I had a little more than the normal five reviews today, but I had to cover some requests as well as that “dialogue free” version of Devin Townsend’s Dark Matters. Cavalera Conspiracy takes the top spot for me; it’s easily one of the most unexpected and ripping performances that I’ve heard from Max and Igor in years. People have been complaining about the production, but it’s tough to deny just how fucking much that record slays. Archspire, Sidious and Zom follow, each band showing an impressive performance that’s well worth hearing. Archspire delivered especially well live. I’ve also decided to review an EP from a little act called Skan that literally slaughtered live with such a grim display of everything ancient and primordial during their live set last month. If any of these pique your interest, check them out and then go see the bands live, where they do what they do best right in front of your eyes!
Cavalera Conspiracy – Pandemonium (2014) – Max and Igor’s latest album sees the band at the most volatile that they’ve been in years, even since the days of Sepultura. This seems to have started from a desire to want to play “the old fast and heavy stuff” and the end result is a carnivorous offering that will have you banging your head and throwing up your horns. Max’s vocals sound much fiercer than ever, as he apparently had a large bowl of rocks before he went into the recording studio. The vocals might be a little in the back as some people are complaining, but I think that that sort of raw production adds to the throwback nature of the piece. The material itself seems to be loaded with thrash and groove riffs, as well as high flying solos and an overall sort of style that we really haven’t heard since classic Sepultura, even though hints of Soulfly can obviously be found within the nooks and crannies of this thing. With Max’s vocals almost pushing death metal, it might even come as a shock to you when you discover just how unforgiving the material here is. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Cavalera Conspiracy, but after hearing Pandemonium I have to say that I’ve certainly been converted. Some people have been joking around and say that this album might have been recorded in Max’s living room (which might even be true!) just as the internet has been poking fun since recent pictures of Max appeared online from an article involving his thoughts of the death of Static X frontman, Wayne Static (We’re getting to him, I promise). But as far as I’m concerned, I don’t care if Max has maybe gained a little weight and is showing his age. The strength of Pandemonium proves that this heavy metal titan isn’t going down without a fight and this record proves to be one hell of a slobber knocker. There’s no doubt that this thing was made for the pit and it shows even the greatness of the last Sepultura record up in spades. If you ever wanted to hear anything exponentially heavy from Max and Igor post-Sepultura, then this record is definitely the way to go. I’m still picking my teeth up off the ground after being assaulted by such awesomeness. The only song that I think kind of caught me off guard was the nu-metal and groove influenced “Not Losing The Edge 5:10” which doesn’t seem to play well with the rest of the material. It feels like it belongs on Soulfly’s 3 album and shouldn’t be here. Bonus track “Deus Ex Machina 6:29” sort of feels the same way, despite the fact that it’s a bit longer than any of the tracks on the regular version of the album. Another bonus track, “Porra 5:59” also seems a little out of place in some instances, feeling like Soulfly X with vocal additions, even though I’ll admit that I love the bits of flamenco. But whether or not you agree with the production value on the record, it’s tough to deny that it’s the duo’s most aggressive and furious effort yet. Pandemonium is a return to the old sound, complete with all the nuances of the modern era. I definitely recommend it and consider it one of my favorite albums of 2014. The Grim Tower highly recommends Pandemonium.
(12 Tracks, 51:00)
Archspire – The Lucid Collective (2014) – Whether you love them or hate them (I’ve seen a great deal of dissent from both sides), I have to admit that Canada’s Archspire are certainly one of the best technical death metal bands that I’ve ever heard. But it’s not only the fast fingers of Dean Lamb and Tobi Morelli that make this band great, because the band’s frontman Oli Peters is a fucking madman on the mic. When I saw them perform at Housecore, I noticed he was wearing a Wu-Tang clan shirt on the stage and it seems to make perfect sense with the rapping that he does through his growls. Hate it if you must, but being both a fan of rap music and metal, I think it’s a quick jab to the face that works well with the music and feels natural. I never would have thought that rap and intense technicality would go well together until I heard it, but now I’m of the mind to simply exclaim, “Hell, why did I think of that?” Aside from the punchy vocal delivery and technicality, there are some rather potent melodies that appear and even a track in which atmosphere and subtlety is embraced “Kairos Chamber 3:19” albeit in spurts. But with a guitar section this intricate and a vocal approach this vigorous, you would certainly have to expect that the man behind the kit is doing just as good of a job as everyone else and in Spencer Prewett’s case that certainly happens to be the fact of the matter. The entire band sound full of life here, offering just as memorable of a performance in the studio as they do on stage. The only thing that this album is missing is Oli Peters’ jokes, which are laden with black humor of the darkest kind, yet resulted in a number of uproarious guffaws from my person. But just in case you don’t know what a guffaw is, check it out in the dictionary. At any rate, The Lucid Collective shines in a way that equally melds technical death metal and the speedy rhymes of old school rap together in a rather venomous, brainy and ultimately quite memorable package. Though the disc is around EP length, you’ll definitely be spinning it more than once. And if you see these guys at a show, don’t forget to say hi. They’re a great bunch of guys in person and they make some really awesome music. I guess it kind of goes without saying that I’m looking forward to their next album. Love them or hate them, these Canucks are not going anywhere… and that’s perfectly fine with me.
(8 Tracks, 34:00)
Sidious – Revealed In Profane Splendor (2014) – I cannot tell you how long I’ve been waiting for the first official full-length from England’s Sidious. Being blown away by the symphonic blackened death metal band’s debut EP Ascension To The Throne Of Set, this material seems like a definite step forward in terms of composition and songwriting. Quite simply put, it further reinforces my belief in the band as something noteworthy and as something that you should be giving a damn about. I’ll just put it to you this way; next year I will only be reviewing the records that really speak to me or are sent out by personal request and this is the prime example as to what one of those albums will be. It’s also one of the reasons why I chose to review it here and now, instead of later on in the year. And that’s simply because I got my goddamned face blown off. The most interesting thing about this band is that all of its members also play in Eye Of Solitude, though despite how much I like those guys, I’d definitely rather listen to the material vomiting forth from this fascinatingly evil project. As far as the record’s length is concerned, it’s quite short. But that doesn’t mean that just like the Archspire I reviewed earlier, you won’t be playing it over and over again as the disc certainly contains one hell of a replay value in all of its blackened/death grandeur. Frantic blasts emanate from Khrudd’s kit as he brings a wealth of experience (just look at all the acts he’s been associated with in MA) to the project, as Isfeth’s tremolo melodies and golem growls sound like the fury of hell unleashed onto a slew of unsuspecting victims. This is exactly the kind of bombastic atmosphere that you appreciate with death metal and the kind of thing that we always found exponentially potent with bands like SepticFlesh and The Monolith Deathcult. I think that massive symphonics and electronically filtered vocals can be done justice if mixed together right and this album sounds like nothing less than a high caliber presentation. If you want my honest opinion, I want to know where Decibel’s praise for a band like this is, at least compared to something like Machine Head who pales in comparison to the frightening aura of grim death unleashed here. Now it’s apparent that there are some Dimmu Borgir influences on the record (particularly from Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia) but these have been obviously influenced from the wondrous mid-era of the band, before they became too popularized and before they began to change their sound into something very different. I will certainly say that no matter what style of music these guys play, it all manages to sound rather intriguing. They put out a great doom/death record last year and this year they’re putting out a tremendous exercise in satanic symphonic blackened/death metal. I’m still curious as to whether or not they’ll do a Eyes Of Soltiude/Sidious live show in the way that Atrocity doubles as Leave’s Eyes. It would be something to remember, for sure. It goes without saying that Sidious has done it again with Revealed In Profane Splendor. This is definitely an album that you want Satan Claws to put in your Helliday stocking this year.
(7 Tracks, 36:00)
ZOM – Flesh Assimilation (2014) – Coming from Ireland, Zom are an atmospheric death metal project that you could compare to acts like Grave Miasma, Portal and Aevangelist. Doubly, there’s also a little bit of doom on the album too, which adds to the ominous feeling that you gate with the weird protoplasmic mist that encapsulates the guitar riffs (which you’ll actually be able to hear quite well) and the drums, which are also quite thunderous and audible. The record has the sort of production that sits it right between classic and classy, which makes it discernible, yet insanely barbaric and definitely in root with the old school legends like Morbid Angel at their fiercest, even though you’re also going to hear a little bit of thrash here and there as well. It’s the kind of record that you can most certainly bang your head to and you’ll enjoy every minute of it. It’s cosmic, but it’s not so damned far out there that you’ll get sucked into a void. Rather Zom are the kind of atmospheric death metal band that still feel like an atmospheric death metal band. There are some electronic samples here and there as well to add to the presentation, but I don’t think they’re going to get on the nerves of a classic head that doesn’t really get into electronics. I’m not really sure where they’re going with this sound, as far as to whether or not it will become further enshrouded in a foggy veil or stick close to the roots of death metal as has been done here; but I am sure that I like this kind of atmospheric death metal a little more than some of the other bands like Aevangelist who have the right idea, but just seem to lose it all in the atmosphere. It’s a very fragile topic when you mention atmospheric death metal and talk down about highbrow acts like Aevangelist or Portal, who both are certainly amazing in aspects that seem a little more than just mere death metal. Zom however, likes to kick it old school and I think that’s what appeals to me more on the death metal side of things. It’s very hard to straddle that thin line between classic death metal and thick atmospheres, but Zom manage to do it amazingly well and I highly recommend that you add this record into your repertoire. I actually want some of the old heads to give it a chance; because you’re going to hear quite a bit of old school familiarity here and I think that you’ll appreciate that, especially if you’d consider yourself a connoisseur of the genre. To put it bluntly, I like what I’ve heard and I have a feeling that you will too.
(8 Tracks, 32:00)
Decimation – Reign Of Ungodly Creation (2014) – This marks the third record from these Turkish melodic death metallers and it’s also their first release in four years. Oddly enough, these three musicians are also a part of the very different black/death project Raven Woods which apparently was only received at about half on MA. Thankfully though, this record shows the trio crafting solid technical death metal that I’m sure will appeal to the aficionado, but shouldn’t draw too much of a stir among other groups. The album pretty much takes an “if ain’t broke” approach, displaying Goremaster’s drums at the forefront, along with the grainy caulk that bellows forth from the throat of session growler Egemen Seyhan. Sadly, it doesn’t really matter what Emre Uren and Erkin Ozturk play, because you’ll only be able to hear mere bits and pieces of them when the drums aren’t pounding. Sometimes there are lighter moments on the disc however, like “Psalm Carnage In The Ghoulish Chapel Of Gehenna 3:08” where Goremaster gives the kit a bit of a break and allows the band’s dual axe team to play a little bit of technical prog. This track in particular might be one of the only cuts on the disc that actually stands out to me, even though I’ve heard the thing plenty of times already. Decimation seems to have a problem shifting tempo, which makes for a lot of songs that more or less sound about the same. So yeah, it’s good technical death metal that really doesn’t do anything new or provide any sort of innovation to the genre in any form or fashion, but if you’ve really got to have another technical death band to add to your collection, you could be doing much worse than this one.
(9 Tracks, 36:00)
Devin Townsend – Dark Matters (Dialogue Free Edition 2014) – This might be a first for me and probably for any reviewer; but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m nuttier than a fruitcake. I already reviewed this disc earlier, but I said something in the lines of “I wish there was a version of this record without the dialogue” and that’s what happened. You’d have to buy the three-disc special edition version of the disc to get this one, but if you did then you’d get to hear Dark Matters with only a mere hint of dialogue (which makes sense, because there was no music playing during that section of the song.) I’m going to take you through this new interpretation of the album, as we drift through it track by track. First there’s “Z2 3:54” which sees more or less the same intro matter that it observed on the original version, but it goes into a beautiful duet between Devin and Anneke that was completely ruined by the dialogue called “From Sleep Awake 3:00.” It harbors atmosphere near the end, but that adds a trippy effect to the disc that I feel was dulled out by the dialogue. “Ziltoidian Empire 6:21” seems a little too bombastic, most of the background synths sort of drown out Devin’s vocals even though the track gets a bit heavier and a presence is certainly felt. The problem is, I have no idea what in the hell Devin Townsend is singing about on the track here and I’m curious as to whether how much of it is improvisational and how much of it has to do with the plotline of the story. At any rate, a massive instrumental section appears more fluent on the track, even though I’m not quite sure what all those odd vocalization techniques are doing on the piece. It sounds a little funny, but I guess we can kind of expect that from Devin Townsend. “War Princess 7:47” brings in Anneke on a heavier note, which works rather well and feels like a more cohesive (yet still incredibly bombastic) track. Oddly enough, I can now hear vocal sections from Dominque Lenore Persi on the piece, which seemed to have been covered by the dialogue earlier. Now that I can judge her vocal appearance (being that I can actually discern it) I will definitely have to say that her work does stand out on the record just as well as Anneke and ultimately the piece ends off on an amazingly potent note that you just wouldn’t have been able to hear through all the spoken word bits on the original disc. “Deathray 4:06” actually shines heavily and I hope that it might come out in another form somewhere later down the road, as was done with “Hyperdrive.” The piece actually comes off as one of Devin’s heaviest on the record, complete with a verse/chorus that seems ridiculously out of place here as it’s missing the bombast. Furthermore, I really like the lyrical matter here and I would have probably gotten more into this track had it been not part of the musical. I actually recommend that you take a listen to the lyrics, as they seem to be a mass of frustration towards the world at large. It’s songs like these that really got me into Devin Townsend’s music, as he always was able to put into music some of the things that I was thinking about, whether it be “We Ride”, “Life” or “More” from the previous album, among others. “March Of The Poozers 5:18” also stands out to a ridiculous degree. This is probably one of the catchiest songs in Devin’s career and it’s definitely one of his best. Though it is more bombastic than the previous cut, it contains just the right amount of theatrics and marching samples to get its point across. This is the kind of track that I’m sure a lot of people will want to hear also taken out of context, as it is signature Devin Townsend material. “Wandering Eye 3:26” is a weird concoction that starts out rather heavy, but changes to a much more brainy style of playing. “Earth 7:47” goes back to the overwhelming bombastic nature of some of the disc’s earliest material and it doesn’t really work well out of context. It sounds more like the soundtrack to a musical, which is more or less what this album is supposed to be. “Ziltoid Goes Home 6:34” comes in next, bringing forth a monumental amount of heaviness from Devin Townsend. There isn’t a lot of heavy material on this disc, so it’s well appreciated and should definitely appeal to Strapping Young Lad fans even though it seems to put the Devin Townsend Band prog aesthetics in the same category as Strapping’s ripping metal. It definitely shows artist maturity at any rate and seems like it would do well out of context, along with some of the other tracks that I’ve already mentioned. The last cut here is “Dimension Z 5:09” which is definitely one of the artist’s biggest triumphs and it sounds exquisite here by itself, allowing the universal choir to overpower Devin like a massive crowd singing over the PA at a concert. This is the disc’s sing along moment, ending on a truly powerful note that seems to reverberate out towards the heavens themselves. I think it’s one of the most beautiful and breathtaking moments that he’s ever captured and I’m thankful that I was able to hear it. All in all, the disc’s score is definitely raised a bit from the earlier 7/10 and manages to rise into the realm of an 8/10 or what I’d consider to be a good album. I still don’t think it’s a good as Sky Blue, but it definitely comes off better as a piece without the dialogue. This idea just plain works, because after you’ve listened to the original disc with the story, you will then have this dialogue free version of the album to listen to and can experience Dark Matters in a completely different way. There’s a lot of intrigue and passion in the vocals and lyrics, just as I thought there would be… it’s just that the thick mist of voices was really doing a good job of muffling them all up.
(10 Tracks, 53:00)
Primal – Obled (2012) – This is the fourth solo black metal release from the Polish artist who refers to himself as PrimalOne. It’s not his newest album however, as Prophetae was released just last year and Muzyka Zalonba was released over the summer. Yet, it’s sitting here on my desk and so I must review it. The most interesting thing about this record lies in its structures however, which sound oddly unique for black metal and seem to have a sort of textured melody that helps to compliment the harsh scowls and the not so blasty drums on the record. It feels very much like more of an atmosphere, which I think is a definite necessity for black metal. We seem to get lost in all of the blasts and forget about the riffs and emotions that make up the piece. The album is performed in the artist’s native Polish, but that doesn’t stop me from being able to enjoy the rather profound experience that this album offers. There are even a few synths use to further the atmosphere, but nothing overly given to the keys and taken away from heavy metal’s building blocks. It sort of reminds me a little of Summoning, a little of Burzum and a little of something that doesn’t sound quite so black metal at all as there’s actually some unexpected crunch in the record that seems to speak to thrash and groove metal. For one guy, this is professionally written, recorded and mixed rather well and I personally do not think that Obled could sound any better. The lyrics apparently relate to the fourth dimension, which sounds like a really fucking great place to be if it’s got the kind of melodies that I’m witnessing on the record. Some might call it just a lot of guitar wankery, but I think it’s fucking beautiful. I’m not sure how the other records are, even though the first two weren’t all that memorable according to MA. But considering the intriguing performance on Obled, I’m certainly hoping that Primal isn’t a one album wonder.
(7 Tracks, 41:00)
Skan – The Old King (2013) – This is the debut EP from Texas blackened death metallers Skan and It’s quite promising. Though short, the album sounds rather well produced and has a very professional quality about it. A major label could have put this out today if they wanted to. The performance here is mainly a groove influenced blackened death metal that sounds much different live then it does on the album. After seeing these guys live at Housecore Horrorfest in Austin TX last month, this record simply pales in comparison. It almost doesn’t even sound like the same band! You’ve simply got to see these guys live as the whole atmosphere and black metal sense of the music is definitely further explored on stage. There were also several songs performed during the show that weren’t featured on this record, which means that the band’s first full length is going to simply reek of awesomeness. My favorite cut on this album though is “The Eye 4:59” which is the longest track on the release, as it also does well to remind me of some of the more textured songs that I heard performed on the stage. The atmosphere up there reminded me a lot of the kind that I think Torii would use, with the overall feeling of darkness, red mist and the band’s logo which in itself looked like something ancient and sacred. (Of course, my stage gimmick is blatant Illuminati mocking, with the black cloak, a masquerade mask and a large pyramid hanging down from a necklace or the “eye of providence” as it’s called. Which is funny, since much of our music is anti-elite in those regards. Even though personally, I’ve always been rather fond of the occult, having studied it for the better part of my life.) The Old King didn’t quite sound as blackened as you would think, even though it’s still a solid disc with a punchy performance, thick growls and a guitar approach that seems to be evolving further with every step, in addition to unleashing some memorable thrash solos. I almost think that seeing the band live should be a requirement when it comes to reviewing records because some bands just seem to do better out there in the open, as is a prime example here. Considering all of these guys left from Industrial thrash project Skrew (which apparently has something of a 15% as their only album review on MA even though I’ve yet to hear the act’s new album, Universal Immolation) to form Skan, it’s certainly welcoming to hear a band who’s been playing thrash and groove for several years blackening up their riffs and bit and adding more brutality in the form of death metal. The act was high promising on the stage (as I’ve noted for now the third time) and I’m sure that the band’s full-length will reflect that same awesomeness. As a debut EP it’s a good start, but it’s definitely a segue into something far greater. I’m keeping my eyes on Skan and I hope that you will too. Something rather dark and mysterious is going on here and I’m definitely curious as to what’s next. The Old King is a Name Your Own Price download quite like our own records, so definitely give it a chance and go see them live if you can. For the fourth time, these guys really kill it on the stage and you’ll remember the performance and atmosphere that they give off. It’s fucking grim, which is what we like to support here on the Tower.
(3 Tracks, 11:00)