Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ectovoid - Fractured in the Timeless Abyss

I'm sure anyone who keeps up with the current metal scene and pays attention to what people say about it, the most common complaint is the lack of originality. There are some bands out there who try to be original and they produce some of the worst music ever heard (That would be about 98% of the modern "metal" bands), then there are some who have no originality whatsoever, but still manage to deliver some quality music. Then there are bands like Ectovoid, who inject a great amount of originality to an already rotten and archaic style that's been done to death (pardon the pun) for a very pleasurable listen. "Fractured in the Timeless Abyss" is the Alabama band's debut full-length and already I'm anxiously awaiting a follow-up because not only is this album's sound refreshing to hear, but it's also incredibly memorable. 

If I had to pick one band that Ectovoid resemble the most, it would have to be Autopsy, but even that is a stretch because this group incorporates so many different influences, ranging from black metal to progressive metal. The guitar tone is incredibly reminiscent of the tone found on legendary records like "Severed Survival" and "Mental Funeral," but so are some of the riffs. Much like Autopsy, the riffs here just creep along, only the backdrop for them is bleaker than anything the legends before Ectovoid could create, making for some seriously great music. "Splintered Phantasm" has to be one of the best songs I've heard all year from any genre, as the balance of the eerie and dark atmosphere with the brilliant riffs and melodies is damn-near perfect. "Dark Clouds of Consciousness" is another stellar track as it opens with a riff that should sound familiar to any fan of Human-era Death before effortless shifting into a darker and doomier ensemble. 

Like I said before, "Fractured in the Timeless Abyss" will eviscerate the listener from just about every end of the metal spectrum. "Chewing Through the Membranes of Time and Space" has plenty of unashamed black metal influence with the haunting tremolo sections and the random, but well placed shriek that pierces through the desolate atmosphere beautifully. "Murmurs From Beyond" is a somber and grim track that could've been recorded by a band like Funebrarum or Disma, as the death metal tremolos slither along switching between low sections and higher passages all the while the drums and bass plod along with the bellowing vocals. When all is said in done, I would find it baffling if a fan of any of the aforementioned bands didn't enjoy Ectovoid because these guys are one of the best death metal acts going today in the US, and something tells me that their domination of the scene could become global in time. 

Be sure to check out and like Ectovoid on Facebook!

"Dark Clouds of Consciousness"
"Chewing Through the Membranes of Time and Space"
"Splintered Phantasm"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Morbidity - Pits of Eternal Torment [Demo]

It’s amazing how the brilliance that is death metal transcends to every part of the world. Who the hell would have thought that a band like Morbidity, one who channels bestial death metal at its finest, would pop up in Bangladesh? I certainly wouldn’t have, but luckily these guys found me and I must say I’m quite pleased with this four-track demo “Pits of Eternal Torment.” Even more peculiar is that these guys don’t worship at the altar of Incantation or Entombed like the majority of the newer acts these days, rather they deliver some absolutely filthy music in the vein of bands like Nunslaughter, Abhorer, and (early) Morbid Angel and they do it pretty damn well. 

The three original tracks here all really follow the same pattern and style. There’s some solid death metal tremolo sections that are meant for evisceration, not for atmospheric purposes or anything else, just simple destruction (See “Let There Be Chaos“). There are also a lot of heavy riffs that groove along and get the listener to bang their head, similarly to Nunslaughter and Pungent Stench (See "Morbidity"). Even though I said this band doesn’t go for any kind of atmosphere or aura, the music definitely has a vibe of sloppy madness that reeks of Repulsion on their masterpiece "Horrified" and it suits the extreme violence on this demo perfectly. 

Defiler’s vocals aren’t anything overly special but they compliment the intense music nicely and the same can be said for the drums and bass. Nothing too fancy, just sheer aggression that demands the listener’s attention. “Pits of Eternal Torment” is exactly what a demo should be, it’s short and sweet and leaves the listener wanting more, so if you’re a fan of any of the bands that I compared Morbidity to, then you had better check these guys out, especially since they have a great cover of one of Nunslaughter’s best songs in “Killed by the Cross,” oh and their music kicks ass too. 

Be sure to check out and like Morbidity on Facebook!

"Pits of Eternal Torment"

Final Rating
4.1/5 or 82%. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Blood Mortized - The Key to a Black Heart

Blood Mortized is a band that I was relatively familiar with before taking a listen to this record. I heard their "Bestial" EP, and while it didn't really set the world afire, it was still a solid collection of tracks that showed this band had plenty of potential to move up the proverbial ladder in today's death metal scene. The main reason for this is because these Swedes don't aspire to be the latest metal band to embrace the chainsaw-laden, d-beat-riddled worship (Not that I have a problem with these kinds of bands) style that has run rampant throughout not only Sweden, but the world over. Rather than brutalizing the listener with heavy, midpaced riffage akin to the old gods, or devastating the listener with some violent, punk-enraged music, Blood Mortized is out to  mesmerize the listener with their songwriting and atmospheric qualities, and "The Key to a Black Heart" is a better record for this reasoning. 

If there is a single band that Blood Mortized could be compared to, it would have to be Unleashed, mainly because the band's use of simple, yet effective riffage that is nothing more than a derivative thrash riff intertwined with death metal tremolos. "Doomsday Architect" and "To Murder a God" are definitely two of the more straightforward death metal tracks here, as they completely charge ahead with the Unleashed-inspired riffs and volatile vocals. Another accurate description would be to call them a less melodic Amon Amarth (sans the Viking lyrics too, of course), which isn't much of a surprise considering Anders Hansson (guitarist) is a former member of the melodeath titans. This record isn't without melody, though, but the driving force of the music isn't the melody, rather it's the riffs accompanied by melodic passages to evoke a solemn atmosphere, with "The Heretic Possession" and the title track being the best examples. 

In addition to the Unleashed and Amon Amarth comparisons, these guys even go for the epic moments with the track "Only Blood Can Tell" which features clean guitars and anthem-like choruses. And to balance out the epic with the heavy, "Bringer of Eternal Death" is complete Bolt Thrower worship, as the track just plods along with low-tuned riffs and melodies that sound like they were transplanted from "The IVth Crusade." Blood Mortized really did a stellar job of standing out with "The Key to a Black Heart" and if they continue to tread along the path that they've carved out for themselves then they should have no problem in rising above the Entombed clones, well as long as they don't open their songs with an incredibly similar powerchord sequence from a certain song by the name of "Left Hand Path" (Yes, I'm talking about "Dead and Rotten"). 

Be sure to check out and like Blood Mortized on Facebook!

"Only Blood Can Tell"
"To Murder a God"
"Bringer of Eternal Death"

Final Rating
4.25/5 or 85%. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cattle Decapitation - Monolith of Inhumanity

Returning with their fifth album for Metal Blade Records are the mighty Cattle Decapitation. As the name implies, this music is beyond brutal. Blastbeats, disgusting vocals, and filthy riffs were all over their last release, and their new album continues that trend. As brutal as this style of music is, I’ve always felt that is its major flaw. The best death metal bands were able to write things that were both memorable and heavy. Unfortunately, way too much modern death metal is excessively technical and lacks the songwriting of their influences. On “Monolith of Inhumanity”, the band straddles the line between being monotonous and having a lasting impact.

The album kicks off with “The Carbon Stampede”, which features a number of guest vocalists. There’s no doubt that there are others singing, but Travis Ryan’s normal vocals are so insane and demented that it’s pretty difficult to discern which vocalist is really screaming at any one time.  Speaking of Ryan’s vocals, he’s added a lot of clean singing this time. Maybe clean isn’t the best word for it; it’s somewhat nasally (think Mark Shelton from Manilla Road). It’s exactly what you would expect would happen when a death metal vocalist tries to sing. This melodicism is no more apparent than on the lead single, “A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat”. This tune is far and away the best of the album. Another standout is the epic “Your Disposal”. The opening riff of this song is one of the more atmospheric moments of the album, and is a reminder of part of “The Gardeners of Eden” from the last album. It is the combination of epic riffing and clean vocals that make this album worth coming back to. There is definitely a lot brutality, and I have nothing against that, but it helps to mix things up once in a while. Cattle Decapitation seems to have found a good balance, and the aforementioned tracks are the best examples. Once again, the band used the title track as a proverbial “calm before the storm”. It’s pretty atmospheric but does an excellent job at setting up the closer, “Kingdom of Tyrants”.

While I did enjoy this album, I can’t help but feel that this band has a lot more potential. Some fans may feel shafted by the introduction of newer vocals, but those help to keep this album from being one giant blur. Still, old fans should enjoy this; the band didn’t take things easy at all, they just added a new element to their already potent formula. There’s still plenty of double bass, blastbeats, chugging, tremolo picking, and of course, the completely ridiculous and backwards styles of vocals that Travis Ryan somehow emits.

Be sure to check out and like Cattle Decapitation on Facebook!
“A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat”
“Your Disposal”

Final Rating:
3.75/5 or 75%

Written by Scott

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Infiltrator - Demo

It seems in today's scene that America's east coast has been dominated by tremendous metal acts that span different subgenres, from the thrash titans in Lich King, Hellcannon and Condition Critical to the death metal masters in Disma and Horrendous, there are always great bands that continue to pop up. Now it's time to add another band to the other defenders of the faith, and that would be the speed metal act Infiltrator. At the moment this is nothing more than a one man project, but the two songs on the debut demo are absolutely top-notch and even original, making the band one that is in dire need of some attention in the metal underground. 

While most speed metal nowadays usually sticks to the derivative fast riffing and high-pitched vocals, Infiltrator completely shits on the norm and both tracks on this demo would put a lot of today's speed metal bands to shame. The song "Crush the False" opens with a guitar solo that consists of some sweet tapping skills before you get a crunchy riff that is soon followed by Steve Jansson's harsh vocals that are entirely reminiscent of Matt Harvey from Dekapitator or Sheepdog from Razor. The chorus for this song is incredibly catchy and will be stuck in your head for quite a while, plus the phenomenal lead guitar work will mesmerize you when you're not banging your head. The other song "Hell Ripper" isn't much different. The riffs aren't blatant e-string worship, but instead there are minor glimpses of technical proficiency and even a little bit of melody, similar to early power metal acts such as Omen or Jag Panzer. There's also a clean interlude with some fantastic guitar solos that creates an epic atmosphere to close out the song in a big way, leaving the listener with a very memorable impression. 

Infiltrator has created some top-notch material with this two song demo and the amount of originality for music in a subgenre that is so easy to be generic in is astounding. My hopes are definitely high for the future of this band and it's really only a matter of time before they join the elite bands atop the east coast metal scene. 

Be sure to check out and like Infiltrator on Facebook! You can also download this two song demo there for free!

"Crush The False"
"Hell Ripper"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Resurgency - False Enlightenment

Greece has never really been a hotbed for death metal in the way that countries like America, Sweden, Finland and Poland have been, but there are a few bands that do hail from the land better known for their black metal exports. One such band that has garnered a pretty decent amount of attention would be the evil and brooding Necrovorous (They also share members with Resurgency) who delivered a great album last year, but there was another band who I became aware of last year, and that band was Resurgency. Their split with Desolator was one that showed immense promise for the young act and it had me wanting more, and needless to say, the band's full-length debut "False Enlightenment" is that promise full-filled. 

While the band's demo "Dark Revival" showed a lot of Vader worshiping going on, "False Enlightenment" does a much better job of running the death metal gamut, incorporating influences from just about every sound around.  Songs like "Where Despair Dominates" and "Psychosis" embrace the groovy pummeling of Bolt Thrower and the midpaced brilliance of Entombed to perfection, leaving plenty of room for the listener to bang their head while also stopping to appreciate the impeccable songwriting and stellar riffage. The track "Black Holes of Antiverse" is definitely the darkest one on the record and shows notable Incantation influence, as the track is dominated by sinister tremolo sections that creep along ever so nicely. "Hideous Premonition" and "Binding Is Fatal" both conjure up some melodies that would make the Finndeath pioneers proud, as the melodic passages sweep through the crushing music flawlessly giving the music some atmospheric moments. 

Aside from the Resurgency's fantastic ability to create some terrific death metal that doesn't leave out many influences, the collective effort of every member also makes "False Enlightenment" as much of a stand-out record as it is. The vocalist's growls are highly reminiscent of Vader's Peter and they always suit the music very well, whether he's bellowing over thrashy riffs or evil melodies, they never sound out of place. The drumming is also enjoyable as every blast is tastefully placed and never overdone. The bassist's performance isn't very prominent, but the instrument thumps along well enough and provides enough heaviness for the band's sound, so no complaints here. All in all, "False Enlightenment" is a breath of fresh air as far as newer death metal acts are concerned and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see this record give Resurgency the attention from the metal underground that they deserve.

Be sure to check out and like Resurgency on Facebook!

"False Enlightenment"
"Hideous Premonition"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Firewind - Few Against Many

After many years and a few albums featuring an inconsistent lineup, it seems like Firewind have finally become one of those bands that are consistently putting out worthwhile albums. Beginning with Allegiance, Gus G. and vocalist Apollo Papathanasio have been cranking song after song of classic, memorable power metal. One would think that the band would get stronger over time; however, each album since Allegiance has actually been slightly weaker than the one before it. Thankfully, "Few Against Many" breaks this trend.

On first listen, I have to admit that this album was boring. It definitely takes a while for the subtleties of the melodies to kick in. The album initially seemed so contrived and forced, which made me think the songs were mediocre. With time, however, there were quite a few songs that stood out. Even before mentioning those tracks, there is one song that I loved even on first listen: “Another Dimension”. This song has the thrashiest Firewind riff in existence, and maybe even the thrashiest riff of the year. Seriously, this is what I expected to hear from the new Bonded by Blood record. Even had the rest of the record been a letdown, the opening of this song will force you to bang your head so hard that you’ll forget about the other 9 songs. Moving on to the more predictable Firewind songs, both “Wall of Sound” and “Losing My Mind” are the typical singles you would expect from this band. They aren’t too heavy or too fast, but the choruses will stick with you for hours. Likewise, the title track and “Glorious” are both songs that will stand the test of time. One of the more surprising songs is “Edge of a Dream”, which features the band of cellists, Apocalyptica. Even though it’s a ballad with only lead guitars and no drums, the performance of Apollo on vocals makes it one of the stronger tracks. From this point on, the rest of the album drags. The songs aren’t bad, but they aren’t standouts either. I certainly wouldn’t imagine any of them will make Firewind’s setlist anytime soon.

In the line of Firewind albums, this one may not be the top, but it’s certainly not the bottom either. Chances are, if you liked Days of Defiance, you’ll like this album as well; however, if you are expecting this to be another record like Allegiance or The Premonition, you might be let down. There is one thing that can be said for sure from this record: Firewind has found their sound, and they don’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

Be sure to check out and like Firewind on Facebook!
“Wall of Sound”
“Another Dimension”

Final Rating:
3.75/5 or 75%

Written by Scott

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Abysme - Strange Rites

For every ten or so crappy new bands that seem to constantly flood the interwebs and the metal underground, there's a solid band or two out there just waiting to be noticed and with any luck they can rise above the mediocrity. And with the debut full-length "Strange Rites," Abysme might just be about ready to break out and showcase their talent. There really isn't anything extraordinary about the band's take on death metal, but it's captivating and shows even more promise for their future output. The sound that's being emulated here is a familiar one as the the legends in Entombed and Dismember are the main foundation for their sound, but unlike the vast majority of Swedeath-worshipers out there, Abysme doesn't completely go for that exact sound that was pioneered on "Left Hand Path" or any of the earlier Swedish releases. Instead the band throws in a sizable Autopsy influence, as well as some Immolation and Incantation inspiration for good measure. 

The riffs on "Strange Rites" only come in a few different fashions, but they suffice. There are of course the midpaced, d-beat driven riffs that batter the listener's neck, with "Terminal Delirium" and "Remarkable Conqueror" being the two more violent tracks. But a lot of this record's music embraces the more extreme levels of tempo by either taking a doom-laden path that drags the listener down or the blast-beat-ridden route that fans of American death metal should be no stranger to. "Beyond the Seventh Door" employs both styles smoothly, almost reminiscent of Swedish bands like Utumno and Unleashed who hit ridiculously fast marks while also trudging along ever so gloomily. The album-closer "Remarkable Conqueror" is easily the magnum-opus of the album as it effortlessly combines midpaced madness with faster moments as well as slower parts for maximum satisfaction. 

The vocals aren't anything out of the ordinary and they fit the heavy music fine. The other instruments also don't really stand out but they do their jobs well enough, making sure every blastbeat is timed well and every fill is well done. Abysme shouldn't have any problem whatsoever in their quest to become one of the more standout bands in today's underground because "Strange Rites" accomplishes what so many other demos, EPs, and full-lengths fail to do, and that's to give the listener a sonic beatdown that they will enjoy for multiple listens. If you're a fan of any of the masters that were mentioned before, then this record should find a nice home in your collection. If not, then be prepared to be drawn and quartered...

Be sure to check out and like Abysme on Facebook!

"Beyond the Seventh Door"
"Remarkable Conqueror"

Final Rating
4.25/5 or 85%.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Skull Fracturing Playlist #1

Skull Fracturing Playlist #1

Due to a combination of my laziness and a lack of new material, I haven't been able to post as many reviews as I'd like to, so I'm completely ripping off every other webzine/blog out there. I'll post a few tracks from bands that I've been listening to a bunch this week. Most will be new for the sake of the this site, but I will leave you some older gems that I've been listening to a lot as well. 

Band - Charon
Album - Sulphur Seraph (The Archon Principle)
Genre - Black/Death/Thrash

Here's a band that's bringing some intense fucking metal from the home of intense metal, Germany. Charon's blend of thrashing violence, black metal darkness and death metal excellence is top-notch. Though, I would definitely avoid these guys if you're not a fan of black metal, because unlike just about every black/thrash band out there, the majority of the music here is more of the former influence. But, if you do like black metal, then this album is a must listen for you. 

This would be my personal favorite of the album, but the entire thing rips. 

Band - Escarnium
Album - Excruciating Existence
Genre - Death Metal

Hellthrasher Productions ceases to amaze me with the amount of quality they continue to release, especially for the old-school death metal releases. While a lot of their releases are usually some awesome Swedeath worship, Escarnium delivers some incredible groovy and pummeling death metal. Think of what the bastard child of Incantation and Bolt Thrower would sound like, and Escarnium will crush them. Seriously great death metal here, folks. Check it if you haven't. 

Band - Trial
Album - The Primordial Temple
Genre - Heavy Metal

This release has probably been my favorite of the year and has grown on me a lot since I first reviewed it. If you're a fan of Mercyful Fate, King Diamond or the new school contemporaries in Portrait and In Solitude, then it is your mandatory duty to pick this album up. The guitar solos are phenomenal, the riffs are all captivating and the vocals are soothingly great. Long story short, this record fucking kills. 

As far as the older gems that I was talking about, I've really been on a massive power metal binge as of late, so I'll leave you with some awesome tunes that most power metal fans should know of and if you're not a huge fan, you might not know. 

Band - Iron Cross
Album - Iron Cross

Band - Chastain
Album - Ruler of the Wasteland

Band - Satan's Host
Album - Metal From Hell

Band - Warlord
Album - Deliver Us [EP]

Friday, May 4, 2012

Jeff Loomis - Plains of Oblivion

Shred is by far one of the most difficult styles to do correctly. As much as I love guitar solos, 45 minutes of non-stop sweep picking, tapping, and exotic scales can definitely be draining on the listener. Even the original god of shred, Yngwie Malmsteen, has abandoned this approach for an album based in songs. Despite Yngwie’s success, there are still guitar wizards who are putting out full albums of solo-driven songs. This includes ex-Nevermore axe man, Jeff Loomis; or at least, it used to.

Loomis’ new album, Plains of Oblivion, is similar to the first Malmsteen album, Rising Force, in the sense that most of the album is instrumental and is focused on the lead playing, but there are still a few songs with vocals. In this case, Loomis recruited Ihsahn (Emperor) and Christine Rhoades. Sadly, it is these songs that hurt the record. Firstly, the order of these tracks is strange. Vocals show up on tracks 4, 7, and 8; Loomis should have chosen three tracks in a row, or separated them even further (especially considering the 9th song is more of a classical tune than a metal one). On an album like this, vocals tend to stick out like a sore thumb unless they are done really well. Ihsahn’s track, “Surrender”, is decent for what it is. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect a collaboration between Loomis and Ihsahn to sound like, but that’s the problem. The song doesn’t really fit in on the album because it’s so different from the others. On the other hand, the songs involving Rhoades are both good and bad.  “Tragedy and Harmony” showcases that Rhoades is actually a pretty talented vocalist, and it doesn’t really seem out of sync with the rest of the album. By contrast, “Chosen Time” is closer to a ballad and shouldn’t be here. Despite these downfalls, these are only 3 out of 10 songs.

The shred-styled songs are good for what they are. It doesn’t need to be re-iterated that Loomis is more technically proficient than 99% of metal musicians, and he brought in some great guests to compliment his work. Unfortunately, I don’t think Loomis managed to write anything as memorable as songs like “Miles of Machines” and “Jato Unit” from his debut. Still, the first three tracks are pretty fierce, especially “Escape Velocity”, which gets pretty thrashy underneath all of Loomis’ leads. The only other track of note is “Rapture”, which is a classical piece.

Despite what I’ve been ranting about, Plains of Oblivion is a pretty good album. It will take a couple of spins before you can really remember the songs without vocals, but the sheer virtuosity of Loomis’ playing makes it worthwhile. If you are new to his solo work, start with the first album, but this is definitely a worthwhile follow-up. Hopefully, he ditches the vocals for his next album, as that was the only major problem.

Be sure to check out and like Jeff Loomis on Facebook!

"The Ultimatum"
"Escape Velocity"
"Tragedy and Harmony"

Final Rating:
3.6/5 or 72%

Written by Scott