Monday, October 31, 2011

Bastard Priest - Ghouls of the Endless Night

The hot bed for amazing metal that is Sweden, continues to unleash awesome band after another. Despite the retirement of one of the greatest metal bands of all time in Dismember, there are still several fantastic bands waving the banner of true death metal, and "Ghouls of the Endless Night" serves as a perfect reminder of that. Bastard Priest is definitely one of the bigger names as far as new Swedish death metal goes, along with bands like Tribulation, Morbus Chron, and Miasmal, but they also have their own twist on the genre. 

On Bastard Priest's debut album "Under the Hammer of Destruction" the band's primary focus was sounding as vile and crushing as possible. They managed to accomplish this task without sounding like a messy trainwreck and deliver a great album that left many waiting for another. "Ghouls of the Endless Night" is sure to not disappoint those who anxiously awaited it, because it is better than the first. 

How is it better? It sure as hell wasn't because of more technicality being added to the music, or because Bastard Priest decided to wuss out, but an improvement on some little things that make this record and the material a bit more memorable. One noticeable change is that there is more of a death metal element in the sound this time around, as opposed to the d-beat assault that was present on their debut. The songs here provide a terrific mix of the two genres, most notably on the album closer "Enormous Thunder of the End." The track starts with a dark intro that could easily find a nice home on an album like "Left Hand Path," but then a ridiculously catchy riff comes in that could have been written by Repulsion. In the midst of all the intensity and sheer aggression that is found on this record, Bastard Priest managed to stray away from the relentless death/crust sound and mix in some doom on the track "Poison." A four and a half minute track that could haunt a graveyard on a Halloween evening, with the extremely doomy and dark riffs along with the terrifying and chilling vocals. 

The biggest highlight of this album, though, is actually what Bastard Priest became known for. Some highly catchy, yet dark and destructive death metal with some crust on the side. The track "Fucking Slaughter" is one of the crustier songs on the album and it is guaranteed to be one hell of a live song, capable of wasting an entire venue. The song "Last Scream" is an awesome death metal piece, but it also has an atmosphere that resembles grind masters Repulsion on their masterpiece "Horrified." 

There really isn't much more to be said about this hellbeast. If you're a sissy who doesn't want to have a great time headbanging to some fantastic death metal, then you should probably leave this record alone. However, if you're looking for an album that represents everything that death metal should be in the 21st century as well as a mainstay on your music rotation, then you should get your hands on "Ghouls of the Endless Night" ASAP. 

Best Songs
"Ghouls of the Endless Night"
"Fucking Slaughter"
"Enormous Thunder of the End"

Be sure to check out and like Bastard Priest on Facebook!

Final Rating - 4.6/5 or 92%.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Skeletonwitch - Forever Abomination

What kind of introduction can be made for this band? A band that still hasn't been pigeonholed to a single subgenre and sounds like "Death N' Roll" era Entombed meets Immortal meets Slayer. Despite the multiple influences, Skeletonwitch has perfected their sound, and it really shows on their fourth studio album, "Forever Abomination." A lot of bands who try to cram as many styles as possible, usually sound like one forced mess, but Skeletonwitch has managed to retain their own tight and concise sound, mixing thrash, death metal, black metal, doom metal and even some good ol' fashioned rock n' roll. 

The best part about this album is definitely the riffs and the variety of said riffs. The opening track "This Horrifying Force" features a nice acoustic guitar section before turning into a melodic riff followed by heavy and fast thrash riffs that assault the listener. And that's just one song! 

Songs like "Of Ash and Torment" and "Shredding Sacred Flesh" tend to stay more along the thrash side of the spectrum and they fit the mold well with ripping fast thrash riffs and some more techy, Megadeth styled riffs, while "The Infernal Resurrection" and "Sink Beneath Insanity" travel a more melodic path. 

But there's still more. "My Skin of Deceit" has its fair share of Yngwie Malmsteen moments, with some riffs that sound like they could have been written by the guitar virtuoso himself. Then there's arguably the best track on the album, "Cleaver of Souls" that has a heavy doom influence and it sounds amazing. 

Along with the fantastic riffage and variety there are also the other instruments that contribute to the music on "Forever Abomination." The bass is highlighted a few times throughout the album, providing some nice fills or a heavier feel during more melodic passages. The drums do a good job of keeping the pace and there are even a few blast beats on the album to make a more breakneck pace, sure to cause some serious headbanging. The lead guitar is another highlight on this record, from absolute shredding solos to more chilling melodic sections. The vocals are also an essential piece to the Skeletonwitch puzzle. They, for the most part, follow a black metal style but it's the delivery and the way that vocals mesh with the music so well that make them great.

All in all, there aren't many complaints to be made about this record. Every instrument and band member gave 100% and it definitely shows. "Forever Abomination" probably won't achieve "album of the year" status, but it is a very solid effort nonetheless, and is certainly worth checking out. 

Best songs:
"This Horrifying Force"
"Of Ash and Torment"
"Cleaver of Souls"

Be sure to check out and like Skeletonwitch on Facebook!

Final Rating - 4.25/5 or 85%.

Sector Zero - New Found Heroes

If you like Voivod, you'll love their little brother Sector Zero. This three piece jersey thrash band recently released their self titled EP, which is full of crazy solos, odd time signatures, great riffing and pounding drums. 

The EP starts off with the explosive "Sirens." The driving force of the track is the strong Exodus like riffs followed by the wailing vocals by Anthony Spizzirro – who is also Sector Zero's drummer. 

Yes, that's correct. The drummer is the singer too.

Next up is the very Voivod-esque "Pride." This could have been an unreleased track from Voivod's “Nothingface” album. Spizzirro's vocals harmonize well with the guitars, which again range all over the place in odd times. A great way to make something so simple sound so complex.

The third song is arguably the best on the EP. The mighty “E.M.P.” has the zazziest intro and puts the balls to the walls when the main riff fires away at lightning speed. This has the best possible sound Sector Zero could attain. Everything is great on this one. The bass thumps along rather nicely to the ridiculous guitar riffs and the drums and vocals compliment everything so well. This is Voivod on steroids.

To slow the headbanging down a bit come the last two tracks “Resurrection” and “Extermination”. “Resurrection” features a slower section composed of a Slayer/Testament oriented riff followed with good vocal delivery by Spizzirro. “Extermination” on the other hand is a really heavy number that features excellent drumming that really pulls the riffing together. The chorus is screamed by Spizzirro at a bone chilling level of realism. An excellent send off that leaves one to wonder how good the album will be.

Sector Zero shows with their new EP that they are a rising force in the thrash world not to be taken lightly. Their secret weapon being Spizzirro's multitasking. The intensity of the band as a whole on a recording leaves very little to the imagination of how great they might be live.

Written by Chris Butera

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Landmine Marathon - Gallows

Four albums in, and Landmine Marathon has not slowed down at all. Their latest offering "Gallows" is just as filthy and heavy as their previous three, if not filthier and heavier. The signature growls and screams of frontwoman Grace Perry are just as powerful as before, the riffs are just as crushing and everything else that makes Landmine Marathon as great as they are, is still present. There is nothing fake about this band and there are no gimmicks with these guys (and gal), just some straightforward death/grind that is sure to cause some carnage.

"Gallows" isn't much of a departure from the style that is found on the band's previous material, but there are definitely some improvements that make this their best album to date. First, is the darker sound. Landmine Marathon has never sounded more savage, and it really does show on the new material. The song "Beaten and Left Blind" starts off mainly as a crusty, grind influence track that hits hard, but then the break comes in after Perry delivers a wicked sounding growl saying "Your god is dead!" and this is truly where Landmine Marathon shines. The mix of the agonizing vocals with the fast death metal styled tremolos, along with the intense drumming makes for an amazing sound, and one that the band has perfected.

The other improvement is in the songwriting and the higher level of consistency throughout "Gallows." On previous records, there was usually a couple of standout tracks, but, while the others were still good, they just paled in comparison to the better ones. This album, however, has no filler tracks and there is at least one memorable moment on every track. Songs like "Three Snake Leaves" and "Dead Horses" are especially memorable because of how well the band combines catchy and heavy grind styled riffs with the dark and sinister death metal influenced tremolo sections and melodies. The track "Cutting Flesh and Bone" is a quick and lethal song that showcases the band's skills in writing a simple, yet catchy grind track, while the song "Morbidity" goes down a more doomy, death metal path on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. 

There are definitely no complaints to be made about this album. "Gallows" has so much variety on just eight tracks, yet they all sound like a Landmine Marathon song, and they all kick some serious ass. 

Best tracks:
"Beaten and Left Blind"
"Dead Horses"
"Three Snake Leaves"

Be sure to check out and like Landmine Marathon on Facebook!

Final Rating - 4.5/5 or 90%.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thousand Year War - Tyrants and Men

Epic. Heavy. Dark. These are all acceptable adjectives when describing Thousand Year War on their debut album "Tyrants and Men." These Alaskan metallers are most often compared to one of the biggest metal acts today: Amon Amarth, and that is not completely accurate. Thousand Year War definitely shares similar traits (melodic tremolos, lyrical content, etc) but for the most part, they retain their own identity, and most importantly, their own sound.

What is this sound? Well for starters, the riffs range from fast, melodic tremolo madness to heavy, crushing riffs, all the way to thrashing riffs and some nice melodic headbangers. Accompanying the guitars, is a savage black metal influenced vocal assault. The vocals do a stellar job of commanding the music and changing the music's direction at times. Even at Thousand Year War's most melodic moments, the vocals can make the music seem heavy. The drums also manage to stand out with some nice fills and they add to the overall heaviness quite well. 

The best part about this record, though, would have to be the epic atmosphere and the way that it adds a whole other layer to the music. Normally this isn't something that serves as a selling point (personally), but the ambiance almost appears as another instrument. Songs like "Spartacus" and "The Sea" tend to reflect this the most. The listener can practically visualize the lyrical content perfectly, while headbanging at the same time. But how is this sound achieved? It's basically from the combination of the extreme vocals and the melodic riffs. The heaviness of the vocals with the guitar melodies mix for the ideal sound needed to make "Tyrants and Men" as good as it is.

As for what didn't click so well with the album. Sometimes the sons just seemed bland and lacked inspiration, like the band needed a filler or generic riff to fill a void, or sometimes a whole song was used as a filler track ("The Storm I Ride"). Another thing that could have been improved is the overall song structuring. Almost all of the tracks followed the same pattern or were just plain predictable. There weren't many moments where the listener could say "What's going to happen next?" They already knew what was coming. 

Overall, Thousand Year War delivered a solid debut album, but there is definitely room for improvement. If you're in the mood for some cool melodic death metal, then this band should rank highly on your list of bands to check out. 

Best songs:
"Thousand Year War"
"The Sea"

Be sure to check out and like Thousand Year War on Facebook!

Final Rating - 4.2/5 or 84%. 

Midnight Chaser - Rough and Tough

Much like the NWOTM movement, there is another movement that is extremely similar occurring, only these bands are diving even further into the past for inspiration. Bands like White Wizzard and Cauldron have been at the forefront of this heavy metal crusade, known as the NWOTHM, but those bands are a little more metal sounding than this band, Midnight Chaser. A band who incorporates a lot of rock influence into their sound as well as metal. To sum things up, they have a sound that can be described as a nice cross of "Killers" era Iron Maiden, with a rockin' attitude and spirit of Kiss.
This band shows no signs whatsoever of playing anything that can be considered modern. The riffs all sound like they would fit nicely on many popular '80s releases and the song titles, even sound very retro. Whether the song is about partying ("Awesome Party") or a cougar looking for a young man to knock boots with ("Cougar'd"), you know you're in for a good time. Just take a look at the cover art and the album title. It's crystal clear that this band has absolutely no intent on conforming to the modern sounding "core" metal trends that have dominated today's scene, and that is one of the best parts of Midnight Chaser's music.

If you're worried about this release being just another generic Angel Witch knockoff, it's ok, because after spinning "Rough and Tough" it will become obvious that these guys can stand out and rock at the same time. Songs like "Cougar'd" and "Hot Shot" are sure to captivate the listener with their upbeat and energetic, rock-influenced riffs and awesome guitar solos. Along with these rock-styled tracks, are the more metal influenced tracks, and they slay just as much. "Awesome Party" and "Out on Your Shield" are two of the heavier tracks and they are ridiculously catchy. The clean vocals mix perfectly with the music and these songs are sure to be live-favorites for the crowd to sing along with and rage simultaneously. 

There aren't really many complaints to be made about this album. It serves its purpose, and that purpose is to make sure the listener has a great time listening to the record while rocking out like it's the '80s all over again. The best tracks to do this to are definitely "Awesome Party," "Out on Your Shield" and "Dynamite." 

Be sure to check out and like Midnight Chaser on Facebook to stay updated with everything going on with these up and comers! 

Final Rating - 4.3/5 or 86%.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Interview with John Kevill of Warbringer! Again!

To go along with the show review that I recently did for Warbringer's "America Torn Asunder" tour, I was fortunate enough to interview singer, John Kevill before the show. John talks about the new album, the first headlining tour, new member Carlos Cruz and everything Warbringer. Enjoy! 

SFM - Your new album "Worlds Torn Asunder" has been out for almost a week now, how has the response been?

John - Response has been mostly pretty good. There's a lot of stuff going on, with reviews and interviews that seem to like it. Seeing a lot of the fans responses when we play the songs live, and there's always a really good response, and people really seem to like the record. I'm pretty happy. We worked hard on it, so hopefully people like it.

SFM - What are some common criticisms or praise that you've heard about the record if any?

John - Oddly enough, we always hear, and this is one thing I see in a lot of reviews, is that we're basically doing the same thing which is also the opposite of which is a criticism from other people. So it's usually just one of those two things with the new record.

SFM - With Carlos Cruz coming in on this record, has there been any change in the writing style?

John - We do it the same we always have, like a band. We get in there and jam and talk about it. Come back in the next week and do it again.

SFM - Did he have any specific input on the record?

John - Oh yeah! "Echoes From the Void" is a Carlos-written song and it's the first song he's written for us and probably won't be the last. Unless he Spinal Taps on us, but I don't think he's planning on it. (laughs) Actually a lot of the lyrics, because Carlos lives out in my direction and so the way the carpool would work, I'd always go to and from practice with him. So whatever I had on my mind for lyrics, I'd shoot it by Carlos and we would mindstorm a lot of it. Echoes in particular, we went over to his house and had a nice little session going. We talked about ideas for a couple of hours. I wrote a ton of stuff down and we got the lyrics down that way. And other stuff,  whenever I hit a roadblock, Carlos is really the guy to talk to, to get ideas. He's actually involved with just about every step of this record. 

SFM - That's great, and it's always nice to have some collaboration and someone to bounce ideas off of. 

John - Yeah, definitely. He said when he joined the band, "I don't want to be another hired gun. I want to be the drummer of Warbringer" which is great because we don't want a hired gun.

SFM - Was there any kind of statement or message that you were trying to make with this record?

John - I think it was the same as always. We just want to get out there and play some honest, real metal and do it to the absolute best of our ability. If we're going to state anything it's just that, this stuff still kicks ass. Metal is metal is metal, and if you do it right with good songwriting, it's just always awesome!

SFM - Now that you have 3 albums, is it harder to make a setlist? Trying to balance the older stuff and play the newer material?

John - Not really. I mean right now, fortunately, we're playing an hour plus because of the headline tour. So, we're usually doing 4-5 new ones and 8 or 9 old ones.

SFM - And is this a whole band collaboration? If someone wants to play a specific song, will there be any bickering?
John - Yeah, definitely that happens. We don't really write out setlists, actually. This sounds funny, but we kind of just wing it every night, and we're professional at winging it. I pretty much call the songs out on stage and someone will yell out "this song" and I'll say "I don't want to play that one!" 
SFM - Then you definitely have the songs really well rehearsed to play anything on any given night?

John - Not all of them, but I'd say enough. The whole new album we're really tight on, I think we can do just about anything from Waking, there's only a couple that we probably couldn't do, and then like half of the first album we're pretty solid on. We need to rehearse some of those old ones because I wanted to bring some of them back on this tour. 

SFM - That actually was the next question. Do you plan on playing any of the band's more obscure material that fans may have been asking you to play?

John - Probably not at the beginning of tour. I think we're going to probably start doing sets based on the old stuff that we're really tight on and the new stuff, but I think as the tour goes on and we get in the swing of playing shows again, I mean it's been a while guys (laughs), then we'll probably try to bust out some old ones.

SFM - How excited are you about this being your first headlining tour? Are you nervous at all?

John - Yeah, I'm real nervous! (laughs). Here we are at the Key Club, it's our show and especially in Hollywood tonight, all of the record people come out... If no one comes to the show, that looks real bad, it's not going to help us. And, just in general, doing our first headline tour is kind of a gamble, because every US tour we've done so far have been support tours. The numbers for this tour, how ever many people show up can really help us or hurt us either way. But we're three albums in, it's really time to take this risk and basically go out there and see what our fanbase is. Who's gonna come to see a Warbringer show?

SFM - Does it feel weird at all to be the last band on the bill, and not having to open for another band?

John - Most of our local shows... Well all of our shows that we've done since December, we've headlined all of them, except for the festival in Mexico. What's going to be weird about this, is I've really got to not party or be fun on this tour because by the time we get to the east coast I'll be sucking up a storm, if I'm raging like that every night. (Laughs). I'm pretty much just going to have to have a more business like mentality toward the road here so I can pull off an hour plus show every night. We're shooting for an hour minimum, and if people are really into it, we'll keep playing. If the crowd seems dead, we'll rap it up. 

SFM - You guys are known for touring a lot, and being road warriors. Do you plan to tour as much if not more for this album as you did for "Waking Into Nightmares?"

John - We're booked solid for this year, and a couple weeks into next year there's a tour. It's not announced yet, but it's booked. (Laughs). Then we're going to try and get another US tour and another Europe tour. I think we're touring straight into next winter. Basically, yes, the same thing from us.

SFM - Do you plan on playing anywhere that you haven't played before?

John - Yes. We're shooting to get into South America. We've played Southeast Asia before, but we're trying to get to play China and all of those places. We're trying all of that and to fit in some stuff to the schedule that fits and makes sense. That's all in the works. Right now, what we have solidified and is made public is this tour, our headline tour from today October 3rd through November 7th. That is the North America tour, there's only two Canada shows, we're sorry Canadians we tried to get some more. And then we have a tour in Europe, it's kind of a two part tour. The first part is a headline tour for a couple weeks and then a few weeks with Arch Enemy. The headline dates are pretty much everywhere that the Arch Enemy tour doesn't go. We'll be hitting places like Italy, Croatia, Spain and some UK. The Arch  Enemy tour is mainly focused on Germany, Netherlands, and France.

SFM - That's pretty much the end of this interview, so thank you for your time. Do you have any words for your fans?

John - Hell yeah, guys! Keep rockin' out there and we'll see you at some shows! 

Be sure to check out and like Warbringer on Facebook, as well as catch them on their first ever headlining tour! 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Warbringer - America Torn Asunder - Hollywood Show Review

America torn Asunder, the first ever headlining tour for the new wave thrashing titans, Warbringer. Along with Warbringer on this tour are fellow thrashers Diamond Plate of Chicago, Lazarus AD from Kenosha Wisconsin and death/grind maniacs, Landmine Marathon. Just a bunch of young bands who play with an amazing amount of energy and talent, what more could you want? I was lucky enough to catch this live tour package at the Key Club in West Hollywood, on the first day of the tour and I was not disappointed at all.

The first band to hit the stage, was a local opener, "Dark Crusaders." They weren't overly special, but they weren't bad by any means either. They definitely could have had some more stage presence, especially when Adam Carroll (Warbringer) and Grace Perry (Landmine Marathon) were in crowd watching. One thing to be said though, is they have a lot of potential, so keep your eye on this band!

Next up was Diamond Plate. I personally wasn't a huge fan of their debut album "Generation Why," but there is no doubt that these guys can command the stage. One of the biggest upsides to this band's live performance is the technical prowess of the members. Every solo was perfect and every riff was coherent. Despite being relatively new to the touring world, Diamond Plate showed that they are clearly on-stage ready and more than capable of getting a crowd pumped.

The next band to hit the stage was Landmine Marathon. This band may seem a little out of place, being the only non-thrash band on the bill, but the crowd responded greatly and Landmine Marathon slayed it. The most intriguing part of their live act is definitely frontwoman, Grace Perry's onstage presence. In between each track she would banter with the crowd in her normal voice that sounded like any other woman, but once the music hit, she transformed. Not only was this because of her growling and screaming vocals, but the way she moved and made these agonizing faces, it all fit very well and enhanced the band's overall live atmosphere.

Lazarus AD was the next band on the bill and I was pleasantly surprised with their performance, mainly because I didn't enjoy their sophomore effort "Black Rivers Flow," but the songs they played from it were a lot better live and enjoyable. Along with the new tracks, the band managed to destroy with fan favorite tracks like "Last Breath" and "Revolution." Another entertaining aspect of the band's live show, is their sales pitch involving marijuana, herpes and condoms. 

And finally the headlining, Warbringer hit the stage, opening up with the perfect track to get the crowd moving, with "Living Weapon." This band's live performance is fantastic and it's easy to see that this band is no stranger to the stage. Adam Carroll and John Laux's constant headbanging along with John Kevill's savage vocals and stage presence, make for a terrific live environment that definitely transcends to the crowd. The mosh pits weren't as wild as expected at first, but Warbringer's last three songs all caused some serious violence. The insanely catchy "Total War" started the brutal cycle and then when the crowd thought they could catch their breath, "Living in a Whirlwind" kicked in and once again the fans were sent into a frenzy. The floor went absolutely berserk, though, once "Combat Shock" kicked in. It proved to be the perfect song to close a show with, but the fans simply could not get enough and begged for one more song, prompting Warbringer to play "Treacherous Tongue" before leaving the stage to converse and interact with their fans. 

Overall, this show was great and if you have the chance to see these bands, don't miss the opportunity because you will regret it. 

Best Performances
1. Warbringer
2. Landmine Marathon
3. Lazarus AD
4. Diamond Plate