Monday, October 29, 2012

Maelstrom - It Was Predestined

Maelstrom is one of many bands from the late 80’s who have risen from the dead to give us music once again. Unlike many of their counterparts, however, Maelstrom never actually released a full-length back in the 80’s. In keeping with tradition, the band has given us an EP of three songs that were written in 1988, but not recorded until 20 years later.

It Was Predestined” is a strange release. On the one hand, there is some exceptionally competent, straightforward death/thrash, not unlike that later played by Gammacide and Demolition Hammer, among others. On the other, the band (more like multi-instrumentalist Joe Lodespoto) unleashes into some insane guitar work. He isn’t just playing great guitar solos; he’s throwing in some harmonized sweep picking and plenty of other fun tricks as well. At times, the music definitely reveals a lot of classical influence. This is most obvious in the solo break in the opener, “Arise”, as well as towards the beginning of “A Futile Crusade”. The vocals are somewhat of a different take on thrash. While they definitely have harsh undertones, it is almost as if Gary Vosganian manages to make his speaking voice as brutal sounding as possible, without actually singing. It is quite honestly the first time I’ve heard a vocalist sound like this, and is well worth hearing. In addition to this speaking-screaming style, he also employs the brutal rasp found in most death/thrash. 

In a matter of 20 minutes, Maelstrom managed to put a variety of influences and sounds into an EP that sounds extremely unique, even for 2008. The riffing and the rhythm work get so intense that you’ll definitely get a case of whiplash from headbanging to this album. And yet, at times, this is unbelievably progressive. Fans of Coroner, Voivod, and Toxik will definitely notice some similarities between the bands. I’m a bit baffled that the band has only released an EP in the last four years. This is seriously some of the most unique music I’ve ever heard, and I can’t believe they haven’t benefitted from the thrash resurgence like others have. My advice: track this one down now! 

Be sure to check out and like Maelstrom on Facebook!

"A Futile Crusade"

Final Rating
4.5/5 or 90%. 

Written by Scott

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Skeletal Remains - Beyond The Flesh

The onslaught of old-school death metal revival bands in the past few years seem to be fairly concentrated in one of two camps: bands who sound like Incantation and bands who sound like the classic Swedish death metal bands (Entombed, Dismember, etc). Both of those styles are great, but it’s always nice to have a band going even further back to the basics. With their debut full-length, Skeletal Remains is bringing death metal back to its Floridian roots. “Beyond The Flesh” combines the great riffs and soloing of Death with the insane, demented vocal style pioneered by John Tardy (Obituary). On top of that, there are quite a few evil moments that are eerily similar to the atmosphere created by Deicide’s music. Even blastbeats are used sparingly. This band is about as old-school as it gets these days and that is the exact reason why they are brilliant.

Perhaps the strongest part of this record is its superb production. It sounds like “Spiritual Healing”, if that record had a slightly higher snare. Everything else is quite similar: the kick drums have quite a bit of punch, the leads are unbelievably crisp sounding, the bass is quite prominent during the heaviest riffs, and the rhythm guitars provide the perfect setting for those slow, tremolo-picked riffs that Death was famous for. “Beyond The Flesh” is quite similar to records like “Leprosy” in that it doesn’t thrash at full-speed relentlessly. Instead, the band makes use of well-placed changes in tempo to keep things interesting. Don't get me wrong, there's still plenty of speed, it's just that the speed isn't abused like it is by a lot of death metal these days. As mentioned earlier, the absolute highlight of this record is the guitar playing. Imagine if James Murphy, Andy LaRocque, and Chuck Schuldiner (my personal favourite Death shredders) decided to compile all of their best solos into one album; that pretty much sums up this record.

Beyond The Flesh” has almost all of the elements, but there is one area where it falls short for me. Much like most of today’s death metal, I find the songwriting monotonous. The record is fun while it lasts, but I can’t quite sing along afterwards like I could with many of the older bands. It isn’t so much the lack of good parts to the songs; the music is fantastic. The problem is that the song structures don’t seem to be written in any sort of recognizable fashion (at least not to me). I would imagine that’s the point, and if you love that, you will absolutely love this album, but for me, it gives me nothing to grab on to past the album title. I can’t even recommend any songs in particular because they all seem very similar to me. I can’t fault Skeletal Remains that much for it; this is their first record, and I have no doubt the songwriting can only improve from here. With that said, the other parts to this album are so unbelievably strong that you need to hear it. 

Be sure to check out and like Skeletal Remains on Facebook!

All of it

Final Rating
4.0/5 or 80%. 

Written by Scott

Wintersun - Time I

After 8 long years, Wintersun has finally returned with part one of their new material, “Time”. I don’t want to dwell on the fact that has been a while since the last album, but I definitely want to talk about the decision to release this as two separate records. Whether or not Jari Mäenpää or Nuclear Blast made the decision, it was the correct one. Simply put, this album is an epic, bombastic affair of keyboards and symphonic atmospheres that is almost too much to handle. 80 minutes of this style of music would be physically draining on the listener, and I say that because even 40 minutes can be quite difficult to fully absorb what is going on. There may be only three full songs on “Time I”, but they are more than enough material to satisfy the listener.

The instrumental opener, “When Time Fades Away”, introduces some new oriental influences to Wintersun’s brand of folky melodic death metal. By the time this song is over, you start to understand the transition in sound from the debut to this record. On “Time IWintersun uses more clean vocals, keyboards, and melodies. That isn’t to say that every song here is a rehash of “Death and the Healing” from the debut, but there is certainly less speed and intensity on this record. The band definitely embraced the “melodic” part of melodic death metal. “Sons of Winter and Stars” is the first epic and is actually the track that is most similar to the debut album. There are blastbeats and riffs aplenty, and the intensity is kept up throughout the song; however, you will notice the increased use of choirs and clean vocals. The other two lengthy songs are employ similar methods, but are not quite as fast. In fact, one of the most interesting aspects of this album is the huge range of dynamics. There are perfect transitions from huge, heavy death metal moments into quieter acoustic and keyboard driven sections with Jari's clean vocals over top. 

My only real complaint on this record is the lack of guitar solos. They do show up (there is some serious shredding going on in the title track), but are generally less frequent and shorter than on the first record. Considering how talented both of these guitarists are, it’s too bad. The musicianship is great, but they don't show off like they did on “Wintersun”. The only major improvement instrument-wise is the great clean vocals by Jari. His singing sounds more confident and powerful than ever before. A second caution with this record is how over-the-top it is. There are numerous layers of instruments, and the band changes tempos and moods quite often. Don’t dismiss this as lacking substance; it definitely takes more than a few listens to enjoy the album, and I’m not even sure it’s fair to review it so quickly after it was released. Don’t overthink this record, just put it in and listen to it often. If you put the time in to appreciate this masterpiece, you will definitely get more out of it than your average album.

Be sure to check out and like Wintersun on Facebook!

"Sons of Winter and Stars"

Final Rating
4.5/5 or 90%. 

Written by Scott

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Skull Fracturing Playlist #3

Skull Fracturing Playlist #3

Despite having plenty of newer material to listen to, I don't have the time to actually sit down and fully digest the music and gather my thoughts. I don't want to give the readers a bullshit review that wouldn't do them (or the bands for that matter) any good, so I'm gonna use the time I do have to give some newer bands who I've been listening to a lot lately some love, as well as some of the older gems I've been listening to, because you can never have too much great music. 

Band - Convent Guilt (Australia)
Demo - S/T
Genre - Heavy Metal

This is a band that I have some incredibly high hopes for. Hailing from the land of everything awesome that is metal, Australia, Convent Guilt have only released their debut four-song demo, and it is definitely worth the time of any metalhead who likes dirty, gritty heavy metal that doesn't aim to break any new ground. If you want catchy material written for the sake of love for the metal genre, then this demo is a must pick-up for you. For fans of Motorhead, Manilla Road, Angel Witch, etc. 

Convent Guilt - No Dawn in Lucifer's Light

Band - Hellbringer (Australia)
Album - Dominion of Darkness
Genre - Thrash

Oh look! Another band from Australia, but I simply cannot help the fact that just about every band from down under releases quality shit, and Hellbringer's debut full-length "Dominion of Darkness" is no exception. This is evil thrash at it's finest. The riffs, reverb-soaked vocals, dark atmosphere and everything else just mesh together perfectly for one of the best albums of 2012. For fans of Antichrist, Nekromantheon, Infernal Majesty, etc. 

Buy it here -

Hellbringer - Dominion of Darkness

Band - Cauldron (Canada)
Album - Tomorrow's Lost
Genre - Heavy Metal

One of my other absolute favorite countries for metal, Canada, has been pretty productive this year, and Cauldron's third album "Tomorrow's Lost" has not left my rotation since I first gave it a listen a couple weeks ago. This album sees Cauldron expanding on the awesome sound they first achieved on their debut "Chained to the Nite." The mix of gloomier material with more upbeat music is perfect and allows the band to show off their skills to the fullest. For fans of Angel Witch, White Wizzard, Halloween, etc. 

Buy it here -

Cauldron - Tomorrow's Lost (Sun Will Fall)

Band - Asphyx (Netherlands)
Album - Deathhammer
Genre - Death Metal

One of my all-time favorite Death Metal bands Asphyx, responsible for classics such as "The Rack" and "Last One On Earth," has delivered yet another monstrous record full of heavy riffage, doomy passages and of course the brilliant Van Drunen handling vocal duties in the way that only he can. If you're a fan of the band's earlier work, then there isn't any reason why you shouldn't enjoy this monolithic record either. For fans of Grave, Hail of Bullets, Ataraxy, etc.

Buy it here -

Asphyx - As the Magma Mammoth Rises

That about covers the newer music that I've been spinning for the last few days, along with other newer releases that will be reviewed down the line at some point. And, of course, I've been enjoying plenty of old-school releases as well. I'll just leave some videos of a few of the awesome old-school albums in my rotation this past week or so. Enjoy!

Band - Pestilence (Netherlands)
Album - Consuming Impulse
Genre - Death/Thrash

Here's one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite death/thrash records of all time "Consuming Impulse." If you aren't already familiar with the Netherlands legends (which also feature the man himself Martin Van Fucking Drunen), then you need to remedy that immediately. I recommend the first two full-lengths for some killer riffs, solos and of course morbid vocals. 

Band - Dissection (Sweden)
Album - Storm of the Light's Bane
Genre - Black Metal

This is definitely one of my favorite tracks from one of my favorite black metal albums, "Storm of the Light's Bane," an absolute masterpiece of the genre. Thrashy riffs, sinister and melodic tremolos and an atmosphere as cold as the bleak winterlands that grace the album cover. 

Band - Infernal Majesty (Canada)
Album - None Shall Defy
Genre - Thrash

And here we have one of my favorite thrash songs ever. The evil vibe that the band has going on here is superb and makes the haunting lyrics and riffs all that much better. Definitely one of the more underrated bands from the Great White North of Canada. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Weapon - Embers and Revelations

I've only become familiar with Weapon within the past month or so, but I've listened to their first two records "Drakonian Paradigm" and "From the Devil's Tomb" constantly (and eventually added this gem to rotation) since, and am I fucking glad that I stumbled upon these guys. The Canadian quartet plays a brand of black/death metal (that at points blurs with other subgenres of metal) that gives Weapon a sound that they can call their own. If you've heard the first two records, then there isn't a reason you won't love this one like the rest, as "Embers and Revelations" evolves the group's sound in a natural way that doesn't sound forced, yet they've also retained a lot of that "weird" goodness that fans of the band have become quite fond of. They'e also continued to mirror some of the greats in their work that have drawn comparisons to amazing bands such as Absu, ("Altars of Madness" era) Morbid Angel, Watain, Beherit, among other acts that have provided plenty of evil and eerie tunes as much as they did crushingly heavy songs. 

"The First Witnesses of Lucifer" kicks off the album, and it shows off the main tenets of the band's sound - dark melodies, thrashy riffs, incredible solos and top-notch musicianship, making for an ideal opening track. Another aspect of "Embers and Revelations" that immediately becomes apparent, is the production of the record. It's not very raw sounding (especially when compared to the previous albums), yet the music doesn't lose any of the eerie atmosphere or the harsh edge to the riffs. "Vanguard of the Morning Star" is easily my favorite track here. The cohesiveness of the band really shines through on this song when the melodic tremolos mesh perfectly with the blackened vocals to create a chilling sound that is followed with more stellar riffs and lead guitar work. Speaking of the lead work, the guitarists for Weapon have just the right amount of technicality in their songs, never going into a complete wankfest that takes away from the focus on writing actual riffs. This really shows on the guitar solos which possess a lot of melody and technical skill, but most importantly, they fit the rest of the music. 

All of the tracks (sans the decent instrumental) on "Embers and Revelations" showcase what Weapon truly does better than most bands, and that's write terrific songs. These four metalheads structure their songs in a very awesome fashion that allows each track to have multiple moments that have the listener wanting to hear more. The amount of riffs, bass work, solos and every other aspect of the songs is balanced to perfection, creating a controlled frenzy of chaotic music that isn't too sporadic or hard to digest, instead memorable. Overall, Weapon accomplishes what they've set out to with every one of their albums, and that's continue to forge their unique and brilliant sound by conjuring wicked songs meant to haunt those who enjoy the dark music, as well as vicious tracks that'll get your headbanging. With the way that this band has been progressing, I'm already awaiting their next release which is sure to cement Weapon as one of this generation's premier bands. 

Be sure to check out and like Weapon on Facebook!

"The First Witnesses of Lucifer"
"Vanguard of the Morning Star"
"Liber Lilith"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%.