Friday, August 30, 2013

Evile - Skull

2013 has been a pretty big year for thrash metal. A lot of albums are being released and a lot of new bands are popping up. Bands like Mental Devastation, Lost Society, Annihilator, Sodom, Blood Tsunami, Farscape, Diamond Plate, Atomic Head, Lord Dying, Invasion, Rotten State, Megadeth, Havok, Warbeast, Gama Bomb, and countless other thrash metal bands have released albums this year. Some of them, unfortunately, have been terrible. Most of them have been in the mediocre area. But a few (only a few), such as Havok and Blood Tsunami, have been fucking fantastic. Well, someone on Twitter recommended that I check out Evile, a new-ish thrash metal band. I’ve been hearing about these guys quite a bit around the net and at concerts, but I haven’t bothered giving them a listen until that someone gave me a link to their new album. Well, it’s time to add Evile to that “fucking fantastic” thrash bands of 2013 because their newest album, Skull, is definitely taking the cake to be the thrash album of the year.

But honestly, what makes this new Evile album any different from all the other underground thrash records being released right now? Isn’t it just going to be another record with tremolo picking, fast guitars, blast beats, fast punk-style drum patterns, and epic shredding solos? The answer to that question would be yes, but there is a hell of a fucking lot more to it than just that. There are a few qualities about these guys that make them sound a thousand times better. Not just because they’re unique qualities, but because they’re done RIGHT. The first thing that these guys have that every good thrash band needs is energy.

Energy is more important than anything in this style of music. In order to create the most energy possible, there are several things that need to be done. The biggest thing that will kill the energy in any thrash album for me is when it’s all one speed or style. If it’s all blast beats and tremolo picking with little to no breakdowns or tempo changes, it’s boring. If it’s only hardcore punk-style drumming and chugging riffs, it gets old very fast. Evile implements EVERYTHING into their music. Everything from blasting speed to crunchy breakdowns to melodic parts with singing can be heard on this very record. But it’s not just that, they also know how to perfectly time everything. They never drag anything out; Evile changes tempo at the perfect times and in the perfect ways. Evile prove that they have mastered the art of keeping the music interesting and engaging by frequently changing the mood and speed of the song. And in the process, this has made every single track memorable and unique.

While we’re still on the topic of frequent stylistic and tempo changes, the drummer is the member we should be paying attention to. The second biggest issue that I have with a lot of thrash metal is that the drummers tend to pick one or two patterns and just stick to that. They don’t ever feel the need to try something different or new, they just stick to those few drum patterns and it gets very irritating and boring. Along with exceptional instrumental skill, the drummer that you hear on Skull is one that needs to be appreciated because THIS, THIS RIGHT HERE IS EXACTLY WHAT WE NEED. This guy does EVERYTHING right! I’m not even going to get into how he never screws up or anything because although that’s important, he has everything that even the better than average thrash drummers don’t have. His tightness is tungsten-solid, his creativity is amazing, and he keeps the music interesting.

The guitarists do a great job of following the drums, but not too closely. Their riffs weave around whatever the drummer is doing greatly. I wouldn’t say perfectly, because some of what they do is a little too predictable and can be a little bit goofy. But seriously, they don’t overdo anything. There isn’t too much tremolo picking, there’s just the perfect amount of solos, and along with the drums, they change styles and melodies dramatically. The solos tend to differentiate from each other, which might be because the guitarists are taking turns (I can’t know for sure unless I go into deep research about the specifics of the album). Some of them are crazy Slayer-style shredding while some of them are tamer and have a lot more melody and color.

There is one issue I’m having with this album. If I could have just a little more bass, we would be set to go. And although this is adding up to be the best thrash album of the year (so far), this is one little issue that I can’t leave unmentioned because those random bass fills are very important in keeping the groove going (i.e. Overkill, Exodus, Venom, etc.). The vocals are also one of the much more unique traits of this band.

Their vocalist has a deep voice; which if you haven’t already realized, is NOT common in thrash metal. The number of thrash vocalists with unusually high-pitched vocals is a bit staggering. I don’t know if it’s something that’s done on purpose, but there needs to be more variety. Well, one of the guitarists does the vocals on this new Evile album, and it’s very refreshing to hear a deeper voice. The tone of his yells is strong and full of energy. His possibly Metallica-influenced singing is always on key and the harmonizing sounds awesome. So the uniqueness of the vocals really adds a lot to the uniqueness of this record.

Skull is a fantastic album. At this moment, I haven’t really heard anything else by these idiots, but this is certainly one hell of a first impression and I’m glad that I decided to look this up. If you’re a fan of thrash metal, you NEED to look this up because this is an album crafted to impress even the strictest of elitists. Although there are some things I would change about Skull and that some of the amazing things aren’t absolutely mind-blowing, I would give this a near-perfect score of 18/20. Mainly because although this is a fantastic record, I haven’t found myself going back to it again and again, so there really isn’t much about it that I would call “memorable”. But regardless, this needs to be fucking heard!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cattle Decapitation - To Serve Man

Almost every fan of death grind knows this album. Probably one of Cattle Decapitation’s most well-known albums is To Serve Man. After a few years of being one of the biggest underground goregrind band, Cattle Decapitation started adding in a touch of death metal to create the sound that now has them being the top opening act on almost every tour they don’t end up headlining. For a lot of goregrind fans at the time, this was their first real taste of death grind music because a lot of the hardcore grind bigots that I’ve talked to are not very big fans of Dying Fetus, Misery Index, Lord Gore, and other death grind bands at all. But then again, the 1998-2002 period was pretty much when death grind really started getting big. So it’s possible that Cattle Decapitation decided to jump in on the action and see what they could do. Well, as far as I’ve heard, there weren’t any complaints upon the release of To Serve Man. In fact, this was Cattle Decapitation’s breakthrough album before Humanure took their popularity to the next level.

Well, with other bands like Skinless, Fleshgrind, Exhumed, Lord Gore, Wormed, and Severe Torture starting to play this mix of death metal and grindcore around this time period, Cattle Decapitation couldn’t have started this at any better time. So they were really just in the right place at the right time. Unlike some of the bands that had a much more prominent death metal sound in their music, Cattle Decapitation still had A LOT of their original goregrind sound in their music, sort of like how Lord Gore ended up. So this record in particular acted as a transition album that bridged the gap between their original sound and the ever-expanding sound that they currently have.

The nasty gurgling of the vocals on this album (and pretty much every Cattle Decap. album to be honest) is one of the things that stand out. Travis stays true to their musical roots and manages to build around the style he’s already built up instead of doing something completely different. One of the things that’s particularly respected about these guys are the lyrical themes. For a lot of bands, when they go through a change in musical style, there’s also a change in lyrical themes. As if the really gory and violent pro-vegan themes weren’t apparent enough on Human Jerky and Homovore, To Serve Man isn’t any less explicit. The fact that Cattle Decapitation went through a style change without changing anything else is something that isn’t seen often and I really respect. Even if it’s a band that I don’t like that much, it’s still something that’s somewhat hard to do.

Although Travis already did this in Homovore, To Serve Man is where he started using a wider variety of vocal styles, and the number of the different styles he uses gets bigger and bigger with each album. This was the album where everyone was getting their bearings before they mastered their signature sound in Humanure. But you start to hear a lot more shrieks and vocal layering on this album to help satisfy those who love their goregrind sound.

The drums are tamer on To Serve Man. There aren’t very many blast beats at all, which makes the overall sound of the music less intense and not quite as brutal. But their drummer still manages to create some very innovative and memorable drum patterns and fills that end up inspiring other future death grind and grindcore bands. A lot of people out there will generalize anything having to do with grindcore with blast beats. This album helped remind people that grind doesn’t always need ridiculous drumming. In fact, it’s the vocals that take the front of the line here. So the vocals definitely help make up for any possible loss of brutality (as if there’s any at all). Back to the drums, there are faults present. Although the drummer does an excellent job of creating intricate and unique patterns, they all have the same vibe. This and the guitars make everything sound monotonous throughout the duration of the record.

Which is kind of true, almost all of the songs on To Serve Man sound the same; the songs blend together a little too much. If there were some more unique guitar solos or breakdowns thrown into some of the songs, it would be much easier to tell the songs apart. But here, the only song that I would consider to be different from the rest is Testicular Manslaughter because of the audio clip at the beginning. But even that isn’t saying much because it still ends up blending right into the next song without changing. This problem was very quickly fixed with the following album, Humanure, so I’m not going to complain much since everything else about To Serve Man is fantastic. This album gets my score of 15/20. If you’re new to these guys, I would not recommend choosing this as your first Cattle Decapitation album. But all Cattle Decapitation fans know that this is an easily likeable album. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Autopsy - The Headless Ritual

If you’re going to say that you’re officially back, you’re going to need more than just one comeback record and an EP, no matter how good it all is. Well, Autopsy blew us off our feet with Macabre Eternal in 2011, and they’re saying that they’re officially back. Well, they released an album to get our attention, now they need something to show us that they really ARE back. Ladies and Gentleman, The Headless Ritual is proof enough that these motherfuckers are back and going at full force.

What The Headless Ritual has done for a lot of us is make us realize how overhyped Macabre Eternal was. I mean, it was a hell of a record, but now that we have The Headless Ritual enabling us to view Macabre Eternal in retrospect, it actually wasn’t anywhere near as amazing as we all thought it was! And that’s understandable because it’s Autopsy! One of the biggest and oldest death metal bands on the planet! But I may be wrong, because if this isn’t the case, then it’s just that The Headless Ritual is so damn good that it’s making Macabre Eternal feel less awesome. Which either way, this is what we’ve been hungry for; this is the Autopsy that we’ve all loved since 1989.

The vocals are pretty much the traditional old school death metal vocals. This is pretty much a randomized mash-up of screams, yells, really gritty mid-ranged yells, deep guttural growls, and who knows what the fuck else. This is why there are so many people that are mainly just into the classic shit; the vocals are a hell of a lot more interesting! Most death metal bands nowadays pick one or two vocal styles and just stick to that the whole time. Then Autopsy comes a long and reminds us that it’s much more fun and interesting to just do it all than just stick to what you’re best at. And although I fully understand that, there’s always the case in where you’re doing everything, but you’re not always particularly GOOD at it.

It might just be me, but most of the time, those hysterical grunts and gritty yells that the vocalist does are very hard to take seriously and don’t sound that good. That’s the issue I’ve always had with these guys, it’s the one vocal style that I don’t think he’s very good at, yet it’s always what he primarily does. Even on albums like Mental Funeral, it’s just a little too laughable for me. Then again, it could just be me not fully understanding the whole thing because I have the same issue with those ridiculous grindcore shrieks being used in brutal death music (i.e. Awaiting the Autopsy).

Like I said before, this is a very pure death metal record that sounds like it could’ve easily come from 1993 or something like that. The band doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but it’s perfectly okay because these guys know how to play death metal more than 90% of all death metal bands out there. If you’re a fan of death metal in any sort, you NEED to pick this up because it will not let you down. The slow sludgy grooves of Flesh Turns to Dust will pull you down to the dirt while the blasting riffs of Arch Cadaver tear you to pieces. I would highly recommend this record and give it 17/20. 

Exhumed - Necrocracy

It’s finally here! The new album from one of my very favorite bands is here! But just like every album I review, I have to put at least most of my previous feelings aside so that I can make a realistic critique on this slab of brutality. But really, it’s now official that Exhumed are back, and at full force. Ever since they popped up out of nowhere with the release of All Guts, No Glory in 2011, they’ve been touring constantly! Ever since the release of that album, I’ve had the pleasure to see them live THREE times, and will be seeing them again in October with Dying Fetus and Devourment! These guys may be on the old side, but they sure fucking know how to be a touring machine. Well, the last time I saw them, they had released the title track off their (at the time) upcoming album, Necrocracy. Well, guess what guys, IT’S FINALLY HERE!

Although their 2011 comeback record was generally flawless, it was obvious that the band was still getting back into the swing of things. So what we need on Necrocracy is a much more confident and solid sound. The first thing that we notice is that there’s a larger amount of material on here, which means that All Guts, No Glory set Exhumed on a long-overdue writing spree. In fact, some of the songs off Necrocracy would’ve fit perfectly on All Guts, No Glory, so there could be a possibility that this is somewhat of an “All Gut, No Glory Part 2” sort of thing. But then again, there are a few differences between the two. The biggest one being that the music sounds a hell of a lot more confident. But instead of compare/contrast, I just want to talk about Necrocracy.

Exhumed has a very similar vocal style to Dying Fetus, where there is one guy doing high-pitched exhales and one person doing a mix of both inhaled and exhaled guttural growls. The difference being that Dying Fetus puts much more emphasis on the growls whereas Exhumed tends to keep things balanced out by having an equal amount of both styles. What I noticed about Necrocracy is that the screams have taken the lead. So you won’t hear as many of those deep growls as you did in Slaughtercult. And I think this is because the screams sound SO MUCH BETTER. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved Harvey’s vocals, but there’s always been something about them that bothered me that isn’t there anymore. They still have that ridiculous grindcore vibe, but they just sound a lot cleaner in general.

It’s hard not to love the drums on any Exhumed album. Even though they’ve had more than one drummer, everything that Exhumed has put out has those really choppy blast beats that can’t be found anywhere else. The blast beats aren’t seamless like the ones the Dying Fetus drummer slams out, no, these are rough, choppy, and energizing. Part of it could be that the snare drum doesn’t have as much of a buzzy sound. So maybe the drummer ripped off a few of those metal things that go under the snare to give it a more poppy sound. But then again I can never know for sure because I’ve never actually gotten a super close look at the drummer’s set. But regardless, the drumming is amazing, brutal, and creative as always.

Exhumed have managed to great a masterpiece. But then again, they’ve never released a less-than-amazing album, so it’s expected. Disclaimer: if you’re looking for a really innovative and unique death grind album, this won’t be quite what you’re looking for. It’s not super progressive; it’s pretty much just another Exhumed album. And there’s nothing wrong with that because these guys know exactly how to do what they want to do, and they’re fucking amazing at it. Overall, Necrocracy is perfection. Nothing about it fails to blow me away. 20/20 for Necrocracy and one of the best albums of the year. 

Upcoming Reviews

There's a lot of shit I need to catch up on. here are some bands that I need to write reviews on:

Exhumed (death grind)
Turisas (folk metal)
Fleshgod Apocalypse (technical death)
Autopsy (death metal)
We Came as Romans (screamo)
Antigama (grindcore)
Gorgoroth (black metal)
Thy Light (depressive black metal)
The Black Dahlia Murder (technical death)
Vreid (black metal)
Children of Bodom (melodic death)
Extol (progressive death)
Despondent Soul (death metal)
Born of Osiris (deathcore)
Suicidal Causticity (brutal death)
Monolith (progressive death)
Witherscape (melodic death)
Evile (thrash metal)
Cattle Decapitaiton (death grind)
Deathrow (black metal)

The Dillinger Escape Plan - One of Us is the Killer

I love The Dillinger Escape Plan, but I’m not one of those hardcore megafans that worships them and only listens to them, Converge, Glassjaw, The Chariot, and other similar bands (I’m not putting any of those bands down, they’re all fucking great). Although I don’t dislike any of Dillinger’s albums, the only two that I actually listen to on a regular basis are Option Paralysis and the album that I am going to review right now, One of Us is the Killer. I’ve only been listening to these guys for about five or six months, but already, I’ve listened to them enough to where I can say that I know their music fairly well. And after talking to countless people and apologizing to them for not being one of Dillinger’s biggest fans (I’m in Seattle, almost every other metalhead here is a Converge/Dillinger fanatic), The Dillinger Escape Plan release One of Us is the Killer, which amazed me so much that I felt ashamed for anything negative that I might have said about these guys.

A lot of bands right now are cutting their hair and releasing more melodic and less energetic albums due to exhaustion from all the heavy shit they’ve put out. But not these guys, this is The Dillinger Escape Plan at full fucking force. For those of you that aren’t in the USA, these guys just headlined our annual Summer Slaughter Tour, and after watching those live videos of them on YouTube and hearing stories about how crazy the band is live, I wanted to wait until I saw them live for myself before writing this review. Well, I saw them on the 19th and they’re just as crazy as they were back in 1999.

When it comes to really chaotic bands like these, I really tend to crack down on their tightness. Because it’s very easy to have multiple members out of time when playing like this since it’s not like a technical death album where everything HAS to be precise, this is noisy shit. And no matter how hard I look for fuck-ups like that, I can’t find any spot where any of the members fell out of time or fucked up in any sort of way. It’s a fucking miracle! This is what I’ve been looking for! Not only are there no mistakes whatsoever, they go all out into the most dangerous territory where it’s super easy to slip up in some way or another.

The sound production is the best of any Dillinger album ever released. It still sounds noisy as fuck, but nothing drowns everything else out. I’ve always had issues with these sort of really noisy bands having way too much treble, or having the drums be way too overpowering (that’s usually the main issue); but there’s none of that here. And on top of that, it still sounds somewhat raw! As an added bonus, the amount of bass this record has is immense.

I can’t really pick any specific songs to talk about because if I did, I would have to write about all of them and I’m not really a fan of track-by-track reviews unless it’s an EP (I usually do track-by-track reviews with EPs). Every single fucking song on here has its own unique color and its own special experience to put you through. The vocals are perfection. The singing is 100% in tune and the screams are more powerful than any other scream that I’ve ever heard in my life.

If you’re wondering what progressive metal band is at the top of their game right now, The Dillinger Escape Plan is that band. Yes, I know that Animals as Leaders, Mutiny Within, Devin Townsend Project, and Periphery are also at their best right now, but The Dillinger Escape Plan is going completely overboard with what they are doing. This is an album that you NEED to listen to. Everything about it is perfect. This is definitely one of the best albums of 2013 and gets a PERFECT score of 20/20. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Arsis - Unwelcome

The American technical death band Arsis really gave us the surprise with their last album, Starve for the Devil. Well, the 2012 Leper’s Caress EP gave us a possible little taste of what the next full-length might have to offer; and it turns out that it did. It did to the point to where they re-recorded one of the songs from the EP to use on the new album. Well, after numerous worldwide tours with Firewind, The Agonist, Krisiun, Arch Enemy (I saw that tour), in support of Starve for the Devil, Arsis are back with Unwelcome. So the long of the short of it would be, it seems as if Arsis have gone back to their regular sound that can be heard on all of their other albums, EXCEPT for a few things from Starve for the Devil that are still hanging around.

Looks like we’re taking things back to the pre-Starve for the Devil days, which is what everyone loves. But there are some things that have left their sound that they’re known for. One of those things is the technicality. Don’t get me wrong, this is still Arsis-level complexity, but it’s not quite as crazy and out of control like it always has been. Most of the technicality is in the drums, leaving the guitars a bit more tame (which is an overstatement because they’re still crazy as fucking hell). The fuzzy guitar distortion from A Celebration of Guilt has been brought back, although it sounds a bit more refined and cleaner since it’s being released under the mighty Nuclear Blast.

The drums just seem to get more and more ridiculous with each release (with the exception of A Diamond for Disease EP from 2005). My favorite part about this particular album is the drumming. It’s almost like some sort of controlled chaos, because the drummer manages to go absolutely mad with the weirdest blast beats and fills while still keeping perfect time and even falling into sections where there’s almost nothing but just pure fast double-kicking.

The guitar solos are also much different. Before, there weren’t that many guitar solos to begin with, then, on Starve for the Devil, it’s like they turned into Revocation and just blasting out epic solo after epic solo. Each of them being over-the-top crazy and ridiculously technical and fast. The whole soloing aspect is still a big part of Unwelcome, but the solos themselves are much, much calmer and have a less-epic melody to help match the darker sound of the album. Also, the guitar solos help bring out how surprisingly melodic the music on this album is. The darkness and the technicality tends to cover up the unique melodies that each song holds, which is why the guitar solos are there to help expose those melodies.

I have to admit, the vocals on Unwelcome have more energy and anger than any other Arsis record. This is the biggest improvement they’ve made on this album. James Malone’s sandpaper screams combined with the fuzziness of the complex guitars fit together just as perfectly as they did in 2004; except this time, the vocals are much harsher. Arsis are continuing to evolve their sound without getting ahead of themselves or getting overly repetitive. They’re doing perfect as a band. Unwelcome is still an Arsis album, but it brings in new sounds that keep the music fresh and interesting. Once again, Arsis have released a very strong and above-average record that gets my score of 16/20.