Thursday, December 10, 2015

Carrion "The Rising... Demonic Hunger" 2015 Storm Surge Records

My mailbox occasionally gives me something better than medical bills I can't pay, and yesterday it did just that. A package of promos from Toledo, OH label Storm Surge Records showed up, with three albums, two of which I have a special interest in since the bands are from Ohio. The first I chose to check out was the Carrion CD, which, as it turns out, is rather a sort of comeback record as well as a re-recording of their old material from the mid-90s. The recording was finished in 2012 according to the liner notes, but this is just now seeing release. I'm happy it finally did, since this is one OH band with which I wasn't familiar. Musically they remind me of a lot of mid-90s Midwest death metal, but they also remind me of Australian acts Encabulos and Crucifire, as well as the Georgia band Vastion (and if you were active in the death metal underground in the late '90s, you likely know this one, because they were everywhere). It occasionally reminds me of 1990s Swedish death metal and perhaps Cleveland's Decrepit. It's heavy, brutal, and old school, but with a focus on songs rather than ridiculous amounts of notes, which means it is death metal performed properly. Carrion is perhaps one of the best kept secret gems of the Ohio death metal scene, and believe it or not I had wondered before if any bands had come from there other than Gutted and Descendent! It's not a lengthy record, but since it is largely presenting old re-recorded material, there is no sense in it being any longer than it is. In all, I was quite pleased, and I'll be listening to this on a regular basis in my personal rotation. It's worth your time and money if you love the old sounds of the US underground. This is killer stuff.

Carrion - from their Encyclopedia Metallum page

Monday, November 30, 2015

Disillusionment "The Grand Illusion" 2015 Self-released

I finally was able to listen to the new Disillusionment demo, which consists of one lengthy track (clocking in at 10:25). It's brutal, ancient-sounding death metal from Michigan of a very high order, with black metal and progressive elements throughout, but in a very underground and organic sort of way. A lot of times adding black metal and progressive elements dilutes a band's death metal identity, but this doesn't happen to Disillusionment. They stay firmly rooted in that dark place where bands like Ignivomous, Dead Congregation, old Nile, Father Befouled, and Cemetery Urn dwell. Ignivomous and Cemetery Urn especially come to mind. Those are the three acts that the dense, dark, death metal parts of this remind me of, and fortunately there are plenty of these moments to be found in the ten minutes this song lasts. The black metal aspects of this demo are not obtrusive in any way, thankfully, and not just tossed into the mix. They're complementary to the rest of the music. A little cold melody every so often never hurt anybody, and it breaks up the monstrous and lumbering heavy parts very well. Disillusionment do not lose me in the complexity of their songs, which is a good thing, because a lot of bands that pen long longs have no business attempting it. They find levels of boredom for me that I rarely find any other way. Also, most often "progressive" means musically masturbatory with high levels of fretboard wankery. I don't have that experience with this band at all, which is refreshing. On their split EP with Entrope, and on this current demo, they consistently engage me, and when ten minutes elapses it seems like five, which is why I am certain this band has found their niche in music composition. Not many bands can make a long song seem like it's half the length. That takes craftsmanship and skill. I am looking forward to a full length, and will be watching and waiting eagerly.

Disillusionment (and beards)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Necrocosm "Damnation Doctrine" 2015 Self-released

I have to be careful when I review melodic death metal. I generally loathe the style and that loathing will bleed through unnecessarily if I'm not careful, and I want to be careful with this one, because Necrocosm is not deserving of the hate I have for melodic death. Stylistically the first thing I thought was Black Dahlia Murder with a touch of Gothenburg-era Swedish melodic death, and it reminds me ever so slightly, and I mean ever so slightly, of Cleveland metal greats Soulless. Necrocosm has a little bit of the underground death metal sound that I love so much, so I didn't write them off right away. The riffs come fast and heavy, albeit melodic, and the drums and bass are tight and skilled. I feel that the vocals aren't as strong as they could be, and I would probably like this a lot better if the vocals stayed in the low range. It's unusual in melodic death to have a low growling singer (which is why I like the bands that opt for it), but Necrocosm has opted for the smorgasbord approach to vocals, incorporating lows, mids, and highs as far as growls go, and some yells, but thankfully none of the dreaded clean vocals that have infected this subgenre and completely ruined it for me. Any time someone says "traditional metal sensibility" in regard to melodic death metal it makes me want to vomit. Necrocosm doesn't touch that end of the spectrum, and it's a welcome change from the norm. This isn't bad stuff, although I'm not going to listen to it all the time. Getting me to sit through a melodic death metal album is a feat, made more formidable by the fact I sat through this twice trying to figure out if I liked it or not. I'm still on the fence a little bit, but found myself doing what I normally do when I hear something I like (moving feet, playing air drums, handing invisible oranges to no one in particular), so my prejudice might be getting in the way when I say I can't figure out if I like it. I'm sure it's one that will grow on me as time goes on. This is easily the only worthwhile melodic death metal release I've heard in a while, so fans of that style, get on the ball. They have 15 of the physical item left, according to Bandcamp, but downloads will be in perpetuity unless they take it down. Go get it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Anticosm "Anticosm" 2015 Self-released

This album is off-topic for this site, which is centered mainly on death metal and on all metal and punk bands from MI and OH, but when a band takes time to let me know about their self-financed release and wants me to review it, I make sure to take the time to do so. I've walked in their shoes. It ain't easy. So I break from format to give a band a word or two. I'm glad I did for this one - Anticosm bills themselves as a black thrash n' roll band. I hear those things, but I also hear a real commitment to underground metal. I can tell that fans made this music, not mere musicians who are writing to fit a genre. They blend thrash and black metal seamlessly, and the rock n' roll bleeds through in the guitar solos. The sound of the record is pretty good also - a very heavy production lends this album some real bite, which doesn't happen on too many black thrash albums. Lots of crap recordings in this genre, folks, if you're not familiar. Not that it would have to be pristine - I enjoy lo-fi as much as any fan of underground metal, but sometimes the recordings of black/thrash bands are just flawed. Overall, Anticosm reminds me a little bit of Dismemberment from Ohio, but not as cold. There's more black metal in Dismemberment's sound, more heavy thrash in Anticosm's. This is a fine record to pick up if this is your style of choice. It's a side interest for me, as my first love is death metal, but I recognize quality when I hear it, and this is quality. I look forward to hearing more from these guys and I hope they keep me up to date. It's free on Bandcamp, so you, reader, have no excuse not to try it.


Insanity "Visions of Apocalypse" 2015 Unspeakable Axe Records

It's not often a band can lay claim to influencing bands like Napalm Death and inventing the blast beat. The death metal pioneers Insanity can do just that. Formed in the mid-1980s, these masters of death metal released their seminal record Death After Death in 1994 (although much of it was written quite a bit earlier), an album that is held in the utmost high regard by this writer. I put them in the same camp with Repulsion, Death, Master, Possessed, Hellwitch, Hellhammer, and the rest of the old guard of death metal. We finally have a new record from this band, and I have been waiting to hear this thing for so long. I kept hearing the rumblings in the underground, and now, lo and behold, it's reality. I could not be more pleased, either. The record sticks to what Insanity has always done well, which is fast-paced death metal of the vintage sort, of the style largely forgotten unless you look to the underground. There are no weak aspects to this album, just in-your-face aggression and pounding death metal. Newer bands could learn something about writing memorable songs from it. Countless times in the last few years I've played an album only to be left unable to recall what I just listened to other than "decent death metal." It's because many bands' songs lack personality and presence. They're forgettable. Insanity's songs are never forgettable. Sure there's a few that are stronger than the rest, but it's all a notch above what many other bands are producing. It was the same with their previous effort in 1994. By that time the scene was descending into a period where not much originality was heard, and most bands tried to copy the Floridian or Swedish sounds. The bands who were in fact creating original sounding death metal were coming out of the midwestern US, bands like Ton, Fleshgrind, and Gorgasm, who brought a whole new level of brutality to the genre. They understood the importance of the song itself, much like Insanity, and have gone on to long careers because of it. I cannot say enough about this album and how good it is to hear a new Insanity record. My late friend Jim Konya was a huge fan of Insanity, and he was who originally turned me on to them about 10 years ago. He was excited about this album coming out when I last spoke to him. Now I proudly sport a logo patch on my jacket, and I will be a fan of this band forever. This album is mandatory for real death metal fans. It cannot be missed.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Bastard Grave "What Lies Beyond" 2015 Pulverised Records

With the proliferation of Swedish-sounding death metal bands outside the actual country of Sweden, it's hard to tell where anyone is from anymore. I was delighted to find out that Bastard Grave is, in fact, a Swedish band that plays this style of death metal. And, what's more, is they lay waste to many of the acts that play this way! The guitars are chainsaws with no mercy for your ears, the vocals are pleasantly mid-ranged (which makes for a nice change of pace), and the drums are very warm and they blend with the other instruments perfectly in the production sound. Bastard Grave is the epitome of what Swedish death metal should be like. Filthy and barbaric, yet well-executed and pounding. The riffs that Bastard Grave conjure forth are big and heavy, not just resorting to endless thrashing, but slowing down to crush your feeble ears with every note when the time is right. It is old school death metal perfection if you enjoy the Swedish sound of old, and if you're reading this you probably do. This was a very rewarding listen, and I plan on adding this to my collection very soon (I hope they have a tape version!).

Bastard Grave

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Only Analog Is Real.

So, I used to collect CDs. I looked at them as an upgrade over cassettes when I finally was given a CD player when I was a kid. Before that I had my metal collection exclusively on tape. Tape was the format of my childhood, because only my mother had a good record player, and by the time I received it after she died when I was 12, it was not in great shape. And by that time, records had been pulled for tapes and CDs in record stores. That was 1992. Over the years I had those tapes stolen, ruined by accident, or (dumbly) traded away. I rediscovered vinyl after reading an interview with Phil Demmel of Vio-lence and decided to take him up on his offer of a free 12" single of "Phobophobia." I was left without a way to play this for about 2 years afterward, but I had wanted it. After that I was vinyl crazy. I got rid of most of the stuff I had on CD to make way for vinyl, and I replaced a great deal of it when I could. It's been that way ever since, and I still prefer vinyl to other formats. 

Except one. 

I have recently fallen back in love with the cassette tape. It's a drooling, lustful sort of love, a sort of love where I pore over online catalogs at Hell's Headbangers, Calagari Records, and Tape Worship Records. I am tracking down things I used to have on tape on eBay and Amazon and generally going nuts over the format in every way. Is this nostalgia? In this case, yes. Unless it's something lo-fi, this isn't the most top notch way to check out how an album sounds. But there is a love of the old cassette out there for a lot of us in the underground, especially those of us who traded tapes with each other. If you're 35 or older, you're generally in the club if you found the underground in your late teens like I did (I had been listening to death metal since 1990, but only found what I called "unsigned" bands back then in 1992).

Today, my buying preference is tape, then vinyl, then CD. CDs are bought only on a deal or if it's the only way to get the music. I will never, ever pay for digital files. Digital files aren't real. They're invisible pieces of trash only useful for promotion and reviews. "But they're so portable." Yes, I agree. I have an iPod and it's full. But I will never own music that way. I buy it another way and then acquire those files however I can for on the go, whether a download comes with the physical object or not. I know where to look if I need the files. 

Anyhow, any labels that put out tapes, get ahold of me to review your stuff. I will spend a lot of time on tapes. You can send a digital promo, but if it's in tape format, I'm all over it.

Dark Winter "Admist the Winterplague" 2014 Self-released

Well, I had wanted to hear it, and here it is! It arrived in the mail a few days ago. Dark Winter sent me their newest effort, their EP entitled Amidst the Winterplague. It's a fine record, and the songs are lengthy, so even though there are only 3 tracks here, it clocks in around 20 minutes. Musically, the band has tightened their approach and gone for an even more raw sound on their recording. I think the vocals could be lower in the mix, and the guitars higher, but that's just my taste. The drums have a nice live, acoustic sound, but still very raw, which immediately grabbed my attention due to the complete lack of that sound in metal today outside of obscure demo recordings. These guys have real guts for staying lo-fi in an age of easy-to-achieve flowery productions. The dirt in the sound adds to the appeal of the music. As far as individual songs, the track that stands out to me instantly is the first one, the title track of the EP. All I have to say is those riffs! The song is written well, arranged well, and is top notch all around. I must say this again: these guys remind me of black metal circa 1995, back when it blew up big, and all the Norwegian and mainland European bands gained popularity. The thing back then in Europe, at least that I encountered, was raw melodic black metal, with keyboards or without. I'm still very much reminded of that scene by Dark Winter, and that's not a bad thing. These days, that scene doesn't really exist, and Dark Winter stands out because of it. I can't wait to hear what these guys do next, because if this is any indication of the progression I will hear from recording to recording, I'm in for a treat the next time around. I'm just glad they're from Michigan and I get to follow their activity at a local level. I'll be watching.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Under the Church "Rabid Armageddon" 2015 Pulverised Records

I must admit to never having been a huge fan of Nirvana 2002, but I've never disliked the band, either. When I learned that two of their members had roles in Under the Church, I decided I should definitely hear this, and pay attention. It's filthy old-style Swedish death metal, much like the demo days of some of our current favorites from the old guard. The heavy chainsaw guitar sound is there, but this isn't over-produced and too well-recorded for its own good like some of the current bands in this style. The dirt in the sound does this justice and helps the chaos. Imagine if Entombed/Nihilist or Dismember was crossed with Repulsion and Autopsy. That's what this record calls forth. It's old and rotten and horrid and heavy. I wasn't as keen on some of the vocal patterns used, and the vocalist sounds a bit like he's running out of breath from time to time, but it's a small quibble for me. As a whole, all the elements of this album work well together. I look forward to the next album, to be sure.

Under the Church

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Surgikill "Promo 2015" 2015 Self-released

There are some instantly recognizable names in death metal to those who are deeply involved in the underground, names that are synonymous with quality. This band has more than its share of notables, among them Billy Nocera (Scaremaker), Vanessa Nocera (Scaremaker, Wooden Stake), Ash Thomas (FaithXtractor, Estuary), Zdenka Prado (FaithXtractor, Estuary), and Stevo (Impetigo, Tombstones). That's nowhere close to all the notable bands to which they've contributed. What is on offer is exactly what I expect from this crew. Well-played yet still delightfully chaotic death metal done old school and correctly. The many vocalists make this all a little jumbled, but in a good way, since the chaos adds to the flavor, and I think it makes the recording wonderfully varied. The two tracks here are strong, and fairly unique-sounding. Fans of any of the bands listed above would do well to check this one out, since it's going to be right in the same wheelhouse. They have at least one split 7" coming out that I know about, which means that will be money right out of my pocket when it's released because I am going to buy everything I can that this band puts out! This demo made me a loyal fan, and I can't wait to hear what's next.

Friday, November 6, 2015

VHS "Hi-Fi Horror (Uncut Edition)" 2015 Self-released

Every once in a while, when reviewing records, and I've done it since the early 2000s (2002 or 2003 if I remember right), you'll encounter an album that is just what you needed to hear. Hi-Fi Horror by VHS is that kind of album. This is death/thrash/grind with a tongue-in-cheek bent, all based on, you guessed it, old horror films best watched on videocassette. The songs range in length from 45 seconds to several minutes. Each song ends exactly where it should and the band's playing is organic - you can tell serious fans of metal and horror made this. I'm reminded a little of Hellwitch and Repulsion, and perhaps Ghoul, Engorged, and Impetigo to a lesser extent. My favorite track on the record is the second shortest, "Radioactive Rat Attack." It's a crowd-mover, a short sharp shock to the system. My second favorite track is "When Bodybag Meets Tree," which, of course, is all based upon the Friday the 13th series and named after one particular death scene where the hockey-masked killer smashes a girl he has zipped up in a sleeping bag against a tree over and over again until she's dead. It's quite brutal in the film, and very, very funny to me. I actually laughed out loud when I saw the title of the song! See, what I like about VHS is that they get the campiness of both metal and horror. Of course, you can be serious about both, but it's a lot more fun to, well, have fun. This is top notch stuff, and I cannot wait for more material from this band! They have a bright future ahead and I don't want to miss a bit of it. I hope to some day catch these Canadians live, and I'm sure it will be awesome!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Istengoat "Atlas Shrugged" 2015 Blood Harvest Records

This is one of the best releases I have heard this year. This heavy, dark, relentless death metal, and oddly enough reminded me of Gorguts's old material. Perhaps it was the occasional grunt from the singer that made the comparison for me. Not sure. Anyhow, Istengoat sounds enough like nothing else that I cannot come up with an easy analog for them. It's death metal with very strong playing and vocals, and the hooks abound on this record, making each song more memorable with each listen. This is a record that any fan of death metal would love, unless all you love is slam. But if you're into pure death metal, the old stuff, the good stuff, this is what you need. There is a very dark vibe to this record, which is helped along by the occasional black metal riff in the song structures. It bleeds the same darkness as bands like Incantation or Immolation. This is on my must-have list for 2015, and I plan on buying it in some format very soon.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Slight Change of Focus

There will be a slight change of focus here at Twenty Red Nails. I had not expected so many albums to come rushing into my inbox and mailbox. Apparently the days of really slogging away with little to show for it are gone, and things are much more instantaneous in the internet age! No matter. It simply requires adaptation. The way TRN is going to adapt is by focusing almost exclusively on death metal, except where Ohio and Michigan bands are concerned, and then we will focus on all metal, punk, hardcore, and grind. Also, bands who do not have a label to promote them will get attention no matter what. That is why a 'zine exists, and even though this is just a review site, I will operate it as if it is a 'zine. But for all the labels out there, I am going to be narrowing your releases down to just death metal and its divisional subgenres. By this metric, bands that cross genres like Abyssal Lord and Funeral Throne will still be covered, as would bands like Abominable Putridy and NunSlaughter. All three of these bands are vastly different in their approach to death metal, but they would all get reviewed.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dark Winter "Dark Winter" 2012 Self-released

Dark Winter is a band I caught at the 6th annual Autumn Metal Assault just outside of Detroit, MI. I wanted to hear more of these guys, and their first EP happens to be free on Bandcamp. I'm very glad I downloaded this. Is it raw? Yes. Does it show a band getting ready to evolve? Yes. Is it good? Absolutely. I am reminded of what so many bands were doing in the mid-90's in Europe, with the melodic black metal craze back then. Dark Winter would have fit right in, but back then they might have blended in, too. Years removed from that trend, it's refreshing to hear this coming out of the speakers rather than more "suicidal" black "metal" horsecrap. This has a real metal spirit, an old school feel, and this two-piece gets the job done. It reminds me a bit of early Satyricon, perhaps a little older Naglfar, perhaps a bit of the Greek and Polish scenes. There are some monster riffs on display here, as well as solid black metal drumming and confident vocals. Are they wearing their influences on their sleeves? Yes. Is it a bad thing? No. Tons of bands do it. I do it. I need to hear the newer EP they have out, but based on just this earlier recording and seeing them live, there is promise, much promise, for this band's future. I will definitely be catching them live again, since I am in Detroit every other weekend. This recording is rather raw, so sound-snobs need not apply, but the material here is worth your time and effort to track down.

Chthonic Cult "I Am the Scourge of Eternity" 2015 Iron Bonehead Productions

So, knowing that I generally hate long songs, I chose to dig into this record anyway. The cover was cool, the logo kicks ass, all that. I tossed it in and was greeted with great old style death/black metal. And it just kept coming. And coming. And coming. I knew it. The long songs were going to haunt me with this one. By the end of the second track I was already bored. This kind of music just shouldn't be this long. If that's your thing, so be it, and it's definitely the artistic direction the band wants to travel in, and there's a market for this. I just can't dig in. Not for long. I was just waiting for this to end by the time the fourth song was halfway done (which really is when it's almost over, there are only 4 songs). I'll try this band again when their songs are 4 minutes.

Chthonic Cult

The Apocalyptic Fist of the Black Death "Volume 1: Atrocities of Alchemy" 2015 Self-released

I've known about this band for quite some time, since they're native to the Akron, OH area, close to where I live. As a reviewer, I like to find easy labels for things because that will give a reader a good idea of what they're in for when they purchase an album. I will have no such luck here. The Apocalyptic Fist absolutely defies categorization other than "it's heavy, and fast a lot of the time." I was lucky enough to play with these fine musicians when I was doing time in National Collapse as vocalist. Normally I don't go for the progressive and experimental end of extreme music, but in the Fist's case, I do. They're very song-focused, which is a huge asset where I'm concerned. They have elements from most extreme genres of music, including black metal, death metal, thrash, hardcore, grindcore, and even melodic metal. The vocals are mostly high-range growls, but there are other techniques being used as well. The playing can be frantic and frenetic, but it can also be traditionally metal-oriented. I can find no analog in the metal scene for them, so I can't tell you any band that they sound like, and I do believe that is their intent. It's completely original, as far as any of us in this scene can be original, since we are all a sum of what's come before us in the world of metal music. It's going to appeal to tech-death fans as well as grind fans, and the oddball indie rock guy that just wants something different. They're a band I always watch if I am at a show where they play - it's a shame I've only caught them twice at this point. This release puts them on the map, and I look forward to hearing more. I know they'll push the boundaries with every recording, and I can't wait to see what they do next. Hats off, guys, you've stumped my descriptive abilities when it comes to reviewing, and you've secured a fan in someone who normally really dislikes experimentation in metal. That's a win.

The Apocalyptic Fist of the Black Death

Evil Army "Violence and War" 2015 Hells Headbangers

I enjoy this band beyond measure. It's a rare thrash band that can keep the constant attack at a pace consistent with what I desire to hear, but Evil Army does it almost every time. Their pedal-down approach to thrash is exactly what I like, and although this record is not quite as good as their self-titled full length from 2006, it's quite close. Even the sound quality is similar, which is nice. It has a great sound, a raw yet clear sound, with just enough fuzz and buzz in the guitars and just enough sharpness to the drums. I have actually been holding off on this review until I figured out exactly what I wanted to say about it. What I want to say about it is that although I think it could be slightly better, on par at least with the full-length, that this is a great stop-gap release until we get another full album. Honestly, I'll take any release from Evil Army to get my thrash fix. They have a unique sound and a rough and tumble approach that not many other bands in the genre have, and Hells Headbangers has been a great spot for their music since the real maniacs are the ones that are going to buy this stuff. I look forward to more from them, and plan on buying this MLP as soon as I recover from my recent HHB binge buying extravaganza!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Caecus "Affliction" 2015 Blood Harvest Records

Caecus plays a ripping, blasting form of death metal that shreds your face right off your skull. From the very start of these three tracks, the listener is pounded into oblivion. However, the pounding is done with skill, finesse, and a great dark guitar sound. In three tracks, they've made me a fan. This is dark, evil death metal with just a light tinge of black metal in the riffage. The drums remind me of an American brutal death metal band, and the riffs at time remind me of Australian black/death bands. All told, it's a real masterpiece, and I'm eagerly awaiting a full length. 

Apparatus "Apparatus" 2015 Lavadome Productions

From the hype sheet, I thought this was going to be a dark death metal offering that took no prisoners. What I actually found upon listening is a record I just didn't like one bit. I'm fairly open-minded when it comes to metal, and you can mix it up quite a bit for me and I won't immediately react in a negative way. This album, however, even after I tried to really sink my teeth in, just annoyed me. The first track was a harbinger of what was to come - nothing but droning dissonance and creepy half-spoken, half-growled vocals. There are a few tracks on this record like that. I get nothing out of it, and I really don't care about the atmosphere a band is trying to create with that kind of thing. To me, it's filler. There are elements of black and death metal through the rest of the record, but often with oddball riffs and even weirder percussive patterns. That's not why I disliked it, though. I disliked it because there just didn't seem to be a payoff point, and it took real effort to sit through this. I don't have the patience and I didn't like the songs at all. A band can be as experimental as they want, but this falls completely flat for me. Pass.

Ares Kingdom "The Unburiable Dead" 2015 Nuclear War Now! Productions

A new Ares Kingdom release is always a pleasure, and this new record of theirs is no exception. The music, as always, is a wild mix of black, death, and thrash, transitioning between types of riffs seamlessly and with ease. The vocals are fierce mid-range growls with tons of power behind them. What I like about Ares Kingdom is that even though it's very well recorded, it still has an organic presentation, and you can tell that humans made this music. So much death metal today does not have that quality, especially on the large labels - it's all triggers and copy/paste in the studio. I like how it's just the tiniest bit loose at times, and it really lends it a "live" aspect, as if the band was performing and not recording. As usual the riffs are gigantic, the compositions are written exceptionally well, and everything on this record bleeds a love of metal. Lyrically, I know this is about World War I, a sort of concept record. When I eventually buy this, I will be able to really inspect it, but knowing these boys, the lyrics are thoughtful and nicely done. I can't wait to listen to this again, and hopefully I can pick up an actual copy of it soon so I can pore over all the lyrics and all the extra artwork. NWN has gone all out, especially with the diehard version of the LP, so make sure to look at all the versions available if you decide you need to buy this!

Denial "11°22​.​4'N 142°35​.​5'E" 2015 Blood Harvest Records

Denial, a band from Mexico that I was unfamiliar with previously, have returned with a 7" EP consisting of two tracks, and they are mighty! This is dark Mexican death metal, all gnarly and rumbling, and it's very, very well recorded. The guitars are large and deep, and the vocals are cavernous and foul. The drums pound away like nuclear bombs, and the overall feel of the two tracks on offer is the same feel I get from old Incantation and Immolation, with a decidedly old school air. I will be looking further into this band and their previous full length material since I am now hooked. One thing I was very interested in was the title of the EP, which is a latitude and longitude location. I thought perhaps it was the location of the fiction R'lyeh from H.P. Lovecraft's and August Derleth's stories, but after a search it does not appear to be so, unless it's a location used in a story different than the one I checked. Intriguing, and hopefully I can find out what that is at some point.


Blackosh "Whores, Booze & Black Metal" 2015 Iron Bonehead Productions

When I read that a founding member of Root had created this side project, I had to hear it. I'm not a huge Root fan, but I know about their notoriety and I give them the respect they are due. When I finally got around to listening to this last night, I felt a bit let down. While the riffs are immense and the guitar sound is perfect for black metal, everything else lacks as far as instrumentation. The vocals are passable (although it's cool to hear everything in Czech), standard black metal fare. The drums are where the record actually falls down. The drum sound is awful. I'm not sure if these are triggered and just recorded strangely or if it's a drum machine. There seems to be an inhuman quality to them and not in a good way. I wanted the drums to fix themselves so I could enjoy the killer riffs coming out of the speakers and the good song writing, but the drums screwed that up for me. If you're a huge Root fan, get this for completion, but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone that is annoyed with weird drum sounds.


Abominator "Barbarian War Worship" 2015 Nuclear War Now! Productions

Comprised of both of Abominator's well-regarded demo tapes, Barbarian War Worship and The Conqueror Possessed. It also contains bonus demo tracks from studio sessions the band has had in the past. As I never heard the original demos, I was interested in this from the start. As it turns out, I enjoy this band's demo material even more than their albums. If you're not familiar with Abominator's sound, perhaps you may be familiar with similar acts from the Australian scene like Destroyer 666, Bestial Warlust, Corpse Molestation, Destruktor, and Gospel of the Horns, all of which share some musical qualities with Abominator. Australia has the most bestial of black/death scenes outside South America and possibly now the U.S. Overall, this is a great release for fans of Abominator or demo enthusiasts. The CD has even been remastered in such a way that it has enhanced the sound quality of the original tapes, and been optimized for the format. It's definitely worth picking up, especially if you've never heard these demos before.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Abysmal Lord "Disciples of the Inferno" 2015 Hells Headbangers Records

There are two camps when it comes to bands that are clearly intent on sounding like other notable acts. The first is the camp that says "that's not original so I don't like it," usually in a whiny voice. The second is the camp, which I belong to, that says "if that's how they believe metal should be played, then who cares as long as they do it well." Abysmal Lord is one of those bands that sounds very much like Blasphemy, who have sonically spawned similar acts like Black Witchery and Proclamation, and now Abysmal Lord. Even the image of the band is alike. However, this is one metal fan that pays no mind, and I take every release on its own merit. Simply put: Abysmal Lord crushes the weak like a bulldozer! I love the sharp blasts and the breakdowns into really heavy, simple, pounding riffs. The vocals are vile, vomited forth with alarming violence, and I wonder how the singer doesn't kill his vocal chords. I know how to make these sounds and it isn't easy. The guitars are deep and dark and just so heavy, and the drums might as well be gun shots. It's nicely recorded for this genre, also, which is a huge plus. A terrible recording kills this kind of music, which is something I wish more bands would realize. It only has to be passable, not perfect, and only when it comes to a full length - your EP or demo can sound like junk because it's not as important and I'm fine with that. Old Blasphemy is only passably recorded and it works. This record has a crushing sound quality to it - it's still raw and nasty, but everything is audible. One last thing: Abysmal Lord obtain a level of brutality that a lot of brutal death metal bands just wish they could have, and I look forward to the day I get to see this band live, perhaps at the next Hells Headbash, which I plan to attend, health and schedule permitting. 

Abysmal Lord

De Profundis "Kingdom of the Blind" 2015 Wicker Man Recordings

I want to like stuff like this so bad. I know it's just a taste thing, and that I should like this because it's well-written, astoundingly played, and extreme. However, the more technical and progressive bands I hear, the more bored I am by the whole style. Sure, it's impressive and I love that people can play wildly difficult music, and that it actually sells. They should be rewarded for their talent. It's just not in my DNA to like it. I prefer the simple, aggressive, ferocious forms of death metal, like NunSlaughter or Repulsion. I'm the wrong market for this. But I do want to talk about this record for a moment. I know a ton of people that would buy this thing right now. Any fans of later-era Death or Cynic are going to be into this music. I do like the melodies and when they hit a traditional metal-sounding melodic part, or a vicious black metal part, I feel like they hit their stride. But then they get all fiddly or jazzy and I just can't deal. This is well-written music (yes, it's technical and progressive but the song structure is evident) as well as being well-played, but it all falls apart for me when they turn a corner and surprise me with something I just hate. Oh well, what can I say. Just not my bag.

Black Breath "Slaves Beyond Death" 2015 Southern Lord Records

Black Breath is one of my favorite bands of the last several years, and their first two records are always part of my regular listening. This album sees the production values ramped up, which I'm not exactly sure is what I want from a band like this, but I'll take it however I can get it. The album as a whole doesn't have nearly as much of the frantic thrashing that the first two releases did, although I could see them moving toward this slightly slower pace on the last album. The guitars are still incredibly heavy, driving hard with that chainsaw sound we all know and love. This album sounds more traditionally death metal than its predecessors, which is never a bad thing for me, but I feel like a tiny bit of their signature sound is gone. Third albums are often either the moment that pushes a band over the edge or sinks them into oblivion, and I think this one has more potential to get them over even further. It's definitely not going to sink them. My favorite Black Breath effort will remain Sentenced to Life, but this will be listened to often.

Funeral Throne "Threshold" 2015 Blut & Eisen Productions

Most black metal bores me to tears. So much of it is contrived garbage. Whether it's a band poorly aping the Norse groups of the 1990's and doing nothing but drone on and on with sucky minimalist riffs or so-called "suicidal" black metal that just grates on the ears making you wish they'd just finish killing themselves already, much of black metal is worthless to me. However, once in a while a band does it differently, with honesty and a real metal spirit. Funeral Throne is such a band. Hailing from England, this band delivers their brand of black metal with a slight tinge of death metal, and plenty of actual songwriting skill. There are skilled guitar solos, rapid fire drums, plenty of interesting changes in the songs, and above all, actual heaviness, which so much black "metal" lacks. From time to time, there's even a melody over another riff, reminding me a bit of early Amorphis. They choose to thrash the listener to bits occasionally, then immediately bludgeon away with a heavy death metal riff, and then they might become quiet with an acoustic passage or ramp it back up with an icy riff right from hell. I will not misinform you and have you think that this is some modern-day widdly and wanky version of black metal. No, this is black metal informed by the heavy metal greats of the past, and there is nothing but true metal intensity to this record. From the production values to the composition to the instrumentation, this record bleeds passion for metal. This is on my short list to buy soon, and if you love extreme metal, it should be on yours, too.

Hellish "Theurgist's Spell" 2015 Blood Harvest Records

Sometimes when I read things on a hype sheet for an album, I say "yeah, right, we'll see what I hear when I listen to this." That's exactly what I did with this. I said "Hmmm, supposed to sound like old Sodom and Destruction but with South American influence... we shall see." As it turns out, that's exactly what this new EP from Hellish sounds like. Even the recording gives it that old feel, although it's relatively well-recorded. The first thing I thought was how it sounds like an old Destruction record, at least musically. Vocally, however, it brings to mind Sodom and Sarcofago, right down to the reverb on the vocals. I'm not nuts for this record, but it's not something I'm going to skip over immediately when it plays. It's not on my list of must-haves, but I will definitely recommend it as a solid EP worth listening to by those fans who cannot get enough of that old black thrash sound.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Trunk Ride "RFID For Your Protection and Our Entertainment" 2015 Go Ride Records

Primarily released online via several sources and available from the band in limited DIY form (a truly punk thing to do I might add), Trunk Ride's first and only album so far is a real barn-burner! Clocking in at 12 or 13 minutes for 8 songs, it whips by quickly and ferociously, full of aggression and attitude and a heap of style. This is a high-octane brand of punk rock - I hear classic skate punk mixed with old style hardcore punk (think 1980's California or DC). This stands tall in the Ohio scene and easily goes toe-to-toe with any punk band in these parts. The songs go by quickly, but several will become stuck in your head the first time you hear them, the choruses repeating over and over after the music stops coming out of your speakers. The recording, while excellent, still retains a raw feel, which is necessary with this sort of punk. There are hooks galore, and this is incredibly catchy, but at the same time gritty and dark and I dare say heavy at times. This is an honest opinion of this record even though I share band members with this band. I would tell them if they sucked. Trunk Ride is easily one of my favorite acts from around here and I've seen them live twice. Do yourself a favor - if you have 15 minutes to kill, kill it with this.