Sunday, July 31, 2011

Witching Hour - Past Midnight... Review

Witching Hour are a 4 piece Black/Thrash band who hail from a land that is no stranger to great thrash, Germany. Their newest album, Past Midnight... is a blast from the past that will make you think you're listening to an album straight from the 80's. Once the opening title track kicks in, you can immediately here the Venom and Sodom influences. The sound is extremely old-school as are the riffs and melodies to be found here. 

The best attribute of this record are definitely the guitar tracks. There's nothing special about the riffs really but they get your headbanging and your fists pumping. The melodies and harmonies found here sound like they could have been on an Iron Maiden track from their self-titled record. The opening instrumental track, "Past Midnight..." is a perfect example of what to expect from the rest of the record. The vocals here also add to the overall sound very well, by further stretching that dirty, old school feel. 

There aren't any problems with this record but there certainly isn't anything that makes this record a stand-out or masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it is definitely a great and fun listen that will get your headbanging. So if you're looking for innovation or amazing technicality, you had better just leave this record alone, but if you're in the mood for some old-school Heavy Metal worshipping at it's finest, then you had better take a listen. The best tracks here are "Under Evil Spells" and "Black Countess."

Be sure to check Witching Hour out on Facebook and like their page to stay updated!

Final Rating - 4.1/5 or 82%.

Interview with Infernal Death (Official Death Tribute Band)

Infernal Death is the only official "Scream Bloody Gore" Era tribute band around, and I was fortunate enough to interview the Charlie Taylor (The drummer). Here's what he had to say. 

SFM - How exactly did this band come about? 

Charlie - Mike Lare and I decided that we were going to put together a band in honor of the groundbreaking DEATH album Scream Bloody Gore and we decided on learning all 10 songs as well as the bonus tracks  "Beyond the Unholy Grave" and "Land of No Return."

SFM - That's awesome, and "Beyond the Unholy Grave" is probably my favorite Death song off of that album. Was your original plan to be a Death cover band and how did you become an OFFICIAL Death cover band? 

Charlie- Yes our original plan was to be a Scream Bloody Gore tribute band.. Let me make something clear... We are a tribute band not a cover band..Cover bands do a bunch of random songs ...We, as a tribute, do the entire Scream Bloody Gore era which includes pre album demo tracks all the way through the Leprosy album. That was a magical time period in the metal underground. And to answer the final part of that question, I wanted to make sure that we got in touch with chuck's family and lawyer to solidify with all of them that we were good people with good intent and that we were in no way trying to cash in on other peoples' legacy.. We don't play that music to make a buck, we play it to take people back to the place they were standing when they first heard the first DEATH record and we play for the people that have seen DEATH and those who are way too young to ever see them.

SFM - Well it's great that you guys are doing your best to keep the music alive. How long have you guys been doing this?

Charlie - INFERNAL DEATH have been around  since January 6, 2008.

SFM - What are some of your favorite bands besides Death

Charlie- I think the four of us collectively enjoy a huge range of metal and underground music. I myself love bands like CIRITH UNGOL, RAZOR, MOURNFUL CONGREGATION, and POSSESSED.

SFM - Those are some great bands right there. Now are you a fan of any newer bands today and if so who would they be? 

Charlie- I am a huge fan of DEADSEA from Columbus, Ohio..and ARTILLERY BREATH, also from Columbus , and OATH OF INSANITY from Connecticut.

SFM - I've never heard of those bands, I'll have to look into them. Do you have any plans to tour at all?

Charlie - We really don't tour. We play long weekend shows and I think the longest we would ever really consider doing is like 1 week maximum.

SFM - What is your favorite Death album? Song? Song to play live?

Charlie - I think as far as the whole band is concerned our favorite DEATH album is without a doubt Scream Bloody Gore although Chuck could not put out any DEATH album that was a bad album. They are all great albums for their time period! As far as my favorite song and my favorite song to play live  I would have to say "Mutilation" and "Open Casket" would be favorites.. My favorite song to play live is "Zombie Ritual".

SFM - "Zombie Ritual" is indeed an amazing song. Do you play in any other bands?

Charlie - I used to be in an 80's thrash band called LETHAL AGGRESSION, Mike is the bassplayer for the touring juggernaut from cleveland RINGWORM, Wes is in another band that sounds similar to TESTAMENT called SHRINE OF SUFFERING. Shrine does an amazingly bad ass cover of SAVATAGE  "Hall of the Mountain King."

SFM - Well thank you for your time, Do you have any words for your fans? 

Charlie - Yes, thank you to any and all fans of Chuck Schuldiner's music. Let's keep the magic and the music from the first 2 DEATH records and all subsequent DEATH records alive! Keep on coming out to our shows and keeping Chuck's memory alive and screaming! For the record..nobody will ever get to see chuck and DEATH again.... we will never replace the man , but we can sure do our best to give everyone that comes to see INFERNAL DEATH the most true to life experience of witnessing the classic music being performed as a whole by  an officially authorized tribute.. Thanks for your time ..By the way we have 2 videos that are on our facebook page, check them out! Hit us up on facebook if you are interested in booking us... stay sick!

There you have it folks, be sure to check out Infernal Death on Facebook and like their page to see if they'll hit your town!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Top 10 NWOTM Albums Revised...

For those of you have read this blog in the past and stayed up to date, then you'll know that I did a rundown of my 10 favorite NWOTM albums a couple months ago. However I've recently pondered the subject again and there was some revising that needed to be done. On my new list I've added a few albums, moved around some old ones, and a few have been removed (Hazardous Mutation, State of Insurgency, World Gone Dead, and Ritual Sacrifice). Anyway let's run these down shall we?

#10. Vektor - Black Future
Despite this album dropping 2 spots since the last list, I actually like this album more now than I did then. It's one of the most original works in the NWOTM, but that's not what makes the album itself great. The music is extremely captivating and almost takes the listener somewhere else with it's brilliance. There is plenty of variety on the album for the listener to be happy, but all of the songs retain a signature sound that screams, "We are Vektor!" The best songs to be found here are definitely "Black Future" and the epic "Accelerating Universe."

#9. Insinnerator - Stalagmite of Ice
Coming in at #9 is Insinnerator's Stalagmite of Ice. If you've read the blog recently, you may have read my review of this album, and you'll know I'm quite fond of it. This album is just a marathon of riffs that will leave you wanting more... No it will leave you begging for more. Everything on this album is great from top to bottom. The best songs here are "Rites of Execution" and "Children of the Cult."

#8. Violator - Chemical Assault
Coming in at #8 is Violator's Chemical Assault. This album just like Black Future has fallen down in the list, but it still remains an excellent record. This album is pure old school thrash done right. There is absolutely nothing revolutionary or new here, yet Violator doesn't come off as some generic retro band, but as a band that will leave your neck sore from the headbanging that will ensue when you listen to this album. The best songs here are definitely "Atomic Nightmare" and "Addicted to Mosh."

#7. Warbringer - War Without End
The first album from my old list that moved up, and that is Warbringer's debut, War Without End. This album has grown on me more and more since the last list. The best part about this album is the sheer intensity that you can feel from every song. The songs aren't only intense but plenty catchy and near impossible to sing along with. The best tracks here are "Shoot to Kill" and "Combat Shock."

#6. Guillotine - Blood Money
Coming in at #6 we have Guillotine's Blood Money. I had not heard this album when I made the original list but had heard the buzz about it. The best parts about this record are definitely the way that the riffs, vocals and melodies all come together perfectly. The riffs are very solid, the melodies mixed with the riffs go brilliantly, and the "Schmier-like" vocals that command it all make for a GREAT sound. The best tracks here are "My Insanity" and "Dying World."

#5. Hypnosia - Extreme Hatred
This album was left off of the first list due to me not remembering that this album came out around the same time as Dekapitator's first record, but that itself is a testament to this record's greatness. When other bands at the time were playing Alternative/Groove, Hypnosia was doing the complete opposite and releasing what could have easily been an album that could have been confused for a Kreator album from the 80's. This album is extremely intense and is guaranteed to rip your face off. The best tracks here are "Extreme Hatred" and "Circle of the Flesh."

#4. Dekapitator - We Will Destroy... You Will Obey
This album dropped one spot since the last list, but nothing has changed with this record. Dekapitator managed to release an album that nobody would have thought came from the late 90's. Everything about this album crushes, from the riffs to the solos to the vocals and everything in between. The best tracks here are "Possessed by Damnation" and "One Shot, One Kill."

#3. Toxic Holocaust - Conjure and Command
Coming in at #3 is an album that was just recently released, but I have not been able to leave it alone. I always find myself coming back to it and I'm never disappointed with the results. This album may be one of the newest around, but it has a very old school and evil feeling to it, that is reminiscent of Sodom's In the Sign of Evil. The best tracks here are "Agony of the Damned" and "Bitch."

#2. Havok - Time is Up
Havok's Time is Up managed to retain it's #2 spot and it is certainly a spot well-earned. This album hasn't lost any of it's flare since I first listened to it... I would say it might be better than I remember it being. There isn't much I can say about this record, it's just something that you have to hear. The best songs here are "No Amnesty" and "The Cleric."

And coming in at #1.......

#1. Warbringer - Waking Into Nightmares
Warbringer's modern masterpiece Waking Into Nightmares. This album, just like Time is Up, hasn't lost any of it's greatness. This album stands in a different league than any thrash album since Demolition Hammer's Epidemic of Violence. The best tracks here are "Shadow From the Tomb" and "Prey for Death."

There you have it, these are my current top 10, but there are still plenty of albums coming this year that could rival any of these and usurp their spot. Warbringer, Vektor, Skeletonwitch, Evile, Invection, and Lich King are the most likely contenders, but there could always be a surprise. Feel free to tell me what I left out or what you would have done.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hemotoxin - Biohazard Demo Review

Hemotoxin are a 3 piece band from Clayton CA, who play their own brand of Progressive Death/Thrash. If I had to describe the sound of the music on this 3 song (plus a Death and Sepultura cover) demo, I would say it sounds like Symbolic-era Death meets Exodus meets Immolation. The riffs themselves sound very influenced by Gary Holt, while the melodies and lead work sound like they would fit in perfectly on Death's later material. Both of these sounds create the Hemotoxin sound while the vocals (similar to Immolation) front the charge.

The best parts about Hemotoxin's music would have to be the lead work and the progressive elements that are found in the songs. Even on the more straightforward thrash riffs, it's present. The riffs aren't your typical E-string chugging but they feature plenty of variety. The lead work here is great and it shows in the solos that are found in the songs, especially on the track "Biohazard."

However Hemotoxin's best attribute also is the only thing that's really holding them back. The musicianship is great, there's no doubt about it, but the band's quest for originality and complexity also causes them to lose sight at points. At points in the song it seems like everything is focused on building up to the solo part or other lead work that the band forgets that they need to have their songs go somewhere rather than just peaking at the solo. 

Hemotoxin's music is not bad at all, but it can certainly be better. This is only their first demo though, and they have plenty of room to grow into a better band, which I have full faith they can. 

Be sure to check out Hemotoxin on Facebook and like their page!

Final Rating - 4/5 or 80%.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Scythe - The Seventh Day Review

Scythe are a 4 piece Thrash band from Los Angeles, California and these guys aren't to be taken lightly. Their EP, The Seventh Day, is the main reason I make that statement. In the year 2011 there are so many thrash bands out, that it's almost impossible to stand out from the rest of the crowd, because the bands are either to generic or they're simply not good. Scythe tends to bridge that gap on this EP, as they aren't exactly a very unique sounding band, but they are plenty good at what they do, and what they do, is thrash extremely well.

The best part about this EP is definitely the riffs. I would describe the riffs as a good mixture of Sadus and Exodus. They're fast and show glimpses of technicality that remind the listener of Sadus on Illusions, but they also retain that straightforward, relentless thrashing sound of Exodus on Bonded By Blood. The track "Fantasy in the Dark" features some clean guitar parts as well, giving the song a darker, more epic feeling while the other three tracks on the EP showcase Scythe's ability to write catchy and aggressive material, which is a skill that many new bands fail to achieve. 

The other instruments do their job very nicely as well. "The Virus" opens with a nice bass line for the intro and then the song fires off into a brilliant thrasher of a tune. The drums here aren't exactly something that stand out but they do their job and help Scythe achieve their heavy sound. The vocals on here sound like a mixture of Don Doty and Chuck Billy. They're aggressive and harsh and they suit the music very nicely. 

The Seventh Day is Scythe's shining moment thus far, but I have a feeling that their next outing can be something special if they continue to do what they know how to do best. If you've never heard Scythe before I highly recommend that you give them a listen, and if you can only listen to one song, then it should be the title track, "The Seventh Day."

Be sure to check out Scythe on Facebook and like their page to stay updated with what's happening in the band!

Final Rating - 4.4/5 or 88%.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tantara Interview!

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing one of my favorite new Thrash bands, that band being Tantara. Tantara are a 4 piece band from Norway who play some ripping Thrash in the vein of the masters from the Bay Area. If you haven't heard them, I HIGHLY recommend you head on over to their Facebook (Link at the bottom) and check them out. 

SFM - As far as I know, you guys are going to be heading into the studio to record the debut full-length album. Can you give any information about it? Title? Themes? Release?

Tantara - We're actually done recording our debut album in Copenhagen with Flemming Rasmussen! We're not sure about the album title yet, but we're onto something! The album is a concept album, and the theme is the world we live in, with other words; a political/critical theme. The whole album works as a story from the start to the end, and all the songs follows a "red thread". All the songs have a meaning, and are not like; Kill, kill, blood, shit, cunt, death, kill, kill (you'll get the idea) all over the place with no meaning! We're really looking forward to release this shit as fast as possible, hopefully on a label we're in contact with! Within the year of 2011, the album will be blasting speakers all over the globe!

SFM - That sounds great and I know that I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the new album. You're going to be working with Flemming Rasmussen, the producer who worked with Metallica on the legendary Master of Puppets. How did this come about and how excited are you to be working with him?

Tantara - Getting in touch with Flemming was actually pretty easy. Fredrik just sent him a mail with our songs and asked if he was interested in making an album with us, and yes, he was! He later said that he barely did metal bands these days, so we feel privileged that he wanted to do us! (Not the nasty way, haha). Well, working with him has been an awesome experience. After 5 minutes with him, you forget that he is "The legendary producer of Metallica", he's a totally down to earth guy, and he's totally awesome! We had a really good connection, and he was like a brother/friend under the whole recording session. There was never a boring moment, always a joke about something, or some funny stories about Bruce Dickinson! (Haha, well, let's NOT talk about those stories). All in all, an awesome experience, and it was very sad leaving him and Copenhagen, but we're looking forward to hopefully do our next album with him really soon into the future!

SFM - You guys are definitely lucky to have been able to work with that man and hopefully is shows on the record. Now, do you have any tours planned out in support of this album?

Tantara - As far as we now, we're planning a little tour in Scandinavia with another thrash band. It's only on the planning stage, but we will hopefully get it going! This tour is planned to take place in October this year some time, but we'll see! If we get a good label as well, we will hopefully tour our asses off even more to support this album! We're really excited.

SFM - Hopefully you guys can make it down to the States and most importantly Los Angeles! Who are the biggest influences for the band when it comes to writing material for Tantara?

Tantara - Our main influences, well, that's a lot! But the BIGGEST, must definitely would be HEATHEN. Such an awesome band. Also, we're influenced by bands like Testament, Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth, and of course a bit Metallica - They started the whole shit, it's almost impossible to not get inspired by them. OH WAIT, and of course; EXODUS!!

SFM - I can definitely hear the Exodus influence in your guys' music. Speaking of the music, what is your favorite Tantara song to play live?

Tantara - Favourite song.. That's a hard one.. Probably a song who's not FUCKING hard to play live maybe? Haha, well. that's a very difficult question. We love to play all our songs actually, or else we wouldn't play them at all! But if it had to be one song, it must be a song we know will kick the audience's asses. Maybe Human Mutation or Negligible Souls?

SFM - Well being a newer band yourself, who would you say are your favorite newer bands?

Tantara - Favourite newer bands, that's a hard one too! We're not really into newer bands, we're simply not so fond of it (ironic, huh?). But if we had to choose one, it'll be Vektor.

SFM - That is a great choice, as I'm a big fan of Vektor as well. Now to the older bands, if you could open for any band who would it be and why?

Tantara -  If we could open for ANY band, it would've been maybe Exodus, or maybe Slayer! Then you know you're playing for true Thrash Metal fans, and that's what we want to! Or, if you say ANY band, that must be Metallica, opening for around 20-100 k fans would've given us A LOT of publicity, haha!

SFM - Well thank you very much for your time. Do you have any words for your fans?

Tantara - We will thank all our fans for supporting us and spreading the word about us! Without them, we probably wouldn't grow this fast as a band as we have! Starting in the second half of 2009, performing for our first time in 2010, recording a EP at a local studio for 3 days the same year, and one year later record an album with mighty Flemming Rasmussen is just great! Thank you all, and hopefully we'll see you on tour not too far in the future!

Be sure to check out Tantara on their Facebook page and like it to stay updated!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Insinnerator - Stalagmite of Ice Review... Other NWOTM Bands Beware.

Just a little background for those of you who may not know who Insinnerator is, they are a 3 piece Thrash band from Dallas Texas, and all I can say is that they will have your headbanging and your neck sore. I had been a fan of Insinnerator after hearing their Rites of Execution demo, but I did not expect for the full-length to sound the way it did. This new record completely exceeded my expectations and I couldn't be happier.

The best part about this album is easily the RIFFS. This album is absolutely loaded with catchy and headbang-able riffs. The best way to describe them would probably be a cross between Megadeth, Slayer and Exodus. They are catchy and technical like Megadeth but also a lot more aggressive and heavy like Slayer or Exodus. Songs like "Evil Spirit From Beyond" and "Children of the Cult" are perfect examples of this. The vocals here range quite a bit. For the most part they are a bit on the cleaner side, like you would expect from a speed metal band but they also reach really high pitched screams that hail back to Tom Araya on Show No Mercy. The song "Rites of Execution" features a more aggressive side of vocalist "Brutal" Ben and he does it very well without sounding out of place or like he's trying too hard. The drumming is great and suits the music perfectly, from speeding up the tempo or creating a heavier atmosphere at the break of a song. The song "Face the Insinnerator" even features some blast beats giving the song a crossover/punk kind of feel. 

I have no complaints at all about this album. Insinnerator proved that they deserve to be at the top of the NWOTM. They've established their own sound and have worked extremely hard to build the fanbase that they have without being signed to a label. Stalagmite of Ice has easily found itself a spot in my T10 NWOTM albums and hopefully their next album can top it. 

Be sure to check out Insinnerator on Facebook and like their page to stay updated with everything happening in the band!

Final Rating - 4.5/5 or 90%.

Cannabis Corpse - Beneath Grow Lights Thou Shalt Rise

Cannabis Corpse has returned with a new full length album, Beneath Grow Lights Thou Shalt Rise, only this time they've decided to make Morbid Angel and Deicide the subjects of their parodies. With song titles like "Chapel of Bowls" and "Slaves to the Chron" they may seem like a silly parody band that turns well known Death Metal classics into songs about weed, but that couldn't be further from the truth. They do indeed change the titles and lyrical content but the music itself is great. The obvious influence of Cannibal Corpse is there but they manage to retain their own sound as well as create some awesome music guaranteed to make your headbang.

One thing that I immediately noticed is the technicality of the songs. The songs are technically sound but still very aggressive and catchy. The songs aren't all just brutal and heavy, but are rather varied from thrashy riffs to heavy Death Metal style riffs to dark melodies that are reminiscent of the Swedish Death Metal masters. The drums are really well done, as they fit the music greatly. Not abusing the blast beat here was a plus and keeps a very tight and concise sound throughout the album. Phil "Landphil" Hall also shows off his bass skills with some very cool bass lines as well as some great bass fills. The lead playing is also one of the highlights here, whether it be the solos or the melodies that are found on just about every track. But the best part about the album would have to be the riffs. The riffs alone are great but also the structuring of the riffs, as they are placed perfectly throughout the song to keep your headbanging. Overall, all of the instruments do their jobs and they do them extremely well. 

There aren't any complaints that I can really make about this album. I thoroughly enjoyed it and find it to be one of the best releases of 2011. The only thing that worries me, are the people who won't give Cannabis Corpse a chance because they appear to be a goofy band that just wants to write music about getting high and parody the Greats. Cannabis Corpse is more than capable of standing out in today's metal scene with their brand of Death Metal but if people don't give them a chance based on their "image" then they have no idea what amazing stuff they're missing out on. If I had to name the best tracks I would say that they are "Lunatics of Pot's Creation" and "Sworn to the Bag." There isn't a single bad track here but I will say that my least favorite was probably "Dead by Bong." 

Be sure to check out Cannabis Corpse on Facebook and like their page to stay updated with everything happening in/with the band!

Final Rating - 4.5/5 or 90%. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fog of War Interview

Hello all... I was fortunate enough to conduct an interview with Fog of War frontman Josh "Mosh" Branum. In the interview he talks about the new album, experimenting with a 3rd lead guitarist, influences and everything else Fog of War. I hope you all enjoy, and be sure to like Fog of War on Facebook to stay updated with their progress. 

SFM - Let's just start with the basics for the readers who may not know you. How would you describe your sound? Where are you from? How many releases do you have out?

Josh - To me, Fog of War has always seemed to bridge the gap between some of the more technical aspects of thrash with the energy and attitude of crossover and hardcore punk, with more bits of technicality and melody gained with each new song. The entire band is from Benicia, California, a little slice of nowhere sandwiched between larger cities in the greater SF Bay Area. We currently have 3 official releases (demo, full length, EP) and one unofficial demo from '05 that was passed around on blank CD-Rs in town. Our self titled full length was recently re-released with bonus tracks, new artwork, new photos and a lyric sheet on Stormspell Records.

SFM - Well that's quite a bit that you guys have accomplished in such a short time. Now as far as I know you have a new album that you're working on. How has that been coming along? Have you guys changed/enhanced your sound at all since your previous full-length?

Josh - The new album has been coming along great! We've recently hit a hot streak in terms of writing! Our writing approach is very methodical, and being a bunch of perfectionists, tends to take forever, but lately it's been moving along pretty quickly! Our sound has definitely morphed quite a bit since the last release, we've shed most of the punkier aspects of our music and moved towards a much more refined power/thrash sound. We're not exactly writing about wizards and dragons (yet, haha), but the often-traveled lyrical themes such as partying, thrashing, and poser bashing are long, long gone. The tracks on this new record aren't just songs, they all tell stories or are written to provoke thought.

SFM - It's great to hear that you're on the right path with the new record as well as finding your own genuine sound. You also have added a third guitarist to the group making you one of the only (in not the only) newer thrash band with 3. Has this given you more room for experimentation in lead playing or riff writing?

Josh - We're having way, way too much fun with the 3rd guitar. When we decided to try it, I knew it was either going to work out amazingly, or be a total train wreck, luckily for us, it ended up being the smartest move we've ever made. Since the other two guitarists are both veteran members of the band who played with us at different times, the bond the band's always had just became stronger. We have so much room to add massive amounts of ambiance and melody to our songs, that they all sound very "big" and full, and we're also able to achieve CD quality live performances now, with the ability to back up harmonies with a rhythm guitar or add little bits that weren't possible with just two guitars. It's also led to more experimentation in the harmony department, we can now attain some of the most powerful sounding harmonies I've ever heard.

SFM - I am definitely looking forward to hearing how the new material will be coming along. Speaking of your material, who would you say are your biggest influences when it comes to writing for Fog of War?

Josh - We're heavily influenced by all the thrash greats, Vio-Lence, Forbidden, Artillery, Holy Terror, Evildead, Intruder etc, as well as a ton of heavy and power metal acts like Blind Guardian, Helloween, Raven, Iron Maiden, Saxon, all the classics! Some of the guys really draw influence from progressive bands like Rush and Three as well, the mixture of influences keeps things really interesting. I'd even say blues and jazz to some extent as well, we jam a lot of bluesy stuff when we're goofing around at practice. We're also going to be taking a stab at writing a little jazz piece for the new record as well, we don't really like being boxed in to one specific genre. That's when things get boring.

SFM - Do you have any plans to tour at all once the new record is released?

Josh - We hope to do a west coast tour to support the record to start with, after that, who knows? We'd love to make it over to the east coast though, we've had a ton of support from the thrashers there!

SFM - Well I'd love to see you guys here down in LA. Are you a fan of any of the newer thrash bands around? If so, who would be some of your favorites?

Josh - Definitely Hatchet, Razormaze, Hexen, Funerot, Exmortus, Witchaven, Deathstryke and Vektor, just to name a few. There's a ton of talent going around these days, and most bands really take pride in being excellent musicians, which is awesome. It's really cool to watch a band progress with each new release. A lot of it definitely has its own sound too, not too many new groups just blatantly worship the old-school bands as much as you might expect, save for a few that do it intentionally.

SFM - Speaking of the newer bands, is there any kind of metal scene in Benicia or do you have to travel to the Bay Area for gigs?

Josh - None whatsoever! Back in our early days we would do house shows or play coffee shops, we even played in a National Guard armory once, that was pretty cool, but most of the shows in Benicia usually ended with cops showing up and threatening to arrest us for inciting a riot, apparently most cops have never seen a circle pit haha! So we pretty much understood we needed to get out there, and fast. We usually find ourselves in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, and lots more. Being a band with members that have full time jobs has its advantages and disadvantages, we're not dumpster diving behind Guitar Center for strings, which is great, but it's hard for us to get out of the bay area sometimes, which sucks. Responsibility and a career in music make for strange bedfellows haha!

SFM - Hopefully you'll find the time to make it down to Los Angeles and keep up the great work that you have all accomplished thus far. What would you say is your proudest moment or biggest achievement while playing with Fog of War?

Josh - Most definitely the first time we noticed people in the audience singing along, and this was back when we only had a demo out, so we were pretty shocked that anyone would take the time to get to know the songs that well, definitely an awesome feeling. Also putting out our first album independently was pretty rad too, to see years of hard work finally culminate, and even more, to see that people really liked it! The reviews and feedback we've gotten have all been great, and we are truly honored.

SFM - I'd like to thank you for your time and letting me interview you. Do you have any words for your fans?

Josh - Without you guys, there's nothing!!! Keep doing what you're doing, and never lose faith in metal! Thanks for all your support, and we guarantee our new album will exceed all expectation! Prepare for an album for the ages!!!

Be sure to check out Fog of War on Facebook and like their page!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Toxic Holocaust - Conjure and Command Review

Toxic Holocaust is THE biggest name in the NWOTM and they have now released their 4th studio album, entitled Conjure and Command via Relapse Records. I'm going to be honest here and say that I didn't understand all of the hype about Toxic Holocaust based on their first 3 albums. I never found any of them to be overly exceptional, but my perception of the band changed when I heard the first single released from Conjure and Command. That track was "Nowhere to Run." This song was fast, catchy and aggressive which is always a formula for success in thrash. Then came the next track, "Bitch." After that familiar drum beat went away and the rest of the song came along I was hooked and immediately Conjure and Command became a must buy album for me. 

Joel Grind and company delivered an amazing album this time around with a good mix of tracks here (total of 10) from fast thrashers to heavy and slow evil sounding tracks to some songs that featured some crust punk elements. The guitar tone on this album is great. Its heavy and the production isn't exactly old school but it doesn't sound very modern and it retains that evil and heavy sound. The vocals are great and mix with the rest of the music beautifully making the tracks that much more catchy and memorable. The solos sound like a mix of Kerry King and Kirk Hammett on Kill 'Em All, while the riffs range from straight forward thrash riffs to riffs that could be found in a War Ripper song. 

There aren't really many criticisms I could make about this album, because it's that good and it is definitely a contender for thrash album, if not metal album of the year. The best tracks to be found here are "Nowhere to Run," "Bitch," and "Agony of the Damned." There isn't a single bad track on this record, but if I had to pick my least favorites they would be "I Am Disease" and "In the Depths (of Your Mind)."

Be sure to check out Toxic Holocaust on Facebook and like their page to stay updated with tour dates and everything else Toxic Holocaust!

Final Rating - 4.5/5 or 90%.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Exhumed - All Guts, No Glory Review

Can you believe it's been 8 long years since the last time Exhumed released a full-length album? Well, now they're back and in full form, and this new record shows it. All Guts, No Glory doesn't exactly stray away from what we've come to know of Exhumed. The dark and sinister sounding melodies are still here. The Swedish-style solos/riffs are still here. The overall intensity of an Exhumed record is still here and that is one of the key factors as to why this album is the way that it is.

Let's talk about the good on this record shall we? One of the best things about this record is the lead guitar work. The solos/melodies are all very reminiscent of the masters of old from Sweden such as Dismember or Entombed. They're dark and beautiful all at the same time and they fit the music perfectly. Another positive aspect about this album is the overall tight playing of the band. All of the riffs, the blast beats, and vocals all fit together well. It doesn't sound sloppy and thrown together, but more fluid and it will keep your headbanging. 

But this album isn't perfect and there are indeed some flaws. Some of the riffs here are just boring and uninspired and seem as if they were meant to be in the background of something else. Some of the songs just seemed to drag on forever or ended up going nowhere. Other than that there wasn't really anything else that was wrong. 

The main story of this album is that there isn't really much wrong with it, but nothing that makes it stand out as amazing. There are a few moments of brilliance here and there, but not enough for this record to achieve some golden status. The only real standout track that I found would be "I Rot Within" which is a great track that I would love to see Exhumed put in their live set. The other songs here were either good and just short of excellence due to some minor things or they weren't good at all. 

Overall rating - 4/5 or 80%.

Check out Exhumed here and like the page to stay updated with tour dates, merchandise, etc.