Second week under new management, blah, blah, blah… Let us take a pause for a few minutes before we start and remember the lives of those who were injured in a fatal bus accident this week. Members of the American black acts Wormreich and Khaotika were on the road when the driver fell asleep and caused a major accident which resulted in the deaths of two musicians, with one still remaining in critical condition. It’s safe to say that they died doing what they loved, with an admittedly eerie post that read “We’re going to hell!” shortly before the incident. Unfortunately, most of the comments I saw while I was reading these articles left me very disheartened. I understand that there are those who do not prefer a certain genre of music, but we should remember to respect the work that an artist performed and to respect them as a human being. Our thoughts here at the tower go out to all those are currently missing their loved ones right now. You may have known them as musicians, perhaps even friends – but some people knew them as family. They were sons, they were husbands and they were fathers. Let us not forget that. Without further ado, let us begin Week 140.
Maestus – Voir Dire (2015 Spotlight) – Voir Dire is a very difficult record to explain, especially due to its massive size and scope. The amount of work that these Oregon based blackened doom (with some elements of death metal, Metal Archives) metallers perform here is staggering, and it fits their experiences, each having been in no less than six bands prior to this recording. The bass player alone has been in what looks to be more than thirty different acts over the years and he also manages a record label of Glossolalia Records, of which the band is currently signed. But as far as the recording goes, there’s quite a lot of depth to it, so let us begin. The first track seems more like a separate EP than an opener, as it comes in close to twenty-two minutes and offers a slow-paced, yet wonderfully atmospheric performance that includes a mix of thundering doom, death growls and fragile clean vocal lines from the frontman. Interestingly enough, the frontman and the bass player are brothers (Stephen and Kenneth Parker respectively) with Kenneth being the younger. He also manages a studio and works with artists around the pacific-northwest. These guys are awfully young, so don’t let anyone tell you that you and your brother or sister cannot form a successful band, or series of them. Because as far as I’ve heard, this stuff literally verges on fantastic and it’s an absolutely tremendous debut judging from the opener alone. Usually bands don’t really give me enough material to make an informed decision, but this time around I feel that I’ve already heard enough from just the very beginning of the disc to decide as to whether or not the work here is worth your time. But let us continue into “Weeping Granite 8:04” where I’m almost getting a little bit of an Agalloch feel, in addition to something that reminds me a little of ICS Vortex in the vocal lines. This track is much fiercer and feels closer towards raw melodic black metal, which I can definitely get into. “Tears Of Sky 3:28” starts the first of several instrumental atmospheres, with this one being a decent little segue of mist and majesty that leads into the next cut, “Algid Lungs 8:23.” We’re thrown back into black metal when this track begins and it even sounds a bit rawer than before. It’s quite easy to tell the band’s influences from the very first listen of the record and they don’t seem to stray too far from those, which will excite many of those looking for a pristine mix of the doom and black metal genres. There’s even the employment of gothic pianos right before another dose of The Mantle worship, which I am indeed hearing here, but I am not complaining about it either. They’re definitely doing their own thing with this style and should this act not fade away as the forty others have, we might very well be looking at the next Agalloch. Now for the final track, “Opaque Shadows In Framed Stillness” which is split into four parts and totals out to half an hour. The first part of the track is around eight minutes in length and brings us back into death metal, albeit with a light shot of black metal and some clean vocal melodies. Seems like a typical track from these guys, right? Well, the second part of the quadrology comes in at nearly eleven minutes and it encases the second instrumental within it. After a short section of acoustics and clean vocals that envelops into a sort of slow-rocker, the whole thing rolls into pure atmosphere and then back into doom/death. The third piece of the quadrology is only a little more than six minutes and is mostly instrumental, with the heavier stuff coming in later. Another chunk of instrumental atmosphere comes back into play as it turns into a display of complete trauma and ends the album out on that. From one black/death/doom band to another, I applaud this effort and feel that it fully captures the emotion that is meant to entangle the three genres. I might be pulling a display quite similar to (if not even more frantic) the album’s denouement on our forthcoming album. If “Gates Of Paradise” does find its way on there, then you can almost expect it. At any rate, Voir Dire does exactly what it should do as far as melding these three complimentary colors (albeit rather dark colors at that) and it paints a rather profound masterpiece of darkness, pain and subtle beauty. Looks like we’ve got competition… But I don’t mind, rather I embrace it. You should too, when you check out a copy of this record for yourself.
(8 Tracks, 73:00)
Nachtriech/Spectral Lore – The Quivering Lights (Split) (2014) – This split effort between two black metal acts sounds definitely unlike any split of its nature that you’ve ever heard before from two black metal acts. Firstly, all of the tracks seem to involve massive amounts of piano and classical influence which oddly ties them both together in what feels like more of a collaborative effort than a split between two bands. Things do get a bit heavier and less theatrical during “Vanishing 11:31” but I find the performance as a whole sets a dark and classy mood for virtually any date. At any rate, at least your date will know what kind of person you are from the beginning. But if things go wrong, “Vanishing” serves to work as that black metal moment on the disc in which to vent out your frustrations. The whole experience is rather gloomy, but it’s quite elegant as well. I quite think that a certain Romanian count would find himself quite enamored by the performance. It even comes with an ending in the form of slow acoustics called “Reflection 6:31” which apparently seems to do just that. The first four cuts come off rather seamless to me, but there’s still some room for desert. If your date goes well enough, then “Reflection” could also set the mood for certain other “saucy” activities. The Quivering Lights is both dark and passionate, accompanied with a set of rather poetic lyrics that feel more like a dark romance more than anything else. They may sound rather harsh at times, but these gentlemen are definitely lovers, rather than fighters.
(6 Tracks, 45:00)
Sata Kaskelottia – Sata Kaskelottia (2014) – Sata Kaskelottia is a Finnish hard rock, stoner and sludge act and they’re actually quite entertaining. This record has several instances of flavor in it, so let’s go by the tracks. The first cut “Huuto 2:50” is what I would consider to be the band at their heaviest, with almost what sounds like a down-tuned style of thrash in some instances, along with the use of shakers and a rather blunt vocal edge. “Yoe On Ohi 4:33” changes to slower style of fried doom, reminding me a little of early Mastodon, while some light melodies come out from the woodwork. “Ikuturso 4:04” continues that Mastodon sound, almost completely in the vein of Leviathan, yet with a mid-progressive touch that seems rather pleasing to the ear. “Venden Alle 4:46” pumps even more progressive rhythm into the mix, but it seems to verge toward hard rock than any of the previous cuts before it. Still, the playing feels like that of a progressive stoner/sludge and I think that’s what make these guys stand out among virtually any other band of a similar style. They know their way around melodies, just as well as they know how to keep a worthy groove. “Kyntoe 6:31” continues to push the melodies and hard rock style even further, yet adding in so many intricacies that I find myself completely taken aback on a musical level. There’s one section of the song that just utterly floored me and that’s the kind of thing that allows an album entry into my pool of promise in the first place. “Suljetun Huoneen Samurai 2:26” throws us right into the jaws of a giant as the band go back to the hard-hitting style of the opener and at this point, it’s a welcome addition to break from the much lighter landscapes of the previous two cuts. “Jumalan Aeaeni 3:14” adds some blues to the mix, yet still comes off a relatively heavy cut even though it manages to meld the more melodic and progressive tones with the thicker grooves emanating on the disc. “Kansalainen Zombie 3:43” feels a little bit overkill, at least so far as the vocals are concerned, but it still manages to set a rather decent tone musically. The last cut comes completely unexpected, as it’s a stripped down piece that builds up into Vesuvius levels of heaviness and ends the whole experience with some extremely potent solos right up until the end of the disc. I don’t think that saving a ton of good solos for last is a very bad thing, and it comes as a very welcome surprise to the listener, especially when they think they’re about to get a cold and somber little ballad to end it all off on. But Sata Kaskalottia is not that kind of band and this self-titled debut is definitely not that kind of an album. Strangely, there hasn’t been an awful lot of talk about these guys; but with a performance like that, there should be. Fans of stoner doom, sludge, hard rock, prog and melody in general will all find something here to like. Give the vocals a chance as well, as they’re not in English and the accent is a bit different than what some of us might be used to. Please don’t allow them to turn you off from this outstanding performance. These Finns are simply doing an amazing job with a style of which we don’t hear much of in that country. Definitely give it a listen, you may find that you like it.
(9 Tracks, 37:00)
Winds Of Genocide – Usurping The Throne Of Disease (2014) – UK blackened death-crust metallers (where do they come up with these genre tags?) Winds Of Genocide sought to create a raw approach on this album, which is supposed to appeal to fans of Extreme Noise Terror, Avskum, Venom and others. Although to me, it seems a little too lacking for my taste. It’s not that there isn’t anything good here, or that these guys aren’t doing a memorable job, it’s just that I’m not really getting a whole lot out of it. Basically, the drums blast full-throttle with the guitars barely barreling over and the vocals running in all at the same time. It definitely sounds raw, but the lack of tempo within each piece does absolutely nothing for me. There’s a couple of good solos here and there, as well as some signs of possible evolution, but right now it just sounds like a bunch of decently crafted noise, which could use some retooling. But to be honest, these guys didn’t get together to make the cleanest music you’ve ever heard and if you’re not worried about a disc where virtually every song sounds just like the next, then you’ll really dig Usurping The Throne Of Disease. But it’s not as if they threw all efforts by the wayside completely, as it clearly does sound like a band trying their hardest to spew piss and venom all over the place. There’s a definite sense of carnage and chaos at the helm of this release, but little substance. It feels like the sound of a war in which everyone was fair game, there were no sides and not a soul survived. But if you just look at the album’s cover, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect. It’s not exactly terrible, but it’s not going to be on my list of the year’s best either. Nevertheless, if you like the sound of raw, blistering chaos, then you might want to check out this record for sure.
(9 Tracks, 33:00)
UDO – Decadent (2015) – UDO is back with another crushing release and one that I think is definitely one of his best yet. Now I know this one came out a little while ago, but it’s a record that caught my attention and I knew that I wanted to get a review in for it as soon as was possible. That time is now and this potently charged performance is well worth it, as this has got to be one the heaviest records the band have made in a long time. Steelhammer had some pretty heavy tracks on it as well, but Decadent delivers a performance that feels more like Judas Priest’s legendary Painkiller, then some of Udo’s admittedly softer moments. I personally have no problem with his ballads, but it’s definitely not a bad thing to hear screaming guitars, fierce vocals and pounding drums, just the way that metal ought to sound. There’s definitely more fine German sausage to be heard on the record than cheese and it’s that level of bulk and meatiness than gives it a real sense of oomph. “Speeder 3:44” bursts out of the gate with a well-observed Priestliness, as the title cut fills with chunk and solo as well as frantic background shouts and a powerful choral melody from the man himself. “House Of Fake 4:25” definitely rings in that Painkiller feel, as it pumps with grooves and thrash, as well as some rather intricate melody sections, which of course roll right into great solos. You can definitely expect more than a few hefty solos on the disc and Decadent sounds all the better for it. “Mystery 4:35” had me shaking my head however, as I’ll admit that I didn’t quite understand the whole funhouse vibe, even though it was rather interesting to hear some electronic influence here. Still, I don’t think they’ll be playing this one live anytime soon. “Pain 5:10” on the other hand comes off without a hitch, being one of the album’s most powerfully melodic and vocally rendering cuts, complete with sing-along chorus that sounds just as good as any other that Accept or UDO have utilized in the past. It’s great to see that even after forty years, the man’s still got it. “Secrets In Paradise 5:00” is one of the album’s softer sections (there are some to be found here) even though it does feature some rather thrilling guitar moments, as does its follow-up and one of the record’s major highlights, “Meaning Of Life 4:34.” Out of the many tracks on the disc, this one really struck me as its impeccable melodies and punchy sing-along portions speak for themselves. “Breathless 5:19” also has some good melody sections and solos (are you seeing a pattern yet?) which seem to make a rather weak chorus section stand out. “Under Your Skin 4:22” goes back to the thrash, but doesn’t really deliver until the solos kick in, as “Untouchable 5:09” slows things down for a chunky fist-raiser. “Rebels Of The Night 4:40” will find the listener with their fist continuing to be raised in the spirit of metal, as the pace quickens and the guitars bellow forth at full velocity. The album’s closer “Words In Flame 7:35” features some violin influence, as well as a couple of spoken word sections and an ultimately fantastic solo piece. At nearly eight minutes, it’s obvious that they wanted to build an atmosphere and that was entirely successful due to the tireless efforts of Andrey Smirnov and Kasperi Heikkinen, who’ve without a doubt proven themselves on this release. The twin guitar team truly shows their muscle on nearly each and every cut, even managing to make less interesting tracks seem worth hearing all of the way through. Even the two bonus cuts are worth checking out as the twin guitarists don’t let up on either track and in all honesty, deliver some rather potent performances. Why these aren’t on the original album I’m not exactly sure, but the very well should have been as they’re both major standouts and highly recommended. UDO shows that despite his age, he’s still fully embodied of the spirit of metal. Here’s to many more.
(12 Tracks, 59:00)
Caligula’s Horse – The Tide, The Thief And The River’s End (2013) – Caligula’s Horse is a five-piece progressive metal group from Australia and they’re definitely worth keeping your eyes on. The guys definitely employ some modernisms in the way of djent and core, but their additions in the way of alternative rock along with a very Too/Karnivool-esque sort of soundscape make the performance a shoo-in for those who are still waiting on the long-awaited new opus from Tool. As I reiterated, the band definitely employ loads of djent, which normally I would be frantic about, but sheer to their awesome attention to detail in the form of guitar solo efforts and overall melodic action, I find myself not quite so bored as if it were just djent riffs for the pure sake of djent riffs. Another thing must certainly be said about the frontman, as I’ve never heard of him before, but if he continues belting out lines with as much emotion, passion and fury as this record has demonstrated, we should definitely be hearing more from him in the future. Sometimes I get older promos and this is one of them. But it managed to capture my attention enough with tracks like opener “A Gift To Afterthought 6:17”, “Atlas 5:02”, “Dark Hair Down 6:04” and finale “All is Quiet By The Wall 8:20” that I threw immediately into the promise pool, awaiting the time when I’d be able to give it a proper observation – which is what I do here. “Into The White 8:19” seems a bit more fragile and rather melancholic, but it heats up towards the end with an astonishing guitar solo and I can’t fault it for that. An instrumental was also utilized in the form of “Old Cracks In New Earth 6:30” which seemed solid enough, but not overly worth adoration. Finally, “Thief 2:09” is so forgettable that I don’t even remember it at all! But even though these little cracks in the structure remain, the heart of the sculpture is still intact and will no doubt be chiseled into better and bolder things in the future. Fans of modern progressive music as well as djent and alternative rock will definitely want to get their hands on this one.
(8 Tracks, 50:00)
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home (2015) – A little more sentimental than some of the rougher-edged materials that we review here, the progressive rock act Lonely Robot, a project from John Mitchell (who is also the guitarist, vocalist and producer for the album) has released its debut through InsideOut music. It’s basically space-rock and delves into familiar prog atmospheres as it deals out some incredible solo efforts. After a spacey intro, the record begins with “God Vs. Man 5:40” which is in reality a rather heavy cut and comes quite unexpected. It reminded me of Stabbing Westward or The Dreaming, and as you know, that’s a good sign for me. Unfortunately, the record dips (just a little) after that. As much as I feel a sense of warmth from “The Boy In The Radio 4:50” I feel it’s got more of a radio rock approach that might turn a few listeners off, despite some rather good guitar melodies laden within. It seems to rely on keys and chorus, which isn’t bad – but it doesn’t feel as complex as one might expect from prog. So then maybe it’s a more forward-thinking kind of rock? At any rate, the piano ballad and vocal duet of “Why Do We Stay? 5:10” comes immediately after, which might appeal to listeners who are more in touch with their romantic side. “Lonely Robot 8:07” actually delivers one of the album’s true progressive pieces and will immediately have prog fans wondering as to why they’ve muddled their sound with all of these soft rock cuts, but it even manages to contain a rather potent chorus section (which is itself a duet) and delves into radio friendly territory near the end. Still, I must say it’s a very powerful chorus and great way to end out such a lengthy journey. “Godless Sea 5:26” observes spatial prog theatrics, and features vocals spattered about even though it doesn’t need them. It’s at this point where the frontman seems a little greedy and even I can see that his vocals are simply not needed on this cut whatsoever. The Devin Townsend influence can also be both heard and felt on this particular cut, making the overall performance that much more interesting. “Oubiette 5:19” is a spacey rock duet, which actually seems to not lay the chorus on quite as thickly and observes more atmosphere. “Construct Obstruct 5:46” comes off like a highly technical rock song, complete with the same sorts of astral melody lines and an extremely catchy chorus from the frontman. It’s definitely a highlight on the disc along with the band’s namesake cut. “Are We Copies 6:17” feels like a further progression of that track, albeit with more electronic influence. It also offers a rather catchy chorus, which caught my attention just as much as its predecessor. “Humans Being 5:37” offers a nice little radio-friendly ballad, as “The Red Balloon 2:32” manages to go absolutely nowhere at all. It would’ve been better if it was left off completely. When all is said and done, the effort is still rather decent and work checking out for all fans of progressive rock and alternative rock, as this seems to play between the lines of both genres rather well. It’s certainly not bad for a debut release and delivers on a highly emotional level. Please Come Home is the kind of record that you’ll feel almost instantly and it’s got enough atmosphere to see that it soars high above the cosmos.
(11 Tracks, 58:00)
Imperial Triumphant – Abyssal Gods (2015) – This sophomore effort from New York experimental blackened death metallers (They’re not just black metal, Metal Archives!) Imperial Triumphant sees them evolving a bit, thanks to some added new tricks. Even though these tricks seem to grind down the raw and chaotic carnage of the band’s previous EP Goliath, they seem well-needed in what very well could have been the sound of them hitting a wall. Although these four crafty gentlemen are talented, at this point it’s awfully easy for them to wind up repaving themselves as other bands like to do. When the album starts with “From Palaces Of The Hive” we get a very stomach churning torrent of warped riffs and monstrous vocal lines, much like we’d expect from coming off the heels of Goliath. The song then transforms into an experimental prog effort, albeit the Necronomicon was also invited into that session somewhere, I’m sure of it. The sound of unearthly moaning roars into the album’s title cut, which sounds like post metal on meth, as the moaning continues along with the harsh growls and the latter dimensional effects (I’m still unsure as to everything that is occurring on this record) which seem to translate right into the almost broken sounding “Dead Heaven.” It might seem to the latent ear that these gentlemen are playing the guitars egregiously out of tune, but I’m hearing nodes of Primus in here, believe it or not, which just sounds incredibly adventurous for metal as a whole. The amount of technical muscle on this record is absolutely absurd, making it sound like it was composed in another dimension and I do firmly believe that if we keep fucking around in this fashion, someone might just accidentally open a portal. “Celestial War Rape” brings us into an otherworldly realm and it serves as a fine interlude for “Opposing Holiness.” which offers yet another bizarre metal number, and I’ll certainly say a rather blistering one at that. Now “Krokodil” really had me taken aback, as its airy chants lead into one of the trippiest atmospheres on the disc by far. Towards the end of the track, you’ll start to hear what sounds like the moaning of youth, quite possibly even children who found themselves at the mercy of this behemoth. “Twins” pounds your fucking face off, as “Vatican Lust” wraps you in its eerie, yet classical mist. Church bells ring and signal in the “Black Psychedelia” which sounds exactly as you might expect. It obviously contains a very punishing edge (as well as an unexpected and finely crafted solo) which seems to end the album out on a quite fiendish note. Except if that were the end, which it isn’t. There’s one small outro in “Metropolis” which musically seems to be a sort of tribute to the score and style of the classic film. It’s certainly an unexpected way for the band to close the album, but it shows that Imperial Triumphant can do much more than what consists of playing extremely volatile metal. Rather this final atmosphere is one of the definite high points of the album. Though the Portal worship is thickly engrained into Imperial Triumphant’s musical DNA, it seems that they’re branching out into something even more spectacular. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to hear what’s next.
(10 tracks, 42:00)
Carbonized – For The Security (2015 Reissue) – Perhaps you aren’t aware of this album, the first of three created by a progressive death metal act from former members of Therion, Demonoid and Entombed. It most famously features the former bassist of the aforementioned, Lars Rosenberg for his first time on vocals. Of the three albums, only this record and the mind-blowing Disharmonization album were actually death metal discs and the band’s final opus, For The Screaming Machines was more in the vein of progressive rock and metal, respectively. Although album opener “Recarbonized 4:09” starts out in a style very familiar to fans of classic death metal, the record slowly evolves and opens itself to a menagerie of influences that soon become rather apparent after the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the album. Seeing as it’s a rather short disc from the beginning, there isn’t much time spent with these outer influences, but I feel that it’s just enough to open the listener’s mind up to what will eventually blossom on the second and in my opinion, far more superior release. In addition, most of the songs here are only about two or three minutes a piece, but they all seem to work together to perform a very avant-death style of atmosphere which for the time was quite unheard of. In other words, these guys were progressing while Entombed were falling slowly behind as they delved into more punk style progressions. (I’ve heard some of them myself and they’re entirely not my thing.) “Hypnotic Aim 1:45” continues into almost death-grind like compositions, while “Euthanasia 3:34” heads into progressive death metal territory. It is here that the album really seems to warm up, even though it almost feels as if the band are holding themselves back for fear of losing a classic death metal audience. Still, there’s obvious effort into experimentation. “Blinded By The Veil 3:31” pushes this even further and it’s by this point that most standard death metal listeners were probably a bit put off. The record still remains quite heavy, but the listener can tell that a new and around that time, rather unheard, approach was seriously culminating within the confines of the album. Still coming several years before Opeth’s Orchid had ever begun its demo stages (the band were still Eruption at this point) it’s even possible that this record could have been one that pushed them to adopting a progressive death metal sound in early in their career. “Syndrome 2:10” still has bite and a bit of shriek on the vocal front, but the drum patterns show it’s encroachment to more intriguing ideas. By this point, you’ve more or less come to the realization of what to expect from For The Security and there’s no use in furthering a track by track discussion. While nowhere near as good as its successor, the record still managed to pack a major punch into a lumbering style that was in danger of repaving itself to the point of eternity. Give it a chance if you’re interested in a history lesson, but once again; this record doesn’t even hold a candle to what would later become their magnum opus in Disharmonization.
(10 Tracks, 28:00)
Sulphur Aeon – Gateway To The Antisphere (2015) – Though I really enjoyed the Swallowed By The Ocean’s Tide debut from these German death metallers, I was a bit shocked to hear that Gateway To The Antisphere doesn’t even so much as manage to leap a step over the greatness of that death metal monolith. So naturally, what we get here is an album that more or less plays by the same rules and delivers more or less the same recording effort, but with a few tweaks here and there. Unfortunately, these tweaks just aren’t enough to see it surpass the debut by any scale of the imagination. At any rate, Gateway To The Antisphere is still a great Cthonic death metal disc and features all of the Morbid Angel influences and slight modernisms that we might expect from the band. There are also some rather melodic pieces entwined into powerful solo efforts as well. When “Devotion To The Cosmic Chaos 5:55” begins, I hear a melody and style that reminds me quite a bit of Behemoth at the cusp of their death metal era. This continues with the pounding of “Titans 5:13” as “Calls From Below 4:34” fills with chunk, eerie riffscapes and basically a formula that will greatly appeal to fans of Behemoth and Hate. “Abysshex 5:39” seems to be at an even quicker pace, mostly due to the drumming, which seems to be the focal point of the record as a whole. I often even feel that sometimes the riff melodies are drowned out completely by the blasts, even though I’ll admit that the guitarist does manage to pull a few worthy leads out every now and again. Weird atmospheres emanate from the album’s title cut (6:06) which seems to offer very much the same sort of blasts and melodies style that we’ve heard for more than half of the album. The frontman does commend a potent approach to the vocals however and truly puts feeling into his lines, even though it altogether is starting to remind me too much of something I’ve already heard before and that’s not a good sign. Though it contains all the qualities of good death metal, it simply doesn’t escalate above a fairly solid effort. To me though, there just seems to be something missing. As much as I like “Into The Courts Of Azathoth 4:28” due to its tinge on stargaze melodies, the record as a whole seems like a sort of segue into an almost melodic death style (as especially referenced on the closer, “Conclusion 2:36”) that seems a bit confused due to the sheer amount of blasts not exactly playing all too well with the melody. It loses my focus more often than not and winds up being thrown into the background, regardless of the fact that this is the third time I’ve heard it so far. D, M and T certainly do as well a job as we’d expect, but something tells me that these guys are going to need a real dose of DMT in order to really throw their sound into truly otherworldly death metal realms. If you like Behemoth, Morbid Angel and Hate, you’ll soak this up with your slimy tentacles. But for the rest of us, it may be time to sail our ships towards different shores.
(11 Tracks, 53:00)
Vamps – Bloodsuckers (2015 Bonsai Bonus) – It’s a truly awesome thing in my book when I get a record from a Japanese act that I don’t have to stream from YouTube, or find on some back alley website. Truth be told, this stuff is hard for westerners to get and it’s why I hope that people will check out and enjoy this experimental little act, so that there’s a chance more will come to our shores and import costs will drop. The band seem to enjoy mixing elements of modern metal, electronics, keyboards and hard rock together along with English lyrics (which is a major turn-off for me since I love traditional Japanese efforts – is there a Japanese version of this record?) catchy guitar melodies and even some vocal effects. Additionally, this is a male fronted act which BabyMetal fans might take as something altogether different. But I’ll admit, the guy’s got a powerful vocal here which probably sounds explosive in the native and truly delivers on “Ahead 4:19” and “Evil 3:31” which again makes me hunger for any Japanese versions of these cuts. The band also utilizes several different styles of rock on this record, with not every song sounding the same. It’s something that is very common for most Japanese rock albums, which can vary from poppy ballads to extremely metallic releases of sheer demonic rage. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear death metal efforts playing happily along with J-pop musings, courtesy of a country that does not give one hint of a damn about musical boundaries. “Ghost 4:57” is one such ballad, complete with an unexpected solo that seems to make the moment even more magical. As I continue to explore the disc, I finally find that exquisite ballad in traditional Japanese called “Vampire’s Love 4:58.” It’s an extremely passionate performance that captures ultimately the feeling of X-Japan at their most fragile moments and feels like it could adorn the credits of a great Japanese visual novel. But just like X-Japan, Vamps goes from a powerful ballad to a hard-hitting track called “Damned 4:29” which takes a lot of influence from Nu-Metal and comes packed with a lot of chunk. The chorus, although quite short, also packs a hell of a punch. It’s obvious to see that I’m quite in love with this record and I literally enjoyed the hell out of it the first time I heard it. Having listened to a lot of Japanese bands over the past few years, it’s quite surprising when one offered to me as a promo sticks out. Though I’m not crazy about the decision to use English vocals, I can’t say that it really detracts from the performance and these guys sound like a great act that I would love to see live. Vamps truly deserve their spot here on the spotlights and they’ve delivered a memorable performance which should appeal to all fans of J-rock, modern metal, western rock and others. This is the kind of music I usually listen to when I’m not jamming to much heavier promos and it’s well worth checking out if you’re like me and about to finish Monster Girl Quest Complete (review coming soon, I’m serious!) to soon begin Higurashi (which will be available in its entirety on April 15th via Steam, so check that out) right before you think about watching the Steins;Gate anime series and playing Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds (also on Steam.) Why? Because these are all really enjoyable things, and I think that Vamps Bloodsuckers goes great along with them. This is a catchy release that even I can sink my teeth into.
(13 Tracks, 51:00)