Saturday, June 30, 2012

Putrefy - One Nation Under Gore

I forget how I came across Putrefy. All that I remember was that it was in the summer of 2010 when I REALLY got into the whole underground brutal death thing. I was fascinated by any band that could play pure fucking brutality. I remember seeing Putrefy on Spirit of Metal and noticing the (few, but) high ratings users had given it. One thing that I remember was that besides the extreme brutality, the vocals kind of bothered me (possibly an understatement). I loved the really thick and crunchy sound the guitars had and I thought that the sound of the drums was pretty cool. Well now that I’ve listened to this album for the first time in what seems like forever, I can now say with pure confidence that this album is a worthless piece of crap that doesn’t deserve to be listened to, touched, looked at, or even thought about. Out of all of the brutal death/grindcore/etc. albums that I’ve heard, there are only two albums that are as bad as this (which means that there’s obviously something wrong with Putrefy). But instead of going on a pointless rant about how this albums sucks, I’m going to answer your question as to WHY it so repulsive!

Here’s the surprising thing, THIS BAND HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE 1992, which means that they’ve had PLENTY of time to improve! Although I should mention that they split-up in the mid-1990s (I understand why after listening to their early shitty demos) and then got back together in 2002 with the drummer being the only original member. But to be honest, the new lineup isn’t any better than the old lineup. In fact, they’re 100 times worse than they did in the early 1990s. Bands that suck THIS bad usually don’t last very long at all, and yet Putrefy has managed to break the 20-year mark. How is this possible? I have no fucking idea.

It’s impossible to pick a favorite OR least favorite member of the band because they all suck shit-dripping asshole. The guitarist knows how to create a cool distortion, but that’s it. He attempts to solo (like in Fresh Meat) and fails to even pull off a simple sweeping shred! He does have the ability to tremolo pick, but not for very long. He plays really fast for about 20 seconds and then gets tired and falls out of time. If I were him, I would postpone the album-writing process so that I could get those skills down and PLAY BETTER! There’s nothing wrong with postponing an album (especially for a band THIS underground) in order to obtain a basic and much-needed skill to play the music. The problem is that he went ahead and tried to do it anyway…and failed miserably.

The drummer, the only original member, the guy that’s had THE LONGEST TIME TO IMPROVE, is one of the worst drummers I’ve ever heard in my entire life (that is not an exaggeration). He can’t keep time to save his lunch money (let alone his life). His blast beats are very sloppy and NEVER keep time. He fails completely to stay in time with the guitarist (and vice versa). In any kind of music (especially music that’s this fast and demandingly brutal), it is EXTREMELY CRITICAL that the entire band must stay on tempo with as much precision as possible! If the band fails to do that (a little sloppiness here and there is understandable), the music falls apart completely and sounds like a wet, shit-dripping asshole.

The vocalist is repulsive and makes me cringe every time a sound comes out of his mouth. Yes, it is possible to put dynamics and emotion into inhaled vocals; it’s just really hard. Most vocalists that do inhaled vocals get along with the bare minimum, which is fine because at least they show SOME skill. But this guy sounds EXACTLY the same for the ENTIRE duration of the album! Not only that, he’s turned up way too loud and there’s too much reverb on his voice, making the whole band sound unrealistic. His “vocals” are annoying, sickening, and just plain disgustingly HORRIBLE! In fact, I can’t stand to think about this album for another fucking SECOND! Do not waste your time, money, or brain space on this record because brokeNCYDE and Limp Bizkit are more worthy of your time than this record. Oh, by the way, I would give this album 1/20, but would give it a negative-numbered score if I could.  

Swashbuckle - Back to the Noose

When most people hear “pirate-themed metal”, they think Alestorm. When I think of it, the first thing that pops into my mind is Swashbuckle! In fact, I’ve been listening to Swashbuckle before I was even aware of Alestorm’s existence! Here’s the difference between Alestorm and Swashbuckle: Swashbuckle is heavier, faster, crazier, funnier, more creative, and a hell of a lot more fun to listen to! I discovered Swashbuckle via Nuclear Blast when they announced the (at the time) new signing of the trio. When I saw these three fuckers dressed up as pirates, I knew this was going to be interesting. When Back to the Noose was finally released, I listened to it over and over until I couldn’t stand it anymore! It was just too much of a fucking blast to listen to! If you’re into the really fun metal like Korpiklaani but are in the mood for something much heavier and faster, Swashbuckle is what you need.

Being one of my favorite thrash death bands along with Gojira, DevilDriver, Revocation, and Possessed, I can’t even begin to describe my excitement when I saw that they were going to be one of the opening acts for Soilwork on their 2010 summer tour. In fact, I just realized that that show was one of the only concerts that had a 100% PERFECT lineup of bands (a show which I was in love with every band that was on the tour) having Soilwork headlining and Death Angel, Augury, Mutiny Within, and Swashbuckle as opening acts. When you look at most thrash death bands, you’ll notice that the majority of them have longer than average songs (5+ minutes). This album has much shorter songs with tons of interludes with PURE non-metal pirate music. This actually bothered me at first because I was so into their mix of thrash metal, death metal, and grindcore that I didn’t want to have a goofy half-minute song with accordions and acoustic guitars in between every other song.

But in this review, I’m going to focus only on the metal songs on the album. The vocalist/bassist, who looks like Peter Griffin with a beard and glasses, plays as the captain of the crew. His bass playing is amazing and shows enormous talent and tons of skill (especially when it comes to the faster thrashy parts). Also, his bass is tuned specifically so that he still creates a HUGE lower end, but makes the clanging of the strings audible through the rest of the sound (which is what’s easiest to hear). His vocals…I don’t know how to describe them, they’re literally like NOTHING I’ve ever heard in my life. They actually sound like an angry pirate captain’s yell. In most of the song’s, Captain Griffin (that’s what I call him) plays the lead line with his bass guitar, leaving the guitarist to give the back-end plenty of crunch and brutality.

I wasn’t sure what to think of the drummer until I saw these three people dressed up as pirates perform on stage. The drummer plays a style that (to me) resembles more of a thrashy-grindcore style. What I mean is that he plays what a good grindcore drummer would play during the blazingly fast parts and then hits a breakdown like a thrash metal drummer would. In other words, this guy is fucking nuts when it comes to playing brutal drumming.

Ok, so what did I mean when I said these guys are funny and make fun music? Well, the pirate-music interludes speak for themselves. But wouldn’t you like to have really fun music that you could mosh and literally go crazy as FUCK to?? I’ll tell you this, I knew that they were going to play an absolutely crushing performance, and when they started playing, I was one of the people that COMPLETELY 100% LOST IT in the moshpit. This is the kind of music that subliminally entices the listener to start going crazy or to just laugh at the hilarious lyrics and themes. Believe me, don’t try to take these guys seriously, they’re purposefully being goofy. But besides them being fun; as a band, they’re tight, they show plenty of variety of sounds and tones in their music, and they express that they can have tons of fun while still taking the music-writing process seriously. If a band doesn’t at least take SOME of the music seriously, the music won’t be good. I would give this album 16/20 for being one of the most fun albums to listen to in my music library. I would HIGHLY recommend picking up a copy of this to everyone that likes to have some fun listening to brutality every once in a while. My favorite songs on this album are probably the two craziest and most brutal songs on the record: Sharkbait and Attack!!!

Artillery - When Death Comes

I’m not going to let Artillery’s earlier material influence my opinion on this album because I don’t have any of their earlier albums and I’ve found everything else I’ve heard by them disgusting. Because I was completely unfamiliar with these Danish thrashers, I decided to pick the album with the highest average rating on Spirit of Metal. After well over a year of periodically (but thoroughly) listening to this record, I have yet to be disappointed. For those of you that have no idea who these guys are, they’ve released a few albums and a shitload of demos since 1985. I haven’t heard anyone mention them as an important contributor to the thrash metal genre, but they have been around since the mid-1980s (which definitely shines through their sound). For me, I seem to fall for the more modernized thrash metal records than the old school ones. But I have to admit, there are numerous classic records from the 80s that I just can’t stop listening to.

Here’s something that I’ve noticed about thrash metal; there aren’t very many mediocre records out there that I’ve heard. Most thrash albums are either amazing (i.e. Overkill’s two most recent albums) or unspeakably terrible (i.e. St. Anger). When Death Comes is one of those “mediocre” thrash metal records. Although it is mediocre (a term usually applied to generic records), it’s a very unique album that deserves to be talked about. If you’ve been listening to thrash metal and want something more on the melodic side (like Metallica), Artillery is a band that should be in your collection (well, this album at least). But remember, melodic doesn’t always mean slower. Artillery’s music still goes with the traditional “medium-fast to blazing fast” style that’s been done since the days of early Slayer and Metallica.

But, with that being a possible cause of excitement for some of you, don’t get your hopes TOO high, because this isn’t anywhere near a masterpiece. To be honest, the drummer isn’t really that good. He’s good by metal standards and gets the job done right, nothing more than that. But being an original member of the band (which formed in 1982), I would expect him to show a lot more experience and skill. And I’m not just talking about speed and complexity (which is what I like to hear in a thrash drummer), but also about creativity and musicality. His drumming fits the music great, but I would really expect something more impressive out of a drummer that’s been in an extreme metal band for so damn long. Then again, he may have the skill and talent to play amazing stuff, but felt that this particular record required a more generic and simplistic style of drumming.

The guitarists play a style that reminds me a little bit of the early days of metalcore (mid to late 1990s). It’s the guitarists that are mainly responsible for Artillery’s melodic sound, although the vocals definitely contribute. They play well in-synch, they express plenty of talent that shows that they’ve taken time to improve and use their experience to the best of their abilities over the past 20+ years that they’ve been playing guitar. The solos are really the zenith of the album. The solos can be described as traditional 80s-style shredding with more of a melodic touch.

The vocals aren’t impressive at all. They’re not disappointing, but I don’t think that the vocalist on this album fits the music very well. He would fit in perfectly with a power metal band, but even though his voice and singing help enhance the melodic sound of Artillery, there’s nothing about him that sticks out to me in any way. I don’t know whether to consider the vocalist a positive or negative element because I don’t HATE him and I definitely don’t LOVE him. He’s just another member of the band that happened to join a year before the album’s release, nothing more, nothing less. So overall, if I were to suggest any Artillery album to you, I would suggest When Death Comes. I’m not energized when listening to this album, nor am I disgusted and eager to turn it off. After listening to this record, I’m left generally empty and unsatisfied because of the album’s lack of ability to satisfy. In other words, this album is generally uneventful and unexciting. Being one of the more melodic thrash metal records in my collection, When Death Comes gets my score of 12/20. Think of it as…a fusion of 80s heavy metal and thrash metal. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Upcoming Reviews

Here are some bands I may or may not post reviews on:

Putrefy (brutal death)
Putridity (brutal death)
Imperanon (melodic death)
Endrone (metalcore)
Artillery (thrash metal)
Swashbuckle (thrash death)
Wormed (death grind)

All that Remains - Overcome

Ok, now for me to go through the painstaking process of reviewing one of the most famous and most infamous metalcore albums in history, Overcome by All that Remains. Remember, I used to be in love with this album back during the time of its release. It was roughly two years ago that I started going “eeehhh” at this album. One thing that I’ll never change my mind about is that their performance at the 2009 Mayhem Festival was great and very entertaining. One thing that I also haven’t changed my mind about (yet) is that the only song by them that I still like is from this album, Two Weeks. But I’m even growing old of that song now. Now that I’ve listened to this thing for the first time in what seems like forever, I’m ready to write a good review on it…well, not that kind of “good”.

I’m having an extremely hard time finding positive things to say about this record. I can only say raw factual things and negative things. The heavy parts are extremely dull and horribly rushed, the melodic parts are derived from nu metal bands Disturbed and Saliva (neither of which are total disasters). I’ve heard a lot about the apparent excessive use of auto-tune in the singing, but I’m having a very hard time hearing it. There is one thing that’s easily noticeable, and that is that the singing HAS had A LOT of editing done on it. I’m serious, the singing sounds completely artificial! No, I don’t hear the uneven changes in pitch caused in auto-tune, but I definitely can tell that there was a hell of a lot of editing on the vocals.

The screaming has obviously had editing done on as well because there is no way that a vocalist can change the sound of his scream THAT much in only two years. So I can see how people would hear edited vocals and instantly just say “auto-tune” because that’s the only form of vocal editing they know of, but speaking in technical terms, there hasn’t been any auto-tune performed (that I can hear) other than possibly changing the pitch of his vocals before he starts singing so that he can sing a line with higher notes that he can’t quite reach. But I’m not saying that just because I don’t like the vocals, if for some crazy-ass reason, the vocals are actually pure and raw, then the singer just sucks altogether. So there’s really no getting out of that one, the singing sucks regardless of what’s been done to them.

Everything that the guitarists and bassist play is dull and boring. Yes, they play everything that needs to be played to be considered metalcore, but it’s completely unoriginal and FUCKING DULL, DULLER THAN A SPHERE! The distortion sounds cool at first, but then quickly gets in the way of any emotion they might be putting into what they’re playing. But I highly doubt that the guitarists are putting ANY kind of effort or emotion into their playing. I can’t even hear the bassist, so there’s no point at all talking about her.

Well, here’s a unique thing about them (if you’re hoping to hear something like that about them): they fuse metalcore with another genre. This is something that’s been done for over a decade, the most common fusion being metalcore with death metal (most commonly known as deathcore). But there are bands like Threat Signal and Demon Hunter that fuse metalcore with thrash metal, Mnemic whom fuses metalcore elements with industrial metal, Mutiny Within and Periphery who fuse metalcore with several genres like melodic death, alternative metal, power metal, djent (which I don’t consider a real genre), and rock. All that Remains fuses metalcore with hard rock and nu metal (mainly new metal, but there’s enough hard rock in their music that it should be mentioned).

So metalcore+nu metal+hard rock=All that Remains. If you ask me, that’s a pretty difficult task to pull-off and make it sound legit. Well, All that Remains has been doing that for the past 10 years and it sucks. The idea was great, and at first, the nu metal sounds they were implementing in their music were from heavier bands like Mudvayne and Slipknot. Now, they use much more melodic, mainstream and easier-selling nu metal elements that are most notably used by Five Finger Death Punch (although they’re rock now), Saliva, and post-2002 Disturbed. This has ended up in a complete collapse in the band’s quality and creativity. No wonder drummer Mike Bartlett left the band instantly after they released The Fall of Ideals in 2006! They started sucking!! But don’t get me wrong, the idea was great, but once the experimentation with better-selling nu metal elements started, they went downhill.

If you can’t quite pinpoint my opinion on this album, it sucks. It’s painful enough listening to it while I’m writing this review. I would give this album a 4/20. Nothing else needs to be said in this review, don’t waste your time on this piece of trash, it’s not worth your time. There are so many better metalcore bands than All that Remains! THIS ALUBM IS TRASH!

Confide - Recover

I know that many people have given up on screamo and have moved on to other areas of metal due to the sharp decrease in quality and originality the genre has taken over the past four years or so. And that’s completely understandable because even I have become less interested in screamo over time. But since I haven’t TOTALLY lost interest in that style of music, I still listen to some of my old favorites (Underoath, The Word Alive, Alesana, I am Ghost, etc.) and occasionally check to see what fresh new bands have recently risen from the undergrounds. Not only have I been doing this in screamo, but also in metalcore; which has led to countless disappointments and more supporting evidence of screamo and metalcore’s decrease in creativity and originality. Well, I’m here today to shine some light on the subject for those of you with a screamo band that more or less represents the diamond in the rough, Confide.

I’ve had this album on my computer for a little over a year, which was right when I was really starting to get pissed off at the screamo genre due to the recent releases of Attack Attack!, Vampires Everywhere, Enter Shikari, and many others. Oh, and yes, I am fully aware that the old Confide drummer is now the drummer for Avenged Sevenfold. And I also know that he is NOT on this particular album, which is somewhat unfortunate because this is Confide’s best release.

I’ve become EXTREMELY picky when it comes to screamo, because in the condition the genre is currently in, only the BEST of the BEST deserve my credit. So here are things that I feel make up a credible screamo band: a vocalist that has a strong, clean, high-pitched scream and a good, deep growl (if he/she growls). The singing has to be PRISTINE and above-average with no auto-tune (although I know that some bands like I See Stars use auto-tune for effect to fit the music, so that’s an understandable exception since the singer has already expressed his ability to sing great without it). The songs need to have plenty of variety and body; which means MORE THAN JUST SIMPLE BREAKDOWNS! Yes, I know that the breakdown is a huge part of the screamo genre, but there seriously needs to be more to it than just that. The drummer has to have excellent kick drumming skills (i.e. Asking Alexandria, Underoath, etc.), and the guitarists and bassist need to play more than just really low chords. This is (for me) what makes up a good screamo band.

But, of course, a band can be REALLY strong in any one of those areas to the point where it makes up for any of the areas where the band lacks. Like for example, Alesana’s screamer…well…sucks. But the extreme color and creativity that Alesana expresses in their music as well as the musicianship makes up for the crappy screaming. Confide is a screamo band that is strong in every single one of the areas I listed above. The last time I came across a band like that was when I was introduced to The Word Alive in early 2010 when I saw them open for Alesana (and yes it’s completely coincidental that I just used Alesana as an example before).

Confide’s music is very traditional and doesn’t add in any extra instruments or sounds to make it extremely unique and recognizable (like keyboards, orchestral sounds, etc.). But this is probably because the band realized that they didn’t need any of that in this album because it was already more than good enough. If they put anything extra in this album, the music would most likely sound overdone and that there’s too much going on at once, which has proved to end up disastrous in previous accounts. But there isn’t only a good side to the simplicity of this record, there’s also a bad side. And that bad side is that the music is less memorable and has less of a recognizable sound. Confide is one of the only good screamo bands that I can think of that doesn’t have a specific trait that no one else has. The only thing that I can think about them is that they’re very well-rounded, skilled, creative, and energetic.

The screaming sounds SOMEWHAT unique. But then again, there are much more recognizable screamers out there (Spencer Chamberlain, Austin Carlie, post-2010 Caleb Shomo, etc.), but the vocalist for Confide isn’t any more unique than Danny Worsnop or Beau Bokan. Although his screaming isn’t the least bit unique, it still sounds very crisp and has a very strong sound. The singing is also not unique in any way, but still has great range and has a beautiful sound.

Ok, let’s talk about the music itself. One thing that I look for in screamo (and metalcore) bands is how they put together their breakdowns. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m just sick and tired of the simplistic traditional breakdowns. Of course I still enjoy the breakdowns in the older records I’ve listened to for years, but starting in late 2011, simplistic breakdowns cause albums to get lower scores in my reviews. The breakdowns in THIS album aren’t SUPER simple, but they’re definitely not totally new. Listen to the first song, which completely blew me away in my first listen. The song opens with some traditional electronics which then drops an extremely heavy non-traditional breakdown that has a fucking shitload of power and ambient harmonizing guitars that give it audible color. The screams and growls during that one part enhance the moment to create an intro that almost instantly confirmed that this was going to be a great album.

Once that song was over, I was purely amazed. After several painful months of listening to countless disgustingly horrible new screamo bands and records, this album left me so relieved that I actually gained a little bit more respect for the genre, thanks to Confide. But the awesomeness doesn’t end there! The music goes from heavier tracks that can be considered heavy metalcore to softer tracks that can be described as “calming chaos”. The sound quality of the record is perfect and couldn’t be any better. And finally, the sound that the album delivers never gets old. Of course, if the band were to re-unite and make a duplicate record, I wouldn’t be that impressed. But the lineup of members and the sound they create in this album is all that I need from this band. The drummer’s kickdrumming is amazing and EXTREMELY tight with the rest of the band. If you’re hoping for a screamo record that’s a diamond in the rough, get Recover by Confide. I would give this album 18/20.   

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hacksaw to the Throat - Tear my Eyes Out...

You've got to admit, Hacksaw to the Throat is a pretty fucking brutal name. I found out about these guys when I read the liner notes on the only album released by deathcore band Eviscerated, which said that the vocalist from Hacksaw to the Throat is doing guest vocals on a lot or most of the songs (I don’t know because I can’t find details on the Eviscerated album ANYWHERE). I know it’s true because…well listen to the very beginning of the last song on the Eviscerated album, Rectal Trauma. There is no denying that that scream belongs to Hacksaw to the Throat (I’m sorry, I just really love saying that name). Making the poor decision of judging the band’s sound on their name, I was expecting something with a lot of grind and a lot of brutality. Well, I did nail the grind part, but the brutality…not so much. They incorporate enough death metal and grindcore to land them a spot in the death grind category. But I wouldn’t say that they’re PURE death grind.

One thing that I do hear in A FEW places is some metalcore influence. Most of this takes place in the guitar solos. I say this because not only do the guitar solos sound like a generic metalcore solo, but a lot of the lines in the solos strongly remind me of some of the stuff All that Remains has done. Yes, I know All that Remains’ sound very well because I used to listen to them profusely when I was in middle school before I found out that I only liked them because I hadn’t heard anything better at the time (happens to everyone, no big). So death grind with a hint of metalcore is what I would call Hacksaw to the Throat.

Ok, for those of you that really don’t like and don’t tolerate really high-pitched exhaled screams, you’re going to HATE this. And to be honest, his screams aren’t really that attractive anyway, so it’s not like you’re missing out on something huge. The vocals do put a whole new twist on the music (may be a little too much). This isn’t exactly a good thing because that means the music isn’t complete and strong in all areas. If the music is primarily dependent on one element (i.e. vocals, drums, etc.), then it makes it so that when people (mainly critics and music buffs) block out one of the elements, it can expose the music in a way that the band most likely didn’t want it to.

The drummer in this band isn’t the worst I’ve ever heard in my life, but he definitely sucks. He’s attempting to play stuff that he’s not technically skilled enough to do. For example, a sign that he’s still an amateur drummer is that he can’t double-kick really fast without getting exhausted or falling out of time. A good death metal drummer can double-kick at a consistent speed for a good amount of time and not slow down or fall out of time (unless for some sick reason they do it on purpose). Now that I’m listening to the other stuff he does, he can’t really drum at all! He doesn’t know how to keep time, he’s not skilled, he’s attempting to play patterns and do tricks that are WAY out of his level, and the word “creative” doesn’t describe ANYTHING he plays on this record! He taps the ride cymbal way to fast, he double-kicks way too slow, the way he plays his high hat is inconsistent and sounds terrible, and he just plain fucking SUCKS! And just about every metalhead with at least some of his bolts screwed in right knows that a band with a shitty drummer is a shitty band. Hence supporting the statement “a chain (or band in this case) is only as strong as its weakest link”.

 The guitarists and bassist are pretty average and generic. They aren’t bad but they don’t have anything about them that I would call special or unique. The bassist can’t be heard very well anywhere in this record, which indicates that he’s at the bottom of the pecking order in this band. The guitarists are fairly good at what they do and get the job done right. They do slip up a couple of times with the tempo, but it’s not as noticeable with the drummer there fucking everything up. The metalcore influence can mainly be heard in some of the main riffs and in one or two of the solos. But even then, the guitar solos only consist of really fast tapping (the type of solo that Van Halen made famous). I would give this album 8/20 for being an ok record. I really wouldn’t recommend this to anyone except for death grind fans and people who want to listen to some unique underground metal. 

Benediction - The Grand Leveller

Most of the records that I write reviews on are modern ones. Since there is an increasing number of people (mainly extreme metal newbies) asking me to write some reviews on my favorite CLASSIC (meaning pre-1995) death metal records, I’m going to write some old death metal reviews. And of course, The Grand Leveller is what I consider to be one of the best albums from that time period. I know that Benediction doesn’t really need much of an introduction, but I’ll give a short one for the few that don’t know who they are. Of course, death metal’s earliest bands came from America (Possessed, Death, Morbid Angel, etc.) but in the late 80s there was a growing death metal scene in England too. Some of the most notable early British death metal and grindcore bands include Bolt Thrower, Napalm Death, Carcass, and Benediction. Although most would consider Bolt Thrower and Carcass to be the most influential out of the four I just listed, I feel that Benediction has been the most consistent and the most reliable out of all of them.

Of course, old-ass death metal records come with shitty quality. Because I’m primarily a black metal guy, I have a hard time enjoying shitty sound quality when it’s not black metal. For some odd reason, when it’s any kind of death metal, I prefer it to have really good production. This is why I can tolerate (and often times enjoy) underground brutal and technical death; because even the debut album of a SUPER underground Ukranian band called Ezophagothomia has much better sound quality than every album ever released by Darkthrone, one of the most famous black metal bands ever. So anyway, The Grand Leveller is a DEATH METAL record with BAD sound quality. But here’s the thing, the majority of death metal musicians from that time most likely barely had enough money to wipe their asses when they first started out, so shitty-sounding albums is going to be expected nonetheless.

So shitty quality can’t be something I can be allowed to complain about because it’s expected (see what I did there?). The first thing that I hear in the music when I listen to The Grand Leveller is Deicide. I know it doesn’t sound likely, but when you listen to Deicide’s first album, there’s a lot of guitar riffs and…well…the overall sound of the record that have obviously had some kind of influence on Benediction’s music in this album and many of their early material for that matter. But it’s not the blazing speed and brutality part that influenced Benediction. If you’re hoping for a much faster, more Morbid Angel-like album, this might not be your cup of tea, because most of the British death metal scene (NOT THE GRIND SCENE) had more of a slower style of doing things. This was probably influenced by the Dutch death metal scene because they have a similar style and the two countries have nothing but water separating them.

The drums on this album aren’t complex at all. You may notice that the typical death metal album has lots of blast beats or certain semi-complex and repetitive drum patters. But the drumming on this record doesn’t follow a specific drum pattern or play lots of blast beats (that’s not to say it’s the only one that doesn’t). The kick drums are drowned out for the most part unless you listen closely. The kick drumming is done at a pretty slow speed (even for that time). The other drum patters that are used are fully dependent on what the rest of the bands is doing. In other words, the drummer changes what he plays with every single tempo change and usually never plays the same drum pattern more than once. The most notable trait of his style of playing is doing quarter-note hits on the snare and the high-hat.

The best member of the band, hands down, is the bassist. He’s the one that’s playing the lead lines of the songs in the background. Jumping at Shadows is one of the best examples of this (especially right in the beginning). He does a much better job of playing the lead riffs than the lead guitarist, and often times plays along with the lead guitarist. As well as that, the way he plays his instrument pays off in a nice, bold sound that can easily punch through the rest of the shitty quality to give the music a HUGE lower end. The distortion on the guitars is an EXTREMELY gritty sound that gives the music its brutality and edge. The guitarists primarily play really low chords to lessen the contrast between them and the really deep bassist. But then again, the contrast doesn’t NEED to be small, but the fact that the band made it fairly minimal makes the music sound dark and menacing.

I’m not a huge fan of most of the old school death metal vocalists. I’m not saying that they acts as a turn-off for me, but I would REALLY prefer it if they had a much deeper growl (that’s why I love the early works of Immolation and Cannibal Corpse so much). Benediction’s vocalist has one of the deepest growls from the early death metal period. It’s not “Barnes deep”, but it goes along with the music perfectly. And to be honest, I wouldn’t change a thing about the vocals.

In fact, I wouldn’t change a thing about this album at all! It’s what I call a perfect death metal record (hence my 20/20 score). If you don’t have this album, get it. If you have it and don’t like it, listen to it again. This is a CLASSIC death metal record that deserves a place in EVERYONE’S death metal collection because it’s one of the most respectable death metal records of its time. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sinister - The Silent Howling

It’s funny that I haven’t written many reviews on some of the classic original death metal bands. I guess it’s time to start things up again on one of Sinister’s latest releases, The Silent Howling. Just to let you know, I know Sinister’s music VERY well. If you’re one of those “it’s all about the old school” kind of guys, my favorite Sinister album is Hate, released in 1995. I say that because I write reviews on recent albums released by these really old thrash metal and death metal bands and I get all these conservatives flooding me with the typical “THEY SUCK NOW” bullshit. Yeah, there are bands that aren’t as good as they used to be like Bolt Thrower, Obituary, and Sepultura. But here I am again, reviewing an album released in 2008 by a band who released their debut in 1992.

Sinister has done a pretty good job at keeping up with the constantly evolving death metal sound while still having a strong “old school death metal” vibe. One thing that people notice is that drumming in death metal is MUCH more technical than it used to be. You can see this in Sinister especially when you compare Hate with The Silent Howling. Not only is The Silent Howling much faster and more energetic than Hate, but it’s also more complex and technical. But remember, technicality and speed alone doesn’t mean awesomesauce; there has to be plenty of creativity to back it up. And let me tell you something folks, Sinister has fucking creativity in their music.

Probably what I like most about Sinister is that they’ve managed to gradually evolve their sound over the years, but still have it be all 100% SINISTER. There are a lot of death metal bands nowadays that come out with new albums that sound exactly like the album they released in the early nineties. Of course, there are countless better death metal albums and bands than Sinister, but as far as keeping it all original, Sinister has done one of the best jobs at that.

One thing that I’m starting to notice (I’m preparing to get bombarded) is that the vocalist sound A LOT like the Behemoth vocalist! I’m not kidding! He has that same grunted, forced-out growl that can be heard on Demigod and Evangelion. The drumming could use some more creativity, because although the frequently used blast beats sound cool, he uses the exact same blast beat pattern every time. I like to see it when drummers create their own unique blast beats and keep changing it up every so often to keep things fresh.

The songs don’t all sound identical to the point to where it’s really annoying, but they all have the same general sound. But the band is saved by the fact that the slightly overused sound is a really good sound. On top of these changes, there are a lot more guitar and bass solos than in earlier Sinister albums. So if you’re one of those guys that likes a solo bass riff or a fancy guitar lick here and there; but not to the point where it’s too crazy, The Silent Howling should have a place in your collection. And overall, I would recommend this album to all traditional death metal fans and to people interested in getting into pure traditional death metal. I would give this album 16/20. 

Birth of Depravity - The Coming of the Ineffable

I discovered Birth of Depravity via Inherited Suffering Records. When I saw the fantastic album artwork, I was expecting something similar to Inherit Disease or Spawn of Possession. But I also knew that Inherited Suffering is primarily known for its fantastic brutal death and death grind bands, my favorite being Ezophagothomia. But when I finished listening to the album, it turns out that I couldn’t put this record in either of those categories! What I found was an underground traditional death metal band. It’s not brutal enough to go in the same category as Devourment and Hate Eternal, and FAR from being technical enough to share space with Brain Drill and Obscura. So since I can’t really put them anywhere else, when people ask me what kind of music Birth of Depravity plays, I just say “death metal”. As pointless and miniscule as this may seem, this was actually a big deal for me because I hadn’t heard a NEW and UNDERGROUND pure death metal band since I heard Heresiae’s self-titled EP last year. And when I look at all the bands I have in the death metal section, most of them are the essentials and classics like Immolation, Morbid Angel, Grave, Autopsy, Vader, Obituary, etc.

So in other words, if you’re looking for a new band that plays a modernized version of pure death metal, Birth of Depravity MIGHT be just what you need! Ok, there are both plenty of pros AND cons that I have to say about this record, so I’m going to list the pros first because I need something to put me in a better mood (I’ve had a long day). The overall sound production of the album is VERY similar to Disentomb’s Sunken Chambers of Nephilim. It has a small amount of treble, and the mid-ranges and bass are turned way up. So if you need something to listen to on those shitty earbuds of yours that doesn’t hurt your ears with all the treble, this album is PERFECT for that because the treble is not overpowering at all and the sound is very thick and heavy.

The vocalist definitely has a talent for doing some of the deepest exhales I’ve ever heard. They sound a lot like the INHALED growls the Disentomb vocalist does on their debut album. But damn, this guy’s growls have a very clean, moist, and DEEP sound that really intensifies the darkness of the music. Although screaming in death metal can definitely sound cool, there are certain bands that require the deepest growls possible (like Immolation and Bloodbath). Birth of Depravity’s music definitely has a very dark and menacing sound. And the perfect element to really make that darkness stand out is deep growls.

The drummer also has TONS of technical skill. He does fall out of time here and there (not a good thing AT ALL), but he does a great job of adding an unrelenting amount of brutality to the music to give them more of an underground vibe. The drums aren’t overpowering at all; in fact, they’re almost behind everything else. Obviously, there are plenty of cases where the drums need to be front and center, but in this album, the drums are in the perfect place, working as the skeleton holding the other musical elements together.

Ok, here’s the problem I have with this band: their songs are unorganized and THEY ALL SOUND THE SAME! It’s nearly impossible to tell the individual songs apart. There’s usually AT LEAST some kind of lead riff or drum solo or SOMETHING in each song to help the listener tell them apart; but this album has none of that! And it’s fucking pissing me off! NO, slapping a random recording at the beginning of the song doesn’t count! Also, the sound of the album gets very boring by the time you get past the fifth song and eventually gets irritating. I don’t mind long songs (my favorite band is Opeth for fuck’s sake!), but this thing sounds like one song cut up into ten individual sections, not an album. The album loses its edge very quickly and loses its flavor even quicker. This is such a huge disappointment because I was so excited by the time the first four songs finished because they actually sounded cool.

This band has so much potential, but they express next to no creativity in this album at all, which leaves it for the pure death metal fans to like it the most. But don’t get me wrong, this is a good record to add to the old death metal collection, but it’s nowhere near a classic or an amazing album. I would rate this album 13/20. 

Upcoming Reviews

I have a long work week ahead of me, so most of the reviews this week will be done today, tomorrow, and thursday. But here are some bands I might do reviews on:

Hacksaw to the Throat (death grind)
Birth of Depravity (death metal)
Bloodrealm (death metal)
Sinister (death metal)
Veil of Maya (deathcore)
Wretched (deathcore)
Abyssic Hate (depressive black metal)

Carnophage - Deformed Future//Genetic Nightmare

I discovered Carnophage on some random site that advertised underground technical death bands. This is where I found some other tech death groups like Slaughtery and Arkhum (both of which I’ve written reviews on). But to be honest, most of the newer technical death bands I’ve been discovering recently have been pretty mediocre. Probably the best NEW ones I’ve heard are Cerebric Turmoil, Dystrophic, and Rings of Saturn. Other than that (and a few others), the newer tech death scene (especially the European section) seems to have grown pretty tasteless. But right now, I’m getting ready to review an album by the Turkish technical death band Carnophage. On the plus side, though, the album cover was done by my favorite visual artist; Par Olofsson (who did the covers for Planetary Duality, Incurso, Majesty and Decay, All Shall Fall, and countless other records).  

One of the things that REALLY brings this album way down and makes it extremely hard to enjoy is how it was produced. Especially how the guitars sound..eww. The guitars were either extremely under-produced or extremely overproduced. After listening to this album for almost four months, it’s starting to sound like every aspect of the record had WAY too much production work done on it. There’s almost no bass at all; even the bass guitar is high-pitched, just listen to the bass solo in the beginning of Bone Nails. The song structure in the album seems a bit too jumbled and unorganized. I have a hard time keeping up with the seemingly random song structure (which there isn’t really at all).

It seems like these guys are making an honest attempt at creating an EXTREMELY complex skeleton for their sound. The cool thing is, they succeeded in doing so, but it’s way too random an unorganized. It’s like they just made complex music for the sake of being extremely complex. Just like how when Rings of Saturn first started out, they were technical literally for the sake of being TECHNICAL! It’s the same idea, but it doesn’t sound good. I can’t keep up with the music’s tempo because it changes too fast and too often. I just can’t get past the fact of how unorganized and overly-complex these guys made this album.

Ok, besides all that, this album checks out. All of the musicians have plenty of talent and technical skill. My favorite part is that the bassist is the best musician in the group. In my favorite song on the record, Bone Nails, the guitarists start out by taking the lead. Then, everything goes quiet and the bassist starts playing the lick that ends up being the main structure that drives the rest of the song. Bone Nails is a surprisingly slow song considering the amount of technicality and complexity it carries. Although the drummer (who is REALLY quiet and hard to hear) is going absolutely mad in the background, the guitars (which drown everything out) make the song seem much slower because they’re not doing constant high-pitched shredding.

That just reminded me of a unique trait that Carnophage has. The technicality in the guitars isn’t super high-pitched like Brain Drill and Rings of Saturn, but not super low like Fleshgod and Severed Crotch. Instead, 90% of the technicality lies more in the mid-ranges, which isn’t something that you hear very often in the genre. I’m giving this record a 10/20 and would only recommend it to easily-impressed technical death fans. 

Korpiklaani - Ukon Wacka

Here’s what I’ve noticed when it comes to European folk music (not the shitty American folk), there’s two types: the really atmospheric and melodic kind, and the really upbeat and fast kind that they play at get-togethers. Ok, now let’s put that into folk METAL perspective: the soft and melodic folk can be found in Ensiferum and Eluveitie, and the really upbeat folk can be found in none other than KORPIKLAANI! Being all about fun and (obviously) beer, Korpiklaani delivers a one-of-a-kind musical experience that is hard to compare to anything else (no, Alestorm doesn’t count, they’re not nearly cool enough). When I had the pleasure to see Korpiklaani live a few months ago (in case you’re wondering, I was in fact totally smashed by the time they came on), it was like a party instead of a metal show. In the pit, people weren’t moshing, they were running towards each other from opposite corners, interlocking arms, and dancing around like some kind of motherfucking square dance! It was one of the most fun metal experiences I’ve ever had and I suggest you check them out since they’re coming back again with Moonsorrow. But let’s talk about my personal favorite record by these Finns, Ukon Wacka.

For some reason, Korpiklaani’s music is hard to break down because it’s so damn easy to just describe it in a few sentences. But I’m going to make an honest attempt at it. Well first of all, all of the songs on this album (except for the Motorhead cover) are in Finnish, which I understand perfectly. And after reading all the lyrics, whoever wrote them was obviously either really fucking happy or heavily intoxicated because they’re all about partying, alcohol, and having a hell of a good time.

The coolest thing about Korpiklaani is that they go all out and be ORIGINAL. They wear elk-skin clothes and leather moccasins, they have an accordion player, a fucking amazing guy on the fiddle, and I think one of the guys plays the bagpipes but I’m not sure. The one thing that I DO know for sure is that none of the folk instruments are tracked or played on the keyboards. Not that it makes any difference, but it really shows how dedicated these guys are to being PURE FUCKING FOLK METAL!

 Although personally, folk metal usually isn’t my first choice, Korpiklaani, Ensiferum, and Eluveitie have never ceased to impress me. In other words, I’m not a huge fan of folk metal, but this album is fucking FANTASTIC and one of the most fun records in my collection. My favorite member of the band is the fiddle player. And it’s not because of the instrument he plays, it’s because he’s one of the best fiddle players that I’ve heard since I first started listening to The Dixie Dregs (a southern progressive rock band my dad is obsessed with) when I was ten years old. Overall, the individual members don’t have too much technical skill, but as a whole band, the creativity is undeniable; I repeat, UNDENIABLE. These guys have managed to play the exact same kind of music for almost ten years and have it NEVER get old or bland. Instead, each album seems to be better than the last. I would give this album 18/20 for being my favorite non-Eluveitie folk metal album. My favorite song on this record is definitely Tequilla (which is ironically the single). This album NEEDS to have a home in EVERYBODY’S music library. 

DevilDriver - Pray for Villains

Let me get this straight so there isn’t any confusion: this is one of the most important albums in my collection. It’s so important that one of the patches on my jacket consists of the Pray for Villains album cover. Ok, but why is this album so important and why has it been so influential to what I listen to? Well first off, I’ve been listening to this album since the year it was released, so it’s not like I’m having an initial overreaction. So after three years of constantly listening to this album (although it’s become less frequent since they released a better album last year that I wrote a review on), I’m finally ready to tell you the utter importance of this album and the impact it’s had on my music taste. But this is an album review, right? I’m supposed to tell you about THE ALBUM, not my personal connection with it!

The first thing that this album has is extreme variety of sound and style. While still managing to keep the memorable catchiness of their signature sound, DevilDriver manages to pack in songs with more driving tempos like Pray for Villains and I’ve Been Sober. As well as that, this album is different from all the other DevilDriver albums because it has the most……damn how do I word it..catchiness with a rock and roll twist? I don’t know how to say it, but the sound I’m trying to put into words can be found in Pure Sincerity, Back with a Vengeance, and Another Night in London.

Probably the thing that bothers most people about DevilDriver is the really rough yelled vocals and how they sound. For me, I can’t see this fitting in ANY other kind of music other than DevilDriver. In any other situation, those vocals wouldn’t sound good at all. But in DevilDriver, those fucking gritty yells do nothing but act as helium to bring the music up to impossible heights. But in my opinion, the vocalist isn’t the most talented and skilled member of the band, it’s the crazy fuck that plays the drums!

Their drummer can play like no other drummer I’ve ever heard before! Sure, there are plenty of drummers that are as skilled and creative as him (some are more), but they’re all skilled and creative in a much different way than him. This guy can play a really super fucking catchy pattern like at the beginning of Pure Sincerity, and PERFECTLY transition into an explosive blast beat that can easily be mistaken for a goddamn stampede! Not only can he do that, but he can do it without messing up the song or making things sound weird. That’s another thing I love about DevilDriver’s music that I forgot to mention before; every single second of every single song can sound good with any kind of drum pattern you can think of that’s still on time with the music. If you ask me, that’s pretty fucking hard to do!

Although all of the members thrive in creativity, the least-skilled (but still amazing) member is unfortunately the bassist. The reason why I don’t consider him to be skilled is because he never goes outside of the root-notes, he rarely plays an epic fill riff, and you can’t really hear him at all. But I know he’s legit because I watched him play his bass two feet in front of MY FACE. But what he does PERFECTLY is give the music a FUCKING HUGE lower-end and be fucking tight as hell with the drummer. If the bassist and the drummer are rock-solid, it’s hard not to sound good.

Oh! I just came up with a word to describe the sound I was trying to earlier: GROOVE! When you listen to the beginning of Pure Sincerity, you hear GROOVE, and they play it fucking PERFECTLY. You hear it even more in Back with a Vengeance. Ok, so obviously I’m giving this album a perfect score, so I guess I should just throw that out there if it wasn’t obvious enough. If you haven’t heard this album yet, check it out because every single second of it is packed with so much energy and GROOVE that it’s easily addictive. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Upcoming Reviews

Here are some bands I hope to review this weekend and next week:

Carnophage (technical death)
Eyes Set to Kill (metalcore)
Oceano (deathcore)
Immolation (death metal)
Between the Buried and Me (progressive death)
Korpiklaani (folk metal)
Enter Shikari (screamo)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sonata Arctica - The Days of Grays

I’ve listened to this album so much that it feels like it’s been in my collection for over five years. When in fact, it’s only been a mere year and a half. Yes, I’ve known about this band for quite a while, in fact, my introduction to them was seeing them live with Mutiny Within and Powerglove. I was mainly there for Mutiny Within, but I can remember my experience of first hearing Sonata Arctica like it just happened an hour ago. The crowd was mingling amongst themselves when all of the lights suddenly turned off. The intro track “Everything Fades to Gray” played and then let a couple moments of silence create suspense amongst the audience. Then, the lights turned back on like the band wasn’t ready to start their set. Almost three whole minutes later, the lights quickly dimmed all the way and the soft sound of the violas and violins played the beginning of Deathaura as the band quickly entered the stage and exploded with a sound that was so beautiful and powerful that it brought some of the people there to tears (literally). When I saw those people, I could tell that they had a HUGE emotional connection to the band’s music.

As that one song continued on, I was sucked in more and more with each passing second. When Deathaura finally finished, I was sold; these guys took the show and turned it into a blinding star made completely of sound. My emotional connection to this album has been so strong that (for some reason) I’ve been afraid to admit that to me, it’s one of the best albums ever written. I know that the hardcore Sonata Arctica and power metal fans typically prefer the older Arctica albums over the new ones (although all of them are nothing short of amazing). For me, I prefer the really early albums, but The Days of Grays won my heart from the beginning (not because it was the first Arctica album I ever heard, but because it was and still is the BEST I’ve ever heard).

I’m going to be honest, Tony Kakko’s singing voice doesn’t fit my description of an amazing singing voice. But oddly enough, his voice managed to pierce my thick-ass ribcage, go clean through my frozen heart, out the other side, and keep going for an infinite distance. In most of the other Arctica albums, Tony’s singing sounds a little too much on the whiny side, but not so much in The Days of Grays, therefore making it MUCH easier for me to enjoy the music. But don’t get me wrong, Tony is one of the best and most underrated singers in the heavy metal genre.

But Tony isn’t where all of the beauty is, instead of it being a ball of beauty being spread out into a thin layer that covers the entirety of the music, the entirety of the music shines with an utterly blinding amount of beauty that is too much for some to handle. Every single fucking centimeter of Sonata Arctica’s music deserves all the attention in the world, but it’s literally impossible to do all of that in one single review that’s at a somewhat reasonable length. I’m going to get it out that this album is more than enough hard evidence to prove that Tommy Portimo is the best drummer in the power metal genre. Not only does he have the ability to do fast double kicks without making the music too heavy, but he also has strong skills when it comes to dynamics, creativity, and variety. Yes, I know that there are better single guitarists in the power metal world, but the two that play on this record are some of the most emotionally moving musicians I’ve ever heard in heavy metal. The solos that they play are absolutely breathtaking; they do a great job of not drowning anything out, but still shining like a phoenix in the dead of night.

Now, the element of this album that not only completed, but solidified my emotional connection with it is the symphonic sounds created by the keyboards. The music is beautiful enough without all of the keyboards on top, but with the addition of what I think is the most beautiful and emotional keyboard symphonics I’ve ever heard in metal, this album is one of the best records known to mankind.

When I said that the music has tons of variety, think of Opeth and how they have long songs that have several parts/movements that have a lot of contrast. When you listen to Deathaura, there are more than five different “parts” to the song that display excessive creativity, knowledge, and mood changes. When you listen to the album, after experiencing every single mood you can imagine, the album leaves you with a feeling of overwhelming beauty-induced joy. Now that I’ve made a huge confession on my true opinion of this album, it’s time that I concluded my review with a perfect score and move on with my evening in order to avoid going on and on about this album. Because you won’t know the true beauty of this album unless you sit down and experience its power yourself. 

Guttural Engorgement - The Slow Decay of Infested Flesh

Guttural Engorgement is one of the many bands that I discovered on Amputated Vein Records’ website (some of those bands I’ve fallen in love with). I saw Guttural Engorgement advertised as “progressive slam death”. Well, I like slamming brutality, so it can’t be too bad, but how the hell can it be progressive?? Well, after a few months of listening to this album, there isn’t anything progressive about them that I can hear. But if you have proof that they are or want to point anything out that I missed in their music that can be considered progressive, feel free to drop a comment below letting me know! Ok, this album is kind of hard for me to listen to because I like grindcore, and I like really slow brutal death slams, but I’m not a huge fan of them being combined (just like what Awaiting the Autopsy does).

If you’re not a DIEHARD fan of grindcore, SLAMMING brutal death, goregrind/pornogrind, or death grind, there’s no reason for you to read this review because this album isn’t for you (unless you just feel like reading reviews for some reason). When you ask around, even plenty of grindcore fans don’t consider this record to be amazing. But of course, people usually don’t give much publicity to bands that aren’t amazing. I certainly have heard worse than Guttural Engorgement, but seriously, these guys kind of screwed up badly.

Here’s where the grindcore seeps in; almost all of the songs are under two minutes in length. As well as that, the legendary grindcore shriek that only sounds good in grindcore and, if used in any other kind of record, can fucking BUTCHER the music in a split second. This is exactly what Awaiting the Autopsy did (is there an echo in here?), except their music is much better than Guttural Engorgement’s. Since Guttural Engorgement doesn’t have a female vocalist like Awaiting the Autopsy, the shrieks are delivered at a lower pitch. But seriously, they kind of ruin the moment. The reason why the shrieks ruin the moment is because EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING in this album is so fucking DEEP and tuned so LOW. The guitars and bass are SLOW and DEEP, the inhaled growls are deeper than anything I’ve even heard in my life. You have all that, and then “BLUAAAAHHHH!!!!! BLUAH BLEAH BLEAHHHH!!!!!!” It just doesn’t sound cool at all, man!!

But the vocalist isn’t the bad member of the band, his growls fit the music perfectly; it’s the drummer and the guitarists I have a problem with. The drummer just sucks in general. I swear he has never been able to keep a steady beat in his life. His ability to keep time SUCKS, being forced to play extremely slow tempos only makes it harder (because it’s harder to keep time when playing slow because you keep unconsciously speeding up, which is why the good musicians have the ability to control that). He doesn’t know how to play a blast beat, his double kicking sounds completely uneven when he attempts to play fast, and he plays the EXACT same drum pattern in every single REALLY slow breakdown. Ok, now I’m getting to the point where the vocalist’s deep growls are getting really bland and increasingly annoying (just thought I’d throw that in there).

The faults of the drummer cause the guitarists to sound like elephant diarrhea. But the guitarists and bassist really aren’t that bad and do a great job of keeping the music going despite the anchor known as the drummer. The bassist plays a number of complex bass lines to keep each song at least somewhat unique. Although they don’t sound any different if you don’t have an ear for bass tones like I do (mainly because I’m a bassist myself). Oh, by the way, I scored this album 6/20 for completely failing to impress me, but not making me regurgitate my burger because it’s not a total disaster and I’ve heard a plethora of worse bands. I would only recommend this to hardcore goregrind/pornogrind, grindcore, and brutal death fans.  

Whitechapel - Whitechapel

Whitechapel doesn’t even need an introduction. They are by far one of the biggest, best, and most brutal deathcore bands in existence. Having released their debut album in the middle of the legendary deathcore explosion of 2007, I’ve been well-aware of Whitechapel’s music since the fucking beginning. Now, with three monstrously brutal albums under their belt, it’s time for Whitechapel to take another step up and create something with a more mature and unique sound than anything they’ve ever thought of creating. I read an interview that reminded me so much of Decrepit Birth when Whitechapel vocalist Phil Bozeman stated that in their first album, they were attempting to create the most brutal music ever. And to be honest, they did a pretty good job of it! But since then, their intentions have drifted away from brutality and more towards quality, but brutality still accurately defines all of Whitechapel’s albums (which isn’t a bad thing).

I think that A New Era of Corruption was Whitechapel’s first experimental and “progressive” record (although I would consider it more experimental than anything else. The outcome was fantastic and the band decided to keep moving in that direction. The new sound that this record puts out is as experimental as A New Era of Corruption, but much less abstract and obviously experimental. This is because a lot of the fusing and progressions being made are the combining of death metal and deathcore (or using more “death” than “core”).

On top of that, guitar solos are being implemented throughout the record; and they sound fucking awesome. I never really thought it would sound good, but really noisy shredding sounds really cool with the angry sound of Whitechapel’s music. Also, there’s a lot more use of melodic and minimally-distorted guitars in the background. Obviously, Whitechapel loved the sound of the really rough and gritty industrial/EBM effects in A New Era of Corruption because they use them in this album. But don’t worry, they don’t overuse it in any way. So along with all that and many other countless new progressions, the musicians themselves have taken some time to improve their skills, especially Phil Bozeman.

Phil’s ability to growl FAST has exploded, listen to the song (Cult)turalist and hear how technical and fast he ends up going and how fucking AMAZING he sounds! Along with that, the range of different pitches he uses has expanded beyond verbal description. His growls have gotten much deeper, and his screams are much more developed and clean (as opposed to the somewhat shitty sounding ones in This is Exile). Phil has also gotten into the habit of using mid-range vocals (somewhat similar to Despised Icon) more than anything else. This isn’t a TOTAL loss because they sound great, but I would like to hear more guttural “Whitechapel growls” on the next record. The drumming is bombarding and technical as always, the guitars are a thousand times better, and the bassist…don’t get me started on him.

To sum it all up: this album is ridiculous. Those of you that have heard it already know exactly what I mean. This album has taken an unrelenting amount of brutality, insanity, and creativity, and mixed it all together to create Whitechapel’s fourth record that gets my score of 18/20, tying with the score of my favorite Whitechapel album, This is Exile. I cannot stress this enough: I would recommend this goddamn album to EVERYONE and ANYONE, especially fans of insane amounts of brutality. 

If you're like me and are disappointed in not being able to enjoy the awesome Whitechapel logo on the new album cover, I took the cover and added in the band logo for all of you: 

Abominable Putridity - The Anomalies of Artificial Origin

Abominable Putridity was the band that proved to me that some of the best underground brutal death bands come from Russia. I’m not saying that THE BEST come from Russia, I’m saying that most of the Russian brutal death bands are fucking awesome. Not only is there Abominable Putridity, but there’s also Aposepsy, Katalepsy, Aborted Fetus, and Abnormity (for some weird reason a lot of them start with the same letter). As well as brutal death, but Russia has a very strong depressive black metal scene that includes one of my favorite bands ever, Wintercult. But Russian brutality is what I’m here to tell you about, especially in the likes of this particular CD which I bought a month or so ago as well as a shirt (both from the record label, Brutal Bands), The Anomalies of Artificial Origin.

More or less, Abominable Putridity is Russian death metal at its best. Not only have they acclaimed the status and recognition with the community and their fans, but with the industry as well. Through quality in music, great sales (apparently all of the pre-orders for this album sold out almost a week in advance), and a great record label (Brutal Bands), Abominable Putridity’s popularity is more than well-deserved. Ok, now that I’ve given an overview of Abominable Putridity’s status, why the fuck do I love this album so much??

Some people would beg to differ on this point, but I believe that when it comes to the “generic” forms of a genre, that there’s still plenty of room for variation within those walls. For example, in deathcore, all of the generic bands share 80-90% of the same traits. But when you put Suicide Silence, Impending Doom, Emmure, and Suffokate (all generic deathcore bands) side-by-side, you can still pick out a fair amount of differences. Suicide Silence is the heaviest of the group, Impending Doom’s breakdowns have more of a modernized Meshuggah sound, Emmure plays nothing but simple breakdowns, and Suffokate is much slower and doesn’t play any blast beats. Abominable Putridity is a generic brutal death band, but still has plenty of qualities that make them different from the rest.

Although all of the musicians in this band are fantastic, the drummer and the vocalist stand out to me the most. Matti Way, the vocalist, made his claim to fame by being the vocalist for brutal death masters Pathology on Age of Onset and Legacy of the Ancients. But also, he’s one of those vocalists that has made a large number of guest appearances on albums by (just to name a few) Deeds of Flesh, Condemned, Slaughterbox, and Flesh Consumed. And if you haven’t heard his vocals before, take my word for it that he is one of the best slamming brutal death vocalists in the genre and definitely knows his stuff. Also, the drummer is an extremely creative member of the band. The most unique thing about what this guy plays is that he rarely plays blast beats (unless he’s playing his interpretation/version of a blast beat that doesn’t even sound like one). Instead, he does literally everything else a death metal drummer can think of. Showing variety in the drumming is something that too many brutal death albums lack due to most drummers only playing blast beats or a single drum pattern they come up with. He’s not a drummer that CONSTANTLY plays ultra-fast, but that doesn’t mean that he never does, because he can play some fucking BLASTING speeds that mow you down.

The guitars are very well-rounded as far as how much bass and treble goes, but the bass guitar’s volume could use to be much louder. Either that or he’s playing more mid-range and high notes than I’m used to, which wouldn’t surprise me because there are moments where the guitars are taking a really technical climb in pitch and I can hear the bass doing the same thing as well. Aside from that, this band is tighter than the pussy of a toddler, their slamming breakdowns pound you ten feet into the pavement, and the song structure is very organized and none of the songs sound the same. I would give this record 18/20 for being my favorite Russian brutal death record and for blowing my mind apart (almost literally) with its musical quality and bombarding brutality. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

I the Breather - Truth and Purpose

I’m going to be honest: as a whole, I’m not a big fan of the metalcore genre, but there are several amazing metalcore bands. Just to list off a few of my favorite metalcore bands, there’s Miss May I, Threat Signal, Mnmeic, Killswitch Engage, Structures, Oh, Sleeper, Eyes Set to Kill, and Atreyu. Although there are others I enjoy listening too (like As I Lay Dying and God Forbid), those are ones that are most worthy of mentioning. I’m not an elitist in any kind of way, but I’m not too keen on the majority of the “generic” metalcore scene. I do like some bands from this area of the genre, but 97% of them seem to be either terrible or purely mediocre. Well, a week ago, I had one of those “oh what the hell” moments and decided to give a few of these generic metalcore bands that I’ve passed up for so long a listen. I’m not going to be considering this a series, but the first one I’ll be reviewing is I the Breather.

It seems that the generic metalcore sound has changed since I last remember. I remember the generic metalcore sound as being not so heavy and somewhat simple chord progressions (if any) like All that Remains, Atreyu, I Killed the Prom Queen, and Haste the Day (all of whom I used to really like…except for I Killed the Prom Queen…I only ever enjoyed one song by them). Now, the generic metalcore sound seems to be MUCH heavier, much more breakdown-based, much more Christian, and much, much simpler. Some people have gone to call these bands “hardcore”, a term that I personally despise. But I’m not here to rant about how the metalcore genre has evolved and transformed, I’m here to talk about one of the newer generic metalcore bands, I the Breather.

I’ve known about them for a while, maybe four months or so. But the thought of checking them out never crossed my mind. Now that I’ve listened to this album dozens of times over the past week, I’ve come to the conclusion that I the Breather is just another metalcore band, but they’re not quite EXACTLY what I expected them to be. Before I get into the majority of the album, which can be summed up in just a few sentences, I want to tell you about my first experience listening to the first track on the album, because I was so surprised that I had to restart the song before it was halfway through to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. The first song, False Prophet, starts off with a very soft keyboard/guitar line that I predicted would be playing in the background for the duration of the track. Then, the vocals kicked in and the extremely low-tuned guitars started chugging away like a bomb went off in my face. In other words, the first 1 ¼ minutes of this song were surprisingly powerful and epic.

I’ve been listening to these bands in anticipation to find the diamond in the rough, and during this song, a smile formed upon my face and I thought I had found the glimmering gem. After the intro “breakdown” I was waiting for it to be more than just breakdowns, and it turns out that this isn’t one of those “breakdown after breakdown” kind of bands. But after False Prophet ends, things start taking a not-so-good direction. First of all, the vocals aren’t really that good. The songs eventually start to drag on and become VERY repetitive and bland, which is easy to do with an epic sound like the one False Prophet brings. The drummer seems to be really unfocused on a lot of the tracks, which leads to confusion on whether the band is out of time or the drummer is falling behind. Once I finished the record, I was extremely disappointed at how False Prophet raised the bar so high and have none of the songs even come close to touching the bar with their fingertips.

The majority of these generic metalcore bands seem to worship and idolize August Burns Red (which is respectable because they are pretty damn amazing). Here’s the problem that I have with all these bands’ obsession with ABR: not only do they worship and fight to be one of the openers on the band’s next tour, but they create an EXREMELY similar (but not nearly as good and not nearly as technical) sound to ABR, which has led to what the world knows as the modern metalcore blueprint. That’s right people, August Burns Red might not be as big, but they’ve definitely become more influential than All that Remains, Killswitch Engage, Sonic Syndicate, As I Lay Dying, and (dare I say) Bullet for my Valentine. And I the Breather is nothing more than another brick in the wall of the ABR-influenced generic metalcore scene.

For those of you diehard metalcore fans that aren’t TOO picky but know a terrible band when they hear it, this album should be fairly easy to enjoy. I would give this album 9/20 for being nowhere near being the worst metalcore album ever, but nowhere near being something I would recommend and show to any of my friends. If you’re SUPER curious about what False Prophet sounds like, I think it’s a pretty fucking epic song and would at most recommend that one song.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Upcoming Reviews

Here are bands I plan to review this weekend and next week:

I the Breather (metalcore)
Dying Fetus (death grind)
Abominable Putridity (brutal death)
Whitechapel (deathcore)
Putridity (brutal death)
Guttural Engorgement (brutal death)
Sinister (death metal)
Lord Belial (black metal)

Mnemic - Mnemesis

On my list of metalcore bands, Mnemic is the second heaviest. Before I heard the band in the number one spot, Sons of the System (my first Mnemic album) was the heaviest metalcore record I had ever heard. I shouldn’t even have to discuss Mnemic’s history because it’s so well-known other than that they owe their fame to Metallica, who discovered Mnemic’s debut record and loved it so much that they added Mnemic as an opening act on their next European tour. That was in 2003, I didn’t know the name Mnemic until 2010, when Sons of the System was just about to be released. Since then, I’ve been stalking their website, waiting for a Seattle date to appear on the tour dates section. But anyways, I’ve been waiting for what seems like an eternity for a new record and finally, Mnemesis has been unleashed to the public. I got my first taste of the new record when Nuclear Blast posted one of the songs on their website. It felt like I was a junkie that had just received my first shot in years, the sun came up when that progressive guitar lick came on and the drums kicked in.

I can’t quite say how many times I pressed the replay button that Saturday morning......somewhere in between 10 and 20 times. I wasn’t going to draw any conclusions about the entire album based on that one song, so I waited until I could obtain the album before I got too critical. Now that I have the album playing as I’m typing this review, I can confirm the label’s words that this is something completely new for Mnemic and

I’m not going to talk about any of the individual songs in this review because I haven’t listened to it enough to pick out favorite tracks. But I have listened to it enough to get a strong feel of the album and grow an opinion. Ok, finally, let’s start: first of all, much of the heaviness has slipped out. This isn’t a bad thing because the album still crushes, but with a more progressive attitude. I wouldn’t say they’re more melodic; instead I would say they have a more psychedelic feel. The music in general still has a strong progressive metalcore feel, but will less breakdowns.

Also, one thing that I’ve noticed that they’ve always had in their music is a thrash metal vibe. But in Mnemesis, it’s literally nowhere to be found. So that’s one of the big progressions they’ve made; so now that the thrashy heavy crust has been removed, it’s left the rest of the sound naked and exposed. But even then, there’ve been many changes and alterations performed on the music itself. For example, the singing is a lot deeper and the vocal harmonizations are much more complex; but they still have that really Mnemicy psychedelic sound that everyone loves. The harsh vocals aren’t the yelling anymore; that has COMPLETELY gone away. Instead, it has been replaced by both deepish and midrange growling. I know that this may be a major downer for many of you because that was one of the things both of the Mnemic vocalists have been known for (by both, I mean the original one and the current one who replaced him).

Personally, I’m more of a fan of the sound that Sons of the System and The Audio Injected Soul brought to the table. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sound Mnemesis holds, but it’s not quite enough to live up to the 19/20 score I gave Sons of the System. I would highly recommend this to all metalheads, especially fans of progressive metal and metalcore. I would score this record 17/20. 

Chelsea Grin - My Damnation

I’ve known about Chelsea Grin since they released their self-titled EP in 2008. Although now it somewhat sickens me to listen to it, it still holds an important place in my collection and (for some people) in deathcore history. When they came out with their debut full-length, I loved most of the songs on the record, although the screams kind of bothered me. When I was listening to his screams, I knew that he was doing them the wrong way and would eventually get fucked over (depending on how often he was screaming and how bad) just like Mitch Lucker, Oliver Sykes, and tons of other screamers out there (the number is surprising).

It turned out that my predictions were right. After a year of constant touring and not taking care of his throat or his voice, the vocalist fucked himself over. And instead of getting a new vocalist or just growling, he went right on ahead and ruined the whole band with his awful “screams”. This album gives the deathcore genre a bad name. Not only do the screams ruin everything altogether, the entire album feels, rushed, unpracticed, rough, and sounds like the band quickly and carelessly slapped together some generic deathcore riffs, some breakdowns, some atmospheric Whitechapel-style lines, did some production work, and called it good.

The only reason this album had any success at all was because they didn’t release any teasers that had screaming. Also, the fact that Phil from Whitechapel is featured on one of the tracks acted as a big attraction for many. But once everyone received their pre-orders or bought it at the local record shop and listened to it, a wave of deep regret and anger seemed to wash over the metalhead population. This is why I don’t pre-order things unless I’m given a good, solid preview of what the album is going to sound like. The last album I pre-ordered was All Shall Perish’s This is Where it Ends…..well, I did pre-order the new Periphery album that’s coming out next month, so I guess that counts. ANYWAY, the pre-release hype was huge, but once people realized what they were listening to, record sales took a vertical drop.

I still cannot get over the screams. It sounds like this guy is getting an amputation in the middle of a battlefield!! I cannot come up with something I’ve heard that sounds as disturbing and sickening as this. Trust me DO NOT BUY THIS ALBUM!! I would give this piece of shit a 2/20, the extra point being for some catchy breakdowns and the parts of the song featuring Phil Bozeman from Whitechapel.  

Miss May I - At Heart

If you’ve read my review on Miss May I’s second album, Monument, you know that it’s one of my favorite metalcore albums ever. So knowing that, it should be pretty obvious how excited I was when I heard the news of a new Miss May I record. Here’s what I was hoping for: Monument part 2. But, knowing the band and their strong dedication to making every album new and unique from all the others, I knew that I wasn’t going to get exactly what I was asking for. But I knew that Miss May I wasn’t going to abandon their signature sound altogether, they were going to add something new onto the sound that Monument brought to the table; and that’s exactly what they did.

I don’t know why, but ever since I started listening to all of these bands that have official logos that are used on every single album (i.e. Suffocation, Deicide, Nightwish, etc.) it bothers me when bands change their “logo” which each album. I’m not saying that changes my opinion on the album, but for some stupid reason, it really bothers me; sometimes to the point where I will take the original album artwork and put the old or better logo on the cover myself with Photoshop. It also bothers me when bands have super cool logos and choose not to use it at all on the album cover; pretty much leaving the album cover blank with just the artwork and no band name/logo or album title. Ok, now that I’m done bitching about that, I NEED to tell you about this record!

The guitar distortion and the sound of everything doesn’t really sound much different from Monument...which is good because it sounds awesome. This is the first Miss May I album to have an intro track. And to be honest, it really isn’t anything special other than a VERY, VERY gradual buildup that leads into the first track, Hey Mister. I’m going to spend a minute to talk about this song because it really speaks the whole album in one song. One thing that I’ve always loved about Miss May I is the amount of enraging emotion and anger that they cram into their songs. Hey Mister has more anger in it than any other Miss May I song I’ve EVER heard. If you can’t see where I’m going with this, I’m saying that this album is a hell of a lot heavier than both Monument and Apologies are for the Weak COMBINED.

Their bassist is the guy that does all of the singing, and he’s always stuck out to me. He has a singing voice that’s EXTREMELY crisp and razor-sharp that pierces the air with laser precision. As far as musicianship and skill goes, I have to give credit to the drummer for being one of the best metalcore drummers besides the drummer for Mnemic. That’s not an exaggeration, the only reason I call him ONE of the best drummers is because there’s always the possibility of me uncovering a metalcore band with a better drummer, but besides the Mnemic drummer and the Threat Signal drummer, this guy is the top dog from what I’ve heard.

This album is nothing short of being flawless. Other than the increased use of head-crushing breakdowns, there’s nothing at all about this album that fails to amaze me. I would give this record 19/20. Miss May I is one of the best metalcore bands in existence and I cannot stress this enough other than to just say “LISTEN TO THESE GUYS!”