Week 111.5 (May 19, 2014)

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Twenty-five this time, but that’s due to life in general and overall tiredness from the day job, let alone stress from the day job. But the next .5 was looking a little small and it’s already the middle of the month, so I threw the other five releases in so that there would be more than fifteen records. I’m going to try for twenty-five albums every month instead of thirty but I’m not cutting it down to twenty because that’s far too little and I’m doing this in an effort to get the smaller albums out of the way and get some of the little demos and things that get submitted out much quicker.

Week 112 comes directly after this and you can expect some really awesome things to appear, since Metal Underground already jumped the gun with one review in particular. My lips are sealed as to whom that is, but now that it’s been done; I no longer have to wait to review it. They’re a longtime favorite of mine and they’ve managed to deliver once again. So keep guessing…

Sadhak - self titled

Sadhak – Sadhak (2014 SPOTLIGHT) – I thought this was a black metal tape rip, as what it originally appeared. But it’s not. Instead, we’ve got a quite depressing vibe here starting with the first of these two tracks, “On The Arrival of Man 9:46” which does feature some quite thunderous riffs as well as melancholy melodies backed with some rather meaningful clean vocals. Seriously, folks – this is good stuff and I was reeled in rather easily at the band’s ability to mix the depressing doom side with the traditional doom side, making a memorable little tape from the very beginning. There’s also a nice little solo piece that isn’t afraid to rock out. Hell, I’m even reminded of statesmen Pallbearer on this one. Sadhak let me know when you’re coming out with something new, as you’ve already made me a fan. Yet there’s one more track on this album before I start waxing poetic and that’s “The Perfection Of Wisdom 8:47” which doesn’t change my opinions about the band. It doesn’t seem like they’re trying anything completely different with the next song aside from some soundscapes. The effort here is very raw, but it’s palpable. Sadhak is so full of potential that I’m running around the room screaming about it (well, not really – but in my head, I’m going a bit nuts over the material.) I should mention that if you buy this album, you get an awesome shirt with bearded George and his book of unintelligible wisdom. Seriously, that shirt is so fucking mighty that people will look at you with authority when you wear it. So not only do you get an awesome tape, but a shirt that I’d wear all too often if I had it. Because powerful bearded old men are awesome. There’s no doubt in my mind that Sadhak are something to watch. They certainly aren’t “sad hacks” at any rate. Perhaps they should adopt a new moniker.

(2 Tracks, 18:00)

9/10

Ranger - Shock Skull

Ranger – Shock Skull (2014) – Ranger is a classic four-piece thrash metal band, with a 7″ that sounds like its right out of the eighties. The production is unmistakably old school, as are the riffs and the overall approach of the track (5:44). The main vocalist does a punchy job with it, while a high-pitched vocalist works to back him. There’s good song structure and such here, but it’s nothing ultimately memorable, especially if you’ve heard it before. There are some nice solo sections though. The second track here is called “Omen Of Doom 4:45” and it sounds quite similar to the previous one. There’s really not a whole lot that I can’t get from these guys by listening to an early Venom or Mercyful Fate record. They do a great job and all, but it’s nothing that really leaves me mesmerized. It’s decent, really. But if this blast from the past sounds like it might be your savior from modern metal, then grab it.

(2Tracks, 10:00)

6/10

Ravage Rose - Cool Is Everything

Ravage Rose – Cool Is Everything (Single) (2014) – From the icy hills of Trondheim Norway, comes the newest black met… Wait. Scratch that. Ravage Rose are actually a very odd act that mixes together punk, rock and apparently there’s heavy metal in there somewhere. It’s considered hard pop and certainly makes the case well with its bright and colorful riff melodies and Miriam Lebreche’s Avril Lavigne style of vocal approach, this song about shopping is definitely one of the oddest submissions I’ve received. But damn it, that chorus is really catchy. I don’t think this is going to appeal to too many metal heads, but their girlfriends will dig it. At least there’s a little bit of a solo to be had.

Addendum: I had this damn song stuck in my head for hours after I heard it again for this review. Got up in the morning, went to piss and Miriam’s voice is still echoing through the concaves of my brain. Damn their catchy choruses!

(1Track, 3:26)

7/10

Julius Seizure - Sixth And Falling

Julius Seizure – Sixth And Falling (Single) & B-Side (2014) – It didn’t dawn on me until just now, but there’s something of intrigue to be found within this modern metalcore/hardcore and occasional deathcore act. The single (3:29) starts out with familiar hardcore riffs and breakdowns, accompanied with a hardcore come harsh vocal approach and a clean vocal that reminds me of an old Nu-Metal act that I can’t put my finger on. Maybe it was Spineshank? At any rate, I’m hearing what sounds like At The Gates riffs being filtered through the deathcore lens which means that throughout all the technical riffing and such, there’s something here that manages to stand out from other core bands. And they’ve at least got the balls to give us a solo. It really sees the band making a lot of varied noise, but the effort is as crushing as it is different. It seems what deathcore should sound like in 2014, complete with some gravel at the end. The next track is “Second Coming 3:19” which is noted as a B-Side. This is your throwaway? Maybe you should rethink this decision, guys. There’s not a damn thing wrong with this song. Who in the hell are you trying to market to if this one’s a stinker? I’m even hearing some violin among the At The Gates riffs and mixed harsh vocal style (not to mention the brutal death metal vocals that come in temporarily.) It just strikes me as odd that any musician would look at this and be like, “well, it’s not so good.” What the hell do you mean? You’ve got more variation and intrigue here than a lot of the core bands, so you’ve caught my attention in a genre that I normally don’t care much for. Still think it’s a B-Side, gentlemen? Put that fucker on the album.

(2Tracks, 6:00)

7/10

Fucked Up - Year Of The Dragon

Fucked Up – Year Of The Dragon (2014) – These five young dudes (and a chick with bottle-rim glasses) have created a very odd record in its overall format. First of all, the title track is almost twenty minutes, while the following numbers are drastically short, as I will later describe. The sound sounds a bit crust-punk as you might expect, with plenty of ferocity and anguish. But given time, things make a drastic change into pot smoke and psychedelics. I’ll be honest with you, I never thought that what started out as an eight minute shout-fest amidst rabid guitars would turn into a hippie slam jam. The next fucking song (and fucking applies here, because I don’t know how to describe it) sounds like a whiskey throated gentlemen just going with whatever falls from his mouth while the rest of the band plays surf rock melodies. It’s a cover from Cardboard Brains. The next song is also a cover, it’s by The Ugly and is entitled “Disorder 2:00.” It sounds just like surf punk, which really isn’t a big deal. But what’s interesting is seeing that these bands influenced an act that sounds completely different in their own material and that’s cool.

(3 Tracks, 22:00)

7/10

Borracho - Cortez - Split EP

Borracho/Cortez – Split EP (2014) – This split only features two songs and isn’t a slew of black metal acts, for a change.

First, I’ve got is Borracho. Their track is called “Know My Name 4:40” which seems to be dirty southern rock complete with 80% proof vocals and a bar-room ready atmosphere that’s good for mudding and banging your head to. The frontman isn’t the best vocalist I’ve heard, but it definitely sounds like stoned and drunk rock. Or rock to get stoned and drunk to.

The next band on the split is Cortez with “Vanishing Point 3:41.” They offer a faster approach to the same style of dirty southern rock, with vocals that I like here a bit more and a train chugging vibe with some interesting cymbal play that works well with the traveling vibe of the music. The bottom line is that these guys are certainly worth checking out, the solo section further hammering that. I’m definitely hearing a bit of Motorhead, Clutch and something else here that I can’t put my finger on. But whatever it is, it works.

I definitely think Cortez is the stronger band on the split, but definitely check them both out. Certainly good efforts from both of these beer-soaked acts. Great for drinking, smoking and shooting pool to.

(2 Tracks, 8:00)

7.5/10

The Witch - Black Flower Field

The Witch – Black Flower Field (2013) – Here’s a French four-piece, which is considered to contain raw power and strong melodies by critics. This is a “critic”al point that I can certainly agree with however, being that what I’m getting is loads of technical melody and a sort of rough vocal approach, much in the vein of mid to current era Mastodon. These guys have played with Drawers and they do sound a bit like them, of course I want to say from a musical standpoint that there is a bit more going on here than the stuff I liked from Drawers. “Skeleton Soul 5:09” even contains a brief moment of shriek and fierce drum pummeling, right after a really stellar solo piece. These guys sound pumped and full of energy. What’s next?

Next would be the band’s title track (6:17) which begins on light melodies. It almost has a bit of that black metal vibe, even though I know it’s not going to turn out that way. The track takes a more acoustic and progressive notion automatically changing it briefly from the style of “Skeleton Soul.” Though when it picks up, that’s the style we get. However, I can live with and respect that style. These guys seem to do what Mastodon began, but are perfecting it and giving more of a bite and purpose. This song has more of a grandiose vibe to it, something that builds and culminates with amazing tenacity. “Hellride 4:14” actually has a Slipknot style vocal approach to it, which is weird considering the slight-progginess and technicality. This song is also the band’s fiercest thus far, going into some really terse territory. Drums began to erupt with violent fervor as the frontman thunders in a few screams, leading into a really unique solo… This one’s real nice. This is something that makes The Witch stand out from the pack absolutely. By far my favorite song from these guys as of right now. I don’t think they can top this mayhem with such a unique edge as the one here attempted. “The Wizzard Is Stoned 4:12” goes right back into progressive black metalish territory and if these guys attempt black metal here, I’m going to shit right on the floor. But that’s not what I’m getting. Instead, I’m getting something that sounds about as fierce as “Hellride” but lightens up a little and allows for some experimenting. You’ve got to note the drummer on this one, he always seem to provide the right amount of spice when needed, doing much more than being the mere backbone of the band. The song really starts to take a turn from normal realms and heads into something really uncanny. You mean no one has signed these guys? Labels, labels, labels! Who’s got their heads up their asses, seriously? The last song on this disc is even rougher-edged and is called “From Here To Underground 3:32.” There’s almost some black and death tendencies amongst this one, the band obviously mixing them in with their stoned prog metal. To be honest, there’s quite a bit going on in this one. The song switches up by adding atmosphere before it goes back to pounding your face into the ground.

I hope these guys get picked up by someone for their debut, which they are currently working on. I only hope they aren’t biting off more than they can chew by attempting to one-up this powerful effort. I definitely recommend that you check it out.

Highlights: Hellride, The Wizzard Is Stoned (5 Tracks, 23:26)

8/10

Paranorm - The Edge Of Existence

Paranorm – The Edge Of Existence (2014) – This Swedish prog/thrash four-piece for fans of Kreator, (later) Death, Coroner and Vektor are back with their second EP release, and the band considers it much stronger than the previous Pandemonium’s Rise, which I’ve never heard. The disc starts out in very much the style you would expect with thrash riffs funneled right through the methodology of prog/technicality and I’m very much getting the Death flair here. It’s quite apparent who Paranorm are and what they want to do. The album production doesn’t necessarily sound as fierce as it could, but I think these guys will do a much better job of capturing it live on the stage, where you should be seeing them if given a chance. “Into The Unknown 5:38” also offers a moment where the song slows to accompany a tasteful guitar solo before it shows off some more scrumptious soloing later in the track. “Second Assault 4:10” follows the same formula, albeit with more bite and thrash; while “Sunstorm 7:51” slows things down with more injections of complexity, making me think even more of Death’s Human album. “Desolate Worlds 7:45” closes the disc with another light-hearted section, showing that the band employ musical finesse over complete intensity. It seems that Paranorm really just want to show you how well they can play and they do that with proficiency. At any rate, this EP shows that the band definitely have some promise and could unleash a firestorm of fury with their debut album. Definitely check it out, as the band have a done a decent job with this one, especially if you love progressive thrash with the spirit of old school death metal.

(4Tracks, 25:00)

7/10

Verberis - Vastitas

Verberis – Vastitas (2014) – This Verberis album is ripped from a tape, so you can expect a definite hearken back to the days of old with this slab of atmospheric death metal. Much in the vein of Portal or Grave Miasma but with more thrash elements and reverberating vocals, Verberis offer a thick sound of smoke, fog and fire. The drums sound like they’ve got a ton of soot on them, while the riff structure dives into death metal with slight touches of prog and even some black metal tinges. The entire room sounds like it was covered in powder, but maybe the band wanted to get a smoky atmosphere as they pounded through these intriguing tracks. I say intriguing because there are sections and riff melodies on opener “The Primordial Rift 4:50” that really manage to do something for me. That’s refreshing, as I remember hearing another band (can’t quite put my name on it) who did the same style but just left me fucking bored out of my mind. Verberis don’t copy that aesthetic, offering a well-needed melodic and progressive touch to their atmosphere. “Sepulchural Slumber 3:51” serves to bas you right in the fucking head however, with a kit exercise quite like the one found in the slightly thrashier “Fangs Of Pazuzu 4:25” yet you’re also going to find some really memorable riff sections there as well. Once again, the use of melody really helps to build the atmosphere further than bands like Aevangelist, who seem to do the right thing; but weave their guitars too thickly into the mix for me. The recording ends with “Kaliginous Ascent 4:09” which seems to bring all that the band has done so far together into a memorable mix that surely makes me hopeful for Verberis’s future. There’s definitely something here, but time will tell as to where it goes. But I certainly am thankful that these guys are going a slightly different route than other bands of their type. If you’re looking for an album that mixes atmospheric death metal along with classic riffing that sounds right out of eighties thrash, then you’ll find it with Verberis.

Highlights: The Primordial Rift, Fangs Of Pazuzu, Kaliginous Ascent (4 Tracks, 17:00)

8/10

Battlash - Metal Disorder EP

Battlash – Metal Disorder EP (2011) – Ignoring the weird vagina-face on the cover, we’ve got what is supposed to be another progressive thrash band in the same style of the Paranorm band that I just reviewed earlier. It’s a relatively short release which opens up with the barreling thrash of “Dead Head 3:50” which does stick to its thrash roots while utilizing a few prog elements here and there. The frontman is alright, but he’s certainly not the best thing I’ve ever heard in metal. I’m paying more attention to the musicianship on this thing, which seems to matter more than anything else. I really fucking love the lead melodies on “Metal Disorder 4:13” which reminds me of a classic video game theme. I don’t know about the use of shouts on the track though, as they sound a bit weak (but all the vocals here seem to suffer) but the solos always seem to deliver. I think the band is having trouble because many reviewers and labels probably don’t like the vocals on the record, but from the pleasing riff-melodies that I’ve heard for this album, I just can’t follow the crowd and consider the effort sub-par. These guys are definitely trying with this release and I hope that they’re able to craft something new to show how they’ve evolved since this 2011 EP. “At The Hate 3:45” is another thrash track that suffers from a haphazard vocal approach, yet there are leads here that I still like quite a bit. Battlash is a veritable love/hate relationship, that’s for sure. And one again, there’s a fantastic guitar solo. Surely someone took notice of the solo sections on this disc. These guys deserve a chance! “Expoverty 2:31” sounds like it has punk inspiration, yet also includes something of a clean chorus. There’s a flamenco interlude (1:28) following this, which also includes some light violin and certainly seems out of place for a thrash album. But I’ll allow it! The disc ends with “Boundary 4:55” which also offers some nice leads and sends the whole thing off on a good note.

Battlash offer great guitar work, but are hampered down by the vocal end of things. Yet if you’re looking for thrash with great melodies and well done solos and you don’t really care too much about vocals, then you’ll definitely find something here to like.

(6Tracks, 20:00)

7/10

Black Vul Destruktor - Et Verbi Sathanus - Apocalypse Towards Apocalypse Split

Black Vul Destruktor/Et Verbi Sathanus – Apocalypse Towards Apocalypse Split Double 7″ (2014) – Next I have a two band black/death metal split, so let’s run through each band’s offering.

The first act is Black Vul Destructor, which actually sounds more in the vein of death metal than black metal, yet there are still some eerie riffs to be had and a very fuzzy bass. The drummer seems to be doing a great job, working well with the vocalist to make a slightly more pulverizing brand of what I’m going to call black/death. “The Sword Of Luciferian Light 6:01” might be a bit too long however and would wear out its welcome completely if not for a solo piece. But, that solo is a bit scratchy to be honest, there’s effort there but, well… At any rate, these guys seem to prove that their best with raucous drums and fierce vocals. They do the same on “Void Of Darkness 6:57” which gives me the same all over the place drum approach filled with dark riffing and arguably more of a scowl than was offered prior. I will say that in all the confusion, it’s certainly a rough-edged experience that might speak more to those who want a little more death in their black. Another solo is attempted, but why even bother? I can’t even hear it. He pulls off what would sound like two decent Slayer style solos if they weren’t lost in the mix. At least there’s an effort made on the disc however, and that’s important.

Our next band is Et Verbi Sathanas, which makes a better album title than a band name. At any rate, their brand of black/death is just as rambunctious, but I’ve got to admit that I love the lengthy scowl backed by hammering drums. It sound a bit corny, but hell – it works. The gravel is almost like fog here, so that comes off quite menacing backed with the barely audible fuzz of guitar. Both of these bands really don’t need guitarists, they could pull off the same thing with just drums and vocals, really. It would be just as heavy and no one would know the difference. “Holocaust In The Paradise 3:29” completely lost the guitar in the mix due to the throbbing drum efforts. The last track that these guys (and the disc) have to offer, is “Gehninon 3:14” which starts off with a nice drum march as it goes into black/death territory where the guitars get lost, but the harsh scowls seem to pick up on greatly. Again, the guitarist might as well just pack up and go home because I can’t even hear him when the drummer gets to bashing. Someone raise the guitar levels in this thing, for the love of all that is unholy!

And that’s it. Both bands offer a decent attempt, but they both suffer from mixing issues. I can’t really hear the guitars in either band and that is the most important part of this music. Black Vul Destructor lost their solos, while reducing their riffs to background fuzz and Et Verbi Sathanus lost their riffs completely due to the drum efforts. But if you like to hear satanic rage fueled by the loud tolling of drums and little more, then you’ll find something to like here. it’s certainly dark and certainly vicious. Which is what you like, right?

(4Tracks, 19:00)

6/10

Beyond Mortal Dreams - Lamia EP

Beyond Mortal Dreams – Lamia EP (2014) – And they’re back… You might already know these guys from how well I talked their last MLP Dreaming Dead up on the old Tower blog. Well, we’re talking up this short but sweet EP on the new website and it’s certainly deserving of it. Doomsayer still kills on the gravel side of things and Maleficus gives that kit a good bashing, while Bloodspawn unleashes torrents of powerful riff melodies and solos that light “Lamia 4:03” up as a strong indication of where the band is headed. That Morbid Angel influence is still there and I’m not even one bit sick of it. How can you tire of the classics? The EP also contains a re-recorded track from the band’s demo called “Demonsword Infernal 4:49” which sounds newly revitalized here and menacing as the fiery pit from whence it was spawned. There’s absolutely nothing I can say bad about this effort, other than the fact that I wish it offered more material. It’s been quite a while since we’ve heard anything from Beyond Mortal Dreams, so maybe they’ve got more freshly grilled demon meat to offer to us in the future. But for now, this is one hell of an appetizer. More!

(2 Tracks, 8:00)

8.5/10

Sabbatic Goat - Imprecations Of Black Chaos

Sabbatic Goat – Imprecations Of Black Chaos (2014) – These New Zealand death/doomers offer up a short two track Cd with a cover of Black Witchery’s “Into Damnation Eternal.” Apparently it’s on cassette and limited to 100 copies, so get yours today.

The album opens with a short atmospheric intro that gets things all nice and gloomy so that the band can come in with “Flesh And Might 4:03.” These guys are definitely the fuzziest of fuzzy death metal acts, but I don’t really notice the doom element until near the very end of the track, in which the pounding riffs bring a foreboding sense to the piece. Other than that, you’ve got machine-gun drumming and a mixture of gravel and vocal screams. “Chaos Ritual 3:39” is the next track here, slowing things down a bit as the drums keep up the pace provided by what certainly sound like unwelcoming doom riffs. Yet you’ve certainly got an oncoming death attack as the dual vocal approach continues. There’s a guitar solo buried somewhere way out back, in the outback (of that I’m certain) but if you listen real close you may be able to ascertain it. The recording ends with the Black Witchery cover of “Into Damnation Eternal 3:08” which show these guys doing about as well of a job as Black Witchery. I’ve said it before that I couldn’t get into Black Witchery, so these guys don’t do much to help me in that matter, It’s just really not my sort of thing. Still, you’ve got a lot of fuzz and cymbal taps in occasion to some other bits of drumming, which is what I hear more than anything else. It’s like the bass being louder than everything else in modern hip hop music. Why are the drums so fucking loud in this release? But if you like the drums completely in your face with frantic screaming and palatable gravel, then I think you’ll find something in this down under quartet, who relish in playing the sounds from way down under.

(4Tracks, 11:00)

6/10

Graves At Sea - Sourvein - Split EP

Graves At Sea/Sourvein – EP (2014) – This split consists of two acts, but one I like slightly more than the other. I won’t apologize for it, that’s just the way it came off. First of all you’ve got Graves At Sea, which is definitely one of my favorite up and coming acts and it’s because of little ditties like the highly celebrated “Betting On Black 7:42” which I opened an earlier review of their EP discussing. And yes, now that we’ve finally got to the split I was referring to, I still feel the same way about this track. Once again, this is the song for the man doomed to corporate hell, pummeled to death by bills and tariffs, trying to pay a debt that can never be repaid in his lifetime. It’s a song of the man broken and defeated as he succumbs to the cruel and miserable hell that lay before him. We have created cages after all, and those who dwell in those cages certainly suffer. Without a doubt, this is my favorite Graves At Sea track. The next one on the album is “Confession 7:33” which comes on just as strong, but I can’t quite relate to it. Maybe I need to listen to it a bit more and really absorb the lyrics, as it’s not quite as catchy as “Betting On Black.” However, there is certainly more structure to this sludge doom than the previous track and some may like it more. Either way, Graves At Sea still deliver phenomenal sludge doom and they’re one of my favorite new acts of 2014.

Sourvein come next with a stoner approach to their doom. It’s not the fierce and malefic approach of Graves At Sea, but I’m sure that someone will find something in the classic riffs and whiskey throated shouts of “Drifter 3:49.” It’s not bad, but I just didn’t get into as much as the other act. “Equinox 3:06” slows things down a bit as light riff melodies pound out a worthy atmosphere that sounds almost ethereal at times. It almost sounds like the song itself is on LSD. The last one here is the thick and fuzzy “Follow The Light 5:30” which ultimately succeeds as a suitable stoner doom track.

All in all, this is weird kind of split seeing as the abrasive Graves At Sea sounds out of place with the mellow grooves and drug-induced melodies of Sourvein. I definitely recommend the Graves At Sea side of the split though, as you certainly can’t go wrong with it. The Sourvein stuff kind of seems like a bit of a cool down from that.

Highlights: Betting On Black, Confession, Equinox (5 Tracks, 27:00)

7/10

Xin - Demo

Xin – Demo (2014) – A personal request from a musician I met a few years back, this is his first ever debut of original music to the world. I wasn’t really sure where he was going to go, but it certainly seems that the guitar spoke to him and he’s done a pretty decent job mixing his influences together on this album. It’s actually quite promising and makes me think that this act could be worth keeping my eye on a professional and not just personal level (as I always try to enact with my reviews.)

The album begins with XIN I (1:56) which offers a decent enough intro with some programmed drums. The first song I’ve got here is “Longing For The Sun 7:21” wherein I already start to notice some problems. I probably should have said something, but the vocals need to be lowered a bit to match the music or the music itself needs to be brought out to match the vocals. Drums seem to be doing a good job keeping up the pace as we get a few memorable lead moments on the record. The vocal approach seems to head a bit towards deathcore though, so some people might not like that; yet in other ways it’s quite the flavor of the week. Already some individuals seem quite impressed with the work, so that should prove well for him. At a musical level I’m quite impressed even if the vocals aren’t quite my thing. Maybe if they weren’t so high in the mix it would sound a bit more cohesive. I do think the song goes on a tad too long however, it doesn’t seem to contain all the structure that it needs to fill the nearly eight minute mark, and should shorten in the middle so that the listener can get to the much stronger instrumental last half of the piece. “Drowning In Woe 6:09” has the At The Gates influence injected with core, yet it proves to have some intriguing sections in the middle wherein atmosphere is built. A plentiful helping of breakdowns serve to end the track before some thrash. “XIN II 0:36” comes is a little oddly, needing some work I think. “We’ve Been Forgotten 3:26” brings in more melodic death metal elements with some thrash, when clean vocals come in. They’re actually quite good, but need a bit of work. That comes in time, however. The album ends with punchable (as thanks for subjecting my ears to thick blasts of static) rounds of static and slight mayhem that compose “Xin III 1:57” with a slightly odd and ominous sense as well as some slight ridiculousness that goes into breakdown backed harsh vocals.

Well, it’s definitely the right direction for the guy. It seems that he’s just trying to experiment with new things and with time, he’ll get better. I’m not keen on the core but there’s a hell of a scene for it and those people will feel much differently on that notion. At any rate, the only real complaint I have is with the vocal levels. The recording itself sounds quite crisp and well-produced. But no label would really even consider the vocal approach so damn high in the mix. It sounds more like vocal practice than an actual demo, but this is extremely easy to remedy and fix. The trick is to make everything audible and that can be quite tricky. What I think needs to happen is for this guy to just take it down a few notches and try again. Either that, or raise the volume level of the music, so that the vocals aren’t quite so overbearing and off-putting, But this is a demo, so there’s more work to be done obviously and it’s an alright show of his talents.

(6 Tracks, 21:00)

6.5/10

Scream Machine - Animal Farm

Scream Machine – Animal Farm (Free EP) (2014) – SinDelle is back with another free EP and this one is a little more aggressive than the previous release with good reason. With a title taken from the Orwell novel of the same name, Animal Farm is an observation of the current age and the unwillingness of people to do anything. I think she really says it best on the opener “Cattle 5:04” where it sounds as if she’s asking the cows themselves if anyone is going to do something about the issues going on in our country. Yet, the cattle seem to be happy chewing cud and don’t even realize that at the culmination of their days, they’ll wind up in a slaughterhouse. Seems fitting for the current nature of society as well. Just like blind cattle off to the butchery, they won’t even know what happened. “Cattle 5:04” sees an aggressive acidic beat to back what comes off as a punchy vocal delivery from the front woman who still proves that she’s got a handle on electronic music. “Elephants 2:34” is about war, as it fills with gunshots and even more acidic loops. With her patented nursery rhyme style delivery and an almost melancholic choral distortion, the song just sort of abruptly ends and confuses me a bit. “Pigs 4:02” comes right in with anti-police sentiments, which certainly seems to be relevant considering all the police negligence we’ve had of recent. She even incorporates the nursery rhyme to match the content of the piece. I do think it would have been more effective if a harsher vocal style was used on the second reiteration of “But I was not forgiving when he met my 45!” but that’s just me. I think it would have come off a little stronger. The next track is “JackA$$ 2:04” which I could do without, despite the relevancy of the lyrics. It seems to be a reaction to internet comments, which does sound better on an EP than it would a full-length. The final track is “Sheep 2:18” which seems to build right off the last track, but doesn’t really seem to hit as hard as some of her previous material.

For some odd reason, Scream Machine EP’s don’t get along as well with me as the full length records do and I’m not sure why that is. Rise Of Machines didn’t work well for me and this one is only slightly better. I’m not saying that it’s a wash, but compared to the previous material it seems a bit rushed. “JackA$$” actually seems like a last minute inclusion and “Elephants” seems incomplete. “Sheep” also doesn’t really seem like it’s all that fleshed out either. But you still get “Cattle” and “Pigs” which are definitely steps in the right direction. I’ve noticed that SinDelle isn’t screaming quite so much on this one, but that’s probably because she’s going in a new direction. If anything, Animal Farm seems like a collection of apocalyptic nursery rhymes and should peak the attention of fans for a bit until the next release appears. The record is free, so definitely give it a shot if you like aggressive electronic material in this vein. It’s certainly not her best, but it’s a good warm up for what’s to come later this year.

Highlights: Cattle, Pigs (16:00)

7/10

Hirsipuu - Ihmisestä

Hirsipuu – Ihmisestä (2014) – There are so many ways that I can explain this cover. It looks like a man might have been digging a hole, when an evil (and I mean evil) mole comes along and knocks him to the ground, stealing his shovel and then proceeding to decapitate him with it. Satisfied, the sadistic mole digs into the man’s organs and takes up residence there until time of the photo shoot, when it raised its head from the man’s body to take the shot that would become the album’s cover. Whether or not the details of this story are true or not, these clever Finns definitely have an interesting take on metal as they show with this album.

The album’s opener “Antaa Sen Huutaa 2:07” introduces us to blistering drums, deathy riffs and a mix of sharp scowls and bowel movement shouts. So when he’s not in a scavenging rage, the frontman lets loose a howl that really sounds as if he’s trying to push something absurdly large from out of his rectum. But that seems to work well for the band, as “Pyhitetty Olkoon Sinun Kimosi 3:01” shows with its gaggle of breakdowns and blast beats. Yes, I said blast beats. As in, you can mix breakdowns and blast beats. Or at least these guys did. “Apostata 2:03” throws together thick death grooves, more black metal influence and a rather appealing solo as well. “Raivo 2:03” comes in with the same thing really, as well as what sounds like a haphazard vocal duet. “Valltamaton Paha 2:16” adds more thrash elements but doesn’t do much else. It sounds like some melodeath influence got lost in the mix, sans the solo. “Turha Uhri 2:24” really kicks up the extremity however, being one of the disc’s bleakest and most unrelenting moments. There was a nice spot for a short solo, but they didn’t add one. What a pity. “Vaelle Valta 2:18” does manage to continue the extremes with battering drums and graveyard thrash melodies, so that’s a good thing. The vocals also sound much more volatile for these past two tracks. Make that three, as “Akti 2:12” closes the album with the same amount of punching brutality. The disc ends with a solo, which is a great way for these guys to go out.

Highlights: Turha Uhri, Vaelle Valta, Akti (8 Tracks, 18:00)

7/10

Inhuman Remnants - Intentional Blindness

Inhuman Remnants – Intentional Blindness (2014) – Australian brutal death metallers, Intentional Blindness come roaring forth with a battleground full of… well, spiders. I mean, these guys seem to love giant spiders and I fucking hate them. I have arachnophobia, so spiders really send me over the edge. Even webs upset me, so I don’t like to be anywhere with a bunch of them. The EP starts with the title track (4:00) which consists of a flurry of furious drums, gravel poured in by a cement mixer and some great melodic leads that keep the thing from becoming too stagnant. Almost any band can perform the brutal death metal genre these days, with the only elements needed being almost monotonous machine gun drumming, and vocal gravel. There’s no real need for riff melodies and structure unless you want to break out of the pack, which is what these guys are attempting to do. “Unsane 4:02” begins with a scream however, which shows that already these guys don’t want to stick to cement truck mouth outpours for the whole record. But yeah, there’s plenty of grunting amidst that “bump, bump, bump” set of grooves I’m getting, with the frontman sounding almost like something out of the swamp later on in the track. If there’s one thing I can say about Dave, he really fucking has the gore gravel down and that works well with Chris and JDK’s little guitar fiddlings. Sometimes you’ll just hear an odd out of place note and it seems to work well with the backing vocal line. Yet I’m still hearing more great melody work on the piece, which helps to accentuate the eerie atmosphere. I think these guys need more playground to work with and this EP doesn’t really allow them to show just what they could do. Hopefully no one leaves this band before then, because I’m hearing some great chemistry. “The Suicidal And The Murderous 2:46” begins with some awesome leads, but resorts to triggered drumming (why?) for just a few seconds before the band realize that it’s a bad idea and go back to melody and normal drum blasts. “Rotten Fruit From A Dying Family Tree 5:03” slows things down (but keeps the melody) as the gravel-throated frontman begins to communicate his gory tale. Noticing how much I’ve said gravel already? Good, because this guy eats it for breakfast. There’s a screamer in the band also as I’ve mentioned and he’s useful too, but when you have a frontman who can utilize the thickest vocal utterances that I’ve ever heard from the human throat, the screamer becomes a little outclassed. Despite the breakdowns at the end of the track, there’s a nice solo to decorate them quite a bit. That’s always refreshing.

The only thing that really disappoints me about this album is how there’s no songs on the record based on the themes in the cover art. Now, I know that there don’t necessarily ever have to be songs based on album’s cover art, but the band have released two EP’s with that artwork and I haven’t heard any songs yet that feature that reference the art. It’s just kind of weird to use the same art on two EP’s and not have a tie-in. But perhaps I’m just complaining over nothing. At any rate, give these guys a chance because they’re doing some great things on the album that separate them from their peers. All they really need is more time to show what they’ve got. Fifteen minutes really doesn’t cut it.

(4 Tracks, 15:00)

7.5/10

Sutekh Hexen - Become EP

Sutekh Hexen – Become EP (2014) – You know, I’ve got to be honest about this one. I really don’t know what’s happening here, but it makes me think of a stormy ship at sea. Both sides of the album definitely appear to sound like black metal, with some drumming and scowls to be found; yet I feel as if the whole band is trapped in the middle of a hurricane. It sounds like they might be in a whirlpool to be honest and I’ve never quite heard anything like this in my entire life. The first side (15:00) definitely makes me think that heavy rains are pouring down while harsh winds and all sorts of shit just seems to be flying through the air. It really sounds like 70,000 tons of metal during a fierce typhoon. So I’ve covered typhoons, hurricanes and whirlwinds, right? If these guys were trying to start a storm, well they’ve certainly captured it here. The attack of fuzz and whirl and whatever in the hell else you can hear is quite surreal though. I like this album because of its atmosphere. I wouldn’t even care if it was in some odd percentile, black metal. The second side (14:48) sounds like it may have been recorded in the cave that the band found once they had woken up on an island after the ship that they were playing on had sunk right into the briny deep. The winds are still blowing pretty harshly though, and it sounds like someone is trying to start what’s left of the boat’s motor in the background. But it’s to no avail. Eventually, the band step back outside onto the surface of the island, where maniacal winds and a veritable shitstorm vomited forth from the anus of God encounter them, after which the band decides that they would rather just hide in the cave until the storm is over. This makes me wonder if these guys are safe and not still in that cave on that island. Where in the hell did you get this? Someone needs to fucking check up on these guys before they rot to death inside that cavern.

As Become is unlike anything I’ve ever heard in my life, I’m going to have to give it a very high score. Any time I listen to this album, I can picture myself in the center of a raging storm on the ocean, which actually feels a bit more misty and vibrant than being here on land. Man was said to first walk out of the ocean, so perhaps this is the sound of that which is familiar to me and perhaps it’s why men decided to build boats in the first place in search of fine minerals and new lands. There is more water than Earth to be found on this planet, and if Global Warming holds true, then we will certainly find that to be a very relevant statement much quicker than we thought. In any case, I definitely recommend Sutekh Hexen’s Become EP as I’m sure that even these guys are wondering how in the hell I took an occult based atmosphere record for a journey into the primordial depths of the ocean. And my answer to that would be as simple as any: It just came off that way.

(2 Tracks, 29:48)

9/10

Contaminated - Pestilential Decay

Contaminated – Pestilential Decay (2014) – Contaminated is a death metal band, but you could tell that easily from the amount of darkness and skulls on the cover. The disc begins with the brooding “Untold Depths 3:15” which soon becomes the blasting “Untold Depths” and then the grooving “Untold Depths.” So already, these guys are doing something right. Dreadful riff melodies and a feeling of overall extinction vomit forth from this foul creature, making something that feels authentic. Though this is a style far from new, Contaminated make it a bit more interesting. When a song that is only three minutes in length sounds much longer due to the amount of atmosphere and structure thrown into it, you can really tell that an effort is being made. The band continue this approach with “Forlorn And Desolate 3:37” which brings the mood down even more, throwing in crypt friendly riff melodies and a continuing sense of dread that purveys throughout the piece. Vocals even stop just to allow the ghastly melodies to toll for a while longer before the drummer decides that it’s time to give the kit another exercise in brutality. “Formless Wastes 4:13” actually rolls straight into death/doom territory as the riffs become even slower. But the pungently thick vocals do well to augment it before the drummer goes back to bashing the kit and the band gives us another lesson in devastation. “Pestilential Decay 5:15” begins with brooding death, but also injects a massive dose of drum-fueled mayhem into the mix. Then it goes right back to trembling doom, where the disc ends.

The cover for this album certainly matches the mood of the material. These guys know how to wrap brooding atmospheres in with unhinged brutality and they do it seamlessly. There are very few bands that I can say have this level of skill so early on in their career. Contaminated have certainly made a fine mixture of brutal death and brooding doom metal. Definitely give this record a shot, as I think you’ll enjoy the hell out of it. I know that I did.

(4 Tracks, 16:00)

8/10

Final Conflict - Ashes To Ashes

Final Conflict – Ashes To Ashes (2014) – Final Conflict make a mix of pun k and thrash and seem to do a good job with both. Naturally this music isn’t anything mid-blowing as far as musicianship goes, but to the punks that love it, they’ll find some great songs to like here. The entire album sounds more or less like the same song, but with different lyrical themes, all weighing in on the struggles that we humans face today. It is the music for those oppressed, who wish to rebel against the system. Yet it is a message that goes back to the early days of punk, showing that we’ve learned nothing since the time when this music first appeared preaching change. What of The Sex Pistols now? Nothing more than rock legends with the money and systematic status that they were so against. And despite Henry Rollins’ epic speeches in the past, he now owns his own company. He became the man that he sought to rebel against in his youth. No one has ever really done anything. But if you want to hear a bunch of loud, raucous punk anthems, be sure to check this one out. It’s true to the nature of punk and might actually turn some heads towards change this time around. Maybe.

(14 Tracks, 28:00)

7/10

Ghoul - Hang Ten

Ghoul – Hang Ten (2014) – Finally, Ghoul is back with their latest EP which released on Record Store Day. Though you might think it’s a bit early for another EP, these guys prove that they haven’t gone south with even more memorable pieces. I like this one so much that I want to roll through it. So let the carnage begin!

First off we’ve got the intro “The Midnight Ride Of The Cannibals MC 2:01” which throws the band’s punky grindhouse thrash nature into a memorable opening that really should have been used in a grindhouse film. I mean, why not? If you’ve got the talent and there’s a good enough grindhouse flick out there that needs a soundtrack like this, I think it should be applied. The next song is “Kreeg 2:44” which brings in surf-rock, thrash and other extremities that seem to work just fucking perfectly. And listen to those damn leads. Vocally, the verse approach is quite memorable too, with a narrative section not before heard in Ghoul. Some might not like the idea of a clean vocal approach, but this isn’t necessarily sparkling. “Sidehackers 3:32” starts out with a vocal narrative that reminds me of White Zombie’s “Black Sunshine” as it goes into a thick and powerful instrumental section. Once again, I’m thinking grindhouse here – it seems that these ghouls decided to create a soundtrack for their own film (now someone just needs to shoot it) and so far I’m quite interested. “Blood On The Street 4:02” takes a different tone, as it doesn’t start out with the same grindhouse style surf-rock. It actually sounds like an evil blues, if you will; something to build the stage for a gritty gangster film in which many people get shot, stabbed and beheaded. So maybe it’s sort of grindhouse after all. The movie style effects help to make this theme even more viable, (Are there films being made on these concepts that we don’t know of yet? I’d be the first one to support them. The world needs more good grindhouse films like Hobo With A Shotgun and Machete Kills) as the track speeds right into “It Was A Very Good Year 2:22” in which even more atmospheres are attempted. Remember, there’s not a whole lot of vocals on this disc; but it works entirely well without them. The last track here is the EP’s title (4:19) and it’s also the longest track featured. There’s actually a few video game style melodies that seem to have gotten stuck in the surf-rock making for what could be an indie game tribute to a grindhouse film that hasn’t yet been announced. Boy they make these things fast. At any rate, this is definitely Ghoul at 100% showing that they can sit down and craft some memorable atmospheres and it’s well worth picking up. Yes, they’ve changed a lot from the death/thrash days, but it’s still Ghoul and it’s still an out of the box approach that you’ll keep coming back to as the year goes on. Now, as for that next full length album…

(6 tracks, 19:00)

8/10

Storm Cry - Beginning Of Darkness

Storm Cry – Beginning Of Darkness (2014) – This is an EP from Italian melodic death metallers Storm Cry, created under the Creative Commons License. As we first start the disc, an acoustic/electronic introductory piece called “The Descent 1:57” begins the piece with some background whispering. The album kicks into gear with “The Sun Dies Here 5:03” which doesn’t have the cleanest leads I’ve ever heard, but it shows that Roberto Bindi is a more than suitable vocalist for the disc, with his thick vocal growls being more than potent enough. Occasionally, Leonardo Doro plays some rather memorable leads, but manages to throw a surprisingly potent solo piece into the mix. Influenced by Swedish melodic death metal, you can see what these guys were going for and to some extent, they’ve achieved it. “The SYS 5:35” seems to start off on a better foothold however, as it goes right into thrashing as Roberto’s vocal deliver once again. Matteo Rizzo’s drum work also seems to be quite powerful and punches the track far more than the previous one. By far, I’d say that the “The SYS” is a better demonstration of the band’s ability than the previous number. Another solo comes into the mix as the song ends and goes into the electronically influenced “Fear Now 4:31.” This one is a bit slower, but Francesco Pasinato’s rhythm lines certainly seem to hold up. I’m reminded a lot of Dark Tranquillity by these guys and perhaps that’s a good thing, but I think they’ve still got a way to go before they really hit on something truly noteworthy. Nevertheless, it’s still a decent enough effort. An muscular solo section comes into play, with “Void 3:26” serving up as the next offering on the disc. It reminds me a little of the Megaman X soundtrack, with the same gravel approach and the same sets of leads. Not much else to say here, but it’s solid enough. The final track here is “Beginning Of Darkness 4:40” which serves as a decent enough song to end it off on.

Storm Cry do a fairly well job of making melodic death metal in the same vein as bands like Dark Tranquillity and Insomnium, but I just think the band needs a little more pizzazz before I can take them seriously enough. The effort is shown, but I’ve heard bands that excel far beyond their capabilities and I’d like to hear these guys ascend to those heights. The lead work and vocals are good, but it sounds too much like those other bands and there’s just not enough originality here for me to take a shine to. The best part about this band is Roberto Bindi’s vocal work and Leonardo Doro’s solos, which always seem to deliver regardless of the track. It sounds like a band that needs to do some exploring, or else the work is just going to come off as relatively decent. Which is what I’d consider this EP.

Highlights: The SYS (6 Tracks, 25:00)

7/10

Perversity - Infamy Divine

Perversity – Infamy Divine (2014) – The new MCD from Slovakian death metal stalwarts Perversity comes off boasting rampant drums, blood-curdling guitar riffs and a vocal approach that sounds like it came right out of the ninth circle of hell itself. The album sounds exactly as you’d want it to, with no sign of clean melodies or off the wall oddities. If the songs don’t bash you over the head, they lead into threatening atmospheres and do manage to feature some relatively decent riff melodies here and there. Perversity know exactly what kind of album they want to make here and it sounds exactly like a death metal record should. Influences really aren’t necessary to note, but Suffocation, Entombed, Grave, Deicide and several other longtime favorites certainly gave them the original axe to grind and they show their skills with each track on the disc. Sometimes bands of this nature can come off quite repetitive, but songs like “Incest Of Flesh 3:07” show me that they’ve got plenty of tricks up their sleeves. Not everything on here is gold, but it’s definitely a good holdover for when the band releases their next full length. 2011 was a long time ago and I’m sure that the world is ready to hear another full length slab of death from these guys. At least they’ve kept it true and aren’t resorting to more popular styles. Or at least, not yet.

Interestingly enough, there’s a symphonic piano piece called “Infamous 0:57” that works to end the album and makes me hopeful that they’ll utilize more of these unconventional and chilling pieces on said full length. But I don’t see a band like Perversity taking the classical death metal route ala SepticFlesh. Nevertheless, it’s here if you want it; so if you’ve been awaiting new music from Perversity, then be sure to grab this disc!

(6 Tracks, 17:00)

7.5/10

Jumalhamara - Songless Shores

Jumalhamara – Songless Shores (2014) – These Finns have released a nearly twenty minute piece that is just as confusing at its lyrical base. Steeped in effects, drone and noise, I’m not really sure what to make of this. The piece begins with hypnotic bells that remind me almost of some of the music from Yume Nikki, but guitar slowly draws in as a chunkier approach soon comes into place drowning out the bells completely. And I’m also hearing the howls of tortured spirits. As what sounds like wooden drum blocks are being smashed together along with the slight hits of steel and fuzz, I also hear an utterly demonic sensation of vocal moaning, something that sounds as unholy as it is mantric. Perhaps this piece is some sort of unholy mantra, yet I find myself completely at an impasse when I stop to stare once again at the song’s lyrics. I feel like I can decipher some of what may be referenced here, but this odd drone-like incantation certainly has me as perplexed as I am in wonder of it. And things do calm down after a while, allowing folk instruments and odd winds to roll forth as a thick drone atmosphere pervades throughout. It almost sounds ethereal, as it goes into the realms of absolute weirdness and insanity. This definitely sounds like it would be at home in the twisted dream world of Yume Nikki, and slowly begins to sound like the stuff that nightmares are made from. Vocal utterances come back amidst electronics and steel, it almost sounds like a some sort of automaton is working laboriously amongst the ear-piercing screams of a man who looks in horror at the work it is doing. Perhaps shoving railroad spikes into the family was not what he desired. Then things begin to take a slightly churchy approach with the use of organ and more industrial steel. This really is an intriguing atmosphere that I can only put into words. You’ll have to hear it with your own ears. As the churchy vibe comes in, so does a choir. So you’ve got a steely church section with a harmonious choir here, which sounds absolutely fucking beautiful. The sounds of nature fill the last couple of minutes, along with some distorted hymns and chants. I’m really quite amazed.

What else is there to say about Songless Shores? It’s a mesmerizing piece that you could listen to over and over again, trying to ascertain its meaning, or what it means to you. Definitely recommended. Time, effort and skill went into this interestingly intriguing piece. I commend that. Get lost in the experience, folks.

(1 Track, 17:42)

9/10

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