Friday, October 13, 2017

Todesstoß - Ebne Graun


Todesstoß is a super weird band, which is worth mentioning just in case the cover art featuring a colorfully illuminated Charon-like figure standing over a cellophane wrapped body wasn’t a clear enough hint. When it comes to spotting a black metal band’s influences, the usual points of reference are Darkthrone, Burzum, Mayhem, Emperor, or Immortal. With Todesstoß though, the music is best thought of as exploring a more esoteric branch of black metal that was initially developed by a fellow German band: Bethlehem.

Quick history lesson. Bethlehem’s unique debut full-length Dark Metal was released in 1994, the same year as Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger. Naturally it wasn’t a release that simply copied other black metal bands, because it was still a nascent genre at the time and the concept of black metal hadn’t quite coalesced. As time went on though, Bethlehem became progressively weirder, with their 1996 release Dictius Te Necare and then Sardonischer Untergang im Zeichen irreligiöser Darbietung (aka S.U.I.Z.I.D.) in 1998. This is important because S.U.I.Z.I.D. is an excellent starting point for understanding what Todesstoß sounds like: massive warm bass, mid to slow tempo riffs, and pained wailing vocals that make you question the singer’s mental health. In other words, absolutely nothing like your typical icy Norwegian tremolo-picked black metal.

‘Ebne Graun’ is a single 46 minute long song, and it works out just great. After a ponderously slow introduction, the song moodily meanders around a recurring four chord theme. While the tempo never seems to vary, we still get a lot of variation, and some sections are played in double-time. In fact, the song has such a strong narrative feel, that you never really get a sense that Todesstoß is meditating on the main theme, and the repetition isn’t immediately obvious. The progression is merely the framework for the song’s structure, and with all of the empty space left by the slow pacing you are able to seep into each section’s unique flavor. ‘Ebne Graun’ draws you in slowly, piece by piece, and the downside of this strength is that you can’t really just sit and listen to one part of the album in the same way you don’t open a book and just read chapter 23.



The album starts off by establishing a mournful kind of discomfort using a dissonant ghostly organ melody that creates an overbearing and uncomfortable atmosphere. What makes things extremely weird is the medieval-styled flute. It feels really out of place until you start to recognize that periodically the flute jumps into some ridiculously high note and awkwardly lingers there for a moment. This weird mix combined with the off key notes really accents the unsettling introduction. Slowly the layers of typical instrumentation pop in, we don’t even have guitar and bass at the same time until about seven minutes in. So, not only is the tempo slow, but the song development itself is a gradual process, creating a languorous mood.

The features that most obviously distinguish the album are the vocals and the bass. To a lesser extent, the unique guitar work colors the overall feel, particularly with its high gain and less distorted than usual tone. This helps to set the mood because of how frequently notes will ring out for quite some time. More unusually, the bass takes an extremely active role as it sits high in the mix, has a larger presence than the lead guitar, and there isn’t even a rhythm guitar parroting it. Similarly, the drums take a light touch, often playing in half-time on what is already a meandering album. When the occasional chain rattling pops into the mix you can’t help but feel that you are slowly being ferried into the afterlife. Aside from quirky snare hits and some nice rolling fills, the percussion sits somewhat in the background. By placing snare hits off of the main beat Todesstoß throws off your sense of order without losing the album’s dirgey atmosphere. Fortunately the bass keeps the rhythm together fantastically. It serves as a point of clarity in comparison to the wild drums and distant guitars.

Vocals are pained howls that sound like the pathetic cries of someone having a breakdown. This is a huge contrast to how most metal vocalists go for the “demented” sound because typically singers are more focused on fitting into some kind of metal tough guy aesthetic. It’s also a different vocal style than the affected depressive (i.e. histrionic) black metal movement that Bethlehem has also influenced (e.g. trash like Shining). Drawn out moans like the one at around 24 minutes sound like a burn ward patient whose morphine drip just ran dry. Each vocal line has a dissociated feel as the lyrics are delivered in wildly varying pitches and levels of intensity, as if a madman started to explain his life story to you. You don’t understand what’s going on, there’s intermittent screaming, and things seem to shift from neutral, to sad, to angry without any regard to the story’s emotional context.

Overall ‘Ebne Graun’ is your gradual ferry ride into to hell. The deathbed suffering of someone contemplating all of their mistakes in life, every moment of remorse congealed into a single experience just before death. While this is a really solid album, keep in mind that you have to listen to the whole thing. While a huge number of metal bands relish long songs, ‘Ebne Graun’ is more than a closely related grouping of melodies - it’s one song and one experience. Unless you have 46 minutes to focus on one piece of music, you aren’t getting a real sense of the album. The slow build up, the engaging variations, and the inevitable ending are all moments that mean less when taken in isolation.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Excoriate - Of The Ghastly Stench




Excoriate's ...Of The Ghastly Stench drips and dangles it's murk into your brain with dangerous effectiveness. This death doom mixture is the result of over ten years of refinement in their trade. There is a lot here that reminds me of other South American death metal such as Mystifier or Headhunter DC, but also there is a twisting usage of melody akin to the Dutch scene. There is also something nostalgic about the presentation overall; the raw and unrefined guitar tone, the black and white cassette j-card, the improper capitalization of song titles, and the overwhelmingly swampy sound of the four tracks.

The pacing on this release is spot on. "Teofisto", an instrumental introductory track sets the stage for the expertly twisting "Oh! Peaceful Derketa", which slithers and never truly clicks into a predictable rhythmic pattern or style. It's something which Excoriate do particularly well which befuddles other bands. What could be construed as the chorus in the track is an instantly memorable riff which drops at all the right moments of the track. Midway through the six minute long song-arc, Excoriate borrow some rhythmic influence from Celtic Frost in transition to a slowish section with creepy bass melodies which further morphs into something not unlike the iconic - iconic to me, at least - "Osculum Obsenum" from Mystifier's Wicca.

Where "Oh! Peaceful Derketa" is a slower, brooding track, the pace picks up with "Black Streams on the Ground of Cruelty," but the unconventional riffs and melodies are retained at the quicker tempo. Francisco Rojas experiments heavily with guitar leads and noisy tremolo runs to cast a demonic and evil cloud across final track, and one of the best song titles I've heard in a while, "Ghostly Stench of Mortal Remains." It's the better of the two faster tracks for me, with a seemingly non-repeating main riff full of shifting power chords under flowing tremolo patterns. The song writhes under the serpentine tremolo riffs. Drummer Lino Contreras and Vocalist Fernando Olivares somehow manage to know where the song is going, and while I find it hard to follow from a structure standpoint, it's engaging regardless, and never gives the impression that the band is also lost.

Excoriate take a death metal foundation and finding a way to give it an identity they can call their own style. It's easy to appreciate a band that offers something fresh in each song, never rests on tropes or a stereotypical stamping and pasting of barely nuanced riffs. ...Of The Ghastly Stench is moist, dark, brooding, and definitively creepy. If you've ever claimed there's no good death metal coming out in the early 90's vein, Excoriate stands to correct your assumptions. Nihilistic Holocaust did right by putting this tape out because it deserves some recognition. I'm off to find Excoriate's earlier demos and material.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Montly Blast: September 2017

Cinderella - Night Songs (1986)

Don't knock it 'til you try it. Cinderella would be easy to cast off as 'one of those empty-souled glam bands' but there are some tracks here which hold their own against some of the heavier hard rock and heavy metal that crossed over from this arena such as Dokken or W.A.S.P. "Night Songs" is a tough opener, with a great chugging and catchy bridge. Eric Brittingham's vocals are a cut between Axl Rose and Brian Johnson. Bon Jovi either is the reason why "Nobody's Fool" sucks or he has poor taste as to what songs to sing on as a guest. Tom Keifer shines across the album with some exceptional lead work, particularly in "Nothin' for Nothin'" where he shreds up a slightly extended solo section. "Hell On Wheels" and "Back Home Again" round out the album's best songs on the B-side. Expectedly, none of the best songs from this album were promoted and the band got the raw end of the deal being lumped in with the glam artists perhaps erroneously, but Night Songs can still tug a bit at the nostalgia roused up by 80's Heavy Metal. (Orion)


Elizabeth Shaw - I (2017)

Elizabeth Shaw is a black metal duo from Gothenburg Sweden that is inspired by the movie Prometheus. Surprisingly, their debut EP release, I, is much less spacey sounding than I had expected, and the music has more of a repetitive/droning feel than anything. While the repetition isn’t in Burzum-fuzz style, it’s also not quite the enveloping wall of sound you’d get from a band like Darkspace or the majesty of a band like Mare Cognitum. This is a bit of an issue because the repetition really needs more atmosphere to underpin it, particularly in the first song. The twelve and a half minutes on “Ellie” leave too much space in the mix. Drums are in half time, the soft pads are fairly straightforward, and the guitars kinda slowly lurk from one chord to another. It’s not a bad release by any means, but the band could really flesh out their minimalist approach. This means more layering rather than more moments like the blasting on “Fate of the Engineers” or the upbeat folky lead guitars on “The Covenant.” Bass and vocals would be a nice start, but you can kinda hear in the release how more synth pads could really work well for the band. (Apteronotus)


Gordon Lightfoot - If You Could Read My Mind (1970)

Originally titled Sit Down Young Stranger, Lightfoot's sixth album is best known for it's title track and it's shift towards more orchestration in the tracks, yet for me, the best moments of this album are the tracks which have the least orchestration and retain Lightfoot's true folk-roots such as "Baby It's Allright," and his rendition of "Me and Bobby McGee". It takes time to get to these tracks, though. Opener "Minstrel of the Dawn" sets the stage for a rather dull overall listen and with some darker melodies doing their best to poke through in the opening track, it's easy to get the feeling that Lightfoot never had a chance to fully explore the scope of his moods as he did on some other albums which hold up better in time. There's a heavy dosage of upbeat melodies and transitions away from anything heavier. In my opinion, "Cobwebs and Dust" is a somber track yet gives off an island-vibe for some reason and, therefore, reminds me of Jimmy Buffet which immediately creates resentment. I'd come back to this for a couple of the tracks but overall there's not enough consistency here for me to want to roll with the whole album.(Orion)


Interment - Still Not Dead (2013)

Several incarnations of Interments exist... this happens to be the US conglomerate from Texas' only full length and contains all but one of the group's songs from their earlier demos (omitting "Afterbirth"). The rundown? Style: Death Metal. Predictability: Extreme. Vocals: Pretty damn close to a wild hog. Guitars: Chugga-chugga-womp-womp. You get the idea. Interment's focus is on big chunky rhythms and slick calculated tremolo layers. Simplify Cannibal Corpse's Gore Obsessed into it's bare necessity structures and you could easily take those tracks and put Interment's name on them. Perhaps it's my aversion to this style of death metal which offers nothing subtle or transcendent, but I don't see this as much of anything to go seeking out; no signature standout songs, nothing that speaks to that miniscule part of me which yearns for scorching death metal, - a miniscule component of my being which exists and is extremely unhappy almost all of the time - and with nothing new or unique... nothing at all which would invigorate a seasoned listener of death metal... Interment leave nothing on the table in the midst of a seeming death metal renaissance that is currently under way in the US. Still Not Dead is merely another name in the death metal yellow pages. (Orion)


Licrest - Nothing (2015)

Frequenter of this blog, Licrest has been covered in depth. A quick review of this history, debut Devoid of Meaning hit some excellent high points with a solemnity usually lacking in this dryer style of death/doom. Follow up Misery was lacking. Nothing appeared a couple years ago, sent to me by Armon, and I could never quite decide on it's place within the band's albums. It's a short full length, at just over thirty minutes but Armon has incorporated a lot of what made the first album so enjoyable. Particularly the pummeling chugging riffs and nuanced hints of melodic movements. Opener "Broken Inside" is a fine start to the record with a myriad of techniques and riffs including some clean vocals, big drumming riffs, and even a piano interlude towards the ending of the song. "Nothing" is a highlight track within the band's discography and is reminiscent of "As The Night Goes On" with it's long drawn out melodic guitar lines which bookend the track and passionate mixed clean and harsh vocal performance. Armon's raspy vocals are dry and painful and his clean vocals are surprisingly beautiful and pristine if perhaps too youthful for this style. "What Ends in Pain" is notable for it's extended solo. The production on Misery is more powerful than that of Nothing, yet the material here is far superior and for that, Nothing has my vote as Armon's best work to date with this project. (Orion)


Mandatory - Adrift Beyond (2010)

Mandatory are well known to readers of this blog. Several of their releases have been covered, notably their Where They Bleed EP from 2007. That EP is still their best overall listen, by my reckoning, however Adrift Beyond is  linked to this and other earlier releases. Adrift Beyond contains the first album version recording of Mandatory standards (mandatory Mandatory?) "Crypta Crawler"and "Exelution". There are some newer tracks here which make themselves felt as well. "Into Eternal Sleep" and "Enter The Crematorium" are noteworthy for their tricky yet memorable main riffs. The musicianship is excellent throughout however where Adrift Beyond falls short is in pacing. A full hour of intense death metal that borrows melodically from the Swedish scene and technically from the Dutch scene is not for the faint of heart or for those with the focusing ability of a goldfish - which occasionally I admit I suffer from. That said, this is an enjoyable compendium of material from one of the more stable German death metal bands of the modern era. Worth the purchase for fans of Horrendous, Gorguts' first two albums, Entombed, Grave, and Asphyx. (Orion)


Pawns In Chess - The Blood Of Martyrs Demo (2014)

I was not expecting such a quality release with Pawns In Chess, and yet, this trio from Ohio absolutely obliterates a large swath of other projects skirting the thrash and death metal border. This is not a surprise when I came to learn that Pawns In Chess were formed from the ashes of Descend, a little known death metal band from the mid 90's who I happened to come across after acquiring their 1995 demo at least ten years ago on a vacation pawn shop crawl. The six tracks perfectly emphasize the best parts of this instrumental group while never provoking the listener to wonder 'where are the vocals?' or 'this would be a great chorus.' The reality behind effectively performing extreme metal in an instrumental capacity is in fact simple: riffs, movement, composition. With Pawns In Chess, the tracks are not just a lengthy guitar solo, or texture experiments. There is subtlety wrapped into the riffs which fall outside the commonplace riff-tropes. For me, having written thrash instrumentally in my first band, I can tell that these tracks were written with vocals potentially in mind, yet they simply never materialized, which is unfortunate, as those vocals would have made this release an immediately top-tier and spreadable underground release. Instead, the band added a vocalist and changed names to Curse of Daniel. These tracks will appeal to fans of Flotsam and Jetsam, Heathen, and other more progressive-minded thrash bands. Top track for me is the opening track, Juggernaut. (Orion)


Sdviparg - To Torment The Men (2017)

Spaniards Sdviparg have released their first effort, To Torment The Men, this year and if you've never heard of them, it is easy to understand why. Spain is not necessarily known for it's black metal, and while To Torment The Men isn't a bad album, it won't put the country on the radar by itself. The material here is consistently operatic with grand melodies, dynamic changes, and incorporation of many different arrangement possibilities. Drumming is quite interesting at times with different syncopation and highlighting flourishes. Vocally, we get very dry and harsh vocals throughout reminding me of the early Countess albums. Initially the fifteen track length gave me a fright, but with six or seven tracks which are effectively intros (palette cleansers likely to some) and a run time of forty-five minutes, a listen or two is manageable. The tracks don't truly live up to the press' declaration of 'pulsating bass and thunderous drums' because the lower registers have been effectively dropped entirely out of the mix, but the claim that the guitars are 'meritorious' is an apt description of the melodies. Sdviparg do have some interesting moments here, however. "The Grace of God" has a combined harsh and clean vocal section and "June 2nd 1348" has a strangely Iron Maiden-ish central section with low growled vocals. Occasionally, I feel as if some songs pass too quickly, such as "Dead Path." Put this on in the background a few times and it may grow on you. It grew on me and I'd be very interested to see what Volundr and Funedeim come up with next. I'll be giving this more listens, as it's depth is quite a surprise. (Orion)


Tribunal - Horrors Obscure To The Dove (2017)

For any musicians out there that think good songwriting ability is all you need, Tribunal’s debut self-titled EP is a lesson to the contrary. To sum things up quickly, this is basically a GuitarPro file export that later in the release turns into a glorified MIDI file of what is an impressive Emperor In the Nightside Eclipse styled composition. No vocals, no bass, flat drumming, cheesy synths, and muddy guitars carrying much more weight than they ought to have to. Sometimes it’s fair to downgrade a band’s EP and call it a demo, but this is more like a scratch track or outline than a properly finished release. What’s tough to swallow is that it’s extremely promising. The riffs are solid, the pacing is well above par, and it even manages to convey a lot of atmosphere while being so incomplete. Aside from being unfinished, the “EP” is intriguing although hopefully in the future more will be done to give the music a unique identity and step out of the shadows of its influences. (Apteronotus)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Inquisition, Uada, Volahn, Gamaliel - Live

This was an absolutely killer show, so here are some blurry pictures and an even blurrier write up of the evening...


Gamaliel


While it's not fair to Gamaliel I really hadn't heard of them before the show, but their set was still really enjoyable and a good fit. Based off of the strength of their performance, I'll be digging deeper into their music over the coming weeks and regret that I hadn't done so before. It's always better when you go into a show knowing, at least partly, what to expect from a band. That way you get a sense of how they sound in the studio versus live and can really embrace the live experience rather than focusing on absorbing new music.

<iframe style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;" src="https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=1404839292/size=large/bgcol=333333/linkcol=0f91ff/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/" seamless><a href="http://gamalielofficial.bandcamp.com/album/the-abyssal-gateway">The Abyssal Gateway by Gamaliel</a></iframe>

Volahn
Volahn - Passion and Sweat

Going into the night, I would have put Volahn as easily my favorite band of the set and man did they deliver. While some of the more atmospheric nuances of the music were burnt away by the ferocity of the live performance, the overall meaning of the music was made abundantly clear. There's not much sense belaboring the point, Volahn is an awesome project and I'm assuming the rest of the lineup was filled out with Black Twilight Circle Crew. Part of me was morbidly curious as to how a solo project would be done live (which honestly, I've seen a more times than I care to count).

Uada


Uada - Expert Level Smoke Tech
   
Uada - From 0 to 100
Uada - These Cymbals were Ridiculously Clean and Pretty
Uada's Smoke Tech the Night's Real Hero
Uada is absolutely fantastic live. Just to put things into perspective, Volahn is a huge deal for me and I absolutely love their music and I'm also super into Inquisition. Uada on the other hand I never really got into, but on this night their performance was hands down the best of any of the bands in attendance. Their energy was unreal and they sounded significantly better than what I had heard from them on "Devoid of Light." I'd have to really sit down with the album and hear them live again to totally pin down why the magic failed to translate onto the recording. Despite how much I appreciate the band's smoke tech, there is a substantial difference in their live sound that goes well beyond theatrics.

<iframe style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;" src="https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=336486757/size=large/bgcol=333333/linkcol=0f91ff/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/" seamless><a href="http://uada.bandcamp.com/album/devoid-of-light">Devoid of Light by UADA</a></iframe>

Inquisition
Inquisition's Banners Hide Incubus from View (Also Note - Real Photographer in Background)
You know what's absolutely bewildering? How Inquisition sounds so immersive with just two musicians in a live setting. In a live venue, similar to music in a vehicle, the high end can often get drowned out. With Inquisition though the lead guitar occasionally occupies some of the frequencies that you'd usually hear from the bass. Also the music's composition darts from high tremolo picking to low bends so frequently that they can somewhat convincingly project greater numbers than they have (a similar effect, albeit much smaller, as what you can hear from famous folk guitar prodigy Leo Kottke who uses virtuoso speed and liberal counterpoint to sound like five people). Another thing notable about Inquisition is how even the vocals are live. You can hear this in similar vocalists like Demonaz, so it may be attributable to the style, but even the brief operatic/bark/cleans (sorry, I'll work on a better term for these) were 100% precise. All in all this was a hell of a night and one of the best shows I've been to. 

<iframe style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;" src="https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2574764700/size=large/bgcol=333333/linkcol=0f91ff/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/" seamless><a href="http://inquisitionbm.bandcamp.com/album/bloodshed-across-the-empyrean-altar-beyond-the-celestial-zenith">Bloodshed Across The Empyrean Altar Beyond The Celestial Zenith by Inquisition</a></iframe>

Friday, September 8, 2017

Mesmur - S


Mesmur’s S is hands down one the best funeral doom albums I’ve heard, and by that I don’t mean it’s merely some kind of subgenre revival. S stands on equal footing with the greats of funeral doom, and like any particularly high quality album, it should capture the interest of fans of other metal genres. Funeral doom as a niche genre is possibly one of the shakiest premises to have spawned from the recesses of heavy metal. What if the very pacing of the songs and their structures were, in of themselves, a source of heaviness? Well, more often than not you end up with something that feels more slow and boring than crushing. It’s a wildly challenging balance to strike, but on S Mesmur calibrates the overall atmosphere just perfectly with a detailed landscape of tones.

It’s almost ridiculous to mention given the nature of the album, but even in a genre where everything is supposed to be heavy and a subgenre that is supposed to be crushing, this album is notably oppressive. The heaviness though is more than just thick guitars and bass backed up by what I am sure is an impressive array of gear. What really makes S stand out is how clear everything is, or in other words the impeccable mixing helps to highlight every last bit of the album’s overall sound. The vocals especially are uncannily even and strong. So instead of just being crushed by a falling wall of heaviness you also happen to notice the beautiful bricks and artisan-tier mortar work just before you get pancaked.

Aside from the obvious musical comparisons (Esoteric, Ahab, Mournful Congregation et al.) some of the more relaxed spacier moments remind me of Earth, like when the lush lead guitars take the forefront or start to softly echo around. It’s a nice example of how S keeps things interesting because the high end is incredibly rich without coming across as overly sugary. Many moments in the songs even have a delicate feel to them, some airy riff with effects whirling about in the background like leaves in gentle breeze. These moments however never interfere with the overall song structures, and even help to enhance them, which is critical when you have songs that are over fourteen, fifteen, and even sixteen minutes long.

The only flaw I really picked up on that I can’t chalk up to not being obsessed with funeral doom was how some of the effects are super obvious in the first song “Singularity.” I don’t know if it’s the distortion, fuzz, flanger, or phaser but during parts of the first half of the song I could have sworn there was some loose change or maybe a rattlesnake on top of my speakers. While a little distracting, particularly for such a crystal clear produced album, it isn’t a huge issue for the song or overall music. Otherwise I have no grips with S. It’s worth noting that while the band’s 2014 self-titled debut was pretty damn good, S is definitely a step up. Even after revisiting some of my favorite funeral doom albums (many of which are releases that are widely viewed as lodestars for the genre) I can safely say that S puts Mesmur up there with the greats.

Check out the Contaminated Tones interview with Yixja of Mesmur (and Dalla Nebbia) here.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Vile Desecration Absolute Blasphemy, Sacrificial Blood Live Video / Shows, Upcoming Horna Flier


This will be a somewhat busy month for Contaminated Tones. After getting back to the grind and caught up somewhat with material sent for review, there are some interesting things going on. First, the upcoming Vile Desecration demo, titled Absolute Blasphemy, will be released sometime within the next couple weeks. Tapes will be available through band at shows and through the webstore online. There will be some short lived pre-sale deal featuring the 2015 demo as well. Details on that in a week or so. Absolute Blasphemy marks the progression of Vile Desecration towards a more refined hell, inspired by Blasphemy, Beherit, and early Sodom. Unrelenting Bestial War Metal will tear you to shreds.

Vile Desecration has several upcoming shows:
Sept 13: Witchtrap, Abysmal Lord, Tombstalker, Process Of Suffocation (East Room - Nashville, TN)
Oct 20: Aura Noir, Mutilation Rites, Forest of Tygers (Exit/In - Nashville, TN)






Upcoming Sacrificial Blood tour dates:
October 25th - Saint Vitus, NY
Sept 30th - Silver Spring, MD

There is also going to be a September 29th show in Philly, PA with Traitor and Day Of The Beast (basically, the lineup from the Silver Spring date with Witchtrap, just without Witchtrap. Hope to see some people at these shows. I will be at them with Contaminated Tones releases and distro. Below is video from the other night in NY:




There is also this gig being set up for November in Brooklyn through Signature Riff.





Friday, September 1, 2017

Monthly Blast: August 2017

Balance Interruption - Door 218 (2016) 

It's always interesting to hear bands blend black metal with jazz, especially when it's done right. Such is the case with Ukraine's Balance Interruption: a band that was completely anonymous to me, until Aleksey from Satanath Records requested a review. Balance Interruption is not afraid to experiment and push boundaries, blending various elements to formulate their own sound. This is experimental black metal of the most abrasive kind, delivered with a strong performance. Every song is like a nightmarish roller coaster, as you have no idea where it's going to take you. With a purposeful lack of repetition, it's chaotic and beautiful, while never losing a degree of subtlety and cohesion. Door 218 is a rather solid offering of idiosyncratic black metal. (Mongrel) 

 
Demonomancy - Throne Of Demonic Proselytism (2013)

You're lost in a cave, and you falter. Slack against the stone you ponder  your demise. The slick and damp walls appear to be closing in around you,  ready to encapsulate you in their calcified sediments. Your eyes close. You  are awakened after a time undetermined to the pounding of tight human skins  over drums. There are cimmerian figures moving beyond your vision yet their  presence is known; the torches and flames fueled by the refined oils of  cultivated human sacrifices throw their certainty against chiselled  sandstone. Where are you? What is this hellish chamber? Your weakened body  is rinsed and bathed by disfigured and breastless sycophants before being  dragged through a ceremonial labyrinth in which from above priests pelt you  with rotten egg, basil, and feces. They drop maggots into your hair. You are  presented to an empty throne in an ancient hall. As a knife is raised to  your throat droning melodies too low and too disparate to be made by any  understood culture find refuge in the niches of cavern rock and pockets of  unoccupied air. The pounding tempest of distant drums and constant strumming  of alien instruments goes on for unfathomable periods of time, always with  the knife held firmly in fatal location. Summoned, an armored maggot gyrates  from the darkness to take vantage at the throne. You are sacrificed and the  massive demonic larvae consumes your remains. (Orion)

 
Furia - Guido (2016)

With Furia's Ksiezyc Milczy Luty being so impressive, delving deeper in  their discography is necessary. Guido is presented as an EP but at thirty- five minutes long and as an entire 12" record in addition to a 7" record,  I'm much more keen to view it in lexicon as a full length album. The set up  is a bit strange; the 7" contains the first two untitled songs, both  featuring guitarist Nihil on vocals as well as more conventional black metal  content albeit in Furia's unique style. It's the 12" record that is worth  more ridicule. Guido is the name of a coal mine in Poland in which Furia  recorded this material live. It's a unique setting and I'm sure the  technical background would make for a phenomenal video documentary or full  length music video. The first track, "320 w 2" (the recording was done  three-hundred and twenty meters underground) has the listener entering the  shaft elevator and descending into the mine. Bells ring as we reach the  bottom of the shaft, signalling a moment safe to exit. "Hahary" and "Taczka"  are both quite stripped down and experimental. "Hahary" is most twanging  guitar chorus left ringing and "Taczka" is a monotonous bass and kick drum  plod with distant guitar tones beyond. "Lew Albinos" showcases the only  outwardly black metal styling and even though the first half of the track  is faster with tremolo guitars, we get a couple minutes of empty expansive  contrast midway through. The song closes relatively strong. Cieri, vocalist  of fellow Katowice, Poland black metal band FDS (Nihil also plays guitars),  provides whispered and deep gritty spoken vocals on these last three tracks.  Interestingly, the three final songs here hint more at what we would hear on  Ksiezyc Milczy Luty than the first two predominantly black metal tracks. For  that angle and outlook, Guido is a record worth hearing if, like me, Ksiezyc  Milczy Luty was one of your favorites from last year. There is a definitive  uniqueness to Furia which is love or hate. That polarizing feeling is one of  the best reasons to give them a chance musically without any preconceived  notions of what to expect. (Orion)

 
Maze of Terror - Ready to Kill (2016) 

This album opens with the sample "I am become death, destroyer of worlds" by J. Robert Oppenheimer, which is an appropriate overture for what follows: a full-fledged thrash assault that sounds like a tank crashing into your living room. The music is loud, heavy and mean. Hailing from Lima, Peru, Maze of Terror's debut Ready to Kill is easily one of the best thrash metal albums that I've heard in a while. The album boasts a solid production. You can hear every instrument, even the bass, which interplays nicely with everything else. The riffs are consistently strong throughout the album. The vocals are par excellent and menacing to say the least. The sound on the album is emphatically lethal and makes most new bands attempting to play "thrash" walk away in shame. This band may be from Peru, but they have a sound much more in common with North American thrash as opposed to other Latin-American bands who opt for a more Sepultura inspired sound. Ready to Kill is cream of the crop for modern thrash. (Mongrel)
 
Morgirion - Morgirion (2008)

Morgirion; A Connecticut trio playing decimating black metal in the Northeastern US style, which is becoming it's own distinctive sound. The more aggressive tendencies  of the Northeast seem to resonate in the New York, Boston, and Philadelphia  bars and clubs where death metal once reigned supreme, and that influence is  felt. Sturdier riffing, darker more evil melodic tendencies, and more  vicious and malicious content forms the foundation. Morgirion may be best  known for their connection to One Master through Lustrum, but this - their  self titled EP from a decade back - hinted at a lot of promise to come. In  particular, "Waking The Dragon" and "Wrath Upon The Insolent" lead this EP  as the strongest track, each containing it's own distinct character, but the  thick oppressiveness, harder tones, and faster drumming exudes more hate and  disgruntled ferocity than a lot of bands manage to muster. Though it's been  several years since a follow up to their last album, Morgirion, in  particular this EP, demands some exploration. The hand numbered light- scribed discs are really a nice, DIY effort that may be tough to come by... (Orion)

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)

Opening with the famous "Cinnamon Girl" - including the phenomenal riff  closing the track, Neil Young's second album drifts enjoyably through  several territories. While "Cinnamon Girl" is a more easily recognizable hit  song, the second single off the record, "Down By The River" is a must hear  murder ballad. "Cowgirl In The Sand" closes the record but the three tracks  are linked by the origin story provided by Young that the trio were written  delirious in bed with a high fever in Topanga Canyon. There is a clear late  60's / 70's vibe across other tracks such as "Round and Round" and the title  track. Young's vocals are crooning and nostalgic. Crazy Horse, the  collective band behind Young never overshadows yet also finds it's own space  on the record. This is an ideal record to get into Neil Young's early years  with some hits but also a sense of danger and dread. This is an ideal listen  on a long highway trip through unpopulated areas or wooded areas. The  recording is very minimalist, with ringing guitars, and plump bass. This  minimalist rawness will appeal to a wide swath of listeners. (Orion)

 
Olde - Temple (2017)

There's a lot of this out there now... the stoner, doom, sludge mixture made  prevalent the past ten years. Olde do the style admirably on Temple, though  without too much originality. The clear and honest production portrays Olde  as talented musicians first and raucous and rowdy harbingers second. Sleep  is the obvious throw-out comparison, but even closer would be a band like  Eerie, or locals Clamfight and the defunct Maegashira, especially  considering the similarities between Doug McLarty's vocals and JJ Koczan's on  The Stark Arctic. On the surface this could be construed as a monotonous  album yet multiple listens reveals some nuanced songwriting, such as the  title track which uses well placed chord progressions to help weave yarns  across the longest song on the album and create the potential 'imagery in  the mind' effect that I require my slow tumbling doom to sculpt for me as I  listen. Some notable infusions of creativity appear scattered throughout.  Ringing reverby layered chords in "Subterfuge" lend the song a cosmic  quality. "The Ghost Narrative" subconsciously seems to borrow melodies and a  spacious serenity from recent Earth albums. "Centrifugal Disaster" has some  interesting drum rhythms courtesy of Ryan Aubin. Temple is definitely a  strong record, and I would consider it a fine example of the genre. It  doesn't quite reach the lofty heights that render it a must-hear for most,  but I would recommend it easily to anyone that loves the stoner sludge  aesthetic. (Orion)

Paganfire - Wreaking Fear and Death (2013)

For the last decade, these Filipino miscreants' name has been circulating in the underground: a few dozen demos and splits later, these Quezon City maniacs finally release their long-awaited debut album upon the masses, entitled Wreaking Fear and Death. Paganfire plays an almost "sloppy" kind of thrash, with elements reminiscent of bands such as Sodom, Mutilator, Sabbat, etc. After so much overpolished, bland modern thrash with bands who sing about getting laid and the local pizza scene -- it's always refreshing to see bands like Paganfire keeping it real and spreading the hate. The production is considerably raw, while still keeping the performance audible. It's a kind of obscure evil thrash that is close to black/death metal at times. Wreaking Fear and Death is a little underground beast that is sure to send the hippies packing. (Mongrel)

Pale Horse - Pale Horse (1997)

There are the obscure, the forgotten, and what I call, the righteously  hidden. Pale Horse remains no longer hidden. Some fine print first: this is  not the proper Pale Horse from Gloucester, New Jersey. It also is not the unimportant Pale Horse from Hoboken, New Jersey. This is the Pale Horse from  Bigler, Pennsylvania, unfortunately the only band I can find from this poor  womb of a location deep amidst the backwoods of farmland and poor taste in  music. The most ruinous attribute, other than everything else, are the  disgusting grunts of John Miller; sweaty, predatorial, gnarls that would be  better suited for a VHS porno from 1974. "Hell To Pay" has a decent opening  riff, however the song forgets to include something under the guitar solo  which manifests itself as a multitude of stringy twangs. There is a  creepiness to songs "Innocence Lost", "Whore"and "Love Machine," which will  forever linger in my internal lexicon as a synonym for 'reprehensible'. I  considered putting this up on youtube for the sole reason of allowing others to  understand how sickening it is to hear a sweaty man sing "when the race  starts going/ the juice starts flowin'... when the cab starts popping / her  head starts bobbin' / well I've got a hell of a deal for you / I'm gonna luv  (probably spelt this way but there are no lyrics listed) ya til you're black  and blue. This is undeniably one of the worst tapes I've ever heard, and  that still exists. Truly lovemachinely. (Orion)

Somne - Demo 2011 (2011)

Though an extremely murky and underground production graces the shrill  shrieks of Somne's lonely 2011 demo, the overall songwriting and melodic  structures are quite interesting and telling. The work of two individuals,  Origin and Axiom (using monikers T and A respectively), The faster, more  grim black metal elements of the material, of which the majority of the demo  is built around, remind me of Helheim's Jormundgand. There is some variety  built into the recordings, however. Second track, "Halls of Melancholy," is  not short in length, or variety with acoustics, faster second-wave styled  black metal, and perhaps some influence from the Cascadian scene is present.  "Beyond," the final track, sounds a bit out of place and is oddly upbeat in  melody. This raw black metal demo is not entirely without merit but also not  for everyone. If you truly like raw lo-fi black metal with hints of the  Norwegian and Cascadian heritage, it might meet standards. (Orion)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

All My Sins - Lunar / Solar

 

From Serbia, All My Sins present typical but competent black metal in the Eastern European style. Lunar / Solar follows a gap of more than ten years between releases with the From The Land Of The Shining Past demo circa 2004 being the only previous offering. Lunar / Solar aesthetically presents themes of duality and paganism commonplace in the Eastern European style such as pagan swordsmen, nature, wolves, and transformation symbolism. This is all presented by way of the four tracks being split with the opening two tracks representing the lunar and night and the second two tracks representing the solar and daytime. None of this is impressive in itself but at least this grounds the band and release in some form of context. From The Land Of The Shining Past showcased some of this desire to present a complete concept as well, attempting to be "an ode to the forest spirits." Some similarity between the two exists in songs such as "Moonbeast" and "Utopia," a concept necessarily implying transformation towards an idealistic reality. All My Sins declare Lunar / Solar is an ode to the sky. Point is, All My Sins attempts to imbue their black metal with philosophical grounding and meaning.

Where From The Land Of The Shining Past reminded me greatly of early Arkona or Graveland's Thousand Swords, Lunar / Solar sounds more like Drudkh' Blood In Our Wells or Kozeljnik's Deeper The Fall. The overall production is excellent. All My Sins seems to have put a lot of effort into ensuring this album sounded on par with any of their contemporaries while never being simonized. The guitars, performed by 'V', are bright and cutting with the commonly shifting chords clear and distinct. Bass, handled by both 'V' as well as vocalist Nav Cosmos, is measurable across the whole album. The bass is both smooth and full while also gravid with dirt and grit. Cosmos' vocals are well done. For being generic and monotone, he exudes energy which guides the spirited performance.



"Jeka Prve Kise (Echoes of the First Rain)" opens the album with the aim of sounding like a transition from day to night, as the song closes with crickets and insects chirping. It's an interesting way to open a release but it leads into the gripping "Pod Mesecom Prastari Hrast (An Ancient Oak under the Moon)" ably. The first full track gallops along on strong melodic turns and crescendos and the impassioned vocal performance which continues beyond the point of music as the track closes. Third track "Pomen Usnulom Suncu (The Commemoration of the Sleeping Sun)" seems to be the highlight track regardless, with a lot of different ideas and moods mixed into it's eight minute and thirty second duration. Opening with clean guitar, the song ascends into presence, shifting through some early verses in a fast and intense yet lighthearted and frolicking manner. The song offers a laid back break midway, with some fretless bass action by guest musician Bojan Kvocka (Terrorhammer / Kawir) to add to the mood. The aggressiveness picks up again until the end of the track, never relenting. The final track offers another acoustic soliloquy.

Overall, Lunar / Solar easily holds it's ground against other black metal releases so far this year. Though All My Sin's first release in more than a decade resides almost completely in tried and true method and style with the sole exception being the acoustic elements, the obvious effort put into this from both a production as well as artistic perspective is to be admired. The length is also on point for an EP listening experience. At just beyond twenty minutes long, it can be listened to easily without risk of distraction, and enough times to consider the concepts behind it. With the layout being also adequately realized, I would recommend this to those looking to widen their knowledge of black metal from Serbia or the Baltic region overall. You can do a lot worse than exploring this pocket of bands which include Kawir and Terrorhammer.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Black Bleeding - The Awakening


Nihilistic Holocaust recently put out a new CD version The Awakening, a 2005 EP from Belgians Black Bleeding. I was skeptical since I was not a huge fan of A Bright Future, which I felt surged with comedic black thrash that lacked seriousness. This older record, however, is a far cry from what sounded like Gamma Bomb doing their best death metal impression. Now, I'm not exactly how much more serious the actual content here is, because the layout notes that "this release is not hand-numbered because Oussama broke our fingers," and there is a rather silly band photo included but at least it sounds more assertive and angry.

"One With The Universe" has a mid-paced opening chugging riff that expands into more melodic and rhythmic brutality. Including a whammy solo and several transitions that work well in the song, this is the highlight of the record for me. Guitarist and vocalist Alexandre Pomes is at his best in this song in regards to his vocals which are often low and guttural. He tosses in some higher raspy spits and sputterings as well now and then. Opener "The Sleeper Has Awakened" twists through some different tremolo and more bludgeoning riffs with rather intense blasting and drumming courtesy of drummer Balmuzette, who is impressive throughout.

"Demonic Quantum Boundaries" ends the record in massive fashion. The ten minute long epic eclipses several musical ideas. Opening with a "Planet Caravan"-esque genesis before launching itself into stark blasts. The song then sifts through some interesting pinch harmonic slow sections mid-way through before culminating in a few minutes of synth which, in all honesty, is very enjoyable on it's own beginning at the six-minute mark. The variety here is evidence of more potentially interesting compositions from the band and possible experimentation tendencies which I never really discerned from A Bright Future.

I much prefer this style to the less intense modern material. Black Bleeding here sound more like a less technical version of Incantation instead of a second-rate thrash band trying to play death metal. The band claims that they are death black metal on the back of the booklet but I don't get a whole lot of black metal influence. If it is there, it is far overshadowed by the death metal. Perhaps at times the record galumphs, and "Proxima Centauri" hints at the less virulent material you'll find on more recent releases, but The Awakening is a sturdy release shying away from the detrimental elements that seeped through to the forefront. Those interested in the band would perhaps be best off starting with The Awakening and working backwards through their previous material. I can't speak for The Great Satan, their 2009 record, though.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Monthly Blast: July 2017

Back in force this month with a couple full reviews and the Penetration interview, we also attempted to get some material covered in a shorter form. You'll also notice reviews by Mongrel, who is coming on a new contributor. He has an extensive background, running his own blog for a long period of time. We're excited to have him on board.


Afflictis Lenae - Post Nuklear Trauma (2012)

Afflictis Lentae is a one-man project born out of France playing thrash metal with some punk influences. On this demo, the band presents four original songs including covers of Negative Approach, Cro-mags and The Business. The three covers itself is a testament of the band's sound and influences. The music is comprised of shouty vocals embedded with thrashy riffs and hints of black metal here and there. Nowadays it has become the norm for hardcore/punk bands to infuse black metal elements into their sound, so it isn't such a strange concoction anymore. The music isn't bad - it comes off as fairly enjoyable and good for what it is, although I find the production a little too "digital" for my liking, including the fact that the drums are programmed and not particularly well. Then again, this is a demo recording, so I am yet to hear what else the band has to offer. All in all, Post Nuklear Trauma is a decent slap of thrash/hardcore that should appeal to people into crossover. The cover of The Business' 'No one likes us' is pretty cool, which is apparently based on a football anthem sung by the Millwall hooligans. (Mongrel)




Dead of Night - Dead of Night (2001)

We don't speak of these years, and Dead of Night proves to be an example of why not. So many US bands, inspired to play Melodic Death Metal, put up sheds in their back yards, bought some metal-zone pedals, and blindly chug chug chugged into the black-hole we have dubbed metalcore. Dead of Night, thought not quite as excrement-laden to the senses as Beyond the Embrace or God Forbid or Shadows Fall still cause my ears to fill with wax in earnest. A close comparison would be In Flames' Lunar Strain but only the worst riffs. Most of these tracks are apparently older with the exception being "Season of the Witch," which has some extremely cliche lyrical lines which Vocalist Duane Morris articulates extremely clearly. If you like the worst parts of In Flames best era, or Melodic Death Metal maybe look them up, but to most this is going to sound particularly aged by this point. (Orion)

Hordes of the Black Cross - Dawn of war, Nights of Chaos (2016)  

Melbourne-based miscreants Hordes of the Black Cross opts for a familiar sound on their debut album playing filthy blackened thrash in the vein of bands like Destroyer 666, Nocturnal Graves, etc. There's no shortage of ripping riffs, with a musicianship that is on par with some of the best in the genre, added a satisfactory production job and killer artwork depicting medieval warfare with demonic hordes slaying all that is human. "Dawn of War, Nights of Chaos" is an enjoyable slap of Aussie-styled black/thrash that's sure to leave some bruises in its wake.  (Mongrel) 




Lambs - Betrayed From Birth (2016)

A combination of sludgy rhythmic pounding, black metal tremolo and blasting moments, layered with hardcore vocals and the occasional breakdown, Italian group Lambs on Betrayed From Birth give a good expose on the band's multifaceted style. What they don't do is truly win me over the band's style. I'm generally picky with my black metal. I also picky with my sludge. The two combined often don't gather enough of what I like about either to give me tingling sensations. The three songs incorporate some atonal contrasts, feedback, and other sludge hallmarks as well. Not a fan of the hardcore style vocals which sound somewhat whiny overall and angsty but I'm sure some fans of the genre wouldn't find them appalling. "Fear Is Your Key" opens the three songs and I'm impressed with the bass playing, mostly, here and elsewhere on the release. It's very noticeable in the mix and defined with a nice dirty crunch that peeks out from behind the guitars and vocals. Lambs is perhaps best on display in the final track here, "And Your Time Will Be Collapsed," where the influences seem to best gel. The sludgy pace, atonal flourishes mixed with the black metal ringing notes, and hardcore impassioned - and less pubescent - vocals all combine for a worthwhile session. The demo title seems at odds with the rest of the song content, reading more as a Cannibal Corpse album title than that of Lambs, whose song titles are markedly less visceral. Neutral overall impression, regardless. (Orion)

Martyrvore - Obliteration (2014)

My initial introduction to Maryrvore was through their 2007 release, Possessed by Mayhemic Slaughter, which was a pretty relentless slap of black/death metal inspired by Blasphemy and Beherit. Fast-forward 7 years later, the band finally release its long-awaited debut album, entitled Obliteration. There are some re-recorded tracks here as well as a good portion of new material. For someone that's new to the band, this would be a good starting point. The songs on this album maintains an upper-tempo, with a solid injection of evil riffs and war-like percussion. The vocals play an integral part in the mix, adding a definite lethalness and interplay well with the crashing wall of guitars and drums. The production has an elegant touch, ensuring the subtlety of instruments without sounding too compressed, while the ambiance cast a dark and oppressive tone. The music on Obliteration is an exercise in excessive and unrelenting violence - A strong statement of militant black/death metal that should appeal to fans of Angelcorpse, Archgoat and Black Witchery.  (Mongrel)

Monastery - Ripping Terror (2015)

Dirty and authentic death metal out of Netherlands with a grind slant. Ripping Terror was originally released in 1991. this version is the Vic records re-release. The members may be familiar. Lars Rosenberg spent time in Carbonized and Entombed and Aars Kloosterwaard resides in Sinister. I'm not totally sure that the demo warranted a re-release even if these six tracks constitute the sole addition to the metal universe. The material is definitely listenable, and there are some good riffs to be found, particularly in "Monastery" and "Monastery II" but there is a lack of originality and memorability. The sound of the mix is awesome, though and when Kloosterwaard goes barbaric on the cymbals in "False Prediction," the aggression is hard to contain. There's more rewarding Dutch treasure from this era but Vic Records seems to do a great job of unearthing relics from this period and genre in Europe, just like they did with the Phlebotomized 
                                                          material. (Orion)

Mother Earth - Living With The Animals (1968)

Tracy Nelson is a heralded singer in the folk and country realms. Mother Earth's 1968 debut, Living With The Animals was her first widely circulated recording. The mix of styles here is quite nice, and meshed well. The tracks she sings on are without a doubt some of the best female sung Americana and folk recordings from this era. The bluesy "Down So Low" is a sultry and sensual classic due to Nelson's powerful vocals. Lyrically, it speaks for a more real and honest desire, as Nelson claims "And it's not losing you  that's got me down so low, I just can't find another man to take your place." Also standout is the brisk and rip-roaring "Goodnight Nelda Grebe, The Telephone Company Has Cut Us Off," with it's proto d-beat carrying a beat throughout saxophone solos. I'm also partial to "The Kingdom Of Heaven (Is Within You)," a psychedelic blues jam closing out the record sung by Powell St. John. Overall a forgotten record by this generation that would have an audience among fans of rock and blues and particularly fans of powerful female vocalists. (Orion)

Othar - Euthanasia of Existence (2016)

The Świdnica-based black metal band, Othar, have been around since 1996, with their last full-length, Human Fuel of Death, released back in 2006. The music presented on this disc is mostly slow to mid-paced, with an epic feel in the guitars. Whether it is purely the sound itself or their nationality, I cannot be sure, but they remind me of other Polish black metal bands like Veles, Graveland and Dark Fury. The atmosphere will spellbind you with its nostalgic sensibilities, as grim snarls interact with a rhythmic bass and epic guitar lines. While the drums are quite basic and get the job done, they have a tendency to be a little repetitive and loud in the mix. Other than that, there aren't too many quirks I can think of. The production is solid, with the songs effectively absorbed as a whole; it should be listened to in its entirety. Euthanasia of Existence does by no means tread on new territory, but that is hardly an issue when the presentation is this good. I recommend listening to this album in isolation and on a cold winter night. (Mongrel)


Pain - Insanity (1986)

Totally unnecessary listening from the mid-80's. Stanley Falk's vocals are a total deal-breaker here as they taint his mediocre riffs with bored and monotone ramblings. It's not like there was a reason to listen to Insanity beyond what amounts to stumbling through German bands from this era for a possible diamond that no-one's ever heard of. Spoiler: this is a lump of coal. Underneath all the pseudo-heaviness of tracks like opener "On My Knees" - a lame title for a song no matter how you phrase it - or title track "Insanity," an undercurrent of lameness pervades this record. Titles like "I'm Gonna Love", "Spending The Night Alone" (which steals a chorus from JP's "Love Bites" of all places), and "The Groove of Love," combined with the aforementioned vocals grab the listener in a gentle hug instead of by the balls. Skip this one unless you need some comforting in the night. (Orion)

Samot - Across The Abyss (2016)

The EP's cover art says it all, really, in what is almost stolen Dissection font, Samot's purple logo is haphazardly placed over a blue-tinted castle in front of an almost full moon drawing obvious comparisons to Dissection's The Somberlain cover. Across The Abyss, is a well mannered and politely offered EP. From the first tepid strums of opening intro track "Awaken" that the sauntering black metal of this Chilean band hints at a much too reserved attack. While it's true that the recording sounds great, and the instrumentals are very tight, and the material hearkens to the Swedish black metal movement very nicely... the lack of intensity and energy is a killer on this one. "The Calling" is rather timid as a first true song. "Across the Abyss" ambles along with the energy of a geriatric looking for his car keys. The songs are mid-paced mostly, nothing exceeds breakneck speed riff-wise. There are some faster drum parts but nothing takes off. In the title track, before the midway point, we get a slowed down 'spooky' section before what is the fastest section on the release - a generic tremolo riff - which doesn't come across as speedy at all. Ending with a thunderclaps and clean guitar, I'm left unimpressed. There's some melodic potential and compositionally the sons are structured well, but the band needs to somehow inject some life into the songs. (Orion)

Scarlett Taylor - III (2017)

Scarlett Taylor is a poor man's Lana Del Rey. III is a five song EP which takes the seductive, dry, nostalgic lounge style of Lana Del Rey or the less percussive tracks from Florence and the Machine, and adds touches of electronic and 80's synth to the mix to make it her own. There's also influence from 90's alternative rock like Garbage. "Children of the Sun" has a strict pendulistic rap section that pairs with the electronic elements and is the only track which I didn't enjoy. "Orphan" and "Unborn" - the latter of which has a lot of Florence and the Machine stylings - is a better example of what Scarlett Taylor does well with the electronic elements. "Concrete Angels" and opener "I Can Fly" show more of the Lana Del Rey style. A more washed-out bleakness and depressive angle places Scarlett Taylor in a slightly different box from some of her contemporaries; her dinginess comes across as more authentic than others who have already reaped the rewards of successful careers. I might be way off base with what exactly 'gloompop' as this is self-described as, actually is. I found it interesting that the promotional representative felt this would be a 'good fit for' this blog. I do like Lana Del Rey a lot though, so lucky for them. (Orion)