Now I know we don’t normally post on a Monday, but this time things are different. As a matter of fact, I’m doing this post along with our former editor in order to learn how to perform the process, and then I’ve got to teach that process back to our new editor and writer, who won’t be very hard to point out as she’s got two reviews here for Lachrimatory and Darke Complex. Additionally, Eugene’s got a review here for Wende as well, and according to the text, it seems like he’s really digging it. So you might want to get your hands on it. As per the usual, I’ve got some amazing heavy hitters from experimental thrashers Satyrasis, death/thrash doomers Chapel of Disease, classic heavy metallers Defyance and progressive black metallers Wende among many others. We’ve also got the new Melechesh and an all-star tribute album to the great Randy Rhoads, as well as a personal favorite rock act by the name of The Dreaming (formerly Stabbing Westward). There are plenty of great records here, so be sure to check them all out, if you haven’t.
Satyrasis – Of The Dead (2015 Spotlight) – This Name Your Own Price Bandcamp record definitely piqued my interests immediately, with it being a mix of fierce thrash and unmistakable ingenuity. There’s a little more to this little thrash disc than just a slew of heavy riffs and the band prove it when they delve into progressive realms that only help to further electrify my eardrums, as a gruff vocal narrates a slew of dark and rather depressing poetry. What really makes this album shine are its atmospheric tendencies and amazing sections of instrumentalism. Satyrasis might sound like a black metal band, but in all honesty they’re one of the most technical and progressive, yet still ridiculously ferocious thrash acts that I’ve ever heard. Everybody and their mother praised the new Machine Head last year, saying the same things about it that this record has already perfected. So everything about that disc that you liked, Of The Dead did so much better. As you continue to listen to the disc, it just gets even more technical and with that technicality, it just gets even better. These guys show that they can actually play their fucking guitars instead of just playing a handful of the same old riffs that we’ve heard from thrash bands throughout the years. The drumming is also just as tight as the rest of the album, even in midi form which explodes into “Excision 7:45” making for one of the most interesting transitions I’ve ever heard. But not only that, the track also displays an absolutely remarkable solo section which tumbles right into a fun prog piece that topples right into a dark and ominous moment of what seems to be mourning. It’s almost as if a war was fought within that section of the song and the soldiers were mourned as an iron behemoth with tank treads rolls right over them, crushing bones as it leaves their corpses paved into the dirt… and that’s just a description of one of the nine tracks that compose this hour of unexplainable grandeur and mesmerizing remembrance. I don’t know about you, but it’s been a very long time since a thrash band has experimented so heavily and kept their sound bone-crushingly apparent. Satyrasis actually translates to an uncontrollable sex drive in men, which transferred into this band regurgitates as an uncontrollable drive in music. There’s no doubt that Of The Dead will rip your face off at the same time as it perplexes you, with loads of unexpected segues and just plain hard work and dedication that you can tell from the very start. There are so many other things I could say about this record, and I’d really like to wax poetic about it for hours, but I’ll just say that it crushes everything you thought was good about Bloodstone & Diamonds into the dust. I’m reminded a lot of the groovy Machine Head style thrash here and even the vocals are similar in some aspects, but there’s just so much more to explore. Even a three minute piece like “Circumstances 3:27” can sound like it’s much longer, due to just how much the band cares about structure. But then you get odd keyboard atmospherics right after that with “Warwhore 8:34” and there’s just so damn much to talk about here that I don’t want to spoil anymore of this experience for you. I already feel like I’ve poked too many holes in the wrapping paper that adorns this glorious gift of heavy metal, so I’m going to stop my blabbering right here and allow you to get your hands on this amazing and uncanny release yourself. It’s uncannily good and it’s remarkably recallable. There’s just nothing else to say. Go get it now and impress everyone with the awesomeness that emanates from this album. Of The Dead is most certainly a rather morbid title for such a lively and potent performance. It might very well be one of the best records you’ve heard all year. Mark my words…
(9 Tracks, 59:00)
Chapel Of Disease – The Mysterious Ways Of Repetitive Art (2015) – Chapel Of Disease are back and I’m proud to say that with this third listen of the record, they’re even better than they were last time. I was exercising pretty heavily to this disc, which made it all the more endurable as The Mysterious Ways Of Repetitive Art because this sophomore opus is an absolute beast. It opens up with “The Mysterious Ways 5:36” which is more or less an intro to the slaughtering that you’re going to receive when this mix of doom, death and thrash gets to pummeling your ears. Fronted by an absolutely bloodcurdling approach from the frontman, it also observes melody, as well as some awesome solo pieces that only add a little bit of glitter to the blood and gore laid before you, courtesy of the great old ones, no less. There’s even the sort of rampant theatrics here that you might expect from ritual black metal. But I feel that these theatrics help to make the performance genuine. They really pound out those doom riffs, while you’re at the same time getting earfuls of just plain memorable guitar work. I thought these guys were a pretty damn good band the first time, but now I’m positively assured that they’re a great one. To be brutally honest, there aren’t too many heads that won’t bang to this one and the very fact that people aren’t shitting their pants over it worries me. Chapel Of Disease really went above and beyond the call of Cthulhu in order to deliver a really fucking splendid performance that really sees its weight thoroughly distributed in all areas. The very fact that these guys can shift right over from ritualistic doom to thrash and lay on some tasteful rock n’ roll solos makes this record more than a match for me. “Lord Of All Death 8:26” really seems to kick the most ass, but there’s really something here for the horde as a whole. I’ve never seen the two genres of death/thrash and doom playing quite as lovely together as they are here and that makes these guys a serious act to remember. If maturity is something Chapel Of Disease needed to show, then The Mysterious Ways Of A Repetitive Art is most definitely that. Get your hands on this album right now. It’s been out for a while, so damn me for not reviewing it sooner. Hopefully the band can forgive my tardiness for this one and I won’t be fed to great beast of the black hole.
(7 Tracks, 47:00)
Negura Bunget – Tau (2015) – The new Negura Bunget record came out this year and let’s hope that you didn’t miss out on it, because just like all of their other releases, it’s rather intriguing mix of symphonic and melodic death metal mixed with folk music that sounds like no other. These guys pound out eight tracks in fifty minutes and nearly each one of them seems to fill with thunderous riffs, swamp monster vocals, impeccable keyboard atmospheres and captivating lead melodies. As the record goes on, it begins to take more of a folk approach as “La Hotaru Cu Cini Culmi 4:11” and “Curgerea Muntelui 5:24” demonstrate, but even with increased folk and atmosphere, there are still plenty of dark and brooding moods to be found within the confines of the album. Those who find themselves more attuned to the band’s heavier material will simply bang their heads off with “Izbucu Galbenei 6:29” and the storm of “Taram Valhovnicesc 6:39” which sounds like a nightmare come true. Even though these guys have been belting it out for a while now, Tau is a good sign that they’re far from washed up and if nothing else, becoming a more mature and polished act – not too polished, but just enough to appeal to those who do not prefer an overly raw sound. I’ve liked all of the material that I’ve heard from the band so far, even though I feel that the non-metallic folk music cuts on here could serve as a detriment to them. That being said, I do feel that this band, or any should be able to experiment at their leisure. After all, that’s part of evolution, is it not? Can’t simply go on making the same record forever now, can we? At any rate, I’m pretty sure that fans will be more than pleased with at least a few of the tracks on here, and I know that my head is still reeling from the magnificence of “Taram Valhovnicesc.” Tau is more mature approach from the band, but it still includes all of the elements that have made them great over the years. It’s well worth a listen.
(8 Tracks, 50:00)
The Dreaming – Rise Again (2015) – Let me say this now. I’ve always been a huge fan of Stabbing Westward. But not only of Stabbing Westward, but bands that sound similar to them or contain a vocal style similar to that of frontman Christopher Hall. You may not have realized, but after Stabbing made one of their less intriguing albums (and I’ll say that nicely) Christopher went on to form The Dreaming (Sandman reference anyone?) and has since been cranking out material that edged closer and closer to the sound that made their old band so popular. Etched In Blood was the first of these and it really served to do nothing for me, but then Puppet came out shortly after and the electronic tinged hard rock with slightly metallic elements that I’d loved so much came back to the forefront. I remember how I kept saying that “this might as well be a Stabbing Westward album” as I jammed it over and over. Well, with this third opus I’m almost ready to scribble out the band’s new moniker on the album cover and write above it “Stabbing Westward” with a sharpie. Because Rise Again is exactly that. It sounds like Stabbing Westward’s fifth album (if we count Puppet as their fourth) and gives me the same electronic rock approach that I’ve expected, complete with an emotionally catchy vocal performance that may very well serve as one Christopher Hall’s best since the early days. There’s just no one out there that belts it out in alternative rock like this guy does and as far as the mixture of electronics and hard rock riffs go, no one really seems to be able to do it like these guys can. I will say that the record isn’t quite as dark as Darkest Days, but it definitely has the same amount of passion, albeit in a poppier sense. There’s no mistake that Rise Again is an electronic/alternative rock album, but it’s one that I would not mind hearing singles from on the radio. The record comes with hit after hit after hit and jumps right into nearly all of its choruses, which does come off a bit saccharine, but the teenager in me who drilled these albums into I his head day after day for the past couple of years certainly doesn’t seem to mind. Most of the tracks are only about three or four minutes long and definitely seem to match standard pop music lengths, but The Dreaming are not on a pop music label and I don’t consider Rise Again to be a forgettable pop performance. Perhaps it could have used more substance, had a little more electronic flair or captured more of an atmosphere, but Puppet already did these things even though it admittedly wasn’t quite as catchy. Simply put, I would have to consider Rise Again to be an overly solid electronic/alternative rock album with loads of catchy earworms that you might have a tough time getting out of your ears. I’m going to have to give it about a hundred more listens, while still jamming the old Stabbing Westward catalog. I recommend that you do the same. While you’re at it, grab a copy of Puppet if you haven’t. Both of these records show that The Dreaming are a major force to be reckoned with and I can’t wait to hear what’s next.
(10 Tracks, 41:00)
Melechesh – Enki (2015) – Arabian metallers Melechesh are back with a bolder and fiercer album in the form of Enki which really manages to combine their love of traditional Arabian folk music with hard-hitting metal riffs, punishing yet tasteful drumming and a vocal approach that sounds positively raspy and razor-sharp. There’s no doubt that Enki is a heavy record as Ashmedi was in a very angry mood when he performed most of the vocal sessions for the album. It’s blistering, but it’s not very thrashy or filled with the black metal sensibilities of their previous works. What we’ve got here is indeed a very groove-laden album which in some ways seems simplistic, yet hooky and manages to cement the band’s style in a more approachable fashion. There are still hints of thrash to be found here, but it’s nothing like Djinn and rather captures a slew of their many influences across the board. I don’t want to say that the record is a bit more accessible than their previous work, but that certainly seems to be the case. That being said, Enki certainly delivers where it counts and guest spots from the likes of Max Cavalera, Sakis Tolis and Rob Caggiano don’t hurt either. I never thought that I would ever heard Max on a Melechesh album, but the two are certainly fiery on “Lost Tribes 6:28” with Sakis Tolis sounding right at home on “Enki-Divine Nature Awoken 8:54” as it seems to mirror his current style in Rotting Christ quite well, delivering some rather progressive and atmospheric touches at that. Finally, we’ve got former Anthrax axeman Rob Caggiano delivering a mean solo on “The Palm, The Eye and Lapis Lazuli 4:16” even though Ashmedi’s solo efforts are arguably just as strong on the record. He’s definitely shows his strengths as not just a vocalist and guitarist, but as a musician and composer and I think that’s really where Enki shines brightest. The lyrical matter for the album is quite complex, rather positive in nature and seems to be all about reaching one’s higher nature, a concept that I can humbly agree with. It’s most certain that the album’s atmospheric instrumental “Doorways To Irkala 8:14” is a further extension of this in its meditational nature and it is definite proof that there’s a seemingly higher purpose here in the band, which goes far beyond the negativity of other acts. It won’t sound like peace and enlightenment, but those messages are certainly there, inscribed deep within the harsh and barren desert sands. I’ve often wondered what heavy metal would sound like if there wasn’t any corruption in the world, nor wars, death or violence to speak of. Enki holds my answer to that, further assuring me that the music itself will still remain just as heavy as it ever has.
(9 Tracks, 64:00)
Desert – Never Regret (2015) – Desert are a power metal act from Israel and they’ve certainly proved their weight with Never Regret which seems to be a concept album based on the popular Assassin’s Creed franchise. Now I’ve never been able to get into that franchise personally, but as far as the musical element goes, there’s certainly something to be said about the ability of the band. Frontman Alexey Raymar isn’t the best vocalist I’ve ever heard in the genre, but he does manage to pull off a few high notes every now and then. But once again, that’s not why I’m here and why I’m promoting the record above others for that matter. Desert seem to combine several unconventional approaches to the genre in the vein of electronics, gothic rock tones and atmospheres completely alien to the power metal genre, and that’s where I become interested. It is still in most cases a rough effort, but it’s got enough going for it that I’d simply have to recommend it. Anyone with ears in their head and a respect for originality can tell immediately that there’s something new and different, maybe even a little Russian about the performance here and that’s where I generally gravitated as it just felt unique. But not only that, there are some very tasteful solo pieces on the album which definitely work to convince the listener that Desert are certainly not lost wandering around in their namesake. On the contrary, this is an unwieldy approach to power metal music that far exceeded my expectations. I wasn’t expecting these guys to do some of the things that they did here and I believe that this record is all the better for it. Some of you might not like the keyboard electronics and other awkward ideas thrown into the mix on Never Regret, but I can certainly say that even with this secondary listen, I’m not regretting the package. You might just find something to like here, so give the record a listen and tell me what you think. It’s what the comments box down there is for, after all. I read all comments, so don’t be afraid to tell me what you think about anything. But getting back to the heart of the matter, it’s a definite possibility, at least in my mind; that Desert have enough potential to rise above some of their peers. All they need is a little more notoriety and promotion, which I’m doing here. An effort was made and effort was noticed. Records like Never Regret are why I never regret what I do here at The Grim Tower.
(11 Tracks, 53:00)
Various Artists: Immortal Randy Rhoads – The Ultimate Tribute (2015) – There’s no doubt about it, Randy Rhoads was and still is a legend. Even though he was taken from us in the prime of his life, his memory lives on through this rather intriguing tribute to his legacy. For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, Rhoads was most known for his work on Ozzy Osbourne’s early solo records, including my personal favorite and the band’s debut, Blizzard Of Oz. I still have those songs stuck in my head to this day, and that really cements the staying power of a record that was written nearly thirty years ago. As you might expect, a large chunk of the album is composed from that era of the band as well as Diary Of A Madman, which also held some real gems. Unfortunately, the album’s very first track is a real detriment as former System Of A Down frontman Serj Tankian completely destroys Ozzy’s classic “Crazy Train 5:10.” Though I’ve liked some of his clean vocal performances in both System and his solo work, this track definitely doesn’t showcase the best of his abilities and will more than likely be listened to once, then skipped over afterwards. But Tom Morello certainly doesn’t disappoint with a really interesting take on Rhoads’ original solo section. Next comes “Over The Mountain 4:31” which like most of these tracks, features Tim “Ripper” Owens, formerly of Iced Earth. Ripper does a commendable job with the track, even though I’m wondering where some of the power he displayed on Charred Walls Of The Damned ran off to. Seriously, did anyone catch that last Charred Walls Of The Damned record? That disc was a monument if I’ve ever heard one. At any rate, Chuck Billy of Testament throws down on my favorite track from not only of this era, but from Ozzy in general, “Mr. Crowley 5:35.” Though I was actually expecting Ripper to re-record it as he’s already done the track before (and killed it by the way) I’ll have to say that Chuck’s approach is decent enough. There wasn’t really any death metal influence in the vocals, which I would’ve really liked to hear. But between the Moonspell and the Ripper versions of this track, it seems mediocre at best. “I Don’t Know 4:52” comes in after two other cuts of which I’m not all that familiar, and it comes with a real bang, Ripper seeming to be in higher spirits as it offers another pleasing solo effort. Without a doubt, the solos are some of the best pieces that you’ll hear on this disc and they definitely show their respect to the memory of Rhoads. “Killer Girls 4:28” is a track I’m not all that familiar with either, but Ripper really tears it up here and delivers another pleasing performance, showing that he really was a great choice to take on the majority of these cuts. The last three cuts here are definitely worthy of your attention, with “Goodbye To Romance 5:18”, “Suicide Solution 4:30” and closer “Flying High Again 4:36” all skillfully delivered and well-emulated. These may not be the originals, but they sure work for bringing these old classics to new audiences, which is more or less I think the best part of this compilation. There’s a problem in metal society where some younger heads don’t want to listen to the older stuff because of the idiotic fact that it’s “old” which not only makes me quiver, but lessens my hope for humanity. Yet this album might be able to reach out to them under the veil of a “new record” with artists that they’re more familiar with, like Alexi Laiho and Serj Tankian, for example. In the end, Immortal Randy Rhoads: The Ultimate Tribute manages to deliver on most, if not all fronts and I’d definitely recommend that you pick it up, especially if you’re as big a Tim “Ripper” Owens fan as I am, because his performances on the record certainly do not disappoint. While it really would have been great to get his version of “Mr. Crowley” tacked on here as a bonus track, it’s certainly nice to hear the several cuts from him and others that we did get. I’m not complaining and neither should you. Definitely give this tribute a chance and I’m sure you’ll find it a fitting salute to the guitar legend.
(11 Tracks, 52:00)
Defyance – Reincarnation (2015) – I’m not all that familiar with the past work from classic heavy metallers Defyance, but I will say that Reincarnation is a truly fitting name for a record that simply delivers from beginning to end. First of all, I simply have to mention the incredible vocal talents emanating from the band’s frontman as he proves his worth on literally every song on the disc. Backing that are some orchestral sections which entwine with heavy guitar selections, which are for the most part quite melodic and seem to roll toward the realms of classic rock and as I’ve said, traditional heavy metal. There’s definitely some Blue Oyster Cult influence here, as well as a load of hair metal acts. So it’s a decidedly old school performance, but it’s a good performance and that’s not something I need to go into detail about. Obviously there’s no blistering brutality here or overwhelming prog atmospheres, but Defyance really don’t need these things. The record really cements it’s sound from the very beginning and it doesn’t really deter much from that sound, even though it does entertain an orchestral/acoustic ballad by the name of “Loved Honor More 6:02” which comes slightly out of left field. Normally, I would not be a fan of such musings, but considering how well this ballad is performed and how much power and energy went into it, I simply can’t help but consider it as essential as the rest of this record. Reincarnation proves to me that the sound of classic heavy metal is still and will hopefully always be essential, with its exquisite melody lines and extravagantly potent vocal utterances. This is the kind of album that makes you stand up and pay attention. When you’re listening to promos all day long, some of those discs unfortunately fade right into the background, but when this one started playing, it immediately caught my attention. I was rather thankful that the label sent me an early copy, because I would have put this into my “promise pool” (and yes, I do have one now) from the very start. The performance that Defyance offer here is remarkably memorable and managed to make a dent on even my scatterbrained thoughtscapes. A demo for “Passing Of The Night 4:55” is included on the disc, as well as two covers from Fifth Angel and Riot. Just as you might expect, these extras only add to the original performance (even the demo track is worth hearing and it’s a shame that they didn’t master it for the full release) and work to give the listener even more bang for their buck. If you’re a fan of heavy metal the old fashioned way, then there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll want this war-themed return to the roots of metal’s golden age. Very few bands can pull something like this off, but these gentlemen have exceeded my expectations to the point of ridiculousness. I’m not sure if Defyance will ever become as popular as they should be, but Reincarnation is definitely a step in the right direction. This is indeed a band that I would love to hear more from in the future.
(11 Tracks, 52:00)
Lachrimatory (Brazil) – Transient (2014) – Lachrimatory is a doom metal band that is currently available on Solitude Productions. “Seclusion” begins the album with a great emphasis on the cello and a tantalizing rhythm. Unfortunately, it also features a painfully slow progression. “Lachrimatory” the second track on the album, features more of the same vocals. They are lacking in recognizable melody and variation. The tempo picks up with the cello followed by a nice intercession. There was some background harmonizing, which is appreciated, however more would be better. The same death growl over and over again with slow progressions and tempo is too much from within one genre for this to be considered groundbreaking. However, the musicians are clearly skilled. Tuning into the pleasing cello, one finds oneself slowly rocking back and forth to the sound. Delightfully, the tempo picks up and adds dimension to the originally flat song. This seems to be the formula for this band, a painfully slow build up to a disappointing peak and an overextended wrap up. Nearly double the length of any more common song, these eight to twelve minute slow jams are hardly what one would like to see at a live show. The songs lack energy and feel like they drag on. Almost as if the band member’s limbs where too heavy for them to play properly. After the first few minutes, an amazing set of vocals caress the slow rhythm of “Twilight.” Then, the time shifts and the pace is heavier. The death growl is used sparingly and in good measure. The transient piano solo makes the album live up to its name. An amazing breakdown after the piano solo presented a good pace for the kick drums that matched the vocals. Fantastic instrumentals on piano, cello, and violin like guitars. Clarity had such a measured start that one could feel the agony these artists must wallow in to have created such a gruelingly sluggish doom album. I imagine playing this song must be as laborious as it is to sit and listen through. “Deluge” began with a very promising guitar intro only to be let down by yet another example of how deep the lead singer’s vocal chords can vibrate. Perhaps this song wouldn’t be quite so tiresome had there been more diversity in the singing. Being able to create something stunningly original, for example, is far more rewarding, if not challenging, than simply having amazing technical abilities. Nonetheless, the music is superb in skill and in its emphasis of the piano and cello. One is carried away by the symphonic combinations, taken perhaps to another time and another world. Thus, again aiding in making this album completely transcendent; being both ancient and new. All culminating in an exquisite explosion of heavy drums and passionate melodies. “Void” has somewhat of a sneaky feel to the opening for this song, indeed quite fitting to the title. The arrangement itself gives off a sense of misery, and dread. Perhaps something was lost that left a deep, dark, impermeable wound; so it seems. The only respite from the agonizing hate was the sweet sound of a soulful voice adding the diversity one craved in earlier songs. Overall, Transient is a stunning example of technical ability and skill in the doom metal genre. Best of all was the use of piano and cello to truly make the album transcend time. Also true to title, this album had a longwinded ambiance about it which some might say falls into transcendental type music. However, this album was in want of many things, such as more melodic singing to match the tempo of the instruments at times and to break up the verse structure somewhat. Finally, it lacked choruses all together which, in turn, ruined any sequence one could follow. Perhaps a shining example of technical ability, but poor song structure and painstaking progressions force this album into the background-music playlist. (Taina Tirado)
(6 Tracks, 63:00)
Wende – Vorspiel Einer Philosophie Der Zukunft (2011) – This progressive black metal album blends songs of cold blasting blackness with spacey ambient tracks. The heavy tracks are a mostly traditional sounding black metal with some interesting takes on writing styles such as discordant hooks/solo’s and riffs that seem to circle back on themselves. The vocals are a higher scream/screech that cuts straight to the bone. These tracks are not all blasting and tremolo they also have some dirgey slow sections that really help transitions in the album. As for the ambient tracks they are varied and interesting with great use of tones that are very conducive to meditation. The use of a pair of footsteps crunching through the snow is very strangely soothing. All of the tracks here are stand out tracks this an intensely cerebral album with soundscapes that make you gaze out into the ether. Get a copy of this and try not to fall too far into the abyss of your mind. (Eugene Martin)
(6 Tracks, 57:00)
Darke Complex – Widow (2015) – Like a breath of fresh air, Darke Complex integrates hip hop and dance with metal in their album, Widow. Although some industrial influences can be heard at times, this band falls mostly in the Nu-metal genre. Further evidence of this classification is found in Darke Complex’s turntable work and scratching skills. Widow is an energizing album that will make great fun when performed live. If the mosh pit hadn’t started yet, it will by the time this band’s tunes hit the crowd’s ear drums. The song “Frigid” however poorly executed, is an attempt to showcase more of the band’s rap influences and capabilities. Unfortunately, the featured rapper is base and juvenile in voice and lyrical style. He does not spit fast enough or creatively enough for one to consider this a truly skilled piece of art. Similarly, he lacks emphasis and the rhymes are not impressive in the least. The only promising portion of the tune is when the lead singer lays down a wicked verse and chorus, with an air of twisted white-trash and lullaby-like harmonizing. The rest of Widow returns to the Nu-metal breed that endears me to this band. “invertebrate” features a heart-thumping kick drum followed by a melodic clear singing, which is then broken up by a fluctuating scream-growl that is both punkish in pitch and metal in delivery. Unlike the spineless creatures of the title, the drums and the harmonized scream/sing combination give Darke Complex a backbone. (Taina Tirado)
(7 Tracks, 26:00)