Monday, December 31, 2012

A Past Unknown - Vainglory

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malignancy - Eugenics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ascariasis - Ocean of Colour [EP]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Enthroned - Pentagrammation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Upcoming Reviews

I plan on writing reviews on the following bands:

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Android App

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

Monday, December 17, 2012

Crinn's Top 30 Albums of 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest of them:

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

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


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


Katatonia/Devin Townsend Project/Paradise Lost/Stolen Babies


Sepultura/Death Angel/Krisiun/Havok

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

Dying Fetus/Cattle Decapitation/Cerebral Bore

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

Morbid Angel/Dark Funeral/Grave


SepticFlesh/Ex Deo/Krisiun/Inquisition

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

Albums that I'm looking forward to next year:

Mutiny Within - Synchronicity

Suffocation - Pinnacle of Bedlam

Guttural Secrete - Nourishing the Spoil

Soilwork - The Living Infinite

New Disentomb!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


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