Week 108 (April 10, 2014)

Not much to say, sorry I’m late! Enjoy Week 108!

NightSatan - Nightsatan And The Loops Of Doom

NightSatan – Nightsatan And The Loops Of Doom (2014 SPOTLIGHT) – You just can’t describe NightSatan. It’s something that you have to experience. Not just the music, but the film. Both are something that I’ve never witnessed before and was presently surprised with each. Though this “soundtrack” of sorts is much longer than the short film that it is based upon, these three Finnish instrumental synth rock masters certainly know how to bring about the absolute best, with a sound that is calming; yet foreboding. It provides an incredible atmosphere that you’ve got to hear to believe and there’s really nothing on the album that doesn’t prove that point. Whether it be the short twinkling of “Mazathoth Speaks 1:21” or the longest track on the disc, “Rejects Of The Wasteland 6:46” it can be assured that the spacey, post-apocalyptic electronica that you’re hearing is made with careful precision and strong attention to detail. You know, I just can’t describe this album – it’s something that you have to listen to for yourself, to absorb it’s quiet meditations and search for hidden meanings within. I can’t promise that you’ll all fall head over heels for it in the way that the crystalline subtlety of “Secret Of The Mystery 5:54” has affected me, but I know that some of you will be pleasantly surprised. The band came out with an earlier record called Metal Laser and it’s nowhere to be found really, but this second release is tempting enough to make me want to track it down. Anyone who loves video game soundtracks, or electronica, or even 80’s film scores will find something extremely clever and timeless here. Truth be told, people just don’t make this kind of music anymore and it’s refreshing to see it flushed back into the clogged drains of human crafted artistic sound. In other words, music. While you could use it to lull yourself to sleep, there’s just something in this disc that makes you want to stay awake throughout the entire performance. It very much is the kind of disc that you can play again and again, that you could literally wear out from listening to once a night while the moon hangs in the sky and the world around you is in a state of twilight. You could also use it as a brilliant atmosphere to write really anything. I do believe that this is the kind of music that sparks creativity and it might even do something intriguing to human brainwave patterns.

So whether you watch the film (of the same name) first, or decide to listen to the soundtrack first; either experience is quite memorable and I don’t think that you’ll keep either of them too far from memory. There’s an untapped and unrecognized talent in these three gentlemen that the world has yet to fully witness. And frankly, I think that this is just the start of it. Without a doubt, Night Satan And The Loops Of Doom is an absolute must for 2014.

(14Tracks, 47:00)

I Am Heresy - Thy Will

I Am Heresy – Thy Will (2014) – According to the advert I’ve got in my hand, I Am Heresy is supposed to be an “apocalyptic wall of sound that mixes shimmering black metal melodies and vicious negativity with dark yet mesmerizing acoustic elements.” The band also features some guy by the name of Nathan Gray from BoySetsFire. But as far as I can tell, this is a mixture of core, post metal and something that might resemble black metal if you pretentiously say it does. It’s easy to play melancholic post metal melodies and use core screams that might appear to be black metal, but it’s definitely not the way you want to market your band. I mean, come on. “March Of Black Earth 4:33” has a radio friendly chorus and would sit fine with any fan of modern music.

For the sake of science however, let’s just roll through the album and see if I can hear some tremolo riffs. How about “Destruction Anthems 3:10?” Certainly sounds appealing. Nope. This sounds like a punky Converge with darkened riffs. Hmm… The beginning of “Thy Will II: Black Sun Omega 3:30” started out with some promising gallops, but didn’t evolve the way I thought. Whoever this Nathan Gray is, he must have listened to Mayhem and thought how great they would sound with clean vocal choruses. There’s even some Tool influence on the track, as well as your core breakdown. Seriously? This is being marketed as black metal? The hordes are not moved by this statement. Alright, “Blasphemy Incarnate 3:07” has to be it. That’s like the quintessential black metal track moniker. Unfortunately, it’s just another post-core freakout.

I don’t suppose I have to tell you that I didn’t really find any real tremolo riffs on the entire album. Nothing. Not a one. Not even close. If you like Converge though, you’ll find something here. But then again, these guys have that radio friendly feel to them that makes me think a radio band just decided to see how heavy they could get (Linkin Park is playing straight thrash now though, so I’m sure more of these changes will occur in the future) while still keeping the elements that would allow them to be accessible by the masses. It’s a record that will sell and be played by those who enjoy this sort of aggressive punk/core sort of thing, but I’ve heard it all before and better. If these guys want to really mix core and black metal, they should take a hint from Bleeding Through who did a great job of it on The Declaration. Did I mention that not even one of these tracks encroach the five minute mark? Yeah, because the radio won’t play them if they’re too long. Judging by that statement alone, you can tell where the band is coming from. All in all, Thy Will is decent, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

(13Tracks, 41:00)

Vanden Plas - Chronicles Of The Immortals Netherworld

Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld (2014) – Let’s start this by saying that I’ve never heard a Vanden Plas album before. I’m sure they’ve been around for a long time, but I never really got acquainted with them. From the very start of the album, I can tell that this is a large concept album of sorts as a man with a voluminous vocal narrates the opener “4:02.” As orchestral influence finally gives way to metal on “The Black Knight 8:50”, we’re approached by a grandiose sense of power metal, replete with the mark of Symphony X style prog-riffs. I’m actually hearing a mid-era Symphony X exercise on this track, which isn’t such a bad thing. The track also lets up for some wonderfully melodic choral portions. The band’s frontman certainly has a memorable voice and goes well with the performance offered here. Guitar solos dip in later to accentuate the track as it escapes into moments of atmosphere. “Godmaker 5:37” brings in thrash chugs and unholy synths, making it a triumphant march for the final boss of nearly any video game. It later employs seventies keyboard theatrics as well as light melodies and a James Labrie sense of things on the vocal end. Not too shabby at all. After a short piano interlude and duet with female vocals, “Misery Affection (Prelude) 1:43” goes right into “A Ghost’s Requiem 4:06” which strips the metal for even more piano, violins and a choir. Guitars come in later, but it might be too late for some who’d rather just skip it and head right into “New Vampyre 6:32.” On this track, electronics are employed which gives the music a slightly different feel. But it’s not too different, as it still sounds like symphonic metal. The keyboards have a bit of fun as the track moves right into a progressive metal frenzy and demonstrates superior musicianship as it then heads into a soft rock atmosphere (backed by electronics) which of course rolls back into the chorus.

“The King And The Child Of Lost World 8:12” comes next, continuing to demonstrate the progressive prog power symphonics – and as you can see, they’ve got another large chunk of time in which to demonstrate these. Sounding more like Dream Theater than Symphony X, this has a rather interesting opening. The chorus of the piece is backed by piano, but then goes right back into the Dream Theater stylings from which it began. There’s an odd middle portion on the track which I don’t understand, but then soft rock atmosphere continues for most of the piece until we have our big solo and a slight prog theatric. The chorus is more potent in refrain however and should serve as icing on this progressive power metal cake. “Misery Affection 5:22” continues where the prelude left off, as it extends the male and female vocal duet piece. There’s piano and light drums for most of the piece and it contains that soft rock feel throughout. “Soul Alliance 6:56” brings in the orchestration and gets right back into the metal side of things. The album closes out with “Inside 6:59” which really serves as a sort of a finale and closes out the disc with a sort of heavy grandiosity.

Vanden Plas offer a strong package here, but I think that it might just be a bit more melodic and soft-natured than some people would want. There’s almost twenty minutes of this album that have no metal elements whatsoever and for some listeners, that’s too much time for a metal record to dawdle in other ideas. Classical and opera fans might appreciate this one however, as it generates enough pomp and grace to appeal to their exclusive tastes. But for the rest of us, it might just be better to stick to something with a little bit more muscle.

Highlight: The Black Knight, Godmaker, New Vampyre, The King And The Children Of The Lost World (10 Tracks, 58:00)

Wet - One Live - In Stockholm

Wet – One Live – In Stockholm (2014) – This live concert from AOR supergroup W.E.T. is just what the doctor ordered if you’re still under the assumption that the days of hair are not dead in metal. And lucky for you, as you get eighteen full length tracks and two brand new studio songs spread out on two separate discs. Since I’m not familiar with the music of W.E.T. I can’t really tell you whether or not a hit transferred as well on the stage as it did on the record, but I have researched this concert album enough to discover that the album also contains several cuts from the previous bands before the merger. So take that as extra incentive to check it out. As far as the performance is considered, it certainly sounds of a high quality, with the vocals being full of vigor and the guitar melodies rising high into the skies. Chorus after chorus hits the listener in the face, filled with dozens of magical earworms that don’t leave the brain as soon as they enter through the ear canal. Some of the later tracks on the disc feature a little more heaviness, but still match the AOR quality. I think that fans of bands like Edguy and Magnum will find something here to like and it’s not quite as corny as Def Leppard. The disc offers plenty of sing-along moments and an ultimately memorable performance that should vastly appeal to fans.

The disc also contains two studio cuts, which are “Poison (Numbing The Pain) 4:26” which I didn’t even want to listen to, because now I’ve got it stuck in my head. There’s no way in hell you can get that chorus out of you head. But what’s even more catchy, is the second track and album closer, “Bigger Than The Both Of Us 3:56.” I’m sorry, but this is fucking great love song and you can crucify me for saying that. And it really warms up after a few more minutes of stewing. Say what you want, these guys know how to write some insanely catchy AOR and I’d vastly prefer it to the pop crap that surrounds the US. But I’m an eighties kid after all, so maybe it’s just engrained in my brain. Whatever the case, if you’re into AOR and not afraid to admit it, then go pick up this concert performance right now. It’s love with guitars.

(21Tracks, 100:00)

Grey Skies Fallen - The Many Sides Of Truth

Grey Skies Fallen – The Many Sides Of Truth (2014) – What we’ve got here sounded at first like a post-prog metal act quite comparable to Junius, but that changed without warning. At midway through the first track, “Ritual Of The Exiter 9:45” came in with blazing black metal drums and harsh vocal elements that the first portion of the song could’ve never foreshadowed, followed by some crunchy doom and prophetic synths. It’s an intriguing mixture in all actuality, which takes a slight interlude in the electronic mist of “Unroot Transparent Being 2:53” and continues to dazzle in the bombast of “The Flame 7:10.” Harsh, yet melancholic vocals continue throughout this track, accompanied by a bit of melodic gloom and a definite bite of black metal. So already, that makes three different sides of the band in a little less than twenty minutes. There’s of course, an atmosphere to break up the monotony (but these things are really getting monotonous in themselves, it’s starting to feel like nearly ever band with a track longer than five minutes has to implement some sort of soft acoustic part) and that atmosphere continues to the end of the track. “Of The Ancients 6:32” begins with piano, yet also adds a bit of an industrial feel in the percussion section which ultimately makes it unique from the material offered before. The vocals turn back into clean as doom riffs now bellow forth from the armory. There’s definitely a death/doom thing going on here, as gothic keyboards and My Dying Bride riffs take the stage. The next interlude begins with “Isolation Point 2:43” which is surprisingly bright and beautiful, definitely contrasting the mood of the previous number by a mile. “End Of My Rope 7:16” however, tries to elicit the same death/doom style as “Of The Ancients” but it does it in a more modern way that doesn’t sound genuine. These guys sound too much like inexperienced kids on this track and I hope they don’t ever choose to pursue this style any further. What in the hell were they thinking? Clearly, from the material that I’ve been offered already; these guys are far better than the first four minutes of this. They do try some intriguing progressive sections in the middle, and wrap up into another atmosphere which brings with it a much brighter and more mature section. That’s perfectly fine, but why begin it with such immaturity? The album ends with the light acoustic of “Winter Hand 1:35.” I think it’s a good place to close the album and seems to suffice well enough.

Grey Skies Fallen can be anything they want, whether it be post-prog, experimental black metal, doom/death or even funeral doom. They even attempted a more modern sound here, which doesn’t work so well for me as I’ve mentioned. Regardless of all that, the band show that they’ve got an incredible amount of talent and enough experience to pull off something groundbreaking. As long as they leave the modern stuff alone. If you can find this album, definitely give these guys a shot. You might really be surprised and that’s enough for me to recommend it.

(7Tracks, 38:00)

Astaroth - Chaosatanas

Astaroth – Chaosatanas (2014) – With a name like Astaroth and a title called Chaosatanas, I’m almost sure that Jesus will be praised on the album. No, but seriously folks; what we’re getting is black metal right? Satanic black metal with fun tremolos, slightly raw production and harsh vocals? Satanic black metal with fun tremolos, slightly raw production and harsh vocals as well as blast beats? Yeah, that’s more like it. There’s a short intro called “Intro 2:43” to open the disc with chants and such, but then “Abyss 6:16” comes in with a quite a bit of promise. The album starts out in traditional fare with icy riffs, blasting drums and scowls; but it moves into a jauntier affair later on in the piece which keeps things both interesting and unique. Astaroth really could have gone 1:1 on Black Metal 101 and never let up with the blasts, riffs and scowls until the song was through. But they didn’t and I’m thankful for it. “Qliphoth 5:00” uses a bit of groove to get things going, but doesn’t stray far from the black metal path. “Xeper I Apep 5:28” almost has a punk vibe, but don’t tell them that. There’s an interesting drum portion on the track where the drummer speaks an incantation of sorts as the band then kicks up back into groove. “Ascending 1:57” serves as an interlude, utilizing one powerful lead to illustrate the piece, as per Metallica. Seems they’re not too shy with their influences. As a matter of fact, that Metallica sense continues with “The Chosen 4:21” which invokes thrash right from the beginning. Eventually the blasts and scowls break right in, as so many people have been waiting to hear them. But it’s great that the proggy riffs and versatile drums can do much more than just that, as other things also appear in the song.

One of the things I like most about Astaroth is that they’re doing black metal with a bit of evolution. It doesn’t quite sound like 1996, but it still keeps the original spirit of the genre intact. “Seth 5:29” comes next with threatening thrash riffs, as it thunders in the piece with an unmistakable ferocity. They play a little more with tremolos later in the piece, but the vocal approach is quite suitable for the piece and shows that the band’s frontman knows what he’s doing behind the mic. If you’re going to sing songs to Satan, then you’d better be sure they’re done right as he’s quite picky. That one’s a little too tremolo heavy however, it almost seems like breasts as anime fan service. The song started out great, but it overflowed just a bit too much. “Grace Of Earth 4:11” seems a more melodic piece, but doesn’t hit me quite as hard as some of the others. “World Enslaved 5:45” as some interesting riff ideas among the tremolo, interesting prog injections and a nice lead in the latter section. It almost sounds like it was influenced by classical. But the main kicker here has got to be in those chugs, which seem so damned forbidding and work well with the prog sections. It’s an odd experiment, but a nice way to end the album. The very last portion on this disc in the “Outro 2:11” which sounds like something more out of a horror film instead of a Satanic ritual. The eerie piano and soundclips seem to do their job, proving that these guys could make memorable horror soundtracks if the metal thing doesn’t quite work out for them.

Astaroth prove that they’ve got the skill to do something more with black metal than everyone else is doing. There’s no wheel reinvention here, but it certainly adds a bit more prog and substance to the mix than we’ve heard by other bands in the genre. At this point it’s quite easy to see that bands are growing tired of the old sound of black metal, and they’re anxious to turn it into something much more invigorating. Kvltists might not like it, but I would definitely consider it a recommend.

(10Tracks, 43:00)

Suffering Hour - Foreseeing Exemptions To A Dismal Beyond

Suffering Hour – Foreseeing Exemptions To A Dismal Beyond (2014) – This short but potent technical death/thrash release starts rolling right with “Truths Of The Unknown 4:58” which certainly sees the dirty thrash elements mixed well with rough-edged vocals and a drummer who’s schooled in both thrash and technicality. Technicality is definitely a major part of the act, which has a muddy production value, yet an astonishing amount of muscularity as is demonstrated with “Prog Thrashing Death 3:39” which is a truly powerful instrumental. Suffering Hour are both technical and progressive, but really, what’s the difference? Technicality gets mistaken for prog too much and prog gets mistaken for technicality just as much. Is technicality just a sped up version of prog? The mind boggles. I always thought that technicality referred to how well the instruments were played, just like being one of the greatest technical writers would be much different from being one of the greatest writers of all time. Perhaps one of the writers was better received than the other, but the other writer used a thicker vocabulary and exercised a stronger grammatical skill. It still confuses me to this day why we use these funny terms. Progressive music came from the idea to progress beyond the norm, so wouldn’t technicality technically be a form of that?

“A Dismal Beyond 5:57” continues the progressive/technical or whatever the hell you want to call it, death/thrash style as discerned in the latter track with the same approach to continue on “Infected Skull 3:08.” It’s decent enough, but nothing has really grabbed me yet. I mean, it’s powerful – wildly potent. But I’m just not feeling taken aback by anything on the release yet. But maybe the nearly nine minute “Enthralled In Lunacy Abyss 8:35” can change my mind. It started off with a black metal sort of thing at the beginning, yet enveloped into a death/thrasher, later becoming an ominous lesson in doom. I think the doom portion is the track at its strongest. For one thing, it differentiates from the other four cut and paste numbers here. Then we have “Compassion Dies 2:38” which ends the album with a slightly spacey, yet tribal sort of outro. It’s a weird end for the disc, but I’ll give it points for being truly progressive in the sense that it moves beyond what I’ve been offered for most of this release.

Tech, prog, call it what you will. What I’m hearing is a bit too much tinkering about and not enough real meat. There’s effort and there’s strength, but the fact of the matter is that this album just doesn’t seem to hold my attention for long enough to care. I hope that in the future, Suffering Hour will be a bit more refined and have more to offer than just the same approach for twenty minutes. They’ve got the right idea, but lack the proper means of execution. Still, check it out if it suits your fancy.

Highlights: Prog Thrashing Death, Enthralled In Lunacy Abyss (6 Tracks, 28:00)

Gaped - The Murderous Inception

Gaped – The Murderous Inception (2014) – Gaped is a death metal act and this is the first outing that they’ve created. It’s also very short, but just enough to show what they’ve got to offer. It begins with a hell of a soundclip on “Let The Cutting Begin 4:02” which goes right into pummeling drums and thick gravel. But that’s fine, it’s what I expect. Grooves, drums and gravel continue throughout the piece as some slight structural change occurs. A nice solos breaks into the piece and we’ve definitely got some Cannibal Corpse/Suffocation/Dying Fetus worship going on here. Ultimately it’s a memorable piece that goes right into “Succumb 4:06” where an uncomfortable melody and extremely catchy vocal approach comes right in amidst the groove to make for another memorable death metal track. Two cuts in and these guys are already killing it. This is how good death metal is made. A little bit of experimentation here and there on the riffs, but this is 2014 so that’s understandable. I think the solo on this track is much stronger than the first one and it’s much longer. Once again, I’m quite pleased with this offering. “Skin Suit 3:24” features a faster drum approach, a short vocal bout and another fucking solo right there in the middle. it’s got groove, gravel and solos. That’s enough for me. “Whites Of Your Eyes 3:47” continues the same formula, as the disc ends with “Realm Of Impurity 4:23.” Once again, it’s an ultimately unforgettable vocal performance, with the band’s frontman being one of the catchiest I’ve heard in years. I also love the fucking lyrics on this album. It’s quite easy to discern what he’s saying here, so if you can understand gravel as well as I can, then you’ll be quite pleased with the cleverness of these lyrics. Not only that, but just the phrasing of the record makes it memorable. This guy is so dead-on with his vocals that it makes his mouth sound like another instrument. And that’s what we want with this kind of music. It adds to the groove.

The disc includes a Cannibal Corpse cover of “Stripped, Raped And Strangled 3:27” and I can actually understand the vocals much better here than I could on the original. Once again, this guy’s dead on. He could replace Corpsegrinder at the drop of a hat. George Fischer is getting up there in age (Remember that he only gave the world as we it know it ten years until the end, starting from the release of Evisceration Plague and I’ve been counting down with him ever since.) and he’s probably one of the only people still left on World Of Warcraft; so when Cannibal does eventually come to an end (probably before the world does) we’ll still have Gaped, along with many others who are marching onward with the black spirit of death metal. If you love groove-laden, hard hitting and memorable death metal as much as me; then definitely check out this band.

(6Tracks, 23:00)

Devoid - The Invasion

Devoid – The Invasion (2014) – Devoid is an Indian act who mix death metal along with thrash, core and technicality/prog. Think Arsis and Skeletonwitch and you’ve got it. The disc begins with a menacing intro (2:28) and quickly goes from an ancient feeling right into “The Invasion 4:40” where drums tap loudly and blast as thrash riffs and scathing vocals echo across the landscape. The frontman certainly seems pissed, but he’s probably tired of telling you how to operate that electric can-opener you bought when you were sent to that customer call center. Seriously though, these guys sound full of venom and spite which definitely seems to translate well on this disc. “Pandemonium Is Now 5:01” definitely gets to thrashing, with an insanity that must be felt to be believed. This guy spits out vocals like a machine gun, with the fury of a fucking Hyena. Then a solo comes along and delivers rather well. In all honesty, these guys remind me of Impious and that’s a great feeling. But I think there’s more going on in this record than on that last Impious album as well. “Brahma Weapon 3:53” continues the thrashing that I’m receiving here as the disc closes with “The Grand Design 5:59” and it’s intriguing opening melodies. This track has a bit more to offer on the progressive side of things, as it definitely takes hints from Jeff Loomis (definitely hearing his influence throughout most of the songs on this album) and follows up with a short solo. The album ends the way it began, but then ends abruptly as if it is just the beginning of something much larger…

At any rate, definitely check out these insane Indian metallers. Seriously, these guys sound fucking nuts. They sounds like they’re extremely upset about several things and that this music is a way to vent out that frustration. As I said, Jeff Loomis influence is a big part of this record, yet I’ve also heard Impiety influence on the vocals, possibly even SYL era Devin Townsend at some points. Whatever the case is, this one’s certainly worth a listen and you shouldn’t regret it. Once it gets going, it never lets up.

(5Tracks, 22:00)

Shroud Of Despondency - Tied To A Dying Animal

Shroud Of Despondency – Tied To A Dying Animal (2 CD Deluxe Edition 2014) – What we’ve got is the third outing from Shroud Of Despondency, who began their days playing a rather extravagant version of black metal. On this third album however, they’ve expanded their style to include several different styles of metal and music in general. The release was actually split into two pieces, one being overly heavy (For Innocence, Beauty And Those Who Defile) and the other consisting of light, folk-laden pieces (For Those Who Leave And Find Better Devils). Both discs together make up this whole, and I will walk you through each journey separately.

Metal is explored on the first disc, For Innocence, Beauty And Those Who Defile and as noted; you can certainly hear the influences of Emperor, Enslaved, Immolation, Morbid Angel, Bolt Thrower, Slayer, Megadeth, Mercyful Fate, Root and King Crimson. Just as the PR says, they’re definitely there. With the very first song on the album, “A Man Can Dream 7:34” I can discern these influences quite easily. Yet I also can tell that the production value on this album skyrockets beyond the quality of their previous efforts. “Clenched Jaw 6:58” doesn’t seem to bring anything out of the ordinary, but “The Life Of Fire 6:40” brings more black metal influence into the mix than could be heard at the beginning. There’s a nice lead melody that really stands out for me on the beginning of the track and Ron Blemberg’s vocal scowls certainly deliver a threatening performance. Yet I’m again noticing something on this album that I had also noticed upon my first listen, but I guess didn’t want to believe it. In all that has been done well on the disc, there’s just no sense of substance. In other words, many of the songs just all seem to sound the same. It’s not that they’re bad songs, they just don’t really have that much variety despite their thick muscularity. But perhaps the album is too thick in that regard, so it all sort of sounds like one great big jumble. Certainly it’s something that can be further ascertained over time, but for the picky metal listener, I don’t think that this material will affect them quite as well as the music of the bands that influenced it. I’m hearing that Arsis sort of sound here, the kind of thing that happens where you do too much genre mixing. There’s black metal here, prog there, a little thrash here and then you have your gloomy atmosphere here and there to sort of break up the monotony of just too much going on at one time. It’s almost paint by number and seems to point out a common problem that I’ve noticed in American metal today. This isn’t really a problem in other cultures, but our mixing-pot nature seems to be making a goulash of sounds that just don’t stand out as a whole. It’s certainly heavy and it’s certainly venomous with several moments of interest here and there, but in the end; it’s just grey. There’s really no color to it. Or if there is, I have to really soak it for a few days. I just think that the band needs to differentiate in the variety of music here, like one track should have more thrash elements, one should have more black metal elements, another should be more death influenced and so on. The style that they utilize here has been done before, but it’s been done with a more discernible representation. If I went back to the band’s debut, or even Pine I could certainly discern a stark contrast between the music on those records and the music on this one in terms of sheer style. For Innocence… just sounds a bit too much like most of the material that is already out and well represented in the extreme metal scene. In other words, I like what they did – I just don’t like how they did it. It’s eight songs that sound like they’re coming from a band that have reached a standstill with metal to begin with. They’ve literally hit a wall and just don’t seem to have the same vigor or energy on these songs, and the disc has suffered for it.

However, I was more than quite surprised with the band’s folk album, For Those Who Leave And Find Better Devils. This album seems to be something that Shroud Of Despondency really part their heart into, and with compositions as masterful as what’s been displayed here, I wouldn’t care if they never touched heavy metal music again. It’s really quite brilliant and the band thought so too, as they actually released more folk material than they did metal (counting the recommended bonus tracks of course) and I could solely recommend this release on the folk material alone. “Untamed Energy 3:45” walks us through gentle landscapes, through tribal drumming, violins and female background chanting. It would be perfect backing music for something like Game Of Thrones or a fantasy film of sorts. It’s quite soothing and makes me think of these guys in a whole new aspect. “The Sunset Through The Sulfur 3:37” continues our journey, serving as a soothing atmosphere that’s great for lulling one to sleep and accompanying their dreams in the later hours. I have slept to music of this nature before and fell asleep faster and felt more invigorated because of it. Yet, you can also listen to it while in a moment of contemplation as it helps to clear the mind. A few electric leads are featured, but nothing in the way of distraction. “The Whore And The Politician 4:46” actually features clean male and female vocals backing acoustic melodies and some atmosphere. Though it could clearer, I think this song would be well represented on the stage. I’ll have to give it a listen on my personal playlist and see how it fares directly in my ears. “Pollen 4:28” continues our Game Of Thrones style journey, yet it includes some electric guitar sections which actually accentuate the piece. I’m reminded much of Ritchie Blackmore and his folk work in Blackmore’s Night, or even Carlos Santana. Man, that is really beautiful. “Contradiction 4:25” carries the same vibe, yet it also includes a darker set of electric riffs. “Prominent Cross 3:53” has an interesting mist and folk atmosphere to it, like the singer is playing the song in the middle of an air-raid siren. Though I don’t think the vocals are all that special, when I’m reminded of R.E.M.’s frontman, I’m strongly intrigued by them. I never thought R.E.M. influence would appear on this album, but I’m glad to hear that influence here. But regardless of what’s going on, I just can’t hate this album. “Family 5:57” is another one worth mentioning, but I don’t really want to spoil this whole disc for you. There are some sections that are just amazingly golden and emotionally potent.

The disc comes with four bonus tracks, which are “Skim 7:55” another metal number that’s decent enough, “Stem 7:35” which is just as powerful as the other folk pieces, “Towards The Source Of Wind Percussion 5:26” which will work great at your next Pagan gathering, and “The Unrewarding 5:34” which combines the best of both worlds. Two of these tracks don’t have as high of a production quality as the rest, but they show that the band still have plenty of tricks up their sleeve. Having heard all of this material, I feel I must make a suggestion and it might come as a bit of a shock. The intention for this album was to separate the folk sections from the metal sections. But what we’re left with is bland metal and ridiculously great folk compositions. I start to wonder, were the band afraid to mix these two styles together? Would it really be that difficult to take something like “The Life Of Fire” and mix it together with “The Whore And The Politician?” Could you imagine how wonderfully diverse and boisterous that mixture would be? Sections of blistering metal with pieces of folk, tribal percussion and female vocals would be awesome, surely the best thing since Agalloch. They prove that they have the musical skill for each genre, I just would like to see the two halves rejoined into something that could stand on its own as a complete masterpiece. Time will tell however, as to if something of this magnitude would ever occur. But I’ll continue to wait for it. Definitely check this record out regardless, as I believe that there’s strong material on each disc of the album and it should appeal to a vast majority of listeners whom would have never picked up their material to begin with.

(21Tracks, 20:01:05)

Fuoco Fatuo - The Viper Slithers In The Ashes Of What Remains

Fuoco Fatuo – The Viper Slithers In The Ashes Of What Remains (2014) – Fucoco Fatuo is an atmospheric doom/death metal act that offer nothing but 100% brooding and evil doom metal, such as what is well displayed on the album’s cover. “Ancestral Devouring Anxiety 12:26” showcases an act with a very thick sound, much in the vein of bands like Hooded Menace; except that here the formula doesn’t feature very much in the way of melody. Instead, the drums just get laid on even thicker as the riffs continue to tread in thick tar and sludge, with the thickest of vocal gravel to emanate from the mouth of the beast whom they have on the vocal mic. Atmosphere is rampant throughout the disc, with certain numbers featuring more drum kick in areas. A hint of melody breaks through in “Junipers Of Black Iridescence 9:56” but that’s the last you’ll hear of it on the disc. What you’ve got are five incredibly droning and slothful death metal tracks, made for those who like their music slow, dark and terrifying. While there are better bands that do this kind of thing, it can be assured that Fuoco Fatuo is certainly right up there with the best of them and deliver exactly what they promise on this disc. At just a little under an hour of music, these guys created a style of brooding death metal slathered in the ominous. Contemplative? Perhaps, but only if you’re contemplating your eternal demise.

(5Tracks, 53:00)

March 15 - Our Love Becomes A Funeral Pyre

March 15 – Our Love Becomes A Funeral Pyre (2014) – March 15 is an atmospheric act that is much in the vein of many of the artists that I have reviewed on Malignant Records. They use static, ominous synths and rampant screaming to open the album with its title track (9:05) and then things get a tad bit more steely with “No love Lost 8:57.” I can almost see the gleam coming from the steel as it reverberates throughout the piece. Unfriendly static than envelops outwards later in the piece. It sounds like these could be voices, but of what? The next track, “Claustrophilic Love of the Warm Dark Places Where the Masters of War Make Their Home 5:07” features a lot of static crunch backed by an audible spoken word vocal. I’m reminded of KMFDM but without the beat, offering instead a package that brings about more static and once again, crunch. “The Love That Will Dare Not Speak It’s Name 6:06” features a reverberating sort of static, with the spoken vocal approach coming back into the fold. I can almost hear light riff melodies nearly swallowed in amp fuzz. The final track is “Love Under Will 9:37” in which loud metallic reverberations and latter bouts of screaming, almost in the manner of protest – decorate the soundscape. But it’s moments like this that make the album so abrasive, so vehement. This record certainly reminds one of cold, unruly steel and yet also a raging fire. It is the sound of rebellion, angst and discontent. Certainly, a funeral pyre is the amalgamation of what I’ve witnessed here. If you’re looking for something that burns as brightly as it is as cold, and offers a torrent of rebellion and rage, then look no further than March 15. It’s definitely recommended for those who prefer their atmospheres extremely uncomfortable.

(5Tracks, 38:00)

Mount Salem - Endless

Mount Salem – Endless (2014) – If you haven’t heard about occult rockers Mount Salem yet, then your head is probably under a rock. They’ve been shown in nearly every Metal Blade advert that I’ve seen in a metal or counter-culture lifestyle magazine. But in reality, it’s worth the extra promotion effort because these guys (and gal) deserve it. Endless takes you on a sprawling journey, one that mixes Sabbath with Heart and shows a powerful frontwoman in the young Emily Kopplin. Remember, these guys had never played a show before they had gotten signed to Metal Blade; but that just shows how much talent the label saw in them. For those of you who already have the original Bandcamp version of this album, two songs have been added to the performance. Thunderous riffs and thick drumming usually serve as the musical backing to Kopplin’s beautifully bright performance on the record. Compared to other female fronted acts like Demon Lung for example, I feel that Mount Salem just have a bit more substance. Plus, they add the sixties keyboards and psychedelic rock solos into the mix to keep things a little more interesting. That being said, is there really anything frightening or ominous on the album? Well, the answer is no. But it’s still a wonderfully strong performance with powerful vocal sections on tracks like “Mescaline II 3:44” for example. For a bunch of guys that build motorcycles and play music, this is really quite fresh and high-spirited. We could very well be looking at the next iteration of The Gathering here, so definitely keep your eyes peeled on this strong female-fronted doom release. Many have stated before that Kopplin reminds them of a female Ozzy, and from the effort displayed in forth; it would certainly seem to be the case. If this sounds like something you would be into, then certainly give it a spin. Endless is sure to please both fans of doom and sixties occult rock, so consider that further incentive to take this magickal trip.

(8Tracks, 42:00)

Benighted - Carnivore Sublime

Benighted – Carnivore Sublime (2014) – Death/grinders Benighted certainly come on rather ferocious, whether or not you might be under the opinion that this record isn’t quite as strong as their previous work. I can’t personally make that claim as this is my first rodeo with Benighted; but I will say that what I’ve been offered here is powerfully punchy, rather catchy and full of groove. The vocals take many different turns along the course of the album, with one guest appearance on the almost black metal influenced “Spit 3:25” in the vein of Nikolas Kvarforth and another on the disc’s weak closer “June And The Laconic Solstice 3:27” by Michael Kern. But even when they’re going it alone, they still manage to bring about fifteen tons of steel right along with them on memorable bashers like “Collection Of Dead Portraits 3:14” and the multi-faceted doom/black/death mixture of “Defiled Purity 4:50.” I’ve never been the biggest fan of grind, but bands like Benighted seem to change that for me. While the disc could have been much meatier than what’s displayed here, I like the fact that it’s sporadic as hell, yet still flows with a punishing groove that makes it the perfect stress reliever for a tough day (or week, in this case.) In a little less than forty minutes, the band concoct what appears to be one large burst of seminal savagery that eviscerates as much as it delivers. I don’t know about you, but a rhythmic noise that is loud, groovy, criminally insane and willing to tear down the fucking walls of my house is just the kind of sound that I want from my grind. Included on the bonus disc are covers of Aborted, Rammstein and Machine Head; all of which have been massively metalized into grind, yet do not lose their original spirit. Never in my life did I think I would hear a grind cover of “Du Riechst So Gut 4:04” but they managed to pull it off just as well as they did with Aborted’s “Meticulous Invagination 3:02” and Machine Head’s “Old.” And for the naysayer’s out there, I don’t really see a problem with taking modern metal and reconfiguring it; especially when the result is this good. Maybe next time they’ll give us some reconfigured 80’s classics. Anyone for “The Heat Is On?” And yes, the saxophone would definitely have to be used. Might be the first time that has anyone ever used a sax in grind. First time for everything though, right

Highlights: X2Y, Experience Your Flesh, Slaughter/Suicide, Spit, Defiled Purity, Jekyll, Collection Of Dead Portraits (11 Tracks, 37:00)

Combichrist - We Love You

Combichrist – We Love You (2014) – Many of you might not realize that Combichrist frontman Andy LaPlegua originally started out as a member of the futurepop outfit Icon Of Coil. And yes, I’ve heard those Icon of Coil albums and can tell you that the music he’s making here is far more unruly and aggressive than that of the relatively tame electronics which accompanied Icon Of Coil. Just last year, Combichrist released No Redemption which also became the soundtrack of a commercial failure in the vein of DMC. Unfortunately, some people will always equate the music of Combichrist with this game now; so it’s going to be tough for the band to get over that “we made music for a bad game” hump. Having listened to the previous disc though, I can say that it was heavily engrained in metal and managed to set the stage for what appears to be a an almost KMFDM influenced mixture of metal riffs and electronics, or sometimes just electronics. I can’t say that the opener “We Were Made To Love You 3:50” worked so well for me, but “Every Day is War 3:57” came on surprisingly potent and reminded me of KMFDM’s work in Symbols. Though I like the dance grooves on “Can’t Control 4:10” I do not like the vocal effect that Andy is using on the track. It would have been better if he just did the vocal line without it. Then we’ve got the acid dance of “Satan’s Propaganda 2:41” with just a hint of minor dubstep. This has got to be some of the most subtle dubstep that I’ve heard. “Maggots At The Party 4:12” definitely does a memorable job of mixing that 80’s party rock vibe with electronics. It starts out rough, but you just have to give it a few minutes and it’ll grow on you. “Denial 3:49” flows more into the electronic realms, with nary a sign of rock riffs until the radio-rock style chorus. It sounds like he’s trying to do a Celldweller kind of thing, but I don’t think it works quite as well as it would if Klayton had been on the vocals. Maybe it’ll grow on me as well. The next song is dark acoustic, and I can hear that Andy’s heart is in it; but his vocals just don’t seem to come off as well as would need to be from this song. But I will tell you that the words he is saying are worth paying attention to. “Fuck Unicorns 3:05” is an instrumental with a definite club vibe, which goes right into the hard rocking “Love Is A Razorblade 3:20.” This song appears to be a mix of punk riffs and electronic fuzz, and it comes off rather nicely. “From My Cold Dead Hands 4:18” gives us electronic power once again, delivering the kind of sound that Combichrist is known for. “We Rule The World, Motherfuckers 4:54” continues that sound, almost in a sort of safe zone; but that’s alright. “Retreat Hell Part 1 4:37” has a sort of dark blues feel to it, complete with some memorable guitar soloing and an ultimately different song than what we’d expect from Combichrist. The album’s closer, “Retreat Hell Part 2 8:49” offers an acoustic selection of thoughts which caught my attention more than anything else on the album. On this track, the man says exactly what he thinks and you don’t really hear that anymore.

The album’s bonus disc offers almost forty minutes of electronic work, most of it club ready and extremely catchy. That’s not a bad thing however, as those who didn’t like the heavier tracks or Andy’s vocals will certainly enjoy this enthralling collection of what could in essence be a completely new project set aside from the Combichrist brand. Each piece flows into each other and works seamlessly as the dance floor is literally set on fire when the disc really starts to heat up, leaving ashes to remain by the finale. Oh, and there’s no dubstep. This is an electronic disc that fans of real electronic music should appreciate and I hope that he’ll make more music like this in the future. The trance vibe is undeniable and I loved every minute of it. This disc alone is worth a 9 in my book. But I’m not grading that disc, I’m grading the first one and that’s more or less a 7. Which isn’t bad, just not quite the experience of the disc’s accompaniment. But I will say that if you thought No Redemption was a bit too heavy, then definitely give this disc a shot. It’s got more electronic elements and sees the band more in their natural state. Yet it also sees them experimenting with new styles, which is always a good sign no matter how you look at it.

Highlights: Every Day Is War, Maggots At The Party, Fuck Unicorns, From My Cold Dead Hands, Retreat Hell Pts. 1 &2 (13 Tracks, 55:00)

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