Monday, February 29, 2016

Inhume - Moulding the Deformed

Today we are going to take a look at one of the much more nasty and gritty death grind albums out there. Dutch band Inhume released Moulding the Deformed in early 2010 through War Anthem Records. If you saw my “albums of 2015” post from last month, you probably noticed that super brutal music has not been a big focus of mine lately. There was only one brutal death album mentioned, one death grind, and two grindcore albums; that was it. Other than that it was mostly black metal and other styles. But I don’t really know what hit me yesterday…on the drive home from a long day at work, I popped in a Relics of Humanity CD and it just fucking clicked, and ever since then I’ve been listening to nothing but the most brutal of music. So I’m going to take advantage of this brutality streak and write a review (or two or three if it comes to that).

After looking at some of their pages to get a better overview of their history, it seems that they’ve always had two vocalists. Well the one thing that I have to say about that is that I would never have known that if I hadn’t been told because they both sound identical! One of the most important things about this album to Inhume megafans is that this is the last album featuring the last remaining of the two original vocalists of the band. Seriously, 16 years is a long time to stick with a band, but this is the last Inhume album featuring Joost Silvrants (also the longtime vocalist for goregrind band Cliteater and even served as the vocalist for legendary band Sinister in 2000). Yes, there are many different vocal styles that take place throughout the duration of the album (in each song actually), but the pointlessness of it all is that it could all just as easily been done with just a single person…what’s the fucking point of two vocalists? It’s just like Despised Icon, unless they sound drastically different (Nile, Exhumed, Dying Fetus, old Carcass, Gorerotted, Intestinal Strangulation, etc.), What Is The Mother Fucking Point? NOTHING! It’s a waste of time and money. But either way, despite the pointlessness of the presence of two vocalists, the vocals do sound good…very deep, guttural, diverse, and they complement the DEEP, rich tone of the guitars and bass very well.

Speaking of the sound of the instruments (specifically the guitars and bass), although they aren’t tuned down too low (most of my guitarist friends say it sounds about C Standard), they are VERY deep. Obviously these people wanted to make the grittiest and crunchiest death metal album ever by going to the EQs and turning down everything and turning up the bass on both the guitars and the bass guitars. The way everything is structured is the traditional death metal chugchugchugchugchug. Other than the SOUND of the guitars and bass, there really isn’t anything worth talking about unfortunately. And that also goes for the drums. Yes, their drummer is an amazing blaster, especially in songs like Wretched Worm, Deadbeat, and Compulsory Infected, and also lays down some interesting patterns like in Sea of Limbs. But 90% of the album is the exact same drum pattern with some blasts thrown in here and there. Listen to the drum pattern on Pandemic…you’ve heard it millions of times before, and that’s just about all you’ll hear on Moulding the Deformed.

And that’s basically what the majority of this album is made up of: the same exact shit you’ve heard before but with some unique twists thrown in here n’ there. The BEST thing that I can take away from this album is the mixing and how everything sounds. It sound disgustingly brutal and it’s addicting and makes it a lot easier to enjoy the entire album in one sitting. The vocals sound great and compliment everything well, and the guitars and bass sound like rusty sawblades cutting through your speakers. But overall, this isn’t something that I would go back and listen to again and again. But fans of grindcore and brutal death would eat this shit up faster than anything. This album gets 13/20. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Gol - Habit Entwined in Horns

Habit Entwined in Horns is the second full-length release by the Australian black metal duo Gol. This album was brought to my attention by a friend of mine less than 3 hours after its release in May of last year. Me being me, I jumped on and listened to it immediately just like every other black metal release I can get my hands on. 2015, in retrospect, was a pretty damn good year for black metal. So writing this review now, I’m also looking back on the albums released by Mgla, Borgne, Archgoat, Ghost Bath, Drudkh, Gorgoroth, So Hideous, Kres, and many other gems from last year and taking it all into consideration. The biggest thing that I’ve noticed when looking back at 2015 is the number of QUALITY traditional/generic black and death metal releases. The past 3 or 4 years have been all about being progressive; with VERY little attention being paid to the bands keeping the core of their respective genres alive and strong. So we could say that last year (and hopefully this year will be the same) was a return-to-stone type year for extreme music. But without straying too far off-topic, let’s focus on Gol’s contribution.

There’s not really a whole lot I can report on this band. My friend showing me this album was my first time hearing about them, and with no website or social media pages other than a bandcamp (click that word and it’ll take you to it), gaining a fanbase and attempting to make it big obviously aren’t at the top of their agendas. The band is made up of two members: Goet Euryn on vocals, guitars, and bass, and a human behind the drumset known only as Wretch. The information on them on the Metal Archives lists them as having been in existence for 10 years now and with 2 EPs, a demo, and of course the first full-length which was released in 2011. So there’s a possibility that Gol is no more than just 2 guys making some black metal in their spare time with no real intentions of making anything big out of it (which is more than okay, I’ve been in several bands like that).

With the quality and value of the production being a priority for some black metal listeners, I’ll get to that first. Don’t be afraid to crank this one all the way up; the treble is actually cut pretty low, making it easier on the ears when at higher volumes. It DOES have a “wall of sound” feel despite that one obvious change made on the mixing board. The guitar distortion is thick but quite fuzzy along with the cymbals. And the wall of sound-type mixing along with the fuzziness makes all the instruments blend together in a way that brings out an eerie dissonance that I personally think would be completely absent otherwise. The one downside to this is that the amazing vocals are sometimes drowned out by the rest of the band.

As far as the sound of the different songs on the record, there are 2 different types of sounds. Some of the tracks like Dionysiac Rites, Fire and Gravel, Righteous Blood Shed, and Habit Entwined in Horns, have a very dark, noisy, and dissonant sound similar to that of Aosoth or Sargeist (except nowhere NEAR the level of Aosoth, but the same basic concept). The other tracks (i.e. Not of One Skin, Black Rat Corpuscule, and Stillwater Commune) have the old school kind of thrashy feel similar to the likes of Von and Satyricon. But when put together into this album and listened to all the way through, everything blends together PERFECTLY. The songs individually may have a different sound, but as an album, everything compliments each other and creates a single defining sound that stays consistent. That’s one of the things that, when pulled off well, will play a HUGE part in my final opinion on an album in ANY genre of music.

The biggest takeaway for me after listening to this album is that this is living proof that the core sound of the black metal genre is still very much alive and screaming. YES, we NEED bands that push the boundaries and take whatever it is they play into new directions, but what the “prog nerds” don’t seem to understand is that we need the generic bands just as badly. We still need bands that just play straight-up what they feel like playing without any fancy bullshit or images or trends or any outlandish efforts just to be different from the rest of the crowd. It’s okay to play generic music, but ONLY as long as it’s honest, real, and from the heart. That’s something I have a lot of fucking respect for, and this album is a perfect example of what I am talking about. I would recommend this album to ALL fans of quality black metal. Habit Entwined in Horns gets my score of 17/20. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Abbath - Abbath

This album is Abbath’s statement that he alone is big enough to be successful without using the Immortal band logo. After a minimally-publicized split between him and the other Immortal members that still left many of us with question marks over their heads, Abbath VERY quickly put this together. He recruited the drummer from Benighted (who left soon after the album’s release), and legendary ex-Gorgoroth bassist, King, almost immediately after Immortal had publicized his departure and less than a month later put a single up on the web for the world to hear. Considering that Abbath was more or less the main songwriter for Immortal (him and Horgh collaborated), it can be safely assumed that the sound that came naturally before is the sound that will continue to come naturally. Except the vein of black metal that this album sticks to is less atmospheric and more of a harsh and raw sound like Damned in Black and Sons of Northern Darkness. With that said, the music from a number of these tracks could possibly be ones that Abbath had originally written and were intended for use on the next Immortal album before his departure.

Taking all of Immortal’s discography into consideration, my expectations for this album are automatically going to be very high. Why the hell should I expect anything less than Abbath’s best? ESPECIALLY when it’s all about him now. But do we want something different from Abbath? Or do we want him to basically carry Immortal’s flag since he was the key member in the first place? Honestly I’m pretty sure that the majority of us want both, but only to a certain extent. I, on the other hand, am leaning MUCH more towards the “Immortal 2.0” side. I want the next Immortal album, not something totally different. But, of course, within reason, because artists will do what they want.

Every Immortal album tends to start with something really fast; usually the fastest song off the album is the first track. The first track that Abbath gives us is a fairly mid-paced headbanging track with some fast thrashy parts spewed throughout the duration. Is it a good opener? Well it’s definitely something we aren’t used to hearing but it doesn’t sound like something that was slapped together so okay, we’ll go with it. It has almost everything that I could ask from Abbath, except for the coldness. I know that “cold” is a really odd word to describe music with, but the main attraction that I have to black metal is the “cold” atmosphere that many of the genre’s creators manage to deliver. It’s almost beyond words but that’s a term that is used by many fans and metalheads to describe the grim atmosphere that makes black metal what it is. But either way, the slow chugging riff will leap out at you and grab your attention into a slew of headbanging until Winter Bane pulls you under the surface of the ice.

Winter Bane feels like an Immortal song. It feels cold and grim, it’s fast, it has a little bit of groove (something that Abbath really experimented with in Sons of Northern Darkness), and the bassline is one of the best I’ve heard in any black metal song since I first started listening to music. Also on top of that, I might mention that the section that occurs after the acoustic guitar solo is probably going to end up being one of my favorite headbanging riffs of the year. The song takes a complete change in tone and atmosphere by adding the melody and guitar leads that made All Shall Fall so amazing.

Abbath’s vocals obviously haven’t changed…why the fuck would they? Who would want anything other than Popeye telling you stories about mythical beings flying around the frost-covered forests and mountains of Norway? Could they use to be a bit louder? Yes…all of the instruments are so loud that they’re partially drowning out Abbath’s vocals. And this seems to be a problem in a lot of the music that I listen to…the vocals are drowned out by the rest of the band. I like it when the vocals are just a tiny bit louder than the rest of the band; I’m not the biggest fan of the “wall of sound” style of mixing music unless it’s a really ambient style of music.

What continues to impress me with this album is how much the Benighted drummer blends in. It sounds as if the Irish Kevin Foley has been playing black metal his entire career. But then again, after looking through his resume, it seems that his work as a live fill-in drummer covers a HUGE diversity of different styles. He’s done live drums for a wide array of bands such as Decapitated, Sabaton, Sepultura, Nightmare, and Destinity. But most of his history is in grindcore, punk, and brutal death. Why Abbath picked Kevin out of all the drummers in the world to be in his band? The only reason I can think of is that they had been friends for quite some time and Abbath knew that he could get the job done right. And obviously he knew that Kevin could get shit done right because the drums are fucking amazing in every single song.

Instead of having only majority rule over the drawing board, we get to see Abbath take a completely fresh, new canvas and paint exactly what he wants to see without anything holding him down. We get to hear this man create exactly what we wanted to hear: something that proves that he really is who he is. Every single song on the album pins you to the wall with such speed and aggression yet STILL manages to leave room for melody and brass linings. At the end of each song, you don’t feel as if the wood fire was put out early, our beloved Abbath avoids cutting corners and burns the wood down to ashes every single time until there is nothing left to burn. Every song on its own feels complete, yet when put together, the ends and beginnings of each song stick together just enough to create a complete 40-minute vine of madness and beauty. I’m giving this album 19/20. I can’t wait to hear what else Abbath has to offer because he shows no signs of stopping. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Albums of 2015

The best albums of 2015:

10. Kannon - Sunn O))) (Drone)

9. The Apocalyptic Triumphator - Archgoat (Black Death)

8. Libertine Cyst - Lamentations of the Ashen (Depressive Black Metal)

7. Moonlover - Ghost Bath (Depressive Black Metal)

6. Badlands - Halsey (Pop)

5. Enveloped in the Velvet Cloak of Midnight - Basarabian Hills (Depressive Black Metal)

4. The Anthropocene Extinction - Cattle Decapitation (Death Grind)

3. Ascendants - Oceano (Deathcore)

2. Archangel - Soulfly (Thrash Death)

1. Dark Before Dawn - Breaking Benjamin (Alternative Metal)

other amazing albums in no order:

From the Abyss - Drowning the Light (Black Metal)

Exercises in Futility - Mgla (Black Metal)

Na Krawedziach Nocy - Kres (Depressive Black Metal)

Desire Will Rot - Fuck the Facts (Grindcore)

Savage Land - Gruesome (Death Metal)

Of Rain & Dirt - Ord (Black Metal)

Instinctus Bestialis - Gorgoroth (Black Metal)

What Should Not Be Unearthed - Nile (Brutal Death)

Reflections Of My Suicide Melancholy - Sacrimoon (Depressive Black Metal)

Abysmal - The Black Dahlia Murder (Technical Death)

Apex Predator - Easy Meat - Napalm Death (Grindcore)

A Northern Meadow - Pyramids (Progressive Black)

Lost Isles - Oceans Ate Alaska (Metalcore)

Best EPs and Demos of the year in no order:

Skull Grinder [EP] - Autopsy (Death Metal)

there wasn't a whole lot of those obviously....

Best/Most memorable songs of this year in no order:

Failure - Breaking Benjamin
Castle - Halsey
Nephilim - Oceano
Crescent - Basarabian Hills
Multiple Truths - Melechesh
Dead Planet - Oceano
New Americana - Halsey
Close to Heaven - Breaking Benjamin
Archangel - Soulfly
Cirice - Ghost
Robo Kitty - Excision
Manufactured Extinct - Cattle Decapitation
Call to Destruction - Nile
Blood Brothers - Oceans Ate Alaska
512 - Lamb of God
Locust Swarm - Hate Eternal
Crushed - Parkway Drive
What Got Wants Pt. 1 - Roger Waters
Overlord - Lamb of God
Repentless - Slayer
Fire and Gravel - Gol

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fit for an Autopsy - Absolute Hope Absolute Hell

Ok so as promised, I have my “part two” review of this Fit for an Autopsy thing that I’m doing. Being hopeful that you decided that you wanted to read the review I wrote of Hellbound before reading this one (it’s okay if you decided against it), I know that I’m going to do quite a bit of comparing of the vocals between this album and the last. If you DID decide to read the last review, you are already well aware that vocalist Nate Johnson is my main attraction to this band (I’m pretty sure that was the case with most people). That being said, if you never really followed this band during their career, you missed the actually unsurprising news that Nate Johnson jumped ship almost immediately after Hellbound’s release. The band even said in their Facebook post that they had been “Nate Johnsoned”. So yes, yet again, the dude quit for whatever reason (this time it was right when they were about to go on tour) without a single word to the public.

The tour that they were about to go on was actually one that I attended. Given the praise that I poured out to this band in my review of Hellbound, you can safely assume that I was fucking excited to see them. But of course, the Fit for an Autopsy that I saw was not the same band that I was hoping to see. Quick replacements aren’t easy, but fortunately some long haired guy named Greg Wilburn immediately stepped up to the plate to ensure that they would still be able to go out on tour. As much as I can respect and praise people that take those kind of risks (learning an entire setlist in a few days isn’t easy), Greg sucked. Not only did he barely do any deep growling, his overall vocals were utter shit. I was upset and disappointed. Then not even a few months into their touring cycle, the band announced yet another change in vocalists (hopefully due to a large amount of negative feedback regarding Greg). For whatever reason, I was so stuck in the “Nate set the bar so high that I will never be content with anyone else fronting this band” that I never even bothered to check out who Joe Badolato was or what he sounded like. Well, he’s managed to stay in the band long enough to be the frontman on the band’s new album in the place of Nate Johnson.

I’m trying my absolute best to not make the vocals take up the entire review, so I’m going to start out with the overall style and execution of the music. If you read my last review, the theme of Hellbound was groove. Apart from the vocals, this is still my favorite part about that album; especially when you put it next to their debut, which is pretty much as straight-forward and stripped-down as deathcore can get. This new album kind of sits halfway in between those two albums…well in some ways it does and in other ways it doesn’t. It’s definitely much more straight-forward and basic than Hellbound, but it’s not as raw and repetitive as their debut. Probably the best way I can put it is that it’s a fairly generic deathcore album but many of the things that are executed throughout the duration of it don’t feel generic in the slightest bit. It’s a similar feel to Hellbound, where they make a traditional-sounding album using non-traditional methods. Except this time, the non-traditional methods are far, far fewer. The groove is still there; stronger in some places and weaker in others, but it’s nowhere near as attention-grabbing.

I don’t even need to say anything about the brutality…actually yes I do, because it’s far less than the past two albums, and guess who I’m going to blame for that, Nate Johnson. Without straying from what I’m trying to focus on, I’ll get back to him later. The brutality is still a primary element, but the breakdowns especially are far less interesting. Yes there are some great drops in the title track, Saltwound, and Storm Drains (a nice crushingly slow one), but there isn’t anything memorable other than that. Although everything was executed cleanly and with thought, none of the other breakdowns left me splattered all over the walls in pieces thinking “holy shit what the fucking hell was that”.

Moving on, the production seems to have gotten better and better with each release. So have they been changing producers? No guess who’s been one of the guitarists in the band since day fucking one: Will Putney. Don’t recognize that name? He has produced/mixed/engineered/mastered (either all or a combination of more than one of those) many albums including (but not limited to) No Time to Bleed by Suicide Silence, Hate and Holy War by Thy Art is Murder, Necrocracy by Exhumed, Structures’ Divided By, all three of Upon a Burning Body’s full-lengths, In Dreams by After the Burial, and many more (primarily) deathcore and metalcore albums since 2005. So why was the production on the first Fit for an Autopsy album so shitty? Well who knows, maybe he was trying to achieve what he did on Divided By and Hate where he basically blew out everything.

Okay let’s talk vocals now. I’ve done my best to listen to this with as much as an open mind as possible, doing my best to forget that Nate Johnson was ever in the band. When you put this album all by itself without any of its predecessors, it’s actually one of the best generic deathcore releases of the past few years. THANKFULLY this vocalist isn’t anything at all like what the temporary live replacement was. This guy can actually growl. He has volume, power, range, and emotion. He executes every song to the best of his abilities and gives 100%. Does he sound good with the band’s music? Yes he most definitely does. Would I ever choose this album over the other two Fit for an Autopsy records or recommend it first? Hell fucking no. The vocals are a good fit, they chose a good replacement, but just like Through the Eyes of the Dead and assumingly all the other bands Nate has been in, he joins, enables the band to release the best album(s) of their career, then leaves almost immediately with a bar set so high that next to no one can reach it. The growls are good, but they’re not deep enough to make me happy. Fortunately, Fit for an Autopsy did a better job at bouncing back and maintaining their relevance and popularity than any other “Nate Johnsoned” bands have.

They did good but not quite good enough in my book. Of course, the majority of their fanbase have been more than happy with Joe as the new vocalist, but I’m pretty sure everyone knows that their music will never be quite as good. As I mentioned before, the music is far less attention-grabbing. It has numerous spots that grab ahold of you and rips you to pieces, but the album eventually drones on and leaves you with a sub-par follow-up to Hellbound. Would I ever go off and listen to this specific album on my own time? Probably not. But it’s DEFINITELY an above-average deathcore album and there are a lot of far worse things being released right now. And if you are at all a deathcore fan or a fan of this band, this album is going to be more than enough to satisfy you with its crushing breakdowns, sweeping solos, and driving grooves. It’s just not enough for me, Nate Johnson and Hellbound set the bar too high. This gets a 14/20 from me. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fit for an Autopsy - Hellbound

I’ve tried to write something on this album ever since it was released 2 years ago. Whether it is writers block or my busy outside life or my busy mind, I haven’t gotten around to it. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to finish this review without something distracting me or running out of things to say. And before you ask me, yes I DO plan on writing my thoughts on their newest album; I’m getting sick of people asking me about it. Okay…in my review of Malice by Through the Eyes of the Dead (here) I made a side note mentioning the first Fit for an Autopsy album (I probably won’t ever write a full review on it). This album that I bring before you today is the follow-up to that. Just like Through the Eyes of the Dead and just about anything else Nate Johnson touches, Fit for an Autopsy caught a lot of people’s attention very quickly because of his vocals and hunger for crushing brutality. But because Nate is so unpredictable and loves to leave bands at the most inopportune times without saying a word, a lot of fans did their best to hold back at least SOME of their excitement about Fit for an Autopsy. Anyways, when Hellbound was announced, teased, and released, everyone was all over it. Oh lord I actually waited a while to listen to it because I was so overwhelmed by overpowering response from so many people.

If you HAVE NOT listened to the first Fit for an Autopsy album, just take a moment and listen to the first track and then come back here. Yes it’s brutality is near impossible to put into words, yes the guitars are mixed so loud that you can barely hear anything else, yes the vocals are amazing, yes yes yes yes. It’s great, but all you need to hear is the first track and then you’ve heard the whole thing. That’s all I’m going to say about their first album. The question is that if they’re actually going to do something more than just chuggy brutality and breakdowns on Hellbound.

First impressions are important, and I do an in-depth analysis on the first/opening track more often than I’m willing to admit, but I’m going to do it again this time especially because it played a big part when I first listened to this album (I think I was walking about my first college campus after my classes when I first turned this on). The intro to the first track sets the tone almost immediately once Nate’s (literally) perfect growls echo through the recording. I came close to turning down the volume a few notches out of fear for what was to come. But actually, the band takes their time easing into things instead of just dropping everything on you at once out of nowhere like the intro track of the new Oceano or many Thy Art songs. The drums kick in and everything is steadily paced; turning things up a bit and adding more things little by little. Then after one full second of silence they remind you that this is a Fit for an Autopsy album. The part of the song that made me smile and say “fuck yes they fucking did it” was right around the 1:50 mark of that track, after they have their fill of melting you with blistering speed, they drop the catchiest…is it even a breakdown? It’s some weird polyrhythmic drop that is absolutely crushing. From then on I was hooked 100%. I was ready to be slaughtered and torn to pieces by whatever they put on this album.

The element that this album has that is the most unique is groove. It’s not all about brutality, it’s not all about the breakdowns, it’s not all about doing anything they can to get the kids with stretched ears to start swinging their arms around, groove is what I feel is when I listen to this album. Best example is easily Still We Destroy (a song that sounds a little too similar to The Purest Strain of Hate by Thy Art). I’m not sure how it’s done…is it the way the drums are played differently? I can’t put my finger on it but it’s amazing and I love it. For those of you looking for something non-traditional but still with a traditional vibe, this album is EXACTLY what you need in you library. Also the number of guitar solos is greater than their last album. Actually now that I mention it, guitar solos in general are becoming increasingly popular in deathcore. Remember the first albums by Oceano, After the Burial, With Blood Comes Cleansing, Impending Doom, etc. when there were next to no solos at all? Now you look at just about any of the latest deathcore albums and guitar solos are taking a much bigger role.

The production of the album is amazing. I can hear EVERYTHING and nothing hurts my ears. It sounds like a much, much cleaner version of the production on Thy Art’s Hate. The songs all differ from each other, but at the same time they all blend together like every good deathcore album should. Although the album DOES maintain its energy and quality of sound, the interest level dies out towards the end. I’m glad that they put the jumpy grooves and skull-flattening breakdowns from Mother of the Year towards the end of the album because otherwise I would’ve completely lost interest and turned it off. 

This album is very dark. It has an amazing vibe and atmosphere with an intense focus on groove and head-crushing brutality. If you want something amazing, this is it. For me, personally, the interest level dies out in a few places but overall I love this album. It’s different, it has a lot of unique elements and I would recommend it to just about anyone. This album gets a 17/20 from me. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Slayer - Repentless

Slayer’s music has been highly criticized among both hardcore fans and casual listeners since around the turn of the century. Some say it started with Diabolus in Musica and others say it started with Undisputed Attitude. Personally, I don’t really count the latter simply because it’s a cover album and not a full album of original material. Of course one of the obvious reasons that the past 3 Slayer releases (not including this one) have been shrugged off by so many people is the simple fact that Slayer’s sound has remained very consistent (some might use the word stagnant) over the course of their career, but even more so with recent material. While you had them doing some experimenting with different styles, speeds, and structures in albums like South of Heaven and Divine Intervention, their more recent albums have all stuck to the same formula, boring a LOT of people.

Personally, I am a huge fan of God Hates us All and World Painted Blood, but despite that, I do agree that their material is much more stripped-down and straightforward, more so in Christ Illusion than anything else. But the reason why I am writing a review on Repentless and not any of their other new albums should be obvious to anyone that knows about what the band has gone through over the past what seems like 5 years now. Yes, the death of founding member, lead guitarist, and key songwriter, Jeff Hanneman, led many people (myself included) to basically say “well they put out a good amount of classics, they did good, I guess this is it for Slayer”. But of course with the amount of money the band makes and egomaniac (I’ll try to make this the only time I drop that accurate label on him) Kerry King finally being in the lead guitar and songwriting position, why would they stop?? When they announced that they would move forward with King on lead guitar and that Exodus guitarist Gary Holt would become the new official rhythm guitarist, most of the reactions I saw were somewhere along the lines of “not excited, but okay sure why not”.

One last note before I move on to talking about the album (sorry for my wordiness, it’s been months since I’ve written anything) is that Dave Lombardo is no longer in the band (again). Being a HUGE Lombardo fan, this upset me. But in an attempt to stay optimistic, the guy that they chose to replace him is the most appropriate (and only) drummer to do the job, and that’s Paul Bostaph, the guy that replaced Lombardo the FIRST time he parted with Slayer (1992-2001). So okay, new lineup for this album consists of Tom Araya, Kerry King, Paul Bostaph, and Gary Holt.

Slayer is a pretty predictable band, and that has worked in their favor for the most part in the long-term. What I mentioned before about them basically recycling their sound being unpopular among most people may be SOMEWHAT true, I feel that Jeff Hanneman was the main factor that kept things from going totally 100% stale. That’s what I feel kept Slayer on top; Jeff was a master at creating simple, recognizable, easy-to-digest riffs and songs that would get stuck in your head. Yes, diversity did end up becoming an issue as time went on, but still, even after the quality of their music dwindled, there were still amazing things coming out of Jeff’s head. It’s very easy to write a Slayer-inspired thrash metal riff…why the hell do you think there are more underground Slayer copycats than the world will ever know about? Why do you think that most of the underground thrash bands you here are regarded as “sounds like a boring version of Slayer”? The general public was pretty good at predicting that King would only be able to emulate Jeff’s style and sound and would never be able to continue it.

Moving on to the first three songs (not counting the intro track): Repentless, Take Control, and Vices. What the hell does the opening riff to Repentless sound like? IT SOUNDS LIKE FUCKING HANNEMAN. Who wrote it? Kerry King. This whole song is actually surprisingly good! It has energy, groove, it sounds like Slayer, and I am motivated to replay it almost every time I’ve listened to it! Yes, the structure of the intro for the track is WAY overused and is a common tactic used by Slayer dating back to their first album, but admit it, 90% of the time, no one does it as well as Slayer (Havok and Kreator are the only exceptions in a few cases). And this song is one of the best examples of that. After hearing this song, a good amount of faith and excitement in me was restored and I was ready to hear the rest of the album. Maybe King isn’t so bad after all. Maybe after playing with Hanneman for over 30 years, he’s become so accustomed to his style and writing process that he actually has the ability to write riffs just as good.

Take Control is a bit of a step down, but still very promising and keeps the excitement and energy flowing. Classic Slayer sound, but not really anything too memorable, making it easily forgettable. Vices is probably one of the most unique songs off the album due to its lack in speed but huge increase in groove (mainly in the drums). Great headbanging song, if you loved songs like Exile, Skeletons of Society, and Live Undead, you’ll love Vices just as much. This song is also where I started noticing something a bit off. Although I loved the fuck out of this track, the speed and style changes within the song felt much less dramatic than ever before.

When I noticed this, I went back to the other two tracks and noticed that the changes that took place in the song were either minimal or nonexistent. In previous albums, even though each song had the same sound or mood, there were dramatic changes within most of the songs to keep things interesting. Sometimes it was a breakdown, other times it was a slow song that would suddenly break out into full speed with a guitar solo, or just a new riff and speed altogether taking place halfway through the song, etc. There was always SOMETHING thrown in each song that made it special or interesting. And that key feature is one of the main reason that this album gives me the feeling that something’s missing (I just couldn’t put my finger on it at first).

Is this what always set Slayer apart from the hundreds of mediocre bands that tried to emulate their sound? The song structure? After going through some of the underground bands that just sound like a bunch of Slayer covers (some of them are actually really good) like Invasion, Battery, Thraw, Amok, and Hatchet, and Beast, I can now see much clearer why most of these bands seem so boring and..well…mediocre to me. And the second part of this is going back to all the older Slayer songs that were written by Kerry King himself, and I am hearing the exact same thing that I am hearing on both this album and from all those other bands; monotony.

Kerry King is great at writing riffs and songs that are easily recognizable as Slayer songs, but unfortunately, it’s not enough. Some might say it’s because he half-asses it and doesn’t care, I personally think that he is doing his best, but that his best will never be good enough. What’s another way that you can tell? Listen to Piano Wire and notice how much it DOES change in several parts…guess who wrote that…HANNEMAN. This is the one song that he wrote that they decided to throw in, obviously out of respect and in his memory.

As the album goes on, it starts to drone on. I feel like I’m listening to one of the countless mediocre Slayer imitators when I listen to this album. It’s not a BAD album and should definitely be listened to once by anyone curious, but this is about as average as thrash metal can get; it’s boring. Yes, the musicianship is outstanding…Bostaph is an amazing drummer, Holt does a great job and fits in so well that you don’t even notice that he’s there, Araya’s bass playing is great as always and so are his vocals, and King does a fantastic job at shitting out some fun solos and is never sloppy as far as speed and technique goes. Repentless is a song that, although remains the same throughout, is very fun to listen to and has endless amounts of energy. But this sounds old, tired, and dry. I honestly never thought that Slayer would go from being the band that everybody tries to copy to sounding like all the bands that are trying to copy them. This gets an 8/20 from me. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Back Door to Asylum - Cerberus Millenia

A little under three years ago, I wrote a review of the debut album by the Russian technical death outfit Backdoor to Asylum (of which you can read HERE). Nothing too outstanding for myself personally, but nonetheless fairly solid and promising. So having decided to stick with the mighty Amputated Vein Records for their second release, we now have the sophomore release by this brutal Russian quintet, titled Cerberus Millenia. Amputated Vein was my gateway into the underground world of the much more brutal side of death metal and grindcore. By showing me bands such as Pathology, Disentomb, Bloodboil, Cease of Breeding, Eden Beast, Visceral Disgorge, Mucopus, and many other bands (most of which only released one album before completely dropping off the face of the earth without a single word), this label has become very important to me and I still follow them very closely.

Now that this band has been around for a bit longer and have gained some amount of popularity, we know more about them. Back when I wrote that review on their first album, I knew next to nothing about them. Two years later, they have some credibility and a name now. The production on this album is much, much better than their first. You can hear everything clearer and it doesn’t sound like they recorded it in their garage. Their first album had some guest vocal spots from some other underground vocalists (Fleshbomb, Gorgasm, etc.) whereas this new album has some bigger names lending their vocals, namely the vocalist for French brutal death band Benighted. But of course, to keep things underground, they have a vocal spot from the Internal Suffering vocalist and a guest guitar slot from some Russian guy that’s played in a bunch of bands I’ve never heard of.

The artwork is fantastic, and was done by a Ukrainian guy that also has done the artwork for the most recent albums by Aborted Fetus, Fleshbomb, Delusional Parasitosis, Epicardiectomy, Cremated Lives, and most recently, the new upcoming album by The Black Dahlia Murder.

A huge fad in this genre as of lately has been doing whatever possible to be as technical and as fast as humanly possible. Bands like Brain Drill, Rings of Saturn, Slaughterbox, Spawn of Possession, Deformatory, and countless others have been introducing some of the fastest and most technical recordings ever heard. Many of them have even been challenged with accusations of recording at half-speed or using computerized instruments in the studio and then speeding them up. But Back Door to Asylum does everything 100% and keeps their music raw and pure. If there’s one thing I can say about this band, it’s that they have matured immensely since their debut. And because of that, and the fact that they play technical death in its purest form with a little bit of added brutality, this is a great album if you are looking for a solid example of what pure technical death SHOULD sound like.

Like I just said above, this band has matured and developed their sound immensely. The artwork is amazing, the music is brutal as all fuck, and the uniqueness of the basslines are unforgettable. The vocals are deep and on-point, the guitars have just the perfect amount of technicality, and the overall vibe of the album stays consistent throughout all of the songs. I would recommend this to all fans of death metal and even to some that are looking to discover some lesser-known artists. This album gets my score of 16/20. 

Decapitated - Blood Mantra

Last year, Polish technical death band, Decapitated, released the highly anticipated follow-up to their critically-acclaimed Carnival is Forever. Since their debut release in 2000, this band has developed a reputation of being fairly consistent with the style of each release, as well has never really having any poor albums. Having gotten much better over time (their first two releases were better than average, but nothing compared to the three that followed), it’s safe to say that they are very much among the much better and most popular bands in there genre. One of the main reasons that I waited to write this review is because I felt that the initial reaction to this album of almost everyone (myself included) was kind of exaggerated and overly judgmental. Those of you that remember the release of the title track from this album know exactly what I’m talking about.

Blood Mantra, the title track off of the most recent Decapitated album took everyone by surprise with its (as most people described it) nu metal vibe. Upon the first 5 listens, I could hear this nu metal vibe loud and clear; and like most people, I was honestly not too attracted to this choice of direction. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t still get the album and listen to it every once in a while, but it was definitely a major letdown after Carnival is Forever. But now, fast-forward one year, and a few days ago I decided to give it another honest listen, because usually if you don’t like something the first time, it’s never a bad idea to give it a few weeks (or months) before picking it up again. Because you never know how much different it’ll sound the second time.

In retrospect, yes, the album DOES have some groove and some bounce, but not that of a nu metal band, but more so like the kind you hear from a thrash death band like DevilDriver, Battlecross, or Soulfly (no, not their first three albums). But other than that, there really hasn’t been that much change, so I think that the world heard some extra groove on that new single, someone called out “nu metal!” and the world overreacted. But that bounce is still present.

The sound of the guitar distortion can have a huge effect on what a metal album sounds like. One thing that I loved about Carnival is Forever is that the band abandoned the really loud, metallic, sawblade-like guitar distortion for a much fuzzier distortion. Well, I guess that was just a one-time thing because they’ve returned to their usual obnoxious metallic distortion, except this time sounding a bit more polished and refined (probably to help compliment the extra groove this album has). The drumming is a bit more chaotic, as I said in my review of Carnival is Forever, this is the best vocalist that Decapitated has had yet and I really hope he sticks with them, and the band for the most part is very tight as they have always been.

Although not remarkable, this is a good solid technical death album and I would recommend it to just about anyone. There isn’t anything bad about it; it’s just nothing like Carnival is Forever, Negation, or Organic Hallucinosis. Hopefully they continue making quality death metal and we see more of them in the future. I’m extremely excited to FINALLY be seeing them later this year with Soulfly and Soilwork. To conclude this article, I am going to give this album an above-average score of 14/20. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Thy Art is Murder - Holy War

If you want to read my review of their major breakthrough album that I wrote (totally by coincidence) exactly two years ago, click HERE. If you’re lazy, I’ll give you a recap. Deathcore band releases album in 2010 (The Adversary) that gets them really super popular in the underground scene of the genre, Nuclear Blast notices and scoops them up. They then re-release their most recent album at the time; Hate (originally released a year before in 2012). After that, literally everything changes for this band. In a mere 2 years, Thy Art is Murder have gone from being one of the newbies to being one of the biggest bands in the genre. They went from being the first or second band on the tour to headlining entire tours not only in their home country of Australia, but also in North America and Europe; several shows selling out. Please understand that a spike in popularity THIS big is in no way a common occurrence. And it didn’t just come on its own; Thy Art is Murder played a total of over 340 shows in support of Hate. So now the Hate hype has died down a tiny bit, what is probably one of the most anticipated releases in the history of this young genre is now upon us.

My personal prediction of Holy War was that it would basically be Hate pt. 2 since the sound that Hate has ended up giving them their big break. Either that or they would take the easy route and release a collection of 4-minute breakdowns. I don’t do this very often, but I decided to watch a few of the studio update videos that the band was posting on their social media accounts. Some of the things that were said intrigued me; mainly something the drummer said. If you read my review of Hate, you get to see a lot of me gushing over how amazing and near perfect their drummer is and how that he’s the star of the show in my eyes. One of the things in particular I LOVE about Lee Stanton, aside from his ability to execute, is his style of playing. But apparently what we heard on Hate isn’t necessarily “his” style. The way he was talking in the studio made it seem like he didn’t exactly have a particular style that he preferred to stick with. So without being locked into an “I am perfect at playing fast and technical with lots of blast beats so I’m just going to keep doing that” state of mind, Lee mentions that on this album, he’s aiming to implement more of a groove into his patterns instead of just playing straight blast beats and crushing breakdowns.

Whether or not this means we will have a loss in brutality on this album is unknown to me. And honestly, I’m okay with him branching out like this because I trust that he will know how to deliver it properly without compromising too much of what people love about his playing. Now that I’ve listened to the album over and over again, he definitely did what he said he was going to do. The one thing that I want to point out to you that may be a bit worried is that he DOES still do EVERYTHING that he did on Hate. There’s plenty of pummeling blast beats and crazy ass fills to go around; it’s just that the majority of the main patterns have a bit of bounce to them instead of just being straight-forward.

Two minor things that I would like to mention before moving on are the production and the logo. Since they decided to work with the same producer, everything pretty much sounds exactly the same as Hate, making for actually a very good follow-up to the breakthrough album. Second, their new logo is a million times better than their old one. I love a good looking logo; I don’t give a fucking crap about legibility, if it looks cool, I’ll dig it. But the old Thy Art logo just looked stupid in my opinion. And yeah, I know that Nuclear Blast has a history of convincing bands to change their logos to more legible ones (i.e. Fleshgod Apocalypse, Annotations of an Autopsy, Keep of Kalessin, and a few others I probably can’t think of at the moment), but this is one of the only cases, along with Keep of Kalessin, where the new logo is a billion times better than the old one. Instead of looking like someone spilled a bucket of paint and then slipped in it, Thy Art is murder truly has what I think is one of the coolest logos in modern extreme metal.

I hear a lot of love for CJ’s vocals all the time nonstop. And yes; he’s one of the best…not even deathcore vocalists; he has one of the best death growls I’ve ever heard. But what I see is too many people saying “fuck the rest of the band, check out their vocalist!” And although I can understand how easy it is to do that with this band, I really want to be careful to talk about the talent that the whole band has as a group because I don’t see much talk about that aspect as I’d like.

The same guy that wrote all the music on all of their other releases also wrote this album. Now comes some negativity that I must cover before concluding this review. Although all of the songs on Hate generally carried the same mood and sound, making the album as a whole very strong, many (actually most) of the songs were VERY memorable to me personally. Whether it was a certain breakdown, an intro, whatever it was, many of the songs carried something very special that made them get stuck in my head after I was done listening to the album. All of the tracks on Holy War are fantastic. Everything is totally on-point; the musicianship, the creativity, the skill, everything. I’m just not getting anything memorable from any of the songs this time. I don’t know why…maybe something will start to reach out at me in a couple of years, but nothing came out and instantly grabbed me by the throat like many of the songs on Hate did.

Overall, this is still an album I would recommend to anyone curious about their music. I do think that they really outdid themselves and maybe even set the bar too high with the last album (not saying that’s a bad thing). Holy War has most everything you could ever want from a deathcore band delivered in the best possible way. Although going somewhat downhill, Thy Art is Murder still lives and is going to continue growing and getting bigger until they have bands like Whitechapel and Born of Osiris opening for them. Holy War gets my score of 16/20.