Sunday, June 30, 2013

Suffocation - Pinnacle of Bedlam

Too long after the release of Blood Oath, the brutal death masters are back with a new release. It appears that Suffocation have been getting on the three year gap pattern in between albums since the release of their self-titled album. With a bit of scattered touring here and there after the release of Blood Oath, Suffocation have actually been taking things fairly easily this time around, with vocalist Frank Mullen taking time to work his other job that he very much enjoys, and for the other guys to do whatever shit they do when they’re not playing death metal. I’m going to jump right into my biggest concern at first and say that drummer Mike Smith was always my favorite thing about this band. Well, unfortunately, while Suffocation was spending some time playing a few festivals, Mr. Smith decided that his time in Suffocation was over. So after shaving off all his long dreads, he finished all of the last scheduled shows the band had until they started writing their next album. I was actually very upset to hear this, but it’s not a complete loss because his replacement is technically an ex-Suffocation member.

Dave Kulross, most known for the many years he spent drumming for Malevolent Creation, was the guy who played drums on the Despise the Sun EP in 2002. I don’t exactly consider him to be a true Suffocation veteran since he wasn’t even on a true full-length, but whatever. So with that, I was interested in hearing what this guy could really do, because one measly EP isn’t enough material to compare this guy to Mike Smith. Smith’s overall drumming style is so unique that it’s obvious to anyone that’s heard it that it’s nearly impossible to replicate it. Although his style was superb in the 1990s era of Suffocation (that being an understatement), the drumming that he did on Souls to Deny, Suffocation’s Self-Titled record, Blood Oath, and The Close of a Chapter (the band’s live album) is so mind-blowingly talented, creative, complex, and amazing that it’s one of the hardest things for me to accurately put into words.

The first track off the record, Cycles of Suffering, pretty much starts right off at full force without any sort of hesitation. If you told me that Mike Smith was the one behind the kit in that recording, I would’ve believed you without second thought. Dave Kulross is a fucking beast and he managed to pull-off what many were convinced was an unthinkable task and master the Suffocation drumming style. Of course, after listening to the record straight through, you can tell that it’s not Mike Smith because…well…considering the fact of how similar to Smith this guy has managed to sound, there are some things that he doesn’t do that you would expect to hear from Mike. But even then, it’s not much of a loss at all because you’re distracted by all of the chaotic brutality already surrounding you.

Unlike Blood Oath, which focused primarily on creating floor-leveling grooves at a maximum brutality rate, Pinnacle of Bedlam puts 70% of its focus on blistering technicality. Of course, since it’s Suffocation, the brutality factor is maxed-out, so that in itself is a no-brainer. But really, Pinnacle of Bedlam could easily be Suffocation’s most instrumentally complex record since Pierced from Within, which was released almost 15 years ago. And by technical, I don’t mean the drumming, because that’s a given on any Suffocation record. What I mean when I talk about technicality on this record is the complexity of the guitarists and bassist. The lead lines are slightly less catchy, have a lot more to them, and to put the icing on the cake, it’s a hell of a lot fucking faster.

If you want a really good taste of everything this album brings, listen to As Grace Descends. That song, in particular, captures everything that you will hear on this record and magnifies all of its strongest traits. As Grace Descends is easily the catchiest song on the entire record. The drumming is basically something Mike Smith would play, but with Dave’s own personal twist to make it extra unique. The energetic tremolo picking that the guitarists do while steadily jumping around between five or six different chords intensifies literally everything about this track. And to top it off, of course, what would Suffocation be without the mighty Frank Mullen belting out those deep guttural growls like a fucking badass while shaking his hand in the air.

On one last note, Suffocation has always had a tradition of going back and re-recording one old song from one of their early records for each release. For example, the last track on their self-titled record is a re-recorded version of a song from their second album, the seventh track on Pierced from Within is a re-recorded version of a song from their very first release, the Human Waste EP, etc. Well, the re-recorded song on this album is Beginning of Sorrow, the first song off their second album, Breeding the Spawn. Here’s what really makes me smile about this: Mike Smith was the drummer on that album, so what the band did is they brought Mike Smith back (as a guest musician) to do the drums on the re-recorded version. That, right there, is fucking respect. And it also shows that they’re all on good terms with each other.

Everything, literally everything about this album is perfect. Perfect enough to make the whole fucking album perfect. Suffocation has never released an “average” record, but Blood Oath was definitely starting to head in that direction; so I’m very glad that the band picked up the railroad tracks and re-positioned them back in the right direction. If you love death metal, if you’re new to death metal, or even Suffocation, this is an album that you need to hear because it’s not only one of the best albums that this year has seen so far, it’s also one of the best albums in Suffocation’s extensive catalog of releases. When I say perfect, of course I’m implying that this album gets a perfect score, 20/20 for this one and will probably end up putting it on my “best of 2013” list at the end of the year. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thy Art is Murder - Hate

Thy Art is Murder is not an unknown name in the community of diehard deathcore fans. So those of you that aren’t way into the deathcore scene that probably haven’t heard of these guys, don’t think that these guys are super brand new and are just now popping up out of nowhere. Although I’ve known the name for about a year or so, I never bothered to look them up until I learned that they had signed a deal with the almighty Nuclear Blast Records and immediately re-released their most recent album through the label. Nuclear Blast has the reputation for signing the bands that are either one of the best in their genre or have the most potential. So with the consistency that the label has shown me, I had to listen to this record if it was enough to get a deal with Nuclear Blast. And because of that, I set my expectations pretty high for my first listen. Both community and critical feedback has been mixed views, but definitely the majority considering Hate to most likely be the first of several amazing releases to come.

Coming from the vein of bands such as Whitechapel and Through the Eyes of the Dead, Thy Art is Murder play a much more brutal style of deathcore that relies less on the typical deathcore stuff. Instead, the much heavier deathcore tune their guitars lower, contain primarily growled vocals instead of screaming, use breakdowns that are slightly more unique in complexity and can deliver indescribable amounts of brutality. The overall sound of these bands have intense rage and take more time to build up tension for breakdowns. but then again, there are some of these bands that are able to drop some of the single most brutal breakdowns ever heard without any buildup of tension at all. Thy Art is Murder give us a reminder of how this can be done with the opening track of this monster of a release. The one thing that I have a HUGE soft spot for in deathcore bands is if they have an amazing drummer. I wasn’t even halfway through the first song to hear how much skill their drummer has.

Before the first track comes down on you, the band gives you the scare of your life by creating a background of eerie guitars similar to what Whitechapel does along with a quick flash of their extremely fast drummer that is EXACTLY lined up with the guitarists and bassist, and those nightmare-inducing demonic growls. Um, excuse me, I thought this was the mediocre deathcore band that my friend told me about. No, this is how skilled and mature Whitechapel sounds now, except this is only the band’s second release. As if the first 40 seconds of the song weren’t enough to blow you off your feet, right after that, the band then drops what could easily be the heaviest breakdown ever recorded since we heard the breakdown on The Legend of the Rent is Way Hardcore by Here Comes the Kraken in 2009 or even Suicide Silence’s breakdown in Bludgeoned to Death from 2007. Back to the topic at hand, after the initial breakdown at the beginning of the first song, all hell breaks loose when the drummer breaks into an extremely fast blast beat. And as if that wasn’t enough time for buildup, without you expecting, the band drops another breakdown on you that’s even more intense than the first one was. My question is, how the fuck are they able to do that?? Other bands that try to do it fail miserably and, in effect, create something extremely boring. After a while, at the end of the song, the band falls into the final breakdown, which has some fancy drum fills. And, unlike the usual drum fills that you would expect to hear, which would be really fast or complex, the drummer plays the fills with a fairly minimalistic attitude. They’re fast, yes, but there isn’t a lot to them, which surprises me. Now that I’ve spent time describing the song that caught the world off-guard, lets take an overall look at the rest of the album and what else it has to surprise us.

Something that I would like to add real quick is that this album has next to no melodic sections at all. And if it does have any, they’re so slight that it isn’t even worth mentioning. Anyways, keep in mind that, unlike the first track, which has three breakdowns, the rest of the songs don’t have as many. This is good because it shows that the band is at least making an honest attempt at writing something more interesting than just a bunch of breakdowns. That’s what makes deathcore bands memorable; if they have a nice variety of sounds to offer.

Going back to the drummer, he should be one of the biggest centers of attention in this act because this kind of music is very drum-oriented. Because of the contrasting tempos and complex patterns deathcore has, it’s CRUCIAL to have a good drummer. Not only does Thy Art is Murder have an amazing drummer, they have one of the best deathcore drummers I’ve ever heard in my life. I’ve listened to him in recording, I’ve looked up countless live and in-studio videos of this guy, and now I only have one thing left to do in order to confirm how truly great he is, and that is to see him perform with my own eyes in ears, which is something that I will be able to do this August at this year’s Summer Slaughter Tour.

The vocalist is also one of the best in the genre that I can think of. His growls are similar to those heard from Whitechapel, The Faceless, and Fit for an Autopsy. Just as a side note, these are my absolute favorite type of growls. This is one of the deathcore guys that has completely mastered the very deep, guttural, powerful, and angry exhaled growls to the fullest. Usually, when it comes to deathcore, regardless of how good the growls are, I like to hear variety in the vocals. But this time, it never bothers me that he does those growls roughly 80% of the time.

Thy Art is Murder is one of the tightest, most talented, skilled, and confident deathcore bands that have come up since that huge explosion of bands in 2007. Oh yeah, some of you might not have remembered that time during 2007 where 70% or more of today’s biggest deathcore bands released their first albums. For example, Born of Osiris, Suicide Silence, Attila, Carnifex, Emmure, Impending Doom, Whitechapel, Rose Funeral, I Declare War, and After the Burial ALL released their first albums during that same year. But since then, Hate by Thy Art is Murder is one of the best ones released since then. If you’re critical towards deathcore, listen to this. If you love deathcore, listen to this. Thy Art is Murder are earning my score of 19/20 and I’m looking forward to seeing them this summer on the Summer Slaughter Tour. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Delusions of Grandeur - Efficacy

Deathcore has grown into a pretty bland genre. I mean, there are always the bands that pop up here and there that bring something new to the table, but all in all, the majority has grown into a huge melting pot. We have the melting pot of bands that are all about the super low tuning and using a lot of simple breakdowns (led by The Acacia Strain and Emmure), and there’s the one of the bands overusing the polyrhythmic breakdowns (influenced by Meshuggah, but led by Veil of Maya and Born of Osiris). Like I mentioned before, there are also those random bands, including Winds of Plague, Iwrestledabearonce, and The Contortionist, that have their own unique interpretation of the genre that either pushes or destroys its boundaries. I was introduced to a band that’s being mentioned in various places as being one of the tightest and skilled group of musicians the genre has seen in a long time. This group of musicians, going under the name of Delusions of Grandeur, is taking what Born of Osiris and Veil of Maya are doing to a COMPLETELY different level.

People that are fans of Born of Osiris, Veil of Maya, After the Burial, and other similar bands will have a better grip on what they’ll be getting themselves into. But then again, Delusions of Grandeur have taken blasting technicality, ear-splitting shrieks, melodic leads, soft keyboards, and barbaric brutality into the sound that the above bands helped form. On a side note, if you’re curious as to which of the three above bands these guys are most similar to, it’s definitely Born of Osiris.

So after getting lost in the amazing album cover for about five minutes or so, I decided it was time to see what music was under it. Although the music is beyond amazing, it’s not at all what I was expecting. There are a lot of times where the album art can somewhat describe the music. It’s really cool how descriptive it can be, and bands usually try to have album covers that help paint a partial description of the music behind it. For example, the vocals took me COMPLETELY off-guard. I was expecting something mid-ranged or really low; not these super high-pitched screams. On that same note, the vocals will most likely be unpleasant for the ears due to their slightly edgy sound, but given some time and a couple of run-throughs, chances are that you’ll come to enjoy the vocals on this as much as I do. But in all honesty, the vocals aren’t anywhere near being the most amazing part of this small record.

A band of this particular style requires a VERY good drummer. Fortunately, most bands that choose to play this type of metal make sure to at least have a drummer that can keep up without fucking up too much. Calling the drummer on this album amazing would be an understatement. Try as I might, I am still unable to find any parts where he fucks up or falls out of rhythm. He’s lightning-fast, catchy, unique, and is good at not going overboard with the technicality. He knows that he is the key element that keeps the music driving at a steady pace. The instant the really weird melodic intro to Quantum ended, I was blown away by how much focus and skill this guy has; most other drummers would’ve screwed up at least once during a song like this, but not this one. And as if the tightness of the drums wasn’t already mind-blowing enough, the rest of the band is literally just as tight.

The walking guitar solos that some deathcore bands like to do during breakdowns are delicate because they’re so damn easy to ruin. If one wrong note is played or if one little thing falls out of time, it gets easily noticed. One of my personal favorite examples of this type of breakdown is the last part of Follow the Signs by Born of Osiris. Just the way everything is laid out and how the kick drums match up exactly with the guitar is mesmerizing. But that breakdown is fairly well-paced; imagine taking that and increasing the complexity of everything. That would give you the breakdown that lies roughly in the middle of the first song, Noname. I’m not too much of a guitar player, but I’ve played enough to know how hard it is to do what is done in that breakdown while keeping PERFECT time. On top of that, the other members are just as tight with the drums as the guitars. During the last 30 seconds of Noname, the band lays out just the right amount of proof how perfect their timing is and how seamlessly they can do just about anything.

Having a similar atmospheric and technical deathcore style to Born of Osiris, Delusions of Grandeur are going to be one of the next bands to take the wheel in the future. This isn’t the type of band that I would consider to be one of the more brutal deathcore bands (i.e. Whitechapel, Oceano, As You Drown, etc.). If you’re into the much more complex and atmospheric type of deathcore (i.e. Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris, etc.), then Delusions of Grandeur is a band that is required to be in your collection. The deathcore genre’s reputation is suffering greatly, and Delusions of Grandeur are one of the bands that defy that reputation and could possibly be one of the bands that, in the future, could possibly save it. Even if you don’t like deathcore, give this a listen because I’m giving it 18/20. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Strychnia - Reanimated Monstrosity

If you didn’t catch my review of Strychnia’s debut full-length, that’s okay, because it’s this EP that needs our attention first. This relatively young thrash death band really took me by surprise with their energetic style that manages to have the catchy grooves that thrash metal carries while still maintaining the brutality that comes with death metal. Apparently, the band has gone through some lineup changes since the release of their debut, so the first thing that they had to do after getting a solidified lineup was record some metal. Instead of going the whole nine yards and going straight to writing a full-length, Strychnia give us a four-song sample of what they’ve become to keep us occupied while they work on more music and possibly some touring. And honestly, I think that this was a great idea because this helps solidify the lineup even more so that there will hopefully be less confusion in the future.

Strychnia did a good job at not making a piece of perfection with their debut, because that would raise the bar a little too high and possibly even out of reach for their next album. For this new EP, they have improved in some areas, but only a little. This is okay because they’re already amazing to begin with, and this is a fucking EP, it’s not supposed to be amazing, so they’ve still left some elbow room for their sophomore full-length.

Kevin’s vocals have taken a slight change in direction. And, to be honest, I’m not really digging it as much as the vocals in The Anatomy of Execution. In Reanimated Monstrosity, the vocalist primarily uses mid-range growls. He’s one of the best new extreme metal vocalists that I’ve heard in years; his pitch range is substantial. But in this EP, most of what he does is sort of in the middle of his range. The mid-range growls that he does are very nasty and gritty, which are really cool, but it’s replaced A LOT of the growls that were done in The Anatomy of Execution. So hopefully, we will get to hear more of those brutal deep growls in the next release. The vocals on this album definitely have a lot of emotion and rage (not something you hear very much anymore), but they feel less satisfying due to the lack of deep growls.

But the quality of the overall instrumentation helps make up for the slight vocal letdown. Strychnia definitely takes a bit of influence from the deathcore genre; and you can tell because all of the musicians playing together are much better than the musicians individually. The individual musicians on this EP are surprisingly good for a bunch of yanks from New Jersey, and each of them take a little time to solo and prove their skill to you. Like I just said, their best quality is not something each of them have, it’s what they all have as a whole. This is something that’s very common in deathcore. That’s why you don’t hear very many solos or other fancy shit from most deathcore bands; because they sound better as a BAND than a bunch of musicians playing simultaneously. Even in the thrash death genre, DevilDriver and Malevolent Creation owe their popularity to the fact that their #1 skill is the ability to be a BAND.

The last point that I would like to make has to do with one of my favorite bands, Dying Fetus. Let me direct you to the first song (also the title track). There are two breakdowns in this song that sound like a carbon copy of one of the breakdowns off of Dying Fetus’ Destroy the Opposition album. Citing influences for bands is not something that I like to do because, well, I can’t know for sure if a band is an influence unless it’s been specifically stated by the band being influenced themselves. But then again, it’s kind of hard to hear these two breakdowns and NOT think DYING FETUS. Whether or not they were trying to make something with a Dying Fetus vibe, it’s a fantastic addition that I didn’t see coming. But what I’m worried about is that they’ll overuse this thing and use it in every song in the future; not a good idea.

Strychnia started off in 2011 by pointing in the right direction. Now, two years later, we have physical and audible proof that they have continued to go in that right direction. And seeing how genuine these musicians are, it wouldn’t be an unsafe prediction to say that they will most likely continue to go in that direction. Besides the vocals that I have a harder time fully enjoying, everything else about the record is good, but didn’t quite tear up the earth as much as I would like. The songs, although flawless, are also not quite as memorable as a lot of the ones on their first record. But regardless of any of that, this is an EP that’s more than worth the money it costs to obtain it and I would highly recommend this to any fan of extreme metal. I would give this EP 17/20. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Thousand Foot Krutch - The End is Where We Begin

The End is Where We Begin is Thousand Foot Krutch’s most recent and most publicized release. It’s really hard to classify these guys because they’ve spent the duration of their careers hopping back and forth across the line between hard rock and nu metal. Some of their albums are pure hard rock, and some of them are downright heavy nu metal. This seems to be the first album where they decide to find a balance between the two somewhat similar styles and do what they can to implement an equal amount of both into their music. I’ve never really been the biggest fan of these guys, but I’ve known about them for a while and I’ve enjoyed a few of their songs that popped up on random compilations that have come my way in the past. When I saw that they released this album, I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to check this out. After checking this one out, it turned into “checking out” all of the other albums that they’ve released. Oh yeah, speaking of nu metal, what happened?

Remember the first decade after the millennium (2000-2010) when nu metal EXPLODED in popularity and EVERYONE was listening to it? Bands like Godsmack, Korn, Drowning Pool, System of a Down, Slipknot, Saliva, Otep, Linkin Park, Mudvayne, Disturbed, Sevendust, Deftones, and Papa Roach were at the top of the food chain (and some still are) and some were releasing amazing and classic albums that many metalheads, including myself, fell for. This first decade of the 2000s was where nu metal ruled the metal genre; as hard as it may be for some people to believe or accept, it’s true. During this time Thousand Foot Krutch did not become the instant hit that some thought they would become. Instead, they took a gradual climb in both musical quality and popularity. Around the year 2008, the nu metal genre had already started to slow down. Godsmack went on an indefinite hiatus, System of a Down had split, Linkin Park had gone in a completely different musical direction, Mudvayne sort of evaporated after the release of their self-titled in 2009 due to their vocalist getting distracted with his other nu metal band, Hellyeah, and bands like Drowning Pool, Sevendust, Papa Roach, and Saliva had pretty much been forgotten about by most people.

Now that these monstrous bands are decreasing in sales, popularity, and overall publicity, the somewhat lesser-known bands that had spent this time under their shadows started to shine. Five Finger Death Punch, Hellyeah, Ill Nino, Stone Sour, Coal Chamber, Chevelle, and Thousand Foot Krutch suddenly exploded in popularity out of nowhere. The funny thing is…the sound of their music isn’t really any different than most of the other nu metal and hard rock bands out there. Thousand Foot Krutch, like 80% of the other bands that ride along that line between nu metal and hard rock, has always been nothing more than a carbon copy of what Creed was during the time that they released their first three albums. So if you think about it, it’s not the nu metal genre as a whole that has taken a fall…it’s just the REALLY big bands that have decreased in fame and the popular and underground bands that have continued to live on, some taking the newly vacant spots formerly occupied by the top dogs during that ten year period.

If you’re familiar with this genre and what the majority of the bands that come from it sound like, you already know what the new Thousand Foot Krutch album sounds like. Unlike most of my friends that stopped respecting and listening to nu metal years ago, I still have a handful of nu metal bands that I continue to listen to and enjoy to the fullest. So since I still see some quality in the genre, I’m still able to recognize good nu metal when I hear it and be able to separate it from the shitty nu metal. For me, about 70% of nu metal bands fall in the fuzzy area between these two extremes. They don’t really have any super disappointing qualities about them, they play the genre well, they know what they’re doing, but there’s a complete absence of anything that could possibly give them a boost or make them sound unique or ambitious. This is what Thousand Foot Krutch is; just bland.

I guess you could say that they’re unique because they can’t seem to decide between hard rock and nu metal, but even that isn’t saying much because THERE ARE ALREADY HUNDREDS OF BANDS THAT ARE DOING THE EXACT SAME FUCKING THING AND HAVE BEEN SINCE THE TURN OF THE FUCKING CENTURY!! It pisses off people like me that go through this genre searching for bands that ARE unique and ARE ambitious, especially since this is a band that has been around since 1995…THAT’S ALMOST 20 YEARS. With that said, it’s obvious that these guys are more than comfortable right where they are and don’t have any ambitions to push themselves musically because they’re so wrapped up in their lyrical themes which I’m not in any rush to discuss. Not only do I not care about a band’s lyrical themes, I don’t want to say anything about these guy’s lyrics because of the uproar of controversy it will cause; and we get enough of that bullshit on the internet enough (Sputnik Music, anyone?).

Anyways, if you look at this album and compare it to the rest that the genre has to offer, you can’t because it’ll blend in with everything else before you have the chance to compare and contrast. When compared to the rest of their discography, this is definitely one of their strongest releases, and, in my opinion, is the best album that they’ve released. There really isn’t anything in particular that I don’t like about this album. The singing is great, the vocal harmonizing is cool, the band is tight, all of the members do their part, they stay true to the genre, and they do a good job of contrasting sounds by throwing down really heavy shit and releasing some softer tracks to even things out. If you’re really into this type of music, then you’re going to love this album. As for me, I’m giving it a 10/20, right in the mediocre area where it belongs. 

Blood Red Throne - Blood Red Throne

One of Norway’s biggest death metal bands is back with a self-titled album. Due to the extended relations both former and past members have in the black metal genre, Blood Red Throne has grown to be one of the much more respected pure death metal bands amongst the black metal fanbase. Well, apparently, Blood Red Throne’s release of Brutalitarian Regime in 2011 passed by without me knowing about it, so the last thing that I’ve heard from these guys is their 2008 album, Souls of Damnation. As if that wasn’t enough to make me feel disconnected, the lineup of the band is completely different now than it was in 2008, except for founding member and guitarist, Død. I looked through the lineup to see if any of the members are or were in any bands that I know, and their drummer caught my eye. Not only is drummer Emil Wiksten not even from Norway (he’s Swedish), he’s the drummer of the internationally popular death metal band Aeon. Although I don’t consider him to be anything outstanding, he is one of the more creative and unique traditional death metal drummers out there. But this guy isn’t the only highlight of this record.

The vocalist is, for me, the biggest change that this band has gone through. I loved the deep, moist sound that their previous vocalist had, but in retrospect, he didn’t have much of a pitch range. His vocals also sounded a little too relaxed and emotionless a lot of the time. The new vocalist, originally from this thrash metal band called Concussion that lasted for about two and a half years or so, has fucking range. And after doing some shallow digging, it seems that I’m not the only one that’s the first to hear this guy on a Blood Red Throne album because…this is the first time he’s ever been on one! Well, anyways, this guy is fucking amazing. The first thing you hear from him is an extremely high-pitched earsplitting black metal-styled shriek. Being used to the guttural growls from Souls of Damnation and Come Death, this is alien to me. Then, after the band takes some time to pull you into their catchy groove, the vocalist pummels you with his demonic growls. His growls sound nothing like the ones on any of the band’s previous albums, which is what forces you to realize that the Blood Red Throne that you once knew is no more; Blood Red Throne is back, and this album with its new sound is proof that nothing will stand in their way for very long.

Souls of Damnation won my heart over because it wasn’t pure death metal brutality. It has some of the catchiest grooves and tempos that have ever been pulled off in this particular genre. This element of their sound is what I identify with the most when I think of these guys. When I listen to Blood Red Throne, I love to hear the shit that I can nod my head along to while I’m doing my other work. This new piece of material never fails to that for even a single second. All nine tracks on this album are filled with those catchy guitar chugs and drum lines, even though the people that are playing them here are not the same people that were playing them in 2008. If I were to pick out two songs from this album that express the most of this element, I would pick Torturewhore and Exoneration Manifesto. Torturewhore is also one of the songs where the bassist and the drummer steal the spotlight. The frilly taps that the drummer does on the ride cymbals along with the crazy fills and the extremely tight kick drum work sold me on the spot. When I heard this song, I knew that this album will be on my “best albums of 2013” list at the end of the year.

I also love how the bassist is much more audible than in most traditional death metal stuff. It seems that in a lot of the recent death metal albums being released, including the past four Cannibal Corpse albums, the bass guitar is much less audible because of the increased volume of the overpowering distorted guitars. There are some bands where the only way you can really tell how skilled their bassist really is, to be honest, is to see the band live (The Black Dahlia Murder, Veil of Maya, Trollfest, The Agonist, etc.). That’s how bad it is sometimes. The way I like it, is when you can hear every member without anyone overpowering each other. But then again, there are appropriate times for certain instruments to step out of the light or for a certain member to take the frontline.

The song Exoneration Manifesto shows you the capability of their bassist. The bass lines and walks that he makes in this song not only intensifies the overall song, but also brings all the attention to him. This isn’t a bassist that’s just super technical and fast, this guy knows what the hell he’s doing and how the hell to do it RIGHT. After hearing what he did in that song, I stopped everything and started the album over, this time putting most of my focus on the bass. And this guy tears apart every song, showing everyone that he is a fucking amazing bassist and is currently right where he belongs, in Blood Red Throne.

As I’m writing this review, I’m just now realizing that, no matter how hard I try, I can’t find anything that I dislike (even just a little bit) about this album. What we have right here is death metal done right. Although 2013 is definitely not as good a year for metal as 2012 was, this year is releasing some very good music, Blood Red Throne’s self-titled album is one of many examples so far of amazing albums that have been released this year. This album is unique and pure at the same time. It fits the exact description of a good PURE death metal album, but it also has that unique twist of those groovy and fucking catchy parts to make it memorable. My personal favorite off of this would be the first song, Soulseller for having everything that can be found on this album compressed into one single song. This album gets a much-deserved score of 19/20. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dark Tranquillity - Construct

Dark Tranquillity is a band that many consider to be one of the best and clearest representatives of the melodic death genre. When giving examples of some of the purest and biggest melodic death bands out there, Dark Tranquillity is almost always mentioned, along with Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy, Hypocrisy, Insomnium, At the Gates, Scar Symmetry, etc. Like most of the really big melodic death bands out there, Dark Tranquillity resides in the beautiful country of Sweden. Hell, the only band that I listed above that isn’t Swedish is Insomnium (they’re from Finland). Anyways, Sweden is the home country of Dark Tranquillity. I was introduced to these guys at a live performance. The funny thing was that I was at that show for the two opening bands, Mutiny Within and Threat Signal, and the local band, Blood and Thunder. Having never heard Dark Tranquillity before, I was absolutely hooked on them after hearing their set. Of course, this was after the release of the album that they were touring for, We are the Void. So this is the first piece of new material since that show, and I’ll tell you this, you have no need to worry about it not living up to expectations.

These guys were on a fairly consistent path with their sound. The past four albums that they’ve released have all sounded pretty much the same; which is kind of ironic because those are my favorite albums by them (and, of course, The Gallery). In We are the Void, their sound was just starting to enter the beginning stages of growing old, so it was the appropriate thing to do to change things up a bit this time around. But what the hell did they do to change things up? Well, don’t expect any changes as drastic as the ones In Flames made, but there are some new elements that are very noticeable that are introduced in this album. In Flames really pushed the walls of melodic death metal. Regardless of your opinion on their newer sound, it’s undeniable that In Flames pushed themselves completely. Dark Tranquillity haven’t pushed themselves nearly as much as In Flames, but there are other reviewers out there that are saying that Dark Tranquillity are on part three of their musical journey.

From their formation in the early 1990s up until the release of The Mind’s I, this is what we call “classic” Dark Tranquillity (in this case, I’ll call it part one). Then, starting with the release of Projector in 1999, the band started playing an entirely different style of melodic death; one that really took a lot of listeners by surprise. But, unlike other bands, Dark Tranquillity’s change in sound never really caused much of an uproar of negative feedback. Now, well over a decade later, the Swedish masters have introduced to us the beginning of part three of their musical journey. Just like Projector, Construct is a style of melodic death that we haven’t heard from these guys before. Even when the single off the album was released and that was all we had, it was obvious that Construct was something fresh and new. But what about construct IS new?

Well, Dark Tranquillity’s sound is more melodic than ever before. Yes, Damage Done and Fiction were pretty melodic albums, but Construct takes this term to a whole new level. There’s much less of the really thrashy drumming that appears in literally every other Dark Tranquillity record prior to this one. The drumming overall has taken on a different path, which is probably due to the drummer getting bored of playing the same patterns for the past 20 or so years. Also, there is a lot, and I mean A LOT more contrast between the verses and the choruses in each song. It gets to the point where there are no distorted guitars at all in the verses and all hell breaks loose in the choruses (i.e. the first song on the album).

But the biggest change that Dark Tranquillity’s sound has gone through has nothing to do with individual specifics. The biggest change that has been made is the complete outlook on the genre itself. When you look at “part two” of their journey, they obviously had a much more straightforward outlook on melodic death. They went fast, with the grain, and added in some keyboards. And it was fucking great and almost everybody loved it. The sound that Construct delivers goes a bit under the surface structure of the genre and explores some of its more mystical and softer areas. This is pretty much the same thing that Swallow the Sun has done throughout their career, except they’re much softer and slower than Dark Tranquillity.

Overall, Construct is amazing and can easily be considered one of Dark Tranquillity’s best releases. For some reason, I’m having a hard time enjoying the ugly album artwork. But nonetheless, the music is what matters and it’s a beautiful piece of work that I would recommend to all fans of melodic death and metal in general. To be honest, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start if you’ve never heard Dark Tranquillity before. I would give Construct a score of 18/20. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Upcoming Releases

I usually don't do many of these posts, but I realized just now how many albums I'm REALLY looking forward to this year. So here is a short-ish list of some upcoming album releases that I am extremely thrilled about.

Amon Amarth - Deceiver of the Gods (melodic death)
Watain - All that May Bleed (black metal)
Behemoth - The Satanist (black death)
Autopsy - The Headless Ritual (death metal)
August Burns Red - Rescue and Restore (metalcore)
Havok - Unnatural Selection (thrash metal)
Locrian - Return to Annihilation (drone)
Shaded Enmity - Forsaken and Forgotten (melodic death)
Sirenia - Perils of the Deep Blue (gothic metal)
Tarja - Victim of Ritual (symphonic metal)
Tarja - Colours in the Dark (symphonic metal)
ReVamp - Wild Card (symphonic metal)
blessthefall - Hollow Bodies (screamo)
Sick Puppies - Connect (hard rock)
Revocation - Revocation (thrash death)
DevilDriver - Winter Kills (thrash death)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Defeated Sanity - Passages into Deformity

Every album that Defeated Sanity puts out seems to be better than the one previous to it. I started listening to these guys when they only had two albums out. I got hooked onto the noisy brutality of their Psalms of the Moribund record. Then, without me knowing, they released a follow-up to that titled Chapters of Repugnance. So a year after it was released, I finally got my hands on it and instantly became addicted to the thick, meaty brutality that had grown in both maturity and technicality (I'll be discussing this later in the review). Now, after getting everyone's attention (including mine) with Chapters of Repugnance, Defeated Sanity are back with their most crushing album yet, Passages into Deformity.

Something that always bothered me about Defeated Sanity is the way the albums are mixed. In Psalms of the Moribund, everything sounded really muddy and almost overproduced. On top of that the vocals were almost completely drowned out to the point to where you really had to listen closely to hear them. Chapters of Repugnance solved that issue, but then again, it had its own problems as well. The drums on Chapters overpowered EVERYTHING to the point of being annoying. I think that Passages into Deformity is the first album that really fixed all the issues all the previous records had without creating any new ones. In other words, the sound of all the individual members, for the first time, sounds balanced.

Defeated Sanity really needs to NOT have a different vocalist on every album. When I learned that the guy from the brutal death masters Disgorge did the vocals on Chapters, I really hoped that he would be their longtime vocalist because, unlike some vocalists in the genre, he knows how to do inhaled growls and make it sound fucking good. Although the guy doing the vocals on this album sounds good and fits in with the rest of the band, it really is kind of a setback from the killer vocals that were delivered on Chapters of Repugnance.

Almost everywhere I see these guys on the internet, I see them being categorized as being a technical death band. Is there something I'm missing here? Because to me, Defeated Sanity doesn't sound all that technical. Unless now, any death metal band that has ANY amount of technicality is considered a technical death band (which kind of ruins the point of the genre). If that were true, that means Cannibal Corpse, Vader, Nile, Death, Suffocation, All Shall Perish, Morbid Angel, and so many other death metal, brutal death, and death grind bands would be considered technical death (ok well I guess I can understand Nile although I still just consider them to be a brutal death band). Since this confused the fucking hell out of me, I decided to go back and listen to Defeated Sanity's entire discography to find out why they're almost ALWAYS referred to as a technical death metal band.

As my initial reaction said, these guys aren't very technical at all. But, their sound does increase in complexity with each album. The bassist now has somewhat technical solos (most notably at the beginning of the second track, Naraka), which actually sound really cool. Besides that, and some of the lead guitar lines, these guys aren't any more technical than Cannibal Corpse. Something that Defeated Sanity DOES have, though, is an immense amount of purebred brutality. Their record label, Willowtip, claims this to be the most brutal album of 2013. As much as I disagree with that statement (new Guttural Secrete album, anyone?), I can't disagree with the fact that this record is brutal as fucking hell. The vocals, although not as high-pitched and guttural as the ones on Chapters, are much harsher and...well...more brutal than any of the other Defeated Sanity albums! The guitar distortion could use to have some more crunch, but it still sounds good.

Probably the best thing about Passages into Deformity is the maturity of the sound. Defeated Sanity, as a whole, have obviously matured a great deal since the release of Chapters of Repugnance. Everything from the song structure to the overall organization of the sound is stronger, more thought-out, and more confident than ever before; making Passages of Deformity a much easier album to digest and understand. And on top of all that, this album has the best cover artwork of any other past release by this band. I would strongly recommend this to all fans of brutality and death metal alike. Passages into Deformity gets my score of 16/20.

Upcoming Reviews

I'm back!!! Here is a list of bands that are mainly ones that I've been wanting to review for about two months or so with a few new ones:

Svart Crown (black death)
Dark Tranquillity (melodic death)
Blood Red Throne (death metal)
Arsis (technical death)
Pyrithion (death metal)
Tremor (grindcore)
Thousand Foot Krutch (hard rock/nu metal)
Unbirth (brutal death)
Anti-Flag (punk)
Thy Art is Murder (deathcore)
Vreid (black metal)
Syrebris (technical death)
Delusions of Grandeur (deathcore)
Defeated Sanity (brutal death)
Strychnia (thrash death)
Portal (progressive death)
Red Seas Fire (progressive metal)
Napalm Death (grindcore)