Thursday, February 28, 2013

Arsis - Lepers Caress [EP]

The American technical death masters known as Arsis return with a six-track EP through Scion A/V. Scion A/V has been releasing some pretty badass EPs for the past couple of years from bands such as Revocation, Immolation, Meshuggah, and Wormrot. Having gone through a lineup change, some people were a bit skeptical about the sound of future Arsis releases considering the extreme success We are the Nightmare had. At first, I thought that Starve for the Devil was an extreme success, especially among conservative listeners. It looks like I was wrong, apparently, the rock n’ roll vibe that Starve for the Devil contained upset a lot of fans. It’s understandable how some people can find it unattractive when a really heavy band makes and album that’s not as heavy as their older stuff.

Regardless of whether or not Starve for the Devil was good (I liked it), it’s undeniable that Arsis’ sound took a drastic shift in direction. With the extremely and well…unusual sound of their 2010 full-length, a lot of people have the same question: what will Arsis do next? Well, Arsis has given us a free taste of new material on the Lepers Caress EP. Some bands like to treat EPs like full-lengths and make it as a whole rather than a collection of songs. Arsis made the Lepers Caress EP more as separate songs rather than have them all stand together as a whole. Starve for the Devil pretty much split Arsis fans in half. There are the people who absolutely fucking despise the new Arsis sound, and those that feel that Arsis still has yet to put out a bad record (which is the side I’m on). The Lepers Caress EP ensures satisfaction for all Arsis fans.

That is motherfucking correct, Arsis has gone to a sound that is extremely similar to that of We are the Nightmare! It doesn’t sound like B-sides from the record, but it does share a lot of similarities with it, especially in the guitar harmonizations. There are, though, some traits that originated from Starve with the Devil that have carried over to this one, and that is the melodic element. Without losing any of their extreme amount of technicality, Arsis’s music has gotten more melodic and complex with each release. As well as all that, Lepers Caress brings in some new shit as well.

The majority of the music isn’t quite as fast and chaotic as before. I’m not saying that the new full-length is going to be like this, but the majority of the material on this EP is much, much slower than what I’m used to hearing from these guys. But that’s not to say the complexity and technicality has gone down. Although there are fewer blast beats, the drums still attack with awesome intensity. I’ve never really had a problem with the drummer aside from the less-than-satisfactory playing style on the A Diamond for Disease EP from 2005. So pretty much, the drums are nothing short of flawless. Because the overall tempo of the music has gone down, the guitar solos are less crazy and fewer in number. Instead, blasting drum fills have been replacing the majority of the guitar solos. The vocals are extremely unique as always. They even sound a little deeper than before, often times being layered on top of growls (I don’t think that’s been done since their first album).

Fans of technical death will LOVE this record. It’s fantastic. Although it’s not something that I would go back and listen to nonstop, there isn’t really anything that I can think of to complain about. Since it’s free (thanks to Scion A/V), I would go and download it from them and listen to it, it’ll be worth it. I would give Lepers Caress EP a good score of 16/20. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Upcoming Reviews

Ok, let's try this again, here are some bands that I would like to review:

Gloryhammer (power metal)
Devourment (brutal death)
Lord of War (deathcore)
Glass Cloud (metalcore)
Gorgasm (brutal death)
Portal (progressive death)
Foreboding Ether (technical death)
Sevendust (nu metal)
Guttural Secrete (brutal death)
Trollfest (folk metal)
Otep (nu metal)
Arsis (technical death)
Merrimack (black metal)
Bullet for my Valentine (metalcore)
Naglfar (black metal)
Municipal Waste (thrash metal)

Craniotomy - Supply of Flesh Came Just in Time

For those of you that don’t already know, Amputated Vein Records is one of the more mentionable record labels in the brutal death and grind scene. Because I’m tired of giving a full introduction of the label, I’ll just say that some of the bands that have released albums through Amputated Vein include Pathology, All Shall Perish, Disentomb, Cephalotripsy, Viral Load, and Visceral Disgorge. Well, the label’s most recent release is the fourth release of Slovakian brutal death band Craniotomy. Having heard some pretty fantastic shit from this label (i.e. Slaughterbox, Disentomb, Relics of Humanity, etc.), I was pretty quick to give this fresh album a listen. Because it’s been awhile since this label put out a record, I thought that this might have been a hidden surprise they were waiting to release. Is Craniotomy the next big innovative band? Do they suck? Why am I asking questions?

Craniotomy’s fourth and freshest release, titled Supply of Flesh Came Just in Time has just about anything you could ask for from a good brutal death record. It’s got low-tuned guitars, inhaled vocals, blast beats, slamming breakdowns, absolute brutality, and a fine piece of graphic artwork to put the icing on the cake. Those of you that just want a solid chunk of brutality, this is something that needs to be checked out. Those of you that are looking for uniqueness…I’ll address that in a bit.

Let’s take a minute and look at the individual musicians for a second. The drums rarely fall out of time, his style is on the generic side, but he manages to keep a few unexpected tricks up his sleeve. The bassist plays with above-average grooves and colorful bass lines. Bassists either playing random low notes or following along with the guitars are way too common in this genre, so it’s refreshing to hear a bassist that can actually do something interesting. The guitarist’s skill doesn’t go above average, but never falls below. The distortion he has on his guitar is extremely edgy and sounds great when he plays those high-pitched harmonics. What’s truly interesting about the guitarist is the non-traditional playing style. The really catchy and groovy riffs that he plays are what give Craniotomy’s sound the small amount of uniqueness they have.

The album kicks off with an eerie intro that slightly grows louder into a driving headbang-appropriate section that’s catchy as fuck. Here’s where things get “interesting” you are introduced to the vocals at the beginning of a groovy breakdown. I actually thought that this was going to be really good…until those vocals came in. The vocals are not only uninteresting and monotonic, they fail to show any sort of anger or power. I would imagine that, in a record as brutal as this, that you would want the VOCALS to be brutal too. But no, this guy sounds like he’s snoring. We need to hear more dynamical variety, different pitches, and more of a powerful sound. One of the reasons that I love bands like Cerebral Bore and Guttural Secrete so much is because the vocals sound unique, powerful, varied in pitch, and just plain fucking brutal! In other words, the vocals bring the energy of the music way down. I can tell that all the vocalist is trying to do is get out the deepest sound possible. Although he is doing a good job at letting out some fucking deep inhales, it doesn’t provide any positive contributions for the rest of the band.

Other than that one letdown, to those of you expecting something super innovative, this isn’t for you. For the hardcore fans of slamming brutality, have at it. Craniotomy provides brutal death that’s more on the groovy side. Nothing more, nothing less. Are these guys shitty? Not in the slightest bit. So yeah, I would only recommend this to the brutal death fans and give it a score that lies right in the middle of the spectrum, making it not lie in a positive or negative area with a 10/20. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Strychnia - The Anatomy of Execution

Just like Rings of Saturn, A Past Unknown, and plenty of other young metal bands out there, American thrash death band Strychnia have been taking advantage of social media to get their music out there since the release of their debut in 2011. From the looks of it, Strychnia seems to be doing pretty fucking good with all of the worldwide attention they’ve been getting on the internet’s biggest social media sites. Like other music lovers out there, I get fucking bombarded with tons of metal and rock bands out there telling me to “check out” their music. Well, I discovered Strychnia on Twitter, and after witnessing the same type of extreme hype that I saw with A Past Unknown, I decided to check out their debut that they had up for listening. Everyone knows that a lot of those bands out there on the net are just plain shitty and don’t really have any future; Strychnia is NOT one of those bands. This is the kind of quality, talented, skilled, and top-notch music people are looking for! Everything from the production quality to the vocals has just continued to impress me.

Strychina plays the same basic type of metal that DevilDriver, Sadus, Revocation, Swashbuckle, and Cavalera Conspiracy play. It’s that mix of thrash metal and death metal that has an end result of a death metal sound with sort of a rock n’ roll feel; some groove. That groove can be traced back to both old school and modern thrash metal bands like Bonded by Blood, Testament, Anthrax, Exodus, Death Angel, Metallica, Overkill, and Tankard. Although unlike Cavalera Conspiracy and Revocation, Strychnia has a much, much heavier and less melodic sound that is more similar to that of DevilDriver.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about thrash metal, it’s that the sound of the drums can make a big difference. Of course, what truly matters is how good the drummer is, but that’s not really much of an issue in this case. The sound of the drums on this album couldn’t be more perfect. They sound exactly like the ones on Bonded by Blood’s fantastic debut, Feed the Beast. The way everything sounds so fucking thick with a lot of bass and mid-range and little treble helps bring out the brutality. This also helps bring out the intensity of Strychnia’s death metal side. Except the different between the drums on this album and the ones on Feed the Beast is that the ones on Feed the Beast don’t have NEARLY as much reverb as the drums do on the Strychnia record. But seriously, in all honesty, even though the drummer’s style, skill, and obvious talent make all the difference, the way the drums sound on here just absolutely brings everything up.

The distortion of the guitars blend extremely well with the way everything sounds. They don’t have too much of a high-pitched crunch and they aren’t too metallic sounding (like a lot of bands recently), they’re just right. After listening to a lot of thrash metal yesterday, I’m noticing that the type and amount of distortion that the guitars have is very similar to a lot of thrash metal. This is, therefore, only expanding their thrash metal sound and influence even more. Except the way the different guitar parts are layered is slightly more complex than your average thrash metal sound, which is where the obvious complexity of death metal plays a part. But one of the things that I end up enjoying the most about Strychnia is the vocals.

Death metal vocalists that have a large pitch range are hard to come by these days. In response to that, some people might immediately point to a lot of the deathcore vocalists that are big right now. Ok, many of those are good vocalists, but normally, they do one of two things: they either only do the polar opposites (deep gutturals and high-pitched screams) or stick to a general range. This is true for death metal vocalists all across the spectrum, whether it be tech death, brutal death, death metal, or melodic death. Just to list of a couple examples, the vocalist for The Black Dahlia Murder is fantastic, but 90% of the time, he does the same high-pitched shrieks, occasionally doing some mid-ranged growls. The vocalist for Kataklysm and Ex Deo rarely does anything beyond those vicious growls or those ear-splitting screams. And of course, there are countless bands that only do one type of vocal style. All of this is fine, and is often times more than appropriate for the musical setting, but more than often, variety is what’s best. Bands like Lamb of God, All Shall Perish, Cattle Decapitation, and Opeth all have vocalists that do whatever they can to keep things as interesting as fucking possible.

The vocalist for Strychnia performs vocal styles that go all across the board. This tends to be typical for a lot of thrash death bands because of the non-traditional sound of the music. DevilDriver, Gojira, Hatesphere, and Revocation all have vocalists that, although some are better than others, have the capability to perform a wide variety of pitches. The first thing you hear out of the vocalist’s mouth after the intro track is a high-pitched scream similar to that of All Shall Perish. Throughout the duration of the album, you hear shrieks, mid-ranged growls and screams, nasty yells, and some of the best growls that I’ve heard in years out of a brand new band. On top of that, everything that the vocalist does shines with experience, care, skill, and talent. This is what the biggest surprise to me has been, because there are plenty of bands that, as a whole, are great, but individually, each member seems to have a bunch of issues. I have a very, very hard time pointing out issues within the individual members.

I’ve saved the issues that I have for last. The biggest issue is that, although the band’s sound is extremely unique, I get the feel that, as a whole, the album sounds like the same song, but dragged out. There are cases (usually in traditional death metal) where this is perfectly fine, but unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. When I listen to my favorite thrash death or thrash black albums, I don’t feel that all of the songs blend together into one big wall of awesome; I feel that each song is an individual block that differs from all of the other “blocks” in the wall of awesome. All of the songs have groove, they have slightly different structures, but they’re too similar. To be honest, this is PERFECT, because this leaves room for improvement that Strychnia can fix in later releases. Because a roadblock that some bands run into is creating a flawless debut, therefore making it THAT much harder to create a follow-up album that’s even better after setting the bar so damn high with their debut. A great album will only create higher expectations and standards for the next one. The Anatomy of Execution has set the bar up, but not impossibly high.

One of the newer thrash death bands, Strychnia, is also one of the best. This is the type of band that will be headlining tours three to four albums down the road. This is a band that, although very young, not only expresses extensive skill, practice, experience, and talent, also expresses some of the highest potential I’ve ever heard out of a new band. I would recommend this to metalheads that are looking for something, fresh, professional, serious, and all-around fun to listen to. In other words, The Anatomy of Execution gets my high score of 18/20.