Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pathology - Age of Onset

Although Age of Onset is one of Pathology’s most popular albums, I’m not really a huge fan of it. In fact, it’s probably my least favorite Pathology album. Of course, I’ll still listen to this and enjoy it if I’m in a brutal death mood, but overall, this album doesn’t have anything special about it. Age of Onset is one of those albums where if you look at each individual song, its filled with different kinds of anger and rage; but when you look at the album as a whole, you get one boring monotonous song. If you’re new to Pathology, this shouldn’t be your first listen.

The production quality is poor compared to the previous album, Incisions of Perverse Debauchery. The guitars have a different kind of crunch where the treble overpowers the rest of the guitar sounds. This unfortunate downside that the guitars create cause the music to have no mood and/or emotion at all. Although the guitars keep the brutality at high levels, they seem to repeatedly get lost and in their own world; it seems that they’re literally playing random chords in some cases. The vocals are probably the worst. They completely lack any sort of taste, versatility, or emotion. I haven’t heard vocals that sounded this dry since…I don’t know how long…since I went to that California Deathfest in 2009 when I saw some of the worst acts like Orchidectomy and Meat Shits (who are a lot like Anal Cunt in the sense that they’re so horrible and pointless that they’re hilarious).

You can’t tell the difference between any of the songs unless you’re actually paying attention to what track the player is on; that’s how monotonous this album is. Believe me, I’ve seen much, MUCH worse, but come on guys, you release your best album and THIS is the follow-up that you give me?? I know that it may seem that I’m just going on a rant, but this album actually isn’t that horrible, it’s just a bit below average. But the reason why I’m so pissed off is that you’re supposed to try to make a record that’s better than the previous one. But thankfully, they make up for this loss with Legacy of the Ancients the next year which is a fantastic record.

This is an album that can only be enjoyed by the hardcore fans of brutal death. I can’t see anyone else enjoying this album unless they’re completely new to the genre. I know that this is one of their most popular records, but it didn’t live up to my expectations this time. I would give this an 8/20, which isn’t a HORRIBLE score at all, but it’s a HUGE drop from their second album which I gave a 17/20. I wouldn’t recommend this album, but it’s not repulsive, it’s just not impressive. 

Pathology - Incisions of Perverse Debauchery

Having been in the brutal metal mood for the past week, I think it’s time to get some more underground brutal death album reviews out there. Pathology is currently one of the biggest brutal death bands out there that have still stuck with the underground brutal slamming style (the biggest probably being either Dying Fetus or Devourment). Pathology has also continued to be one of the most influential “slamming death” bands out there. I’m one of those people that strongly enjoy all of Pathology’s records, but I think that none are as good as Incisions of Perverse Debauchery. With the very successful release of Surgically Hacked under my favorite brutal death label, Amputated Vein, Pathology started getting offers from bigger labels that wanted to take the band to the next level. After a bit of touring here and there without many updates on the status of a sophomore record, Pathology threw out Incisions of Perverse Debauchery out into the public. The funny thing is that word about this album took longer to spread than Surgically Hacked, but after word about this brutal record finally did get around, Pathology’s fan base exploded.

Usually, a band’s breakthrough record gets close to immediate positive feedback. But with Pathology, it wasn’t really this particular album that is responsible for their “breakthrough” because that didn’t happen until several months after the album’s release. After Incisions was released, Pathology has released an album each year. This is probably made possible because they don’t really tour a lot.

For those of you that absolutely cannot stand inhaled vocals, go away, this isn’t for you. For those of you that can either tolerate or already enjoy inhaled growls, the vocals on this album have a very moist and sickening sound (that being a positive description) that matches the sickening brutality of the music and artwork. Out of all the vocalists that this band has had (it seems like a different vocalist on each album), this is by far my favorite because his growls have grit and juiciness at the same time. You can hear the guttural, moist sound; and you can also hear a lot of roughness in his growls. Sort of like putting small gravel rocks on a REALLY thick, bloody, juicy steak.

I can’t seem to decide if I like the guitar distortion or the vocals more. Probably the vocals because that’s not as easily changeable as the guitar distortion; but the guitars sound extremely crunchy like a handsaw cutting through metal. It’s more than possible to have guitars be TOO crunchy, because the gritty treble can overpower the rest of the sound, making it annoying. But in this case, you can hear the presence of the powerful crunch in the guitars, but it seems that they turned the treble way down so that you can actually hear what the guitars are playing. This is exactly what I like to hear in this kind of music. The drums are fantastic and I couldn’t ask for anything different other than that they could be turned down at some parts because they drown out the vocals in some of the songs. The drummer specifically isn’t any better than your average brutal death drummer. But regardless, the drummer still fits the bill to make this album awesome.

Incisions of Perverse Debauchery is my favorite Pathology record. I wouldn’t recommend this to people not already familiar with the brutal death scene because although this album is great, it’s not what I would consider to be the best first impression. I would give this album 17/20. 

Conducting from the Grave - Revenants

Conducting from the Grave released their second album roughly two years ago and has succeeded to get moderate attention from the metal community. This may come as a surprise to those who haven’t heard this album, but this is one of my favorite deathcore records. Usually, when people think of really non-generic deathcore bands, they think of either being heavier than normal (Whitechapel), or really technical (All Shall Perish). Conducting from the Grave isn’t what I would call COMPLETELY generic, but they do hold a lot of the traits found in almost every deathcore band. Although the deathcore fan might have a much easier time enjoying this record, I don’t see anything in this album that would work as an obstruction keeping someone from enjoying it.

Conducting from the Grave isn’t what I would call “progressive” because the things that they do have already been done before. But here’s what I think about that: there are the bands that create the base of a genre, the bands that come right after that and solidify the genre. Then there are the “progressive” bands, which can either be one of two types. There are the progressive bands that create something totally new off of the already solidified genre base, and the bands that “fuse” the solidified genre with something else. I think that everything done by these “progressive” bands should be re-done by other bands to solidify and attempt to perfect those fusions and/or progressions. The point where it really starts to get old is when there are still NEW bands doing the exact same thing that bands have been doing for 20+ years. I consider Conducting from the Grave one of those bands that is working to perfect progressions and fusions done by other bands, as well as just try to do what the other bands did…except do it better.

The introduction in the first track is played in a soft minor key with very little distortion. After that, it leads into a steady (but not super-fast) tempo with moderately fast double-kicks. The chords and melodies are unique and new in the sense that no one has done the exact same thing, but they’re not new in the sense that they’re creating something completely new. But to be honest, it sounds fucking amazing. The partial breakdowns that the band uses and the guitar melodies are memorable and extremely catchy; which is EXACTLY what I like to hear in deathcore.

None of the musicians are AMAZING, but they all know each other’s strengths and work to cover everyone’s weaknesses (if there are any). The band is extremely tight for the entire duration of the album. The way the drums sound really enhance this tightness the band has during the more complex parts and the slower breakdowns heard in songs like The Tyrant’s Throne and Curse in the Twilight. Speaking of how everything sounds…everything sounds amazing! You can hear EVERYTHING and the word overpowering fails to accurately describe any part of this record. I absolutely love the clean distortion the guitars have; they’re not too crunchy.

This album has technical riffs all throughout the record, but not in the rhythm guitar parts like All Shall Perish. The album has fairly simplistic rhythm guitar lines that have technical lead guitar parts layered on top to give the music some more power. It seems that more and more bands are picking up on the thing that Whitechapel created. You can hear in just about all of Whitechapel’s songs where there is a really edgy and ambient lead guitar part in the BACKGROUND during the slower breakdowns that make them sound so fucking dark and creepy. Well, Conducting from the Grave is one of those bands that have picked up on that trend. But it never seems to get old for me because it’s so fucking cool! I absolutely love it as long as it’s not overused; and most of the bands that have been doing that have been very careful not to overdo it.

Probably my favorite member on this particular album is the vocalist. He doesn’t have the deepest growl I’ve ever heard, but he has one of the scariest and hair-raising growls that could easily be mistaken for an enraged demon. His screams are top-notch and actually fairly high-pitched to make his growls sound that much more demonic when he drops from a scream to a growl. It seems that even though the quality of deathcore music is gradually going downhill, the vocalists seem to be better than ever! Although this album is the exact opposite of a poor quality album, the vocalist on this record should receive TONS of credit.

Conducting from the Grave have proved themselves worthy of getting the “fucking awesome” title by taking that big step up that every band needs to take from releasing an average-quality debut to writing a “fucking awesome” sophomore album. I would actually recommend this to any deathcore fan and anyone curious to hear a very high-quality deathcore album. I would give this 18/20. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Gorgoroth - Incipit Satan

At the top of the ranks in Norwegian black metal, placeholders include masters like Immortal, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Carpathian Forest, 1349, Dimmu Borgir (yes, I know they’re not pure black metal), Burzum, Satyricon, Taake, and Gorgoroth. Of course, out of all of these, Darkthrone continues to be my favorite alongside Burzum; but that doesn’t mean that Gorgoroth holds no importance in the black metal genre. When asked what my favorite Gorgoroth album is, I can never choose between Destroyer, Incipit Satan, and Quantos Possunt Ad Satanitatem Trahunt (I still can never remember that album title). These albums actually differ from each other quite a bit. Destroyer has the typical shitty sound quality, but it’s insane as hell; Incipit Satan has much better quality and still holds the same immense amount of chaos as Destroyer. Quantos has top-notch production quality, is extremely creative and colorful, but it doesn’t have nearly as much power as Gorgoroth’s older material. If you were to lay these three records out in front of me and asked me to listen to them in any order, I would choose Incipit Satan either first or last, depending on if I wanted to have the greatest first or save the best for last.

Like I said before, the sound quality is pretty good, but not what you would see on a major record label nowadays. The drums have a moderately thick sound; not really heavy, but not weak-sounding. This is actually really good because the guitars don’t sound EXTREMELY powerful either with the more clangy distortion, so they would be easily overpowered if the drums were too much. The drums aren’t SUUPER beefy and powerful, but that doesn’t bother me because there’s still more bass than treble in them, so it’s not like they’re lacking anything. So for those of you that don’t like crappy sound quality black metal for that reason, you need not worry about that in this case. You can hear what the bassist is playing, but most of the time you can’t hear his actual guitar.

The first track starts off with an EXPLOSION of pure black metal chaos. When one of my friends told me that Gorgoroth’s music is insane, this song alone proved his statement (although this isn’t my first Gorgoroth album). The song bolts through, seemingly unstoppable until the one minute mark. Right there, everything goes silent and then a buildup of industrial-sounding electronics quickly lead into the next explosion of chaos. Why was that necessary? What was it that made the band say “that five-second part of seemingly pointless electronics is EXACTLY what this song needs!” What’s the goddamn point?? But after that huge and abrupt road bump, the rest of the song quickly and efficiently makes up for that odd part, almost completely pulling it out of the mind of the listener. I’m not kidding, by the time the song was coming to a close, I had become so lost in the song that I had completely forgotten about that meaningless transition!

The album then continues to roll through valleys of satanic darkness and anger and climb summits of melodic ambience that leave the listener’s ears quenched and satisfied. I’m not going to give a song-by-song review because that’s something that I should leave you to find out for yourself.

The vocalist on this album is amazing. He delivers my absolute favorite type of black metal vocals. The kind that are sort of a mix of a whispery, vocal fry type scream that you hear in metalcore and in Naglfar’s material, and that really dirty sound that Abbath has seemed to take credit for. So not screams that are really mid-ranged, but that are high-pitched and REALLY FUCKING POWERFUL! If you have a bunch of Dimmu Borgir material, listen to Enthrone Darkness Triumphant; those are the type of black metal vocals I’m talking about. Even Attera Totus Sanctus by Dark Funeral might be a better example of what my definition of POWER is.

Incipit Satan is an amazing record and can easily be appreciated by the few black metal fans that haven’t already heard it. This album might be a little extreme for the back metal newbies; but if you’re like me and started off with Behemoth, enjoying this album will be a walk in the park. There aren’t very many black metal albums that are as good as Incipit Satan; I would give this album 18/20. 

Waning - The Human Condition

I’m one of the few people that will jump on and listen to every new black metal band and/or record I hear about. There have been several instances that have left me disappointed, but there have been plenty of extremely impressive new black metal artists that have been surfacing over the past four years. The best so far is Waning. For those of you that are familiar with the modern thrash metal scene (particularly Exodus) might find the album title extremely similar to Exodus’ 2010 album. That was probably what initially caught my eye along with the fact that these guys play extremely melodic black metal. A quick overview of the album for those that prefer short summaries rather than full reviews would be that this is a pretty slow black metal record that has an extremely melodic and atmospheric DEPRESSIVE vibe to it. This record holds very abstract guitar chords that have a lot of edge but an inconceivable amount of beauty. The band’s youth and inexperience does show up in some places, but the overall concept of the music is beyond professional and mature.

This band is actually quite similar to the depressive black metal pioneers, Shining. Shining is the band that first comes to mind when I listen to this record, but not the Opeth-like acoustic parts. The Shining material that Waning reminds me of is the really high-quality, bass-filled depressive parts with emotion that holds the listener down like lead anchors on a paper boat. The guitar distortion is very clean and fuzzy, giving the guitars a soft and gentle sound that simply weaves through the sound in a thin layer. There aren’t very many other records that I can think of off the top of my head that have this kind of soft and fuzzy distortion; of course except for certain Xasthur albums and many other depressive black metal records.

But although these guys hold a lot of depressive elements, I still just call them black metal. The reason why is because the depressive elements are only in the guitars and occasionally in the vocals. When I hear the overall music, the depressive sound is only a mere layer of what makes up this immensely complex sound. I wouldn’t call these guys progressive black because they’re not progressive ENOUGH, I wouldn’t call them depressive black metal because they’re not depressive ENOUGH; I would just call them black metal (or REALLY melodic black metal if you wanted to get super specific). The general song patterns follow the traditional black metal style perfected by Norwegian masters like Darkthrone and Carpathian Forest, but the sound of the songs tend to come in and out of a traditional black metal sound, sort of like Naglfar and Dark Fortress.

The vocals aren’t my favorite; I’ve heard plenty of better black metal vocalists. But the vocals still meet the requirements needed to fit the bill on this album. They have sort of a mid-ranged sound like lots of Naglfar works, but they aren’t as breathy and raspy as the bald Naglfar vocalist. The one member that creates a fault is the drummer.

The drummer could really use some work; mainly on keeping time. The drummer tends to slip out of tempo with the rest of the band quite frequently. And the unfortunate thing is that he does it when it can be heard the easiest (in other words, when the band needs to be the tightest). Although this is EXTREMELY noticeable and makes black metal critics shake their head and smile, this is something that can be easily improved over time. I will expect this fault to be fixed by the time their next record comes around.

Waning is an EXTREMELY depressive and melodic black metal band hailing from Sweden. I have been showing this album to lots of people and none of them have been disappointed. After listening to it first, one of my online friends told me that she knew I would love this, and she was more than right. This is going to be a hard black metal album to beat and I would highly recommend it to EVERYONE whether they’re into black metal or not. I would give this 19/20.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Aegaeon - Dissension

One of the most demanded bands for the opening spot on this year’s Summer Slaughter Tour was Aegaeon. I kept seeing this name and I had never heard of them; the one thing I knew for sure was that there HAD to be SOMETHING about these guys that grabbed SO many people’s attention and support. To my surprise (not really), Aegaeon is a fresh, new American…wait for it…deathcore band, what a surprise! The truth is that there isn’t anything unique about this band other than that they’re a lot heavier than your average deathcore band (like Oceano, Whitechapel, and Annotations of an Autopsy). In fact, there doesn’t really seem to be anything innovative or new in the music that Aegaeon brings anyway; it’s pretty much certain parts of other bands’ styles mashed together. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing…I would just like to see something a lot more impressive out of a band that appears to have a fairly big fan base. So if you’re looking for a new deathcore sound, don’t waste your time on this, check out some of the newer material that has been released by Veil of Maya, All Shall Perish, and Attila.

Aegaeon generally combines the DEEP growled vocals and ambient guitar sounds used during breakdowns that Whitechapel delivers with the crushing heaviness and brutal drum styles brought to you by Oceano. First off, there are already plenty of bands that have been doing this for years, so it’s not like they’re the first ones to combine those sounds (and I’m pretty sure they know that). If I had to come up with a logical explanation for them knowingly doing something plenty of bands have done before, it would be that they want to be the best and most successful at it. Sort of like if someone tried to knock Soulfly out of the spotlight by making music that sounded identical to theirs so that they could have all the fame and fortune instead of Soulfly.

The drummer is really good and has a lot of skill and creativity along with a buttload of potential, I’ll give him that. But there isn’t really anything out of the ordinary about the other members. The vocalist has a semi-unique growl that actually sounds pretty fucking demonic. I can’t even hear the bassist unless he’s slapping the bottom string during the breakdowns. And the guitarists aren’t anything special at all, they’re probably the worst musicians in the band; not because they suck (they don’t), but because they are the absolute definition of your generic deathcore guitarist.

There isn’t really anything else I’m going to say about this other than that this isn’t for the anti-generic music fan. If you’re a true deathcore fan like me, you might enjoy this a lot (I don’t really, but it’s good enough for me to listen to it every once in a while). Although not TOTALLY generic (definitely heavier than most deathcore groups), Aegaeon fail to make me understand why so many goddamn people love them so goddamn much. I would give this 9/20. 

Soulfly - Dark Ages

Soulfly’s Dark Ages caused the band’s popularity and recognition to soar. Yes, they were already huge before that because…well…they were fronted by the former Sepultura vocalist and songwriting mastermind, Max Cavalera. But before Dark Ages, every single one of Soulfly’s albums sounded completely different from each other; making them one of the most experimental metal bands of the time. But I personally think that Soulfly’s signature sound that everyone knows today was solidified and bolted to the ground with Dark Ages. Not only that, Soulfly went from playing in almost completely packed smallish venues to playing in the venues that MUCH bigger mainstream artists play at. When I saw them in 2008, they played at the same venue that I saw other huge bands like Sonata Arctica, Arch Enemy, Bring me the Horizon, Dimmu Borgir (which was a sold-out show), and Underoath (which was also sold-out). But not only does Dark Ages represent the solidification of Soulfly’s signature sound, but it’s also an amazing record that I’ve been listening to for almost five years.

 The general theme of this album seems to follow a WWII concept. The part of the album that always reminds me of WWII (obviously) is the beginning of Fuel the Hate where someone states the exact date and time that the first atomic bomb was used as a weapon in warfare. The main sound that this album gives off is a really thick, slow (at times), and dark thrash metal sound which has caused a lot of people to say thrash death. Honestly, I’ve put almost all of their albums as progressive metal because of all the experimentation they do in numerous songs on every album.

Here’s a little fact that most people who don’t know much about Soulfly probably haven’t noticed. Look at Max Cavalera’s guitar (not the ones they sell in guitar stores, the ones he actually PLAYS) and notice how many strings are on it. I find it really interesting that a guitarist of that level of skill and creativity would have only four strings on his guitar. Although he takes out a regular six string guitar when they play their series of softer self-titled songs, Max doesn’t do lead guitar on anything else that Soulfly plays. I don’t know if he has a legitimate reason for this or if it’s just that he wants a MUCH deeper sound (which is heard VERY clearly in this album). This is probably the album that has some of the fewest soloing and lead guitar licks than any other album. I think it’s because of that why Dark Ages sounds like Soulfly’s heaviest and DARKEST album (which makes the name more than appropriate).

The lyrics of this album are interesting. Normally I don’t give a crap about what the songs are about but I can’t help but think in this case “what the hell was Max so pissed off about??” If I was asked what the ULTIMATE venting album is, I would say Dark Ages. Probably being one of the most hate-filled records of all-time, both in lyrics AND in the music. I think that the hate and anger reaches its peak during my favorite song off the album, simply titled “Bleak”, with the line that speaks out to me the most being “it’s the end you fucking scum!!”. Not only are the lyrics hate-filled, they’re also fucked up!

Dark Ages is one of the darkest and angriest albums ever made. Not only did this solidify Soulfly’s signature sound that everyone knows today, it also caused Soulfly’s (already) massive fame to EXPLODE. Although my favorite Soulfly albums remain Conquer and Omen, Dark Ages is one of those “cannot be missed” records. I would give this 18/20. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Job for a Cowboy - Ruination

Ruination was the 2009 follow-up of Job for a Cowboy’s critically acclaimed debut, Genesis. When this album came out and JFAC toured on the Mayhem Festival, their extreme popularity exploded into fame. For the next year, Job for a Cowboy seemed to eventually dominate almost every conversation I had with someone about newer death metal bands. I gave JFAC’s debut a 10/20 for being nothing special at all, but nothing I would avoid. Ruination shows Job for a Cowboy’s ability to mature their music and improve their overall songwriting skills. The thing is, they did do all of that, but not to the degree that I would expect out of a band with as much fame as Job for a Cowboy. Ruination expresses more technicality than Genesis, has more color, and is much less predictable as a whole.

When I first listened to this album, I started with Summon the Hounds because the song name is actually pretty cool. It turns out that Summon the Hounds is currently my favorite song off the record along with Constitutional Masturbation. Ruination’s overall sound goes in the direction of having a really “catchy” sound with generally simple guitar lines with fast and technical vocal patterns (most notable in the chorus of Constitutional Masturbation). Also, a lot of the songs have parts with semi-breakdown drumming styles similar to DevilDriver (one of the catchiest extreme metal bands ever). I am very well aware that Job for a Cowboy really don’t like deathcore at all, which is why they’ve never made a deathcore record since the Doom EP, which was actually their first release. Honestly, I’m a huge fan of the Doom EP, but I’m convinced that I won’t hear anything like that out of JFAC again; which is totally fine because that EP is more than satisfying. I haven’t heard JFAC’s brand new record, Demonocracy, so I’m writing this review from the point of view of someone who hasn’t heard it yet.

I don’t know about the rest of the metalhead community, but it seems like the breakdowns in Ruination are exaggerated a lot more than the ones in Genesis. So it seems that Job for a Cowboy didn’t completely abandon the deathcore idea because they’re still using subtle metalcore-influenced breakdowns, which are actually pretty good for when you’re in the mood for some breakdowns, but nothing TOO pronounced and exaggerated.

As far as the individual musicians go; nothing has changed at all. There has been absolutely no improvement in any of the members. But none of them have gone downhill either, so it’s not like they’re losing skill, they’re just not gaining any. The band’s songwriting skills have gone up dramatically, which has made Ruination much more enjoyable and interesting than Genesis. There’s some experimentation that goes on in some places like the really melodic guitar solo in March to Global Enslavement. There also seems to be a lot more blast beats being done by the drummer that gives the record a technical sound as well as the vocals. Other than that, this band hasn’t improved much since the release of Genesis; which is very disappointing because of the status they’ve achieved. I would give this 11/20. 

Job for a Cowboy - Genesis

I remember seeing Job for a Cowboy for the first time at the 2009 Mayhem Festival and being blown away by the energy that the crowd had during their performance. I went ahead and got their two albums and their widely-known Doom EP. About a year or so later I saw them again with Whitechapel, Cattle Decapitation, and Revocation (I was mainly there for Cattle Decap.). Since I first saw them, they seem to be the Morbid Angel of the younger crowd (one of the most popular death metal bands amongst the generation that I’m a part of). I’ve always enjoyed their music and would never mind seeing them live as long as there were at least two other really good bands at the same show. But I’ve never figured out what it is about Job for a Cowboy that almost all of my metalhead friends seem to be crazy about! When I listen to these guys, all I see is an average death metal band; nothing that special at all. But for those of you that are curious about seeing an in-depth description on this particular debut, read on.

For those of you audiophiles, this album won’t be an issue for you at all. There’s tons of bass, everything’s evened out, the guitars have an ultra-clean distortion, and the drums are just at the right volume where they are easily heard aren’t overpowering. My standards for musicianship and skill have gone up dramatically over the five years that I’ve been listening to extreme metal (I first started on heavy metal with Led Zeppelin when I was in third grade). I first heard these guys two years after I first started REALLY getting into death metal, and I was one of those kids that thought that any band that could play loud, fast, and aggressive music was awesome. But now that I’ve become a lot more knowlegable about the genre and have had much more experience listening to hundreds of different metal artists, I’ve become much more critical and more hesitant to give a specific metal musician the certificate of awesomeness.

Probably the thing about Job For a Cowboy that repels me the most is their pair of guitarists. The reason why is because they have next to no originality, almost no creativity, and their solos are weak. They have the skills required to pull off good trembolo picking and change chords at a reasonable speed, but they aren’t good guitarists. With NEWER death metal bands that have acclaimed this much fame, I would expect them to have something about them that is….specieal; something that sets them apart from the rest of the crowd. But now I just realized something; maybe they’re just bringing back the traditional death metal sound. Because if you look at the activity of the traditional death metal scene during the turn of the century, it wasn’t nearly as big as it was during the 1990s. Of course, that’s changed now with the explosion of death metal (especially deathcore and technical death) bands that have been dominating the metalhead community. But maybe Job for a Cowboy saw this lack in traditional death metal activity as an opportunity to play PURE death metal and get away with it without being called “poseurs” and “uninventive”. Although I don’t particularly love Job for a Cowboy, I do credit them for helping define 21st century death metal.

The vocalist isn’t that bad at all. He has powerful Corpsegrinder-sounding growls and can belt out high-pitched screams. He can also growl in really complex and technical patterns. When I listen to Bearing the Serpent’s Lamb (my favorite song off this record, the first thing that speaks out to me is the vocalist’s growl.  But then again, he’s not SUPER impressive, he just sticks out from the rest of the band. This album is pretty average and if you’re a teenage metalhead like me, you’ve probably heard of these guys before, but if you haven’t I would actually recommend that you check them out because they might be your thing. But I’m going to warn you that Job for a Cowboy is not anything special. I would give this album 10/20. 

Drudkh - Forgotten Legends

Drudkh is one of the biggest “underground” black metal bands that I can think of. When I say that, I mean that there doesn't seem to be very many people that listen to Drudkh that aren’t hardcore black metal fans like myself. I originally got this album just to review it. But when I listened to it for the first couple of times, I realized that it was going to be a long time before I would be able to give a credible and accurate description of it in text form. I never let the album artwork influence my initial thoughts on the music or my final opinion, but the artwork on this album is BEAUTIFUL and actually made me think it was going to be some sort of folk-influenced depressive black metal more than just pure melodic black metal. As far as I know, Drudkh is the biggest metal band to come out of Ukraine (which doesn’t have much of a metal scene that I’ve noticed).

Drudkh’s songs are longer than the average black metal song (usually being around ten minutes or so). But also, this is also their shortest album; so maybe this is a collection of older tracks that are were less record-label friendly and much longer. But of course that can be easily overridden by the quality of the songs (as done by masters like Opeth, Xasthur, Wolves in the Throne Room, Between the Buried and Me, and Dream Theater). This album in particular is not one of my favorites by Drudkh, but it’s still an album that I repeatedly go back and listen to.

The overall sound quality is pretty much what you would expect from any underground black metal band’s debut. But even though the sound quality is poor, you can tell that there was SOME work being done at the mixing board because it doesn’t hurt your ears. What I mean by that is that there isn’t an obnoxious amount of treble, none of the instruments are drowning out the rest of the band, and there’s not excess distortion making it impossible to hear what notes are being played. The guitars aren’t crunchy, which is something that I mainly like to see in death metal more than black metal. The guitars actually don’t have very much distortion at all; they have more of a metallic-roughness more than a sharp gritty sound. The chords that the guitarists play are atmospheric and (most of the time) very melodic which gives the music almost its entire ambience. There is some soloing that goes on, although none of the solos speak out to me as being incredible.

The vocalist is the hardest one for me to talk about (especially in a review). Because it’s not that I don’t like his vocals, it’s just that the combination of his vocals and the rest of the music don’t go together as well as it could. They do sound good together, but if the vocals were higher-pitched, then the music would be even better. Hopefully I put that into words in an understandable manner. You can tell just from looking at all of Drudkh’s album covers and song titles that there lyrical themes revolve almost completely around the worship of nature, which is my favorite kind of lyrical theme. Their drummer is good, but he’s actually not that impressive in this particular record; most likely because this is the band’s first album and they’ve improved so much over the years. His drumming slides out of time in several places, especially when he comes in fast and then slows down to match the tempo of the song. His drumming gets repetitive and boring after a while and is unfortunately distracting in some cases. But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t listen to this album, because the drumming doesn’t completely RUIN the music, it just acts as a weight holding down the rest of the band.

Aside from the drummer and the vocalist, this is an essential black metal album for anyone who loves the genre and hasn’t obtained it yet. I wouldn’t recommend this to the people who are new to the black metal world, but I would recommend that you keep a note of the name “Drudkh” so that in the future, when you’re more familiar with black metal, that you can look them up. Although not my favorite Drudkh record, it’s still beautiful, relaxing, and stays true to the black metal name. I would give this 15/20. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Epica - Requiem for the Indifferent

When I heard that Epica was going to be releasing a new album, the ultimate excitement I felt at that moment is indescribable. Epica is another one of those bands where each album is better than the one before, just like Soilwork, After Forever, DevilDriver, All Shall Perish, Katatonia, and Eternal Tears of Sorrow. Although not the most commercially successful, Epica has proved themselves to me (and millions of other people) that they are truly one of the (if not THE) most talented and creative symphonic metal bands of all-time. But even though that’s just a matter of opinion, anyone who is into the female-fronted symphonic metal scene can easily say that Epica holds an incredible amount of talented musicianship. In the symphonic metal area, the most BITCHED ABOUT topic is definitely who is the best singer. Some of the singers that would definitely be nominees in my book would be Tarja Turunen, Floor Jansen, and Anette Olzon. But honestly, none of them even come close to matching the paralyzing voice of Simone Simons (I’m just saying that to put my opinion out there, I’m not a music elitist). I have always loved Design your Universe, and on December 2nd of 2010, I was convinced that Epica couldn’t POSSIBLY get ANY better when I saw them perform live with Scar Symmetry, Blackguard, and The Agonist.

Requiem for the Indifferent butchered that thought. I’m not exaggerating at all; Epica actually got better. But the sound of Requiem for the Indifferent is far from being similar to the sound of Design your Universe. This new album made me realize that Design your Universe is actually one of their softer albums. The reason why is because Requiem for the Indifferent takes a huge step in the death metal direction; that’s right folks, DEATH METAL! But, like every other Epica album, Requiem for the Indifferent has its fair share of ballads that cause people (including me) to shed tears with its sheer beauty and immensely powerful emotion. The song that originally got me officially HOOKED on Epica was Tides of Time (still one of my ALL-TIME favorite songs). Epica failed to disappoint me with their slightly gospel-influenced ballad, Delirium. I’m pretty sure a lot of you are asking, WHERES THE HEAVY SHIT??

The answer to that question lies in the first two tracks. These tracks are very similar to the first two tracks on The Divine Conspiracy. By that, I mean that it has the soft intro track filled with complex choir chords that suck you in like a black hole into a FAST and FUCKING HEAVY track. The only difference is that the heavy track on Requiem for the Indifferent is FAR, FAR heavier than the one off The Design Conspiracy. After the second song, you’re met with the ballad I was talking about earlier. After that, Internal Warfare relentlessly pounds you into the dirt; listening to the song should be enough to prove that statement. I guess the majority of the album’s material is made up of these merciless and heavy songs that Epica has been known to only use sparingly…until now.

Honestly, the musicians haven’t gotten any better. The reason why is because they pretty much reached capacity almost four years ago!! But that never means that it’s impossible to even further push the limits. The guitarist that also does the growls (Epica refers to them as “grunts”) and some mediocre screams improved his vocals a lot since the previous album. His growls don’t sound as weak and…I don’t know…there’s something about his growls in the previous albums…something about them that’s missing or lacking something…I’ve just never been able to put my finger on it. But whatever his vocals were lacking before was fixed; he could easily be a good fit for the next big melodic death band. And on top of that, his screams are A LOT better than before. Also, of course, Simone’s singing voice continues to go uphill while showing no signs of slowing down EVER.

This is definitely Epica’s best album without a doubt. But remember, this is the heaviest record they’ve ever put out, so it’s hard to ultimately compare it to their other material due to the near-dramatic change in overall musical style they’ve taken. When I listen to this record, I shake my head in disbelief that they actually created a record better than Design your Universe. This is an INSTANT classic and shouldn’t be missed by anyone, symphonic metal fan or not. I would give this a perfect score on any scale. 5/5, 10/10, 20/20, 100/100, 100%, A+, whatever scale you would prefer to use (I usually go out of 20), I guarantee you that I will give it full credit. I’m so glad that I pre-ordered this CD (which came with a shirt). 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vomitory - Opus Mortis VIII

Vomitory was one of the first death metal bands that I discovered when I first REALLY got into death metal in the spring of 2007. I was already listening to death metal (and other death metal subgenres) bands like Suffocation, Insision, Obituary, Bring me the Horizon, Suicide Silence, Scar Symmetry, Nightrage, and some others. But 2007 was the year that I discovered and really started loving almost 200 other death metal bands. Not that it matters or anything, but I’ve never really had a FAVORITE traditional death metal band…that is, until the release of Opus Mortis VIII. It was Carnage Euphoria that truly won my appreciation and support for Vomitory, but I was hoping to get something more out of them in their next album (Opus Mortis). Although none of Vomitory’s records are enough to be called my favorite death metal record ever, Vomitory’s discography as a whole has been consistently strong with very few weak spots (if any), making it (in my mind) easily comparable to the discographies of Death and Mortal Decay.

Although Vomitory’s music is great, there is one thing that’s always kind of bothered me, and that’s the drums. In almost all of their pre-2011 material, the drums are literally blast beats from start to finish. But as time goes on, the amount of blast beats that are being used seem to get less and less…until the amount shot back up again with Carnage Euphoria, my favorite album by them before the release of Opus Mortis. But then again, they still bothered me, so I was hoping to hear something new and engaging out of the drum section. Turns out that my hopes became reality. The drums are EXTREMELY creative and interesting compared to previous releases like Revelation Nausea and Primal Massacre. There’s actually next to no blast beats that are being used; mainly something fancy with the cymbals while hitting the snare on the down-beats.

I’ve always loved Erik’s super guttural growls. In Opus Mortis, Erik’s growls don’t get any deeper, but they get much more of a wet guttural sound that does nothing but add to the brutality of the record. Erik is one of those vocalists that puts 100% of his focus on the SOUND of his growls rather than on how fast he can go or completely on lyrics. That’s sort of the same situation as John Tardy from Obituary; except he doesn’t really focus on lyrics at all.

The guitars are very interesting, but they won’t really speak out to people who aren’t huge fans of traditional death metal. If you’re expecting complex and technical, Vomitory isn’t the band that will deliver what you want; check out the technical death and progressive death section instead. The guitar distortion isn’t as sharp and crunchy as Carnage Euphoria; instead, it’s more of a deeper, softer distortion that still has tons of crunch. Think of it like this: Carnage Euphoria is like a saw with SUPER sharp teeth, and Opus Mortis is like a saw with softer, duller teeth. But don’t let that get your hopes down, because the highly-distorted, deep sound of Erik’s bass puts a lot of meat on the guitars to give it a really juicy sound.

Vomitory is my favorite death metal band (traditional death metal, I mean). There aren’t very many other bands out there that have been around since the late 80’s and STILL deliver a TRUE and PURE death metal sound without letting it get old and boring. Opus Mortis VIII is a MUST HAVE for any death metal fans, especially those that listen to traditional death metal stuff like Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Immolation, Jungle Rot, and Autopsy. I would give this album a PERFECT SCORE for being the best and purest death metal album of 2011. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Autopsy - The Tomb Within [EP]

Autopsy is known as one of the monsters of old school death metal (and death metal in general). When their 1987 demo, Stillborn was released, Autopsy’s music reached ears all across the world. After releasing two more extremely successful demo tapes, Autopsy released their long-awaited full-length debut, Severed Survival. With their popularity growing exponentially, Autopsy then released an album that is today known as one of the greatest death metal albums ever released, Mental Funeral. Still a bestseller today, Mental Funeral is ESSENTIAL for any metalhead’s death metal collection. I then noticed that the band’s focus and overall musicianship went sharply downhill with the following album, but that just made Acts of the Unspeakable an average death metal record; nothing special, but as another review said, “it’s still a good addition for the old death metal collection.”

But then everything about Autopsy and their music literally plummeted with their fourth album, Shitfun (take out the F, U, and the N and you have a pretty accurate description of the album). Some people keep asking what the hell happened to them?? Well, the second time I saw Vital Remains, I got in a conversation with their bassist (who was wearing an Autopsy shirt) and he was telling me how during the Mental Funeral days, Autopsy liked to bring Vital Remains on a lot of their tours as an opening act. He said that they were getting hammered and high pretty much after EVERY show; and he was telling me the immense amount of substances the Autopsy members were taking in and that he thinks that’s the reason why Autopsy went downhill so damn quickly.

After for what seemed like an eternity since the release of Shitfun, Autopsy released a five song EP (mainly directed towards critics, reviewing sites, zines, labels, etc.) to see if they could still make good old-fashioned classic death metal. The band wasn’t very concerned about sales of the album; they were more concerned about getting their name back in the air of the metal community. After several people leaked the EP all over the internet, millions of metalheads old and young were hearing it and almost instantly demanding a new full-length, which turned out to be Macabre Eternal. But I’m not here to talk about Macabre Eternal; I think that this EP is special in its own way and shouldn’t be turned down just because Macabre Eternal has more songs.

The talent and skill on this EP demonstrates realization, recovery, and HUGE improvement in ALL of the members. Even though the vocals in Autopsy’s first two albums are superb, I personally think that the changes in the sound of the vocalist’s growls make them sound a hell of a lot better in The Tomb Within. The vocals have less of a dry, raspy sound and much more of a guttural, wet sound; making them sound creepier and darker. The guitarists aren’t amazing, but they couldn’t be any more solid and couldn’t be any more perfect of a fit for this album. The guitar distortion is a really clean, fine sound that has the feeling of a simple saw blade rather than really rough sandpaper (like in Soulskinner by Fleshcrawl).

The drums are actually a lot better and more focused than on any of Autopsy’s albums. Not only are the drums more creative, but the abstract style that they follow give the music more of a death metal feel than a thrash metal feel (like in Mental Funeral and Severed Survival. This is one of my favorite death metal EPs along with Bloodbath’s Unblessing the Purity and Heresiae’s self-titled EP. This should be in EVERY death metal fan’s collection because although it’s an EP, it’s unique in its own way, I listen to it addictively, and I feel that it holds a very important place in death metal history as being Autopsy’s comeback record! I would give this 15/20.

Eluveitie - Helvetios

Eluveitie has been in my music collection since late 2009 when I got Slania. When the band posted the music video for their (at the time) brand new song, Thousandfold, I went to Nuclear Blast and pre-ordered Everything Remains as it Never Was. That statement alone should tell you how quickly and strongly this band has pulled me (and millions of other people) into their one-of-a-kind musical universe of beauty and tranquility. But using big words and writing like I’m some kind of Canadian fantasy novelist isn’t going to get my point across. This is (yet again) one of those times where I thought “these guys can’t POSSIBLY get any better than this!” and was proved wrong when the next album was released. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Eluveitie, here’s a really good description of their sound: if you’re at all familiar with European folk music, you’re aware that there is the really ambient and melodic folk, and the really upbeat and happy folk (most notably as being used by Korpiklaani). Eluveitie takes the atmospheric and melodic European folk music and fuses it with melodic death metal. Although they do far more than just fusing those two completely different genres, that’s the blueprint that they build 90% of their songs off of.

As far as the sound of everything on the record, it sounds almost EXACTLY like their 2010 album. Not necessarily a bad thing, but don’t expect the instruments to sound any different than Everything Remains. Probably a difference that sound nerds would notice is that this album has a butt-ton more bass than Everything Remains. As well as that, the majority of the music sounds just like Everything Remains. Here’s why I don’t consider this a bad thing: it’s perfectly fine if a band makes two albums in a row that have the same sound as long as the THIRD album sound different. There is such a thing as too much change because it kind of makes it hard to keep up with. I actually like it when bands release two albums in a row that have the same basic sound…but only if the sound is AMAZING.

And the sound IS amazing! The musicians seem to have improved their instrumental and technical skills to make the music sound more complex. That’s the biggest twist this album has that sets it apart from all the previous ones; this album is one of their more technical releases. And yes, I know that there are other songs from previous albums that are very fast and very technical; but as an album in its whole, Helvetios seems more complex, especially in the folk instruments. That’s another thing I forgot to mention! The folk instruments aren’t in the background anymore!! Instead, they’re either right beside the guitars or in the very front of the line next to the vocalist. And speaking of that Swiss, folk-loving metal vocalist with the super-long dreads; his vocals have improved dramatically (and I thought he had reached perfection in Everything Remains!).

Remember that one song from Everything Remains, Quoth the Raven, where the female violinist sang and even let out an ear-splitting scream? Well guess what, apparently the band liked that and decided to put her singing in most of the songs on Helvetios. If you want a text description of what her SCREAMS sound like, they sound a hell of a lot like Lacey from Flyleaf (whose screams are phenomenal). As far as individual songs go, I’m not going to go into TOO much depth because I want you to get the damn album. BUT, if you were to ask me my favorites, at the moment my favorites are the second and third tracks; but all of the songs are amazing! I would give this album 19/20.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

New genre tags/labels added to reviews

Hi all, I've taken the time to add genre tags to all of my album reviews (except some of the REALLYYY old ones) to make things more organized. I should have all of it done by the end of today. Keep it brutal, I've got reviews from all those bands I mentioned a couple of days ago coming your way. Peace.

Exhumed - All Guts, No Glory

Exhumed released three albums during several years surrounding the turn of the century. Since then, they have become one of the most respected and loved death grind bands ever along with Cattle Decapitation, Dying Fetus, and Carcass. I’ve been listening to Exhumed for about two years and was taken by surprise to hear that they had gotten back together and were going to release a new album. My favorite Exhumed album (before I heard this one) was Slaughtercult. My least favorite is the last album that they released with original material in 2003. With that weak (compared to their other two albums) release being the last original material they had shown the world, I was a little bit skeptical about the new album. But when I saw the reviews that the critics that had been given advance promo copies, I was convinced. Since then, I’ve seen them live when they toured for this album last year with Macabre, Cephalic Carnage, and Withered, where I was blown away by the violence and brutality these old-farts brought to us Seattleites.

As far as the more brutal albums go, this is in my mind one of the best metal albums released in 2011 along with Agony (my favorite release of 2011, but there were TONS of AMAZING records released during that year). Although at the concert, I only had enough money to buy a sticker and a small button/pin (whatever you call it), I can guarantee you that I will be picking up a fresh copy of this when The Summer Slaughter Tour passes through this summer. Although the music behind the two classics (Slautercult and Gore Metal) are unforgettable and ground-breaking, the quality of the production and sound really got in the way at times; mainly when I was listening to them on my Zune (Microsoft’s version of the iPod) because the treble is blisteringly loud. The overall sound on All Guts, All Glory is EXACTLY what I needed!

I feel sort of guilty for saying this, but this album makes the earlier Exhumed material look amateur and unorganized. Although that sounds harsh (remember, I LOVE their earlier material), if you look at the song structure from a more critical perspective, the songs on this record are a lot cleaner and less “quickly slapped together”. The band is also tighter, so that makes it much easier for there to be more dramatic transitions and pauses without having someone start playing before everyone else. The guitar solos aren’t PURE shredding, the guitarists really improved their technique and musicianship during their time off.  So there is an obvious increase in professionalism and creativity in the guitar solos alone. Not only that, the background music actually changes during the guitar solos to help them stand out; so it doesn’t sound like everyone’s playing as loud as they fucking can to try to get above the other instruments (although that probably wasn’t ever their intention in the first place, it just sounds like it).

The vocals sound much more developed, especially the screams. The screams in Gore Metal (not so much in Slaughtercult) get a little bit irritating and wonky at times just because they sound really undeveloped. But remember, there’s nothing wrong with that as long as they get better over time, and they have…A HELL OF A FUCKING LOT! Of course, when I saw them, they played the intro track before the two guitarists and the bassist flipped their guitars, showing the stickers on the backs of their instruments, each one having one word, eventually spelling out GORE. FUCKING. METAL. Right after that, Exhumed charged into As Hammer to Anvil. For people that are new to Exhumed, this actually a great album to start out with (although their first two albums are ESSENTIAL). For people that have been listening to Exhumed for a while and haven’t heard this record yet…HEAR IT! I would give All Guts, No Glory 18/20. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New albums mean new reviews

2012 so far seems to be the best year metal has seen since the turn of the century. I've already reviewed some of the albums that it's brought us. I will soon be reviewing new albums from Cannibal Corpse, Eluveitie, Soulfly, Epica, Warbringer, and Naglfar.

Escape the Fate - This War is Ours

Escape the Fate released This War is Ours in the fall of 2008. There are so many mixed views that there isn’t much of a “majority opinion”. Although this isn’t a big issue in my opinion, the biggest reason why this is Escape the Fate’s most talked about album is because of the addition of Craig to replace the (at the time) recently imprisoned Ronnie. I honestly don’t really think much of the matter because that kind of shit happens all the time, I’m not even kidding. You just don’t hear about it because bands usually do a better job of keeping it out of the mainstream public eye. But the fact that ETF has had the eyes of the mainstream alternative music community LOCKED on them since the 2006 Vans Warped Tour has made it virtually impossible to have that go unnoticed. Another reason why this album has caused so much controversy is because of the dramatic (and often over exaggerated) change in musical style.

Probably what everyone knows about Craig is that he was the former vocalist for the screamo band blessthefall, only appearing on one of their EPs and their debut full-length. At first, I thought that he wasn’t a good fit for ETF and should go back to blessthefall…until I heard the vocalist that replaced him. In fact, I’ve actually come to really like his voice in the newer ETF music, I just don’t think his voice is rough and gritty enough for the material off Dying is your Latest Fashion. The biggest change that ETF has made in their musical style is having more of a rock-oriented sound as well as sounding a little less angry and heavy. This is actually partly because the guitar distortion is much, much smoother than in their debut, which had a very crunchy, dirty sound. As well as that, there’s much less screaming and next to no growling.

I’m almost completely convinced that the first track off the album was written when Ronnie was in the band, because it sounds like something that would have come off Dying is your Latest Fashion. The overall song is very enjoyable, but the poppy-sounding guitar solos don’t fit the rest of the music at all. Not only that, Craig’s voice doesn’t really give the song that really edgy feeling that Ronnie’s does; but that’s just because his voice doesn’t fit the sound of the song. This is the same case as Nightwish and their switch from Tarja and Anette; both have amazing voices, but Anette’s voice doesn’t sound good with the older songs, and Tarja’s voice definitely wouldn’t sound very fitting in their newer material.

After the first song, the album goes in a completely different direction; so I wouldn’t have the first track in the beginning because it gives you the wrong impression. I would instead put it at the end as a little surprise for the fans of the first album. The hit single off this album, Something, is actually a really cool song. Although it sounds like a completely different band, I still really like it. This is where Craig’s voice sounds best; but because it’s a “hit” single and it sounds so drastically different from the ETF that many remember, there’s a lot of people that hate it. The one thing about this track that sort of bothers me is that the song structure is a little TOO generic and simple. Although that might be hypocritical of me because one of my favorite bands is Breaking Benjamin, who sticks to the more basic song structures most of the time. I guess because the interlude of Something is really lacking…everything, when the song ends, I feel like I missed something, like the song doesn’t leave me completely satisfied; which is probably why people like to listen to it OVER and OVER. The Flood really has a rock-based screamo sound, which has already been done by tons of other bands; so I would expect something more out of a band of this status (which I’m starting to think is greatly undeserved).

Let it Go is actually one of my favorites off this album (which is ironic because this is the most disliked track from this record). But yet again, I feel that this song didn’t give me enough satisfaction. I’m not saying there’s anything that I DON’T like about it, it’s just that I don’t find it impressive and satisfying enough. 10 Miles Wide is my favorite song off the record, why? BECAUSE IT’S ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD AND SATISFYING! This is a song that I’ve never gotten tired of and that gets me pumped up with all the rock ‘n roll energy it has. Also, it has the really rough and edge voice of Josh Todd from Buckcherry, a hard rock band I’ve been listening to for I don’t know how the hell long…a LONG time. Even if you HATE Escape the Fate, if you like some of the more hard rock sounding stuff, I would definitely look this song up! WARNING: the music video is stupid and unattractive, so if you listen to the music video, I would just play it and NOT WATCH IT.

Honestly, this album is average. It has a few faults and some good things; the highlight of the whole album being the ninth track, 10 Miles Wide, which features vocals (singing and screaming) from Buckcherry vocalist Josh Todd. I almost never really listen to this album due to the dissatisfied feeling it leaves me (which is actually the same case with all the albums ETF has released). Although I would recommend that you look it up because there are a lot of people out there that LOVE it, it’s just not what I would say is easily enjoyable and worth my money. But look up that one song because it’s something that I even play over and over (when I get around to the rare occasion of listening to it). I would give this album 9/20.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ceremonial Castings - Immortal Black Art

Ceremonial Castings is probably my favorite black metal band ever right behind Xasthur and Darkthrone. I’ve been listening to them since they released their 2008 album and my friend dragged me to one of their concerts later that year when I was 15. Ever since watching their absolutely exemplifying performance and collecting all of their records, I’ve wondered day after day why these guys aren’t touring worldwide and aren’t having bands like Keep of Kalessin and Belphegor open for them. When I saw them, all of the opening acts were black metal unknowns that I can’t even remember today (I can name them off if I look at the tour poster in my room). But enough about me blah-blah-blahing about the band, this is my favorite album by them, Immortal Black Art.

The production quality on this album is actually very poor, but not nearly as bad as the two albums that came after this. But because this is black metal, the crappy production quality doesn’t even slightly obstruct my ability to enjoy this album. They’ve been (for some reason) listed as black death in some places, although that’s possibly somewhat true because the vocalist uses DEEP growls in several places, especially in their two most recent albums. So for those of you that are bothered by black metal with bad production quality, GET OVER IT.

There are only a handful of other black metal bands that I know of that are faster than Ceremonial Castings, and those bands are Dark Funeral, Keep of Kalessin, and Gorgoroth. That’s probably one of their most memorable characteristics, their unstoppable bombarding speed. Hopefully you aren’t someone that doesn’t enjoy the song Transylvanian Hunger by Darkthrone. But if you happen to be one of those people, the ninth track off this record consists of a cover of that song…but ten times faster. The two albums that were released after Immortal Black Art when into an almost completely experimental direction; much, much different from this album and the ones before it, so if you want one with more of a traditional, sped-up black metal sound without all of the experimental droning elements, this is what you want. Of course, not all of the songs have speeds that mow you down; there’s plenty of slower material. But the overall sound of this album is virtually barbaric and unrelenting fury.

I have a hard time hearing the bassist when listening to this record on my Zune (Microsoft’s version of the Ipod). But when I play this record on my computer and turn up the bass, I can hear a whole new colorful sound spectrum that was previously hidden under the dust. The vocalist’s black metal screams are some of the best I’ve ever heard and have always left me envious after listening to his voice.

As far as individual tracks go, Come Forth…Damnation has always been my favorite. This was the first song I heard by them and the song they opened with when I saw them. This track has a perfect blend of barbaric speed, extremely atmospheric and melodic keyboard layers, and tranquilizing black metal elements. In several parts during the song, the tempo goes down dramatically only to whip you back up high into the air. The title track is also one that I’ve always enjoyed. This is probably one of their first TRULY experimental tracks that reflect their more recent material. Immortal Black Art also breaks down the elements of black metal and experimental metal, modifies and transforms them, and puts them back together to produce an eight-minute song of beauty.

The last thing that I’d like to say is that this album cover is one of the best I’ve ever seen in my life. I know that “you shouldn’t judge it by it’s cover”, but come on, there’s some pretty awesome artwork out there in the metal world! And the cover for Immortal Black Art has always been one of my favorites. This is one of my favorite black metal albums EVER and I would recommend it to EVERYONE, even if they aren’t into extreme metal because I’m happy as long as people know who they are and have at least heard their music. This is one of the most underappreciated AMAZING metal bands and I can’t see how that’s possible. I would give this record a perfect score.

If you want a better look at the album cover, click here:

Blood Red Throne - Souls of Damnation

Blood Red Throne is a traditional death metal band from Norway. So this is a band for those of you that are looking for some PURE death metal bands. Although Norway’s black metal scene has always dominated their death metal community, Blood Red Throne is one of the few death metal bands that have successfully risen above that. I’m not super familiar with Blood Red Throne’s older material (although I will be very soon once I get it), I quickly became a huge fan of this album as well as their 2007 record. The band’s 2007 album, Come Death, actually isn’t that good when compared to Souls of Damnation (but it’s still a really strong album). So if you’re someone that wants a really good first impression from Blood Red Throne, this is the album that I would recommend.

Yes, I do love that PURE and TRUE death metal sound produced by bands like Morbid Angel, Autopsy, and Immolation; but I’ve always had a big soft spot for those death metal bands that give me stuff that’s so fucking catchy! For example, Dead to Rights by DevilDriver is something that I would consider very catchy (even though it’s not pure death metal), as well as Mouth of Empty Praise from Bloodbath’s Unblessing the Purity EP. Sort of that really thick and heavy beat that people like to headbang to, but is also perfectly appropriate for any other kind of “dance” that you would want to do. The first song off of Souls of Damnation is exactly what I would call a “catchy” song with that kind of beat…except it’s a lot faster than most of the other examples I can think of. That’s what really got me hooked on these guys, when I heard that faster, ultra-catchy beat, I gave them the instant thumbs up for not only being able to pull that off, but also for just making music that I would call enjoyable!

Whenever I listen to this album, I’m always worried that I may have spoken too soon (which has happened in the past). But so far, almost three years later, I haven’t had to say that. The creativity and songwriting skills surpass the members’ above average instrumental abilities. The vocalist’s growls are crisp and deep, but still not something I would list as one of my favorites. His screams aren’t really that good, so that’s something that either needs to be worked on or just taken out altogether. His vocal patterns are generally simple, which is partly why it sounds really cool because he has the complex tempos of the rest of the band in the background.

There isn’t really anything that amazing about the drummer. But regardless of that, he still expresses his ability to play an infinite amount of different styles all throughout the album. And by that, I mean the drumming sounds (sometimes completely) different on each song, giving each of the tracks their uniqueness. Of course, the one thing that all musicians need to have is their recognizable trademark style or sound; and what the Blood Red Throne drummer does on pretty much every song is almost constant fast double kicking. And he’s lucky because he’s one of the better drummers at double kicking for a long time and NEVER falling out of tempo. His blast beats sound the same every time he uses them, so that’s something that tends to bother me because it only fits in certain places. The bassist is probably the most skilled musician in the band. This is also thrown at you about two and a half minutes into the first track with that short solo to keep things at a driving pace.

Blood Red Throne is one of the better traditional death metal bands out there, especially with this album. Don’t expect anything SUPER inventive or new except for a really fast CATCHTY sound in most of the songs. The overall sound production on this album is flawless, so you don’t have to worry about not hearing something or having too much treble. I would give this album 16/20. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Annotations of an Autopsy - Before the Throne of Infection

Before the Throne of Infection has been and always will be one of my favorite deathcore albums. I don’t really know what the definition of so-called “pussy deathcore” because some of the deathcore bands out there are some of the most brutal metal bands of all-time. And by that I mean Suicide Silence, Whitechapel, Through the Eyes of the Dead, Ingested, A Different Breed of Killer, Eviscerated, and Annotations of an Autopsy. Although Annotations have moved more in a traditional death metal direction with their 2010 release, deathcore has always been deep in their roots. Here’s something for those of you that like all of that death grind and brutal slamming death metal stuff: Steve, the vocalist, does INHALES! He’s one of the best inhalers I’ve ever heard and was somewhat upset when I heard him just using exhales in their second album. But I’m not going to let that ruin this album for me. Not only that, these guys have brutal death backgrounds instead of only coming from the deathcore/metalcore scene.

This album has an intro and an interlude that are really soft electric guitar solos that honestly aren’t SUPER impressive, but are more than enough to make me happy. I especially love how the transition from the softness to the heavier, darker sound in the intro is very smooth and doesn’t have a sudden, explosive change. I guess this is because the drums aren’t very loud, with the guitars being the tent covering the rest of the band. Speaking of guitars, the guitarists aren’t extraordinarily talented, but oh man are they creative! And I’m not saying that their specific parts are ultra-creative, I’m talking about how they (and every other member of the band) do a perfect job of keeping the music engaging and addicting. A lot of what they do is a really deep “chugging” that is actually the base of the brutality contained in the album.

The drumming is where all the action is, literally. The musician that does the most work in this album is the drummer by far. When you listen closely to all of the things that he’s doing during songs like Sludge City, Fisted to the Point of Regurgitation, and Human Dust, it may not sound any better than a lot of other deathcore and brutal death drummers out there; but it’s something that has much, much more creativity and thought put into it other than just a fancy blast beat with some slower fills. But remember what I said, it’s not that the musicians are amazing; it’s their songwriting and creative abilities.

Probably one of my favorite things that is used in the deathcore genre is that cylindrical bar the drummer hits to create a paralyzing bass boom that shakes the walls and runs through your whole body. I especially find this tasty when it’s used during the two slowest and most brutal breakdowns on the album. The unfortunate thing about this is that it’s very easy to overuse (like bands like Bring me the Horizon, Emmure, Monsters, and Winds of Plague have done). My favorite songs from this album are Human Dust, Sludge City, and Years of Disgust.

Sludge City is just an outright brutal deathcore song that is true to the genre and never fails to lighten up. Human Dust is a great track because of the abstract vocal pattern that’s put on top of the chugging music in the beginning and in some other parts. Years of Disgust is by far my favorite. The DEEP bass bombards your ears in the beginning and then the drummer hits that goddamn bass boom bar (I should call it the BBB) to send chills down your spine. This is an outstanding record and is definitely something that deathcore-hating brutal death and grind fans should look up because it might surprise you. I would give this 20/20.

Nile - In Their Darkened Shrines

Having become one of my favorite bands of all-time (literally), I’ve come to know Nile’s music extremely well and have had the pleasure to see them perform on stage twice in 2010 (and a third time this April). If you go around and ask hardcore Nile fans what their favorite Nile album is, chances are that 96% of the time they will say In their Darkened Shrines. Personally, I know tons of Nile fans (aka all of the metalheads I know), and out of all of them that I’ve asked that question to, only two said something other than In their Darkened Shrines. If you asked me that question, I would say that it’s a tie between Black Seeds of Vengeance and Those Whom the Gods Detest. There are some cases where I just can’t see what it is that people love so much about a certain popular album. But when it comes to this album, I can understand completely why people are so fond of it. Nile has never released a mediocre album (the lowest score I’ve ever given one of their albums is 14/20). But with the release of their new album approaching very quickly, I want you to know that I’m saying this from a perspective of someone who HASN’T heard the new album. Because I’ve been unpleasantly surprised time and time again by bands like Metallica, Morbid Angel, Bring me the Horizon, and many more.

At first I just couldn’t see why Those Whom the Gods Detest wasn’t EVERYONE’S favorite Nile album, that is, until I noticed the drumming that was done on In their Darkened Shrines. Like many people from the younger community, the first song from that album I heard was Sarcophagus when I watched the music video on YouTube. Immediately, I was struck with guitar riffs and harmonizations that were almost completely and solely influenced by the musical style that comes out of northern Africa and the middle-east. But for those of you that were expecting bombarding blast beats and crushing drumming, this probably isn’t the song that will give you that in its fullest. Instead, let’s go back to the beginning of the album where you’re greeted by the gentle buildup of the cymbals and a creepy choir in the background. This is one of those things where it’s literally an explosive burst of chaos; when I first heard this, I didn’t know what the hell to think! It was then that I realized what all of those people meant when they said that Nile is hard to handle. Just remember that this is the only Nile album that this particular drummer is on, he was replaced by their current drummer roughly two years after the release of this album.

I’ve noticed that the majority of the growls get higher-pitched with each album. When you listen to the title song on Black Seeds of Vengeance, the growls are so fucking deep that it’s hard to hear them at times! Of course, I know that there are two vocalists and all of Karl’s growls have always been deep. Although Dallas can still pull off some of the DEEPEST gutturals I’ve ever heard, the growls that he does the majority of the time have gotten higher pitched and closer to a yell with each album. There is even an extremely noticeable difference in the general pitch of Dallas’ growls in this album than the ones in Black Seeds of Vengeance.

Here’s another thing that makes this album much more unique than most of the other Nile albums. This album has much less of a “brutal” sound and a MUCH darker sound than all of the other Nile records. Of course, Karl Sander’s guitar work is flawless and further strengthens my opinion on him as being one of the greatest guitarists of all-time. As far as the overall sound of all the songs on the album, it’s pretty much like every other Nile album out there, there’s a mix of the barbaric slamming brutality and the middle-eastern styled slower songs with some melodic layers. There really isn’t anything at all that I DON’T like about this album, I guess it’s more so that the things that I DO like about it don’t appeal to me as much as Black Seeds and Those Whom the Gods Detest. I would HIGHLY recommend this to everyone into extreme metal and even everyone who is curious about getting into death metal. But beware, the technical brutality that this band delivers is in fact hard for many to handle. But regardless of that, I would give this record 16/20.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Eviscerated - Eviscerated

Eviscerated was a deathcore band that had a lot more death than core in their music. For those of you that are curious as to others that are like this, other similar artists include some Suicide Silence, Whitechapel, Carnifex, Ingested, The Red Chord, and SWWAATS. Here’s the thing about Eviscerated that sets them apart from these other bands: the amount of brutality and violence their music holds. I discovered Eviscerated via Amputated Vein Records, where this album was released four years ago. Here’s a piece of trivia I bet might surprise some of you: one of their guitarists is currently in the new big hit, Fallujah. Now here’s something that caused me to judge this band, when I saw the cover, I thought “brutal death”, I never would have guessed that I would get pure deathcore! But here’s the thing about Eviscerated-style deathcore, the breakdowns aren’t as extreme and pronounced as other bands like to do (Suicide Silence, Carnifex, Oceano, etc.)

The vocals primarily consist of high-pitched screams that remind me of Suicide Silence’s earlier years when Mitch still had his top-notch screams. The growls aren’t quite deep enough for me, but they’re used sparingly, so they don’t interfere with my enjoyment of the music. Although I don’t normally pay attention at all to the lyrics, I can’t help but mention that Eviscerated is one of the (if not THE SINGLE) most sick and twisted deathcore bands I’ve ever heard. But lyrical content and the arousing album cover aside; the music inside the cheap plastic case is what matters most.

The overall structure of the music is very well put together considering that this was just a bunch of college-aged kids trying to create metalcore-influenced slamming brutality. The music isn’t confusing or overwhelming, but it still holds pleasant surprises to show you that it’s far from predictable. The musicianship and instrumental skill of the members is surprisingly impressive. Although the songs aren’t totally different from each other, they still are unique enough to keep someone from saying “they all sound the same”.

Here’s my ABSOLUTE favorite thing about this record, the drums. First of all, the drummer is amazing and couldn’t possibly get any better because he already makes the music seem flawless (mainly his drumming). Not only that, the way his drums sound are like nothing I’ve ever heard before in my life. I like to have a really fat and thick DEEP sound on drums instead of a weak high-pitched sound. The Eviscerated drummer as a really fat and thick high-pitched sound with a lot of mid-range mashed in. The snare is probably what I like the best; it’s hard to make the snare sound REALLY cool, and the producer fucking NAILED it. Just listen to my favorite song off the album, Rectal Trauma to hear the snare by itself. His drums have no reverb and echo at all, so it makes him sound technical and complex (especially with the crazy shit he pulls off on the toms and snare). He doesn’t drown out the rest of the band; instead, he surrounds the rest of the band and becomes the motor of the music. This is an amazing deathcore album that can be summed up as being a package of metalcore-influenced slamming brutality. I would give this record 18/20. 

Defeated Sanity - Psalms of the Moribund

I’ve been listening to Defeated Sanity for quite some time now. And honestly, I’ve never been hugely impressed by them. But it’s one of those things where I don’t love them, but I still listen to them quite often. This was the first album by them that I listened to. I listened to their first album (aka atrocity) and deleted it after the fourth song (for obvious reasons). Psalms of the Moribund is a HUGE improvement from their debut disaster, but it still doesn’t amount to much. But even though it doesn’t amount to much by my standards, Psalms of the Moribund sparked a major increase in Defeated Sanity’s popularity amongst the brutal death scene. I did a little research on the kinds of gigs that Defeated Sanity play and they’ve actually HEADLINED several FESTIVALS in Europe and have also had very high spots on American festivals!

Pretty much everything about Defeated Sanity fits the stereotypical description of your generic, typical brutal/slam death band. You have the inhaled vocals, the heavy distorted guitars, the blast beat drumming, and of course, the extremely offensive and disturbing album artwork (to the eyes of the mainstream). For the four years that I’ve been listening to these guys, I’ve tried time and time again to find something unique about them; but every time I’ve failed. Although there are TONS of “generic” brutal death bands that I listen to like Disentomb, Bloodboil, and Deeds of Flesh, there are certain things about this particular album that make it much more difficult for me to enjoy. The two main things that bother the FUCK out of me are that all the songs sound EXACTLY the same, and that there are key elements that are drowned out due to poor production work.

When I said “key elements” I meant the vocals. You have to listen closely to even hear that the vocals are even THERE! But it’s not like the guitars DROWN OUT the vocals, it’s just that they blend together so perfectly that they all sound like one thing, which irritates the hell out of me. And on top of that, the vocals don’t really sound that impressive to begin with. Not because they’re inhales, but because it just sounds like a constant inhaled growl changing pitch, I can’t even tell IF there are words involved (which is probably hypocritical because I enjoy bands like Eden Beast and Visceral Disgorge, who aren’t any easier to understand than these guys). But even with Visceral Disgorge, you can still tell that there are words involved and that there are consonants. So the vocals don’t come anywhere near to being satisfactory on my scale.

The drummer seems to be slipping out of time occasionally, but not NEARLY as much as on their first album; so that shows a huge improvement. His blast beats seem really disorganized and somewhat random at times (by random, I mean that it sounds like he’s just hitting random drums and cymbals instead of sticking to a certain pattern). But the blast beats aren’t all that the drummer pulls off, he does keep things interesting by going along closely with the guitars during some of the slower parts. Honestly, this is what I would consider an average death metal drummer; he’s good for the genre and can definitely improve, but there’s nothing special about him at all other than that he can double kick pretty fast.

Psalms of the Moribund is a HUGE improvement from their debut disaster, but it’s still not anywhere near something that I would donate money to obtain. This is understandable because they made an unbelievably huge improvement, so I’m not going to bash their efforts just because it’s still not good enough; that just means that they need to make ANOTHER huge improvement with their third album to make me give the thumbs-up (which is exactly what they did with Chapters of Repugnance). I would give this album 8/20.