that the minimum wage increase is going to cause even more inflation, which could bankrupt the country, even though to be fucking honest we need it right now.

The dusty desert landscape that this album’s cover portrays does well to describe the massacre that has been recorded on this disc, and there’s no doubt that sludge fans will love it. There’s even an ode to Lovecraft on here called “Rats In The Walls 4:52” which you should have definitely read by now. I also feel that “Snake Oil Dealer 7:17” could become a sludge classic for the band, something that they probably would play live almost every night. There’s just something about this song that sees the grime done right. The song that follows it (“Shooting Down The Sun 4:44”) however, is another story. It’s a clean vocal acoustic that requires a night-time light show provided by your lighters, I mean phones. That way the band can get plenty of radiation while performing the track. (You did know that cell phones contain radiation, right? I always use the speaker due to that fact.) While there isn’t a whole lot of real variety on here other than the acoustic, it’s still a strong sludge disc that I think fans of the genre are really going to dig and add to their list of favorite sludge acts immediately. At any rate, Godhunter shows how our society is heading towards the dusty desert portrayed on the cover and they do it as angrily as possible. If that interests you, then pick it up.

Highlights: Snake Oil Dealer, Plague Window (8 Tracks, 49:00)
8/10

Chaos - Violent Redemption

Chaos – Violent Redemption (PR2014) – Don’t know a whole lot about Chaos, but what I can say is that they’re a promising little modern thrash act that actually manages to do something more than most with the little bit over a half an hour that this disc spans. “Torn 2:45” didn’t offer much, but “Game 3:00” showed me how catchy these guys can be, which is a good thing right off the bat. “War Crime 3:04” shows how pissed off they can be, complete with a screaming frontman who seems to fit in perfectly with all the strange turns that this song takes. We’ve got some groove moments, some technical moments and even some punk if you listen hard enough. An ominous melody struggles for air however, just before the solo that picks up where it failed. But hey, just because the ominous melody faltered, doesn’t mean that there isn’t enough here to convince me of the band’s skill. “Saint 3:42” goes right into chug, showing me that these guys aren’t afraid to play around in Pantera territory. Alright, now while you guys might not dig the core approach to the screams here, it’s tough to deny there isn’t emotion put behind the piece. Longest song on the disc is “Heaven’s Gate 5:37” which shows me some promising drum work from the very start. Song gets a little more core than thrash, inviting a somber acoustic in right before some soloing. It’s kind of weird really… Chaos sounds like Dillinger if they played thrash. “Backlash 2:50” throws in some down-tuned riffs and a catchy chorus. This one might get the radio, but only at a certain time of the day. “Merchant Of Death 2:25” continues this odd approach to thrash metal, while “Self-Deliverance 2:38” doesn’t mind hammering down the nails. In addition, there’s also some nice riffs on it. You will find some very interesting riffs throughout the disc, which lead into some rather vigorous solos. It’s not difficult to see that these guys can play, but I think they’re holding back just a bit and I’d like to see them unrestrained. What can you guys do with ten minutes of playing time? Answer me that. “Cyanide Salvation 2:55” offers some more catchy material and memorable solos here and there, while the closer and title track; “Violent Redemption 2:03” offers the band at their fiercest and later shows some Pantera influence.

So basically, Chaos is dumping all of their influences into one massively large pot as they continue to stir the mixture until almost nothing is able to be discerned as a copy. You’ll hear bits of Slayer, Trivium, Dillinger and Pantera throughout the mix, but there’s nothing on the disc that shows the band stagnant and sticking to the tired approach of following their peers. Violent Redemption shows me that Chaos want to be much more than an ordinary retro thrash act, and a huge label could pick them up tomorrow. It’s definitely marketable, hip and catchy. Problem is; I don’t think that too many of the seasoned metal fans are going to care much for it. That’s fine however, as there are plenty of younger metalheads out there who may find themselves banging their heads right along with it. To be honest, this is probably what Trivium should have done instead of that crappy modern melodic metal album that they put out last year. Too bad that Chaos beat them to it, and to that effect; Chaos will reap the rewards. If this sounds like something you’ll be into, then go check it out. It’s an almost solid appetizer that’s certainly noteworthy in most respects.

Highlights: War Crime, Backlash, Merchant Of Death, Violent Redemption (11 Tracks, 32:00)
7.5/10

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