Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Aosoth - III

If you like the angry and insane sounds of Xasthur and Gorgoroth, but looking for something with a little more of a traditional black metal sound that has some grit, Aosoth is what you need, my friend. I saw an advertisement for Aosoth’s third full-length album in a metal magazine (I think it was Metal Hammer or Decibel). Just seeing the words “black metal” in the short album description made me download it IMMEDIATELY. I’m glad to say that this impulsive act was light years from unrewarding. Even though I would definitely put it in the black metal slot, there is literally no other band or album that I can say is similar to Aosoth. So given that, this is going to be one of the harder reviews for me to write because there are next to no good examples that I can use.

The French metal scene isn’t as big as Spirit of Metal makes it. But out of all the metal bands that come out of France, a whole bunch of them seem to be black metal! My favorite French band at the moment is Merrimack, but even they don’t have ANYTHING in common with Aosoth. So where did Aosoth get their super unique sound? Well, the majority of the members that are currently and have been in Aosoth have participated in Antaeus in some way or another. I’ve been listening to Antaeus for a year now and, once again, THERES NOTHING SIMILAR BETWEEN THEM!

Just a few minutes ago, I took some time to think up a somewhat accurate description of what Aosoth sounds like. They have a very ambient (but not melodic) black metal sound with a lot of thrashiness and…just plain fucking creepy guitar chords and harmonizations. The thrash fusion is something that you’ll instantly notice when the first song explodes in your face (with no buildup or intro). The guitar harmonizations that don’t match up and are out-of-tune are what really give the music that rough edge that sends chills down the spines of the weak. The unfortunate thing is that the guitars and drums are REALLY loud and kind of drown out the vocals. But then again, it sounds really cool because it only further enhances that fucking creepy sound!

The drummer’s blast beats are amazing and aren’t too choppy. That’s another thing that enhances the creepiness of the music; the drummer’s blast beats are very loose and monotonous (they aren’t really choppy and tight). The bass drones on almost continuously throughout the entire record, giving the music a good fill on the lower frequencies. This is one of those albums that have the potential of mesmerizing me, but not nearly as much as Sunn O))). Around the third or fourth song, you start to hear the agonizing screams of…something. I don’t even know if they’re actual screams or if they’re high-pitched guitar feedback. Whatever those sounds are, they’re really atmospheric and…well…CREEPY!!

Aosoth is one of the most UNIQUE black metal bands I’ve ever heard in my life and this is the album that proves that point the best. I would highly recommend their other two albums, but only after listening to III first. So if you’re wanting something really creepy and atmospheric but still with a lot of heavy thrashing drums and black metal vibes, III by Aosoth is for you. I would give this 18/20. 

Den Saakaldte - All Hail Pessimism

Ah, Norway…the home of my favorite kind of music, black metal. Not only is it the genre’s origin and homeland, it’s also where the most famous black metal bands come from. Now imagine this: Urgehal, Shining, Mayhem/Dimmu Borgir, and 1349 (all of which are big black metal names from Norway, except for Shining who’s from Sweden) mashed together into one monster black metal band. Not only just members from those bands collaborating in one band, but each of them bringing in chunks and sounds from their bands and COMBINING those sounds! I couldn’t ask for anything more other than having Malefic (aka Xasthur) in there somewhere. Den Saakaldte wouldn’t be something that I would recommend to those that are still new and/or unfamiliar with the black metal genre. But those of you that are familiar with black metal, YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS!!

Den Saakaldte means “The So-Called” in Norwegian (if someone knows how to pronounce this, PLEASE TELL ME!). Something that is very interesting to me is that there are members in this band that are from bigger-name bands that release albums with high-production quality. There are also members that play in the underground metal world with crappy recordings. I initially thought that the bigger members would insist that the album be in high-quality, but it’s not! Just the fact that I’m hearing famous black metal musicians in an extremely underground band makes me super excited. But unfortunately, there have been several side projects and collaborations that have failed miserably. Den Saakaldte is not a band you want to make that kind of assumption on.

The most unique thing about this group is that they have a trumpet player; yeah that’s right, a fucking trumpet player! Although the trumpet player isn’t any better than average, this is almost as surprising as hearing the banjos in the new Taake album. The best musician in this band is the drummer. The drummer expresses mind-blowing footwork and creates a colorful sound that flows perfectly with the rest of the music. Of course, since we have the Shining vocalist doing the vocals on this album, the vocals couldn’t POSSIBLY sound any more black metal. His vocals in this project tend to be more on the deeper side; even letting out some deep growls at certain points in the album. There isn’t anything specific about the guitarists that stick out to me; but they’re still amazing guitarists and are PERFECT for the band. The bassist (most well-known as being from 1349) plays his much recognized style that consists of harmonizing the root notes of the chords that the guitarists are playing.

The intro and interlude tracks are piano/keyboard tracks played by the keyboardist (I’m not captain obvious). I like how some of the tracks are 100% PURE NORWEGIAN BLACK METAL, and that others are completely new. The second song on the album is one of the pure black metal ones. In this song, the drummer highlights his skills and creativity by taking the front of the line, right next to the vocals. There is something that I would change in any other situation EXCEPT for this one. Those of you that have been reading my reviews for a while now know that bass-filled kick drums make me happy. But in music (especially black metal) that has this much of a “raw” low-quality sound, the fact that the kick drums aren’t as profound actually make it much easier to enjoy.

My favorite song off this album is Samma Skrot, Samma Korn (whatever the hell THAT means). In this song, Den Saakaldte unveils something new; something that has more of a traditional metal feel with a thick black metal crust. I’m going to leave the rest for you to find out for yourself. All I can say is that this is an AMAZING album that I already own a physical copy of. I would give this 19/20. 

And in case you are interested, I made a fantastic Den Saakaldte wallpaper:

2012 Metal Alliance Tour

Will you be there? Cause I sure as hell will be.

Bands I'm most excited for (in order):

1. Dying Fetus (3rd time seeing them)
2. The Faceless (2nd time seeing them)
3. DevilDriver (2nd time seeing them)
4. Job for a Cowboy (3rd time seeing them)
5. Impending Doom (2nd time seeing them)
6. 3 Inches of Blood
7. I don't even know the last band...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lost Inside - Hearts Will Grow Heavy

It seems that my love for Lost Inside grows each time I get another album by them. In the year 2011, Lost Inside did a Devin Townsend-type move where they released multiple albums, but each of them having a totally different sound. For those of you that haven’t read my review on their other 2011 album, Mourning Wept Beside Me, I suggest that you read (and at least try to) listen to that first before continuing into this review. BUT FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT ARE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING CLEANER AND LESS NOISY, this is an amazing album that combines Lost Inside’s depressive black metal (DBM) artistry with EXTREMELY melodic clean guitar riffs that is backed by slower, simpler drumming and clean vocals (aka singing). If you ask me, I couldn’t possibly think of a better pair of DBM albums to be released by the same band in the same year.

I’m going to be honest that I’m much fonder of Mourning Wept Beside Me, but I’ve been listening to Hearts will Grow Heavy so much lately that I can’t help but tell the world about it! I’m going to start this off by doing some comparing of the two 2011 Lost Inside records. First off, in Mourning Wept Beside Me, the entire sound of the music has a really hazy and almost mushy sound that could be described as a droning ambience of heavily distorted guitars that have a soft fuzz to it with the vocals being more in the background trying to find its way through the thick fog of the music instead of being the loudest thing. In Hearts Will Grow Heavy, the sound is much farther from that foggy/atmospheric sound and has a much cleaner and crisper sound to it. In other words, you can hear each instrument perfectly; there isn’t any “droning”. Also, Mourning Wept Beside Me is almost completely melancholic DBM, as opposed to this album, which is primarily made up of clean electric guitar riffs played (surprisingly) in major keys, giving the music an extremely melodic and peaceful sound.

I really want to tell you what song to look up first because I want you to have the ABSOLUTE BEST first impression with this album. The song that I want you to look up is the title track (the last song on the album). The song starts out with the PERFECT example of those melodic guitar melodies that are up-beat and almost happy sounding because of the major keys that they’re played in. After a while of just hearing the guitar and drums, you hear the atmospheric keyboard backgrounds fading in, which only multiply the beauty of the music. Then, out of nowhere (I sure as hell wasn’t expecting this) you start to hear SINGING VOICES! Now before you let that turn you away, the singing isn’t front and center; it’s in the background, leaving the guitar still at the front. Of course, just like any perfect Lost Inside song, you get a nice strong, thick taste of the melodic depressive black metal that these guys have the ability to create.

Once again, the vocals are beyond professional quality. Unfortunately there are so many black metal vocalists that (in my opinion) embarrass the genre itself with the sounds that escape their mouths. It’s even more unfortunate when the music is good! Some of those bands include A Cloud in Circle, Drown in Solitude, and Demonic Forest. But in Lost Inside’s case, the vocals are above and beyond. Honestly, I couldn’t ask for anything more than what Lost Inside has already put into the masterpiece known as Hearts Will Grow Heavy. I would give this 20/20. 

Lamentations of the Ashen - In Distance (Implorations Unto the Wind)

Lamentations of the Ashen is one of my very favorite bands. Some might think that it’s just simply because they’re from the depressive black metal (DBM) genre, but that would be wrong. Out of the many DBM artists that I’ve discovered over the past year and a half, Lamentations of the Ashen has always stuck out to me. This band was actually one of the first ones that I got when I really started getting into the DBM world; some of the others being Saol, Woods of Desolation, Austere, Gris, and Blutklinge. Although this wasn’t the first record I heard by Lamentations of the Ashen, this has always been my favorite by far by this band; even after the masterpiece that was just released.

Of course, like most of the DBM bands out there, there is only one person behind all the music. Just writing each part for each instrument on each song is hard enough by itself, the task of writing all that and having the outcome be the definition of depressive beauty is seemingly impossible. But time and time again I am proved wrong. There is NOTHING that Lamentations of the Ashen has put out that is less than flawless. Probably a huge part of why listening to this guy’s music is so enjoyable is the production work. The sound of the guitars and how everything is balanced out but still has a very ambient and droning sound is really something that this album couldn’t be without. Although most people might think that DBM is completely raw, it’s actually not. Even these guys add some distortion to their vocals to give them a fuzzier sound, they edit the sound of the guitars to make them sound more to their liking (sometimes cleaner, sometimes crunchier and heavier), and they turn down the volume of the drum tracks, and so on. So the production work that was done on this record makes everything clear and audible while still having that “raw” black metal sound.

Another reason why Lamentations of the Ashen is much easier to enjoy is because the vocals are top-notch. Believe me, there are A LOT of HORRIBLE black metal vocalists out there; so many that it saddens me just thinking about it. This guy is one of the best in the ENTIRE black metal genre (ok that might be a SLIGHT overstatement). Good enough to easily be compared with Burzum, Xasthur, Naglfar, and Gris.

One big reason why DBM is so underground is because there are so many artists from that area that play the same riff over and over for ten minutes without changing the song at all. I will admit that there are songs by some of my personal favorites like Lost Inside, Xasthur, and Forgotten Land that tend to get over repetitive. Here’s when I make exceptions: when the riff is interesting and engaging, and when there is change going on in the background (with the “repetitive” line still front and center). Lamentations of the Ashen have shown some signs of unnecessary repetition unfortunately, but it’s nowhere to be found in this album. But that depends on how much repetition it takes for it to start bothering you. For those of you that HATE repetition in music, skip the first track because the drums stick out a little too much and are pretty repetitive (but not enough to bother me in the slightest bit).

The song that I would HIGHLY recommend that you look up first is the second track, A Memoire of Departure. This song starts out with breathtakingly beautiful keyboard melodies that took me by surprise to then drag you into a tunnel of DEEP emotion that contains both solitude and peace. Plus, all the instruments are perfectly balanced out and the production is pristine. When this song ends almost 20 minutes later, I’ve never been able to resist starting the song over instead of listening to the rest of the record. This is an album that I would give a perfect score and would recommend to all black metal/depressive black metal/WHATEVER fans that haven’t already heard it. 

Monday, February 27, 2012


Prepare yourself for a LOT of underground black metal and DBM (depressive black metal, my FAVORITE genre of music) reviews. Bands include (but are not limited to) Lost Inside, Lamentations of the Ashen, Grimfaug, Kampfar, Drudkh, Den Saakaldte, Dantalion, Aosoth, A Cloud Forest, Happy Days, and The Sun Came up upon the Left.

I will also be posting some reviews due to several requests which include Asking Alexandria, Led Zeppelin, Children of Bodom, and Nevermore.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Periphery - Periphery

Periphery hasn’t even been in the music industry for more than two years and they’ve already sold a surprising amount of records and headlined their own tour! They released their debut self-titled record when I was on spring break in 2010. The only thing I can remember from that month was getting my pre-order of the new Annotations of an Autopsy album in the mail (which I LOVE) and seeing that goddamn Periphery logo EVERYWHERE I went on the internet to the point where I got sick of seeing it! After the hype about them had died down a bit (yet it still hasn’t died off yet, especially with a new album coming soon), I decided to listen to them. When my friend showed me the single off the album, Jetpacks Was Yes, I instantly understood why there has been THIS MUCH hype about them over the past two years! Two months after that, I saw them perform on stage and I’ve got my eye on the Sumerian Records website, waiting for the pre-orders to become available.

Of course, like 97% of all the other Sumerian Records artists, Periphery’s sound revolves around a Meshuggah-influenced pseudo breakdown that takes up most of each song. Although I’m not a big Meshuggah fan, I do think that it sounds pretty cool, especially when it’s just the blueprint of something completely different. That’s why I like many Sumerian bands like Veil of Maya, Animals as Leaders, Born of Osiris, Asking Alexandria, and After the Burial. But most of these bands (with the exception of Animals as Leaders and a few others) tend to have TOO much in common than what I would like. That’s why Periphery is extremely refreshing. If you don’t know quite what I’m talking about, notice that the majority of the bands on the Sumerian roster have screaming/growling as their main vocal style (aka screamo/deathcore/tech death/metalcore/etc.) That’s why Periphery, a band that focuses mainly on singing and more of their own progressive metal sound, sticks out to me as being one of the best.

But of course I try my best not to let record labels influence my opinion on bands. Periphery’s progressive metal sound reaches opposite corners of the genre that have already been touched and even further-expands the walls of the genre by going places where no band has ever dared to go before. The most interesting and unique trait that they carry is that they do that heavy Meshuggah breakdown thing, but have melodic keyboards and high-pitched singing that shouldn’t match, but flow with the rest of the music perfectly. The bassist doesn’t have the treble on his guitar turned up at all. Instead, he has the low-end booming to enhance the chugging of the guitars and the kick drums.

The best musician in the band BY FAR is the vocalist. Being the fourth (and the best) vocalist this band has had since their formation in 2005, Spencer has one of the cleanest, highest, and crisp singing voices that I’ve ever heard in my entire life. I’m talking like…this guy being the best singer I’ve heard since I first heard Greg Lake’s voice when I was in third grade (I’ll give a quarter to anyone who already knows who that is). Not only can he sing like no other, he can SCREAM like most others only wish they could. Obviously, the best example of his vocal abilities is in Jetpacks Was Yes, probably my (and most other people’s) favorite song off the record.

But that song isn’t what the whole album sounds like. Remember that I said that every corner in the metal genre is reached in this album. Well, where is the heavy shit then? The answer lies in Buttersnips (whatever that’s supposed to mean), The Walk, and most of all, Zyglrox. These aren’t the only songs, but they’re certainly the best HEAVY songs for those of you headbangers and moshers (especially the last one). In fact, those are the songs where the drummer takes the front-end. You get to hear his complex, deep, and LOUD kick drumming abilities in The Walk and Butternsnips. Not only that, his drumming is nearly impossible to keep up with because it keeps changing and occasionally hits something on an off-beat to try to throw you off. If you want to hear this guy’s blast beats, listen to Zyglrox, and don’t underestimate his skills; trust me. Honestly, Zyglrox sounds like a COMPLETELY different band than Jetpacks was Yes; there’s next to no similarities other than that the screaming sounds similar in both songs.

Insomnia, the opening track, is probably the best choice for the first song because it shows you a little bit of everything that Periphery plays on the record. It opens up with a trippy-sounding keyboard part that quickly transitions into the drummer pulling you into the explosive body of the song that gets everyone’s head banging. The singing sounds oddly out of place in some parts of the song because it’s his beautiful voice put on top of a really loud and heavy breakdown. When you think the fun is over after Zyglrox pounds you six feet into the earth, the fifteen-minute long track known only as Racecar takes you onto an entirely different path. This is where most of the progression takes place. Racecar remains the most important track on the album, opening up with an extremely tight and heavy Meshuggah sound; all of the chaos that Zyglrox left behind is let out of the cage, along with all of the melodic and jazzy elements. All of these sounds constantly fuse together and separate in different combinations and at different times. Racecar is a song that is the exact OPPOSITE of predictable and I would highly recommend you listen to that one if the rest of the album wasn’t progressive enough for you.

Periphery’s self-titled debut is a metal masterpiece and will always be remembered by all, no matter how long this band lasts. The amount of progression and genre-defying acts that Periphery does in this record is inconceivable and can only be believed if you listen to it. I would give this album a perfect score and I have exceptionally high expectations for their next record, because it’s hard to believe that it can get any better than this. But I’ve been proven wrong time and time again by countless other bands. 

Gojira - The Way of all Flesh

Gojira has earned their own special place in heavy metal history as being one of the most influential and important bands in the genre, especially in the extreme metal areas. Not only that, they’re one of the most experimental as well. You would assume that I would just put them under “progressive death”, but I’ve always had them under thrash death because those are the two main genres they fuse and thrash death is what comes to mind whenever I hear them. My first Gojira album was From Mars to Sirius; not an album that impressed me very much until several years later when I was more familiar with that kind of music. It was The Way of all Flesh that really got me hooked on these guys. Proving to be one of the BEST thrash death album I’ve ever heard next to DevilDriver’s Beast (which doesn’t even compare), The Way of all Flesh should be an essential for all metalheads (old and new) worldwide.

Of course since I’m most active on Spirit of Metal, which is a French site, the metal scene in France seems to be greater there than anywhere else (simply because the majority of the members on there are…wait for it…FRENCH!). As well as that, I keep getting temporarily convinced that there are more metalheads in France than anywhere else (the country with the highest population of metalheads is Germany). In reality, the French metal scene is actually quite small, with Gojira being one of the few bands that dominate it.

Here’s a warning for any of you that are new to the experimental/progressive side of things or just metal in general. This music isn’t likely to strike your fancy instantly like other (more traditional) bands might. These guys have an EXTREMELY abstract and unique way of expressing themselves that took me several years to REALLY get into, even though I’ve always liked this album. When I say that these guys aren’t what someone would call “traditional”, I mean that there music isn’t usually really fast and brutal for moshing, and it doesn’t typically have a really fat and heavy beat for the headbangers. Most of the time, it’s somewhere in between. But regardless of whether you like it at first or not, this is an album that should always be in your collection because it will eventually grow on you (like it did for me).

I will say that I have a confession to make: because I am a metalhead of the 21st century, the thing that REALLY sparked my interest in this album was when I heard the seventh song. So the seventh song…why would that appeal to me more than the older guys (usually)? Because Randy Blythe does guest vocals in it! I heard the voice that I only knew from Lamb of God and I started going nuts, I was so excited. And that was the only song from this album that I listened to for a long time; that is, until I started becoming much more knowledgeable and more accustomed to the abstract and progressive metal bands. Now that I’ve grown extremely familiar with this record, I can enjoy it in its entity.

The creativity of the musicians in this band surpasses their technical and instrumental skills by light years. I’m not even kidding, they’re not as amazing of musicians as most people describe; they’re no better at their instruments than Kataklysm. But their creativity and songwriting abilities are like nothing I’ve ever heard before! The music that Gojira puts out is the kind of stuff that makes you think “how the hell does someone come up with something like this??” I don’t have an answer to that question because that’s STILL what I ask myself whenever I listen to trippy songs like A Sight to Behold, The Silver Cord, and The Art of Dying. Thankfully, the album isn’t COMPLETELY composed of songs like that; I would end up getting extremely overwhelmed if it was like that.

Gojira throws much more traditional songs that are easier on the ears (and the brain in some cases) that are extremely refreshing and are bursting with color and creativity. My two favorites would be All the Tears and Vacuity. There’s nothing I can say about All the Tears other than that’s the song that has Randy Blythe on vocals and that it’s really chaotic. I didn’t get my wish until towards the end of the album. I wanted to see what kind of headbanging song Gojira could make, and Vacuity answers that question. Vacuity is literally a one-of-a-kind headbanging track and is probably the most enjoyable song that I’ve ever heard Gojira release to the public.

The production on this album is pristine (which should be expected considering the high status and the importance this band has in the metal genre). If there’s anything that I’ve left out, it’s probably because I can’t put it into words because this record is very hard to comprehend. Being one of the most unique albums in metal history, The Way of all Flesh gets my score of 19/20. This album is ESSENTIAL for EVERYONE to have into their collection; I actually think that this record isn’t any more essential than Reign in Blood and Ride the Lightning. So listen to this and get it if you haven’t already. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Brutal Truth - End Time

All of my friends (online and in person) that are grindcore fans LOVE Brutal Truth. After hearing about them almost constantly after the release of Evolution Through Revolution, I decided it was time to humor my friends and get it. My first reaction was “what the hell?” But then after about a year or so it started to grow on me, therefore causing me to look forward to their next release. Well, it’s finally here and I’ll say, it’s nothing like Evolution Through Revolution…that is…until the third song. First impressions (aka the opening track on an album) are very important in my opinion, and Brutal Truth has done an excellent job at choosing the worst and most misleading songs to put in front of all the others. But enough riff-raff from me, let’s jump into this damn thing.

The first track isn’t something I listen to mainly because it’s literally noise and random notes that drag on for 15 minutes. I’m fine with noise, but not if it’s annoying and has constant high-pitched guitar harmonics. But I’m not going to bitch about that because all you have to do is press the “skip” button to go to track two. What you get out of that is a song that is MUCH MUCH slower than the Brutal Truth that you’re used to and is even a bit refreshing and shows some creativity. Malice has a really ambient sound with booming drums and mid-range vocals that make sure that you AREN’T prepared for what they have lying in wait for you. Not only that, Malice is longer than most traditional Brutal Truth tracks, so don’t let that mislead you either.

You are then bludgeoned by the explosively powerful and merciless sound of the kick drums and guitars from Simple Math (whatever that’s supposed to mean). This is where the real fun action starts. I am happy to say that unlike Evolution Through Revolution, the overall sound quality of End Time is extremely professional! I love how you can actually HEAR everything! But other than that, there’s not TOO much difference between the two albums. I will say that the musicians have improved a great deal (not that it’s completely noticeable).

The drummer doesn’t seem completely lost like he does in Evolution Through Revolution. He actually does his job of being the backbone of the music and keeping things going. The funny thing is that the vocalist has changed quite a bit. He used to have a much deeper and dirtier yell, and now he has more of a falsetto raspy vocal style that occasionally switches to a deeper mid-range growl. I have no idea if the high-pitched thing he does is healthy or not, but it does sound a lot more professional and developed than what he did before. Other than that, there isn’t much to this album other than that it’s an excellent mix of death metal and grindcore, but with much more grind than death. I would give this record 15/20. 

Veil of Maya - Eclipse

The technical deathcore band Veil of Maya has been blowing people away since their 2008 release of The Common Man’s Collapse. I’ve always liked them, but I’ve never been BLOWN AWAY by their music. I was, though, quite impressed when I saw that their bassist was playing a 7-string bass guitar at the 2010 Summer Slaughter Tour. As far as keeping up with them, I haven’t really gone any further than getting their new releases a week or two after their release. I was made an offer by someone at Sumerian Records to be one of the reviewers for their upcoming release, Eclipse. Hey, it’s a free promo copy and I get to hear it before anyone else, why the hell not? Almost a week after receiving it, I can now say that Veil of Maya has successfully blown me away. They made tons of huge changes in their overall sound with [id], but instead of taking the sound from that album and adding some stuff on top of it, they decided to go ahead and create something completely new yet again! The best way to sum this up is that it’s deathcore with more death and less core.

The intro track is fairly predictable and has been done by so many other deathcore groups like Chelsea Grin, Bleed from Within, As Blood Runs Black, Murder the Frail, and others have done countless time. The intro track is pretty much just a really fancy breakdown that blends into the next song. This isn’t a total downer because it sounds cool, but I would expect something a little more out of a band with as much status as Veil of Maya. Here’s the thing that caught me by surprise: the first full song doesn’t sound ANYTHING like the Veil of Maya I’ve known since middle school! Where the hell are all of the constant fancy technical breakdowns? This is probably one of the best deathcore albums I’ve heard in my life! I love deathcore albums that AREN’T constant breakdown after breakdown after FUCKING BREAKDOWN!!

Those of you that hate the deathcore genre for that very reason, THIS IS AN ALBUM YOU NEED TO HEAR! Every single musician in this band have improved a thousand times since [id]. I guess they were really trying to expand their creative abilities with [id], and then used Eclipse to expand and improve their technical and instrumental skills, which means that I’m going to have EXTREMELY high expectations when they release their next album two years from now. I’m going to list off basically how each musician has improved over the past two years. The vocalist hasn’t really been the best growler or screamer out there, until now. His growls are extremely powerful and deep (something that was lacking majorly in [id]). His screams sound much more developed and professional in Eclipse than the screams in Common Man’s Collapse and [id], which sounded strained and weak at times. So a huge improvement on the vocalist’s part has really enhanced the listening experience.

The drummer is probably the one that has improved the most out of the whole band. Not in the area of his technical skills, but more so in the areas of the different styles that he can play. Before, it seemed that all he knew how to do was really complex kick drum work while hitting the high-hat on the down beats and the snare in random places. Now, you see him playing flawless blast beats, driving rock-based beats, and just outright creative shit that I’ve never heard before! He also seems to have more involvement in the music than before, where the guitars were the center of attention. That’s another thing I just realized! The focus isn’t on one specific member! The WHOLE BAND is under the spotlight the WHOLE TIME.

The guitarists sound much more together, which sounds better than in [id], where they sounded like they were each playing something completely different; which got really confusing sometimes. Although those extremely abstract guitar sounds are just what I need at certain times, but I get so much more enjoyment with what they have done here. The bass is weird on this album. It’s one of those things where you can hear what notes the bassist is playing, but only on the really low end that can be heard with a subwoofer. So on top of each individual musician improving, the overall songwriting and song structure is literally a thousand times more organized than ever before.

If you’re asking me for any certain highlights on the album, I would say that Vicious Circles is DEFINITELY the best song on the album. It’s one of those things where that’s the first song I go to when I turn on this album. Fortunately, Veil of Maya doesn’t leave you COMPLETELY in the dust; they bring back memories of their older sound with Punisher, an extremely heavy and complex song. Other than that, the songs have A LOT of blast beat drumming and much fewer breakdowns to show that they are out of the in-crowd and that they can progress from what they’ve been doing almost their entire career. I know it may seem like I’ve been giving a lot of high ratings lately, but that’s just because I’m in a mood to show the world some of the good music that they’ve been missing. I would give this 19/20. 

Struc/tures - Divided By

Struc/tures is a young progressive metalcore group that is appropriately signed on to Sumerian Records. Sumerian Records is known for being the home to several progressive metal/death/screamo artists which include (but are not limited to) The Faceless, Animals as Leaders, Periphery, Born of Osiris, Veil of Maya, After the Burial, Asking Alexandria, I See Stars, The Contortionist, and Stray from the Path. Pretty much the only TRULY HEAVY bands that I’ve seen off this label are The Contortionist and The Faceless. The others have some heavy parts, but only The Faceless are able to stand up against the first track off of Struc/tures’ debut full-length.

Everywhere I see Struc/tures mentioned on the internet, I pretty much only see “progressive metal” or “progressive metalcore” under the description. If the whole album sounded like the first song, I would call them full on deathcore because there isn’t anything I’ve heard under metalcore that’s as heavy as this other than The Dead Lay Waiting and Mnemic. I know that this sentence will turn many of you away, but don’t let it do that because I’m not trying to do so, but this band reminds me of Bring me the Horizon in so many ways. In other words, since BMTH has gone way downhill with their 2010 album, Struc/tures is what those young BMTH fans need to be listening to because…well, Struc/tures is better! Although there are some elements that Struc/tures have in their album that are actually the faults in BMTH’s music (like the yelling thing), these guys take those faults and turn them into qualities.

Although the opening track is almost completely deceiving, the rest of the album continues to bludgeon you with down-tuned guitars and breakdowns so loud that they distorted the speakers during the recording process, making it sound like it’s YOUR speakers that are getting killed. The distorting of the speakers thing is unique and cool in its own way, but it’s something that starts to get annoying (my dad raised me as an audiophile, so I’m a freak about clean and crisp recording quality). That aside, this is one of the heaviest and most powerful metalcore albums ever to land a place in my collection.

The vocal styles go all over the place. Although using growls more than anything else; the vocalist uses screams, singing, talking, and even that infamous “Oli Sykes” yell (I know that other artists have been using that since the 1980s, but Oliver Sykes kind of put his face on the vocal style, unfortunately). The vocalist isn’t the BEST singer, but he definitely fits the requirements needed to sound good with the rest of the band.

The song that I would say is the best example of the band’s general sound is Hydroplaning. It shows the sound that (for some reason) almost every other Sumerian band has with the really abstract sounding chords, heavy exploding breakdowns, every type of vocal style used in the album, and tons of melodic parts and guitar soloing. So if you want a general idea of what this band sounds like, Hydroplaning is the song that you should look up first. Encounter reminds me almost completely of this “djent” thing that Sumerian Records has incorporated in almost all of its bands, along with these really fast and complex high-pitched guitar solos (sometimes referred to as guitar “wankery”). But not to say that it’s a totally negative thing, it’s just something that’s starting to become the Sumerian identity, which is not good, because a record label needs to have an extremely diverse range of styles that its bands cover.

Overall, this is a monstrous album and is one of the best progressive metal/metalcore album’s I’ve ever heard in my life. Definitely check this out because it’s not going to be very long before these guys are headlining tours and having big-name bands as opening acts. I would give this album 20/20 for being EXACTLY the metalcore album I’ve been searching for all these years!

Threat Signal - Threat Signal

Threat Signal has been my favorite metalcore band since they released Vigilance in 2009. Since then, I have bought all of their CDs, a shirt (which I am coincidentally wearing now), and have also had the pleasure to see them live in early 2010 when they opened for Dark Tranquility. Obviously, this isn’t a band that is able to think on the road; they’re not one of those bands that can write new material while on tour. Although I might be wrong because I don’t know if they’ve been on any European tours since the release of Vigilance, but they only went on two U.S. tours. So after they finished touring with Dark Tranquility, my friend decided to follow them on their Facebook. They apparently kicked back and caught up on their sleep during the holidays and then said that they wouldn’t be updating as often because they had some stuff to work out and of course, write material for their next album. Those of you that know me well know that Vigilance is by far one of my favorite metalcore albums. For me, it’s one of those albums that make me think “the next album can’t POSSIBLY be as good, if not BETTER, than this!” The instant I put the CD of their 2011 self-titled album in, I knew I was wrong.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of skepticism in me at first because of a misleading statement my friend (mainly a fan of Under Reprisal) made; saying that “the songs got pretty monotonous after a while”. Although I just let it pass because he wasn’t in one of those metalcore phases at the time, it still left some questions in my head that included worry that he could possibly be right. As I’m sitting here now writing this review, I AM SO FUCKING GLAD THAT HE WAS WRONG! Honestly, Under Reprisal gets a little bet repetitive during the last few songs. And although the songs on Vigilance are far more different from each other than the ones on this record, the word monotonous never popped into my head when I listened to it.

The statement that “this is their heaviest and angriest album” is strongly debatable. The reason why is because Under Reprisal sounds heavier and angrier in the guitars and drums because there is a lot more body on the lower end (bass), giving it a MUCH more powerful sound. The vocals tend to also be rougher and dirtier in some parts. But their self-titled sounds angrier than Under Reprisal in some parts as well. I think that most of it lies into the amount of raging emotion that is put into the vocals. That’s one of the reasons why I like screaming so much, because it’s so easy to tell when the vocalist is putting A LOT of emotion in them. Of course it’s more than possible to do that in growling, but I guess that I can hear emotion easier in screams. So in my opinion, this album isn’t HEAVIER than Under Reprisal, it’s ANGRIER.

In this record, Jon’s vocals tend to go back to the Under Reprisal days by focusing mainly on the mid-ranges and lows rather than primarily doing high-pitched screams. This was probably the first thing that I noticed while listening to this. Of course, Jon still does that singing that reminds me of Chester Bennington whenever I hear it (I’m pretty sure he knows that he sounds like him). I didn’t hear him doing any higher-pitched screams in the first track, so I was eager to hear them in the second song, but the first high-pitched tone that reaches his mouth made me cringe. Could it really be possible? Has Jon screwed over his high range? I sure hope not! Although the rest of the highs in that song were better, it still didn’t have that sound that they did in Vigilance. Thankfully, my doubt was saved by New World Order when for that split second, he uttered out a scream that took me back to 2009 when I first heard his voice. So the vocals on this album get my stamp of approval.

I do remember listening to Fallen Disciples when the band posted it on their Facebook (just keep in mind that I don’t have a Facebook account). The unfortunate thing that I remembered about it was that it wasn’t quite as fulfilling and satisfying as I would have liked, but I was going to just let the album play through without me skipping from song to song. Although the first three tracks were AMAZING, I was still looking for something more; something that was going to put that HUGE smile on my face like the third track on Vigilance did. The song that really gave me high hopes was Trust in None. But I still wasn’t getting that feeling!

This is where patience is required, because some bands like to save the best for last. When the opening guitar riff for Disposition leaped out at me, I knew that this was the one. Disposition is like a modernized song from Vigilance. The thing that reminds me of Vigilance in this song is that really complex…I guess you could call it a really fast breakdown (although I wouldn’t consider it a breakdown in any case). Disposition shows every side of Threat Signal that you remember from their previous material and many new sides. When this song finished, my neck was hurting and I instantly had to replay the song before continuing to make sure that I wasn’t hallucinating.

One thing that I feel I should be able to say is whether this album is better than Vigilance or not. Here’s my answer to that question: this album isn’t better than Vigilance, but Vigilance isn’t any better than this (in other words neither of them is better than the other). This is an album I would give a perfect score for blowing me away despite the misleading statements my friend gave me. I would recommend this to anyone, even if they’re not a fan of the metalcore genre, because this isn’t the “stereotypical” metalcore, this is the LEGIT stuff!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Reviews to come

Some of you may have noticed that I've been throwing out reviews at lightning speed. Well prepare yourselves, because this is going to be happening all week since I'm on mid-winter break with no homework. The albums I will be reviewing will include records by Fallujah, Threat Signal, Struc/tures, Animals as Leaders, Lacuna Coil, Veil of Maya, Vomitory, Brutal Truth, Alesana, and Gojira.

Slaughterbox - The Ubiquity of Subjugation

Slaugherbox has been around for a long time considering that they just released their first album only a couple of months ago. I remember seeing them live in California in 2009 at the HUGE California Deathfest. But the weird thing is, they’ve never been inactive since the release of their first demo in 2007. Honestly, I almost completely forgot about them until Amputated Vein Records announced that they had just signed on Slaughterbox and that they will be releasing a new album pretty soon. I was fucking psyched when I saw this because I’ve grown horribly sick of the two promo demo CDs that I have by Slaughterbox (and believe me, they’re amazing). Here’s the thing that make me go “what the hell?” when Amputated Vein put up the title track on their website, LISTEN TO THE DRUMS MAN! I remember that their drummer was REALLY fast (like Fleshgod, Rings of Saturn, The Faceless…that kind of fast), but I have no recollection of THIS! When I looked them up on YouTube, everyone was saying DRUM MACHINE, but when I got the CD in the mail, it just said “drums”. So honestly, I don’t really give a crap because it sounds awesome. And there are several bands out there that do things in the studio that aren’t reproducible on stage; I just call them “studio artists”.

So I’m not going to go into a big thing about the drummer other than that it sounds…FAST. But the funny thing is that the guitarist and bassist do a perfect job of keeping up with the drums! So anyway, this is the American technical death band Slaughterbox (that’s one of the coolest band names ever!).

The drummer is apparently the vocalist as well. And I am going to say that even though his vocals don’t bother me all that much, I can tell instantly that if he doesn’t stop doing those REALLY intense inhaled screams that he’s fucked. His throat isn’t going to last that long at all. I said that so that you don’t think that I’m encouraging him do keep doing it. But during the parts that are extremely intense and electrifying, those high-pitched squeals do none other than double (if not triple) the intensity. His pig squeals/growls are amazing though and I love them, he just seriously needs to stop the high squealing.

Another reason why this isn’t the best live band is because the guitarist does a lot of tracking (I don’t know if I said that right). In other words, he records over himself so that it sounds like there are two and sometimes three guitarists playing at the same time. So I’m glad that this isn’t a band that hasn’t done a whole lot of touring (especially so far after the release of this record) because it would be really disappointing. If they got a second guitarist, I would be more motivated to see them live.

Despite the flaws within the choices the band has made, the music is extremely creative and colorful. There is an excellent mix of brutality, speed, technicality, and even quite a bit of melodic elements that are layered on top of the music (not something I was expecting at all). The melodic elements work great at giving you some time to glue your face back together so that you can be at least somewhat prepared for the rest of the album. As well as that, I think they were trying to show that they had a wider range in musical creativity and style than most other brutal/tech death artists so that they could hopefully stick out from the crowd. And so far they have. This is an extremely enjoyable listen and would be something that I hope you don’t bash purely because the drums are most likely sped up in some parts, because you have to admit that it sounds cool. So for being the black sheep and being willing to take major risks, Slaughterbox yet again successfully earn my stamp of approval; earning my score of 17/20. 

Hour of Penance - The Vile Conception

I’ve seen this amazing album artwork pop up in numerous places all over the internet, and every time I see it I tell myself to fucking GET IT! But obviously my unfortunate procrastination habits got the better of me and I didn’t bother to get it until a week ago, after TWO YEARS! I know that Italy has always had one of the most prominent and diverse music scenes in the world. Apparently I was wrong in thinking that it has since faded away. Along with tons of folk, rock, neoclassical, jazz, and (most recently) metal artists that have been continuing to blow me away, it’s obvious that I was more wrong than I originally thought. For those of you that aren’t aware of the metal artists that are popping out of Italy these days, you should turn your attention to artists like Dark Lunacy, Lacuna Coil, Fleshgod Apocalypse (my favorite), Deathrow, Depressio Aeterna, Fear of Eternity, Rhapsody of Fire, Sickening, Theatres Des Vampires, Throne of Molok, and Inallsenses. Just a list like that shows that there is definitely SOME kind of music scene going on there; and that’s just a small portion of the METAL scene, wait until you hear the modernized-European folk bands that are coming from there. But we’re here to talk about the Italian technical death band Hour of Penance.

I’m going to tell you that I didn’t find out who the vocalist on this album was until yesterday. And to tell you the truth, I’m not surprised at all. The reason why was because when I listened to this album for the second time, the first thing that came to mind was “there’s SOMETHING about this that reminds me of Fleshgod Apocalypse, but what is it??” Then after my fifth or sixth time listening to it, I figured out that it was the vocalist that sounded a lot like the vocalist from one of my favorite bands, Fleshgod Apocalypse. At that time, I didn’t know that Hour of Penance was from Italy, so I didn’t make that initial connection that a lot of you out there probably made. I then started to hear a lot of similarities in the music between the two bands, especially the explosive blast beat drumming and the ultra-deep guitar chords. So when I looked them up on Spirit of Metal to add them to my bands list, I decided to look at the members because it said their current vocalist had only been around since 2010. And I then saw that the vocalist on this album was none other than Francesco Paoli from Fleshgod. And guess who did the drums, Mauro Mercurio, the one who did the drums on Fleshgod’s 2009 debut, Oracles.

I honestly had no idea that there was a Fleshgod twin out there. But this band obviously isn’t an all-out IDENTICAL twin to Fleshgod, there are quite a few differences. But I don’t think that I should make this review a comparison between the two bands, I want to critique this record by itself, without mentioning Fleshgod Apocalypse every two sentences.

My applause to whoever produced this album because it sounds astonishing and only enhances the listening experience. The thing I love the most is how much fucking volume and BASS the drums have; it only makes the music sound monstrous and apocalyptic (in a good way).  I haven’t heard a tech death album this powerful and angry in…I don’t know how the hell long…a long time! Here’s something I want to tell those of you that have really powerful subwoofers or have extremely powerful (bass-compatable) headphones: the drummer has one of those bars that creates a bassplosion when he hits it. The funny thing is that this is mostly seen in deathcore albums (where it is typically overused), but it sounds amazing and makes me smile whenever it’s hit in this album.

The band is extremely tight and none of the members seem to drift off for even a second. This is one of those few cases where the visualization of having all of the members’ parts being squeezed into the eye of a sewing needle is an accurate description of how tight and together the band is. I love how the guitars are NOT overpowering like they are in almost every other tech death album I’ve heard out there, but there is one problem. Where’s the bass? Of course I can tell that there’s a bass player because I can hear the BASS, but I can’t hear the NOTES that the bass GUITAR is playing. This gets kind of annoying mainly for bass players like me because…I don’t know…if you were a guitarist, wouldn’t it bother you if the vocals and drums overpowered everything else?

This album is unrelentingly brutal and will leave you shattered (if not in pieces) after you listen to it. Although this band has had a lot more attention than I initially assumed, this is still an extremely underappreciated album. I wouldn’t recommend this to people who aren’t quite able to handle REALLY brutal bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse, Nile, Hate Eternal, Whitechapel, and Brain Drill. I would give this flawless piece of plastic 19/20. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Severed Crotch - The Nature of Entropy

I found these guys via Amputated Vein Records a couple of months ago but never bothered to look them up until a couple of weeks ago. Here’s one thing that really screwed me over, when I see a name like Severed Crotch, the first that comes to mind is some random hilarious grindcore/death grind band. But obviously once I actually sat down and listened to them, I was wrong. Although Severed Crotch wouldn’t be my name of choice for a traditional tech death band, this is one of those cases where the music is so good that the name doesn’t even matter. They could be named “Elephants who like to Fart on Human Babies” for all I care, I would still love them! This is something you NEED to hear because it is amazing.

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of new tech death bands like Slaughtery, Hour of Penance, Slaughterbox, and Carnophage. The thing is, with most of the bands I’ve been uncovering recently, and none of them stick out to me as being totally creative. Of course they all have fucking skills, but Severed Crotch was EXACTLY what I needed (I just realized how perverted that sounds). Here’s the thing with SC (that’s what I’m going to call them), they’re not SUPER brutal, they’re not SUPER technical, and they’re not SUPER fast and chaotic; they’re all of those things evened out at a marginal level. This is perfect for those times where Rings of Saturn and Slaughterbox are just too fucking crazy, and Psycroptic and Atheist aren’t quite brutal enough.

The trait that SC has that won my heart was the fact that everything is tuned really low and that everything is HELLA deep, especially the vocalist (whom I am extremely jealous of). The vocalist! Oh my god, when people ask me what my favorite kinds of vocals are, I usually show them Majestic Beast by Amorphis or something by Opeth or The Faceless; but this guy is now up there as being one of the best and deepest growlers with Demon Carcass and Mikael Akerfeldt. Even his mid-ranges and highs blow me away! There’s one question that this leaves me with, is he this good live?

The songs range from being blasting speeds to slower, headbanging-appropriate tracks. Human Recipes is probably the best headbanging track, having tight, but slow kick drumming that create a thick beat that gets my head going instantly. Ecstasy in Death is definitely my favorite song off of this album. Ecstasy in Death shows SC’s full potential in all areas including the musicians technical skills, creativity, how many genres they can infuse into one song, and how fucking brutal they can get. The brutality level reaches its highest point during the extreme breakdown in the middle of the song, which took me by surprise because I was so used to listening to all of these bands that were trying NOT to add in breakdowns like “most of the other shitty metal bands out there” are. The bassist is crazy as well, especially in Ecstasy in Death. Even though you can’t hear the bassist very well except when he’s reaching higher notes and when he’s soloing; when you listen closely, it sounds like he’s playing the lead guitar part, only you can’t really hear it that well. Some of these tech death bassists just BLOW MY MIND when it comes to the complexity, speed, and utter creativity of what they play. Some of the other notable tech death bassists out there that amaze me come from Obscura, Rings of Saturn, The Crinn, The Faceless, and Embryonic Devourment.

This is now one of my favorite technical death albums AND bands of all-time. This is something you NEED to hear because the name is deceiving, they’re AMAZING! I can’t stress that enough. This album is absolutely positively completely FLAWLESS and can’t be something that I wouldn’t recommend to someone. I would give this album 20/20 for being one of the best tech death albums (and vocalists!!) of all-time. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Awaiting the Autopsy - Couldn't Tell the Bodies Apart

It was because of these guys that I now listen to Disentomb, Gutted, Bloodboil, Eden Beast, Slaughterbox, Visceral Disgorge, and pretty much the underground BRUTAL death metal world. In other words, Awaiting the Autopsy led me to Amputated Vein Records (whom all except for one of the bands I just listed are signed on to). I know of no background information other than that there’s this one guy I know who’s CRAZY about them for some reason and considers them his FAVORITE band (I still wonder why). I heard this album and I’ve still kept it because I actually really enjoy listening to it. There is one big thing that caused my score of 17/20 to drop to 14/20 (which is hard to do). If you’re curious as to why, read on my friend.

When you play the first track on the record, you get a taste of some of the most brutal music out there with the headbanging (and awesomely named) track Baseball Bat Lobotomy. But that’s not the track I want you to hear first, I want you to first listen to the SECOND song, Backyard Autopsy. The first reason why is because I want you to hear how fucking powerful their drummer is and how much bass they put on the kick drums. The song starts with an EXPLOSION of speed and brutality which then drops down to one of the most brutal breakdowns I’ve EVER heard in my life and then…I’m sorry I can’t stop laughing at the sound that comes out of the vocalists mouth at the end of the breakdown!

I’m serious, WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO MAKE THAT SOUND?? IT DOESN’T SOUND COOL AT ALL! IT SOUNDS RETARDED!! That’s the damn reason why I can’t listen to this album very much is because the shitty vocalist RUINES it! His inhales suck pretty bad as well and sound completely amateur. They seriously need to save the vocalist from Shattered Eyes and have him as their vocalist after they give this piece of crap the boot. This is almost worse than that “EEEEEEE” sound Chris Barnes likes to make.

Thankfully, the sheer brutality and power of the rest of the band (mostly) makes up for the failure (aka vocalist) of the band. If I could, I would love to edit the music and take out the vocal tracks all together because the music on this record is amazing! I’m not joking, this isn’t something that you can miss (if you can just listen to the instrumental parts). The breakdowns have more brutality than the breakdowns of Suicide Silence, Whitechapel, and Here Comes the Kraken COMBINED. Really something that will cause major whiplash to make sure you don’t forget the day you listened to Awaiting the Autopsy.

My compliments to whoever produced this album because it is beyond professional. Except one thing, turn the fucking vocals down. If you’re in the mood for a bass-filled half hour pack of brutality that will leave you in thousands of pieces, this is exactly what you are looking for. Besides the vocalist, this album is amazing. I give this record 14/20. 

Throne of Molok - Impulsive Assault

The Italian progressive black metal band Throne of Molok is certainly one of the most progressive and unique black metal bands to release an album since Dimmu Borgir released For All Tid, where they fused Norwegian black metal with tons of orchestral and symphonic elements. A quick way to describe these guys’ music is that it’s 50% black metal, 44% industrial, and 6% metalcore. I’ve never heard a black metal band in my life that shoved in so much industrial sound into their music. I know there are other black metal bands that do that like Samael and Mysticum, but even they don’t put as much industrial music into their sound as much as Throne of Molok does. But remember, just progression alone doesn’t ensure that the record will be great; it has to be done well and sound good. And in the case of this album, IT SOUNDS GOOD!

The band is excellent at what they do, but unfortunately there aren’t any specific members of the band that stick out to me. I do think the vocalist has a very unique and crisp sound (which makes him lucky because they turned up the vocals really loud) and is even an excellent growler. The drummer’s style is extremely abstract and unfortunately doesn’t fit the music in some parts. The guitarists are fucking amazing, I’ll just say that right off the bat; if I HAD to choose my favorite musician, it would be the two guitarists. The song that really shows what the guitarists are capable of is my favorite song off the record, Nuclear Christ (I love that name!).

There are two basic types of industrial music that I’m familiar with. The first type is the slower, more electronic type of industrial played by groups like Angelspit. Then there’s the type of industrial music that I like most, which is the faster, more chaotic sound with fast computer-generated sounds alternating channels (making it even more chaotic). This is why I love Nuclear Christ so much, because you can hear in the intro that the two completely different types of music fit perfectly together like puzzle pieces. Although Nuclear Christ wasn’t the first song that I heard, Diverting Sea Levels (the opening track) shows that these guys are fucking METAL! The first song is also a great example of the metalcore-style breakdowns that they use occasionally on the record.

The unrelenting fury that is released by these cybergoth metalheads known as Throne of Molok is not going to be an experience that you’ll forget. This album obviously isn’t going to impress everyone because of how extremely unique and different it is from the rest of the metal world. The people that would have an easier time enjoying this record are the Samael fans (for obvious reasons). But even though I’m not a HUGE Samael fan (I only have one of their albums), this is a record that I LOVE and will NEVER forget. I also love the large amount of material contained in this album (15 songs). Being pretty much the most progressive and creative black metal record I’ve ever heard, Impulsive Assault earns my score of 18/20. I will be the first person to buy concert tickets when they come to Seattle. 

Origin - Entity

Origin is a band that I’ve been listening to for years and have seen live once. The thing that caught my eye on this album was that the much-loved vocalist for the New York death grind band Skinless (who recently broke up) is on this album and is now the official Origin vocalist! I mean, the bald guy was great and all, but a guy with vocals as brutal as the long-haired freak from Skinless is EXACTLY what Origin needed to take things to the next level. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but it was a lot different than their previous works. The thing that I think helped Origin change themselves was their signing on to Nuclear Blast Records, who is known for giving their bands complete freedom to write whatever the hell they want. Some bands fail to do this successfully (especially if they’re used to being dependent on the record label’s control over what they write), but Origin took advantage of that privilege and created a masterpiece that I own on vinyl (remember those, old guys? They’re those huge black discs that came before cassette tapes that they stopped making in the late 1980s).

The biggest change about this album is that it’s not as brutal as their older stuff. Instead, this is one of the most chaotic albums I’ve heard in my life. Don’t believe me? LISTEN TO EXPULSION OF FURY AND TELL ME THAT I’M WRONG AND THAT I’VE GOT A DUCK SHOVED UP MY BUTT. There are some albums out there that are chaos within the walls of the band, but Origin takes chaos and releases it to the world unconfined to devour the earth. They certainly did so when I saw them live with Hate Eternal, Vital Remains, Abysmal Dawn, and Phalgeron (any of those bands alone would be enough to blow someone to pieces). I knew that Origin is pretty huge, but I had no idea that it was of this magnitude. The utter chaos is almost all in the drummer whose legs can’t possibly be human (aka they’re really fast). When I first heard this album, I asked myself the same question that I asked when I first heard Oracles by Fleshgod Apocalypse: “How many pounds of crack does the drummer take before each show??” Although I would prefer that the bands I listen to be drug free (excluding weed), it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if their drummer takes some kind of stimulant.

There is one big thing about this album that bothers me a lot, and it’s not a problem with the music, it’s with the production. There is WAY too much treble! It’s one of those things that I can only listen to on my computer speakers that have lots of bass (as opposed to my Zune which obviously doesn’t have TONS of bass). I’m fine with this much treble, but only if it’s balanced out with the mid-ranges and bass. But that aside, the music contained on this record won’t melt your face, it will fucking TEAR IT TO PIECES.

I would like the guitars to have more of a gritty, crunchy sound as well because that would make the music that much more relentlessly brutal. The songs are the OPPOSITE of being repetitive and boring. This is one of those albums that have a lot of that high-pitched sweep picking that is seen in many tech death bands, but the rhythm guitars are relatively simple with extremely fast tremolo picking. One thing that surprised me was that the vocalist doesn’t have that really nasty growl that he did in Skinless (probably because he wanted to change things up a bit for himself); it still sounds brutal and dirty, but not quite what I wanted to hear from him.

Although my review of this album may seem mostly negative, the music and creativity behind this record is some of the best I’ve seen in the eight years that I’ve been listening to metal. The musicianship is hard to believe (especially the fact that they’re able to dream up something this complicated). There isn’t much else that I need to say about this other than that it’s one of the best technical death albums I’ve ever heard in my life and that you need to listen to it and fucking BUY IT before the chaos known as Origin consumes the entire planet…which includes you. This is a CLASSIC and should be loved by all regardless of its faults. I would give this a score of 19/20. 

The Faceless - Akeldama

Unfortunately I was too much of a wuss to handle Akeldama when it came out. But now that it’s been almost six years since its release, it’s about time I reviewed it because even though this is a more recent band, this album is probably one of the most important and influential albums in today’s death metal world. When kids of today think of The Faceless, the first songs that usually come to their minds are tracks like Prison Born, The Ancient Covenant, or Coldly Calculated Design. I can admit that even though Akeldama was the first Faceless album that I heard, Planetary Duality was the album I heard by them that made me piss myself. Because Planetary Duality was an album I heard before I even knew about bands like Obscura, Rings of Saturn (who probably weren’t even around then), Brain Drill, and Origin, The Faceless to me was the most technical band of all-time. But even though I’ve been proved wrong by bands like Rings of Saturn and Obscura, The Faceless still remains in my mind to be one of the most skilled and complex death metal bands ever to come into existence (or land on this planet in this case). Planetary Duality is still my favorite Faceless album, but Akeldama has obviously has a HUGE influence on the modern death metal world, especially in the brutal death and tech death areas.

Released under the (at that time) brand new Sumerian Records, Akeldama made it obvious to everyone that there was an underlying hunger amongst the metalhead community for this type of science fiction brutality. This was proved by huge record sales, sold-out concerts only months after Akeldama’s release, and an explosion of other bands following the same general musical style and lyrical themes. But I AM NOT SAYING that The Faceless STARTED this trend because bands have been doing this since Atheist started coming out with albums in the late 1980s. But enough of talking about the background behind this record, those of you that haven’t heard it need to read this review because this album is not what any of us expected.

The opening track shows off the inconceivable speed that can be perfectly obtained by the entire band with lazar-precision. The first couple of seconds of the first track sound just like any other faster-than-average death metal band; that is, until you get more into the song where things start getting really abstract and weird. This is still a song that I have a hard time choking down because it’s still weird to me. Mainly because it changes around so many times (maybe even too many times) that it can actually be hard to keep up with unless you’re really used to this kind of music. The song goes from fast death metal to sort of an Origin-style technical sound with guitar harmonics, leading into complex kick drums and melodic parts and…I give up…I’m not even able to put it into words it’s so complicated, just look up An Autopsy if you think you can handle it. I’ve honestly never heard a band do this before in my life (of course now I have, but I’m talking about when I gave it a second listen two years after its release).

Although most of the rest of the album isn’t quite as overwhelming as the opening track, don’t get the idea that the rest of the songs are boring and uncreative. There are some songs that have less technicality and…nevermind, there’s no such thing as “less/no/little technicality” in this album. That’s probably the reason why I couldn’t handle it when I was thirteen (and still have a slightly difficult time handling it now when I actually put all my focus on the music). BUT THIS IS NOT THAT “WANKERY” TYPE OF TECHNICALITY that is played by bands like Decrepit Birth and Rings of Saturn. This is the type of technicality and complexity that is found in literally every corner and crevice in this band’s music and you find literally every type of technicality that you can think of, which shows creativity that I’ll probably never be able to have.

The fifth track has the Faceless sound that is widely recognized today (aka Planetary Duality). So the two-part Horizons of Chaos (tracks 4 and 5) were probably written last due to the more modern sound they have. I just realized that the reason why this album is too much for some people is probably because it’s so disorganized. The music switches sounds so often and so suddenly that there’s no blending or major organization efforts of any kind. It’s sort of like one of those promo teasers that bands release a couple weeks before they release a new record that’s just 30-second clips from each of the songs blended into one song.

My favorite tracks off of this album are Leica and Akeldama. Leica has one of those slower thrash-based sounds with tons of hidden tricks that the guitarists pull out of their sleeves. I also love Leica because of the ambient keyboards in the background that give it that “sci-fi/alien invasion” type of feel. Akeldama starts out with one of the members (probably not from this planet) speaking in (what could possibly be) his normal non-human voice, warning the humans of how little time they have left to exist. The thing that makes this song the most unique out of the whole album is that it has very profound keyobards that remind me of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (you older guys should know who they are) and that it’s really melodic! That’s the thing that caught me off-guard, I was expecting another relentless brutal track, and what I was given was an experimental atmospheric melodic track that BLEW ME AWAY. This is an amazing album that everyone should listen to (and hopefully respect). I gave this album 18/20. 

Slaughtery - Path-(T)o-Logic

Slaughtery is an underground technical brutal death band from Belgium (although I have them listed simply as technical death). The reason why I’m choosing to write a review on these guys is because they’re one of the ones that have stuck out to me the most out of all of the tech death bands I’ve been discovering over the past few months like Insidious Decrepancy, First Fragment, Dystrophic, Carnophage, Cerebric Turmoil, and many others. This isn’t an album that I listen to a lot but it really comes in handy when I need something technical, but Obscura and Decapitated aren’t brutal enough for the moment. So this is one of those bands that is perfect for you if you’re in need of a brutal death band that is filled with technicality and chaos. And not only that, THEY’RE REALLY GOOD!! I’m actually surprised I haven’t seen these guys on the Summer Slaughter Tour yet! Hopefully that year will come where I see these guys on the roster.

There seems to be an increasing amount of tech death bands that use metalcore-style breakdowns in their music (breakdowns that stick out and aren’t subtle like the ones Dying Fetus do). Bands like that are popping up like daisies which include (but are not limited to) Fleshgod Apocalypse, Rings of Saturn, and The Faceless. Slaughtery is similar to Decapitated in the sense to where most of the technicality lies in the drums. Unlike Decapitated, there is still tons of crazy shit going on in the guitars and bass, but the drums are unbelievably complex and lead to why this is considered one of the most technical bands to some people (probably because they haven’t heard Rings of Saturn). Although not NEARLY as technical or as brutal as Rings of Saturn, Slaughtery definitely stands out to me as being one of the best new tech death bands to reach my ears.

The vocalist does deep guttural inhales with the occasional exhaled screams for the moments of ultra-high tension like at the very end of Chimerism. I usually prefer the vocals to be DEEP guttural exhaled growls (like in The Faceless). But there have been several times where deep inhaled growls are just what the music needs, and this is one of those cases where it works out perfectly. The general theme that this band follows is really hard to pinpoint in this case, but it obviously has some sort of strong sci-fi influence. I feel that I should elaborate more on the type of breakdowns that these guys use because they’re not the type of breakdowns that you would expect. When someone hears the term “breakdown” chances are that they’ll imagine utter chaos that has a sudden EXTREME drop in tempo similar to what you would hear in an older Suicide Silence record. But the breakdowns that Slaughtery uses are slightly less profound than that, but they’re still much more extreme than most bands out there.

What would have made me smile is if the first track, titled 9 Minutes, was actually exactly nine minutes in length. But that’s not something that I’ll point out as a lack of creativity; instead I’ll just throw that out there as a suggestion for a special “9 minute extended version” that they could use as a hidden bonus track on a future record. For me, the first track introduces the chaos, the second track introduces the brutality, the third track introduces the creativity and technicality, and then after the 1.5 minute interlude, the rest of the album has all three of those elements combined in a perfect brutal tech death sandwich (which is great because I’m about to eat breakfast). The sound production is great, but I would like it if the band turned up the treble a bit on the drums and gave them more body, especially on the kick drums (which are very important in tech death). Faults? There aren’t many but the band does drift out of tempo in a couple of songs like The Pal Catharsis. Although not as good as some, this is definitely an album that you should check out ESPECIALLY if you are a sucker for brutal and/or technical death metal. This earns a score of 16/20. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Element - The Energy

I found Element in one of the most unlikely places. I was flipping through the bands signed on to the Brutal Bands record label on their website and after running my eyes across all of the chaotic illegible logos of bands whose names I probably couldn’t even pronounced, the name “Element” stood out to me. When I clicked on it I was surprised that this wasn’t another apocalypse/gore themed brutal death band. I saw the beautiful purple artwork of the planet that belonged to their most recent album release and I initially assumed that this was another sci-fi themed technical death band following that ever-expanding trend made popular by bands like The Faceless, Obscura, and Origin. I was yet again surprised when I heard their music that they aren’t anywhere near to being considered tech death. The one thing that people seem to like is when musicians and bands keep things unexpended and unpredictable.

I currently just have these guys under progressive death (not that it matters, just my way of keeping my music organized). I guess they would be closer to traditional death metal more than anything else, but yet they have that Augury-influenced atmospheric feel that only a handful of other metal bands have done. I guess a generalized summary of my opinion on this is that this is one of the best progressive death albums I’ve heard since Opeth’s Watershed.

The opening track isn’t what I would consider to be a full song, but not an intro either. The reason why is because most of the song is taken up by an indescribable tone of atmosphere and ambience that for some reason PERFECTLY sets the mood for the rest of the album. It then blends into a weird sounding guitar part that reminds me so much of Augury which leads into the full lineup of the band showing you that they can do things no one else has even thought of. The music that takes up the end of the first track is really abstract and has an extremely odd tempo with the bassist playing something that seems like a completely different song. Vexed is the next song that then introduces the vocalist’s demonic exhale growls that give the music its dark sound.

Whoever did the production and mixing on this album is a master. This is one of those albums that would sound like complete monkey poop if it had low production and sound quality. There seems to be almost no treble at all, with the rest being taken up by overpowering bass and mid-range. I haven’t come across very many other albums that would sound good with that equalizer setting, but this one definitely proves to be the best. The songs are far from boring; they’re constantly changing but stay simple enough not to confuse the ones newer to the genre. It seems that my love for this album grows more and more every time I listen to it, and I’ve listened to it A LOT. Let’s talk about the individual members.

The bassist is by far the best out of the bunch. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it was the Obscura bassist playing a fretted bass. Although unfortunately it’s not, this bassist still deserves huge credit and should not stop what he’s doing. I think that Vexed and Centipede are the two songs that best demonstrate the bassist’s skill and talent which is actually better than I am able to describe. The guitarists are beyond amazing and are perfectly in synch with each other and the rest of the band. I mainly love all of the different sounds and effects they put on their guitars, especially in Everchanging. I’m not going to spend time describing the drummer’s style because the best way for you to understand his playing is to just listen to this record.

Here’s something for all of you power metal fans: listen to the last song on the album, Dreaming Forever, and tell me that it doesn’t have some kind of power metal influence somewhere in it. If there was singing on this song instead of growling in this song, it would make a great HEAVY power metal song! There aren’t any huge faults…or any faults at all that I can think of. Although the pros of this album are HUGE, they aren’t enough to earn a perfect score from me, because there is still room for a lot of improvement, especially in the vocals because they can get annoying when he’s screaming. I would give this album 18/20 and would recommend it to EVERYONE.

Insidious Decrepancy - Extirpating Omniscient Certitude

Insidious Decrepancy is a one-man technical death band that has continued to amaze me ever since I first saw “them” live in 2010. Although solo in the studio, there is a drummer present during live shows (for obvious reasons). Some would assume that the sole member uses a drum machine in the studio like Purtrid Pile, but he actually plays a real drum set! I mean, tech death by itself is hard enough to play on just one instrument; but to be able to play it on guitar, bass, vocals, AND drums?? That’s something that even I have a hard time believing. So I found this record a couple of months ago and it’s one of the most traditional (or “generic) tech death albums I’ve heard so far (yes, I know about Psycroptic, Origin, Necrophagist, Brain Drill, etc.). But since I have yet to be “worn out” by the generic technical death sound, this is a record that I have had the pleasure to thoroughly enjoy.

The production quality is exactly what I would expect from an underground death metal (of any kind) band. Not as much bass as I would like to hear (you know I’m a stickler about that), but at least there’s not a complete absence of it, so it’s understandable. The drums sound shitty unless you go see them live, the kick drums sound more like clicking rather than that powerful booming punch that I like to get bombarded with. In most of the underground death metal albums I’ve heard, there seems to always be one or two songs that use the same guitar riff for the entire song that gets annoying very quickly. This has even happened in some albums released by bigger name bands like Committed from Origin’s 2011 album, 10,000 Sermons, 1 Solution from SWWAATS’ 2009 album, and some others that I can’t think of at the moment. The song that bothers me the most on Extirpating Omniscient Certitude is the guitar/bass riff that takes up the majority of the first track. Thankfully, it doesn’t take up the entire duration of the song.

Other than that, Extirpating Omniscient Certitude (say that five times fast) is filled with some of the most complex creativity I’ve ever heard come out of a single person’s head. It’s more understandable when there’s an entire band involved writing unimaginably technical music (like Obscura, Rings of Saturn, Arsis, etc.), but having one single person come up with just about all of it is pretty wild. This very tall and very skinny metal musician is someone that doesn’t deserve the amount of attention that he’s been getting. But then again, maybe he’s perfectly satisfied and happy right where he is in the underground world (I would be happy there as well to be honest). But in the underground world, everyone knows the name Insidious Decrepancy (or has heard the name at least once). Because someone with this much talent and musical skill should be replacing famous and less-deserving bands like Emmure, Chelsea Grin, Job for a Cowboy, and Meshuggah.

The vocals aren’t my favorite thing about this record. It’s almost assumed that an underground death metal band uses inhaled vocals. Well, just like most of the other underground brutal metal bands, Insidious Decrepancy uses…wait for it…INHALED GROWLS, how surprising! But that’s not the thing that REALLY bugs me, the thing that really bugs me is that they don’t sound that good…at all. I do think that inhaled growls is what this album requires in order to have the best sound (which happens in several situations, nothing wrong with that), but this album calls for deeper, more guttural growls rather than a semi-pig squeal with some body. Other than that, this album is very impressive.

Although this is nowhere near being my favorite tech death band/album, this is something that I would recommend to you. But here’s a disclaimer: the people that will get the most enjoyment out of this are the people that are already very familiar with the technical death genre and plenty of it’s more famous bands (Arsis, Obscura, Decapitated, The Faceless, Decrepit Birth, The Black Dahlia Murder, etc.) and a good share of the genre’s underground scene (Rings of Saturn, Embryonic Devourment, Dystrophic, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Brain Drill, etc.). I would score this album 16/20.