Here are ten more April releases to sink your teeth into. Hannes Grossman also made one of the best fucking records that I’ve ever heard in my life this year, so that certainly says something about the quality of material reviewed this week… eh, for the most part anyway.
Hannes Grossman – The Radial Covenant (2014 SPOTLIGHT) – This guy’s had stints in bands like Obscura, Necrophagist and Blotted Science, so there’s really no doubting his talent given massive credentials like that. This record marks the debut of his solo work however, where he shows the world that he’s a fucking musical genius and can play the guitar just as well as he can belt out harsh and clean vocals. Ihashn, you may have some competition in this man who came out of the wall and proved that he could smoke them all, with this incredible masterpiece that I don’t think any of us saw coming. I mean, there’s really no way I can describe something so massive complex in a few sentences, which is all the more reason to get it yourself and hear such textured and unimaginable soundscapes as I’m witnessing here. It’s definitely a mix of melodic death metal with a blackened tinge and a heavily technical, yet overly melodic angel that makes me want to just stop reviewing albums altogether tonight and give it a full listen. There are a few over-used prog riffs that appear on several normally instrumental releases, but I’ll step aside from that and focus on the piece as a whole which delivers as well as melodic death metal did in its golden years. I know At The Gates is coming out with a new album, but can they really stand up to something like this? This record will gnaw your face off and expand your consciousness at the same time. It’s imperative that you pick it up. One of 2014’s best albums, for sure! I highly recommend it. And when those keyboards come in on “The Voyager 5:47” well… that’s a major selling point for me. Sometimes even other musicians sit back and watch masters like this go to work and with The Radial Covenant; I simply shut my mouth and find my seat with the rest of the audience of accomplished musicians who also can’t believe the godlike talent offered here. How in the living hell will he ever top this?
(7 Tracks, 44:00)
Waxen – Agios Holokausten (2014) – This one man black metal act delivers up incredibly punchy and fuzzy black metal that actually manages to stand out. Though utilizing computerized drums, the man’s riffs seem fiery enough to matter and his vocal scowls certainly add to the onslaught being delivered here. It could benefit from an actual drummer behind the kit, but you’ve got to hand it to the man; because he knows how to program the drums well enough for some of the more structured pieces to come into play. Memorable melodies lie among the mound of frozen skeletal corpses on this disc and you’ll be willing to wade through the sea of bones in order to unearth them. Saying little more, Waxen is a terrific little black metal project with the frostbitten spirit of the ancient sound being plugged into the progressive and melodic sense of modern era. Definitely check this one out, unless you just can’t do the programmed drums. But even then, it’s still worth a listen.
(7 Tracks, 36:00)
The Sultans – More House Rockin’ And Other Boogies (2014) – I have a question for you. Did you come to move? Alright. Well did you come to groove? Sure, I feel you on that one. But here’s one for you… did you come to move and to groove? If the answer is yes, than The Sultans certainly deliver on this slightly raw, yet totally passionate exercise in blues and boogie. It’s not even in the same category as heavy metal, let alone rock and roll. This is straight up toe-tapping, finger snapping blues and it’s going to get you out of your seat and on them feet faster than you can wave a hot dog in front of a fat man. There’s no vocals here, because there doesn’t need to be none, son. It’s just them there blues for eighty-two minutes (contains several live cuts which don’t disappoint either) and it’s going to get you jiving until the sun comes up. The man might want you to do his dirty work in the morning, but until then you’ve got all night long to bop your head and move to the beat. These guys have been making toes tap and fingers snap since 1995 and when that house starts a rocking once again, well… you’d better not come a knocking. If you came to get down and you weren’t in the mood to jump around, then this one will keep you glued to your seat as you keep in tone with the beat. All the cool cats dig it, man. Isn’t that reason enough to give it some bread?
(23 Tracks, 82:00)
Dusan Jevtovic – Am I Walking Wrong? (2014) – I’m not very familiar with the one man powerhouse behind this record, but he also wears glasses and has fuzzy hair like myself. So maybe there’s something in common in that fashion. At any rate, the style of music ushered forth here is quite different from the normal blues mixture that you might expect, as it offers a large turn into progressive and even somewhat experimental and unique approached to guitar playing. The drum work on the disc mainly keeps the beat, showing that the real meat to be had here is in the modern progressive approach to blues. Whether those licks are bluesy, mournful or just plain spacey, the artist proves himself worthy with this release, of which I am sure there will be more to come. If you like instrumental atmospheres that make you think, then be sure to check out this little gem.
(10 Tracks, 42:00)
Exxperior – Killing Entertainment (2014) – This debut album from thrashers Exxperior is more like a collaborative effort of sorts, which proves to be both a good and bad thing depending on the guest. For instance, no matter how much of a Troma fan I am, even I can’t get over the horrific vocal tone from Chris Carl (Harmony Dies/First Aid) on “Toxic Avenger 2:57” as Lich King take on the vocals for the album’s title cut “4:02” and doesn’t prove to make it much stronger. Maybe it’s because the vocals are too much in the forefront though, as the punk-influenced thrash in the background just doesn’t seem to be all the potent. Gerry Schreinert of Entropy comes in on “Armor Of Hate 5:24” bringing a core vocal approach to the music, which doesn’t help it either. Good thing the guitar solo delivered there. Angelos (Toxic Waltz) certainly manages to deliver the disc’s strongest performance however and hopefully this guy could front the band if he weren’t too tied up in his own work. If Michael Stahl had been the vocalist for the whole thing (would have loved to hear him on “Toxic Avenger”) I think it would have been much a much better listen. “I Am Your Death 3:49” brings in the death metal talents of Michael Stahl (Priming Pressure) which changes the whole landscape of the band to sort of a death/black style with just a few elements of their native thrash. It’s also a terrific performance, but it doesn’t even sound like the band, so it comes off a little bit unexpected. Mike Erohnen (Immaculate) also proves his work as a suitable vocalist on “Warden Of Infinity 4:32” as he carries his voice to almost Dickinson like realms, yet still vomits forth a bit of garbage that makes the performance worthwhile. He also plays the solo on this track, so there’s that. Dr. Fukk (Thrash Or Die) almost takes a sort of Chuck Schuldiner meets Steve Souza approach to “Thrash Insanity 3:46” as the band continues to bring the record back to its thrash roots after the questionable “I Am Your Death.” Dado (H.O.S.) takes on the vocals for “Exx Song 3:47” and does a decent job, except it’s a bit low in the mix. The guitar solos are much better here, than the vocal offering. Then we have “Curse Of Misery I-V 16:00” which features guests from Waforger, Dust Bolt, Bitchhamer and Nator. It offers mainly stable thrash, except for a questionable moment in “Hellish Hole 3:36” which takes a much softer turn than we’d expect. But it ends the disc out rather well. There was really no way to do a record with so many guests justice in a few sentences, but all in all it’s still just a relatively solid effort. The guests are definitely a great reason to check it out though, and it proves to be capable of potent thrash and several other “unexpected” things. Definitely worth a listen.
(13 Tracks, 45:00)
Martyr Defiled – No Hope, No Morality (2014) – Well, Martyr Defiled is a definite deathcore act that seems to have some underlying influences that might just make it a bit more promising than most deathcore. Or maybe not. The melodies in “LVCIFER 3:42” sound great, but it’s too bad that all the break downs and core grunts still exist within it. Oh, there goes a muscular break down right now. Looks like I’ll have to take off my shirt and start flexing my muscles. “Demons In The Mist 4:16” I’ve heard before, then you’ve got djent in “Sineater 3:17” which is also forgettable. Now we’ve got djent thrown in with a bit more punch on “616 3:24.” Alright, fuck this. Gentlemen, do you have anything at all to offer on this disc that I haven’t already heard before? Oh wow, I found a guitar solo… Well, I thought I found one. I guess I was mistaken. As I get to the very last track on the disc, I realize that the only thing Martyr Defiled have to offer is slightly progressive deathcore loaded with djent and everything that you might expect in well… a deathcore record. This is pretty fucking bland and entirely run of the mill. I guess I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone. I mean, compared to something on the level of Hannes Grossman, this is a joke… and I’m not getting the punch line.
(11 Tracks, 43:00)
Creinium – Project Utopia EP (20140 – This record is technically thirty minutes, which means I should have reviewed it months ago in a monthly shortlist. But since we’re here, I’m going to give it the same amount of respect that it would have received in a shortlist. These guys are all relatively young and seem to have made an interesting little EP here with Project Utopia. The first track “Societal Collapse 2:45” brings in electronic elements to open the piece as the disc’s title track sees the band experimenting with obvious black, death and symphonic soundscapes. And they sound pretty good too. You have a dual approach to vocals which consists of harsh scowls and death growls at the same time along with some decent enough melodies. Electronics once again appear throughout “New World Order 7:37” as well as slew of powerful of melodic death metal riffs. There’s also a great vocal performance right in the middle of this track, in addition to gothic organs and piano. It’s pretty good shit, to be honest. You can see what inspired these guys as far as symphonic black and death metal bands (Dimmu Borgir, SepticFlesh for example) and melodic death metal (I’m guessing the modern branch of the melodeath movement) are concerned; showing a strong effort that’s worth squeezing a full-length out of. “Eschaton 5:01” utilizes some interesting harsh vocal utterances in regards to the atmosphere, really showing just how powerful that element of the band is. The disc ends with “Synthetic Paradise 9:43” which serves as a large tour-de-force for the piece as a whole. Creinium prove that their keyboard aesthetics really work amongst the harsh elements and sail light years above their peers, despite their youth. But it may just be that kind of youthful vigor that truly shows a sense of imagination, desire and musical passion. Definitely worth hearing and truly promising.
(5 Tracks, 30:00)
Delain – The Human Contradiction (2014) – Based on Octavia E. Butler’s Litlith’s Blood trilogy, this review is based on the original (not the special edition) version of the female-fronted symphonic metal record. Frontwoman Charlotte Wessels definitely commands a powerful vocal performance as expected and she really shows some depth on the much heavier approach explored on “Here Come The Vultures 6:16” which sounds like a twisted fairytale. It’s much different than her work on the EP, that’s for sure. “Your Body Is A Battleground 3:57” continues to bring a much heavier and semi-operatic atmosphere to the disc, complete with a memorable guitar solo. They really have stepped up their game on this one, that’s for sure. “Stardust 4:04” brings out the electronic dance elements most likely poached from American pop music, as “My Masquerade 3:49” gives a ballad some balls. “Tell Me, Machinist 5:01” brings in death metal vocals, which I certainly didn’t expect; but it’s certainly not a death metal piece. “Sing To Me 5:17” brings in clean vocal influence that I think might be Marcos from Lacuna Coil. He still isn’t that great of a vocalist. “Army Of Dolls 5:06” is as you’d expect for this kind of romantic and pop influenced heavy metal, as “Lullaby 5:05” adds a harsher edge to what is also another ballad. The disc ends with “The Tragedy Of The Commons 4:40” which features current Arch Enemy frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz before she knew she was going to be the new frotnwoman for the band. It also shows off her clean vocals, which people would lose their minds on, if she were ever to utter them on the next Arch Enemy record. I can see the reviews now… But besides that, what we’ve got is a definite winner of an album which is romantic and passionate as it is heavy. It’s got more balls and bombast than anything on the EP and I think that you’ll certainly enjoy it. Especially if you wanted a Delain with more metal and less rock influence. Definitely check it out if you like female fronted symphonic metal.
(9 Tracks, 43:00)
Den Saakaldte – Faen I Helvete (2014) – Their first new album in five years, this Norwegian black metal effort features current and former members of Gorgoroth, 1349, Koldbrann, Fortid and Nidingir. It also is the first record with new vocalist Eldur of Fortid, in place of legendary Shining vocalist Niklas Kvarforth. That being said, this is pound for pound the sound of Norwegian black metal in 2014. For all those of you who still think that Norwegian black metal should still sound like it did back in the nineties, I think that these progenitors would be happy to show you otherwise. As far as the amount of spite and malice offered within these frosty tracks, it definitely sounds just as I would expect for the genre and certainly seems to be a good representation of where we are today. This is definitely true Norwegian black metal, sung in the native language and featuring many of the traditional structures in addition to some slight, yet expected modernizations. It definitely utilizes thrash elements, harbors atmospheres and features a production effort that makes it remain raw, yet audible. Though it might still be too clear for your kvlt ears though. There are also some clean vocals on the record too, but this is definitely what I think the genre should sound like in the year 2014. After listening to this near hour of madness and mayhem, I think that you’ll agree. Norwegian black metal is by no means dead… it just keeps getting stronger year after year.
(7 Tracks, 49:00)
Dim Aura – The Negation Of Existence (2013) – From the tumultuous land of Isis, Ra and El comes Dim Aura who play black metal. Now in some parts of the world, people can actually be killed for playing this kind of music as its seen as blasphemy and that is why I respect these guys even more. It doesn’t even really matter if they’re good at it. Just the fact that they literally have the balls to step above their strict cultural laws and literally stick their middle fingers up against all flavors of Judeo-Christianity really shows their character. Thankfully though, the effort is actually quite good. It’s a dark and heavy album, with occasional sets of blast beats and a screaming/scowling vocalist who seems to do a good performance with each style. Not all of the songs are speedy though, as thrash really seems to compose much of this and I’m definitely happy with that. “Sacred Flesh Supremacy 4:57” shows that they’ve got some definite groove in their bones, as “Rev 17:5 7:21” allows some atmosphere to peak through amongst the thrash, groove and black elements. “Thus Negating All Existence 6:15” introduces some funeral riff melodies, which eventually turn into fierce fits of drum blasts and vocal rage. To be honest, it doesn’t matter what style the band utilize, because it all seems to come out worthwhile… and if you’re playing black metal in Israel, then you certainly have more guts than most human beings on this planet. I have a Persian friend who spent some time out there in his homeland and he told me that they don’t play around with that shit over there. You can jailed or killed for it, so you’ve certainly got to honor the passion that these guys have. This is definitely the Luciferian spirit of black metal and rebellion. It’s also a pretty damned good record, if I don’t say so myself.
(8 Tracks, 45:00)