Sunday, January 29, 2012

Macabra - Blood-Nurtured Nature

Just because Sweden is the top tier country for death metal nowadays (And the past), that doesn't mean that the States doesn't have any bands waving the flag of filthy, old-school ancient metal of death, because there are quite a few and Macabra happens to be one of the best I've come across. Their brand of early Autopsy worship meets Craig Pillard and some random black metal musician hailing from a very grim and evil forest is fantastic. 

As mentioned earlier, the vocals here are very reminiscent of Craig Pillard and even have a touch of Karl Willetts thrown in for good measure, as they smother the listener and add even more heaviness to the music on "Blood-Nurtured Nature." But there is also some more guttural and raspy vocals that come and go as they please, which goes back to that battleaxe-wielding, corpse paint wearing guy from the forest who slipped his way into the recording studio. The mix of these vocals mesh together very well and it shows, especially on the songs "Blood-Nurtured Nature" and "Exile of Sanity." The Pillard-esque vocals command the midpaced assault to perfection and then our friend from the forest adds a more uneasy, and evil feel to the music which sounds terrific. 

Riff-wise, Macabra resemble "Severed Survival" era Autopsy and that is definitely a positive factor here. The midpaced riffs chug along and retain an extremely old-school and raw feel that will have the listener reminiscing, remembering the first time they heard "Charred Remains" while simultaneously headbanging to tracks like "Consuming the Fleshy Wax" and "Fragments of Torpor." The band also has some of that doom influence that Autopsy did, though to a less extent. The intro to "Hominal Peel Daggers" is some grade A sludgy, riffing that eventually turns into an onslaught of great riff after great riff. 

In addition to the midpaced Autopsy lovefest that occurs, that sneaky Norwegian makes his presence felt again, as there are several instances where a piano or some other kind of ambiance is added to the music, though it isn't a very prominent part of the music or overbearing, therefore it doesn't bother me. At the end of the day, "Blood-Nurtured Nature" is already a front runner for the death metal album of the year and anyone looking for something new, yet ridiculously old-school and wants something other than the Swedeath worshiping bands, then Macabra is the band for you. 

Be sure to check out and like Macabra on Facebook!

"Hominal Peel Daggers"
"Consuming the Fleshy Wax"
"Exile of Sanity"

Final Rating
4.5/5 or 90%. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pharaoh - Bury the Light

Remember when power metal meant powerful metal? Those were the days when keyboards were used sparingly (if at all), when vocalists sounded like a banshee screaming their lungs out, and when the guitars had just as much crunch as they did flare. Don’t get me wrong, I love the newer power metal bands, but it seems the older style of power metal is not as prominent as it used to be. Luckily, Pharaoh is here to bring back the glory days of the 80’s.

Hailing from Philadelphia, PA, Pharaoh is the very definition of US power metal: hard-hitting riffs, wailing strong vocals, and plenty of speed. “Bury the Light” is their 4th release, and is my introduction to the band. It’s safe to say that this is a solid metal record. In fact, aside from the originators of this style in the 80’s, I don’t think another band has been as convincing as Pharaoh.

Vocalist Tim Aymar, of Control Denied fame, steals the show on this album. His vocal melodies soar over top of an endless fury of riffs. The majority of the album is pretty fast, although many of the songs feature a short interlude that helps to prevent everything from blurring together. The exception to this relentless speed is “The Year of the Blizzard”, which is the longest song featuring a couple of acoustic parts, as well as a riff that is very reminiscent of Rush. For the most part though, the previously released song, “Castles in the Sky”, sums up the whole album. It’s one of those albums where every song is so energetic that you can’t help but get sucked into it. It also helps that the melodies are so well-written (both vocal and guitar lines).

Every song is fairly technical, but Pharaoh avoids the pretentiousness of being excessively techy. There is no lack of great musicianship here; as great as the riffs are, the solos are even better, and would challenge just about any guitar player. The bass playing is typical but does get a few moments play on its own, such as in the opening track “Leave Me Here To Dream”. It’s not too difficult to hear the bass, and it’s very noticeable on “Graveyard of Empires”, but for the most part, this album is about the guitars and vocals.

While Pharaoh continues the legacy of US power metal bands, they avoid sounding like a copy of any of them. There are certainly some similarities to Jag Panzer and Liege Lord, but the only band that ever seems to resemble Pharaoh is Brazilian speed metal band Hibria. Ultimately, this album delivers 9 full tracks of relentless, powerful metal. It might not be my album of the year, but I’m certain it will top quite a few lists.

Be sure to check out and like Pharaoh at their label’s page on Facebook!

“Leave Me Here To Dream”
“Castles in the Sky”
“Graveyard of Empires”

Final Rating:
4.1/5 or 82%

Written by Scott

Coldworker - The Doomsayer's Call

Death/grind has always been a real love or hate relationship for myself. Some of it I find to be the best music out there when the wanting for vicious death arises and the usual culprits I turn to are old school masters like Exhumed and Blood, or the new-schoolers who get better and better, Landmine Marathon. Now, Coldworker isn't exactly a full on death/grind act, but there is enough influence from both subgenres to call them as such, and coming from the home of some of the best death metal bands as well as tremendous grind acts like Nasum and Regurgitate, these guys have some mighty big shoes to fill. In case you didn't guess, these guys are indeed from Sweden which is home to some kind of birthing device that spews out great band after great band, but is Coldworker one of those bands? 

After listening to "The Doomsayer's Call," I would say that they're good enough. This album pretty much sums up what I said earlier about that whole love/hate relationship. I love some of the stuff on here and I hate some of it. Let's start with the good though. The best part about these guys are definitely their talent for conjuring up some brilliant midpaced riffs that absolutely reek of grind influence. The riffs found in songs like "The Reprobate" and "The Glass Envelope" are agony for the listener's neck, but great for their corrupted soul all the same. Coldworker also excels at weaving in some nice tremolo sections with the midpaced riffs like on the intro to "Murderous" as well as the rager "Pessimist." 

The vocals on "The Doomsayer's Call" are quite good, as they don't sound very much like a death metal vocalist from Sweden would sound, but they command the frenzy of brutality throughout the album well enough. The bass is audible as it thumps along heavily, and other than the very cool moment early on in the song "Murderous," I'm rather indifferent towards anything that the bass is doing. The drumming is very precise and there's no question that the man behind the kit is skilled as he blasts away and adds some terrific fills at times. 

Now, for the bad. This album was flat out boring and monotonous at points and I was almost tempted to skip to the next song on quite a few occasions, but luckily there's at least one decent enough riff or moment on each song (except for the intro track "A New Era," I found that one to be entirely skippable). The main problem was the repetitive blasting and tremolo bursts that seemed to be extremely bland and uninspired. It was like the band needed something random and fast in the background until they came to a riff worth listening to. 

Luckily, the good outweighed the bad on "The Doomsayer's Call," an album that could have been fantastic rather than just good. Fans of Exhumed, Nasum, Carcass, etc, should have no problems with this record as it could sustain for a good few listens and it shows some level of potential to be a grower that sneaks it's way into a regular rotation. 

Be sure to check out and like Coldworker on Facebook!

"The Reprobate"
"Vacuum Fields"

Final Rating
4/5 or 80%. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Putrified - Neurotic Necrotic

And he we are once more with another album from the motherland of all that is great metal, Sweden, this time it's Putrified, the one man band operated by A. Death and his second offering to the death metal underground, "Neurotic Necrotic." With so many great death metal releases out nowadays, it's become increasingly difficult to stand out and make a name and the usual best way to do that is by adding a twist to the traditional sound, but Putrified would have none of that whatsoever and the result is an album that is drenched in old-school Swedeath worship. 

The familiar guitar tone is present on "Neurotic Necrotic," though not as heavy as others. The tone is perfect though for the midpaced madness that occurs on this record. Just about every song on here follows the same structure of mixing midpaced tempos with much faster riffs that range from ripping death metal tremolo sections or some thrashier riffs. The opening song, (the title track) kicks this album off with a nice tremolo burst before the pace picks up to much faster speeds before leveling you with a heavy midpaced riff that is eventually followed with the familiar growls of A. Death. 

There are some extra little pieces of traditional Swedeath sound that find their way onto this album, as well as some more doomy elements. Tracks like "A Chamber Beneath" and "The Return of Ashes" feature their fair share of sludgy, downtuned chords that just creep along as well as some doomy melodies that wouldn't sound unfamiliar at all to any fan of Asphyx or Amorphis. The dark melodic sections on the song "They Speak" are also top notch and really give the song an evil feel that looms over the song and adds a brilliant uneasiness to the overall atmosphere. The bass also gets some moments to shine and boy is it absolutely heavy, especially on the song "These Forsaken Lands," which also happens to be the best song on "Neurotic Necrotic" with its stellar midpaced riffs that stomp the listener throughout. 

Honestly, nothing more really needs to be said about this record. It's not the best death metal album to come from Sweden in the 21st century, nor is absolutely mindblowing but it is a fun listen that any fan of old-school, rotting, filthy death metal could enjoy. 

Be sure to check out and like Putrified on Facebook!

"The Land of Pharoes"
"These Forsaken Lands"
"The Return of Ashes"

Final Rating
4.2/5 or 84%. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ominous Crucifix - The Spell of Damnation

Oh you didn't know? Death metal is back, and back with a vengeance I would say. Yes, death metal never left, but it did start to get pretty crappy and then the technical and brutal death metal bands started to clog the scene with their shite, but in the past couple of years, the old school has returned in full force with a bunch of young bands that are playing just about every style of death metal around. Whether your flavor is Incantation worship, filthy Swedeath groups, even filthier and more vile bands that take their influence from Autopsy, Asphyx, Convulse, etc, there is a band out there for you. But where does that leave Mexico's Ominous Crucifix

These ragers from south of the border play some pretty heavy and atmospheric death metal that takes a lot of influence mainly from bands like Bolt Thrower, Benediction, and Master, bands that didn't really take their music to the extreme, but instead just hit you with some heavier than hell riffs and trampled you underneath their midpaced march. The first half of this album definitely leans toward the aforementioned influences as songs like "Third Day Resurrection" and "Primitive Sin" really don't stray away from the midpaced monotony, and I say monotony because these songs are just that. Boring. They don't really stimulate the listener or get the listener to bang their head like a maniac, they're just there while the vocalist howls over them. 

Luckily, Ominous Crucifix manages to save themselves later on the second half of "The Spell of Damnation." The songs here are all longer, but they have more dynamics to them than the snoozefests earlier on. The track "Secular Omens of Doom" couldn't be more aptly named. The doomy chords that open the track recall those that could be heard from bands like Autopsy or Paradise Lost, and the overall feel of the whole track really captures a great atmosphere that the earlier songs lacked. The title track and "Defiling the Altars of an Absent God" also bring that same dark aura, by weaving some terrific melodic passages with the heavy riffs and crushing vocals. These aren't your typical Gothenburg, melodeath kind of melodies, but the kind that could be heard from the Finnish death metal bands (Amorphis in particular) that gave an evil kind of atmosphere, and Ominous Crucifix knows how to use them well. 

Overall, "The Spell of Damnation" isn't the amazing album that it could have been, mainly due to the horrifically mediocre songs earlier on, but when Ominous Crucifix does write some well-written music, it is quite good and worth checking out. 

Be sure to check out and like Ominous Crucifix on Facebook!

"Defiling the Altars of An Absent God"
"Secular Omens of Doom"
"The Spell of Damnation"

Final Rating
4/5 or 80%. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Anguish - Through the Archdemon's Head

Much like thrash, death metal and every other subgenre really, there are a lot of young'uns out today playing music like it's the '80s and '90s all over again and I would definitely take that over most of the modern garbage that floods today's metal scene. Anguish are a group that plays some fantastic doom metal in the vein of the old masters and the sound is one that isn't anything new, but at the same time it doesn't sound like a Black Sabbath clone and "Through the Archdemon's Head" wouldn't sound out of place if it had come out decades earlier, but probably would have been held in high regard much like albums such as "Nightfall" or "Born Too Late."

If Anguish was being compared to the masters from the past, the name most commonly brought up would probably be the doom legends, Candlemass. A lot of the melodies on "Through the Archdemon's Head" evoke the same kind of gloomy darkness that songs like "Darkness In Paradise" and "Bearer of Pain" had, while at the same time retaining a very heavy feel. Take a listen to the melodies on "Book of Fox" and "Illusive Damnation" because they're absolutely brilliant, especially when accompanied by the very doomy powerchords that weigh the listener down like an anvil crushing your limbs, making for the perfect mix of undeniable heaviness and eerie, yet beautiful melodic passages. Every now and then, Anguish decides to break into a midpaced section and the riffs are terrific, especially on the song "Lair of the Gods." Once that very headbang-friendly riff disappears, and the doomy riff after clears the listener is treated with a stellar solo that is phenomenal and shows the band's ability to deliver a song with a little bit of everything as opposed to just plodding along with only one riff. 

Since I've been proclaiming that these Swedish doom-masters sound much like their fellow countrymen in Candlemass, you're probably assuming that the vocals on "Through the Archdemon's Head" sound like a Marcolin clone, right? Wrong. The vocals here are what really separate Anguish from a lot of doom bands that emulate the old masters nearly riff for riff and melody for melody, because they could honestly front a black metal band. They sound like a much more coherent and less throaty version of Attila Chisar, yet they sound perfectly fine fronting the doomy material. They also add a darker feel to the band, as opposed to a more epic aura which is always welcome. 

This is definitely something that any fan of Candlemass, Saint Vitus or Solitude Aeternus should own, as this release will creep along and smother the listener with gloomy greatness while retaining a minor epic atmosphere that is perfect for sitting back and vegetating to. 

Be sure to check out and like Anguish on Facebook!

"Book of Fox"
"Lair of the Gods"
"Illusive Damnation"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Nekromantheon - Rise, Vulcan Spectre

It turns out that Norway isn't only the home of a bunch of bands that bastardized the black metal genre (sans a few bands of course), but also some great new thrash acts. Bands like Tantara, Conflagration and this group of crazy bastards in Nekromantheon, are all delivering some top notch music. In addition to having an awesome name, Nekromantheon's take on thrash in 2012 is just as impressive, as shown by their work on "Rise, Vulcan Spectre," the band's sophomore album. 

I wouldn't call this band a full on black/thrash act, but there are definitely some glimpses of a black metal influence, especially in the whole sounding evil department. The music on "Rise, Vulcan Spectre" does indeed sound evil. Songs like "Cast Down to the Void" and "Embrace the Oracle" both have their fair share of spine chilling moments, due to the amazing guitar tone and the howling vocals that sound a lot like a much younger Tom Angelripper. Not only do these guys have an evil ambiance to them that isn't often heard in thrash bands, but they also conjure up some wicked riffs meant to snap your neck. The break in "Coven of the Minotaur" is absolutely devastating and if your head isn't banging, then you should probably see a doctor because something clearly isn't right. 

To reiterate how great this album is, the band just succeeds in every department. The midpaced brilliance is untouchable and the dark feel to the music is also fantastic, but Nekromantheon can also write some stellar riffs. Seriously, there's at least one riff in every song where my jaw nearly hit the floor. The riff that kicks off the title track is one of the best I've heard from any new thrash act and the riffs in "The Usurper Command" and "Blood Wisdom" are equally tremendous. Another piece of praise that must be given to this album has to do with the lead guitar work. The solos throughout "Rise, Vulcan Spectre" are all awesome. Nothing too technical, but they all fit the music perfectly and aren't outshined by the superb riffs behind them. 

I'm going to cut the review off here, because I might not stop praising this album. If you haven't had the pleasure of listening to Nekromantheon yet, then they should be a top priority for your new music list. They don't exactly bring anything new to the table or show any intent on being original, but they play their music with such conviction and energy that I find it impossible to fault them for it and instead I find myself wanting to put "Rise, Vulcan Spectre" on repeat. 

Be sure to check out and like Nekromantheon on Facebook!

"Cast Down to the Void"
"Embrace the Oracle"
"Rise, Vulcan Spectre"

Final Rating
4.5/5 or 90%. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Crimson Shadows - Glory On The Battlefield

Having followed Crimson Shadows since 2008, you can bet that I was waiting for this one. They are a unique power/death hybrid, and are one easily one of the most interesting bands in the metal scene today. On paper, combining power and death metal sounds like a great idea, but in practice, it hasn’t worked out too well. Melodic death metal can be great, but it doesn’t quite recognize the potential that this band explores.

With Glory On The Battlefield, Crimson Shadows delivers just over 45 minutes of relentless aggression and melody. The growls of vocalist Jimi Maltais range from the highest of shrieks, to the lows that you would expect in more brutal death metal. This is countered by the vocals of guitarist Greg Rounding, who uses a clean voice for some of the choruses, as well for a great sing-along part in “Lost In A Dark Forest”. Speaking of guitarists, this album features two of the best: the aforementioned Rounding, as well as Ryan Hofing. It’s almost as if Dragonforce became a death metal band. You’ll notice several minutes of non-stop shredding and epic melodies throughout every song. Having seen the band 5 times now, I can account for the fact that these guys are about as tight as any band can get, despite having tons of technicality. Like many metal bands, the bass seems non-existent on this album (it might be…nobody was credited in the liner notes), but the drums do enough to hold down the rhythm section. Cory Hofing uses plenty of double bass and even quite a bit of blasting to increase the intensity.

The songs themselves are unique, even though they share a similar set of characteristics: catchy melodies, interplay between clean and harsh vocals, and plenty of guitar solos. “Quest For The Sword”, for example, features the heaviest moment of the album, where both guitarists chug and mute underneath brutally low growls. This album is full of highlights, but the best songs are those with the catchiest choruses: “Lost In A Dark Forest”, “Journey’s End”, and the crowd-favourite “Kingdom of Ale”. I don’t even drink, but I love screaming along to that last one!

Be sure to check out and like Crimson Shadows on Facebook!

“Kingdom of Ale”
“Lost In A Dark Forest”
“Journey’s End”

Final Rating:
4.6/5 or 92%

Written by Scott

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bludvera - Terrorform [EP]

Not very long ago I came across a thrash band from the UK by the name of Bludvera. After I seduced their frontman Scott Clayton he gave me their demo to check out and I was impressed and have been a proud supporter of this English fivesome since. The demo definitely showed a lot of potential for these guys, but god damn did they destroy with this seven song EP "Terrorform." Everything on here is better than the band's previous effort, the vocals, riffs, solos, drumming and everything in between. 

Clayton's vocal performance on this EP is fantastic and a real highlight. The vocals sound like a very awesome cross between Schmier, Petrozza and Zetro. Definitely a weird kind of combo, but when you hear the vocals you will understand and for maximum pleasure take a listen to the beginning of the break in the song "Citizen Monopoly." Not only have Clayton's vocals improved, but the addition of gang vocal sections has given Bludvera and their music another element that only adds to the memorability and catchiness of each song.

The two Bludvera axemen also deserve some love for their excellent work on this EP. The riffs for the most part are fast, but there are some great midpaced riffs to be found throughout "Terrorform." The intro to "Powerhouse" is a definite headbanger and the song "Conjure the Dead" has plenty of moments that are meant to deal out a case of some good ol' fashioned whiplash. Along with the top notch rhythm work, the lead work is just as good. The solos aren't your typical Kirk Hammett worshiping or some random Slayer-like notes, but they all possess some technical proficiency that any guitarist could appreciate, as well as some nice melodic passages that fit the music perfectly. 

Bludvera really has taken their sound to a whole new level with "Terrorform" and if they aren't signed by an awesome label by the time their full-length comes out, there will be vengeance. 

Be sure to check out and like Bludvera on Facebook!

"Conjure the Dead"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Magnetron - A Measured Timeframe

No, Dead Head isn't the only thrash act from the Netherlands that's still releasing some quality music and "A Measured Timeframe" is proof. Magnetron originally started out as a grindcore band before they decided to start playing thrash and since their inception in 1996 they've sporadically released a few demos with some of those tracks appearing here on "A Measured Timeframe," their debut album. While Magnetron may not be as praised as much as the criminally underrated Dead Head, they still manage to deliver an album that stands out in a world where the retro-thrash acts all begin to sound the same and fail to stray away from the pack.

As mentioned earlier, Magnetron was once a grindcore band and that influence definitely shines through on this release. The weird, yet humorous vocal stylings on the track "Flashing of the Brain" are completely reminiscent of old school crossover and grind acts, while the song "Rob a Bank, Buy a Tank" clocks in at less than a minute long and is riddled with blast beats (I mean that in a good way). 

Don't be afraid though (those of you don't enjoy the awesomeness of grind), because "A Measured Timeframe" is very much so a thrash album. The riffs are really catchy and remind the listener of bands like Anthrax and Nuclear Assault. The midpaced riff near the beginning of "The Human Race Has Been Cancelled" almost sounds like it could have been in a track off of "Among the Living" and the song "A Bit Inconsiderate" wouldn't sound really out of place on "Game Over." 

A lot of the songs on this album are similar in the way that they're short, fast and to the point for the most part. "Right to Dislike" and "Born Witless" are both relatively short tracks, but they hit you like a brick one after the other. There is one outlier though, the title track. On this song, Magnetron whipped out the acoustic before going into a thrashing blitzkrieg, only the riffs here aren't like the ones from earlier. They're still catchy and aggressive, but the use of different powerchords adds a different feel to the overall track before it turns into the relentless assault that we got on the other tracks, including the blast beats and the vocals that sound damn near identical to Mille Petrozza.

That pretty much covers the sound of "A Measured Timeframe." Ten hard hitting tracks that should have no problem whatsoever in waking your inner '80s thrash demon that's just waiting to destroy a venue whilst incredibly intoxicated. 

Be sure to check out and like Magnetron on Facebook!

"The Human Race Has Been Cancelled"
"A Measured Timeframe"
"Flashing of the Brain"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%.