Thursday, August 17, 2017

Black Bleeding - The Awakening

Nihilistic Holocaust recently put out a new CD version The Awakening, a 2005 EP from Belgians Black Bleeding. I was skeptical since I was not a huge fan of A Bright Future, which I felt surged with comedic black thrash that lacked seriousness. This older record, however, is a far cry from what sounded like Gamma Bomb doing their best death metal impression. Now, I'm not exactly how much more serious the actual content here is, because the layout notes that "this release is not hand-numbered because Oussama broke our fingers," and there is a rather silly band photo included but at least it sounds more assertive and angry.

"One With The Universe" has a mid-paced opening chugging riff that expands into more melodic and rhythmic brutality. Including a whammy solo and several transitions that work well in the song, this is the highlight of the record for me. Guitarist and vocalist Alexandre Pomes is at his best in this song in regards to his vocals which are often low and guttural. He tosses in some higher raspy spits and sputterings as well now and then. Opener "The Sleeper Has Awakened" twists through some different tremolo and more bludgeoning riffs with rather intense blasting and drumming courtesy of drummer Balmuzette, who is impressive throughout.

"Demonic Quantum Boundaries" ends the record in massive fashion. The ten minute long epic eclipses several musical ideas. Opening with a "Planet Caravan"-esque genesis before launching itself into stark blasts. The song then sifts through some interesting pinch harmonic slow sections mid-way through before culminating in a few minutes of synth which, in all honesty, is very enjoyable on it's own beginning at the six-minute mark. The variety here is evidence of more potentially interesting compositions from the band and possible experimentation tendencies which I never really discerned from A Bright Future.

I much prefer this style to the less intense modern material. Black Bleeding here sound more like a less technical version of Incantation instead of a second-rate thrash band trying to play death metal. The band claims that they are death black metal on the back of the booklet but I don't get a whole lot of black metal influence. If it is there, it is far overshadowed by the death metal. Perhaps at times the record galumphs, and "Proxima Centauri" hints at the less virulent material you'll find on more recent releases, but The Awakening is a sturdy release shying away from the detrimental elements that seeped through to the forefront. Those interested in the band would perhaps be best off starting with The Awakening and working backwards through their previous material. I can't speak for The Great Satan, their 2009 record, though.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Monthly Blast: July 2017

Back in force this month with a couple full reviews and the Penetration interview, we also attempted to get some material covered in a shorter form. You'll also notice reviews by Mongrel, who is coming on a new contributor. He has an extensive background, running his own blog for a long period of time. We're excited to have him on board.

Afflictis Lenae - Post Nuklear Trauma (2012)

Afflictis Lentae is a one-man project born out of France playing thrash metal with some punk influences. On this demo, the band presents four original songs including covers of Negative Approach, Cro-mags and The Business. The three covers itself is a testament of the band's sound and influences. The music is comprised of shouty vocals embedded with thrashy riffs and hints of black metal here and there. Nowadays it has become the norm for hardcore/punk bands to infuse black metal elements into their sound, so it isn't such a strange concoction anymore. The music isn't bad - it comes off as fairly enjoyable and good for what it is, although I find the production a little too "digital" for my liking, including the fact that the drums are programmed and not particularly well. Then again, this is a demo recording, so I am yet to hear what else the band has to offer. All in all, Post Nuklear Trauma is a decent slap of thrash/hardcore that should appeal to people into crossover. The cover of The Business' 'No one likes us' is pretty cool, which is apparently based on a football anthem sung by the Millwall hooligans. (Mongrel)

Dead of Night - Dead of Night (2001)

We don't speak of these years, and Dead of Night proves to be an example of why not. So many US bands, inspired to play Melodic Death Metal, put up sheds in their back yards, bought some metal-zone pedals, and blindly chug chug chugged into the black-hole we have dubbed metalcore. Dead of Night, thought not quite as excrement-laden to the senses as Beyond the Embrace or God Forbid or Shadows Fall still cause my ears to fill with wax in earnest. A close comparison would be In Flames' Lunar Strain but only the worst riffs. Most of these tracks are apparently older with the exception being "Season of the Witch," which has some extremely cliche lyrical lines which Vocalist Duane Morris articulates extremely clearly. If you like the worst parts of In Flames best era, or Melodic Death Metal maybe look them up, but to most this is going to sound particularly aged by this point. (Orion)

Hordes of the Black Cross - Dawn of war, Nights of Chaos (2016)  

Melbourne-based miscreants Hordes of the Black Cross opts for a familiar sound on their debut album playing filthy blackened thrash in the vein of bands like Destroyer 666, Nocturnal Graves, etc. There's no shortage of ripping riffs, with a musicianship that is on par with some of the best in the genre, added a satisfactory production job and killer artwork depicting medieval warfare with demonic hordes slaying all that is human. "Dawn of War, Nights of Chaos" is an enjoyable slap of Aussie-styled black/thrash that's sure to leave some bruises in its wake.  (Mongrel) 

Lambs - Betrayed From Birth (2016)

A combination of sludgy rhythmic pounding, black metal tremolo and blasting moments, layered with hardcore vocals and the occasional breakdown, Italian group Lambs on Betrayed From Birth give a good expose on the band's multifaceted style. What they don't do is truly win me over the band's style. I'm generally picky with my black metal. I also picky with my sludge. The two combined often don't gather enough of what I like about either to give me tingling sensations. The three songs incorporate some atonal contrasts, feedback, and other sludge hallmarks as well. Not a fan of the hardcore style vocals which sound somewhat whiny overall and angsty but I'm sure some fans of the genre wouldn't find them appalling. "Fear Is Your Key" opens the three songs and I'm impressed with the bass playing, mostly, here and elsewhere on the release. It's very noticeable in the mix and defined with a nice dirty crunch that peeks out from behind the guitars and vocals. Lambs is perhaps best on display in the final track here, "And Your Time Will Be Collapsed," where the influences seem to best gel. The sludgy pace, atonal flourishes mixed with the black metal ringing notes, and hardcore impassioned - and less pubescent - vocals all combine for a worthwhile session. The demo title seems at odds with the rest of the song content, reading more as a Cannibal Corpse album title than that of Lambs, whose song titles are markedly less visceral. Neutral overall impression, regardless. (Orion)

Martyrvore - Obliteration (2014)

My initial introduction to Maryrvore was through their 2007 release, Possessed by Mayhemic Slaughter, which was a pretty relentless slap of black/death metal inspired by Blasphemy and Beherit. Fast-forward 7 years later, the band finally release its long-awaited debut album, entitled Obliteration. There are some re-recorded tracks here as well as a good portion of new material. For someone that's new to the band, this would be a good starting point. The songs on this album maintains an upper-tempo, with a solid injection of evil riffs and war-like percussion. The vocals play an integral part in the mix, adding a definite lethalness and interplay well with the crashing wall of guitars and drums. The production has an elegant touch, ensuring the subtlety of instruments without sounding too compressed, while the ambiance cast a dark and oppressive tone. The music on Obliteration is an exercise in excessive and unrelenting violence - A strong statement of militant black/death metal that should appeal to fans of Angelcorpse, Archgoat and Black Witchery.  (Mongrel)

Monastery - Ripping Terror (2015)

Dirty and authentic death metal out of Netherlands with a grind slant. Ripping Terror was originally released in 1991. this version is the Vic records re-release. The members may be familiar. Lars Rosenberg spent time in Carbonized and Entombed and Aars Kloosterwaard resides in Sinister. I'm not totally sure that the demo warranted a re-release even if these six tracks constitute the sole addition to the metal universe. The material is definitely listenable, and there are some good riffs to be found, particularly in "Monastery" and "Monastery II" but there is a lack of originality and memorability. The sound of the mix is awesome, though and when Kloosterwaard goes barbaric on the cymbals in "False Prediction," the aggression is hard to contain. There's more rewarding Dutch treasure from this era but Vic Records seems to do a great job of unearthing relics from this period and genre in Europe, just like they did with the Phlebotomized 
                                                          material. (Orion)

Mother Earth - Living With The Animals (1968)

Tracy Nelson is a heralded singer in the folk and country realms. Mother Earth's 1968 debut, Living With The Animals was her first widely circulated recording. The mix of styles here is quite nice, and meshed well. The tracks she sings on are without a doubt some of the best female sung Americana and folk recordings from this era. The bluesy "Down So Low" is a sultry and sensual classic due to Nelson's powerful vocals. Lyrically, it speaks for a more real and honest desire, as Nelson claims "And it's not losing you  that's got me down so low, I just can't find another man to take your place." Also standout is the brisk and rip-roaring "Goodnight Nelda Grebe, The Telephone Company Has Cut Us Off," with it's proto d-beat carrying a beat throughout saxophone solos. I'm also partial to "The Kingdom Of Heaven (Is Within You)," a psychedelic blues jam closing out the record sung by Powell St. John. Overall a forgotten record by this generation that would have an audience among fans of rock and blues and particularly fans of powerful female vocalists. (Orion)

Othar - Euthanasia of Existence (2016)

The Świdnica-based black metal band, Othar, have been around since 1996, with their last full-length, Human Fuel of Death, released back in 2006. The music presented on this disc is mostly slow to mid-paced, with an epic feel in the guitars. Whether it is purely the sound itself or their nationality, I cannot be sure, but they remind me of other Polish black metal bands like Veles, Graveland and Dark Fury. The atmosphere will spellbind you with its nostalgic sensibilities, as grim snarls interact with a rhythmic bass and epic guitar lines. While the drums are quite basic and get the job done, they have a tendency to be a little repetitive and loud in the mix. Other than that, there aren't too many quirks I can think of. The production is solid, with the songs effectively absorbed as a whole; it should be listened to in its entirety. Euthanasia of Existence does by no means tread on new territory, but that is hardly an issue when the presentation is this good. I recommend listening to this album in isolation and on a cold winter night. (Mongrel)

Pain - Insanity (1986)

Totally unnecessary listening from the mid-80's. Stanley Falk's vocals are a total deal-breaker here as they taint his mediocre riffs with bored and monotone ramblings. It's not like there was a reason to listen to Insanity beyond what amounts to stumbling through German bands from this era for a possible diamond that no-one's ever heard of. Spoiler: this is a lump of coal. Underneath all the pseudo-heaviness of tracks like opener "On My Knees" - a lame title for a song no matter how you phrase it - or title track "Insanity," an undercurrent of lameness pervades this record. Titles like "I'm Gonna Love", "Spending The Night Alone" (which steals a chorus from JP's "Love Bites" of all places), and "The Groove of Love," combined with the aforementioned vocals grab the listener in a gentle hug instead of by the balls. Skip this one unless you need some comforting in the night. (Orion)

Samot - Across The Abyss (2016)

The EP's cover art says it all, really, in what is almost stolen Dissection font, Samot's purple logo is haphazardly placed over a blue-tinted castle in front of an almost full moon drawing obvious comparisons to Dissection's The Somberlain cover. Across The Abyss, is a well mannered and politely offered EP. From the first tepid strums of opening intro track "Awaken" that the sauntering black metal of this Chilean band hints at a much too reserved attack. While it's true that the recording sounds great, and the instrumentals are very tight, and the material hearkens to the Swedish black metal movement very nicely... the lack of intensity and energy is a killer on this one. "The Calling" is rather timid as a first true song. "Across the Abyss" ambles along with the energy of a geriatric looking for his car keys. The songs are mid-paced mostly, nothing exceeds breakneck speed riff-wise. There are some faster drum parts but nothing takes off. In the title track, before the midway point, we get a slowed down 'spooky' section before what is the fastest section on the release - a generic tremolo riff - which doesn't come across as speedy at all. Ending with a thunderclaps and clean guitar, I'm left unimpressed. There's some melodic potential and compositionally the sons are structured well, but the band needs to somehow inject some life into the songs. (Orion)

Scarlett Taylor - III (2017)

Scarlett Taylor is a poor man's Lana Del Rey. III is a five song EP which takes the seductive, dry, nostalgic lounge style of Lana Del Rey or the less percussive tracks from Florence and the Machine, and adds touches of electronic and 80's synth to the mix to make it her own. There's also influence from 90's alternative rock like Garbage. "Children of the Sun" has a strict pendulistic rap section that pairs with the electronic elements and is the only track which I didn't enjoy. "Orphan" and "Unborn" - the latter of which has a lot of Florence and the Machine stylings - is a better example of what Scarlett Taylor does well with the electronic elements. "Concrete Angels" and opener "I Can Fly" show more of the Lana Del Rey style. A more washed-out bleakness and depressive angle places Scarlett Taylor in a slightly different box from some of her contemporaries; her dinginess comes across as more authentic than others who have already reaped the rewards of successful careers. I might be way off base with what exactly 'gloompop' as this is self-described as, actually is. I found it interesting that the promotional representative felt this would be a 'good fit for' this blog. I do like Lana Del Rey a lot though, so lucky for them. (Orion)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Penetration Interview

Penetration have graced Contaminated Tones before. I was surprised with how awesome Return To Sodom was when I first heard it and Victory or Death afterwards. Guitarist and main man Black Bart was kind enough to grant me an ear when I told him I was excited about the new EP, Hell Wants More Souls. Breakneck riffs, wild guitar solos, brutal thrash blasts... it should be everything a metal fan could possibly want in their metal.

BB: Hello?

CT: Hello?

BB: Hey!

CT: Hey! What's going on man?

BB: Nothing! I got you on speaker phone, can you hear me ok?

CT: Yeah. I got you on speaker phone too because, uh, that's how I do my recordings, I can hear you fine!

BB: Alright, cool!

CT: Alright, good. How's everything going? How was your fourth of July? I know that you're...

BB: Ahhh, I was mowing the lawn, you know... I didn't have to work and uh.. chilled out at home, played some x-box. That kind of thing.

CT: Awesome.

BB: How was yours?

CT: It was alright. Just hung out in the backyard and drank some beers, and relaxed. Pretty much the same old stuff, you know?

BB: Yeah. It's good to be in America!

CT: So, I'm going to start off with getting some of the historical stuff out of the way. Give me a little idea of how Penetration came together and how did you meet up with the original band members and stuff?

BB: Ok, this is always a cool question I think, because we... I... have a pretty cool story to tell. I live in the sticks pretty much... it's the middle of nowhere... I'm like ten minutes from Canada maybe, up here in the Thousand Islands - but I don't actually live in the river or the touristy areas - I live kind of inland in the woods. So anyway, you know... not a whole lot of heavy music is played on the radio up here and stuff but when I was starting with Penetration maybe twelve years ago or something... umm, it was hard to find anywhere to play or anything like that. There's not a lot of places for bands to play period up here. Even now, especially though back then with heavy bands and stuff like that so, I had this big old farm house in the middle of nowhere that I live in and I actually started throwing keg parties because we couldn't find  anywhere to play so I started teaming up with my buddy Adam Netto, who plays bass now with us and has for quite a many years, and... umm... he plays solo a lot and has a lot of bar experience and stuff like that so... he had a whole lights set up with a fog machine, little spinners down by the PAs, he had all that stuff too. So we started throwing parties in my living room at this place we called the Thrash Barn and it's in the middle of nowhere so people would show up and sometimes there would be like, one hundred people there and of course, you know, we'd have kegs and stuff and we'd play with a full light show. That's how we started. That was on Halloween or Halloween weekend 2005, and... um... by our fifth gig in April, or May - excuse me - 2006, we were opening in Cleveland and then over the years we just ended up touring Europe three times plus I played in another band so I toured Europe with them once and... uh... ended up with Marc from Destruction, who plays in Morgoth now and recording with Andy LaRocque in Sweden. So it's pretty exciting! Sorry to be so long-winded about that!

CT: That's awesome. So up in that area of New York, I know it's pretty... there's not a lot of people up there. It's spread out. I guess that was a difficulty starting, trying to get people. I guess there's probably not a lot of... you know, musicians up there in that area.

BB: That's why... it kind of added to delay our start a little bit because... I've been playing guitar since I was eight and I'd always wanted to be in a band and some point I decided to form my own band, but then I had to find musicians, you know, which was next to impossible, especially in the day. You know, because I was really into guitar, and playing fast, with lots of fast changes and solo breaks and all sorts of stuff. You know I was really inspired by bands like Morbid Angel, and Deicide or Amon, and... you know a lot of black metal stuff too and thrash bands and Mercyful Fate and all sorts of stuff. I wanted a really good drummer, I wasn't just going to settle for somebody so. You know the first good drummer - real good drummer - we ever had was Dave Tedesco out of New Jersey and umm... then we ended up with Marc Reign, who's in Morgoth now, so I've been really lucky and fortunate. We don't do much right now, you know. We released the album and I'm kind of just doing the home/domestic thing and stuff but it won't be too much longer and we'll set up with a tour or something. So I'm pretty excited. Really lucky, you know?

CT: With Marc, is he also going to be doing live stuff with you? Or is he...

BB: Yeah we toured with Marc twice. And he's... umm... he's our official drummer right now at this point and umm, basically every time I come up with a tour plan I just gotta make sure he can clear it with Morgoth and clear it with, like, his guy from Century Media, maybe - I might be wrong about that, but I think he's with Century Media. And if he is he's good to go to play with us. He's a wicked cool guy, man. You know, he could have been like Axl Rose or somebody and been a complete ass but he's the coolest guy, and you know, I've had him to my home in New York and stuff like that for the last tour or two, you know. It's just really awesome. I can't wait to tour again and we want to record another album with Andy as soon as we can.

CT: Yeah, so tell me about how you came to work with Andy LaRoqcue on this album? I know that he's probably a really busy dude. I mean, did you know him personally or is that something that just sort of came together?

BB: No I don't - well I do now. I mean, now that we recorded with him I know him a little bit personally. I mean, I of course, you know, don't know him super personally but I recorded with him and I, uh, you know, would drive me around in his car a little bit to go get beers and stuff like that with him, or go eat or whatever so... It's really cool, but to answer your question... umm... basically he has his studio - Sonic Train Studio - and the only thing I really did was write to him in email because I'm a huge King Diamond fan and I'm a huge Mercyful Fate fan and I have been for so long; to meet your inspiration and influences to my music... so you know at some point I was like 'you know I want to record an album that has like pristine sound and just, you know, have a state of the art album and "who am I going to do it with?" The first person I could think of off the top of my head was like Peter from Hypocrisy or somebody that I don't really know if he does that now or what but, at the time I just started writing Andy and getting in touch with him and then he mastered the Return To Sodom album - that still has a pretty rough mix and stuff. You know it's a cool album. I love it. I'm proud of it, but it's a little bit of a rough mix and Andy cleaned it up and mastered it pretty good and then, he actually recorded the new album in Sweden, Hell Wants More Souls, which is actually just a four song... like... EP, but... so it was... I think he took a gamble that... you know... that we were going to be able to pull it off, just by listening to our older material and I had the money, you know, to pay the studio fees and stuff and... umm... yeah, man! It just... It could have been a disaster. You know, I felt like I wasn't rehearsed enough. "Metalheads Forever", which is like maybe the best song I ever wrote - I dunno - or one of the best...

CT: Haha..

BB: I mean, that didn't even have the lyrics finished when I got into the studio, you know, it was so close to being finished, you know I just had to figure out some solo parts and finish up the lyrics and that kind of thing and... umm... I was worried about that being sloppy sounding? Umm... which like - you know I'm not trying to rip on myself; cut myself down, but - you know... uh... I'm pretty critical of myself a little bit and whatever and like, I like the past couple albums like, but some things could... you know Return To Sodom was really rushed. Umm.. that album, some of the songs didn't come out really as tight as they should have and like they were supposed to and... the new one... I was worried that was going to happen and it just... I mean, it blew my mind, it was like one of those miracle moments in my history or someone's history. I mean, I wish the world could hear - well more of the world - could hear this music, like, it's just so incredible to me as a Metal fan, I'm just so impressed with this EP. I just love it. I love the sound, I love the songs, everything about it.

CT: I think it's, I mean, I'm familiar, I know your other two albums also - well I guess Victory or Death is more of a demo, I guess you would call it... but uh... I thought Return To Sodom sounded awesome... That was my first...

BB: Thank you.

CT: ...impression with the band.

BB: It has a better sound and as far as the songs, are cooler than Victory or Death or something... so... sorry to interupt you.

CT: No, no.

BB: That's just my opinion.

CT: That's fine. Haha. Umm.. so that was... Return to Sodom, I guess because that was my first introduction to Penetration , that really kind of sold me on the band. I first saw you guys at St. Vitus. I think you played with Evoken or something like that...

BB: Yeah I remember.

CT: Yup. So getting to actual new EP, as you call it. Umm, did you have a different writing process for these songs or from say, the other songs? What kind of writing process do you have in putting together your material?

BB: Good question. Uhh.. as far as writing process goes, when I started when I was twenty-nine or whatever when the band started... umm.. I had a lot of trouble writing songs, like I was still new to the band thing so I ended up with songs that I just kind of threw together out of... uh... frustration or something. Umm... The first songs that we wrote - we actually released a demo - like you said Victory or Death is kind of a demo - and a lot of people think that - but we have a demo from before Victory or Death with four songs... it was "Air Penetration Raid", "Ritual Decapitation",... um... "Neverending Relentless and Paralyzing Slow and Agonizing Merciless Painful Death", and a song that, uh, it's only on that demo still. It's called "Penetrated." It was our theme song at the time. And... umm... then you know we recorded Victory or Death and umm... by then I was getting better at songwriting, I think. Just coming up with ideas and structures and time changes and stuff, Like, off that album the song "Iraq" really stands out as a song that, I think, has really cool songwriting. Umm... it's a really well written song. "Eaten By Wolves" is just shredding and has two cool solos. Umm.. "Victory or Death" is catchy. "Bishop Slayer" has cool solos; you know, I was kind of working my way out at that point of how to write better songs but, ah.. by the time I got into... well we got Return To Sodom then, and that was actually, I wanted to re-record the original demo songs from the self-titled Demo.

CT: Mmm hmm.

BB: "Penetrated" got lost somehow at the studio, which I'm not going to even get into but, uh, that's why you end up with "Air Penetration Raid", umm... "Ritual Decapitation", and the "Neverending..." song. And uh, then we added some new songs like "Forced March", "Women Are Cunts", "Return to Sodom", and at this point like "Metalheads Forever", really into lucid dreaming and stuff like that and that like all the solos and stuff in "Metalheads Forever", I actually had lucid dreams, worked the whole solos out while asleep on my couch. Most of this happened in one nap. I mean it was so weird. It was like time stood still and I just went over the solos over and over and over... you know... while I was asleep, but I was really aware in my dreams and, uh, I wrote "Metalheads Forever." You know, I came up with the main riff, like, just playing guitar but I ended up writing the song dreaming. And I've done that with a few other songs too. That's just really cool. And, I am curious... like... you're into the band enough where you wanted to call and ask me questions so I want to ask you a question, if that's cool?

CT: Ok, Go ahead?

BB: If I return to Sweden, which - hopefully I intend to - umm, to record some new material, is there any songs that you could think of off the top of your head from the older albums that you would like to hear re-recorded with Marc Reign on drums, with Andy LaRoqcue, you know, doing the sound?

CT: Well, you know, it's kind of funny that you mentioned "Bishop Slayer" 'cause that's one song that I would probably say stood out to me when I first heard it. So that might be a cool one. Maybe... I feel like... that song, in some ways is kind of like a... uh... maybe one your best known tracks because I remember when you played it live everyone seemed to recognize that song that knew of the band. So I was thinking that might be a good one to re-record.

BB: Yeah, that's a good thought, man. Thank you. Umm... it's just got such a cool and epic solo and it's kind of, uh, I like to think of it as, um, an instrumental with lyrics - which doesn't make sense but..

CT: Haha.

BB: know I've always liked "Bishop Slayer" and I think I say "die" only once.

CT: Yeah.

BB: But yeah, that's cool. Thank you. I would like to re-record "Air Penetration Raid." On the original demo it had a lot of cool samples and we sampled from the movie We Were Soldiers with Mel Gibson and so the whole song, the whole way through you would hear... uh... aerial warfare and, uh, bombing and stuff and it really complemented the music but... ummm... I lost that when we did Return To Sodom. Because there was some goof with the studio sampling. I don't know.

CT: So yeah, like I said I would say "Bishop Slayer" and even, I thought "Iraq" always stood out to me as one of those, you know... just awesome song because like you described it it's really epic and it's a really memorable track as well. So that might be one of my choices.

BB: Thank You. That's awesome. I've always loved that song. I just think it's really well written. I would really like to re-record "Eaten By Wolves." That's just one of those brutal song and I just love that too. Or "Women are Cunts" - clean that up, or "Forced March" came out rough... I don't know, there's just some songs I'd like to do over but, you know, then there comes the question, and this one that I can never answer, is do I - I mean there's a budget, you know, I can only spend so much money on recording the albums because we're not signed to a label... umm... so - do I re-record the whole Return To Sodom album or Victory or Death album you know and call it Victory To Death. And put it out as an EP or do I select a few tracks off each one and throw them on as bonus tracks, that kind of thing, but then if ever down the road and we have the money and we want to redo more songs it's... that's the question. Do I do the whole album over or just a few songs. Leaving just a few songs, I think...

CT: Yeah, I guess it really depends on how many new songs you have. If you have enough new songs where doing only one or two old ones would be a nice addition to it.. umm... I would rather hear new stuff than a lot of older stuff, but to take one or two tracks would be cool. Especially if it's older and it fits in with the new material, you know, it's uh... when I listen to an album I always seem to hear a song that sticks out to me... so... and it helps me get into the rest of the album so having an older song which is familiar might really help people that are familiar get into the new material that you are recording too.

BB: Yeah, I mean... and here's another thing. I mean, you know I've been inspired by bands like Mercyful Fate and Scorpions and all sorts of bands in Death Metal, Black Metal, Thrash... I don't really try to stick with a genre which pisses off some people some times. Some people are die-hard into like... Suffocation or something don't want to hear anything but.

CT: Yeah.

BB: Brutal death, you know? Or people who are strickly into Black Metal or strickly into Thrash... I mean most of the time we appeal to the general metal crowd but then you have the other people who only want to hear one style and then they cross the new EP, Hell Wants More Souls. I feel like the first two songs are really brutal. I mean, they're really inspired by like Vader - who's one of my favorite, biggest inspirations, for example - but then the second two songs that are really thrashy... I mean, "See You In Guantanamo" is almost punky, you know?

CT: Yeah, Definitely. 

BB: And that's kind of my Motorhead influence coming out. Motorhead is my favorite band. You know I love early Bathory. And, I mean... I love all Bathory but that's, (inaudible)... Stuff like that so, uh, what do you think? Do you think the mix of the styles is cool, you know? Throughout the CDs or, or do you prefer to hear more brutal stuff or more thrash stuff? Just curious, you know?

CT: Yeah, I mean... I think... When I think of Agent Orange, and how Sodom, on that album, you have a lot of thrash stuff but you have a couple tracks that really stand out like "Ausgebombt" and "Magic Dragon" also and those songs are a little bit different than some of the other stuff on that album. And I kind of like that, because, like I said, if you hear a track that's a little bit different it always seems to stand out and it helps... it gives you a focal point to kind of enjoy the other material on also, so it kind of makes you want to keep listening over and over for new stuff if you have a couple of those tracks which have a little bit of a difference to them. It gives you that variety, because I think a lot of times there's not a lot of variety when I'm hearing an album. Like you said "See You In Guantanamo" is a little punkier, "Metalheads Forever" has a more Heavy Metal style to it and you have the opening two tracks which are... brutal...

BB: Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be like... umm... like uh, what do they call it like - ahh I can't think - but you know what I'm saying, I don't want to like... be like Dream Theater who's all over the place or like...

CT: Well, I hate Dream Theater so...

BB: What's that?

CT: I hate Dream Theater so...

BB: Do ya?

CT: Yeah.

BB: Well, what's the style of music they call that? I'm having a mental block... not fusion...

CT: Progressive metal?

BB: Progressive! Thank you very much. Uh, You know, we're not trying to be Progressive or fusion. I just write what comes to mind like. I mean, like "Metalheads Forever" we busted out some riffs on guitar the next thing I know I'm dreaming about it, like... that's how I write... I'm not going to say 'Oohhh maybe I should put this on a thrashier album' or on a different band. I just put it out. I just do it man.

CT: That's awesome. I think - like I said - it gives a little variety but I think... nothing sounds like something... everything song, even if it is a little different still sounds like Penetration, to me. I think it's a really awesome stand out think about the band, really. Because you have a little bit of that variety in there. So... What Um... A lot of the material, I mean, as far as, like, lyrics and stuff like that, a lot of it is about war or military related things and stuff like that... tell me a little bit about what you write about lyrically and, umm, what some of your favorite lyrics on the new album are specifically.

BB: Well yeah, great question. Ahh... well when I started writing I was struggling to come up with some songs and put a band together for the first time and write songs for the first time... and, uh, that's when I came up with those original songs like "Ritual Decapitation." Our old artist and drummer Matt Detmer, who died actually a few years ago, he... I remember at the time I said to him, 'I'm going to write a song, you come up with the name.' and he says in his best death voice like Suffocation 'RITUALISTIC DECAPITATION' and I'm like 'well... how about "Ritual Decapitation"?' which I think he was kind of pissed about but that's how I ended up writing it. And uh, anyway, he just kind of gave me a subject and like... someone was just getting their head cut off in the name of Satan. That worked. You know? Then at some point it kind of developed more towards war because thats the reality we live in. I mean, I've never actually met anyone who's cut someone's head off in a Satanic ritual, I mean, maybe I have and I don't know, right? But I've never done that personally and I'm not knocking killing or Satanism, Its just that I wanted a more reality based lyrical... based or whatever and uh, war is with all of us and, I have the type of job where, I help train the military. I'm not in the military but a civilian job, through a contractor - like a military contractor - but I do range operations. I was just in Texas, Fort Hood doing it and, you know I'm out there just stranded like, doing maintenance and stuff and they're firing tanks off right... real close to me... like one-hundred yards away... just awesome, you know? Very inspiring. come home with a bunch of (inaudible) that kind of thing. And uh... and uh... the devil and the occult. At this point I just want to write music that, uh, is based on my experiences, like "Hell Wants More Souls," from the new album, is based on my own experiences. "War Never Ends" that's a subject we can all relate to, I think, and uh, a lot of hate towards religion in it, and society, and uh... you know like a raging type song, you know? And it seems like I'm almost just inspired by the corruption, the political state, and the bankers that rule the world or whoever you want to call them. You know? And um, the One-Percent. Umm.. "Metalheads Forever" that was just my salute to Heavy Metal and Thrash and Death and Black Metal... I mean I couldn't tribute half the bands I wanted to so I still got to write another song to pay tribute to bands like Slayer but, I dedicated "Return To Sodom" to Sodom, "Ritual Decapitation" is dedicated to Exodus, and "Metalheads Forever" has all sorts of references in it from King Diamond to Metallica, who I just saw, by the way.

CT: How were they?

BB: Well, Here's the deal. I saw them in 1994 on the black album in Poughkipsie. No, Middletown... with Suicidal Tendencies and Danzig. They were killer, umm, there's some stuff off the black album I don't like so much but its... I like it at this point. Now, all the albums after that, I really don't like... until the new one, which was refreshing. I mean, these songs are fucking killer. And umm, so I saw them in Texas... I was kind like 'ohh they're going to play a bunch of songs from Load or whatever, and between the black album and the new album, they only played one song: "Fuel." They played "Fight Fire with Fire", and "Master of Puppets" and, umm, "Four Horsemen." Robert Trujilio played "Anesthesia..." and I'm telling you man, they renewed my faith in them. The new album renewed my faith in them. Super impressed, it was one of the best shows I've ever seen. Incredible.

CT: Awesome!

BB: And that was in San Antonio, Texas. And, umm, when I was down helping the military, I had to schedule my off-site; it was actually my first day, I went to Metallica and... umm... if you Youtube Metallica San Antonio 2017, they have a professionally recorded clip of "Sad But True," and it's pretty killer. I was there. 

CT: So you have a... I guess you would call it a nice little dedication inside the album, to Lemmy and uh, your first drummer also. Tell me how that came about and how you decided to put that dedication in the album.

BB: Well... even in 2005 when we started we were going to have a Lemmy birthday party but they lost their drummer and uh... so that didn't happen but uh... but Motorhead's been my favorite band for like fifteen years or something, I don't know, and um, my friend Matt, who did a lot of our artwork he did the artwork for Return to Sodom, he did all the artwork on that. He did the artwork on Hell Wants More Souls... he died from drinking, actually, and umm... killed his liver, and uh, I went to his... he had all this art, he was a fan to us too, and I went to his memorial where they had all his art on sale and I bought as much as I could and he had this Lemmy picture there, that he did. This was the kind of stuff that he would do for fun. And I guarantee you he was drunk as fuck when he painted every one of these pictures but uh. He died - my friend died - and then Lemmy died right after and umm, I just thought it was really fitting for the album. I wanted the picture of Matt Detmer and Motorhead too.

CT: Yeah I thought that was really nice. I didn't see that when I first bought, got, the album. I kind of just noticed it, like, last night, as I was looking at it. I was like, 'Oh wow, I didn't see this behind the disc in there'. I thought that was cool. It was a nice little surprise, and I like that kind of stuff.

BB: Yeah, Matt did a fantastic job, painting it and its just... Probably the most legendary figure I could think of next to anyone else who is legendary like Jim Morrison or whoever, you know?

CT: Yeah.

BB: I saw them like... six or seven times... I think? And they were just incredible. I think the last time I saw them was in Toronto and I think it was one of the loudest shows I ever saw. There were thousands of people there. It was crazy and I couldn't hear all for like the next and stuff. Everything louder than everything else, you know?

CT: Yep! I know that the night... when I found out he died I drank half a bottle of Jack and just spun Motorhead records all night until three in the night or something like that.

BB: Yeah. I respect that man. Hey, I got a leave soon, umm, you can either wrap it up or if you want I can do a part two or whatever...

CT: Yeah, yeah! I was just about to say I don't really have any other questions to ask you, I just... It was awesome talking to you and doing the interview and uh, hopefully I'll catch you when you're in the New York area. Hopefully you come down and play pretty soon. I can definitely look forward to seeing some of these songs live.

BB: Thank you, man. The only other thing I could say if anyone writes to you and is interested you can give them my contact information or whatever. My stuff is downloadable online and I don't pay much attention to having a website these days but if anyone wants to see me or hear stuff online they can find me on facebook... I go under the alias Bart Tepes, like Vlad, II, like the Roman numeral. Bart Tepes II. Bart Tepes is my band profile one but if someone wants to connect with me or whatever just hit me up. Or on youtube... you can just youtube Penetration - Hell Wants More Souls or whatever.

CT: All right! Thank you!

BB: Thank you!

CT: Hopefully we'll see you in the Tri-state area soon.

BB: Yes sir! Thank you. Bye bye.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

FS Projekt -Rozhdeniye Maga / Garpiya


Efes introduced me to his project, FS Projekt, via email. The package included all six of the projekt's "releases" if you could call them that. There is a heavy influence from modern European Power Metal. This falls somewhere between Rhapsody and Blind Guardian with a smattering of crap like Finntroll or something. When it comes to the European side of things, it's all kind of a blurred bunch of crud to me. All the instrumentation is well performed by the group with Efes on bass and guitars. The material sent contained a handful of singles and single song releases, so I'll focus on the two longer EPs, Rozhdeniye Maga and Garpiya (The Harpy). I will note that the most recent tracks, particularly "Kredo Tvoyo" is much less 'fantasy' sounding with double bass and modern metal sounding rhythmic verses more akin to a band like Meshuggah than the European Power Metal scene.

Rozhdeniye Maga's three tracks account for thirteen minutes of symphonic European Power metal. The overall impression: underwhelming. The tracks lack the heaviness and aggressiveness which I feel is necessary even in material with a more symphonic nature. For example, listening to a band such as Battleroar on their album Blood of Legends puts the lack of power into focus. There isn't a huge difference in ultimate style; both bands focus on melody, are at times upbeat, and have moments of orchestration. At times, FS Projekt incorporates too much instrumentation into the arrangements. The songs are not long, and do not require so much to maintain interest.

This isn't to say that FS Projekt doesn't hit some positive moments on Rozhdeniye Maga. Oleg Mishin's  vocals are actually quite impressive throughout and would not be out of place over something more gritty, as he has been touched with some sand in his throat. "Lyod (Ice)" is an example of this ability but the best track on this EP is "Fingolfin," which is noticeably darker, and more narrative sounding that the other two offerings. The more cimmerian melodies coupled with faster drumming presents the material here as more urgent and important. There's some interesting composition ideas, such as backing choruses, keyboard solos, and some authoritative almost spoken sections. There was no indication that there would be much difference between Rozhdeniye Maga and Garpiya (The Harpy), however expectations do not always yield reality.

Garpiya (The Harpy), is much harder sounding and much more metallic. Even after only a two year difference between the two EPs, Efes managed to concentrate on the elements that were missing and produce a strong release in the European Power Metal style. I would expect Garpiya capable of gaining widespread appreciation. "Shest Strun (Six Strings)" would not be out of place if it were to appear on a Battleroar or even some Edguy albums. The focus is more on the guitars and particularly the bass, which is prominent and is in itself interesting while following the guitar. It has that clunky, trebley bounce which is common in so much of the European Folk Metal. The keyboards and orchestration is still there, but has taken a back-seat and acts more as an accent to the compositions. Oleg's vocals are still very good as well. All lyrics are in Russian, which may prove to pigeonhole the band unnecessarily.

Song-wise, Garpiya's three tracks are all worthy of listening. "Garpiya" sets the tracks off with an energy which was missing on earlier material. "Shest Strun" is the highlight with a huge melody poured over the meat and potatoes of the track. Were it in English, the chorus would influence many to sing along, myself included. The instrumental section could be better, in my opinion, but it doesn't harm the track in any way. "Bagroviy Parus (The Crimson Sail)" is the longest of the three tracks but continues with much of the same stylistic integrity. Oleg's vocals are quite strong throughout this track. For someone that can't for the life of me voice an alveolar trill, to hear it so clearly performed in a heavy metal framework by a competent singer is a real treat.

While it's unfortunate the the following material from FS Projekt did not proceed with the heaviness and metallic force of Garpiya, the three songs from this unheard of projekt are worth their weight, and definitely a must hear for fans of European Power Metal and Symphonic Power Metal. It's not that there isn't more technically sophisticated and complex material out there. Plenty of bands rub themselves off all over their records like some pubescent teenager with his first porno mag. Efes and his band, however, wrote three good songs that don't need all the guitar wankery.

What I liked a lot about Garpiya is that, though capable, FS Projekt seem to have focused more on presenting strong and enjoyable compositions and arrangements. Ultimately, I think that is what most listeners want to hear. The mix, somewhat lopsided on the previous material, was honed here to support a more powerful and worthy trio of songs. I'd be really interested to hear the band return to this style, from the more modern metal of the two more recent singles which are all over the place in styles, ranging from metal, hardcore, tango, djent, etc. It's impressive in one sense, but it also doesn't come close to being as memorable as the Garpiya tracks or as enjoyable for someone into more traditional and old school Heavy Metal.


Efes was kind enough to send me a great complimentary package of the physical releases. Included were some stickers, pins, a poster and - gasp - a mother fuckin' magnet!! I've never seen a fridge magnet sent out before. Very cool gift. It's on the fridge now. But the musical side of the package was exceptional as well. All four CDs have multi-page booklets, colorful illustrations, and well done layouts and artwork. I have to hand it to Efes and FS Projekt for the attention paid to detail. The fact that he sent the package out after I did an honest review with both compliments and advice really speaks to the sincerity of the artists. These guys have my support from a personal perspective. If they can put out some more material like Garpiya, I would be elated.

FS Projekt magnet... tossed the cover to the Vin De Mia Trix Tape to prove it's magnetic and because people need to buy more of that tape because it is absolutely phenomenal.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Traitor - Delaware Destroyers

This thrash band from the Philly area has been relatively consistent when it comes to their live material. I've seen them three or four times and each time was faced with an admirable performance of traditional sounding thrash by a group of exceptionally nice guys. Greg has always been a capable front man and the rest of the band, consisting of ex-Hessian guitarist Brian, drummer Joe, and bassist Tony* follow in suit. Yet, as is often the case when it comes to thrash, what sounds good live often sounds tepid on format. Delaware Destroyers is an average sounding release, highlighting the instrumental ability of the band and a lean towards good songwriting but lacking the certain spark necessary to ignite excitement. The whole overall release is a bit of good and bad in every respect and thus some of the material is worth exploring deeper.

The mixing of the record may be partially to blame, with the high-hat being the most powerful sounding drum component at times, for example in opening track "Defy The Gods" we are often hard pressed to discern what is happening under them. "Blackened Kings" has a somewhat lopsided rhythmic movement through the verses which, having been smoothed out in the writing process, would have really aided the track - particularly because I find the middle part of the song my favorite segment on the record. Also an issue is some details with the presentation - on my version "Traitor" and "Defy The Gods" are swapped in reality on the disc. I don't know if this was on purpose or not, and there is no clear lineup listed. Also unique to Traitor would be Greg's vocals which would best be described as a clenching sneering yell; one sneeze away from Mustaine's vocals on Countdown To Extinction.

The best overall song on the recording, "Traitor," has a lot going for it. First, providing the clearest point of reference for the band's influences on the record, it hearkens back to Kill 'Em All's opening "Hit The Lights," before tossing around a fairly memorable chorus. Then substituting the Metallica influence for Megadeth during the solo section in very recognizable homage to "In My Darkest Hour," of all things. Also worthy of praise is the decision to include the lyrics in the booklet - something often ignored. The lyrical content of the songs displays a band taking themselves seriously enough to not write about pizza, boogie boards, or boozing. With the exclusion of Dylan, the entire band contributed lyrically making the thematic content well rounded.

This was released nearly three years ago, and I'd be curious to see  what the band would put out now given an opportunity to record again. Though Delaware Destroyers is an average release, I could see a much more proficient and powerful follow up were the band to record and release something now. Traitor's best material should be before them, I hope the world gets to hear it soon.

*The bassist on the album is original bassist Dylan.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Malleus - Storm of Witchcraft

Impressed with their solid live performance in Boston, Malleus had given me enough reason to buy their excellent album, Storm of Witchcraft. The release, portrayed in a throwback fashion to the early-mid 80's period with pen and ink drawn cover of a studded glove yielding a trio of mutated skulls circumnavigated with a deep red logo and type-face, formatively employs the hallmark sounds of Hellhammer and pre-To Mega Therion Celtic Frost to transfer the listener to that time. Though drawing drastically from this aesthetic, subtle hints of d-beat and crust maintain some semblance of influence, but barely. The powerful atmosphere I witnessed live is captured in this very natural recording.

Keeping that qualifier 'formative' in mind, this is an exceptional first release. The strength of opening track "Ire" is possibly the best evidence that Malleus, on future releases, may refine further. The track is representative of much of the release as well. Malleus' strengths are the riffs perpetrated by guitarist The Hammer, which serve as precision tools in their trade. There is a purpose to them within the composition; specifically placed for maximum effect. Different tempos live on the tape and each song, though not always entirely unique, is usually identifiable in some manner. Vocalist and Bassist The Channeler is solid in both departments, though does little on the bass front to add depth to the tracks, mostly following the guitar lines verbatim. Vocally, however he inserts some additional rhythmic layers with his vocals taking the form of small bursts splattered and dripping across the compositions. This contrasts the guitar tone which is a slurry of distortion which still emphasizes the individual riffs and melodies. Another highlight is the stoic simplicity of The Relentless' drumming. A body doesn't always need an over-complicated skeleton to be effective; a snake is essentially one long rib cage and yet survives and excels in each environment.

My largest concern going forward would be some additional depth melodically and rhythmically. Malleus have shown with Storm of Witchcraft a group capable of the sound, attack, and attitudes necessary to take this project further. There does need to be some progression towards more rewarding repeat listens, though. Much as Celtic Frost took that leap between Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion, Malleus must do the same. A track such as "Act of Faith" already my favorite on the release, would have reached a new plateau with just some minor additional accents. The foundation for something ungodly has been set in stone here, and only a few more invocations of darkness to pervade their sound will set them on the path towards something rivaling a large portion of the material that warrants listening in this era of oversaturation.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Freedom's Reign - Freedom's Reign

There exists an ironic undercurrent whenever a musician associated with legendary records resurfaces from beneath the water. In one hand, often times musicians that have disappeared want to modernize and reinterpret their innate style. In the other hand, fans normally want that musician to not veer far from the roots which they know and love. This gambit is at play with Freedom's Reign. Victor Arduini, of Fate's Warning fame, reemerges after more than twenty years with an eponymous album under the moniker Freedom's Reign. While it's easy to find similarities to Soundgarden or Alice In Chains strewn throughout the album, the material also exhibits ghostly wisps of the rhythmic and melodic originality that made Night on Brocken and The Spectre Within such landmark albums. The modern production could be enough to deter stubborn 'heads looking for another eight "Orphan Gypsies" or "Kiss Of Deaths" from appreciating this but I found it a rather strong album nevertheless.

Arduini, aside from an unsurprisingly stellar guitar performance, also provides the vocal performance on the album which makes use of that modulated effect which adorned Ozzy's vocals on his albums after No More Tears. I'm not a fan but I doubt that this would drive away other listeners and it doesn't impact me so much as to skewer the album. It may subconsciously dredge up emotions that some would link to modern metal. Performances across the board are commendable; Tommy Vumback occupies the second guitarist slot, Mike Jone's bass playing is solid across the album, particularly in "Brother," which happens to be my personal favorite of the release - probably because I'm a sucker for verses that are driven by a bass and drums alone combo. Chris Judge on drums does a solid job backing up the rhythm.

Into the round-about of thoughts on the tracks, "Believe" is one of the heavier tracks on the album but is endorsed with a more laid back jamming penultimate bass section. "Up From Down" crams a memorable chorus hard into your ear drums. "To Be" stands out as the worst track on the album, and is an augmented chord away from being pop-punk or Green Day or Sum 41 or something. "No Excuses" steps back towards Metal but is probably the best evidence on the album of influence from the 90's alternative rock, grunge period. "Long Way" is an expertly paced and arranged track that would easily catch the ear of a wide range of listeners. Lyrically, all the tracks are reflective, pointedly concerned with a variety of emotional topics, and well written in a way sure to make the already sombre more melancholy. In this regard, the album is decisively mature.

Returning back to that irony which I spoke about earlier, Arduini and Freedom's Reign has nothing to do with the material which brought him into the attention of most of those which would be interested in his music and probably this project. The unfortunate result of that is that there's a good chance that the listeners that would come across Freedom's Reign would not recognize the strength of the album. The tracks are mostly solid good hard rock, which is what I think Freedom's Reign were going for with the project. While it's a solid release with only some slight missteps, I can't claim that it will garner much rotation in my listening.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Monthly Blast: February / March '17

Florence Namirimu - Ziba Bbiri (Unknown)

Vocal and percussion heavy, this Ugandan singer has been circulating in the world music niche for years. Melody, other than vocals, is provided by what sounds to be a xylophone or some similar tonal instrument. Ziba Bbiri exhibits heavy dosages of call and and response vocal arrangements, as is common in folk music in this area, with Florence providing the call and a group responding. Also present is a constant flow of aboriginal drumming from what probably is a baksimba ensemble. The drum has an overall flat sound but, similar to tabla, can create a range of tonalities. The drumming can be powerful at times such as is third track, "Mwami Togayala" in which the drums thunder through nine minutes of music. The waves of percussion produces a meditative trance-like rhythm which is easy to fall deep into. This particular recording has the xylophone farthest in the mix, with Florence's vocals piercing the drumming which is most prevalent. Unfortunately, a lack of variety across extended tracks could sour the overall listening experience.

Glaukom Synod - Ogre (2007)

Ogre contains several definitive Glaukom Synod tracks. This album is one of the earliest experiments in the project's history and still shows some evidence of figuring out what exactly the Glaukom Synod sound would be. Opener "Passive Retro," an electro-noise Greaser jam, "Triangle Obscene (Obesism 23)," a miasma of scraping guitar riffs and mechanical clanking, "Sci-fix It," the most futurist track on the release hinting at the sounds on more recent releases, and "Intragenitose," a slowish electro-doom track that also exhibits a gurgling fleshiness all are easily appreciated by interested listeners. A handful of tracks don't have enough identifying markers necessary to make the thirty-four minute release totally engaging from start to finish but with a handful of excellent tracks the lackluster cuts fall to the wayside. Once again, a very strong output from this French project.

Iron Hearse - Tomb Metal (2016)

Iron Hearse has taken a more minimalist approach to doom metal since my initial confrontation with the band on their eponymous release in 2006. Tomb Metal emphasizes this push. The band further separates themselves from the clutches of modern production, overly polished ghost-heaviness, and professionalism with this collection of demo material from several years back. The initial moments of the album reveal what is best described as garage doom. What Iron Hearse has always offered, however remains; quality writing, excellent riffs, and genuinely performed material. Even though segments of the tracks here are improvised and mid-completion the overall ideas are solid. For a compilation of demos and rehearsals, the clarity is impressive on most tracks with "Sonic Nemesis" and "Reborn From Ash" being the thickest of the seven tracks. This is by no means necessary listening and, really, will only appeal to close followers of Iron Hearse, whoever that may be.

Killing Addiction - Shores of Oblivion (2016)

Killing Addiction is one of those miasmas of Death Metal which doesn't seemingly land in one specific style but instead borrows a little bit from everywhere. A mixture of the cool Floridian sounds, some of the murkiness of British goliaths, and speckles of melody point towards the Swedes. Acheron's Rites of the Black Mass is a decent comparison for a large portion of this material. The rather short songs on Shores of Oblivion contain all the usual motifs and allot time for a few slick solos. Patrick Bailey, along with supporting on bass, also provides average vocals across the four tracks. Guitarists Chris Wicklein and Patrick's brother, Chad - who I was sorry to hear passed away shortly before this EP's release - put on a commendable show of ability, at their best when working off each other during leads and harmonies. "Cult of Decay" has some moments of interest in some atypical lead harmonies but "Into Shadow" is clearly the track to investigate. As Killing Addiction maneuver through several different intensities and vibes including a clean intro, doomier early section, a slammy mid section, and tremolo and faster conclusion, the capabilities of the band are on their best display. Though Shores of Oblivion is an average output, it's a quick enough foray into a band who's been around for almost thirty years.

Metal Law - Hellrider (2016)

I was not impressed with Lawbreaker, my first run in with these German Heavy Metal warriors. Hellrider is on a similar front with me right now. I really have tried to enjoy their throwback sound and references and style but if Iron Maiden didn't use these riffs on any of their recent albums, there's no explanation that will make me agree that another band using them is 'OK.' Evidence abounds but "This Dream," an intro to "Lord of Evil," is enough evidence with it's stolen Steve Harris bass pluckage and Bruce Dickinson karaoke attempt to land it among the very best of worst musical cosplay. Much like Lawbreaker, Hellrider similarly lacks energy. Most of the album is composed of restrained and overpracticed chugging chord progressions. The sole mentionable moment of the entire album for me happens to be during "Lord of Evil" as the Metal Law boys rip Enforcer's "Diamonds." Lamentably this is uninspired geriatric heavy metal.

Mordant - Demonic Satanic (2016)

Being familiar with Mordant by way of 2011's Black Evil Master album, hearing some new material from this Swedish quintet wasn't high on my to-do list - in fact, it was probably lower than just about anything on my to-do list - but as Demonic Satanic fluttered by, I figured I'd give it a listen anyway. Much like the offering on Black Evil Master we are given a fairly polished black metal album in terms of production, but unlike the endless black metal albums which are excellently produced and empty, there's a lot of depth and originality here. Mordant lie somewhere between Mayhem and Dissection with a heavy emphasis on signature Swedish melody and gritty Norwegian foundations but there's a big Heavy Metal influence to be found as well. "Demonic Satanic," is the first excellent example of this combination of influences. Mordant show themselves to be adept songwriters and experts in album construction. "Evil Impalers" touches on speed metal motifs (obviously) but more importantly keeps the album pacing varied and energetic. "Infernal Curse of Evil" has a bizarrely upbeat verse rhythm contrasted with dark leads and harmonies. Mordant have a sturdy album here and I'll be giving it more listens.

Sepulcro - Sepulcro (1989)

Peruvian obscurity Sepulcro dumped their self-titled demo out in the late 80's as the thrash wave was peaking in the US with their own take on the genre, albeit a more Power Metal influenced rendition. Opening with an instrumental, "La Prueba De Fuego," before moving into the self titled track, Sepulcro approach this demo with a certain level of focus and confidence which is noticeable in the four well-written tracks. Sounding like a mix between Medieval and Hellhammer with Iron Maiden poking through, Sepulcro definitely prove their ability and heart. It's unfortunate that they likely were held back from greater notoriety simply due to geography. This IS a demo, truth be told, and some moments are not totally spot on or fleshed out. Miguel Huamán's vocals spit energy and aggression in the Tuetonic Thrash style but are not exploited in the mix. The guitars have more in common with the sound of peeling a potato than a heavy metal guitar, but the riffs are discernable. Not a bad listen.

Slavecrushing Tyrant - Slavecrushing Tyrant (2010)

Despite having one of the more outrageous monikers, Slavecrushing Tyrant are impressive on their self titled album. Njord, with ties to the well known entity Dark Fury, is solely responsible for the material on this release from what I can tell. The album is fairly typical Black Metal in the Eastern European sense: raw and cold atmospheres, emphasis on melodic movement, and an introverted and reflective energy. After an anthemic introduction, "Woe To The Weak" launches into the brunt of the material appropriately wandering through fast riffs before fading out on a slower melody. This mixture of tempos and speeds is further utilized throughout the album. "The Gleam of His Ever Burning Eye," aside from having my favorite song title on the release, also employs this style, and emphasizes the continued strong songwriting abilities, as Njord subtly builds songs with precise compositional concern. It would be easy to write off some moments as drab or uneventful, however to do so would ignore the sense of grandiosity which Njord has fostered in a song such as "Kshatriya," which in it's ten-minutes trounces through atypical melodic movements and a thick suffocating atmosphere. 

Witchery - Dead, Hot, and Ready (1999)

Witchery's Dead, Hot, and Ready will rip your head off. From all angles, the attack is intense, gripping, and focused on all the perfect areas for maximum impact: rhythm, melody, attitude. The combination of Heavy Metal and Black Metal here is emphasized across every track, many of them short blitzes to rattle bones and break necks. Even today bands like Midnight are trying to get this right and often times coming up just short. This album doesn't come up short. It doesn't even come up big. It's a missile of gnarly wild riffs with their foundation in the 80's heavy metal and speed metal such as Accept, and Running Wild. It takes the baton, wins the race, then kicks the losers in the teeth. Consisting of a host of veterans from bands such as Seance, Mercyful Fate, The Haunted, etc, musicianship is precise and top notch. A listen to "Resurrection" or "Full Moon" will plunge riffs deep into the metal-soul. "Call Of The Coven" is one of the slickest tunes I've ever heard, rolling in and out of riffs and memorable progressions like a vampire awakening in the night. And the fangs don't hide. This is necessary listening, as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Glaukom Synod - The Hungry Transplants

You've seen the name here before, and if you've seen the name here before you know that I have been relatively enamored with Glaukom Synod's experimental industrial jesting. This was the reason I bought the entire back catalog off Nihilistic Holocaust. The sole creator of this madness, G.S, is to be applauded for this miasma of industrial noise. The Hungry Transplants shares many of the characteristics of the project's catalog: mechanical rhythms, repetitious percussion, a penchant for adopting orphaned sounds and incorporating and bending them to fit a structure or be the structure. With each track being it's own unique cacophony of unpleasant sounds and patterns, that there is still a unifying totality that glues the elements together is commendable.

Opening the album is "Formol Junkie," a track which appears elsewhere in the discography in different forms; Glaukom's anthem, if you could offer it a prize. The Hungry Transplants is more mechanical and less organic than some other recordings. It is also not as abrasive as say Covered In Semen and Slime. Even the fastest blasting is cut and corrupted with slower aspects such as in "The Perfect Nucleus (Always Deeper)". What I'm always impressed with is how tempting Glaukom Synod is to the ear and senses. It is not something which is appalling, even though it's foundations should not be construed or regarded as outwardly enjoyable. Somehow, the transcendent nature of these mechanical rhythms and staccato programmed sixteen-bit samples are yet calming and warm.

To me, Glaukom Synod is the factory come alive, the conveyor belts working in perfect unison, autonomous robotic engineers producing tiny receptors, diodes, and components in total harmonious programmed unison. A symphony o metallic existence motoring on incessantly into the distance for unknown reasons and goals. The Hungry Transplants is an ideal jumping point for Glaukom's discography. Several demos and a couple albums prior have been enough for refinement and yet it is still somewhat minimalist compared to some recent output. You get a very good understanding of what makes Glaukom Synod, and G.S., tick. Tick. Tick. Tick...

Friday, February 10, 2017

Black Grail - Mysticismo Regresivo (Re-Recorded Live Ceremony)

This version of Mysticismo Regresivo is a "re-recorded live ceremony." There isn't much information available as to what this actually consists of but I have answers. Apparently Black Grail, perhaps unhappy with the sound and structure of their debut album, wanted to approach the material from a more natural angle and include some content which was not a part of the full length version of the album. The defining pacing element of spoken word and tolling bells was absent in the original and a separate entity has been utilized to realize these additions. This is essentially a more representative release as to the band's wishes. Along with the re-imagined overall structure, Black Grail provide the seeker a host of questionable aspects to ruminate over. While seemingly promoted with the aesthetics you'd find define a form of ritualistic black metal, I neither get much black metal, nor auditory ritual here. More-so it sounds like Thrash with a hint of black metal in line with a band like Mortuary Drape or Master's Hammer. For all the spoken introductions and the reoccurring bell cue, even some group chanted vocals, musically there isn't a ritualistic feel to this anymore than there is any band rehearsal. Just because a band perceives their rehearsals as if they are ritualistic or ceremonial doesn't warrant the ritual black metal label. 

Drifting away from issues of categorization and definition, Black Grail's Mysticismo Regresivo is quite creative and unique. There are a lot of original segments, ideas, and riffs across the release. The spoken intros are interesting in that they aren't "spooky" or "demonic." Instead, they are simply spoken, seemingly, as anyone would speak to another and so, ironically, in a more accurate ritualistic sense then is often touted or produced in black metal releases. The release is heavily atonal and melodically taxing from the outset of "Dialogo Entre..."; a lack of normality in this regard makes mental recreation and recall difficult. Memorability is a factor. Where atonality has often existed in extreme metal, it is often utilized in the way adverbs are used to describe verbs. Black Grail use atonality as the actual verbs; the actual moving and doing component of their music is atonal. Some of the more structurally off putting pure riffs appear in "Plegaria Catartica." 

When we talk about about structure in metal, the majority of bands utilize the same overall approaches. Verse-Chorus is still highly prevalent but we also see linear/narrative structures becoming more prominent in extreme and hybrid genres. Black Grail fall into that later format, yet twist it into something new. Using markers to signal the audience - in Black Grail's case a bell between songs - links everything together into a single narrative and yet also signals separation between each track. 1349 did something similar on Hellfire and Acheron has done this on numerous albums similarly where each track was prefaced with cues to both link and separate. This formatting rarity usually falls flat, as it breaks up the pacing of an album too often. In the case of Mysticismo Regresivo the pacing is non-existent from the outset and so the bell, i.e. cue, can be appreciated as meaningful and not be regarded as a hindrance.
The promotion for the album promises "a philosophic-spiritual perspective that you should discover." Maybe that's what we are being given as we question numerous components of the whole. Unsure exactly where to place the band or how to approach their bizarre creation forces the listener to openly question categorization as a method overall. My version of the release was a tape sent to me by Divergent, who also sent me the Rid tape - another bizarrity, as I like to call these 'fit nowhere' releases - a while back and I'm thankful that he did because I will likely be coming back to this tape as reference for other material in the future. It's a singularly unique offering that presses the listener to look for abstract explanations for the irregularities that we occasionally find within the metal genres. While definitely not for everyone, I can envision the appeal to veteran explorers in the genre.