While I’m busy composing the November Shortlist, here is a set of reviews from albums released earlier in the year for you to sink your teeth into. Sarcofago (even though a reissue) tops the list, with Abre Ojos following shortly behind. It really was a week of several different sounds and styles. I hope that you enjoy these short reviews and will check out the respective records.
Sarcofago – Rotting (2014 Reissue) – Sarcofago is a Brazilian metal act that needs no introduction. This day and age they’re calling it black/death/thrash, but I’m sure that’s not how they referred to it in 1989. The disc really is a landmark release for good reason, and only imitators will follow. The drumming was ferocious, and the vocal lines even more so. I don’t even think Joker is capable of this stuff anymore, so it’s a testament to what is very much his life’s work. He really hated Christianity (Not sure how he feels about it now) and this record seems to exemplify that. But it is more than just a record of speed and strength, as the disc has a sort of warm texture to it that makes it stand out leaps and bounds over many of these imitators. You see, some bands can only make an album that captures half or even a quarter of this style, but when you listen to these progenitors and see how many changes in song structure appear on the release, you’ll understand exactly what I mean. Chances are that I don’t even have to tell you to check out this record and that you’ve already got it in your collection somewhere along with the rest of them. It’s a fucking classic, from a fucking classic act that will never come around again. If you’re just now hearing this album, then go get INRI as well and work your way up from there. This is what happened when Slayer and Mercyful Fate got channeled from Brazil, and you’ll never forget it.
(6 Tracks, 33:00)
Rhapsody Of Fire – Live “From Chaos To Eternity” (2014) – This is one that I was supposed to have to reviewed quite a while ago, but am just now getting around to it. We all know who Rhapsody (Of Fire) are, and as you might expect – this is what their most recent live performance sounds like. But what’s really odd about this show, is that I can hear the keyboards and orchestral sections far better than I can actually hear the guitar melodies. When “From Chaos To Eternity 6:27” opens up, I immediately notice that the guitar is sort of pushed to the back on the release and that the frontman even has a hard time ascending above all the other pieces of the band. There are choirs and bombast literally draped all over this thing, and though it sounds quite majestic – it also sounds quite convoluted and even a tad bit raw in some areas. But it is a bombastic and live power metal show, from an incredibly bombastic power metal band. But if you’re looking for a pleasant showcase of what Rhapsody (Of Fire) is capable of now, then I’m sure you’ll find something to like here. Personally, I’m fonder of the Galneryus live set however, as that was leaps and bounds over this. But then again, I’m just a huge fan of Galneryus as well.
(24 Tracks, 106:00)
Black Tar Prophet – Deafen (2014) – Black Tar prophet is made up of two dudes who seriously like their drone and sludge. But that’s apparent from the disc’s opener and title track (4:34) alone. A large wall of sonic sound envelops me from the very beginning and it doesn’t seem to let off from the fuzz ever. I also noticed that there was no vocal mic to be found anywhere in the photo and that makes a lot of sense, as the record contains no vocals either! It’s just a heaping helping of sludge and fuzz and drone with some serious nodes to blues filtered through EyeHateGod riffs. But if you give these guys enough time, as on “Back To The Nod” then you’ll be sure to get something worthwhile out of them. I imagine a show from these dudes would consist in a lot of slow, synchronized headbanging with concertgoers in an almost transitive zombie-like state of fuzz. But to be brutally honest, if you played this disc through loud enough speakers and at a high enough volume, then you probably could deafen a ton of people.
(9 Tracks, 33:00)
Blood Red Fog – On Death’s Wings (2014) – Blood Red Fog is the kind of atmospheric black metal stuff that uses a sort of clean/harsh vocal sensibility in the fact that it sounds more authentic and less like an image. It’s icy and there are some colorful tremolo melodies inserted within, along with the hiss of something in the studio. It hisses throughout the entire performance, which may drag things a down a bit for you, but I’ll admit that while this sounds depressing and the ancient looking frontman (he looks like he’s about ninety with the Father Time beard) does manage to let loose a series of aggravating whines, the music is at its core still quite listenable. I’m not sure if this is the kind of raw and kvlt style that you were looking for, but it certainly sounds like that to me. The best part of On Death’s Wings however, are its melodies which give me just enough of a reason to recommend it to you. It’s not necessarily my cup of tea, but it’s hard to deny the guitar work. It sounds cold, depressing and a bit frostbitten, which might be just up your alley.
(5 Tracks, 36:00)
Jumalhamara – Resitaali (2013) – Resitaali is the previous release from Jumalhamara and in its four tracks there is a rather odd feeling of sorrow throughout. It’s not a metal record as you might expect, sounding more like something of depressing folk music without vocals and communicated through keyboards. Some of it reminds me of Burzum’s Hildsjalf, though much more depressing and devoid of any and all manner of hope. Resitaali begins to sound like a depressing and slightly gothic film score of sorts around “III 8:05” which reminds me of Dracula, Tim Burton’s Batman and Ganon all at the same time. The final track (IV 10:31) however, makes me think of a “tears of joy” sort of scenario, where one might look at untouched forests and pastures with glee. It sort of reminds me of simpler times. But it’s still a little dreary. Resitaali is a sort of experiment that won’t work for all, but it’ll definitely leave some sort of mark on you regardless. Definitely something that we don’t get at the Tower often, so it’s intriguing to be able to give it a listen myself. You might wish to do the same.
(4 Tracks, 34:00)
Playing Enemy – I Was Your City (2014 Reissue) – Ah, metalcore. But this isn’t quite metalcore is it? Nope, it’s actually a sort of post metalcore that certainly takes a little from punk and throws in atmosphere. It’s not the sort of thing that I would casually listen to, but I will say that there’s always a great deal of passion coming from the frontmen of these bands and Playing Enemy’s is no exception. The band doesn’t really play standard riffs either, which makes it more interesting to listen to, rather than hearing a band of this nature use the same tired old melodies that the Dillinger Escape Plan and Every Time I Die put into motion a long time ago. Hence, there’s still a lot of Dillinger to be found here and particularly in their early years. That’s been channeled heavily. But then when you get to the odd riffs peeking out of “A Thousand Victories 6:48” you start to realize that there’s definitely something here worth taking a further look into. The style of playing is just so damned unconventional that Playing Enemy could really be a major act in the years to come. Even if you don’t like the screamo/punk vocal style, there’s atmospheres and odd progressive structures on this disc that will make it worth your time. I’d like to see how this sort of thing would do in a live setting though, to be honest. There’s a lot of potential here and I’d like to see the transition from record to stage. Give it a listen.
(11 Tracks, 49:00)
Abre Ojos – Gates (2014) – Gates is out there folks, and I really do mean out there. Definitely not a metal record, a heavy record or a rock record, this is one experiment that showcases industrial and atmospheric noise at its finest. Now technically, this record seems to be an accompaniment piece to astral projection. You simply turn off all the lights during the night time hours, or find a quiet place during the day where you won’t be disturbed and put this album on. Music during any sort of metaphysical practice can work to help or hinder, hence why Gates is completely devoid of any toe-tapping beats or rhythms. It’s not so much music as much as it is atmosphere. It is the soundtrack to another plane of existence and life, one which scientists will decry as false because they simply haven’t enough research on the subject to fully understand it. In my view, one’s experience is tantamount to truth and despite what may be read or discerned from articles on the disinfonet, what one experiences during such a practice is by far a validation. Some prefer the use of psychoactive drugs; though I am wholly against this idea despite the stories I have heard about DMT allowing you to learn ages worth of information in mere minutes. Yes, I’ve had my talks with DMT users before. I am not sure as to whether or not the members of Abre Ojos used DMT while crafting this experience, but the end result is something that I’m sure DMT users will be playing to help them to further experience whatever happens to the pineal gland receiver while on DMT. If you choose to not use this record to aid in astral traveling or do not believe in such things, then the experience as a whole should still create a sort of trance-inducing effect that you might enjoy for an hour or so. But usually people who do not believe in these things won’t listen to this kind of music either. My case in point is that scientists have come out to say that they do not read fiction books, because they are not true. A generation of confused skeptics seem to be crawling out from the woodwork, with their ages ever younger. But perhaps for our generation, there are still some with a valid argument and experience to back the otherworldly feelings, sights and sounds that one might ascertain from listening to Gates. It is unknown as to what you will experience, so give it a listen and then validate your results.
(11 Tracks, 55:00)
VPOAWAMC/Teen Pussy Fuckers – A Fairytale Full Of Apotemnophiliac Moments (2014 Split) – Complete with a cover that says “Too Gore For Your Store!” this is a split from two obvious Goregrind bands. This has never been and will never be my style of music, but here goes nothing:
The first band here is an Austrian act actually called Vaginal Penetration Of An Amelus With A Musty Carrot, and they seem to offer up great sound clips with relatively weak musicianship. I mean, the drummer pounds whilst the guitarists hits some down-tuned riffs and the frontman gurgles throughout the whole thing. It actually kind of sounds like one of those (and I should know this as I used them quite a bit back in music class) things that you play with a wooden rod of sorts, I think it was some sort of Spanish instrument. I think just as an experiment, I could get the same effect with that instrument as this guy does with his mouth. All in all though, it kind of sounds like a joke. At least on the third track (3:16) the vocalist proves that he can actually use a standard vocal approach and not just sound like one of those instruments I described earlier. Like I said, the best part about this band is their sound clips. They should have just skipped the vocal part entirely and did what KillWhitneyDead used to do and just use sound clips during the performance. I think that would increase the replay value exponentially.
The next band is a Mexican act called Teen Pussy Fuckers and the most interesting thing about these Mexicans is how they drink a great deal of Jarrito’s before playing. You know, that awesome Mexican soda. They even let lose a few belches during the performance, which mostly consists of a guy belching and another one hitting the drums in any which way. But at least there’s a slight fiesta in the mix and I’m sure these guys are fucking great to hang around with. They seem to know all the right food and drink over there, making the project a sort of digestive exercise that’s worth checking out.
Both bands offer their own little touch of heaven, but I’m not so sure if either is for me. It’s catchy as hell, but I don’t see myself really getting into it. But if you like grindcore and belching and a guy that sounds like that music instrument that I can’t remember the name of, then give this split a try.
(14 Tracks, 39:00)
Terminal Death – Terminal Death (2014) – Terminal Death was a death metal act from the mid-eighties that apparently didn’t get enough recognition, so Shadow Kingdom has reissued their work in this CD compilation. Unfortunately, only the first fourteen minutes of thrashing death are worth checking out, much in the vein of Sarcofago which I’ve reviewed earlier, though not quite as memorable. It was still a strong effort though, if only it had had the chance to go further than just a mere demo. Also included are rough rehearsals which are hit or miss. It’s good for the effort, but there just isn’t enough material here for me to fully analyze it and I really wouldn’t recommend it based on just fourteen minutes of clear material and a bunch of rough demos.
(20 Tracks, 57:00)
Sworn Enemy – Living On Borrowed Time (2014) – I’ve never been the biggest fan of hardcore, but I’ve always liked Sworn Enemy. Even though metalcore supposedly evolved from hardcore, I definitely think that hardcore in its truest form is far more abrasive. There’s no clean vocal chorus and a guy screaming in the background, rather I’m hearing some thrash riffs and what amounts to a great expelling of pure unadulterated rage from frontman Salvatore Michael LoCoco, which continues throughout the entire disc. Just like another of my favorite hardcore acts Pro-Pain, these guys definitely create a mixture of hardcore and thrash that is both memorable and abrasive. Sometimes I can get into this stuff a little more than I can other genres, because these guys really speak to stuff that I’m dealing with now, like slaving myself at a job I hate just to pay the bills and dealing with people’s bullshit. But it also teaches you to have a thick skin and to “Rise Above 3:06” your problems and come out swinging right from the gate. Living On Borrowed Time is the very definition of what hardcore music should sound like, and it’s why the genre still slogs around despite its various mutations of metalcore and deathcore, among others. But to be honest, I think I just prefer regular old hardcore, especially when it’s as clean cut as the material here. This isn’t the kind of record you listen to if you want to punch somebody in the face, it’s the kind of record that you listen to in order to prevent yourself from punching somebody in the face. I definitely recommend this one for all fans of hardcore and it really needs no further explanation. Its fist pumping hardcore that sticks firmly to the grain of reality and has a message. What else do you want from the genre? This is how I classify hardcore.
(11 Tracks, 36:00)
Scores: 10 – Perfect, 9 – Great, 8 – Good, 7 – Solid, 6 – Decent, 5 – Mediocre, 4 – Sub Par, 3 – Flawed, 2 – Poor, 1 – Trash, 0 – Unlistenable