Friday, February 26, 2016

Gravewurm "Doomed to Eternity" 2015 Hells Headbangers Records

What can I really say about Gravewurm that hasn't been said already? They're one of the longest-running black/death metal bands in the United States, and my home state of Ohio is proud to claim them for its own. I began my history with this band around 2002, when the Dark Souls of Hell record came out on Barbarian Wrath. So, yes, I've paid attention to them for a long time. I've become a fan over time, and I really admire that this band sticks to their guns artistically, and has not changed drastically. This album is what you would expect from Gravewurm, a heavy, plodding, occasionally thrashing piece of black/death metal the way it used to be played. It has more in common with Hellhammer and very early Sodom than it does with many bands calling themselves black metal or death metal today. This is the best record of their career, plain and simple, although the last few have been rather welcome in my playlist also. The thing that makes this album extra special for me is that it is one of the last things drummer Jim Konya recorded before he died. It was actually hard to listen to, knowing I'll not hear that signature drumming style of his again on anything new. I can only imagine how hard it is for his bandmates to deal with, knowing how much time people in bands spend around each other. I've done it. All I know is that shows in Cleveland aren't going to be the same. At least we have the great albums he has played on, including this one, because it is one of Gravewurm's best and one of Jim's best. I'm glad to have heard it and it is definitely one of the best this year so far.

Punching Moses "Humanity Pandemic" 2015 Seeing Red Records

The Cleveland metal and hardcore scene is always belching forth amazing bands, and I never miss my chance to hear a new release from any band from the area. When I received this promo, I was elated, since I had heard this band's work previously on the split 7" they did with Schnauzer. I got more of exactly what I expected - blown-out, high-energy, metal-fueled hardcore punk. This EP is short but sweet, and amidst the Discharge-esque beats and a few Motorhead-inspired riffs you will find blast beats and thrash. The hype sheet that came along with this describes their sound as "gutter thrash," and I dare say that is a very adequate description. This is highly recommended if you enjoy the bigger hardcore bands that Cleveland has produced like Integrity or Ringworm. It isn't necessarily comparable to either band, but the same spirit is there, the genre-bending who-cares attitude that takes all the collective influences of each band member and churns it through a loud-ass blender, achieving a cohesive whole. I've never caught this band live, but I'm willing to bet they're a real audience-wrecker. Track this down and pick it up!

Punching Moses

Friday, February 19, 2016

Bloodstrike "In Death We Rot" 2015 Redefining Darkness Records

When I saw the cover to this record, I knew I had to listen to it. Once in a while, I definitely judge a book by its cover, and in this case, I was very pleasantly rewarded. What looked like a killer old school death metal record turned out to be exactly that. This is heavy and mid-paced for the most part, and they are masters of the pay-off riff. What I mean by the "pay-off riff" is this - think about those moments on your favorite Grave record when the riff becomes simple and crushing and paced just correctly to wreck your neck for a week. This album is packed full of those! This is chunky, heavy, bulldozer death metal that will remind the listener of early Grave, mid-period Bolt Thrower, and Asphyx. There is not a single throwaway track here, and the cover of "Soulless" by Grave at the end of the record is very welcome. They nailed it. This is a real gem, and it will be getting heavy rotation from me. I hope I get the chance to check them out live sometime, but alas, they are from Denver and I spend my time in Ohio and Michigan. Perhaps they'll play out here sometime, though. A bonus: I was surprised to note that Rhiannon Wisniewski was in this band on bass duties. She played in the Cleveland-area band Somnus, and for those of you that remember, Somnus was one of the best melodic black metal bands around. I caught them live years ago at a live show with the mighty Spawn of Satan, Soulless, and NunSlaughter in Parma, OH. It was great to hear another record she played on, because I've often wondered what happened to the different members of that band (with the exception of Steve Rolf since I knew he landed in Blood Coven, where he is a welcome addition).

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Vomit Stain "Human Collection in the Theater of Carnage" 2015 Self-released

I discovered Vomit Stain through Mike of VHS, who made me hip to their existence, and fortunately I snagged the last physical copy of the CD! Unless they've pressed more, that is. I was immediately impressed by them, because although they bill themselves as "gore thrash," to me they sound a little like early Floridian death metal, without some of the more intense speed of that scene. The only problem I had with the recording is that perhaps the vocals are mixed too high. They tend to overpower things, which is ok in some cases, but here I think the guitars need to dictate the sound. Other than that, I thought the vocal performance excelled both in power and understandability. The singer has very good diction for death metal vocals, and having done my fair share of them, I know how hard that is to accomplish. Stylistically it's a decent mix of strong highs and powerful lows. The rest of the band is also quite capable and they've turned out a tight performance, but with a nice human quality to it. It's not the over-triggered and heavily-edited glossy crap that mainstream "death metal" likes to feed to us. No, this is thoroughly underground stuff, and I love it. The songs are well-written, and there are plenty of hooks and memorable riffs, with solid drum work. I look forward to more from this band, and to watch them grow. Fans of Razorback bands should take note, because there are some similarities to members of that roster (and this is a great thing!) in Vomit Stain's music and the horror-fueled nature of the subject matter. This is worth the effort to find, and a simple trip to Bandcamp is all that is necessary.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Embalmer "Emanations from the Crypt" 2016 Hells Headbangers Records

It's been quite a while since we had a full length offering from Cleveland's death metal powerhouse Embalmer. To quote lead singer Paul Gorefiend, "We went back to the basics and drew influence from the original Into the Oven and There Was Blood Everywhere eras musically, peppered in some extra Terrorizer/Autopsy influences, added some crazed Deranged Rated-X-style riffing over the top, and backed it all against the blasting, non-triggered drum assault Roy has become known for." Well, they definitely pulled it off, and this album is incredibly strong from start to finish, with no weak material whatsoever. Opener "Dead Female Stalker" sets the tone here, and it crushes all in its path. This is a bulldozer of an album and it seethes with destructive personality, having the same unpredictable manic energy as most of the old school death metal that I love so much. It's such an honest record, and it's so clear that fans of this style of music made it. It has everything I want in a death metal record and everything hearkens back to the early days of the band, reminding me a lot of the material on There Was Blood Everywhere, which is a personal favorite of mine. This incarnation of the band is clearly musically skilled as well, but they keep things real, not resorting to the false tricks of the slick, glossy, popular bands of today that only claim to play death metal. Everything here is gore-fueled, nasty, filthy, violent, and carefully controlled at the same time. It's going to appeal to old school death metal fans, as well as devotees of brutal death metal, and fans of black/death along the lines of Blasphemy or Black Witchery. I cannot stress enough that this is a return to form, and a welcome one. I never cared very much for 13 Faces of Death and I am glad the band decided to go in this direction. I will be playing this one again and again and again, and it will hold an exalted position in my collection. It's times like this, when I hear an album this good that comes out of the Cleveland scene, that I feel lucky to be involved.