Week 97 (January 19, 2014)

As you can see, we’re finally breaking ground into 2014. The first two releases are Aborted Fetus and Legion Of The Damned, but we’re slowly phasing out the 2013 promos. The rest will be featured in a new 2013 set, like what I did with 2012. And yes, I still have a scant few 2012 releases.

Edit: Added more, because well… promos! And for those of you who noticed the Vomitron seven pager, I really like the VG Metal scene, so if you play it, then I’ll be more than happy to review it.

Armory – Empyrean Realms cover

Armory – Empyrean Realms (PR2013 SPOTLIGHT) – These Massachusetts power metallers are really something special. And I’m not just saying that. Armory unleash a masterful experience with this sophomore album, reminding me heavily of bands like Pagan’s Mind and early Symphony X and that is a good thing. The quality of the record is quite clear and very well produced, and even though it was released on a small label owned by their spectacular guitarist/drummer Joe Kurland; it sounds like everything that you would expect from a major label. And most importantly, the band are really good. I mean, really fucking good; as in these guys could be on a major tomorrow if they wanted to. Kurland is a power metal powerhouse with his unmistakable vocal approach, and backing him are the magical riffs of Joe Kurland and Chad Fisher on guitars. You can hear their influences just by listening to the album, and know that each and every one of those influences has been done justice on this recording. The solos on this thing are immense, multi-faceted and full of fire. These two men could shred this whole fucking album if they wanted to, but they don’t. Instead, they really show how strong melodies can really intertwine with keyboard soundscapes, of which Peter Rutchio is an absolute master. And I’m not joking, as when you hear the Vomitron stuff you’ll even be further reminded of that point. His soundscapes light up the universe just as well as the powerful guitar melodies on the disc. Not to mention, once again; Adam’s vocals. I almost want to ask myself where I was when the band’s first album, The Dawn Of Enlightenment came out; as I’m certainly sure that I would’ve enjoyed that album just as much as this one.

This might sound like a whole lot ass kissing, and while the band did send me a physical copy of the album; this is in no way a “thank you review” rather, it’s the honest truth about a terrific album from a man who knows his damned power metal. Again, most metalheads don’t really get into power metal these days; and acts like Dragonforce did nothing but to foul it up and cause it to be a caricature of it’s former self. But it’s bands like Armory and their metaphysical concepts that will save us from the cornier aspects of the material. With respect to Dragonforce, I’ll admit that I’ve let up on them after hearing their last album with the new vocalist (something those guys badly needed.) But this review isn’t about Dragonforce, it’s about Armony and I’d certainly consider them more viable an act right now. Plus, the fact that these guys can perform this greatness live (and Dragonforce cannot) is another reason worth seeing these guys when they tour. To strip my thoughts down to their absolute bare bones, I will just say that I put this album on a second time during this review; just so that I could enjoy it once more before moving onto other material. Once again; it’s really that good and caught my attention immediately. I guess the only reason you wouldn’t like it, is if you didn’t like the bright and cheery sense of the music. There’s nothing here that’s dark or morose in any sense of the word. It’s thunderous, but more concerned with overall beauty than brutality. And I’ll also have to add that with instrumental shocker, “Horologium 4:00” the band prove that they’re just as good without vocals as they are with them. It’s not since Galneryus that I’ve been so excited with a power metal act of this nature. Maybe they didn’t get ad space in top metal mags like Decibel, but they’re definitely better than probably all of the power metal that’s been released this year. Armory seems to have as bright of a future as the atmosphere of this masterpiece. This one is an absolute must for all power metal aficionados.

(9 Tracks, 50:00)
10/10

Aborted Fetus - Private Judgement Day

Aborted Fetus – Private Judgement Day (PR2014) – Well, one of the first records that I got this year was from Aborted Fetus, and as you can tell by the name; Aborted Fetus is the kind of band who make rough and raunchy death gore. And as such, you get a dizzying approach of bombastic drumming, garage mouthed vocals and riffs that only see to be there as decoration. To be honest, the band really doesn’t need a guitar at all; they could do well just on the drums and vocals. Of course, that also pretty much makes up the whole of what I’m hearing. Also as you can expect, the songs are relatively short with the exception of the only really notable one being the title track. It is here that the band do a little bit more and even add a solo into the mix. There are technically two, but one fades out for some unknown reason, which is a shame because it was the only real thing I’ve cared about on this record. Thanks to Abner, I’ve listened to more than my share of gore and brutal death as of late and know when a band has got it and when a band is just putting out the same damn thing they put out last year. It’s actually kind of disappointing to be honest, because you’d think as an artist you would want to continue to evolve on what you’ve built and not just deliver the same goddamned album every year or so. Kataplexy blows this band away as far as I’m concerned, so definitely go grab that one instead. I’ve heard much better efforts than this one last year. But it could also be that I like my brutality with more splattered hunks of brain matter in it, rather than this approach. Heck, the parts of the album when the band weren’t playing were far more intriguing.

Highlights: Private Judgement Day (10 Tracks, 25:00)
5/10

Legion Of The Damned - Ravenous Plague

Legion Of The Damned – Ravenous Plague (PR2014) – The first album in years from German thrashers Legion Of The Damned is finally out and it definitely seems to be pushing in the right direction. The band sounds positively full of fucking fire this time around, with a slight vocal rasp that sounds like it could’ve been made by the raven in one of the band’s photos. For some reason, I’m hearing a lot of Venom and Testament in here, making it appear to be a noticeably dark black/thrash. The drums on this record blaze as much as the aggressive guitars and the vocals just seem to go well with that package, making for a pretty fucking solid thrash album, in all honesty. I’ve heard that these guys weren’t any good, but you can’t really sink that point home with me after hearing this new album. Maybe there was a point in the band’s career when they slipped, or perhaps this album is just a really awesome fluke; but with the scathing vocals of the frontman and the nature at which the band has gone so far into black metal realms; there’s no doubt in my mind that this thrash kills.

Once again, let’s look at the most important part of the act; the drumming. This guy pounds the fuck out of the kit throughout each and every track; but lets up to flow with the structure of these songs, which certainly contain and utilize black metal riffs now; though I’m not sure if they did in the past. As I am not as well versed with every obscure band out there, this is technically my very first time ever hearing a Legion Of The Damned record. But from the black/thrash pummeling that I’m getting on this disc, I think that I became a fan at just the right time. Though the band doesn’t really change their tempo all that much, and doesn’t really reinvent the wheel so much as they kick fucking ass; there’s really no need for wheel reinventing. It’s thrash, it’s black and it’s fucking evil. In other words, a Venom for the current generation who’s too fucking lazy to go out and grab the unholy trilogy (first three Venom albums.) I definitely recommend checking this one out. It’s a solid black/thrash album that should even appease the naysayer’s.

(11 Tracks, 46:00)
8/10

Immortal Bird - Akrasia

Immortal Bird – Akrasia (PR2013) – I wasn’t sure what to think of Immortal Bird at first, but now it’s obvious to me that the female fronted three-piece is one of the most intriguing and vicious progressive black metal alloys that I’ve heard in years. I was quite impressed with the act, and Rae’s vocals certainly come off as some of the most volatile in the business. There are still things out there that men just can’t quite do when it comes to harsh vocals, because they just don’t have the kind of tone that women do – which she describes here with the pummeling of “Ashen Scabland 6:12” which sees the drums (which she also fucking plays, gentlemen) full of fire and vigor and fury. I mean, this woman can really play the fucking drums; and I’m not exaggerating on just how defined her talent is here.

Though not completely black metal (some sides even hint towards death) the band certainly are able to show off many sides to their little act; which hopefully will become much larger in the next few years. There are parts of the act that remind me of current era Enslaved in their proggyness, and Astarte at their thrashiest. Immortal Bird reminds me of what I missed when Astarte quite making records, yet they’re so much more than just a female fronted black metal act like Darkestrah. What these guys can do in one fucking song is literally mind-blowing, and if someone else isn’t noticing the same amount of pure energy and violence that I’m hearing here; they must be fucking deaf. If I was the head of a label, I’d sign these guys in a heartbeat. This is the kind of music that people want to hear in the metal scene, especially in the underground where people like their genre mixing alloys (we want to hear something new). Fans of Immortal, Astarte, Enslaved and other black metal bands who don’t mind thrashing and employing prog elements will love this. After hearing this, I’m a fan. Can I get a tee shirt?

(4 Tracks, 20:00)
10/10

Lords Of Ruin - Life Is A War

Lords Of Ruin – Life Is A War (PR2013) – Lords Of Ruin is a hard rock/nu-metal band influenced by the south, as you can hear by the blues inspired riffs. Whew, have I heard this before. This is the kind of band like Ojo Rojo that would be employed in a shooter video game. Or wrestling. Have these guys called the WWE yet to get one of their songs possibly featured as an event theme or as an entrance theme for a wrestler? That’s usually a great way to get your music out there if you’re going for a commercial approach. People who watch wrestling usually also like that style of fist pumping hard rock, as “Welcome To The Last Time 4:16” would work perfectly as an entrance theme, though I haven’t watched wrestling in ages. But another good cut from this disc is “This Is Her Life (Wasted) 5:57” also about a relationship. Though these guys have some great riffs, it’s got some odd lyrical content. The riffs say “I want to drop kick you to the ground” but the lyrics are quite serious, like something you’d expect for a love rock band. But in their defense, I’ll cite Drowning Pool’s “Reminded” and practically most of the songs from their only good release in Sinner. But Sinner is actually what I’m reminded of when I hear this album. It thumps, brings on the nu-metal quality and I’m sure I can find some people out there who would enjoy it, because like me, they grew up with that kind of music. If you’re in the mood for that sound, then you’ll definitely get it here. Listening to this stuff gives some memories and I might put a song from it on my personal play list along with other guilty pleasures like The Clay People and Stabbing Westward.

Highlights: Welcome To The Last Time, This Is Her Life (Wasted) (5 Tracks, 24:00)
7/10

BAT - Primitive Age

BAT – Primitive Age (PR2013) – Though shorter than heck, this debut release from BAT (not to be confused with any other band called Bat or B.A.T.) reminds me a great deal of Venom and that’s a good thing. Now before you jump on me for making another damn Venom reference, I can’t really help that when I hear dark punk riffs and grimy vocals mixing in with elements of thrash like I am here; that it’s pretty damned unmistakable. Maybe these guys are trying to write what came between Welcome To Hell and Black Metal with the so cleverly titled Primitive Age; but a band that can knockoff Venom as well as these guys can definitely needs some praise. I mean, it’s not a total knockoff; they definitely are more punk than proto-black, “Total Wreckage 1:27” showcasing that perfectly. The punk edge also shows off more in “Code Rude 2:49” which uses riffs that I’ve heard in GWAR before; yet one can’t deny the punk influence in that band either. “Rule Of The Beast 2:14” brings back the Venom influence that I heard in the beginning with album standout “BAT 3:46.” But if I can say anything about these guys, they’re catchy as hell and that’s going to translate into album sales. It’s short, sweet and to the fucking point. And by sweet, I mean like licorice dropped into a thick layer of mud. The album ends out with the title track (3:21) and ultimately shows that the band have something worthwhile to offer. It’s dirty slightly blackened punk that should definitely find an audience and I recommend it, if it sounds like something you’d be interested in.

Highlights: BAT, Code Rude (5 Tracks, 13:00)
8/10

Albatross - Vestal Claret split

Albatross/Vestal Claret – The Killing Flies Split EP (PR2013) – I never thought I’d say this, but this split with Albatross and Vestal Claret is one of the best splits I’ve ever heard as far as uniqueness is concerned. Albatross offer the majority of tracks here, with catchy advantgarde numbers like “Uncle Sunny At The Tavern 6:56” which features an oddly high pitched vocalist, but includes some really groovy soundscapes as well as an impressive little solo piece. It reminds me a bit of King Diamond, in all actuality. “Kissing Flies 10:04” has more of a progressive influence, while still keeping roundabout the same groovy tone, albeit a little clumsier this time; yet that’s on purpose due to the changing nature of the piece as a whole. I can’t say much for the solo piece here, but I do like the little scowl vocal approach that appears on this material; as well as a slight peppering of death gravel. If anything, it shows that Albatross is certainly worth checking out. While it is true that the high pitch vocal tone might not appeal to everyone, there’s a brew here boiling and I want to be there when it’s finished and ready to eat.

The next band is Vestal Claret and they just have one track called “Black Priest 17:24” which at first starts out quite melancholy, but you’ll have to give this one it a chance to pump the blood of classic Sabbath into it’s veins. The latter half of the song blazes completely, complete with ghostly chants and some incredible structural moments. I wish the band kicked things up a notch much earlier though; as I don’t know how many people are going to wade through the stone soup in order to get to the real meat of the track.

The first listen of the album proved to be rather great, I considered most of this material to be some of the best I had heard from a band in years. But on this second listen I find that the material doesn’t catch my attention quite as much, noticing Albatross’s frontman coming off just bit annoying at times with his tone; although I must admit that things are done with their music that I rather did enjoy and find as I said, “unique.” As for Vestal Claret, they just took too long to get started. Other than that, it’s a pretty solid split and I’d recommend checking it out.

(5 Tracks, 44:00)
8/10

Fejd - Nagelfar

Fejd – Nagelfar (PR2013) – I put off listening to this folk disc for quite some time, even though I actually like folk metal as you’ll notice in earlier reviews (be sure to check the archive for all of my past work.) But at any rate, if you like your music to be metal influenced chants to ancient gods; then I’m sure you’ll revere this disc. With songs like “Sigurd Ring 6:01” and “Fjarrskadaren 5:15” you can almost be assured that nature is being praised, along with flutes, horns and other such Nordic fare. It’s very much a “get naked and dance around the fire kind of album” and believe it or not, I’ve heard of people that do just that such thing. There’s not much “metal” to be had here, but if you’re looking for a folky good time with memorable (and believable, this guy is really putting his soul into this native songs) lead vocals and enthrallingly vibrant soundscapes; then you should look no further than this disc. I personally like my folk a bit heavier, so it’s not entirely my thing – but I do know people who would certainly enjoy it; and feel free to give it a rating much higher than mine. After all, don’t leave me as the ears to your interpretation. If it sounds good, then check it out!

(9 Tracks, 44:00)
7/10

Borrowed Time - self titled

Borrowed Time – Borrowed Time (PR2013) – This is the debut album from Michigan power metallers, Borrowed Time and for fans of Iron Maiden, they’re going to eat these incredibly tight licks right up. But not only that, the guitars don’t just solo, they really fucking solo. You know, like in the same fashion that Maiden did in their prime. J. Priest has a presentable high pitched vocal style that works well enough for the band and definitely contains a sparkle, but let’s be brutally honest here – the vocals aren’t carrying all the weight on this thing. It’s Matt Preston and Victor Ruiz that are carrying most of this effort with the weight of their massive axes. I will admit that J. Priest does at times go into territory that makes me think of Geddy Lee fronting Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, as you could guess. Nope, not everything here is completely Maiden, but there’s no doubt some influence. As I said, the dual guitar duo of Matt and Victor just can’t be stopped on this release and you’d got to hear them shred these pieces to believe it. Though the effort is kind of raw, there’s still something of merit here and you only need to take a listen to find out. Definitely check out Borrowed Time.

Highlights: Wallow In The Mire, Dawn For The Glory Rider, A Titan’s Chain, Every Guitar Solo (9 Tracks, 41:00)
8/10

Protector - Reanimated Homunculus

Protector – Reanimated Homunculus (PR2013) – Formerly known as Missy Martin And The Protectors, Protector has reformed with a brand new album a sound that’s supposedly closer to their eighties style. And well, if their eighties style is death infused classic thrash; then they’re doing a damned good job. If you don’t fucking believe me, check out the album’s title track (4:29). If you can’t feel the metal in that, then I really don’t know what the hell to say to you. I mean, when I hear that fucking song; it’s just immediately obvious how badass the piece is. And of course, the band adds a nice solo to spice it up even more. For the most part, Reanimated Homunculus is an album that thrashes “Road Rage 3:39” when it doesn’t groove “Antiman 5:02” and that’s just fine with me. It’s quite fast paced and reeks of old school greatness, but with new school production. The vocals are sharp and raspy; the guitars thunder and blaze and the drums… well, they do what they’re supposed to and really seem to kick at some moments on the disc (even though they could be a bit better.) But for a band that used to call themselves Missy Martin And The Protectors, this new sound is definitely befitting of them. It doesn’t really take a mountain of text to describe the ferocious effort on this disc, which encapsulates the very sound and essence of classic metal. I highly recommend that every metal motherfucker gets their hands on this one. If this guy wants to call himself Missy, well that’s just fucking fine with me. Because Missy and the crew don’t play patty cake… they play fist pumping metal that’s perfect for anyone. If you don’t have this album in your collection; then you’ve got some explaining to do.

Highlights: Reanimated Homunculus, Lycopolis, Road Rage, Antiman (10 Tracks, 37:00)
10/10

Preludium - Redemption

Preludium – Redemption (PR2013) – The newest album from Poland’s Preludium proves to be a very thick affair, laden with speedy drums; thick guitars and explosive vocals. It’s not unlike Behemoth; but I daresay that these guys have more kick and definitely separate themselves from other Polish death metal acts with the sense of chaotic oblivion that comes forth on this album, not to mention the heavier song structures and slight bits of prog that they employ. The disc begins with “Soul Torment 4:58” which features the band at a bit of a brooding groove (and are those djent riffs I’m hearing?) yet with some Nile flavor on the solos. “Altars Of Redemption 5:02” comes in next like a battering room; it’s probably one of the songs that you could compare to Behemoth, but eh… forget it. There’s not much comparison to be made here. These guys are definitely doing their own thing. “Altars” also breaks into atmosphere along the way, showcasing that these guys are able to craft some monolithic soundscapes. So then we’ve got “Incarnations 5:01” which seems to brood in the beginning, even though the drums really get a workout latter in the track. It’s definitely the kind of death metal that you want to hear and that you’ll appreciate. Fuck, these guys might even be better than Behemoth! Alright, so “Root Of Suffering 2:19” is a bit of a sleeper; but “Circle Of Life 3:55” brings on a ritualistic vibe that none of us were expecting. But let us not forget the drum barrages that later form on the track. And since I’m mentioning so much about the drummer; one should assume that said individual can really fucking play. On some discs you can barely discern or care about the drumming, but on this one the guy behind the kit proves himself to be integral. These guys can play with all the goddamned djent and technicality that they want, it’s the skinsman that’s really making his presence known on this record. The man pounds on “The Seven Gates Of Hell 2:41” and continues to pound the grooves into this metallic instrument of death with “Destiny Of Mortals 4:42.” and well, you get the idea. The only other track I really need to point out is the album’s closer, “Sins Of Mankind 3:17.” because it uses more of a ritualistic clean vocal approach, as can be said for the drumming. The latter part of the disc throws the groove back into bash though; and that’s just what we want in the first place. It is after all, death metal.

Well, I’m not sure what the big guys are going to say about this one; but I’m pretty convinced that a good album was made. This is death metal. It sounds like death metal, it feels like death metal and it comes across just like death metal. It’s a pummeler, there’s no doubt about that. But the fact of the matter is that Preludium actually play their instruments like they give a fuck. These guys have been around for a good while, and you’d think by now that they were just ready to go ahead and throw another one into the bucket. But not with this one. This album is fully charged and full of fire. Yeah, it’s still a bit thick for some; maybe not enough melody in some areas and that’s alright. it’s forgivable. Not everyone likes spicy food and it tears up your stomach. But hell, I do. If you don’t have the stomach for it, then go home.

(10 Tracks, 39:00)
9/10

Valdur - At War With

Valdur – At War With (PR2013) – Valdur is a three-piece death and fog band, or that’s what I feel the album portrays. But that’s a good thing, because it gives the band an identity; and they definitely do a respectable job on the album with extremely thick riffs laid over the top of an ominous atmosphere, backed up by extremely powerful drumming. This guy really knows what he’s doing behind the kit and you’ll feel it. If you feel nothing else on this album, you’ll feel the drums. They’re not quite like machine gun blasts, but they do have a sort of flow which help to support the riff melodies (some of which can be quite intriguing) and accentuate the bulldozer vocal approach. Valdur are simply atmospheric death quite comparable to acts like Bolt Thrower, but I think I like these guys a bit more. Bands of this style can to me get quite boring, especially when things slow to a crawl, but I don’t feel such sluggishness with this album. The songs themselves vary at lengths, from the ballistic opener “Conjuring The Fire Plagues 6:49” to shorter instrumental pieces like “Vast 2:43” and it’s follow-up, the longest track on the disc “At War With The Old World 8:13.” War really describes this album, especially with the samples that it uses. The horns at the end of “Hellish Discord 5:17” really seems to soak in that feeling; almost making me think that this album would have gone better with the remake of Painkiller than the Ojo Rojo soundtrack. After all, Valdur have made what really sounds like a foggy battle in hell, filled with the reanimated corpses of dead soldiers throughout all of mankind’s conflicts. At War With definitely captures the sounds of battle at it’s most ominous, in land where dead soldiers tell no tales.

(10 Tracks, 47:00)
9/10

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

The Lion’s Daughter & Indian Blanket – A Black Sea (PR2013) – This is a collaborative effort between a blackened doom act by the name of The Lion’s Daughter and a melancholy folk band by the name of Indian Blanket. It’s no split, as both bands are literally working together to combine these two unlikely styles together. The Lion’s Daughter makes up the heavy riffs and rough-edged vocals, while Indian Blanket add the flavor of folk instruments and well placed clean singing to the mix. It’s not something you’d expect from either of these guys and that’s why I’m quite impressed with it. Finally, two separate acts decided to combine their efforts together to make something uncanny. Originally, it was just going to be one single track; but you know how things get when you’re deep in the recording process and material starts flowing out like water. That being said, the effect of the album is nearly perfect; with the thumping riffs illustrating the morose melodies quite well, and the frontman of Indian Blanket having just the right clean vocal approach to back this melodic thunder. While “Wolves 6:26” and “First First 8:29” begin the album on a very slow pace, the blistering “Swann 8:41” comes in at full force, allowing the harsh vocal elements and drums to take center stage as the blaze through the track, leaving just enough room for the folk instruments to interlude. After that, you have “Timeless Waters 5:57” which is the complete antithesis of the previous basher, it being an Indian Blanket number mostly; heavily laden with folk instruments and some middle eastern flare. Yes, there’s also the sound of wind and chanting. But have no fear noble metal listeners, as “Sea Of Trees 4:49” comes back with a full force of punch. Yet for you morose folk fans, that track follows with “That Place 7:37” which definitely reminds me a bit of darkwave. Guitars thunder in, but not violently; letting the piece get the proper attention that it deserves. Ending the piece is another folk track however; so do be prepared for a high folk to metal ratio on this album. “Moonshiner 7:02” is a great way to end the album personally, and since I’ve heard this disc I have to say that I’ve become a fan of Indian Blanket much more than The Lion’s Daughter. Think of it like this: The Lion’s Daughter without Indian Blanket is very much your run of the mill post metal act. They do things that I have heard before from other acts dozens of times. And it all goes back to Neurosis, there’s no doubt. But when they combine their style with the melody and emotion that comes forth in Indian Blanket, it makes the whole disc worthwhile. Maybe you might like the heavier portions of the disc better and that’s fine. But if you’ve heard as much post metal (whatever they’re calling blackened doom) as I have, then you get the idea. At any rate, this is something original and I stand by it 100%. It’s seldom that we get collaborations like this and I’d like to hear more of these in the future.

(8 Tracks, 53:00)
9/10

Zealotry - The Charnel Expanse

Zealotry – The Charnel Expanse (PR2013) – Zealotry is an American technical death metal act, who also share members in Chtheilist. This is their debut album, which actually reminded me of the Demilich 20th Anniversary Collection that I had listened to an hour earlier. While not completely the same, there’s definitely a lot of the same technical progression spattered throughout the music. The album begins with the first three parts of “Avatars Of Contempt 9:00” which begin slowly, while building structure in the second part; culminating with the same slow pace of the beginning. However, the song is a bit slow in approach and perhaps not the best way to open the album. “The Dysgenicists 3:50” comes next, a continue rough and raw approach with slightly muted riff melodies; but audible grooves that help the song to function properly. A solo portion also breathes some life into the nearly dead.

I know. I’m not being a great sell on this one and I apologize for that; it’s just a little disjointed and possibly rushed. “Blighted 5:26” comes next, but it also slumbers along the vocal lines getting lost in the riffs. It almost sounds like the vocalist is half asleep, or just bored and that’s never a good sign for a death metal release. “Decaying Echoes 5:15” sees the same slumbering approach, albeit with a little pep and spice; the drums also seem to be kicking a little more with a bit of a solo. They really are trying, but it just didn’t have enough time to bake. Why was there such a rush to get this album out in the first place? The title track is next, delivering a brooding approach which proves to show the band at their very best. Perhaps kicking up the pace is what Zealotry did wrong. For a band that wanted to make an almost sludge-like sort of death metal with shimmering bits of technicality; they seem to come off as unnecessary Ambien. Even the title track seems to doze me towards the end; and I’m very disappointed there. It just seems like something’s wrong here. These guys shouldn’t sound bored making this kind of music, but they do.

“Codex Mysterium 3:46” is next on the disc, and it comes off like a breath of fresh air. Though instrumental, this shows what the musicians are capable of and I wish they would’ve pursued more interesting material in this fashion. Yet with the sludge style that has composed most of the album; this peppy track seems almost out of place. But it’s a place that I would welcome over the majority of this release. When “Apex Predator 6:29” comes in, the technicality of the previous track really starts to shine through and by god, the fucking drums do a little bit more than they have been. Only when the droning riffs come into place and the ominousity of the piece begins, does the song really start to gain momentum. The final track on the disc is “The Unmaking 8:26” which shows the band at their best, highlighting many of their best elements. While still a bit sluggish, they show that they’ve definitely got something to offer with future releases.

Zealotry are not a bad band. They’re not terrible musicians, and they can play given the right situations. Considering the work in Chtheilist, (which I think is superior) they’ve got something to offer in this outlet as well. It’s sludge infested technical death and it really could work out well give the right amount of time patience and experience. Musicians only get better as they keep perfecting their craft throughout the years and I’d expect the same for this band. If you’re curious, then give this little experiment a try and you may find something you like. But as for me, I feel that the act still needs a bit of ironing out. I wanted so bad to like this album, given how much I enjoyed the work from Chtheilist; but it just didn’t happen.

Highlights: The Charnel Expanse, Codex Mysterium, The Unmasking (10 Tracks, 46:00)
6/10

Манекены - self titled

Манекены – Манекены (PR2013) – Манекены are a Russian hard rock band with a very commercial sound that reminds me much of the American hard rock scene. They’re very chorus-oriented, bringing a distinct foreign feel to their easily accessible music. There’s always that bit of folk influence here, but these guys definitely took after acts like Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace and whatever else is popular in the American hard rock scene right now. The song lengths are also short and radio ready; with a quite catchy atmosphere that should do as well in their native as it would here in the states. The song tempos are quite similar, highlighting the vocals more than anything else; yet they truly deliver, especially on the album’s closing track. A ballad piece is also offered, which delivers an acceptable performance. While nothing earth shattering, Манекены is certainly a respectable act and should do quite well with mainstream hard rock audiences.

(7 Tracks, 22:00)
5/10

Sakharov - Happy Nuclear Land

Sakharov – Happy Nuclear Land (Single) (PR2014) – This instrumental effort from Russian act Sakharov begins with the jingling of bells (yes, seriously) and it sounds like it’s going to be a holiday themed effort at first. But it actually turns into a bit of a proggy piece with nice grooves. It’s also got a romantic sort of melody and shows a little bit of promise right out of the gate. The jingling of the bells continue as the soundscape changes. Even more romance appears later on the track, making it sound like sex on the beach. Something more in a video game influence spawns from that as Soilwork influenced efforts end the piece. There’s nothing much else to say, this guy is worth giving a listen and I’m curious to hear what his next efforts will sound like. But I’d rather have the Soilwork influence, then the Meshuggah influence.

(1 Track, 2:47)
8/10

Vomitron - No NES For The Wicked

Vomitron – No NES For The Wicked (PR2011) – An instrumental side project from the keyboardist of Armory, Peter Rutchio; Vomitron’s sophomore release features an interesting cover with a half naked model and a game controller. Immediately, my nerdgasm level rose to about a thousand; but the man inside my head said “just because there’s eye candy on the cover, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a great album.” I mean, that point is true. For a man who discovered Nintendo metal, or what I’ve now coined as VG Metal (because not all of the songs covered in this genre are from the Nintendo entertainment system) with the Neskimos back in 2000, then moving onto the Minibosses, following up with Megadriver, Chromelodeon, Ryan 8-Bit, (he did the dreariest Mario 2 1-1 music that I’ve ever heard and it had lyrics) The Black Mages, Game Over and Goat moving into Powerglove, (they were on the bill with Dying Fetus for my very first live metal concert) Metroid Metal and GaMetal (whenever you come back, let me know) as well as myriads of others (check out http://www.ocremix.net for hundreds more) including yours truly; (the name and game will not be announced yet, hehe) it’s safe to say that I’ve got an unhealthy obsession with this stuff. But to be honest, video game music was always some of my personal favorite music; and I can remember back as far as third grade when I was instructed to draw my favorite song at the time. Many other people drew pictures based on the classic “In The Jungle” (this was the nineties, mind you) but I drew the train stage (2-1) from Ninja Gaiden 2: The Dark Sword Of Chaos (there’s a hint) which has some of my favorite video game music of all time. (As well as the Megaman X series and the first Doom, of course. Also Chrono Trigger, I could go on…)

But at any rate, this is Peter’s attempt to move away from original work and into VG Metal territory. It has gotten him a bit of notoriety however, being able to play at MagFest (Which I don’t like because the bands just play while the festival is going on and people are walking around, I feel they should have their own dedicated performances later that night after the festivities of the day end. If Powerglove can get their own show, then why can’t the rest of these guys?) and other game related events and with many of the bands I’ve named. The release is quite lengthy, spanning at almost the full length of a CD and begins with the comedic intro of “Filtered Blow 0:18” which is what you had to do with the classic front loaded NES console back in the days before emulators. I remember turning red in the face after blowing out a cartridge that just wouldn’t work, yet I didn’t use that kind of coarse language until I was sixteen. True story.

Now for the meat of the disc, (which it’s going to get technical since I know these games so well that I can even see the images of the areas in my mind’s eye) which begins with “Contra 8:06” starting out with the heavily covered introductory stage music. I remember playing an arcade machine version of this on a 10 in 1 machine that they had at a shelter I stayed in long ago. It is still just as difficult to get through that fucking stage today. The boss music came next, but I’ve also heard it heavily covered. The next stage music is done quite well, piano influence coming in shortly after as the next stage comes cranking. Now we’re getting into something that doesn’t get covered often; which is the latter stage of the game. Just hearing this done with guitar and keyboard is enough for me. Then we have the stage that follows, which I have heard covered before; yet without the keyboard – which this version benefited from. As the end of the game looms near, the sounds of ferocious guitar battle can be heard; leading into a bombastic victory theme.

Now we’ve got something that I truly haven’t heard before, at least in it’s entirety; and that is what I believe to be the complete soundtrack to Blaster Master. No, not just the opening stage that everyone else plays; but the whole damned thing. The keyboard adds to the authenticity; and I will tell you that for the most part he is playing these tunes note for note. That’s unheard of. Then you’ve got the stage two music, which I always loved as a kid. The monster-riffic quality of this stage is perfectly recaptured; as well as the next stage which is just done beautifully. While I’ve not actually finished Blaster Master, the victory music sounds great here. “Kalinka 0:55” comes next, serving as one of the five Tetris interludes. I’m a bit lost here however, because these don’t work well as interludes and should have just been featured as one piece. Next comes “The Legend Of Zelda 3:53” (which a local act by the name of Limit Break is turning into a two part album and I can’t wait for that) which begins much as you’d expect. It’s not the Metallica nod that The Neskimos played, or the blasting version done by Artefact; but instead carries a keyboard laden sense that bodes with the original. But the drums do kick up rather heavily on the dungeon music and this is the heaviest that they become on the entire disc. There’s no doubt that this is black metal blasting; so maybe it is similar to the Artefact version. later the song doubles back with more drum vigor as it really brings home The Legend Of Zelda. (If you really like the Zelda series, you should grab Zelda Classic and a bunch of story mods, btw.)

Alright, the next is an ode to a game that I spent countless hours of childhood playing and replaying, “Ninja Gaiden Acts 1-3 8:34“. Some say that it is a hard game, but it caught my attention and I continued to play the thing until I finally finished it on an emulator. (Yes, I used to have the actual cartridge.) Alright, let’s go though this. First we’ve got the intro music. Now I’m not so sure if that’s how it sounded on the actual game – I’ve always found something off about this rendition; especially when hearing it done by the Minibosses prior to this. The flute was a nice touch though, capturing the latter portion of said intro music. Then the guitar melodies came in and I was assured that this had been well done. Next we have something that I’ve never heard covered, the Act 1-1 music. Without the keyboard, you could not achieve the proper effect of this stage; so it’s done with one to one perfection. Then of course we have the boss music, I believe it’s the guy with the club. Very easy, you just climb on the wall and jump behind him, attacking his back to defeat him. Guy’s as slow as cold molasses. The keyboard at the end of the piece was unnecessary though. It wasn’t in the original and gave a weird technological vibe to something that doesn’t really get into those realms until about the third game. The next piece is the interlude (this game had such great ones – this is the way you subtly tell a story, game programmers!) when I can remember “The Anesthetic must be wearing off.” Then you get to the construction stage with those black boxers who would jump around and make life a living hell for you. Fuck those guys, man. The guitar influence is quite nice here, bringing an element that the stage music didn’t have before. Then you’ve got the fucking part where you’ve got to climb all the stone pillars and there’s the bats and the fucking robed guys as well as the football players who try to bum rush you. Everything in that game wants to fucking kill you. There’s no need for the next bosses’s music, but the next interlude sounds fucking beautiful, almost romantic. Kicks up a little towards the end, leading into the snow stage with the fucking birds. Fuck the fucking birds! One of my favorite themes in the game now plays, I think the keyboard does a great job here. Sure, he goes through this one fast; but you’ve no fucking clue how long it takes to get through that motherfucker. I think I’ve died well over five-hundred times throughout the course of my life while playing that stage. It’s the damn birds, and the bullshit enemies sometimes that make navigating a living hell. Did I mention the damn birds? But sometimes on my old CRT television, I would make it through to that next stage and my heart would race because I could never get that far normally (and had limited time while gaming in my youth, so I barely ever got that far) and I’d never really seen much of that stage; just trying to kill as many enemies and getting through it as fast as I can. The kicking of the drums in this piece really helps to survey what I felt while going through the stage, my heart damn near beating out of my chest. The boss was easy here, but you could still die and start from that fucking ice portion if you managed to screw up against it. It was one of those “two enemies, but one takes no damage” sort of bosses. And I think it was made of stone. The piece ends in the middle of a keyboard frenzy, but it’s not over yet; as you’ll soon see.

“Troika 0:45” continues the Tetris interludes, for those of you who are still following along. “Double Dragon 8:10” is next, and oddly enough he uses the keyboard instead of the guitar for the chorus portion of the intro. But it works. And then of course, there’s guitar solo on the melody portion of that track. Next we’ve got the covered to the bone intro stage music. Double Dragon was always a pain in the ass, but they just don’t make games like that anymore. And I heard that Double Dragon Neon sucked, so I’ve avoided it. Give you bonus points if you can tell me who created this and Battletoads… Give up? Tradewest. Lot of good beat-em-ups came from that guy (and if you like beat-em-ups, you need to grab OpenBOR and all the awesome mods) The next stage comes in, as Peter really hits hard on the chorus portion. Keyboard mainly play this one; but they should. I think the next portion is actually the intro to Double Dragon II. That game sucked, because you had to play as Christ level difficulty in order to get to play the whole game. The next stage has an oriental feel, delivered with the keyboards. There’s some weird shit going on here shortly afterwards with the keyboards; that elongates into some interesting guitar tinkering that goes into another level of Double Dragon. The boss music now comes into play, but then there’s the cave level which is right near the end of the game (hint, play the Arcade version of the game using MAME, graphics and music are better) which finally culminates with the credits music. Then we get “Bradinsky 1:10.” Why? I don’t know.

“Ninja Gaiden Acts 4-6 8:30” now comes into play, starting with Ryu looking on at Jaquio’s castle. It’s a bit fucking mountain castle. But for all the men and monsters and shit that he’s killed, he makes Rambo look like a pussy. I mean, this guy’s committed the first commandment like ten thousand times already, to the point where the afterlife is probably fucking crowded and they had to go ahead and make a separate dimension. I mean, could you imagine standing in that fucking line? One day, you were just hanging out in the construction site; when this Ninja comes in an interrupts your boxing practice with his sword. You wake up, you’re in the other fucking plane. Damn, and your wife was cooking a bit old pot of stew that night. Not the bullshit stew either. I’m talking potatoes and carrots, hunks of beef, pieces of onion, a whole bunch of seasonings; it was going to be good. It was going to be fucking tasty. But instead, some Ninja came by and fucked all that up. I mean, you weren’t even trying to hit him, just defending yourself, ya know? If you look at some of the enemies in the game, they don’t really seem to be attacking you until you get close enough to them. For all we know, Ryu is an insane murderer who forces all of these enemies into self defense. Even the birds have to fight back! But when Ryu looks at that castle, he knows that he’s going to have to work his way up there. The opening song works well enough; bringing us into another interlude which sounds just as mysterious as it should be and if you know the story; then you know what I mean by this. The boss music comes back, it’s just a bit faster this time. There’s that damn unnecessary keyboard bit there – I don’t know if he’s playing the original or the SNES remake version which contained that extra bit I found unnecessary. Next comes the awesome music of the next interlude. Goddamn, the keyboards here are amazing. Now we’re getting into Jaquio’s palace, where several more bodies will be added to the count. These guys are actually fucking evil and worth killing at this point; I mean, you don’t want them to get loose – one of these crazy monsters would slaughter everyone in an entire town or village. And those pumpkin head guys creep me out. More keyboard influence as we’re getting right down to the wire of the game. Obviously the keyboard works well on this next track, especially considering the musical territory we’re covering. Next is the final boss music, when Ryu has to fight his father and Jaquio himself (who is tough as fuck to hit… What did that Worlds Of Power book tell me to do? Damn, I need a mirror!) At any rate, the next track is the victory music. And everything gets resolved here, except for the thousands of dead bodies. At this point, Ryu has committed enough acts of murder to warrant the death penalty ten thousand times over. As an interesting tidbit, the Worlds Of Power book based on Ninja Gaiden was oddly satisfying. The author actually seemed to give a fuck and made a thrilling story, especially when Ryu had to fight the guy who would hurl lightning bolts (Marth – that dude was so fucking cool) and it really added to the overall story of the game. I’m not sure how the other books in the series did, since I know they fucked up Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. Seriously, how do you fuck up Castlevania? This is how you write Castlevania:

“…the denizens of the castle lumbered about, Dracula’s curse seething through their tainted bodes. I held my whip firmly, launching forth in volleys as each creature it struck returned to the abyss from which it came. Yet the dead would never stop coming. The putrid stench of death surrounded me as the creatures continued their hopeless tirade. “You should never have come here!” they wailed as they sailed throughout the decaying walls of the castle. “Your folly will be your tomb!”

Now, that would have been set during level 1-1; around the time you first enter the castle and the zombies keep respawning; their arms raised as they literally seem to fly into you. But let’s get to “The Soviet Mind Game 0:50” shall we? Even though it just kind of seems a little odd after Ninja Gaiden. Next we have a game I’ve scarcely played, but was well aware of the music to. This is “Zelda 2: The Adventure Of Link 7:15.” This is a game that hasn’t gotten much cover attention; so I’m glad to hear it presented here. The full piece follows the entirety of the game, including the alternate Zelda theme which has never been used again (at least to my knowledge) in favor of the main theme from the first game. There’s also this large gap of water that you’re not supposed to be able to cross in the game at the very beginning; but through diligence I made it over the gap without any sort of special item. Can’t tell you today how I managed to pull that off – but I can verify that it did happen and allowed me to skip the whole damn first part of the game. And yeah, this was on the console. Forest theme comes in next, sounds as creepy as it should. Keyboards do a great job here. The dungeon theme comes next, and it’s done quite well also. But I’ve heard many of these combinations before. The boss music comes next, with drums blazing. The keyboards now come into place, illustrating the music of the next world as the final level now comes into place and the final boss music. It’s done quite well with Schaeffer-esque gallops. Then of course, we’ve got the victory music and a reprise of the Zelda 2 theme. I’m just glad this one got an adaptation. There’s also this weird misty keyboard piece near the end of the track that gives it a bit of mystique. Finally, we have everyone’s favorite Tetris theme, “Korobeyniki 0:51” which has been covered by tens of thousands of bands, even before there was such a thing as VG Metal, VG rock or VG anything. A punk/ska version of the theme was also recently used in KickAss 2. Just to show you that this popular theme has crossed into mainstream Hollywood. Falling blocks aside, the final track on the album is from the game I’ve already babbled about; Castlevania. Now, Ryan 8 Bit also did this same exact medley; also adding Castlevania 2. And for Castlevania 3, Goat did that with Unchosen Paths in which he proceeds to shred the living fuck out of the tracks. And it’s also free, so grab that.

But as for Vomitron’s rendition of a game I know too damned well; “Castlevania 9:37” begins with the intro music and of course, “Vampire Killer” which I have written two sets of lyrics for – each one pertaining to either Belmont or Dracula. Oddly, we don’t get the vampire bat music yet (defeat him with axes) and it goes right into the next stage. Which I’ve described as platforming hell, ala Medusa heads. God, do I hate that fucking stage. But I love the music there and have never heard it adapted. Peter does a great job of this and gets it at a one for one accuracy with the original. The next one goes into “Wicked Child” which I’ve also written lyrics for. The lyrical themes represent an antichrist archetype. I like Goat’s better, but this version is quite classy. Then we get our vampire bat music. Well, we could just say that this is the boss music in general, hehe. At any rate, it’s very classy and filled with gothic keyboards. The next stage is when you drop down to the dungeon of the castle and obviously that’s meant to be tough. As we get closer to Dracula’s humble tower, (I’m really surprised by the structural integrity of that thing to be honest) we hear an all familiar theme, which was given lyrics by Swedish band Game Over. It’s actually a good track. As for this version, it’s also done rather well. This next stage should be right on the cusp on Dracula’s tower; with more keyboard influence coming in than has been used on the previous few tracks. Now we enter Dracula’s tower (which should surely fall, if that level of a battle was going on during it. As such, the Dracula music is much like you’d expect for the original version and contains the sounds of authentic battle from the game (not like the slit your fucking throat thrash shred-fest that Goat did) though it does really start to kick up with keyboards and drums towards the end, when Dracula dies. But we all know how that story goes. Though I’ve heard the end theme really kill with guitar melody in the beginning, he uses keyboards on the first two notes and proceeds to solo the latter half of the song.

And that’s it. While there have been heavier versions of this material before; I’m just happy to hear some of these tracks, to be honest. Some of the music that Vomitron has covered here has not been covered before; and I’ve been wanting to hear some of these tracks covered for years now. Some brought tears to my eyes, as I’ve got so much respect for this kind of music. I hear that he’s working on a new album now, but apparently is having guitar troubles. People have, of course; flooded the man’s page with requests asking for more tracks than the man could feasibly cover (I of course, am also guilty of that as I requested a few) but hearing music like this really makes me want to get Blood Red Cartridge started and really bring the more extreme sense of metal to the music, with the lyrics I have written of course. And yes, I really want to do a Megaman X concept album; making the most melodic and crushing disc ever released with the likeness of the blue bomber. I’ve always felt the material of those games to be quite adult, and with definite metal influenced themes musically and story wise (there are scenes with robots bleeding, for example) so that’s something that’s meant a lot to me. Megaman X melodic black/death… one of these days, folks.

For those of you who have read this extremely long review, I have to say that I’m impressed with the material here and would certainly recommend it. What Peter does with the keyboards here is equal to anything I’ve heard from the more guitar laden efforts. And his one for one quality checking makes the disc well worth the purchase price. Once again, I hope to hear some Megaman X, Little Samson or Wizards And Warriors on the next disc; but whatever Vomitron chooses to vomit forth on the next album is fine with me and I’ll welcome it. If you’re as obsessed with VG Metal as myself, then you’ll want to grab this one for yourself!

Highlights: Contra, Blaster Master, The Legend Of Zelda, Ninja Gaiden Acts 1-6, Double Dragon, Zelda 2, Castlevania (14 Tracks, 67:00)
9/10

Street Sects - The Morning After The Night We Raped Death

Street Sects – The Morning After The Night We Raped Death (BR2014) – In the email, these guys described themselves as a sample-laden hardcore act. I was quite confused by that, especially after hearing the disc itself. This is actually the very furthest thing from hardcore, and it isn’t at all metal – but I like it. The disc is comprised of just three short tracks (one of which is a bonus) and begins with the noise torture of “Bliss 1:38” which culminates with harsh scowling ala black metal, continuing with the more punchy nature of “Fate On Her Knees 3:07” which sees the kick samples and a whining sample come off as quite mechanic. The piece itself sounds quite nihilistic, but is well constructed; hold signs of promise. Translation: More Please. The final track is a bonus entitled “We Live 2:34” and it brings me back to Skinny Puppy. Early Skinny Puppy. The scathing vocals continue as the kicks beat amongst the scifi samples. There is a certain extremity to this act which needs to be heard and I do think that fans of industrial/electronic music at it’s most harmful will love the disc. For now, it’s only a 7, but I want to hear more so that I can get a larger scope of what this act can do. But it’s a damn strong effort and I’d still recommend giving it a shot.

Highlights: Fate On Her Knees (3:07)
7/10

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