Monday, February 29, 2016

Inhume - Moulding the Deformed

Today we are going to take a look at one of the much more nasty and gritty death grind albums out there. Dutch band Inhume released Moulding the Deformed in early 2010 through War Anthem Records. If you saw my “albums of 2015” post from last month, you probably noticed that super brutal music has not been a big focus of mine lately. There was only one brutal death album mentioned, one death grind, and two grindcore albums; that was it. Other than that it was mostly black metal and other styles. But I don’t really know what hit me yesterday…on the drive home from a long day at work, I popped in a Relics of Humanity CD and it just fucking clicked, and ever since then I’ve been listening to nothing but the most brutal of music. So I’m going to take advantage of this brutality streak and write a review (or two or three if it comes to that).

After looking at some of their pages to get a better overview of their history, it seems that they’ve always had two vocalists. Well the one thing that I have to say about that is that I would never have known that if I hadn’t been told because they both sound identical! One of the most important things about this album to Inhume megafans is that this is the last album featuring the last remaining of the two original vocalists of the band. Seriously, 16 years is a long time to stick with a band, but this is the last Inhume album featuring Joost Silvrants (also the longtime vocalist for goregrind band Cliteater and even served as the vocalist for legendary band Sinister in 2000). Yes, there are many different vocal styles that take place throughout the duration of the album (in each song actually), but the pointlessness of it all is that it could all just as easily been done with just a single person…what’s the fucking point of two vocalists? It’s just like Despised Icon, unless they sound drastically different (Nile, Exhumed, Dying Fetus, old Carcass, Gorerotted, Intestinal Strangulation, etc.), What Is The Mother Fucking Point? NOTHING! It’s a waste of time and money. But either way, despite the pointlessness of the presence of two vocalists, the vocals do sound good…very deep, guttural, diverse, and they complement the DEEP, rich tone of the guitars and bass very well.

Speaking of the sound of the instruments (specifically the guitars and bass), although they aren’t tuned down too low (most of my guitarist friends say it sounds about C Standard), they are VERY deep. Obviously these people wanted to make the grittiest and crunchiest death metal album ever by going to the EQs and turning down everything and turning up the bass on both the guitars and the bass guitars. The way everything is structured is the traditional death metal chugchugchugchugchug. Other than the SOUND of the guitars and bass, there really isn’t anything worth talking about unfortunately. And that also goes for the drums. Yes, their drummer is an amazing blaster, especially in songs like Wretched Worm, Deadbeat, and Compulsory Infected, and also lays down some interesting patterns like in Sea of Limbs. But 90% of the album is the exact same drum pattern with some blasts thrown in here and there. Listen to the drum pattern on Pandemic…you’ve heard it millions of times before, and that’s just about all you’ll hear on Moulding the Deformed.

And that’s basically what the majority of this album is made up of: the same exact shit you’ve heard before but with some unique twists thrown in here n’ there. The BEST thing that I can take away from this album is the mixing and how everything sounds. It sound disgustingly brutal and it’s addicting and makes it a lot easier to enjoy the entire album in one sitting. The vocals sound great and compliment everything well, and the guitars and bass sound like rusty sawblades cutting through your speakers. But overall, this isn’t something that I would go back and listen to again and again. But fans of grindcore and brutal death would eat this shit up faster than anything. This album gets 13/20. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Gol - Habit Entwined in Horns

Habit Entwined in Horns is the second full-length release by the Australian black metal duo Gol. This album was brought to my attention by a friend of mine less than 3 hours after its release in May of last year. Me being me, I jumped on and listened to it immediately just like every other black metal release I can get my hands on. 2015, in retrospect, was a pretty damn good year for black metal. So writing this review now, I’m also looking back on the albums released by Mgla, Borgne, Archgoat, Ghost Bath, Drudkh, Gorgoroth, So Hideous, Kres, and many other gems from last year and taking it all into consideration. The biggest thing that I’ve noticed when looking back at 2015 is the number of QUALITY traditional/generic black and death metal releases. The past 3 or 4 years have been all about being progressive; with VERY little attention being paid to the bands keeping the core of their respective genres alive and strong. So we could say that last year (and hopefully this year will be the same) was a return-to-stone type year for extreme music. But without straying too far off-topic, let’s focus on Gol’s contribution.

There’s not really a whole lot I can report on this band. My friend showing me this album was my first time hearing about them, and with no website or social media pages other than a bandcamp (click that word and it’ll take you to it), gaining a fanbase and attempting to make it big obviously aren’t at the top of their agendas. The band is made up of two members: Goet Euryn on vocals, guitars, and bass, and a human behind the drumset known only as Wretch. The information on them on the Metal Archives lists them as having been in existence for 10 years now and with 2 EPs, a demo, and of course the first full-length which was released in 2011. So there’s a possibility that Gol is no more than just 2 guys making some black metal in their spare time with no real intentions of making anything big out of it (which is more than okay, I’ve been in several bands like that).

With the quality and value of the production being a priority for some black metal listeners, I’ll get to that first. Don’t be afraid to crank this one all the way up; the treble is actually cut pretty low, making it easier on the ears when at higher volumes. It DOES have a “wall of sound” feel despite that one obvious change made on the mixing board. The guitar distortion is thick but quite fuzzy along with the cymbals. And the wall of sound-type mixing along with the fuzziness makes all the instruments blend together in a way that brings out an eerie dissonance that I personally think would be completely absent otherwise. The one downside to this is that the amazing vocals are sometimes drowned out by the rest of the band.

As far as the sound of the different songs on the record, there are 2 different types of sounds. Some of the tracks like Dionysiac Rites, Fire and Gravel, Righteous Blood Shed, and Habit Entwined in Horns, have a very dark, noisy, and dissonant sound similar to that of Aosoth or Sargeist (except nowhere NEAR the level of Aosoth, but the same basic concept). The other tracks (i.e. Not of One Skin, Black Rat Corpuscule, and Stillwater Commune) have the old school kind of thrashy feel similar to the likes of Von and Satyricon. But when put together into this album and listened to all the way through, everything blends together PERFECTLY. The songs individually may have a different sound, but as an album, everything compliments each other and creates a single defining sound that stays consistent. That’s one of the things that, when pulled off well, will play a HUGE part in my final opinion on an album in ANY genre of music.

The biggest takeaway for me after listening to this album is that this is living proof that the core sound of the black metal genre is still very much alive and screaming. YES, we NEED bands that push the boundaries and take whatever it is they play into new directions, but what the “prog nerds” don’t seem to understand is that we need the generic bands just as badly. We still need bands that just play straight-up what they feel like playing without any fancy bullshit or images or trends or any outlandish efforts just to be different from the rest of the crowd. It’s okay to play generic music, but ONLY as long as it’s honest, real, and from the heart. That’s something I have a lot of fucking respect for, and this album is a perfect example of what I am talking about. I would recommend this album to ALL fans of quality black metal. Habit Entwined in Horns gets my score of 17/20. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Abbath - Abbath

This album is Abbath’s statement that he alone is big enough to be successful without using the Immortal band logo. After a minimally-publicized split between him and the other Immortal members that still left many of us with question marks over their heads, Abbath VERY quickly put this together. He recruited the drummer from Benighted (who left soon after the album’s release), and legendary ex-Gorgoroth bassist, King, almost immediately after Immortal had publicized his departure and less than a month later put a single up on the web for the world to hear. Considering that Abbath was more or less the main songwriter for Immortal (him and Horgh collaborated), it can be safely assumed that the sound that came naturally before is the sound that will continue to come naturally. Except the vein of black metal that this album sticks to is less atmospheric and more of a harsh and raw sound like Damned in Black and Sons of Northern Darkness. With that said, the music from a number of these tracks could possibly be ones that Abbath had originally written and were intended for use on the next Immortal album before his departure.

Taking all of Immortal’s discography into consideration, my expectations for this album are automatically going to be very high. Why the hell should I expect anything less than Abbath’s best? ESPECIALLY when it’s all about him now. But do we want something different from Abbath? Or do we want him to basically carry Immortal’s flag since he was the key member in the first place? Honestly I’m pretty sure that the majority of us want both, but only to a certain extent. I, on the other hand, am leaning MUCH more towards the “Immortal 2.0” side. I want the next Immortal album, not something totally different. But, of course, within reason, because artists will do what they want.

Every Immortal album tends to start with something really fast; usually the fastest song off the album is the first track. The first track that Abbath gives us is a fairly mid-paced headbanging track with some fast thrashy parts spewed throughout the duration. Is it a good opener? Well it’s definitely something we aren’t used to hearing but it doesn’t sound like something that was slapped together so okay, we’ll go with it. It has almost everything that I could ask from Abbath, except for the coldness. I know that “cold” is a really odd word to describe music with, but the main attraction that I have to black metal is the “cold” atmosphere that many of the genre’s creators manage to deliver. It’s almost beyond words but that’s a term that is used by many fans and metalheads to describe the grim atmosphere that makes black metal what it is. But either way, the slow chugging riff will leap out at you and grab your attention into a slew of headbanging until Winter Bane pulls you under the surface of the ice.

Winter Bane feels like an Immortal song. It feels cold and grim, it’s fast, it has a little bit of groove (something that Abbath really experimented with in Sons of Northern Darkness), and the bassline is one of the best I’ve heard in any black metal song since I first started listening to music. Also on top of that, I might mention that the section that occurs after the acoustic guitar solo is probably going to end up being one of my favorite headbanging riffs of the year. The song takes a complete change in tone and atmosphere by adding the melody and guitar leads that made All Shall Fall so amazing.

Abbath’s vocals obviously haven’t changed…why the fuck would they? Who would want anything other than Popeye telling you stories about mythical beings flying around the frost-covered forests and mountains of Norway? Could they use to be a bit louder? Yes…all of the instruments are so loud that they’re partially drowning out Abbath’s vocals. And this seems to be a problem in a lot of the music that I listen to…the vocals are drowned out by the rest of the band. I like it when the vocals are just a tiny bit louder than the rest of the band; I’m not the biggest fan of the “wall of sound” style of mixing music unless it’s a really ambient style of music.

What continues to impress me with this album is how much the Benighted drummer blends in. It sounds as if the Irish Kevin Foley has been playing black metal his entire career. But then again, after looking through his resume, it seems that his work as a live fill-in drummer covers a HUGE diversity of different styles. He’s done live drums for a wide array of bands such as Decapitated, Sabaton, Sepultura, Nightmare, and Destinity. But most of his history is in grindcore, punk, and brutal death. Why Abbath picked Kevin out of all the drummers in the world to be in his band? The only reason I can think of is that they had been friends for quite some time and Abbath knew that he could get the job done right. And obviously he knew that Kevin could get shit done right because the drums are fucking amazing in every single song.

Instead of having only majority rule over the drawing board, we get to see Abbath take a completely fresh, new canvas and paint exactly what he wants to see without anything holding him down. We get to hear this man create exactly what we wanted to hear: something that proves that he really is who he is. Every single song on the album pins you to the wall with such speed and aggression yet STILL manages to leave room for melody and brass linings. At the end of each song, you don’t feel as if the wood fire was put out early, our beloved Abbath avoids cutting corners and burns the wood down to ashes every single time until there is nothing left to burn. Every song on its own feels complete, yet when put together, the ends and beginnings of each song stick together just enough to create a complete 40-minute vine of madness and beauty. I’m giving this album 19/20. I can’t wait to hear what else Abbath has to offer because he shows no signs of stopping.