Album Reviews Shortlist (August 2014)

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From this point on, these .5 weeks will now be called shortlists and will only be done in sets of twenty. That probably will make it easier on some of you, especially those that don’t feel like sailing through twenty-five reviews every time we do a shortlist. The standard five review week (with occasional amends) as well as the .5’s that we’ve been doing as of late will continue as normal. Week 121 might offer Nachtmystium and Xerath among others…

De Profundis - Frequencies EP

De Profundis – Frequencies EP (2014) – Coming right off the heels of the band’s third release The Emptiness Within (which I haven’t heard yet) this record seems to carry with it a very classy style of progressive death metal, which reminds me a little bit of latter-era Death, but with more of a grunt in the vocals than what Chuck Schuldiner was known for in his later years. The record comes in at about twenty minutes or so and it’s certainly entertaining because I’ve listened to it about five times, finding myself sucked into the melody while texting on my phone or doing other such things. It’s music that you’ll keep coming back to, as the melodies are so vast and intricate, while the drumming and vocal element is rather crushing. Some say that it wasn’t crushing enough however, and that the vocals could have been a bit louder in the mix, but that didn’t bother me so much, as I pretty much got lost in the atmosphere. It’s a really intriguing EP, so hopefully their next offering builds from this one. Pick it up!

(4 Tracks, 20:00)

9/10

Throne Of Sacrilege - Impurium - Unleashing A Cacophony Of Destruction

Throne Of Sacrilege/Impurium – Unleashing A Cacophony Of Destruction (2014) – There’s only six tracks on this split, so I’m going to quickly run through it. The first band offered up is US black/death act Throne Of Sacrilege, who is made up of members of Nocturne (fucking love those guys) as well as Against The Plagues. As you might expect from the roster, these guys certainly pack a punch with blazing drums, fiery riffs and potent vocal grunts/harsh scowls. It’s a series of tracks that don’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but manage to make a enough of a mark for you to notice them. “Sacrilegious Impalement 3:28” seems to focus more in the lines of death metal, whereas closer “As The Black Wind Howls 4:11” seems to focus in tremolo friendly black metal territory. All in all, I wasn’t disappointed.

The next band offered up is Indiana based blackened death/thrash act Impurium, who is made up of members of Summon The Vengeance. These guys seem to deliver a hefty battering with the furious thrash of “Again We Freeze 3:56” as it ventures between the realms of both thrash and black metal respectively. “Til Midgard 4:33” starts out much in the vein of horror influenced death metal, but slowly builds extremes as it throws in rowdy black metal and even a few doom riffs. The last track here is “Ad Secular Impurium 5:52” which ends out the split with a healthy dose of thrash metal with slight death riffs and a whole heck of a lot of rasp.

Unleashing A Cacophony Of Destruction is one split that certainly delivers through and through. Both bands really give it their all and show that they have something to prove here. I don’t think anyone’s going to be upset with this solid work from two promising acts. Get your hands on it now!

(6 Tracks, 26:00)

8/10

Vile Regression - Empires

Vile Regression – Empires (2014) – Vile Regression began as an Irish death metal band with metalcore elements, but Empires sees them putting more technicality into their music, especially with the hard-hitting, yet uber complex structures found in “Tides 4:24” and “Raise The Complexity 3:46.” A short acoustic interlude then followed, as “Thought Replication 4:43” came into being, which despite being as heavy as the others; didn’t really offer anything other than a nice solo piece. “The Abstract 3:40” also was abrasive, as it lead into another short instrumental piece, which ended the disc with “The Empyrean Divide 4:39.” This was another heavy and technical, but still sort of bland piece in retrospect. I won’t say that Vile Regression are entirely bland, but these songs need to do a little more than they’re currently capable of, for me to even lift an eyebrow. There’s potential here, but I need to see a bit more of it.

(7 Tracks, 23:00)

6/10

Zom - Demo MMXI

Zom – Demo MMXI (2014) – Zom is an Irish black/death of the raw and ghastly variety, with these tracks sounding like they’re covered in a thick vibe of drums, mist-like vocal grunts and a mixture of thrash, groove and doom riffs. I think “The Horror From Beyond 4:30” pretty much describes it best, sounding like a sort of ritual to something from another world. Again, the quality is a bit raw, but the reverberating vocals and overall smoky quality of the piece make for an otherworldly listen that still contains the bare bones of thrash, black metal and doom. It sounds odd to me that the band would want to release another demo after a previous EP, but this demonstration certainly shows a promising act that will hopefully offer up even more gloom, smoke and brutality in the future. it certainly embodies the horror atmosphere that seems to have inspired it.

(6 Tracks, 24:00)

8/10

Athanatos - Holy Union

Athanatos – Holy Union (2014) – Chilean death/thrash act (even though MA considers them black/thrash, can’t really tell the difference as I’m not hearing any tremolos and the vocals could be either growl or scowl) Athanatos have released their first EP as a tape (from which this is a rip) and the damn thing truly rips, as it flies through four thunderous tracks in less than twenty. As you might expect, the drums pound, yet feature some semblance of precision; as the vocals are laid on quite thickly and the guitar licks don’t even sound in the same nature as black metal. Unless we’re talking about Venom influence, I’m not really hearing black metal here at all. Maybe MA should change that? Then you’ve got your alludes to Jeff Hanneman with the Slayer solos and several other moments that sound like a tribute to the classic days of the genre. It’s nothing amazing, but I’m sure you’ll have a blast with it.

(4 Tracks, 17:00)

7/10

Flesh Born - Han EP

Flesh Born – Han EP (2014) – Forgive me for being one to judge these Texan hipsters on their mix of black metal, sludge and indie, but I noticed that the lyrics for “Empty 1:35” seem to involve the word “fuck” after a sentence. Like this:

“Sentence one. Sentence two. Fuck.”

As in, “fuck” is actually part of the lyrics. Short they may be, but I don’t think that I (as an artist myself) would never type out the word “fuck” unless I was having a brain fart. Trust me, I’ve done it before. Sure I’ve said “these fuckers” and “that fucking idiot” and “fuck you” before, but always in the manner of a sentence. It just comes off as a weird anomaly for the word “fuck” to just appear out of place there. Other than that, these guys are basically on fire and manage to bring off a fierce and unhinged performance that makes you care less about the lyrics and more about the sound. It’s like getting the shit kicked out of you, but in an audio format. Once again, there’s a little bit of everything twirling about here and it serves as decent enough EP before the band’s next full-length. Also check out their split with Cara Neir, who I believe I’ve also reviewed at one time or another. You’ll find the record for exactly one dollar on their Bandcamp.

(8 Tracks, 11:00)

7/10

Gnosis Of The Witch - Dauðr Burðr Þrysvar

Gnosis Of The Witch – Dauðr Burðr Þrysvar 12″ (2014) – US black metal act Gnosis Of The Witch make a very creepy style of black metal that’s raw and full of venom. The riffs sound utterly revolting and full of horror influence, but be not fooled as this music is purely ritual in service to something called “Dark Thursian Worship.” While I’m not quite sure as to what that is, this record certainly has all the elements of a devastating and evil performance. Containing just two sides (this is an LP rip) the record seems to embody unwelcome soundscapes and extremely harsh scowls (almost amazing in quality) that praise some sort of witch. I admit that I’d like to know more about it, because I always get a spark of curiosity when people come up with new things to devote themselves to. This is the band’s second EP and definitely worth checking out for fans of black metal that are looking for something as frightening as it is threatening. Whoever this dark and evil witch is, I’m pretty sure she’s pleased with this one. You should be too. Oh, and the keyboard usage on the second track definitely has my seal of approval, reminding me a little of Summoning.

(2 Tracks, 20:00)

8.5/10

Manifesting - Descension Through The Seven Forbidden Seals

Manifesting – Descension Through The Seven Forbidden Seals (2014) – Here we have another ritual performance (and they say that Christians have all the praise and worship songs) from Minnesotan death metallers, Manifesting. This is their first EP and I more or less have to agree with MA on this one, as it’s really not all that great and needs a bit more work. The intro “Gathering In Exaltation 1:56” was great however with its Gregorian chants, but the rest of the disc was just doom/death that we’ve heard done a million times before and better. Thought the drums kick up in sections and the vocals are quite thick with gravel, there’s not really a whole lot going on in the album that is really worth mentioning. The leads even sound suffocated by the bass riffs, meaning that there’s really nothing here to chew on other than the drums and vocal patterns, of which I’ve heard done better by numerous other LP only acts that they’ve given me in the past. Any of those guys that I’ve reviewed before did a much better job than this. It’s not terrible, but it’s definitely not what I expected from such a worthy intro. These guys can do a hell of a lot better than this and I believe they will. It’s just one release up from their demo days, so I’ll give them another chance for sure.

(6 Tracks, 23:00)

6/10

4 panel.eps

Athena’s Wake – The Contemplation EP (2014) – This is an unreleased EP from the Australian death/black metal act, Athena’s Wake. Problem is, there’s a lot of hardcore influence in it, which kind of turns me off a bit. Sure, some of the riffs tinge on black metal, but the majority of the vocals are core grunts, yells and sometimes even scowls. Oddly enough, this thing is clipped so some of my songs are completely cut off midway. I don’t know why that is, but it doesn’t really change my opinion on the record, so it doesn’t matter. Athena’s Wake prove that like a million other bands, they can play what I would term “extreme metalcore.” I don’t think that fans of classic death metal or black metal would find anything to like in this mixture, but I’m sure that the current generation will find it quite a punishing effort. The disc definitely has its moments, but I’m just hearing too much of the core trend in full swing here. They consider themselves death/black on the Facebook page, but I think the core influences need to be better noted.

(4 Tracks, 10:00 or more, my promo was clipped)

6/10

Bones To Bury – Demo (2014) – Well, as the internet is clueless as to who these gentlemen are, I’ll just have to go with my gut. There’s noticeable core here, but alas something more is being done with it in terms of structure and it doesn’t come off quite as bland as other bands of this type. The first track “The Council Has Spoken 3:48” actually features some rather interesting elements, like what appear to be some hefty growls, truly intriguing lead melodies and a clean vocal chorus that later leads into a minor breakdown. It’s a good effort for a demo. “Get Away 3:29” seems to have more deathcore influence, yet it also puts in a punk element to the vocal chorus which includes skater-punk shouts. A solo breaks in during the breakdowns as it manages to prove itself enough to matter just before cutting out at the last second of the song. “My Own Nightmare 3:09” seems to be a mix of the same harsh down-tuned riffing and harsh vocals, with the occasional clean vocal chorus. This time though, the chorus has more of an alternative rock nature to it, than the punk influenced track that appeared before it. The last track here is just called “Song nr 1 3:53” and it also manages to prove its worth with melodic death metal riffing and the use of fierce shouts as the chorus. Needs some work, but what demo doesn’t? There’s another nice solo on the piece and the track ends out with that. Bones To Bury certainly have potential and I’m sure that they’ll continue to stay one step ahead of the current trends with their next release. Even if it is a bit core, it’s certainly better than what I’m usually exposed to and that is well worth mentioning.

(4 Tracks, 14:00)

7/10

Connoisseur - Stoner Justice

Connoisseur – Stoner Justice (2014) – These three bearded men from Oakland are definitely stoners, of which their mix of punk and sludge metal is a huge topic. It’s kind of funny when you sail over to MA and find that their lyrical topics are “Weed, Violence.” So, we can take into consideration that songs like “Full Blown Marijuana Addict 3:43” which their doom riffs and gruff yet scalding vocal approach, is about smoking weed. But not just smoking weed, rather they would rather smoke weed every day and blow it up like it is 4/20, which is not only the birthday of painter gone dictator Adolf Hitler, but also the day in which marijuana is celebrated. Of these six cuts, three of them are under a minute and two of those are under thirty seconds. There’s certainly not a lot of material here to chew on, but if you like to smoke and get high and need music to celebrate that fact, then you’ll find something here to like. Additionally, the disc’s closer, “I Am The Weed 1:40” really puts things into perspective.

(6 Tracks, 10:00)

5/10

Inexorable - Morte Sola

Inexorable – Morte Sola (2013) – German technical death act Inexorable must have sent me this 2013 EP, because I don’t remember who else would have. At any rate, the music displayed here is quite different from any technical death metal that I’ve ever heard before, as the vocal touch is quite ghastly almost in the vein of black metal and the riffs also seem a bit grim, giving the whole thing an occult atmosphere. In short, this ain’t no Necrophagist or Gorguts, but rather something much different from technical metal that we’ve never heard before. There’s definitely something forming in Morte Sola that I want to hear more of and that I think people should take notice of. This is what happens when you combine atmospheric black death with technical metal and it could come off with a style that is just as unique as Portal in the future. Someone needs to give this mix of ominous atmospheres, grim vocal tones and unholy chants a chance, because it’s definitely a pioneering attempt that is well worth getting your hands on.

(6 Tracks, 27:00)

8.5/10

Jesus Crost - 1986

Jesus Crost – 1986 (2014) – Netherlands grindcore act Jesus Crost’s fourth LP appears to be about football/soccer, whatever you want to call it. Every track on the release is named after a certain player, and probably covers a whole football team in just this one piggy-squeal laden album. It’s got plenty of punch and groove, yet also employs frantic drumming and much of the usual grindcore fare. 1986 isn’t like anything that you’ve ever heard before, but the hardcore grindhead will have to have it. Musically, they perform rather well when given the chance, but this kind of grind is just so fast and chaotic that it becomes often hard for me to swallow. Often times, it just sounds like a bunch of men trying to see how fast they can play their instruments and how many different kinds of animal noises they can make on the microphone. It sounds like a hell of a lot of fun to make, but it’s not really something that I can gravitate towards. If you consider it one long fifteen minute performance I guess it’s alright, but there’s not a whole lot on 1986 that I haven’t heard before. Yet I’m sure it would make a thrilling soundtrack for a heated soccer game… I mean, football match.

(22 Tracks, 15:00)

6/10

Pillbuster - Brothel

Pillbuster – Brothel (2014) – With intriguing cover art, Virginian stoner rock act Pillbuster bring me into the same sort of soundscape that I might expect with bands like Down, Clutch or The Sword. “Prophet Kill 2:48” brings in the blues influence right from the start, with the frontman’s audible bark coming across well in the mix, albeit with a Phil Anselmo “you better keep it simple, boy” style coming across in his lyrics. “A Parting Gift 4:14” seems to thunder a bit heavier on the doom and groove elements, but I would have really liked to hear a solo thrown in on the track somewhere. Still it’s catchy as fuck. “Hateburn 2:57” finally gave me the solo I was looking for though, as the title cut (6:34) brings me a little story, kind of like Clutch. It also gives me a chill-out atmosphere, in which another great solo moment appears. While Pillbuster isn’t something that I haven’t heard before, I really fucking like what I’m hearing on Brothel and would certainly recommend it. After listening to this one, I think I just became a fan.

(4 Tracks, 16:00)

8/10

Dispersion - Pillars

Dispersion – Pillars (2014) – This is the first EP from Italian atmospheric black metal act, Dispersion. There are only two tracks on the release, but they’re filled with memorable (almost shoegaze) melody lines which accent the harsh vocal rasps quite nicely. Though I understand that they are trying to be another harsh yet beautiful atmospheric black metal act, I really like the ambient parts of the album and hopefully they’ll add more of these soundscapes in the future. They definitely know their way around melodies, (and the ending of “Being In The Ruin, Deep Cave 11:23” proves it) but as always; I want to hear more from them next time. Though I’m still confused as to why they let the song fade out and don’t let it finish. Another album that’s given me blue balls. Thanks guys. Sure, it was almost twelve minutes long; but at least those extra minutes would have seen the song end. (Sighs) At any rate, Pillars is definitely recommended if you like your melodies to come with a bite, because that’s exactly what Dispersion offer here. The album is a Name Your Own Price release, made exclusively on the band’s Bandcamp.

(2 Tracks, 18:00)

7.5/10

Diabolical Messiah - Satan Tottendemon Victory

Diabolical Messiah – Satan Tottendemon Victory!!! (2010) – This Chilean death metal band offer up some decent enough death metal, but to be honest it doesn’t really sound like something I haven’t already heard before. From the style of drumming, to the riffs implemented and even the vocals, this could be as much as Deicide as it is Suffocation with no real redeeming factors. Furthermore, I’m not really sure that they’ll stand out among the pack of bands that do roundabout the same style of death metal across the country. It’s a record that you would like if you have never heard death metal before in your life, but reminds me so much of all the classic death metal albums of the past. Another review on this record gives it a 75% but that person might just be a real hardcore fan of death metal. As for me, I think there needs to be something a little more than the same old, for me to take notice. If you need another classic death metal retread to add to the classic death metal albums and retreads in your collection, then it will be here for you.

(9 Tracks, 25:00)

6/10

Death Penalty - Sign Of The Times

Death Penalty – Sign Of The Times 7″ (2014) – Formed from the remains of mighty doom titans Cathedral, Gaz Jennings now leads this slightly more rock-oriented act with hints of doom and female vocals. This is just a sampling of what they’re capable of, but I don’t think it’s going to one-up what Candlemass crumbled to form in Avatarium just last year. Though Death Penalty offers some sultry, yet dusty rock tunes; I’m not sure how well they’re going to appeal to fans of Cathedral. But maybe that’s the point, as this sounds like something that might appeal more to their girlfriends. She’s got a wonderful voice and is quite attractive, but the package as a whole isn’t going to be enough to convert the fan of the former in any way, shape or form. There’s some promise on this thing and it’s rather decent rock with some great solo work, but it’s definitely more of a push for the mainstream and that’s probably what we weren’t expecting. Plus, this “Seven Flames 4:51” track reminds me of the commercial for the Venus razor. Yeah, it’s definitely a sign of the times.

(2 Tracks, 10:00)

6/10

Chiral - Abisso

Chiral – Abisso (2014) – Italian one-man progressive black metal outfit Chiral has influences in everything from bands like Dissection to bands like Opeth and Porcupine tree, as well as black metal influences Ulver and Wolves In The Throne Room, which came later. The EP contains just four tracks, with the first one “Disceso Nel Buio 4:05” serving as a gothic/doom opener replete with a gravelly vocal element. “Oblio 5:20” then comes in like a pretty basic black metal track with tremolos, scowls and blast beats. Alright, so what else have you got? Well, there’s a solo stuffed into it (even though a bit hard to hear) and then the thing morphs into an acoustic in mere seconds. Then the black metal elements come in and stay for the remainder of the piece. Nice break, though. The album’s title cut (11:42) actually sounds a little romantic at first, which is hardly what you’d expect from this kind of music; but there ya go – of course, later come in the blast beats and scowls and tremolos. There are a few dreary melodies thrown in with the blasts and scowls that seem a little out of place as they don’t really flow all that well, but around the middle of the song it all comes together. The track moves through many motions including one with synthesized choir, but it ends in the same way it began; with an acoustic. As for “In Assenza 1:11” well, that’s just a piano piece to end the whole thing. Chiral have some nice ideas, but they’re more tremolo laden black metal than anything else. While that does have its moments, I expected to hear a bit more. Perhaps on future releases, Chiral will display more of influences in a much broader aspect. It’s easy to say that your acoustic sections and some of your melodies are inspired by Opeth and Porcupine Tree, but another thing to make them sound like they were actually inspired by those bands. Abisso is not bad, but it’s not much either.

7/10

Bolzer - Aura

Bolzer – Aura (2013 Not A Promo) – Apparently everyone was shitting themselves so bad during the Bolzer performance at MDF that they had to hire a man with a shovel and a wheelbarrow to get it all out of there. Then they had to spray Febreeze, because that shit gets the smell out of damn near anything. But these Swiss black/death metallers seem to know why the kids loved their Cinnamon toast CRUNCH so bad and maybe it’s because on Aura I’m hearing a little bit of everything in less than thirty minutes. Yes sir, there hasn’t been a band quite like this in a while, which a mix of doom/death, black metal, indie, sludge and whatever else they want to throw into the mix… and strangely enough, it all fucking works. Each passage seamlessly transfers into the next, making for a sound that doesn’t go directly into the background; but rather keep you on your toes up until the next note. The first track here is “Coronal Mass Ejaculation 5:56” which starts out like a dusty ritual and rolls right into black n’ roll territory like nobody’s business. The death growls come right back in and viola, we’ve got atmospheric brutal death/doom. Add those dreary post-leads into the mix and throw on the growls as thick as syrup, make sure a guy hollers in the background somewhere and this mass ejaculation becomes an orgy of fucking sound. Let me check my pants, to make sure that I haven’t shit myself yet. The next track “Entranced By The Wolfshook 6:38” sounds like Queens Of The Stone Age gone death metal, those are some really weird riff melodies for this kind of music indeed, but they manage to flow it properly with the fiercer and somewhat post/black tendencies, which explode into a volatile fury of sound and sludge and death, leading right up into a moment of sheer despair. The Queens Of The Stone Age style riff melodies come back and end the track completely. Checking my pants again, but I don’t feel any lumps. The backside of this EP contains one long track called “The Great Unifier 10:14” which brings back the doom/death element of the band, backed with furious drumming and a sheer sense of brutality. Chug, chug, chug, chug, and now we’re moving into the second part of the song with a continuation, yet slight metamorphosis of the current melody. Some magic chants are spoken, as the music slows to a dum dum dum and the a couple of scowls are shouted. Then we get some black metal elements and more of that brutal old death, running right into atmospheres which the band probably didn’t play live. But that’s about it. Still checking my pants and there’s no lumps. But that doesn’t matter, because the album killed. What’s that you say? They made another album? This one has a whopping 93% on MA? The other one has a 75%? Uh oh. Someone must have screwed up between then and now. But I’m sure the Ex-lax like reactions in the crowd at MDF didn’t mind much as that set was probably built of tracks from this release and the previous one. Let me shut up and tell you to get this record, because it’s definitely worth it. Just make sure that you have an extra pair of pants handy, or a wheelbarrow and a shovel.

(5 Tracks, 27:00)

9/10

Bolzer - Soma

Bolzer – Soma (2014) – This next album from Swiss black/death act Bolzer (which in a roundabout way means “Bulldozer”) is entitled Soma. From my RPG knowledge, I remember that a Soma was a heavily coveted item throughout the Shin Megami Tensei or Megaten games. Technically, it could heal your entire party and restore all of your magic back to full. So you wanted as many of these as you could carry and they were hard to find. I hoped that the record would also restore my HP and give me back any lost magic, but it soon became apparent that I didn’t have any unless you want to count Crowley’s adage that a simple sneeze was considered an act of magick. In that case, let me get some pepper and go to town. Or maybe not. At any rate, the band’s sound has changed a little bit here. They seemed to have opted for a more black metal oriented direction as “Steppes 5:45” shows with its modern black metal styling’s, yet some of the thick gravel still does appear amongst what almost sound like 60’s prog rock drums. I first misread this next song as “Labyrinthian Greaves” and began to wonder what kind of greaves those would be and what they would look like. But then as I looked again, I saw that the song was actually “Labyrinthian Graves 12:51” which also had me wondering what in the hell that could refer to. Maybe it’s about some warrior being trapped in a huge crematorium, a literal labyrinth of graves. Hell, I could write a short story based on that concept alone. As for the song, it explored much of the same – well, this is almost a kind of surf rock gone black metal which seems to fall apart around the first quarter, when everyone starts shouting at once. Shit, then it seems to drag a little after that. That’s the worst thing that you can have happen at this point and that’s what happened here too. I understand what these Swiss occultists were going to do, but with this track I’m beginning to feel my eyes grow heavy as I let out a slight yawn. Come on gentlemen, stop putting me to fucking sleep! But that’s where the song ended, leaving me with more ambience. Alright, well what went wrong here? Maybe these guys thought that “Labyrinthian Graves” was a hell of a lot more interesting than it was. “Steppes” wasn’t bad, but I guess I had more hopes for the closer than what it could give. I hate to be rude gentlemen, but I would really like to hear more experimentation. I know that you can’t make an Aura every time and I understand that, but this is a little under par. Just stick with Aura folks, because this bulldozer hit a wall.

(2 Tracks, 18:00)

7/10

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