Crawling out of the swampy graveyards of Dallas, Texas comes Steel Bearing Hand and their brand of thrashing death metal. At times, the band has riffs that remind me of NunSlaughter, Whiplash, Autopsy, Incantation, and Razor, but it all becomes a killer musical alloy after it's mixed together and enough brutality is applied, creating an excellent old-school death metal whole. The sword and sorcery lyrical bent is a welcome change from the typical Satan and gore fixation that death metal has always had. I know those topics are metal tradition at this point but sometimes a break from it is necessary. I'm eager to hear more from this band based on the strength of this album. I'm not sure how interested I am in 8 or 9 minute songs, really, but these held my interest well enough this time around. The band jumps from strength to strength in such a way that I didn't seem to notice the length of time, where usually songs that long are a huge negative for me. Overall, this is a good debut record, and I'll be interested in seeing what comes next from this Texas outfit. And as a fan of old sword and sorcery stories, keep up the good work in the lyrical department!
Monday, July 18, 2016
Thursday, July 14, 2016
This is such a good year for death metal. Surgikill, Embalmer, Torture Rack, Smut, and so many others have given us excellent albums, and they just keep coming. The analog-horror-obsessed VHS is one of my favorite bands going right now, and I purposely held off on this review after I found out about a tape version being released through Sulfuric Diarrhea Records (hand numbered, limited to 50, so act quickly and get ahold of the band because they're basically gone). The tape lives up to my lo-fi expectations, giving the album a dirty sound that adds another layer of filth to the tunes, at least in my garbage stereo. As far as the music itself, VHS has further refined their thrash/death/grind amalgam, and here and there throughout the record the listener will find doom and traditional heavy metal welded to this steel beast as well. The songs are short, catchy, well-written, and vicious. Everything is tight, well-performed, and audible, but not over produced and robotic like so many death metal albums today. It has an old-school sounding production job, and I prefer this. My personal favorites are "Room 36," "When Sleeping Bag Meets Tree," "There Shall Be Nights of Terror," "Island of Death," and "Carnivorous Lunar Activities." As if a full-length from VHS wasn't enough to get your gore glands pulsating, there are some guest appearances here that will titillate and thrill as well, including the likes of Kam Lee and Stevo lending vocal flourishes to the tracks "Hairspray and Bloodspray" and "Island of Death," respectively. How's that for pedigree? I'm warning you, death metal scene, pay attention to VHS. They're one of the best out there right now doing horror-influenced metal, and for the old-school freaks like me, they're a welcome noise in a polluted scene.
Atrocious Abnormality have returned after most of a decade to bring us their second album, which is in every possible way an improvement on their previous material. I remember being very bored by their first record (so much so that I almost didn't listen to this) but I was not bored during this one. This is brutal death metal of very high quality, played in the style that Comatose Records is known for signing, complete with harmonic squeals from the guitars, relentless blasts, and the rest of the trappings commonplace in the genre. There are no pig squeals, thankfully, just very deep gutturals (which are extremely impressive, as someone who is familiar with how these sounds are made by the human throat), blasting drums that are set to automatic fire, and rhythmic guitar work that rounds out the sound with excellent tone. The bass, when audible, is very busy, and there's a ton of talent across the range of instruments. This material is on the level with bands like Gorgasm, Fleshgrind, or other masters of this style, and that's a huge compliment coming from me, since I am extremely selective when it comes to brutal death metal. So much of it is so similar that when a band sticks out I take notice. This isn't a nuclear bomb that will upset the brutal death metal ecosystem, but it's definitely a sledgehammer to the face that proves this style can still be done with class and conviction.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Hot on the heels of a well-received promo tape that was belched forth from the deepest of graves late last year, Surgikill has returned with a monolithic record, Sanguinary Revelations. It descended on my eardrums via the CD from FDA Rekotz, and soon to come, the vinyl from Hells Headbangers. The crew split heads once again here, delivering original-sounding death metal that drips with horror movie influence of the best kind. The guitar sound is vicious and heavy. The multi-vocal assault is well-planned yet still chaotic, and it fits the mood perfectly. This feels like a whole record by the time the listener is finished with the last track - it begins well and ends well, and the stuff in the middle is far from boring. It feels almost like a complete story, and is a very satisfying and mature-sounding album. This one shambles right up next to Embalmer and Torture Rack as a contender for best death metal album I've heard in the last year. There are zero weaknesses here. I will not waste your time talking about this record any more, dear reader. If you call yourself a death metal fan and don't get this release, you might as well pack your shit and quit death metal altogether, because you've lost touch with what made this music great.
Starting with a suitably gross sample of gurgles, grunts and grossness, Smut kicks things into high gear and never lets up for the duration of the 13 tracks that makes up Slop. It oozes and churns as much as it blasts and thrashes, making for a listen that is both energetic and disgusting. Imagine the thug from Robocop that gets covered in toxic waste trying to head bang. Bits and pieces would be flying off in furious chunks, enjoying your demise while being covered in a overwhelming avalanche of your own slop!
Pinpointing the bands sound is a bit tough. It's raucous and energetic and merges punk, grindcore, death metal and even the early days of black metal into a dizzying concoction. The guitar riffs are razor sharp, punctuated by a very harsh and distinct guitar tone. It reminds me of vintage Swedish death metal mixed with early Norwegian black metal. Your ears almost don't know how to handle it at first but it definitely adds to the power of the band and gives the riffing a unique feel for sure.
The songs are usually between a minute and a half to two minutes with only four tracks breaking the two minute mark. That said, these aren't simple songs. They cover a lot of ground within the short time frames. It all moves very quickly while remaining memorable and suitably extreme. Vocally the band pretty much sticks to a cavernous death growl that suits the music perfectly. They have an almost blown out speaker quality to them that only reinforces the noisier side of the band.It really is a sonic whirlwind and I can't get enough of it. The drumming is also top notch and definitely in the style that I prefer. Nothing fancy or self serving, just a high energy and powerful drum performance. It matches the riffs perfectly and never misses a step.
It's unfortunate that this CD is finding a release after the band has already called it a day. That said, it shouldn't stop anyone from checking out this album. It's high energy, extremely raw and rotten to the core. It has an addictive quality, the more I listen the more I want to keep listening. With each new listen, you'll hear a few new things in the riffing or maybe a short lead that was a bit more buried in the mix, or a drum flurry. For fans of extreme music, Slop should be considered an essential purchase. -Mike Hochins
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
When I decide on albums to pull off the pile to review, they have to be remarkable in some way. Most of what I've reviewed of late has been remarkable in very good ways, and some releases have been absolutely amazing. The new offering from Casket Robbery, however, is not. This is over-produced and under-brutal death metal that leans heavily on its production values to complement the songwriting (which is actually decent). I wasn't going to review it initially, thinking it just one more average release in the sea of modern death metal albums. However, when an album touts its brutality as much as this one did, and then doesn't deliver the nuclear face lift I was hoping to receive, I have to say something. The record just sort of plods along, and even though there are definitely some songwriting chops on offer here, I find the ultra-modern slick production offensive to my ears. There's even those awful dub-step style digital skips in one song (like you'd hear before a bass drop - lots of deathcore bands do this). I can't deal with that stuff. Maybe I just don't understand the artistic vision here, but it seems as if the band is simply chasing how the current big bands in the scene sound, because I've definitely heard this stuff before.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
I had anticipated this release since I heard about it, since Master is one of my favorite bands (their self-titled album ranks within my top 20 ever). Paul Speckmann is delivering the vocals here, and he does exactly what I expect with his trademark delivery and inflection. He works with some different patterns here, however, and does a few things that I had not heard him do with Master before, which I appreciated. The other two members of the band will also be familiar to those with any knowledge of the underground at all, because they are members of the stalwart German thrash metal band Witchburner, who also get high marks from me. Much like the rancid old cadaver-like alchemist on the cover of the record, this album is a brew of the old sounds of death metal, and falls in line with the more simplistic sounds that made us all love this music in the first place. Heaviness trumps showing off musically, and I love it. Nothing but full speed ahead thrashing death! Some of the riffs are the kind that make you want to wreck a room, and the straight forward drums are a real asset here, as are the few blast beats that are peppered throughout the record. It will of course remind the listener just a little of (especially early) Master or Death Strike, as well as at times NunSlaughter, Cancer, or Asphyx. These are only fleeting glimpses of other bands, however, as this band has its own distinctive sound and personality. This is very strong from start to finish, and is easily one of my favorite albums from this past year so far. It will be in heavy rotation with me for a long, long time.