Monday, July 18, 2016

Steel Bearing Hand "Steel Bearing Hand" 2015 Razorback Recordings

Crawling out of the swampy graveyards of Dallas, Texas comes Steel Bearing Hand and their brand of thrashing death metal. At times, the band has riffs that remind me of NunSlaughter, Whiplash, Autopsy, Incantation, and Razor, but it all becomes a killer musical alloy after it's mixed together and enough brutality is applied, creating an excellent old-school death metal whole. The sword and sorcery lyrical bent is a welcome change from the typical Satan and gore fixation that death metal has always had. I know those topics are metal tradition at this point but sometimes a break from it is necessary. I'm eager to hear more from this band based on the strength of this album. I'm not sure how interested I am in 8 or 9 minute songs, really, but these held my interest well enough this time around. The band jumps from strength to strength in such a way that I didn't seem to notice the length of time, where usually songs that long are a huge negative for me. Overall, this is a good debut record, and I'll be interested in seeing what comes next from this Texas outfit. And as a fan of old sword and sorcery stories, keep up the good work in the lyrical department!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

VHS "Screaming Mad Gore" 2016 Splatter Zombie Records

This is such a good year for death metal. Surgikill, Embalmer, Torture Rack, Smut, and so many others have given us excellent albums, and they just keep coming. The analog-horror-obsessed VHS is one of my favorite bands going right now, and I purposely held off on this review after I found out about a tape version being released through Sulfuric Diarrhea Records (hand numbered, limited to 50, so act quickly and get ahold of the band because they're basically gone). The tape lives up to my lo-fi expectations, giving the album a dirty sound that adds another layer of filth to the tunes, at least in my garbage stereo. As far as the music itself, VHS has further refined their thrash/death/grind amalgam, and here and there throughout the record the listener will find doom and traditional heavy metal welded to this steel beast as well. The songs are short, catchy, well-written, and vicious. Everything is tight, well-performed, and audible, but not over produced and robotic like so many death metal albums today. It has an old-school sounding production job, and I prefer this. My personal favorites are "Room 36," "When Sleeping Bag Meets Tree," "There Shall Be Nights of Terror," "Island of Death," and "Carnivorous Lunar Activities." As if a full-length from VHS wasn't enough to get your gore glands pulsating, there are some guest appearances here that will titillate and thrill as well, including the likes of Kam Lee and Stevo lending vocal flourishes to the tracks "Hairspray and Bloodspray" and "Island of Death," respectively. How's that for pedigree? I'm warning you, death metal scene, pay attention to VHS. They're one of the best out there right now doing horror-influenced metal, and for the old-school freaks like me, they're a welcome noise in a polluted scene. 

Atrocious Abnormality "Formed in Disgust" 2016 Comatose Music

Atrocious Abnormality have returned after most of a decade to bring us their second album, which is in every possible way an improvement on their previous material. I remember being very bored by their first record (so much so that I almost didn't listen to this) but I was not bored during this one. This is brutal death metal of very high quality, played in the style that Comatose Records is known for signing, complete with harmonic squeals from the guitars, relentless blasts, and the rest of the trappings commonplace in the genre. There are no pig squeals, thankfully, just very deep gutturals (which are extremely impressive, as someone who is familiar with how these sounds are made by the human throat), blasting drums that are set to automatic fire, and rhythmic guitar work that rounds out the sound with excellent tone. The bass, when audible, is very busy, and there's a ton of talent across the range of instruments. This material is on the level with bands like Gorgasm, Fleshgrind, or other masters of this style, and that's a huge compliment coming from me, since I am extremely selective when it comes to brutal death metal. So much of it is so similar that when a band sticks out I take notice. This isn't a nuclear bomb that will upset the brutal death metal ecosystem, but it's definitely a sledgehammer to the face that proves this style can still be done with class and conviction. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Surgikill "Sanguinary Revelations" 2016 FDA Rekotz

Hot on the heels of a well-received promo tape that was belched forth from the deepest of graves late last year, Surgikill has returned with a monolithic record, Sanguinary Revelations. It descended on my eardrums via the CD from FDA Rekotz, and soon to come, the vinyl from Hells Headbangers. The crew split heads once again here, delivering original-sounding death metal that drips with horror movie influence of the best kind. The guitar sound is vicious and heavy. The multi-vocal assault is well-planned yet still chaotic, and it fits the mood perfectly. This feels like a whole record by the time the listener is finished with the last track - it begins well and ends well, and the stuff in the middle is far from boring. It feels almost like a complete story, and is a very satisfying and mature-sounding album. This one shambles right up next to Embalmer and Torture Rack as a contender for best death metal album I've heard in the last year. There are zero weaknesses here. I will not waste your time talking about this record any more, dear reader. If you call yourself a death metal fan and don't get this release, you might as well pack your shit and quit death metal altogether, because you've lost touch with what made this music great.

Smut "Slop" 2016 Splatter Zombie Records

Starting with a suitably gross sample of gurgles, grunts and grossness, Smut kicks things into high gear and never lets up for the duration of the 13 tracks that makes up Slop. It oozes and churns as much as it blasts and thrashes, making for a listen that is both energetic and disgusting. Imagine the thug from Robocop that gets covered in toxic waste trying to head bang. Bits and pieces would be flying off in furious chunks, enjoying your demise while being covered in a overwhelming avalanche of your own slop!

Pinpointing the bands sound is a bit tough. It's raucous and energetic and merges punk, grindcore, death metal and even the early days of black metal into a dizzying concoction. The guitar riffs are razor sharp, punctuated by a very harsh and distinct guitar tone. It reminds me of vintage Swedish death metal mixed with early Norwegian black metal. Your ears almost don't know how to handle it at first but it definitely adds to the power of the band and gives the riffing a unique feel for sure.

The songs are usually between a minute and a half to two minutes with only four tracks breaking the two minute mark. That said, these aren't simple songs. They cover a lot of ground within the short time frames. It all moves very quickly while remaining memorable and suitably extreme. Vocally the band pretty much sticks to a cavernous death growl that suits the music perfectly. They have an almost blown out speaker quality to them that only reinforces the noisier side of the band.It really is a sonic whirlwind and I can't get enough of it. The drumming is also top notch and definitely in the style that I prefer. Nothing fancy or self serving, just a high energy and powerful drum performance. It matches the riffs perfectly and never misses a step.

It's unfortunate that this CD is finding a release after the band has already called it a day. That said, it shouldn't stop anyone from checking out this album. It's high energy, extremely raw and rotten to the core. It has an addictive quality, the more I listen the more I want to keep listening. With each new listen, you'll hear a few new things in the riffing or maybe a short lead that was a bit more buried in the mix, or a drum flurry. For fans of extreme music, Slop should be considered an essential purchase. -Mike Hochins