Weekly Reviews 133.5 (January 30, 2015)

This week I’ve got several more great releases for you to check out including Night Demon, which is one of the best traditional heavy metal albums I’ve heard in years. We also have the symphonic/electronic black metal efforts of Infestum, as well as the folky experimentalism of Kauan and the complete disregard for boundaries uttered by Danish prog fanatics, Schizoid Lloyd. Make sure to give them all a listen!

Night Demon - Curse Of The Damned

Night Demon – Curse Of The Damned (2015 Spotlight) – Ah yes, Night Demon. There are some reviews that you just can’t wait to get to, because they give you a chance to jam out to the album again; and this is one of them. Ever since their EP I knew that these Californian traditional heavy metallers had skill and talent, and this record proves it. This is simply one of the strongest debuts that I’ve heard from a traditional heavy metal band in years. Any fan of the old gods is going to be into this record, and I do mean Priest, Maiden, Sabbath and Dio as well as all of the others. The best way that I can describe this record is that it’s simply one of the best approaches to classic heavy metal that I’ve heard in years and not one song on the record feels like a cast off or afterthought. Curse Of The Damned is the kind of album that you give your children, so that they will know the power and majesty of heavy metal. I mean, obviously you know how the media feels about our beloved genre with most metal related programs now showing on VH1 Classic, as if our music is some sort of outdated form that people don’t listen to anymore and the world fills it’s ears with hip hop and pop music earworms instead. But I refuse to believe that heavy metal is for an older generation, because that’s just ludicrous. This album feels just like the very definition of the genre itself. It’s truly timeless and it’s still amazing how tracks like “Satan 3:02” and “Livin’ Dangerous 4:30” can capture both the sound and the feel of the glory days. Other than “The Howling Man 6:47” few tracks on the album ascend past the five minute mark, but they manage to offer enough meat within those short playtimes to capture the listener’s attention from the start. Not only is there a major onset of nostalgia, but the entirety of Curse Of The Damned reminds me of the way that heavy metal albums used to sound back in the eighties and why the music took off so well back in that era. However, I can see where you might have your doubts, especially when this album sounds like it would have been more well-received back in 1985 than in 2015 but for a major label like Century Media to have taken interest in these gentlemen for whatever reason, it certainly shows me that there’s still hope out there for the spirit of true heavy metal. Trust me, Night Demon is no ordinary “throwback” band and they are proof positive that the metal gods are indeed among us. Curse Of The Damned is a remarkable release and any self-professed metalhead should definitely own a copy. The spirit of all that is loud and heavy commands you to check out this record!

(11 Tracks, 44:00)

10/10

Callisto - Secret Youth

Callisto – Secret Youth (2015) – Callisto seems to mix prog rock with post metal in an approach that seems almost alien to the genre. You might compare it to Palms, but this approach seems to take on a more current-era Ihsahn like quality and it vocally draws some connections to that of Ulver and Arcturus, so the piece feels like more artistic than ordinary “hipster” attempts and carries a crystalline quality that is impossible to describe here. A harsh vocal accompaniment does appear on a few of these tracks, but he overall approach of the material stays true to the same avant-garde sense that you would expect. Other than a few instrumental sections which help to further convey the atmosphere, this mix of post and prog and experimentalism seems a fully realized effort and should no doubt appeal to those who are looking for something different. Ihsahn is a huge influence here and not just musically, but vocally as well. So there’s some added incentive if you’re a major fan of the legend’s current work.

(10 Tracks, 53:00)

8/10

Humiliation - Battalion

Humiliation – Battalion (2015) – Forged in the heat of war, this new album from death metallers Humiliation is just as influenced by Bolt Thrower as it is by Sepultura, and both of these influences are captured beautifully on the record, which is definitely not very beautiful. Even some doom pops up every now and again to further emphasize that this record captures the sounds of man at his more primal and warlike, it is the sound of wanton destruction on a massive scale and manages to do justice to the legends that inspired it. So you’re definitely getting an old school approach here, yet it’s one that you’re going to remember and not cast aside so easily. These guys very well could have bored me to tears, but they didn’t as the grooves thundered along and the structures changed enough so as to add some real meat to the songs. There aren’t a whole lot of guitar solos to speak of on the album, but the band was more concerned with meat and muscle than as I’ve said earlier; with beauty. There’s no question as to whether or not Bolt Thrower fans will pick it up, because that seems a fucking no-brainer at this point. Humiliation show why they still matter with yet another crushing effort that illustrates rather ruthlessly, the horrors of war.

(11 Tracks, 47:00)

8/10

Infestum - Moments Of Exiled

Infestum – Moments Of Exiled (2015) – Infestum mix electronics and synths with ferocious black metal together to make a decidedly different approach to what some might consider black metal. We’ve all heard electronic black metal acts in the past and most are hit or miss, but these guys sound like they’ve really got something going here, especially when they utilize the synths in addition to electronics, while still keeping the solos and melodies on the record intact. Surprisingly, these melodies and guitar solo sections are not drowned out by the multitude of things going on in the record and that’s nothing short of a miracle. Whoever produced this thing needs a pat on the back, literally. I can’t even tell you how many bands I’ve reviewed that have utilized a similar approach and have wound up with drowned out guitars in lieu of the electronics and synths. Additionally pianos will make an appearance on the album, and there is one track in particular entitled “The Art Of The Beast 2:10” which is literally nothing but piano. Yet that works in the Venom cover that comes right after it, simply entitled “The Evil One 3:44.” Surely you’ve heard it before, but never like this. From my observation of the record, Infestum seem to capture the qualities of Dimmu Borgir at the most symphonic and arguable best, as well as the Kovenant at their most electronic. There’s so much potential on this record that it’s dripping out of my speakers and I certainly have to admit that I’m rather quite impressed with such an awesome effort. The great thing about Infestum is that they didn’t skimp on the black metal portion of their performance and focus more on the other effects utilized here. You could remove all the synths and electronics and still wind up with a potent black metal disc in the end, which is a surefire reminder of the amount of skill and energy that has gone into this work. As a bonus, two electronic remixes of “Renaissance 4:12” are featured, each being a little longer than the original cut. These are both instrumental, but they should appeal to fans of dark electronics and will serve as a worthy set of extras for them. However, if you’re not that big a fan of electronics, you will still find something to like within the album as a whole, especially if you like black metal done right. I’ll say it once again, even if you removed all of the synths and electronics from this album, it would still be a notable effort in black metal. This basically means that you should definitely get your hands on it. I was quite impressed with Infestum and I’m sure that you will be as well.

(12 Tracks, 51:00)

9/10

Kauan - Muisturnia

Kauan – Muisturnia (2015) – This sixth album by the Russian/Ukrainian collective was crowd-funded and apparently so sought after by fans that a label decided to donate extra money so that limited physical copies of the album could be produced and the band could make some sort of profit from their labors. It consists of several of the band’s early recordings and even contains a brand new track entitled “Unsoi 4:54” which begins the album off on a rather strong note. Looking at the musicians, I wasn’t quite sure what kind of music to expect at first, thinking it might be some sort of experimental folk music or something; but this is definitely a form of experimental black metal. I particularly love the idea of the triangle in usage here, which I always said I was going to play in a band if I ever had to play an instrument, because it would probably be the easiest instrument to learn. As the record continues, it allows for brilliant piano approaches, as well as the folk instruments that you might have guessed from looking at the band in photos. Yet there is that weird cloaked figure with a mask, which is where my attention diverted as my mind got to wondering, “Well, this could very well be a black metal act!” and while that is true in most aspects, I would be a fool to tell you that Kauan was strictly black metal. They’re black metal in the sense of Hortus Animae perhaps, only except for the fact that they’ve traded the prog for atmosphere and kept the folk instruments. I have always said that there was nothing really wrong with a violin solo in a metal track instead of a guitar solo, and these guys manage to bring evidence to my claim with the unimaginable beauty of “Lumikuuro 7:02.” Some tracks even utilize clean vocals and stray from metal altogether, but it is within these approaches that such an album creates originality and separates itself from the rest of the pack. At the end of it all, I feel that the work presented here is quite brilliant and definitely worth hearing for those of you who are still looking for something different in the world of black metal. There’s no question in my mind as to why the band has been together long enough to make six albums, because they’re simply fantastic. Kauan is a one of a kind act and now I know why people were clamoring to get a hold of this one. You’d better do the same as well. Get your copy of Muistumia before they’re all gone!

(7 Tracks, 50:00)

9/10

Schizoid Lloyd - The Last Note In Gods Magnum Opus

Schizoid Lloyd – The Last Note In God’s Magnum Opus (2014) – These Dutch experimental/progressive/avant-garde metallers simply utilize every facet that they possess in order to bring about one of the most oblong experiences I’ve ever heard… and I’ve heard a lot of oblong experiences. Citing influences from bands like Mr. Bungle, Queen, Leprous, Frank Zappa, Devin Townsend, System Of A Down and Maudlin Of The Well among many others, you’re certain to receive a bombastic and unexplainable effort on a record with such titles as “Suicide Penguin 5:28”, “Chicken Wing Swans 7:43” and “Amphibian Seer 5:10” among others. Despite all of the theatrics in terms of vocals, the band feature a surprisingly heavy core which assures the listener that a definite metal performance is the key note of this recording and you’re going to find some spots to bang your head here and there, if you do so desire. But Schizoid Lloyd are definitely not the kind of roaring heavy metal band that offers a major thrash fest, as you can immediately guess and the heavy core of this record is accompanied by the of an intensively artistic one. These guys can’t sit still to save their lives, almost reminding me of Unexpect, though not nearly quite as extreme as they definitely value art over brutality. The Last Note In God’s Magnum Opus literally leaps over the boundary wherein one considers music as entertainment value alone and heads forth into the realms where music becomes on the same level as a Van Gogh painting, chopped ear and all. I can understand where some of you might become discontented with the record’s lack of extremity however, but you simply must open your mind and give it a full listen before coming to conclusions. There are a lot of layers here, and I mean layers upon layers upon layers of atmosphere. It’s extravagantly thick and perhaps so thick that most people just won’t be able to choke it down. At least not at first. The record requires your undivided attention and sometimes that is a little difficult to give, yet the sacrifice of submitting an hour of your life to its merits should prove worthwhile. Schizoid Lloyd might not be for everyone, but that seems to be the beauty of it. Real art isn’t always so attractive, nor is it everyone’s cup of tea. Everyone has their idea of what is attractive and what is not, so this record might veer far from the nature of natural attraction and find its audience with the rest of the oddballs, like myself. I’ll even admit that a few times it does seem to go overblown a little for my tastes, but in the end it’s a truly astonishing debut album from a band that’s been doing this kind of music for a very long time in the shadows. I don’t even think that anyone else got the message about “some crazy Dutch project” but hopefully this review will help to get some of the insanity and intrigue out to the forefront. If you’re looking for something completely different, which is not only odd but artistic, then you will find something within the confines of this album.

(10 Tracks, 57:00)

8/10

Serious Black - As Daylight Breaks

Serious Black – As Daylight Breaks (2015) – Former Tad Morose frontman Urban Breed is back, and this time he’s in a brand new melodic metal project which comes straight from the mind of Former Halloween and current Masterplan guitarist Roland Grapow. So maybe it’s not quite as heavy an approach as you’d like from these two (and several others like former Blind Guardian drummer Thomen Stauch and former Dreamscape keyboardist Jan Vacik) but it certainly delivers in just that way that any melodic metal album should. The keyboard sections are heard and felt when they’re the focus, the drums pound with a fury when we’d like them to and the riffs manage to deliver just enough to pass. Of course my only problem with this disc is that there aren’t an awful lot of memorable cuts here and it still seems like the six of these guys haven’t exactly gelled just yet. But there is a rather memorable performance in the Egyptian inspired “Temple Of The Sun 4:20” which offers a passionate vocal performance from Breed, as well as spirited keyboard antics from Vacik. Grapow does manage to drive home some powerful solo sections which show that he hasn’t gotten rusty and his melodies seem to add thunder to Vacik’s keys, but I don’t think the album is quite as memorable as other efforts have been in the melodic metal genre, nor is it as good as anything that these guys have done in other acts. But that doesn’t mean that the record isn’t incredibly catchy when it wants to be and as far as choruses go, it really seems to drive them home as well. I personally could have done without the ballads, but they’re there for those who will appreciate them. It’s not a very long record, but it’s a decent enough effort in the world of melodic and power metal and I’m pretty sure that you’ll find your favorites and will enjoy singing along to them while on the road. As Daylight Breaks has all the hits that it needs to sail, but I have a feeling that other ships will be heading along that same path and they’re sure to fire their cannonballs at it. Can the ship stay afloat long enough with Urban Breed at the helm? That all depends on you.

(11 Tracks, 41:00)

7/10

Stormvold - Third Bestial Mutilation

Stormvold – Third Bestial Mutilation (2015) – Death/blackers StormVold bring about a very gritty and raw approach to death and black which even begins to sound a little Viking influenced at times, though possibly unintentionally. If there’s one thing that I can point out on this record, it’s the oppressive drums that bellow forth from my speakers. This gentleman is one hell of a drummer and he doesn’t seem to mind trying out a bevy of different styles on the first track “Brilliance Of Thunder 5:46” alone. But I’m thankful for his experimentation efforts, because it stops the album from sounding flat. The frontman has a gritty nature to his vocals, which of course enters a slight rasp (though still gritty) and makes me start to believe that these guys are made up of literal ogres. You see, from the performance I’m hearing on Third Bestial Mutilation, it wouldn’t be too far out there for me to assume that there’s a massive tunneling cavern out there somewhere deep beneath the earth and a group of ogres are literally playing some of the most feral and inhuman sounding shit that anyone’s ever heard, while using instruments that they plucked from a shop where one literally tore off the roof so the that the others could go in and devour everyone in the building. That’s probably the only way that a group of ogres could actually get a hold of musical instruments in this day and age, anyway. The entire record sounds like the literal interpretation of a thunderstorm, with enough hell being raised to bring forth a demon army (who no doubt helped to record the album). The recording also contains earlier cuts from the ogres, which seem to consist of their live concerts and some demo cuts, which are still just as destructive as the higher quality material that you will hear in the beginning. On a serious note, it doesn’t really matter what the quality of the music is that these guys are playing on the disc, it still comes off plentifully pummeling and you’re sure to get your spine ripped off by this incredibly violent and destructive performance. With a record that ends on “Fuck you, motherfucker!” you can be assured that these guys are powerfully pissed, and have all the skill and angst needed to communicate such an immense storm of negativity. This is definitely the sound of mutilation by a horde of virulent ogres, so if that’s what you’re expecting; then that’s what you’re getting. Grab a copy of this album and experience the madness for yourself.

(8 Tracks, 35:00)

8/10

Voices Of Destiny - Crisis Cult

Voices Of Destiny – Crisis Cult (2015) – Voices Of Destiny combine symphonic metal in the vein of Nightwish with the harsher approach of death/metalcore, almost reminding me of early Sirenia or Tristania, which are not bad comparisons for a record that is bursting with the same kind of potential. Musically, the album seems to be focused on melodies, and deservingly so, because these melodies have to follow the vocal work of the band’s frontwoman, who seems to greatly excel on tracks like “21 Heroes 5:19” and the album’s nearly eight minute epic, “The Great Hunt 7:28” among others. She literally belts it out with the very best of them and although she’s a bit younger and not quite as famous as some of the others in this genre, I have a feeling that she and the rest of this band will do quite well. There are a lot of bass drops on the album, which sort of make it thunder when necessary, but this is an act more concerned with theatrics and hard-hitting choruses more than anything else. They deliver memorable numbers that you’ll have in your head for days, and I’m reminded a little of Battlelore on some of the tracks, especially when it comes to the fantasy lyrics. Crisis Cult is a very expectable release for the genre and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Rather, we’ve got an approach that comes off absurdly catchy, quite bombastic and overly memorable. If you’re in the mood for a slew of heavy songs (and some ballads) that are nearly as catchy as modern pop music, then I think you’ll find something to like here. Although I would definitely prefer this over pop music of any kind. Why can’t these guys perform at the Super Bowl instead of Katy Perry?

(10 Tracks, 48:00)

8/10

Ghoulgotha - The Deathmass Cloak

Ghoulgotha – The Deathmass Cloak (2015) – After a long time in wait (alright, so it hasn’t been THAT long) the debut release from Ghoulgotha is finally upon us in the nature of The Deathmass Cloak. But I’m sure that you’re all wondering as to whether or not this album will also sound as weird and convoluted as the band’s previous record Prophetic Oration Of Self and for that I’ve got to say that they are by and large different in regards to one factor: tempo. Though this is the same Ghoulgotha, it sounds like they’re been eating a lot of nails and all of that rust has permeated through their systems, causing a sort of massive slowdown process in the music at large. There’s still death metal here, it’s just been heavily caked in doom. There are definitely some moments where a fire has been lit under their asses though, but those moments are few and far between. “Prophetic Oration Of Self 7:19” certainly sounds like it belongs with the rest of the material, but I just remember these guys sounding a great deal faster than the material here. But maybe that is just me. At any rate, despite the tempo changes the album still comes off just like we should expect with Ghoulgotha and it features all sorts of little prog sections which twist and divert the music as combined with the doom riffs in a more sinister fashion. There’s nothing on this record that seems peaceful and it definitely relates well to the cover art (though nothing is going to beat the cover art on that EP as far as I’m concerned) which shows the listener that they’re in for a mix of twisted death metal that’s been soaked in doom and offers no respite. I only wish that some of the songs on this record were a bit more noticeable, because it all tends to bleed together and that can come off as unintentionally boring. Despite how much I love their style, the record as a whole needs a little bit of pep to stop it all from sounding roundabout the same in retrospect. There is barely one song on this record that does not sound like another and unless you’re a huge fan of doom influenced or brooding death metal, you probably won’t be all that satisfied with the performance. But I guess I should not expect them to deviate too far from the formula and this is only their debut after all, so perhaps they will get better with time. As always, there’s a lot of promise to be found on this record and a lot of musical structures. Sometimes these seem unnecessary, but since they are part of the band’s style, I can completely understand their need to ham it up. While not my favorite release from them, there are some tracks on the album that manage to grab my attention like “Arteries Unblest” and the disc’s lengthy closer “Levitate Within The Curse” which show that these gentlemen are truly skilled and only have the best to offer in the future. Despite all of the blandness that this record can offer at times depending on the listener of course, I’m still going to give it the score that I feel it deserves. If you’re looking for brooding death metal of another flavor, then I think you’ll definitely find your niche in Ghoulgotha.

(10 Tracks, 54:00)

7/10

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