Monday, December 31, 2012

A Past Unknown - Vainglory

A Past Unknown has been using social networking sites to their advantage in order to get their name out there in the world. This is the same reason why new bands such as Rings of Saturn and Strychnia have been trending on Facebook and Twitter. Although I go on Facebook every once in a while, Twitter is where I’m the most active. And one thing that I will say is that A Past Unknown is no longer the underground metalcore band I’ve been going to see for free for the past year or so. Because I’m friends with the vocalist’s brother (who lives in my area), he’s always been updating me on what A Past Unknown has been up to. I reviewed their first album some time ago and I remember saying that although it’s a very catchy and energizing record, there’s a lot of room for improvement, which is EXACTLY what I expect from a debut, because it’s hard to come up with a good follow-up record to a flawless debut. Anyway, I signed up for Twitter roughly a month before Vainglory’s release date. And if there’s one thing I remember about the album’s release, it’s that after getting repeatedly annoyed by the band’s repeated ads and “check us out!” messages, I witnessed a swarm of positive feedback and rave reviews from possibly hundreds of people worldwide. Of course, I was one of the people that, out of support for the band, decided to buy the album on its release date; I understand why this album has caused so much fucking hype.

So that I can do some compare and contrast with Vainglory and To Those Perishing, I’m going to restate some of the stuff I thought the band could work on from their first album, To Those Perishing. The majority of the problems I had with To Those Perishing are the problem I have with just about every metalcore album I have problems with. That problem is having too many breakdowns. In A Past Unknown’s case, the problem was not only having too many breakdowns, it was that 80% of those breakdowns were very minimalistic, simple, and boring. To Those Perishing had its moments, the biggest one being the sixth track off the record, titled The Critic; which contained beautiful melodies, crushing breakdowns, and a cacophony of colorful harmonizations. Beyond that, the rest of the “interesting parts” didn’t go anywhere beyond a catchy breakdown tempo or an interesting guitar lead. The rest of the album was just above average, giving my ending score for To Those Perishing 14/20. If they could fix that breakdown thing and put more interesting shit in there while still keeping their jumpy and energetic personality, I would be much happier.

The first sign of mass improvement that Vainglory shows is musicianship; both skill and creativity. Obviously due to a few minor lineup changes, the style that some of the members play on Vainglory is different than that of To Those Perishing. The first is the drums. The drumming on Vainglory is not only much more interesting, it’s more colorful and experimental. The fills that are used differ from each other, the kick drum patterns during the breakdowns can be anywhere from simple and generic to random blasts of speed and complexity. I have nothing against the simple breakdown drum pattern, but the variety of styles and patterns used by the drummer helps take away any sense of monotony. On top of just being more interesting, the drums express much more skill that I feel To Those Perishing was missing. Along with that, the breakdowns themselves are fewer in number and greater in variety. Every metalcore band throws in a simple breakdown here and there, no matter how technical or complex they are, so of course there are a couple of the typical down-tuned simple breakdowns. But those are contrasted by either breakdowns with a lot of atmospheric guitar melodies and melodic vocals or by breakdowns with complex polyrhythmic patterns. The different breakdowns also differ with tempo and pitch. One of the much more interesting breakdowns in Vainglory takes place two minutes into the eighth track, Divided.

The vocals have more variety in them as well. The vocals in To Those Perishing consisted of mid-range screams with the occasional high-pitched scream and some singing every once in a while. In Vainglory, the mid-range screams are still the dominant vocal style, but they’re a little more high-pitched than the ones in To Those Perishing and have a considerably greater amount of energy and emotion. Also, you can hear growls, high-pitched screams, yelling, and a lot more singing, which is yet ANOTHER factor that has helped fix the monotony problem To Those Perishing had.

You can tell by now that I felt To Those Perishing to be a monotonous record, despite all of the great qualities it had. I’ve also stated a few major factors that I feel are contributors to the fact that Vainglory ISN’T monotonous and boring. The one thing that I have yet to say is what I feel is the biggest contributor to that, and that is dynamics. I actually just realized this about a week ago, I had an underlying feeling that something from To Those Perishing was missing, and a week ago, I realized that To Those Perishing was missing dynamics; THAT was the reason why so many people felt it didn’t have enough energy and was monotonous, although it had potential. Now that I’m listening to Vainglory, what do I hear? DYNAMICS! The contrasts in volume help tone down the calmer parts and throw down the heavier parts like something really, really heavy. The energy that Vainglory carries is one that can only be understood once it is heard, and it’s primarily due to the fact that the fucking thing has dynamics, and it is BEAUTIFUL. Purpose, Cursed, Reason to Fear, and The Search are all perfect examples of the colorful dynamics used in Vainglory, A Past Unknown style.

To Those Perishing was a great debut because it left plenty of room for improvement. Now that the ultimate power titled Vainglory is now upon us, I think it’s safe to say that A Past Unknown is one of the better and more interesting metalcore bands of our time. Some of the things they do aren’t what metalcore fans would expect, there’s variety in just about everything, and most of all, there are fucking dynamics! Vainglory takes its rightful place alongside Miss May I’s At Heart, Mnemic’s Mnemesis, and As I Lay Dying’s Awakened as one of the best metalcore albums released in 2012. Vainglory gets my score of 16/20. 

Malignancy - Eugenics

American band Malignancy is one of the leaders in today’s uprising underground technical death scene. Of course, the true “leaders” that have been the most successful lately would include recent big names such as The Faceless, The Black Dahlia Murder, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Spawn of Possession, Obscura, Origin, and a few others. But in the more extreme underground world, where the brutality of the average band is much higher, the technical death bands that are the big dogs include Brain Drill, Inherit Disease, Insidious Decrepancy, and Malignancy (and probably a few others I can’t quite think of at the moment). Malignancy formed in 1992 and released several demos and EPs throughout the 1990s until finally releasing their full-length debut titled Intrauterine Cannibalism in 1999. After a couple of splits and a compilation, Malignancy didn’t see a sophomore release until 2007 when the much more professional and thought-out Inhuman Grotequeries was released. During their career, several lineup changes took place, leaving vocalist Danny Nelson as the only remaining original member. Now, 2012 has not only seen the first consistent release from Malignancy, but has also given Malignancy one of their first truly big tours with death grind behemoths Dying Fetus by performing on the second half of the tour.

The average opinion on Malignancy is fairly mediocre. Like every band, Malignancy has diehard fans as well as people that wish them dead. But most of the reviewers and metalheads that have bothered to even mention them don’t love Malignancy, but they don’t hate them either. Regardless, let’s see what the hell Malignancy’s newest release, Eugenics, is all about.

Compared to a lot of other very underground technical death releases, the production quality of Eugenics is much higher than one might expect. But then again, with the ease of access bands have to better recording equipment and programs, along with a do-it-yourself attitude, this sort of thing gets less and less surprising. Moving on, it’s not so much the actual production quality itself that’s interesting as much as it is the sound of each of the individual instruments. For example, the drums have a very meaty and thick sound similar to that of Eviscerated’s self-titled release. When the sound of the drums is put on top of the powerful, but very mushy and soft guitar distortions, it creates an extremely unique sound that I sometimes wish I heard more in this type of metal. And, because the bass is SO important in technical death, the effects (if any at all) that are applied to the bass guitar are minimal. This helps bring out the complexity of what the bassist plays, especially when he’s harmonizing and following along with the guitarist during technical sweeps and solos.

Next are the vocals. Those of you that have read any of my death metal reviews before already know that I don’t have a problem with inhaled vocals. I am, though, aware that there are certain situations where inhaled vocals are what the music requires, and other times where inhaled vocals can bring down the sound of the music. The vocalist is good, don’t get me wrong on that, but the problem that many people have with Malignancy is that they feel that the music would sound a thousand times better with exhaled vocals. My opinion on that is that I agree with that statement, EXCEPT that the inhaled vocals sound just fine where they are, but yeah, including exhaled gutturals in there would intensify the music.

The second reason why people seem to have a problem with Malignancy and this album in particular is that it is in no way unique or innovative. Assuming that innovation isn’t what the band is going for, that wouldn’t be the most valid argument. But after listening to this album for about a month or so, I don’t notice any innovation at all, BUT, it is unique. The clean blend of Dying Fetus, Embryonic Devourment, and Pathology isn’t something that I’ve heard before. Of course, there are somewhat similar bands (better than Malignancy) such as Insidious Decrepancy, Inherit Disease, and Diskreet; but none of them have quite the same vibe and sound as Malignancy. But even though they’re unique, it appears that the only reasons that Eugenics has gotten so much positive attention is because of the instrumental skills and the unique sound of the production of the instruments.

If you compare Eugenics to Malignancy’s other albums, Eugenics has an obviously higher amount of effort put into it as well as a more confident sound. Whereas the two previous albums had a sound that portrayed the band as being somewhat unsure of themselves. This is probably due to the rejoining of legendary Mortician guitarist Roger J. Beaujard in 2009. Roger originally played drums for the band from 1996-2003, where he focused more on Mortician, later rejoining Malignancy as their bassist in 2009. This, I believe, helped bring back a much more confident attitude to the band which is obviously displayed with the increase in creativity, technicality, and musicianship in Eugenics.

Eugenics is a good album for the technical death fan to have in his/her collection. But if you’re one of those people that prefer to seek out the more progressive and innovative acts, you might as well consider it as a waste of time. For me, this isn’t an album I would go back to unless someone asked me about it. Other than that, the only times I’ll end up listening to it is when I have all of my technical death stuff on shuffle. If you’re curious, you should check it out, because the musicianship displayed in Eugenics is above-average and contains an immense amount of slamming technical brutality with a fair share of sweeping riffs and slamming breakdowns. I would give Eugenics a score of 10/20. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ascariasis - Ocean of Colour [EP]

Canada’s metal scene has been very good to us over the past decade or so. The country has spawned a diverse selection of fantastic metal bands such as The Agonist, Augury, Blackguard, Threat Signal, Neuraxis, Despised Icon, Ex Deo, and countless others. A deathcore band that spawned out of Canada in 2010 is Ascariasis. Although when a lot of people hear that (for some reason) dreaded term “deathcore”, their minds go in automatic rejection mode. But here’s the thing, if there’s one thing I know about the progressive metal label that the band is signed on to, Subliminal Groove Records, it’s that the LAST thing they would do is sign on a generic band that causes people to go into “rejection mode”.

Ok, we’re at the point where we can instantly recognize Cameron Gray’s artwork. If you’ve seen the covers for The Discovery by Born of Osiris, The Harvest Wombs by Fallujah, or Time I by Wintersun, there’s a big chance that you would have stopped for a second and thought “wait a minute…where have I seen this before?” Well, the guy that’s known for making the trippiest science fiction-themed artwork is responsible for this one. But album artwork doesn’t necessarily describe a band’s sound right off the bat (although it can often times give you a pretty good hint), so we’re going to open this EP up and see what it has in store for us.

The band’s intriguing and sometimes mind-boggling blend of deathcore, polyrhythmic breakdown patterns, and technical death is what has caused them to get international attention. But wait, isn’t that the same reason Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris, Fallujah, and so many other bands are so big right now? What makes Ascariasis any different? Upon first listen, Ascariasis is no fucking different than any other trendy “djent” deathcore band. But, once you listen to the EP several times in a row, you start to realize how much complexity there is (not to say that those other bands aren’t complex). Unlike a lot of the recent deathcore bands that have been popping up recently, Ascariasis’ musical style has A LOT more to it than just those really fancy breakdowns that sometimes make you forget the actual tempo of the song. Technical deathcore band Veil of Maya is probably the band I would compare Ascariasis to, but then again, take everything that Veil of Maya does and blow it out of proportion.

Even though it’s not my personal favorite, the most interesting track, by far, is the first one, Shatter. The song starts in a similar way as Alpha Incipient by Fallujah with a very melodic and generally simple melody that fades in fairly quickly. Like Alpha Incipient, Shatter then goes from that light-hearted melody down to a driving breakdown. Here’s the difference between those two songs: although extremely catchy, the breakdown following the intro in Alpha Incipient is simple and easy to follow. The breakdown following the intro in Shatter is something completely different. It’s hard for someone to exaggerate when describing this because half the point of a breakdown is to have a drop in tempo and pitch that someone could more-or-less headbang to. Ascariasis has a completely different idea, because not even one full second into the breakdown, the polyrhythmic tempos caused me to COMPLETELY lose track of the tempo. Although it’s a phenomenal demonstration of the members’ instrumental and technical skills, it’s a bit overdone.

What is MUCH more enjoyable is the rest of the song. About 1.5 minutes into the track, you start to hear a complex breakdown with a Born of Osiris-influenced lead guitar line that, with its high-pitched frilly texture, transports the listener to the metallic clouds that can be seen on the album’s artwork. These really frilly guitar melodies, along with the extremely tight and complex kick drums are what take up the majority of the technicality on the record. Something that shouldn’t go unmentioned is the bass. As technical and complex the guitars and drums may be, neither of them even compare to the energy that the bass puts out, especially when the guitars and bass pull out insane arpeggios at the same time and weave in and out of each other. There are some bands that can pull off some insane bass/guitar harmonizations (The HAARP Machine, Obscura, Spawn of Possession, Rings of Saturn, Sadus, etc.), but very few have left me intrigued in the same way Ascariasis has.

I first noticed the insanity of the bassist at the very end of the second track, Torchbearer. During the breakdown, although quiet, the indescribable speed of the bassist speaks out. If only the bassist’s solos were easier to hear. Also, if the band’s goal is to have a more technical sound and less of a “djenty” deathcore sound, turning up the bass and possibly throwing in a couple extra blast beats in here and there will significantly help, as long as they’re careful not to overdo it. The one thing left to talk about has been saved for last, and that is the vocalist.

The vocalist is one of the best growlers I’ve heard in years. I have a set description of the perfect growler which includes being powerful, very deep, exhaled, not too much voice, and other little things that make me sound nit-picky. This guy has all of those qualities, he makes me happy! Even his screams that can rarely be heard are good! There’s just one problem, he doesn’t fit. Those extremely demonic growls that send chills down the spines of the weak don’t really sound good with the rest of the music. The reason why is probably because there’s a lot more growling than screaming going on here. During the really epic and melodic parts, there should be more screaming and less growling. This would sound better because there would be less clashing going on with the high-pitched guitar melodies and the EXTREMELY deep growls. Also, on one last note, a slightly less dependence on breakdowns will make their music sound much less predictable and more interesting.

Ascariasis is one of those bands that take common trends and meld them together to create a colorful and progressive sound. Mixing modern deathcore, polyrhythmic tempos, and technical death, Ascariasis acts as a refresher and a progressive act that is going down the exact same road as Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris, and Fallujah while still keeping their own identity. The music that Ascariasis has created on this EP hasn’t amazed me as much as it has intrigued me and more-or-less fucked with my mind. I look forward to hearing a full-length from this band and to see where they go. I would give this EP a 14/20. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Enthroned - Pentagrammation

Prophecies of the Pagan Fire and Towards the Skullthrone of Satan appear to be the two most well-known and loved albums that Enthroned has put out. Enthroned has been one of those bands that have been trudging along almost nonstop since they released their first album in the mid-1990s. Ok, so they’re one of the more old school black metal bands. Where are they now? It’s interesting how little you hear about some of these bands after about 10 years or so of existing. Of course, this is understandable because bands often times have their reasons for fading out of the public eye. Whether it be that they suck, too many lineup changes, shift in attitude/lyrical theme, or the more common reason: they aren’t any different than they were 15 years ago. The fortunate thing about this is that there are certain bands that have the ability to keep the exact sound and still sound original and great (Motorhead, Grave, Cannibal Corpse, Slayer, etc.). But, of course, the majority of bands that do that get labeled as “uncreative”, “bland”, and “overdone”. Some people put labels like that on bands that have only released two albums; that’s just fucking pathetic. Armoured Bestiality is considered by some to be the last album Enthroned released before they started getting old. Due to new and upcoming black metal bands that sounded different at the time were what people were listening to (1349, Dark Fortress, Angantyr, Xasthur, Ajattara, Nargaroth, etc.), not the newest Enthroned album. Having possessed Enthroned’s entire discography for about a year or so, I thought that it would be a good idea to mention their 2010 release, titled Pentagrammation.

Not to say that I care (because I don’t), the whole in-your-face Satanism thing is now officially considered tacky and even something that brings down a band’s reputation (unless, of course, they’re some huge legendary band that’s been around since the 1980s). This has caused to reputation of bands like Marduk, Dark Funeral, and Deicide to suffer. Why do I not care? In case you’re curious, it’s because imagery and lyrical themes/concepts are the last thing I notice about a band. I would go on a rant about “oh it’s all about the music!” but Enthroned is what I’m here to talk about.  So in other words, yes, they could have chosen a better album title than “Pentagrammation”, but that’s the one they chose and we’re just going to ignore that for now.

Enthroned’s continuation after the departure of their last remaining original member in 2006 has remained a controversial element that has created skepticism towards everything the band has released since then. Tetra Karcist, the first Enthroned album to be released without any of the band’s original members, wasn’t exactly the band’s strongest moment. The 12-song record with that black scorpion on the cover cost Enthroned a lot of their fans and put a nice, clean dent in their reputation. It’s albums like these that build a lot of anticipation for a follow-up. Although XES wasn’t that good of an album, as well as Carnage in Worlds Beyond, for some odd fucking reason, Tetra Karcist really upset a lot of people, as well as bringing in fresh, new fans that were more of, let’s say, “21st Century black metallers”.

Pentagrammation acts as both a refresher and a disappointer. It acts as a disappointer because there really isn’t anything new; it’s the same old shit being recycled with a few things being taken out and a thing or two being added in to give it some spice. It acts as a refresher because the way that everything has been “recycled” and re-arranged has caused Pentagrammation to have its own form of originality without sounding different from the rest of Enthroned’s discography. The high guitar melodies slice through the music with razor precision like a clean, new blade cutting through flesh. The vocals vary in style more than enough to keep things interesting, and sometimes even a little too much for the strict black metal style these guys play. I think part of what helped the sound of this album is getting fresh ideas and influences from currently thriving black metal bands such as Watain, Merrimack, Enslaved, and Goatwhore. In other words, Enthroned has used Pentagrammation as a way to come up with their own take on the modern generic black metal sound.

Oh, this album has a very ambient and atmospheric sound (similar to Wolves in the Throne Room, but less drone-like), so the best way to listen to this album is to turn it up really loud. Otherwise, the really fuzzy guitar distortions will take over and make it impossible to hear anything other than distortion and drum cymbals. When you turn up the volume, you hear a significantly greater amount of musical intelligence and creativity than in many of Enthroned’s previous albums. The album’s high-quality production gives the Enthroned sound an entirely new vibe. Some might even mistake it for a completely different band.

All-in-all, don’t expect anything new. Instead, expect everything you’ve heard before, but with a different perspective. The way that Enthroned has recycled everything has ended up being surprisingly good. But I would tend to agree with most people that although Pentagrammation is definitely a comeback, Enthroned’s sound has grown tasteless and dry. I would give Pentagrammation 13/20 and would recommend it to all black metal fans. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Upcoming Reviews

I plan on writing reviews on the following bands:

A Past Unknown (metalcore)
Malignancy (technical death)
Swallow the Sun (melodic death)
Ascariasis (deathcore)
Absvrdist (grindcore)
Trauma (death metal)
Foreboding Ether (technical death)
Beherit (black metal)
Destruction (thrash metal)
Enthroned (black metal)
Dimmu Borgir (symphonic black)
Gutted (death grind)
Altar of Pain (death metal)
Gloom (death metal)
Cannibal Corpse (death metal)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Android App

Ok, the Blogger app for Android is officially AWESOME!! The UI is much better and I can be one of those uber blogger nerds! Will I be making mobile posts regularly? Probably not. I'll be posting an "Upcoming Reviews" post tomorrow to help me get started on writing since I haven't done it in a while.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Crinn's Top 30 Albums of 2012

Why such a big number like 30 instead of 15 or 20? Because 2012 is one of THE BEST years the heavy metal genre has EVER seen! This was a hard list for me to put together (except for the album that got the #1 spot), but I finally pulled it together. All of these albums are truly amazing, and they aren't the only amazing metal albums that were put out this year. If I've written a review on the album, click on the album title to view the review. Here are the top 10:

10. The Faceless - Autotheism (Sumerian Records) (Technical Death)

9. Eluveitie - Helvetios (Nuclear Blast Records) (Folk Metal)

8. Enslaved - RIITIIR (Nuclear Blast Records) (Progressive Black)

7. Epica - Requiem for the Indifferent (Nuclear Blast Records) (Symphonic Metal)

5. Katatonia - Dead End Kings (Peaceville Records) (Gothic Metal)

1. Wintersun - Time 1 (Nuclear Blast Records) (Melodic Death)

The rest of them:

12. Nitronoise - Total Nihilism (Self-Released) (Industrial/EBM)
17. Ex Deo - Caligva (Napalm) (Melodic Death)
18. Wide Eyes - Volumes (Self-Released) (Progressive Metal)
19. Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner) (Thrash Death)
22. Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud (InsideOut) (Progressive Metal)
23. Soulfly - Enslaved (Roadrunner) (Thrash Death)
27. Cannibal Corpse - Torture (Metal Blade) (Death Metal)

There are very few "best-of" lists that I've had to do that were harder than this. We even had some AMAZING shows and tours this year, including:


Summer Slaughter 2012 w/ Cannibal Corpse/Between the Buried and Me/The Faceless/Periphery/Veil of Maya/Job for a Cowboy/Goatwhore/Exhumed/Cerebral Bore


Katatonia/Devin Townsend Project/Paradise Lost/Stolen Babies


Sepultura/Death Angel/Krisiun/Havok

Metal Alliance II w/ DevilDriver/The Faceless/Dying Fetus/Job for a Cowboy/3 Inches of Blood/Impending Doom/Wretched

Dying Fetus/Cattle Decapitation/Cerebral Bore

Origin/Cattle Decapitation/Decrepit Birth/Aborted/Rings of Saturn/Battlecross

Morbid Angel/Dark Funeral/Grave


SepticFlesh/Ex Deo/Krisiun/Inquisition

And many more that would make this post way too long. 

Albums that I'm looking forward to next year:

Mutiny Within - Synchronicity

Suffocation - Pinnacle of Bedlam

Guttural Secrete - Nourishing the Spoil

Soilwork - The Living Infinite

New Disentomb!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I've started to get emails asking if I'm putting my blogging on hold or if I'm now inactive. Why haven't I been posting like mad lately? It's a little thing called High School and wanting to GRADUATE. Hopefully, when winter break starts next week, I won't be so fucking busy and I'll actually have time to write. Like everyone else, I will be posting a "Top albums of 2012" list towards the end of the month. The list will be longer than other years because this is probably one of the best years the metal genre has ever seen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Partner in Crime: Louder Than Hell

This is actually pretty big. I was recruited to be a part of the team for Louder Than Hell, which seems to basically be a heavy metal webzine with other stuff. I'm going to be writing reviews, interviews, live reports, editorials, and just about anything having to do with black metal. The website will be officially launched for public view sometime in January. I will be adding them to the list of "Partners in Crime" in the right-hand column so that you can go to the site whenever you want. For now, click the link below to view the website "teaser".

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Swallow the Sun - Emerald Forest and the Blackbird

Just like their brothers in Eternal Tears of Sorrow, Swallow the Sun has always been one of the most melodic death metal bands out there. For some reason, Swallow the Sun never really got the attention they deserved from the majority of metalheads out there. Their major breakthrough album, Hope, got the attention of all of Europe and much of the people here in the states where I am. Hope’s follow-up, New Moon, didn’t prove to be as successful as far as attention and sales though; but the album received generally positive feedback from the critics. When Emerald Forest and the Blackbird was released, it was like the whole world completely forgot about the new Arch Enemy album and wouldn’t stop talking about “this amazing Finnish melodic death album”. Almost every webzine, magazine, reviewing site, metal blog (now including myself), and metal news source that I’ve looked at have reviewed this album. Well, I can at least somewhat understand how the immense hype for this album was possibly created, because well…look at the goddamn artwork! Just seeing the artwork on the ad I saw on the internet made me check it out (and of course my pre-existing love for Swallow the Sun); that and the slightly over-mentioned and over-hyped fact that Anette Olzon (Nightwish vocalist at the time) makes a momentary guest appearance on the fourth track.

One aspect that I keep coming across again and again about what people say about this album; in this case the people that had a more critical opinion towards it, is the trendiness. I’m going to be honest right off the bat, I love this album, it’s amazing, but I also know that there are several trends that Swallow the Sun have chosen to partake in (whatever the reason was). This is something that’s popped up very recently, there are suddenly A LOT of people that absolutely BASH any death metal or black metal album that has a lot of orchestral and symphonic elements. What the fuck happened? Last I heard, it was cool to have tons of epic keyboards and symphonies in your music. But when I read several reviews on newer albums like Scar Symmetry’s The Unseen Empire, Wintersun’s Time 1 (that pisses me off), Ex Deo’s Caligvla, Dimmu Borgir’s Abrahadabra, Epicloud by the Devin Townsend Project, and Stones Grow Her Name by Sonata Arctica, for EVERY single one, the PRIMARY reason for most of the criticism is one or more of the following: “too many keyboards”, “too digital”, “too dependent on symphonic and orchestral elements”, “the fact that there’s a real orchestra instead of keyboards is made too big of a deal”, or something like that. I guess I’m way behind everyone and what’s “in” and what’s “out-of-style”.

There’s always a risk that metal bands take when using an excess amount of keyboards and symphonies in their music, and that’s cheesiness. It’s just WAY too fucking easy to unintentionally compose and arrange the symphonic parts in a way that sounds really hokey and cheesy. In some cases, it’s on purpose, but it sounds cool (i.e. Epicloud). But there are some bands that have recently figured out how to have that epic sound created by the symphonies without the cheesiness (like Wintersun, Ex Deo, Septicflesh, etc.). Except the mood that the orchestras and keyboards in Swallow the Sun creates is much different than most other bands. Instead of the mood being a really epic, powerful, and upbeat one, the mood that the keyboards in Swallow the Sun’s music creates is one of deep emotion, tenseness, sorrow, and pain. And to be honest, it’s one of the most beautiful moods I’ve ever heard a melodic death album create. My evidence to back this up: the first track (also the title track) when the heavy guitars and the agonizing growls and screams come in with undeniable intensity and edginess. Swallow the Sun has always had this quality about them in their music, but now that I’ve heard Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, I now know that they have truly mastered it. Bands such as Katatonia, Eternal Tears of Sorrow, and Agalloch are among some of the other metal bands that have mastered the depressive sound without going full-on raw black metal like Xasthur and Woods of Desolation.

The vocals in Emerald Forest and the Blackbird are particularly interesting because you hear every vocal style that has been used throughout the band’s career. You can hear the extremely deep, mouth-watering growls and the tranquilizing singing from Ghosts of Loss and The Morning Never Came, the nasty screams from Hope, and the high-pitched shrieks from New Moon (although every album had its fair share of that BEAUTIFUL singing). Going back and using all of those different vocal styles helps create a vast number of possibilities for more original-sounding material (see, recycling isn’t always bad, it doesn’t ALWAYS have to be completely new). The deep growls aren’t NEARLY as deep and powerful as the growls in Ghosts of Loss and The Morning Never Came. If they were to bring those exact same-sounding growls back to be used in this record, the power of the overall sound would have skyrocketed. But, since they haven’t, the extremely powerful, but not QUITE as deep growls that we hear in Emerald Forest (that’s what I’m going to call that album from now on) are what we’re going to have to live with; and don’t get the impression that I’m saying the growls on Emerald Forest aren’t anything short of demonic.

Now that I’ve listened to Emerald Forest more than three dozen times, I can now say that this is Swallow the Sun’s most melodic album to date. This moving in a much more melodic and less death metally direction is another one of these so-called trends. Since the newest releases by melodic death and progressive death bands like In Flames, Opeth, Amorphis, Scar Symmetry, and Wintersun (not really much to work with) are much farther from a pure melodic death sound than their earlier works, people are pointing fingers at Swallow the Sun and considering them part of this trend because, seemingly out of pure fucking coincidence, this is their most melodic album to date. For me, since they still hold that extremely gothic doomy sound, the vibe of Emerald Forest seems to fit Swallow the Sun very comfortably.

Oh, but how could I write a review on this album and not mention the major guest-appearance!? Anette Olzon, at the time, frontwoman of the biggest symphonic metal band ever, Nightwish (well, it actually seems to be a tie between them and Apocalyptica, but you get the picture). Yes, I do think that Anette’s voice is beautiful and unique, but it’s obvious to everyone that the reason Swallow the Sun has made such a big motherfucking deal about her guest appearance (it’s mentioned in every single press release the band and their label made on the album before and on its release) is publicity and sales increase. OH FUCK, THEY’RE SELL-OUTS! Yeah, you can fuck off now, because that’s not the case. Because although this helped boost album sales and attractiveness as well as the artwork, Anette’s singing truly does add in an outside touch that helps further the beauty of the ballad-like song that she’s on. It’s actually really surprising how much of a positive effect Anette’s voice has on that one song. But seriously, the significance of it is over-exaggerated and was over-mentioned to the point where it was beyond obvious that they were taking advantage of her fame and using it as a marketing tool to boost sales. Why not make it a cameo appearance and have it secretly mentioned in the liner notes? Like when Suicide Silence had Frank Mullen of Suffocation on one of the tracks from The Black Crown.

Emerald Forest and the Blackbird is Swallow the Sun’s best album to date. Thanks to excess marketing, advertising, and a guest-appearance from one of metal’s most loved (and most hated) female singers, this album and the band have acclaimed well-deserved and much-overdue success and attention. Not only to fans of doom metal, gothic metal, and melodic death, but to any fans of emotional, melodic, and dark music is who I would give out high recommendations for this album (and band). Swallow the Sun achieve many obstacles, including completely mastering several things that they have been doing for their entire career. The only question left is: what’s next? I can’t possibly begin thinking of possible directions that the next album will go that would make it better than Emerald Forest. I would give Emerald Forest and the Blackbird 18/20. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wedard - Eiskrieg [EP]

This was my first Wedard record. I think I first came across this during the 2010-2011 winter season. Since then, and the release of the Eiskrieg II EP, Wedard’s auditory beauty has continued to grow on me with every listen. This German duet has a discography made up of splits, demos, EPs, and full-lengths that covers nearly a decade of true depressive black metal. Although Wedard is one of the slightly-bigger acts amongst the depressive black metal scene, there isn’t very much background information or other topics that they have for people to discuss and say about them. Wedard owes much of their minimal success to the praise that numerous other like-minded artists have given them. Nocturnal Depression, Woods of Desolation, Xasthur, Elffor, Striborg, and Anti are among the many depressive black metal artists that have given Wedard praise over the years; a few of them even doing split records with Wedard. But despite all that, Wedard’s reputation among the non-musicians has remained minimal. Anti and Striborg have both named the two Eiskrieg EPs to be Wedard’s best releases. I can’t say whether I can agree to those statements or not because I haven’t heard Wedard’s entire discography yet.

The one thing that (for some unknown, but probably ridiculous reason) many depressive black metal artists choose to do that just absolutely fucking KILLS their music is that infamous vocal style where it sounds like a high-pitched “woooo”. Ok, I have no idea why the fuck someone would want to do that, let alone turn it up to the point where it’s obnoxiously loud, but for some reason it’s become fairly common. There are some artists that have done this where it doesn’t bother me (Suicidal Anorexia, Life is Pain, Starless Night). This is because they either push it far in the background or they put some kind of distortion or effect on it; and to be honest, if done right, it has potential of sounding really cool. Wedard, on the other hand, doesn’t do that. Let me rephrase that: Wedard does something that could be considered similar to that, but nowhere near as annoying and disturbing. The vocals have A LOT of reverb, they’re pushed in the background behind the guitars and drums, and they’re much more high-pitched than, let’s say, the vocals you’ll hear on a Happy Days album. In the case of this EP, the vocals sound best when they’re let out during the most agonizing and melodic parts of the music. But there are some instances where the music is going at a much steadier and faster pace and the vocals don’t quite fit in as perfectly as they do in the melodic parts.

Drumming on this album is far from being an issue. Not only does the drummer show that he knows how to do more than one thing, he also shows real instrumental skill. Here’s ANOTHER thing that can get pretty damn irritating for me in depressive black metal, and that’s if the drummer does THE EXACT SAME FUCKING THING for the ENRIE duration of the record. I mean seriously, doesn’t that get even a LITTLE boring for you? Wouldn’t you feel much more engaged if you played more than just a boring blast beat or whatever simple drum pattern you’re doing?? The drummer, going under the stage name Karmageddeon, lays out a generic, but very well-practiced blast beat in all of the songs. On top of that, he shows his ability (I don’t even know if it’s a guy or not) to always stay on-tempo, use his whole drum set, change the pattern and speed every time the song goes into a different movement, and even kick drum with considerable speed throughout the EP. The third track of the album (also the title track) is where I consider the drummer to be at his best, although the last song is also great (I’ll talk about that later on).

In depressive black metal, the guitars are the absolute most important part. In order to create the right atmosphere, vibe and sound that you want, since there’s typically the absence of a bass guitar, the guitar player NEEDS to make sure that the distortion, the tuning, and what’s being played is spot-on. I’ve noticed that if there’s even one little mistake being made, like if the guitar distortion is a little too soft, or if the guitars are a little too loud, or if there’s a little too much reverb, it can make a HUGE difference. It’s sort of like looking at something really closely under a microscope; if you make even the SMALLEST adjustments, it can fuck you over and completely ruin or lose what you’re trying to see. Since depressive black metal is less complex and there aren’t nearly as many instruments, everything needs to be as perfect as can be. This was why Scott Connor’s project, Xasthur, was so damn successful and lasted for so long, because he was a damn perfectionist and always knew that every single alteration and change that was done needed to be exact and precise, or else it’ll completely change the sound of everything.

My favorite song off the album is, without a doubt, the last track, A Desolate Song for Desolate Hearts. For the few that I know of that actually have this record, this song is often overlooked due to it being more than five minutes shorter than all the other songs. The slower tempo and extremely melodic guitar solos create a tranquilizing ambient sound that doesn’t even compare to the other songs off the record. The guitarist shows expresses emotion as well as skill in the solo that pretty much lasts the whole track. Not only that, but the drummer throws in these really fast fills that seem random, but fit since they don’t stick out from everything else. The muffled pianos that take up the last half of the song leave the listener absolutely relaxed and ends the EP with the perfect vibe. This piano part proves that this EP was intentionally created to be listened to from start-to-finish, not just for individual songs; because it won’t have the same effect.

Being part-1 of the Eiskrieg EP series, Wedard has obviously crafted a work of art that, like Striborg said, deserves to be recognized. Having everything working for the duet in a positive way, Wedard avoids all of the extremely annoying and negative trends that depressive black metal artists (for some odd fucking reason) like to do. As well as that, Wedard repeatedly expresses their instrumental skill to set themselves apart from many others in their genre that have only their creativity to work with. I would give the Eiskrieg EP a score of 16/20. What I’m mainly going to be looking for in Eiskrieg II is more musical creativity, less monotony, and more unique elements. 

Upcoming Reviews

Finally, now that I've gotten all of these big school projects out of the way, I have much more time to spend on writing. As well as that, with all of these Thanksgiving and winter breaks happening, I'll have even MORE time to do what I love to do. So here's a list of stuff that I would like to review during that time:

Diskreet (technical death)
Soreption (technical death)
For Today (metalcore)
Ensiferum (folk metal)
Swallow the Sun (melodic death)
Goatwhore (thrash black)
Destruction (thrash metal)
Absvrdist (grindcore)
Putridity (brutal death)
Wedard (depressive black metal)
Enthroned (black metal)
Mayan (progressive death)
As I Lay Dying (metalcore)
Insomnium (melodic death)
Final Thoughts (depressive black metal)
Bilskirnir (depressive black metal)
Beherit (black metal)
Thunderbolt (black metal)
Suicidal Euphoria (depressive black metal)

Atheretic - Apocalyptic Nature Fury

Montreal not only has a very healthy metal scene to begin with, but they also have an unusual amount of technical and progressive death bands. Atheretic is one of the much more underground bands. Unfortunately, Atheretic is one of those bands that are pretty much only known by the hardcore tech death fans and the huge supporters of the Montreal metal scene. The reason why these guys haven’t released an album since 2006 is because most of the musicians are in much, much bigger acts. Founding member and vocalist Alexandre is the recent, but already legendary vocalist for tech death monsters Neuraxis, and the drummer was part of one of the biggest death metal acts of the local Montreal scene, Vengeful. The member that attracted me to these guys more than any other is the guy who I consider to be one of the best metal bassists of all-time, Dominic Lapointe, who is currently the bassist for the AMAZING progressive death band Augury, as well as having played with Quo Vadis and Negativa. I’m not the biggest fan of the Neuraxis vocalist, but he’s never disappointed me, I have no idea what Vengeful’s music sounds like, but I would never hesitate to listen to something that features one of my favorite bassists.

Although this doesn’t really seem like it should matter much, everyone (for some reason) HAS to point out that Atheretic started in 1997 as a traditional death metal band under the name Satanized. After releasing one demo under that name, I’m assuming that they had a shift in musical creativity and decided to start off fresh under a different name. Atheretic then went on to release their first full-length that has much more of a really brutal and experimental death grind sound than anything else that didn’t really get the best feedback (it’s ok, but not really that special). Two years after Dominic’s other band, Augury, released their legendary debut known as Concealed, Atheretic went under yet ANOTHER shift in musical creativity and release what I am going to talk about today, Apocalyptic Nature Fury.

Just about everything that was wrong with their first album is gone. When you listen to it, you hear an immense amount of creativity, but not enough instrumental skill to release it. I’m not aware of any direct relations or connections between Atheretic and the Kansas technical death behemoths Origin, but the number of similarities in the music surprised me. Something that a lot of technical death bands are trying to do is sound extremely tight by playing primarily staccato notes with the drummer playing mainly the toms and kick drums. Not only in the bigger acts, but also in some of the new and uprising underground bands like Ayin, Carnophage, and Slaughtery have been shaping their sound like this. Origin, the guys who are considered the forefathers and leaders of this sound in their genre, are technical, but rely more on speed, blast beats, and having a wall-of-sound feel to their music that sounds more like constant stampede of brutality than complex arpeggios and polyrhythmic breakdowns. This is what Atheretic does, except they still have some hints of grindcore in their music here and there.

The thing that Origin does that Atheretic DOESN’T do is that ultra-high-pitched guitar shredding. Atheretic uses the same method to create that noisy wall-of-sound that Origin does, and that is use an extremely fuzzy guitar distortion that isn’t as metallic and crunchy. Just to create some examples of contrast so that you know what I’m talking about, guitar distortions that are the OPPOSITE of what I’m talking about are used by Fleshgod Apocalypse, Decapitated, and Hour of Penance. Like a lot of things in music, everything that is used has some drawbacks, and the major drawback that comes with the fuzzy guitar distortions is that it’s much harder to hear what chords and notes the guitarists are playing. It’s not impossible, don’t get that impression, but for those of you that make a big deal out of being able to hear what notes are being played and other stuff like that, this could definitely bother you after a bit.

Besides the occasional guitar solos, Atheretic goes against the generic technical death method and puts most of their complexity in the drums and bass, just like Decapitated…only three times faster. Obviously, you could probably already tell before that the bass is what I love the most about these guys. And as a matter of fact, I’m not the only one that thinks so; and after reading other reviews on the internet by people that were drooling over the bassist, a lot of them either didn’t know that he was from Augury or had no idea who the fuck Augury was! Pretty much 94% of the soloing is done by the bassist alone, and it’s almost constant. Behind the wall of monotonous blast beats and noisy tremolo picking, you can hear Dominic playing scales, arpeggios, solos, shreds, and just random licks where he repeatedly and gracefully goes up and down the neck with no effort at all. That’s what I love about Dominic’s playing; he makes it sound so damn effortless! When you hear his playing, it all sounds so relaxed and almost psychedelic at some points. After reading over what I literally just put down, I can see how that doesn’t seem like it should fit with this immense brutality that Atheretic plays.

Dominic’s playing style has always been the much more abstract type that isn’t always perfectly sound with the rest of the music. But that’s part of why I love him so much! The unfortunate problem we have here is that there are many parts of the album where the bass is SO out-of-place and SO abstract that it actually doesn’t sound good. Those bassists that sound like they’re playing an entirely different song but still sound good with the rest of the band can sometimes have trouble because it’s more than possible to overdo it. In Apocalyptic Nature Fury, there are just too many parts where Dominic overdoes it. When we have the guitars shredding the lowest-possible chords, Dominic is in a different dimension where’s he’s playing all this complex shit on the two highest strings on his bass and, well, it just doesn’t match up at all! I love the idea of it, and I’ve seen it be done before, but this is just crossing the line WAY too much.

Besides that, Dominic couldn’t possibly be more in-sync with the guitarists and the drummer as far as tempo and the complex riffs go. Here’s another problem that I have with this album: each of the songs sound a little TOO similar. Something that’s definitely become a source of competition amongst technical death bands is making the individual songs much more unique rather than focusing more on making the overall sound of the album itself unique. When you look at some of the more recent efforts by Spawn of Possession, Rings of Saturn, Psycroptic, Obscura, The Faceless, and The Black Dahlia Murder, you can tell that they’ve been putting more focus on each individual song than before. And fortunately for many of them, this has been helping them out immensely, especially the bands that still created an album that has its own unique sound while managing to make each song differ from each other. This is similar to the problem that Dominic had is that it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s TOO much. The songs end up being TOO monotonous and a little TOO unmemorable.

I couldn’t ask the drumming to be any different. The drummer’s blast beats are brutal, tight, and give the music a bit of a grindcore vibe that was probably pulled from the band’s first album. Although I may have made the drawbacks this album holds sound much worse than they actually are, they’re still drawbacks; but honestly, I can see through them easily to the point where if I’m listening to all my technical death stuff on shuffle, I don’t notice any of it. Apocalyptic Nature Fury is a technical death album that anyone looking for something more obscure to have in their collection NEEDS to have. Atheretic have surprised me with this piece and I have high hopes for a follow-up to be released sometime down the road…after Augury gets around to releasing their much-needed Fragmentary Evidence follow-up. I would give Atheretic’s Apocalyptic Nature Fury 16/20. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I feel like I'm being forced to give-in to this online social networking thing more and more each day. I just created a Google+ account and hooked it up to my blog. So if you're one of the 3 or so people that are actually on Google+ you should "follow" me or whatever you guys like to do. First Twitter, now this..damn...oh, I also have a big surprise for you guys starting in early January ;) so stay tuned. Once I'm on winter break, I'm going to start posting a shitload of more album reviews (goddamnit school). After that, I'm going to do what all of the other webzines/bloggers are doing out there and put together my personal "best albums of 2012" list. I can tell you already, I've known that the #1 album was going to be #1 when I listened to it for the first time.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Awesome Scott Conner Interview

One of my favorite "bands" ever is Xasthur. There haven't been very many official and good interviews of Scott Conner (aka Malefic), the guy behind Xasthur, but this is by far one of the best and most detailed ones I've ever seen. For those of you that aren't aware, Scott has just released the first album of his post-Xasthur project, Nocturnal Poisoning. It's all instrumental stuff that's pretty much just acoustic guitars, tambourine, and some drums here and there. I bought the CD from him (which you can purchase through the Nocturnal Poisoning Facebook page) a day after it was released and just received it in the mail a couple of days ago. Since then, that and the new Enslaved album have been the only things I've been listening to.

I'm not ready to state an official pos/neg opinion on it because even though I listen to A LOT of non-metal stuff, this is like nothing I've ever heard before in my life. To be honest, it was pretty weird at first listen, but it's one of those things where it eventually starts to grow on you in the exact same way that Xasthur does. I guess Scott unintentionally writes music that takes a little getting used to before one can fully take it in, understand it, and enjoy it. In fact, I highly doubt that I will ever even review it because I don't know what the hell I'd say in the review. In other words, I didn't know what to think at first, but so far, I've come to quickly love it and have become addicted to it. I HIGHLY recommend that if you have $13 to spare that you should give it to him so that he'll send you a copy of it.

Anyway, because I'm a diehard Xasthur fan, I want to know about the background story behind the demented project that lasted over a decade. This is the interview where you get an EXTREMELY in-depth and raw explanation of Xasthur, the history behind it, the reasoning behind the lyrical themes, and a lot about hating people and the struggles that Scott went through during the Xasthur era. As well as that, Scott gives you an early in-depth look into Nocturnal Poisoning, which is actually quite interesting! Follow the link below to read the interview.


Click here for the official Nocturnal Poisoning/Disharmonic Variations website/blog

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Roadrunner Records is Dying

Want another reason to hate Warner Bros? Although this isn't COMPLETELY at the fault of Warner Bros, but ever since they bought the biggest rock/metal record label Roadrunner Records, things have just been plummeting for them. Don't know Roadrunner? Well, they're the label that HUGE acts such as Slipknot, Korn, Trivium, Machine Head, Opeth (my favorite band), Dream Theater, Rush, Killswitch Engage, Soulfly, Gojira, and Porcupine Tree call home.

What happens first? Because of bad business, Roadrunner is forced to close their European HQ. BIG FUCKING LOSS for RR because Europe, especially Germany, where their office was located, has a MUCH healthier music industry than that of the United States. This was back in April of this year.

Next, the guy who is 70% responsible for the label's success, A&R executive Monte Conner, after being the president for the label for more than TWO WHOLE DECADES steps down from his position and leaves RR all together! So now, the label no longer has one of the best band-recruiting machines in the history of professional music, and are now stuck with a bunch of half-asses that they're obviously just talking nice about to maintain their disintegrating reputation. Read the more detailed Metal Injection article on that incident and the post on RR's website here:

What I just did recently was check out the good ol' RR site to see if they had recruited any fresh meat. Well guess what I found: the biggest heavy metal record label in history currently has a roster of only 29 bands. Does that seem like a lot to you? Let's take a look at other metal labels that aren't nearly as mainstream as Roadrunner: Century Media currently has a roster of 92 bands and artists, Relapse Records currently has 73 artists, Victory Records has 70, and Metal Blade Records takes the cake with a whopping 117 bands that are CURRENTLY on their roster! 29 bands? 29 FUCKING BANDS!? And not only that, ALL OF THEM ARE MAJOR BANDS! Listen guys, I know that since you're a mainstream metal record label, you're money-whores, it's not a secret. But I never knew that you were going to be THAT DAMN PICKY about the bands they sign! Sometimes it's a really good thing to sign underground bands because if you have a good A&R guy (hint hint!!!!) that knows good music that has potential when he/she hears it, then you'll sign unknown bands that then get your promotion therefore selling awesome records and getting you the damn money you want.

Roadrunner Records is going down the drain, and I'm hoping that all the bands that are still signed on to them are seeing that are are doing what they can to get the hell out of there. Opeth has already gone through that once, when KOCH records went out of business and got bought by a metal-hating label, Opeth was label-less until good-ol Monte Conner swept them out of the dust to then have them release their two most successful albums of their career, Ghost Reveries and Watershed (and then Heritage in 2011).

Music Banter

Those of you that either know me in person or have had extensive 1-on-1 conversations with me know that I'm a big fan of online public forums. Of course, I'm NOT a fan of forums where everyone including the administrators beat you down to a pulp in response to everything you post..those ones are just annoying and not worth my time. I'm a member of plenty of forums including Spirit of Metal, Metal Injection, and others. The most recent one that I just signed up for today and am taking a personal liking to is Music Banter (if you can't see very well, if you click on those two words, it'll take you to the site). Unlike most of the forums I'm a member of, this is not a metal-oriented forum; it's about ALL music as well as metal. Come to find that there aren't any asshole metal elitists on here and that there ARE, in fact, metalheads and music fans alike that actually know shit about what they listen to. Anyway, you can find me there under the pseudonym that I have on just about every site I'm on. Contact me, chat, and yeah. Since it's already bedtime for everyone east of me, I'm expecting to actually get responses to the posts I made and the threads I created on there. See ya there. More reviews to come.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Decay - Decay [EP]

It seems that we’ve been having a bit of an uprising recently of bands playing old school death metal…or…at least they’re TRYING to do that. Most of the bands that I’ve heard that claim to play “old school death metal” aren’t that good. In fact, some of them are pretty shitty. Decay is, by far, one of the much better ones out there. After receiving several demos and EPs, as well as taking a look into the flow of demos that have been circulating around the interwebs, I’ve come to find several bands that don’t CLAIM to play old school death metal as much as they do actually playing it. One of the first bands that I enjoyed hearing was Lago, a band whose EP I received through Spirit of Metal that I really enjoyed both listening to and reviewing. Decay is a band that takes on less of a deeper sound and more of a raw approach on death metal’s roots.

I give major kudos to the band and/or whoever produced this 6-song EP for making actually sound like a vintage death metal record straight from the mid-90s, but that’s not where the best of it is. The best part is the actual music itself. One of my favorite things about a lot of the older death metal bands is how much fucking groove and catchiness they have in their music. Whenever it comes to these bands that are trying to revive the original sound of their style of music, whether it be thrash metal, death metal, or black metal, the question ALWAYS is are they still being original with the music they’re writing? That’s the primary questions I’m going to be asking while analyzing this 6-piece slab of death metal.

Because of the lack of damn info on this band, I don’t know what bands THEY claim to take the most influence from. But I can tell you this, the vocals sound like something from one of Possessed’s albums or Death’s Scream Bloody Gore. I’m not really a HUGE fan of this vocal style due to its premature sound, but when it’s put in the right context, like this album, everything works out. Because of the unfortunate and slim possibility that you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about those growls that are more mid-ranged, not super powerful ones that have a raspy sound; sort of like the early Bolt Thrower records. Similar to many of the early death metal shit out there from the 80s and 90s, none of the musicians in Decay have any excessive skills or notable talents. The guitar solos that take place during the second half of every song have a classic thrash metal sound to remind the old farts of the Altars of Madness and Slowly we Rot days.

The guitars have a raw, crunchy distortion that can only be achieved through lack of production. The drums and vocals have noticeably more reverb than the rest of the band (I don’t know why the hell all of the old death metal albums sound like that), and the bass, well, kind of lays hand-in-hand with the guitar. UNLIKE a lot of the early death metal records, Decay is extremely tight and makes sure to tie any loose ends before recording. The drummer doesn’t screw up, the guitarists seamlessly harmonize with the bassist without fault, and the bassist reminds me of the bass work done on Death’s Human and Leprosy albums.

All of the tracks on this EP are something to be said about, but none of them spoke out to me in the same way that Armies of the Dead did. The very moment that those extremely gritty guitars came in on full attack, I knew that this was going to be the best song off the record. The drum patterns on this track are pretty much what can be found on almost every early Death, Bolt Thrower, Possessed, Asphyx, and Grave album. But then again, the Decay drummer manages to still keep everything he does as original as possible by throwing in his own twists and fills. Since this is an EP, my review on it is going to be considerably shorter than my review on a full-length because…well…there’s less material for me to talk about. If you can find this rare EP, do not hesitate to get your hands on it because it’s a death metal treat like no other. I would give Decay’s self-titled EP 15/20. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Neuraxis - The Thin Line Between

The world needs more melodic technical death bands. That’s why Neuraxis is here. Neuraxis is almost ALWAYS described as being a “melodic technical death” band due to their colorful melodies that are laid out in an extremely complex fashion. Here’s a disclaimer: melodic does not mean any less heavy and energetic. Neuraxis are more than brutal enough to satisfy ANY tech death fan, but they’ve let in some melodic influences to add their own unique twist. I don’t have all of their albums, but I do have most of them. After about seven months of listening to them, I can now say that The Thin Line Between is by far the most entertaining and addicting record in the Neuraxis discography. The majority of the success and status that Neuraxis has achieved is more-or-less just amongst the tech death community. Whenever they go on big tours, they’re almost always (unfortunately) one of the first opening acts. But despite the fact that most of their headlining shows were strictly in Canada and that their sales have remained marginal, Neuraxis has done a hell of a job of making a name for themselves as being one of the much better technical death bands out there in the world.

Although some of their sound has come out of pure experimentation, Neuraxis has cited both melodic death and thrash metal as being huge influences on their sound. Honestly, The Thin Line Between is where the thrash metal part of that statement speaks out the most. The intro of the first track, Darkness Prevails, reminds me STRONGLY of the Exodus songs Raze and Riot Act (more so Raze than the latter). Because the drums are where most of the action is at, let’s start with them. Tommy McKinnon, who made his Neuraxis debut on Trilateral Progression in 2005 after being a live drummer for them on tour, is who I think should be noted as the most talented musician on this record. His extremely technical thrash metal drumming style is what gives this album a lot of the unique twist that it has. For example, most of the speed is played through the kick drums and occasional blast beats. What do I love most about him? He’s not excessively fast and technical like SO many other tech death drummers are! Even many of the best technical death bands EVER have excessively chaotic drummers. I’m not saying that being over-technical and fast is a bad thing, because oftentimes it fits the music. But when you flip through the individual tech death drummers in your collection, almost all of them don’t express very much tempo variety (i.e. Fleshgod Apocalypse, The Black Dahlia Murder, Arsis, Origin, etc.)

This is why it’s nice to just fucking chill out for a bit and have drumming with more varied tempos like The Faceless, Atheist, and Martyr. Tommy acts as a refresher for us metalheads by giving us a piece of music where the drumming in the verses have more experimentation where needed, machine gun kick drumming where needed, and pummeling blast beats where needed; instead of just one or two of those. Some would point that out and assume that it’s because the drummer doesn’t possess enough skill to play as fast as Fleshgod Apocalyspe, but they would be wrong. Tommy wipes those kind of assumptions off the board by writing and playing PLENTY of fills in just about every song that sound like random explosions of blasting technicality; whether it be just in the kick drums, a blast beat, or something completely different. There is just one problem that I have with the drums, which isn’t as much of a problem with the drummer as is it with Jef Fortin, the guy who mixed and produced the album. The problem is that the drums are just WAY too loud. Those of you that have read my reviews in the past know that I LOVE kick drums that have a meaty, bass-filled sound that just pounds you into the pavement. Well, this is an example of what I love being a LITTLE excessive. I’m not kidding, the kick drums (and the whole drum set really) just overpower EVERYTHING. I shouldn’t have to cite certain tracks or examples because this applies to the entire album. Other than that fuck-up that lasts for the duration of the album, the drumming is absolutely fantastic.

The vocals are mediocre. Unique; but mediocre. I like how the really…however you want to describe it…I don’t know how to describe them. The really deep, but not crisp growls fit the music great, but I would rather that they had more of a punch to them. Don’t know what I mean? Listen to the growls on any of the three albums by The Faceless. The growls are deep, powerful, crisp, and punch you square in the fucking face. I can definitely see those fitting in Neuraxis’ music PERFECTLY. But, since I like to stick to reality, I’m aware that the vocals are not like The Faceless and that we’re going to have to make the best out of them instead of whining. I’m aware that there are some guest vocals on three of the songs, but I can’t really hear them; all of the vocals on this album sound like they’re coming from the same guy. Because I didn’t catch Sepultura when they toured with Keep of Kalessin, Hate, Belphegor, Bonded by Blood, and Neuraxis, I don’t really know if the growls are any good live or not (and no, live videos on YouTube aren’t the same as seeing them live in person). If you’ve seen Neuraxis live, let me know what you thought of the vocals by dropping a comment, because I’m curious to know.

Guitars in technical death usually take place as the single most dominant instrument. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing; I’m just stating the fact because in The Thin Line Between, they’re not. No, having the most technicality and volume doesn’t always mean that you’re the dominant instrument on an album. For example, in just about every Decapitated album, the guitars are obviously the loudest instrument, but really, the drums are where most of the action is. In both of Augury’s albums, the bass is the main driving force, even though it’s neither the loudest OR the most technical (yes, I know Augury isn’t a tech death band, but I thought they would be a good example to point out in this context). Speaking of bass, where is the bass on this album? I mean, I can HEAR that there is bass (even when you remove the overpowering kick drums), but I can BARELY hear the bass guitar unless there’s a really quiet part like in the instrumental track, Stranding Despite.

I mean, isn’t the bassist more important in technical death (for some odd reason) than in most other death metal variations? I can hear the extremely loud guitars and drums just fine, and I can mostly hear the vocals when they’re not getting drowned out by the drums, so what the fuck is going on with the bassist? After going back through their older material (this time focusing on the bassist), the only album where I can hear the bassist more than 20% of the time is on Imagery, which was released in 1997. Ok, so it looks like this isn’t as much of a problem because since the band has had over a fucking decade to fix it, they obviously want it that way. This THEN brings up the question: is the bassist really not playing as important of a part as what I was expecting? Considering the fact that the bassist on this album was the only remaining original member, this explains why the bass is much more interesting in their 2011 album than the rest of their discography.

The Thin Line Between is a fantastic technical death album. Pulling in extensive influences from melodic death and thrash metal, Neuraxis adds another chapter to what I would consider to be a very interesting and unique collection of artworks. Experimentation with acoustic guitars, keyboards, and deep melodies take place in almost every song. This album has many downsides, but they don’t even begin to compare with the power of what’s good about The Thin Line Between. A quick trivial fact about this album is that this was the last album to have ANY original members on it. The following year, the last remaining original member (bassist Yan Thiel) departed from the band. I would highly recommend this to fans of tech death, thrash metal, and the heavier melodic death fans out there. This album gets my score of 14/20. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rings of Saturn - Dingir

Out of all the people that love Rings of Saturn’s first album, I don’t think there were very many (if any at all) that got into it instantly. Just like me, the majority of metalheads out there were either confused or disgusted after hearing Embryonic Anomaly for the first time (I was more disgusted than confused). But then, after about a couple months or so, I decided to go back to it so that I could review it. And woe and behold, I ended up falling in love with it! Especially after witnessing their live performance when I saw them with Decapitated, Fleshgod Apocalypse, and Decrepit Birth, I was hooked. Ok, it’s always understandable that a band’s first album isn’t always going to be the most mature; so what a lot of us (myself included) were hoping for was a much more mature sound on the next record. I will admit, although I do love the hyper-technicality on Embryonic Anomaly, I would have loved there to be more to it than just technicality and a couple of brutal breakdowns. This was when the band released a teaser for Dingir on YouTube that had 30-second clips of each song off the record. And guess what, from what I remember, most of what was on that teaser wasn’t breakdowns OR really high-pitched wankery.

I remember reading a post on the band’s Facebook saying that they were going to experiment a little with polyrhythmic breakdowns (aka djent) more than just simple deathcore breakdowns. Knowing that Rings of Saturn is a VERY tight band, I was pretty confident that they could pull it off. But the trait that Rings of Saturn is known for is that high-pitched guitar shredding that sounds like either alien invaders or a broken arcade machine (listen to Seized and Devoured). For me, there was a little TOO much of than in Embryonic Anomaly. And because I like it, they need to keep that in Dingir, but build a much larger base under it so that it’s not the main focus. The biggest difference between Dingir and Embryonic Anomaly is that Dingir actually has a full lineup. In Embryonic Anomaly, there was the stoner drummer, the really freaky (and amazing) vocalist, and then this blond-haired guy that did all of the guitars AND bass. So really, this blond guy, also known as Lucas Mann, is the primary musical force of the band. In Dingir, we have what appears to be a quintet. There’s the short guy that replaced the live vocalist that replaced Peter after he left, Lucas, a completely new drummer, what seems to be another guitarist, and a bassist. Seriously, the number of lineup changes that have taken place over the past two years is ridiculous; which means that ALREADY, Lucas is the only remaining original member.

Let’s talk about this new vocalist first, because I was pissed as HELL when I saw Rings of Saturn for the second time, only this time missing Peter and his OUTSTANDING stage presence. My first impression of the new guy was that he wasn’t that bad at all, although I was left unsatisfied due to the stage presence that I wanted to see. Most of what he was doing on stage was screaming, not too much growling. That probably means that he’s your average deathcore vocalist that has great screams, but weak and not-so-deep growls. But here’s where it gets interesting. When Rings of Saturn decided to post their album on YouTube, I (of course) didn’t hesitate to listen (since I’m going to buy it when they come to Seattle again anyway). THIS GUY’S GROWLS ARE EVEN MORE BRUTAL AND DEEP THAN PETER’S! My biggest worry was the growls. If the growls weren’t deep and brutal like Peter’s were, I was going to be pissed like nobody’s freaking business. But holy shit, this guy is AMAZING! The screams sound exactly (almost too similar to be realistic) like Peter’s, and the growls are that of a beast with nothing but “kill” on its mind. My first accusation would be that the growls were pitch-shifted in the studio, but even then, if they were, Rings of Saturn doesn’t seem like a band that would make MAJOR modifications to the vocals. So if there’s any auto-tune or pitch-shifting that has been done to the vocals, it’s slight and minimal.

The music itself has much more of a lower end. Let’s take a minute and put the technicality aspect aside and take a look at what the heck is under all of it. In Embryonic Anomaly, almost everything that wasn’t the hyper-technical shredding was the drums; and even that isn’t saying much due to the amount of technicality and speed it had. In Dingir, the drumming is MUCH more creative. There’s much, much more going on than fast double-kicking, blast beats, and generic deathcore patterns. Most of what’s going on is stuff that I have a hard time describing, but that I’ve heard before in the technical death genre that Rings of Saturn call home. The guitars do more now. The amount of really deep chugging and low-ended chords help give the music a stronger sound and an overall fucking BRUTAL vibe, especially during the breakdowns. On top of that, I’m hearing some experimentation going on with keyboards. I first noticed this about halfway through Objective to Harvest, where the whole sound of the song goes in a melodic direction where these weird keyboards come to the front of the line. After that, like a semi driving off the edge of a cliff, the ENTIRE sound of the band drops into what I would call one of the most brutal breakdowns I’ve heard since the breakdown at the end of Whitechapel’s This is Exile.

My favorite part of Objective to Harvest is when the band fulfills their promise by driving into what is one of the tightest djent slams I’ve ever heard. I know that a lot of bands are getting into this whole polyrhythmic breakdown thing to the point where it’s gotten a negative image. But there are actually very few bands that actually pull it off extremely well (i.e. Born of Osiris, Veil of Maya, Wide Eyes, Attack Attack!, etc.), but only a handful of groups have shown me that they can do it VERY tightly and are best at it. These bands include Periphery, Animals as Leaders, Meshuggah (the guys who pretty much invented the whole thing), The Faceless (although they don’t do it that much), Rings of Saturn, and more recently, The HAARP Machine. Embryonic Anomaly was proof that Rings of Saturn has mad skill; Dingir is proof that they don’t fuck around and actually know what the hell they’re doing.

In conclusion, this album is fucking awesome. Rings of Saturn have matured IMMENSELY over the past two-ish years. Although there’s still tons of technicality to satisfy the old fans, there’s much more to it than just that so the people who didn’t like them before can be impressed. In Galactic Cleansing, there’s this random groovy part that I can’t help but mention. My two favorite songs off the record? Objective to Harvest and my #1 favorite track off the album, Peeling Arteries. Probably the most surprising thing about this album is how much more brutal Rings of Saturn have gotten. Everything from the music to the lyrical themes have increased in brutality and violence, which is something that I love to hear in my death metal. For those of you that haven’t read my review on the most technical album of all-time, Embryonic Anomaly, I gave it a 15/20 score. Dingir gets my final score of 17/20. 

For those of you that want an example of Peter's stage presence, click here.