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.

Gruesome "Savage Land" 2015 Relapse Records

It's rare that you know exactly what to expect from a record as soon as it hits the shelves, but in this case, we all did. This project from a number of notables in the extreme metal scene (and if you don't know who they are, go get schooled) emulates the first three Death records, and does an incredible job of it. Gruesome is to Death as Apokalyptic Raids is to Hell Hammer. As soon as the music began to pour out of my speakers, my attention was grabbed. See, for me, all Death records after Human might as well not exist, and my favorite is, hands-down, Scream Bloody Gore. Not a popular opinion, but it's my opinion nonetheless. Not that I think the later records are terrible, those albums are just not what I want from a Death record. I want raging, thrashing death metal, not drawn-out progressive song structure. Gruesome has delivered exactly what I needed. For years I wanted Death to do another record like the old stuff, and of course, they weren't going to do it. I am glad that Matt Harvey and crew have stepped up to the plate and delivered what I needed to hear stylistically, even if it wasn't Death perpetrating it. This is one of my favorite sounds in death metal, and it is delivered right to the listener's face, with nasty lyrics and one heck of a convincing imitation of Chuck's vocals. Matt nailed it. The guitars are suitably Death-like, as is the drumming, and it makes me very happy. For the next record I want more of the same, and I do not want progression. Give me more real death metal!

Ghost "Meliora" 2015 Loma Vista Recordings

Ghost's much-anticipated third record arrived in mid-August, and I know I was not the only one waiting on it eagerly. Let me first say that this band has recently been the target of internet nerd hatred, much like any metal band that gets popular and is perceived as riding a gimmick to greater notoriety. All I can say is that it's simply taste.  If you don't like it, I don't care. I do. This band is a breath of fresh air in the middle of a rather (at times) sonically stagnant scene. To the internet nerds who want to run down bands constantly: get off your computer for once, go to shows, get a girlfriend or a job, buy records instead of downloading songs, pick up a guitar, and write some music if you think you can do any better. I hate metal nerds. Anyhow.... With this third record, Ghost brings the guitars back into the mix, much like their debut record, but with the songwriting skill of their second effort. All the great melodies are present, as well as a few new surprises from Ghost's seemingly never-ending bag of musical tricks. Honestly, I liked Infestissumam better upon first listen, but I think this is going to be one of those records that grows on me, much like Emperor's latter albums. I do like the fact that the guitar is back and in front. Being a vocalist myself, I think the biggest appeal of the last record was the focus on vocal melody, and there's not as much of a focus this time around. There are some tasty lines, though, and I still found myself "wow-ing" certain parts. In all, it's a very satisfying album, and one that is going to get many more plays from me. I had wanted the vinyl, since that's how I own the other two, but since my local record store just had the CD and I couldn't wait, that's how I bought it! Hopefully I can snag one eventually.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Festering "From the Grave" 2015 Caverna Abismal Records

When I saw this on my list of things to review, I was quite intrigued. The names of the band and the record scream death metal, and they don't make any attempt to hide behind a guise of being something more palatable than what it is. This is horrid, nasty, Swedish-style old school death metal, replete with guitars like chainsaws, pounding drums, and sick vocals. It really reminds me of the first Entombed record from time to time, but dirtier, and perhaps faster, a bit more like early Dismember in the speed department. Everything about this album reeks of death, and it is a complete package, right down to the cover art, which is fascinating to me. The songwriting is great, with hooks all over the place and raging thrash parts sprinkled about judiciously. Any fan of this style will do well to pick this up - this is not one of the mediocre acts performing this style that seem to infest the underground.  This is top shelf.

Speedtrap "Straight Shooter" 2015 Svart Records

Speedtrap are a traditional metal band from Finland, and also happen to be a rip-roaring good time to listen to when you're on a long drive on the Ohio Turnpike heading toward Detroit, which is how I listen to a lot of music. Sonically, they remind me of old Exciter mixed with a little Judas Priest and maybe Omen, with a dose of high-octane rock and roll like Ted Nugent. It's what I hear, what can I say. The whole record is just good fun, a very aggressive heavy metal display of speed and songwriting from front to back. Don't expect lush power metal vocals or sonic soundscapes comprised of keyboards (or as I call them "keyboreds"). This is pure heavy metal.  Real heavy metal. The kind that was made before all the subgenre divisions were created. The kind of heavy metal that when executed perfectly, and this is, alleviates boredom, empowers attitudes, and generally inspires a good time. There are no weaknesses on this record, and the band clearly is aware of what they do best, which is pound out awesome riffs at top speed.

Diavolos "You Lived, Now Die" 2015 Hells Headbangers Records

Let me start by telling you where I am coming from in this review. I love the death metal music form in most of its incarnations. My favorite, however, is what was originally considered death metal in the early days: early Onslaught, '83-'86 era Slayer, old Death (demos and first 3 albums), Possessed, Master, Hellwitch, Celtic Frost and Hell Hammer, and so on. This was once the most extreme end of metal. Even today, this era of death metal sounds more extreme than many of the new bands that are playing more technical, more brutal, or faster forms of death metal. There's an authenticity in the sound and attitude that is unmatched for ferocity and devilish intent. Many bands are playing metal inspired by the old death metal elite now, some with more success at pulling it off than others. Diavolos is a band that pulls it off and makes it convincing and honest. This may have something to do with having metal stalwarts like Tas Danaz and Taneli Jarva in the band, but I find that even young bands of the style are generally so vehemently assertive that this is the way death metal should sound that they pull it off well based solely on conviction. Something about this oldest form of death metal inspires loyalty among its adherents, of which I firmly am one. I believe this is how death metal should always be, in spirit if not in musical style, at the very least. I'm not that much of a music fascist that I declare every band that doesn't sound like 1985 unworthy of support. I enjoy a lot of modern brutal death metal as well. However, it must have an atmosphere of being underground, or I won't enjoy it, because it doesn't feel right to me. Diavolos has enormous underground feel. It's dirty, foul, and it worships at the altar of Possessed and Master. It thrashes hard, and the heaviest parts crush at just the right times. After a minute into this record, I knew I was going to love it. They wear their influences on their sleeves for all to see, yet stand on their own creative merit. I cannot wait for more from this band, and this is an album I must own. Hells Headbangers consistently proves why they understand underground metal and underground metal fans by signing bands like this. I only look forward to more greatness from Diavolos and Hells Headbangers. The chaos of Diavolos makes me a very happy death metal fan.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Serocs "And When the Sky Was Opened" 2015 Comatose Music

The new Serocs album due out at the end of November is going to really please the tech death masses. I'm not the biggest fan of this style, and I'll go into this more a little bit later in the review, but I can see the appeal, especially to those who play instruments. I get it. What I will say about this record, is that even though it's definitely not going to be a favorite of mine at any point, is that the playing shines brightly, and some clearly talented individuals have brought forth a brutal record that deserves hearing at least once by fans of brutal or technical metal. I like the album best when they slow it down and perform more traditional death metal riffs, with less activity on the fretboards. I like the feel of it when they do it.  The problem I have with a lot of technically masterful metal records is that often feel is sacrificed for expertise and precision. Many technical death metal bands feel mechanical, as if they were constructed by computers rather than people. This album doesn't feel entirely that way, and that's why it made my cut for at least recommending it to fans of that style. Like I said, I do see the appeal.  It's just very hard for me as a fan of the dirtiest, nastiest forms of death metal, and having a penchant for the old school like I do, to get into it.  I will say that it deserves to be checked out if you like the technical side of modern death metal, but if you don't understand or enjoy that style, don't bother.

Visceral Throne "Those Who Have Fallen Beyond the Grace of God" 2015 Comatose Music

Sporting one of the coolest death metal album covers to be unleashed on the masses, Visceral Throne's new EP is one seriously heavy record. Consisting of five tracks, one of which being a cover of an Internal Suffering, the record starts heavy and never gives up. The guitar tone here is punishing and thick, conjuring up dark death metal greats like Incantation or Immolation, but as a whole the music is more reminiscent of Disgorge, Devourment, or even slower parts of Defeated Sanity. The music is well played, and I'm pleased that the subject matter doesn't revolve completely around violence and gore. Unholy brutal death metal is somewhat rare by comparison. The only thing I wondered at on this record is the snare sound. It's very, very sharp and metallic.  It pings away on the blasts, and during the slower parts it really rings hard. I know a lot of bands want this, especially since it helps accentuate a blast, but this is a fringe case where it's really noticeable. I did get used to it by song two.  The vocals are deep and guttural but are not dumb pig squeals.  This is just heavy brutal death metal with all of what you would expect from a record in the genre.  No surprises, no let-downs, just brutal death metal.

Abhorrent Deformity "Entity of Malevolence" 2015 Comatose Music

Set for release at the end of this month is the new slab from Abhorrent Deformity. This is, in every way, a killer brutal death metal record. The guitar tones are thick, the drums punishing, and the vocals monstrous. What I like so much about this is that the vocalist plays around with different tones quite a bit, even within the same song. And, thankfully, there are no pig squeals. Those have the unique ability to drive me nuts if excessive or ill-executed.  The vocals here are more like Disgorge or Condemned (in fact, the music isn't too far off of those, either), in that they can be very low and guttural, but not to the point of stupidity. These vocals are powerful, dark, and full of piss and vinegar. The music can be technical, but there is just as much feel to the violence on offer as there is technique. There are plenty of blasts, and plenty of slowdowns, and the music turns on a dime as far as speed is concerned. It's a real bulldozer, and I recommend it to fans of solid modern brutal death metal evolved from mid-90s guttural sickness!

Agony Divine "March of the Divine" 2015 Self-released

When it comes to new death metal releases, rarely does one truly stand out stylistically. Not that I really need a band to do that to be a fan, because I love a lot of bands that are clearly derivative of others.  Just look at all the chainsaw-guitar-driven Swedish-style death metal that's out there in the scene, and then see just how many of those I love (hint: all of them). However, it's a very welcome album that really stands out from the pack and March of the Divine by Agony Divine does just that. This record is well-composed, with riffs that take unexpected turns into thrash and black metal territory, rhythms that take you by surprise at times, and vocals that aren't growled - they're yelled. Some people would classify them as "thrash" vocals, but I will not do that - this is death metal. From the attitude, to the subject matter, to the song structures themselves, this is pure thrashing death metal in a very old school way. The vocals remind me of slam thrash pioneers Forced Entry, or even Repulsion at times. Musically, Agony Divine is sound, with great playing all around, and very inspired song structure. There is no junk here. From front to back this is just plain good. When I played this for the drummer of my band, he was all over it, wanting to hear the entire record.  I know this album will inspire the same reaction in most people who love death metal. I want to hear more like this in the future, but I know this album took a long time to materialize, so I won't hold my breath quite yet... But I can always hope!

SHOW SPOTLIGHT: Autumn Metal Assault 6 (Sat Oct 17, 2015 at the Detroit Pub)

So I happened to be in the Detroit metro area on the perfect weekend - there was a metal show happening at the Detroit Pub in Clinton Township, MI and it was being put on by Metal United, who put on the Master/Solstice tour that I went to a while back. I was eager to check out what the Detroit metal scene has to offer, since I will eventually be moving to the area for personal reasons. So I went and picked up my friend Mike from Centenary (some of you may remember him from the excellent death metal band Solidification) and we navigated our way to the show.

The Detroit Pub is a smallish joint, at least where the shows are held, but if tables were moved, it could be very accommodating to a mid-tier international or national. I dug it. The stage is high and nice, and it has quite a bit of room on it.  The sound is also decent, which is unusual for some clubs this size. I wouldn't mind playing there at all.

Soon after we arrived, A Purple Cloud took the stage, and they promptly crushed the crowd into dust!  They have a furious and varied mix of thrash, grind, and some death metal. Their music is tight, furious, and very well composed. They have the perfect vocalist for the job, and with some time, I think he's going to be a monster of a singer. It's not typical death metal growls, although he does do some.  It's mostly DRI-style barked vocals through the main parts of songs. There's a pretty high level of technical proficiency in this band, but they never go way over the top with it (even though I feel like they could if they possessed the desire) like some death metal bands, which is nice to see. Thought was clearly given to what that would do to the songs, and I appeciate that a lot.  In any given song, they careen through a constant undercurrent of rapid thrash and old-school crossover riffs, punctuated by blasting grind, and then might just break loose into a little bit of death metal based brutality. I can't say enough how much I enjoyed this band, and I will be going to any shows I am able where they are playing. I already sport their logo button on my jacket, and I am passing out stickers to whoever I can.  This deserves to be promoted hard!  I cannot wait for recorded material.

A Purple Cloud
The band I was waiting to see was Dismemberment from Ohio, and they would go on after some other local acts. I've seen this band three times, now. The first was at the infamous Taxidermy Palace in Cleveland, the second while on tour with Master and Solstice in Detroit. They're a bunch of great guys and talented musicians and they have quickly become one of my favorite acts in the underground. They play their brand of black thrash with conviction and force and with a fierceness that is not matched by many that play in this style. They remind me a little of Australian bands that play this style like Destroyer 666 or Gospel of the Horns, but with more finesse and better songwriting. They bring madness live, and it's all heads-down thrash from the moment they start to play, with fast drums, quick riffs, and endless headbanging. And, just at the right moments, an epic melodic riff or a cold blast of black metal is ushered forth to shred your face.  This is true underground metal the way it should be played, completely heavy with power and skill and confidence, and I will always make the effort to get out to see this band wherever I am.  They truly inspire the maniac in me.  Don't mind me when I yell things at you while you're on stage boys, it's just something I do.



Ending the night was the Detroit-area black metal two-piece Dark Winter. They did a great job, and play no-frills black metal clearly inspired by the Norse scene. Their drummer does all of their vocals, and that just has to be difficult, especially playing all those blasts!  The guitar tone is abrasive, and the riffs are ice cold and the song structures are intense. I am hoping to pick up recorded material at some point from them. I need to see these guys again, for sure! There's a lot of promise there, and I am sure I will have more to comment on the next time I witness their live ritual.

Dark Winter

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cemetery Lust "Screams of the Violated" 2015 Hells Headbangers Records

This is one of the best records I've heard in a long time. It's no wonder Hells Headbangers, which happens to be my favorite record label - and the only one I regularly order from - decided to pick this band up. This is filthy, ugly, heavy, thrashing death metal with some elements of German thrash and early South American blackness.  If you're at all a fan of how death metal was originally played in the early days of Possessed, Sarcofago, Death, and Repulsion, this is what you need!  From start to finish, it's a filthy ride full of repulsive subject matter and riffs that will wreck rooms. I listened to this twice straight through the first time I heard it, and that is highly unusual for me, especially while reviewing. Normally I like to give my first impressions, since that is what people normally feel the first time they hear something, and generally purchase records based on those impressions. This, though, was a different case.  I am now a full-blown Cemetery Lust fan, and I have to get their other material. And a patch. And a shirt. I can't do without it. This is the kind of death metal I love, the kind of death metal that runs shivers down my spine when I hear it, that makes me go insane in the front row at a show. There is no weakness on this record. Buy or die.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

CLASSIC DEMO SPOTLIGHT: Crucifire "Unblessed Unto Hatred" 2003 Self-released

I received this demo directly from this little-known Australian band when it was released in 2003. It has since become a staple of my collection, and I listen to it many times each year. It has just the right balance of nastiness and musical competence for me, and I got the same feeling from it that I got when I first heard bands like Grave, Samael, and Obituary when I was a kid. I remember that the hairs on my arms actually stood on end and I wanted to thrash the entire room when the second song began! The band had recorded this on an old 4-track so that their demo would bleed the old death metal spirit, and they succeeded wildly. Twelve years have passed since this came out, but the sound is timeless, and it has that special something that only Australian bands bring to the table, an extra dose of that wild old-style metal spirit that is so essential to the music I love the most.  You know of what I speak.  It's the same feeling that infuses releases like Repulsion's "Horrified" and Demolition Hammer's "Epidemic of Violence." It's wild, woolly, and untamed. It's like hearing metal for the first time again. This demo has that quality in spades, and it is one of the recordings I would select if I could only keep 20 albums for the rest of my life.

Resuscitation "Eviscerated Divinity" 2015 Iron Bonehead Productions

I wanted this to be so much better than it is, especially considering the high regard I hold for the label that released it.  I wanted to be sonically obliterated by the power of underground death metal, much like when I heard the first Crucifire (Oz) demo, or "Hell's Unholy Fire" by NunSlaughter, or "You'll Never See..." by Grave, which I first heard at the tender age of 12. Unfortunately I was very disappointed.  Although this has the right feel for my tastes, and I must mention that the cover art is awesome and reminiscent of the bands of old that I love, I found the two songs on this 7 inch to be needlessly long and the riffs to be uninspired.  The guitars just sort of wander back and forth between riffs, and I was quite bored by it all. The one thing I did like about this record was the absolutely bestial vocal performance. The vocals are evil, passionate, and forceful, and exactly what I like to hear in death metal. Unfortunately the rest of the recording on these two songs ruins the experience for me. I will be seeking out more from this band, as I see the potential for what could be an awesome band with their mix of completely nasty vocals and what should have been furious death metal. I just won't be listening to this record.  I will wait to pass any further judgment until I hear more.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Nervous Impulse "Time to Panic" 2015 Blast Head Records

Hailing from Montreal, home of other bands that I won't even mention since you should already know about them, Nervous Impulse come raging to the front with their second release, "Time to Panic." I had never read the band bio before listening to this (I do that to avoid any preconceptions I have), and after about five songs, I thought "sounds like European grind mixed with American brutal death metal." Turns out they used the same comparison in their bio. It's quite an accurate description!  What they're doing much better than a lot of bands is keeping the songs tight on the recording.  With the frenzied style they have, it's very easy for things to get lost in the mix or muddled somehow, especially with the chaotic drumming.  I love the fact that they're doing different things vocally as well.  So many bands from the two scenes mentioned are either doing ultra-guttural vocals or shrieking pig squeals, and those are boring. This mix of straight death metal and old-style grindcore vocals is perfect.  It makes the band stand out.  I also like the way I can actually hear the bass guitar most of the time.  That's unusual on a record like this - the mix is just right, especially for the rhythm section, with crisp drums to work with the bass.  I recommend this record highly if you like this style, because this band is doing things in an original way, and breaking free of the tired tropes that have become an epidemic in brutal death/grind in the last decade.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Legendary Hucklebucks "Hillbilly Death Wrock, Volume One" 2015 Brain Drain Records

One of the best-kept secrets of the Pittsburgh, PA region is The Legendary Hucklebucks. They come roaring out of the gate with a blend of old time rock and roll, punk, and metal that brings the essence these genres to the front and at the same time creates something entirely unique. They've often been pigeonholed as a rockabilly or psychobilly band, but they're so much more. This album has that dirty old punk and metal feel of the forefathers of those genres.  A few guitar riffs reminded me of Venom, a few melodies smelled of the Misfits, and a few more guitar riffs had the perfume of 1970's era Judas Priest. This, and more, all wrapped around a framework of good, old-fashioned, sleazy, swinging rock and roll. A very nice thing about this record is that each song has its own identity, and all the songs are quite well-written, with lyrics that are campy, humorous, and meaningful.  The band clearly spent time working on these, and the recording lets them shine, with a crisp acoustic drum sound, clear bass lines, just the right amount of guitar, and vocals that accentuate or soar according to the needs of the song.  Any open-minded fan of metal and punk, and any rockabilly fan should seek this band out. They are an excellent live act, and both releases from them that I have heard bring out the best in their high-octane brand of rock and roll.  

Standout Tracks: Jerkalope, One Less Drunk, Don't Feed the Rats