Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mortillery - Origin of Extinction

I’m continually surprised at how few females are involved in metal. In the more symphonic and gothic genres, they are certainly more common (mainly as the frontwoman), but I’m still amazed there aren’t more females like Jo Bench (Bolt Thrower) flying the flag of metal. One thing I hate, however, is when having females in a band takes the attention away from the music. There are countless examples of this, even in bands I enjoy, but it is truly satisfying to find a band that doesn’t exploit the gender differences in metal for attention. Case in point is Mortillery, who has two females (one of which is the singer), and I honestly had no clue about this until I listened to their second record, “Origin of Extinction” for the first time.

As a singer, Cara McCutchen has the perfect thrash voice. Her attack is harsh (think somewhere past Tom Araya), but understandable. On first listen, it actually took me a couple of tracks to notice it wasn’t a guy singing. Beyond this description, she’s really your typical thrash vocalist, just she does it better than most. What surprised me even more, what the opening to this record; neither the intro nor the opening to the second track were straight-ahead thrashers. Both feature great melodic solos that set up a different atmosphere from what you would expect. With that said, there is no shortage of intense music. “F.O.A.D.” is an aggressive outburst of swearing and hatred, fueled by the punk roots of thrash. Meanwhile, “Creature Possessor” features McCutchen shrieking her lungs out. In terms of the riffing, I was surprised to find that a few of the riffs are similar to Tankard’s newer stuff. They have that same upbeat, muted riffing style that Tankard abuses (most noticeable on “Feed The Fire”). Overall, however, there is actually a lot of variation in the riffs, it’s just that one style stood out more than others. Mortillery also definitely makes good use of guitar solos. They are more than just a chance for these guitarists to show off how skilled they are. Even when the music underneath the solos is going full speed, the solos often remain quite melodic.

Origin of Extinction” is probably not quite what you’d expect on the surface. Sure, it has the cool album cover and thrash band name, but this is definitely not just a retro thrash record (not that there’s anything wrong with those either). The band has put in more effort to stand out from the crowd and they do just that. 

Be sure to check out and like Mortillery on Facebook!

"No Way Out"
"Creature Possessor"

Final Rating
4.2/5 or 84%. 

Written by Scott 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Coldsteel - America Idle

Despite my extensive love for thrash from the late 80’s and early 90’s, Coldsteel was a band I never got around to. For one thing, I honestly did not hear about them until Stormspell stocked some of their material. It’s hard to believe a band with a classic record would be so overlooked in many thrash circles, but Coldsteel has not got the hype they deserve. Luckily for us newer folk, the band is back with a new EP, “America Idle”.

Coldsteel in 2013 really reminds me of Xentrix on “For Whose Advantage”. Both bands really excel at that mid-paced semi-technical riffing. This was an area rarely explored in thrash because many bands just don’t know how to write thrash songs that aren’t fast. Two of the songs, “Ashes to Ashes” and “Blood Secrets” are a true kick in the face. These numbers are speedy, aggressive, and beyond heavy. “Ashes to Ashes” is the faster of the two, but “Blood Secrets” definitely has more replay value. The other three songs are where some listeners might lose interest. Like I said, they do the mid-paced thing quite well, but if you can’t handle that lack of speed in your thrash, it might bother you. “America Idle” (the song) is a great example of how this is done well. If it weren’t for the annoying snippets of a child talking and some media clips, this track would be truly masterful. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that the songwriting is catchy. It is these slower songs that really let drummer Hal Aponte shine. He comes up with plenty of creative beats, simply because he doesn’t have to play them at 200 beats per minute (this will be most noticeable in the title track). Vocalist Troy Norr is the other musician who I really enjoy on this record. He of course has the gruff James Hetfield/Chuck Billy voice, but he also has the ability to be quite a bit more melodic than both of those singers. Not only are his vocals stellar, but the melodies and rhythms he singers are innately catchy. Some of his vocal lines are enhanced with contrasting gang vocals, while others use coinciding gang vocals ("Blood Secrets").

America Idle” is one of the most promising EP’s I’ve heard in a while. If Coldsteel can follow this up with some touring and an album, I’m certain they’ll get a much wider audience than they’ve ever had. Even if you weren’t a fan of the aforementioned Xentrix record, give this a shot. It’s not anywhere near a clone of that; it’s just the only album I’ve found that even comes close to it. If you are a fan of metal with songwriting that is just a step above, pick up “America Idle” immediately!

Be sure to check out and like Coldsteel on Facebook!

"America Idle"
"Ashes To Ashes"
"Blood Secrets"

Final Rating
4.2/5 or 84%. 

Written by Scott 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Corsair - Corsair

There isn't much innovation in today's metal scene, and a majority of bands who do try and do something different, tend to fail at it. Then there are bands that manage to break that mold and release some music that stands out very well. Corsair is one of the latter groups, and Shadow Kingdom Records made another brilliant find with this Virginia quartet. The band's self-titled is almost not even metal at some points, and if I had to describe the band's sound simply, it would be heavy progressive rock. Think of the earlier proto-metal bands like (early) Manilla Road, Legend, Heavy Load, Beowulf, etc, and throw in some prog elements a la King Crimson and a little bit of that Thin Lizzy flair, and that's what Corsair brings to the table on their debut full-length. If you can't handle metal that isn't overly evil or relentlessly fast, then this probably isn't for you, but if you can enjoy the less heavy things in life, carry on. 

The driving force for the songs throughout the course of "Corsair" are the always shifting riffs, that consist of distorted chords, wandering notes on the fretboard and some more upbeat riffage, rounding out a well-varied arsenal of rhythm. And the progressive influences never really go too far, as the music is memorable and not just a technical wank-fest for the guitarists. "Falconer" and "Gryphon Wing" are a couple examples of the heavier songs, with midpaced riffage that give the clean vocals an excellent backdrop for some memorable tracks. The amount of melody on this record cannot be understated, as the guitarists have a real talent for weaving stellar melody after melody with otherwise standard riffage for some great results. "Chaemera" and "Of Kings and Cowards" feature some of the best melodic passages on any album slapped with a "heavy metal" tag in quite some time, and the way they mesh with the vocals and other instruments is phenomenal. 

Corsair's terrific guitarwork isn't the only reason why the self-titled album kicks ass, but every other instrument contributes as well. The bass can be heard throughout, delivering thumping bass lines and more prog-like compositions to perfectly compliment everything else. The vocals are just as much of a highlight on "Corsair" as the riffs are. There are two vocalists, with one being a woman (listen to "The Desert"), but for the most part it's one guy doing a hell of a job. The vocalist's clean singing is incredibly soothing to the ears and the effect is multiplied when being backed by the awesome melodies, riffs and solos that span the entire debut. Overall, this is a record that completely caught me off guard. Is it metal, is it rock? I'd say it's definitely a bit of both, but most importantly it's a quality album worth the time of any music fan who enjoys any of the bands that were name-dropped earlier in the review. Shadow Kingdom has once again proved to be one of the best labels around today by picking out Corsair, and the two entities are sure to be praised a lot more as the years roll on if they keep producing material this damn good. 

Be sure to check out and like Corsair on Facebook!

"Path of the Chosen Arrow"
"Of Kings and Cowards"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Evil Army - I, Commander [EP]

Evil Army is a name I've heard thrown around a bit in thrash circles, but I never actually listened to them. Then, their name came up in a promo from Hell's Headbangers, a label that doesn't really release any subpar material, making this EP automatically worth my attention. "I, Commander" isn't groundbreaking and it isn't anything remarkable, but there is some potential found on it that leads me to believe that they can get a lot better, because it's hard to judge them on three tracks that clock in at a little more than eight minutes (especially since I haven't heard their previous full-length). 

The three songs are all relatively similar in structure - they're short in length and feature midpaced to fast thrashy riffage, akin to bands like Nuclear Assault, Overkill and the German giants Kreator. Rob Evil's vocals sound like a young Angelripper, which is perfectly suited for the war-themed thrashers. The title track isn't anything special, but the other two songs "Ashes of the Nuclear Fire" and "I Must Destroy You," both have some awesome moments (the kickass break in the former track, and the riffage in the latter) that show why they attracted the attention of a lot of metalheads in the underground, as well as Hell's Headbanger's. Overall, "I, Commander" makes for a fun listen and it shows that Evil Army can produce some quality thrash in an oversaturated scene. This EP basically sounds like a lost thrash band of old from the eighties, which old-schoolers and new fans can equally enjoy, making the band's conquest closer to complete. 

Be sure to check out and like Evil Army on Facebook!

"Ashes of the Nuclear Fire"
"I Must Destroy You"

Final Rating
3.75/5 or 75%. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Witchgrave - Witchgrave

Venom is easily one of the most influential bands in metal history. Almost any band playing metal in the vein of the old-school will tell you that Venom is one of their influences, and why wouldn't they be? But there are also bands out there who release music that is drenched in obvious "Welcome to Hell" and "Black Metal" worship, and they would be happy just to have their names mentioned alongside the metal masters. Sweden's Witchgrave is a band that could definitely be placed in the latter category, as the music on their self-titled debut is ugly and dirty speed-tinged heavy metal made for no other point than to get your headbanging and the air-guitar out. Unlike their Swedish contemporaries in Portrait, In Solitude, Ghost, etc, Witchgrave doesn't focus on writing melancholic or darker material (though, there is a little bit of that here and there), rather, the eight tracks are all pretty simple and derivative like they were written straight out of the '80s. 

"Witchgrave" doesn't get off to a great start, because the album-opener "Raise Hell" is one of the more mediocre songs on the record. Luckily, the next track "The Virgin Must Die" is one of the album's best. It shows off what the band does so damn good, and that's making simple, but memorable heavy metal. They aren't trying to fool anyone into thinking they're technical wizards, but they can pull off some catchy songs that should please fans of Venom, Motorhead and Midnight. Songs like "The Last Supper" and "Motorcycle Killer" feature fast riffs and some decent melodies to go along with ear-catching choruses and they get better with each listen. "The Apparition" is definitely the highlight of the album, but it's the ending of the song that really left me wanting more, as the band channeled King Diamond for a bit, and they did it pretty fucking good (kind of makes you wonder what they would sound like if they expanded on that sound a little more). Overall, Witchgrave are one of the better new heavy metal bands going today, who channel the grittier side of things, similarly to other new groups like Convent Guilt, Okkulta, Black Absinthe, etc. This record shows a lot of potential for the Swedish quartet and it's worth the time of anyone who enjoys any of the aforementioned bands, which puts them in some pretty awesome company. 

Be sure to check out and like Witchgrave on Facebook! 

"The Virgin Must Die"
"The Apparition"
"Motorcycle Killer"

Final Rating
4/5 or 80%. 

Hatriot - Heroes of Origin

Few names are more revered in the thrash scene than Steve “Zetro” Souza, and rightly so. He’s absolutely one of the best vocalists thrash has to offer. His menacing snarl has so much attitude that it sounds like he’s going to jump out of your speakers and punch you in the face. Despite that, he’s really only had one astounding record (“Tempo of the Damned”). So it comes as good news that Hatriot’s debut album, “Heroes of Origin”, is a logical follow-up to the 2004 Exodus classic.

Everything about this record screams Exodus. From the guitar tone to the riffs themselves, to the relentless barking of Zetro himself, there is nothing here that breaks new ground. The only hint of innovation is in some slightly more modern elements that appear in “And Your Children To Be Damned”, as well as the blastbeats that show up on “The Mechanics of Annihilation”. Speaking of the latter track, it features the best vocals on the record, as Zetro spits out words as fast as the human voice will allow. Some other highlights are the other two tracks that appeared on the 2011 demo: “Weapons of Class Destruction” and “Globalcidal”. These two songs feature the most memorable riffs and songwriting of the album. With that said, all of the tracks on the first half of the album generally have interesting choruses. Some of these feature gang vocals, but in general, the use of those vocals are fairly limited on this record. Aside from the singing, the instrumentation is fairly predictable for thrash. The drums are usually playing the expected hardcore punk beats, the bass is mostly non-existent, and the guitars fit so many riffs into these 10 songs that only Gary Holt himself could do better. All of this is done at almost exclusively one speed: fast. Lyrically, Hatriot hearkens back to the lyrics found on “Scar Spangled Banner”. Having not studied the songs in-depth, it seems like Hatriot is about loving your country but hating the people that run it. The whole thing is a bit of a mess and way overdone in thrash, but it is par for the course for Zetro, so I tend to ignore it here.

Hatriot is exactly what Zetro should have done after being kicked out of Exodus. The thrash resurgence brought back the interest and enthusiasm from the young kids, and it’s nice to see Zetro capitalize on that. If you have heard “Tempo of the Damned” or Hatriot’s 2011 demo, you’ll know exactly what to expect. It’s not original, but it more than gets the job done! Buy this and get thrashed! 

Be sure to check out and like Hatriot on Facebook!

"Weapons of Class Destruction"
"The Mechanics of Annihilation"

Final Rating
4.25/5 or 85%. 

Written by Scott 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Heavatar - Opus I - All My Kingdoms

Heavatar might just be the worst band name I’ve ever come across. It seems like it’s meant to be a cross between heavy and guitar, but it sounds like a dinosaur to me. In spite of that, the band do their best to make “Opus I – All My Kingdoms” a true power metal opus. Before getting into the album, it’s worth noting the fantastic musicians who work on this record. Jorg Michael, who just quit Stratovarius, has found another project where he can show off his frightening skill. His work on “Elysium” was brilliant, and he follows that up quite well here. The other main musician on this record is vocalist and guitarist Stefan Schmidt (Van Canto). His voice is a deep bass that is very uncommon in power metal, not unlike Joakim Broden (Sabaton). This unique approach makes for a record that is bound to stick in your mind immediately.

Heavatar’s biggest strength is the diversity in their songwriting. Each song is specifically crafted to give a different vibe from the last. Some tracks will give you pounding anthems - not unlike Manowar and HammerFall – while others have the huge Blind Guardian-like choirs. Ultimately, however, “Opus I – All My Kingdoms” is an album driven by Heavatar’s love of classical music. Supposedly every song is based off a different classical tune, and you’ll definitely recognize a few melodies here and there. With that said, these songs are all completely original (at least to my ears). There is the stomping and heavy “Born to Fly”, the neoclassical Rhapsody of Fire-esque song, “Replica”, and the ironically not so metal ballad “To The Metal”. Many will notice that “The Look Above” is quite lengthy, at 11 minutes; however, it doesn’t feel that way at all. In fact, this song seems just like every other song. The length isn’t noticeable at all. With that said, the song doesn’t feel as epic as other 10+ minute power metal songs. The only real weakspot in the writing is “Luna! Luna!”. The chorus is more annoying than enjoyable, but it’s possible that in time, it will grow on you. After several listens, I can say it hasn’t reached that point for me. Most of the other songs will stick with you after a couple of listens, but their quality varies. Ultimately, it comes down to how catchy the chorus is, which benefits some songs ("Elysium At Dawn") and hurts other ("Abracadabra")

Opus I – All My Kingdoms” is certainly a worthwhile, unique record. It probably won’t blow you away, but Heavatar does their best to leave you with memorable, songs that don’t sound like one giant blur. This is one record not to overlook this year!

Be sure to check out and like Heavatar on Facebook!

"Elysium At Dawn"
"Born To Fly"
"To The Metal"

Final Rating
4.0/5 or 80%. 

Written by Scott