Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nekrofilth - Devil's Breath

The heavy metal genre runs an intricate gamut of sounds, ranging from melodic music featuring clean and understandable vocals, to ungodly and just downright vile creations. Make no mistake, Nekrofilth (as if you couldn't already tell based solely on the name and album art) belongs to the latter, and more wretched group. Given who the frontman (Zack Rose of Nunslaughter) of the Cleveland trio is, fans of the devil metal masters should know exactly what they're getting themselves into with the "Devil's Breath." Trying to specify the genre of the repulsive contents of this album will do no one any good, because the 13 tracks are an unholy merging of extreme metal that simply needs to be enjoyed, rather than dissected and over-analyzed. 

Nekrofilth are undoubtedly going to be compared to Nunslaughter, which isn't an entirely unfair comparison, just shortsighted. This group of vandals does have an identity of their own - the lyrical content isn't deadset on annihilating Christians or raping nuns, instead the songs are centered on subjects like fucking junkies and wanting to see others mercilessly terminated. Rose's savage vocals are what really bring the horrid lyrics to life, though, as he spews the words with such anger and disgust, the listener can't help but feel dirty at the end of each track ("Smear the Sleaze" in particular), truly doing the band's name justice. The production on the "Devil's Breath" is also stellar, not taking away any of the foulness to the riffs and overall aura of the music. 

Having gruesome lyrics and inhumane vocals isn't enough to create the gutwrenching sound that is prevalent throughout the record. Luckily, the rhythm section brings their A-game to breathe some undead life into the tracks. The riffs are bludgeoning when they're going at full speed, and are even more crushing when the tempo slows. Songs like "Crave the Grave" and the title track are unrelenting, in part to the grind-tinged and thrashy riffage, but also because of the battering of the drum kit and the insanely heavy bass playing. Listening to Nekrofilth's latest collection of putrid material is more than likely what if feels like to be slaughtered by the devil himself, and is not for those who choose to pose. If you aren't feeling somewhat violated after listening to this opus of filth, than you weren't meant to survive the devil's breath...

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"Crave the Grave"
"I'm A Degenerate"
"Devil's Breath"
"Smear the Sleaze"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hell's Domain - Hell's Domain

There’s nothing that says thrash more than an Ed Repka cover art. Denmark’s own Hell’s Domain figured that out, as they used some of his artwork for their debut, self-titled record. Over the course of 11 tracks, Hell’s Domain provides the listener with moments of great thrashing fury, as well as moments of mediocrity. Perhaps the biggest issue that pervades this album is the lack of conviction. It’s no secret to me that this sound has been done before, but if the band believes they are presenting something new (ala bands like Warbringer) it can make for a more interesting experience.

The good news is that there is plenty of variety on “Hell’s Domain”. There is the speedy blistering force of “The Needle and the Vein” (which also throws in some interesting chords in one of the riffs), as well as the Exodus-influenced closer, “Sneaking Disease”. This final track has some similarities to Exodus’ classic “Strike of the Beast”, but these are largely easy to ignore because of how “Sneaking Disease” will send you into a fit of headbanging. Likewise, the opening riff to “In The Trenches…” is pure Exodus worship. On the other hand, there is plenty of less energetic riffing. Surprisingly, the opening track, “100 Days in Hell” is not particularly fast, nor does it feature some of the albums strongest riffs. Another highlight is “Crawling In The Shadows”, which is the only track that is easy to recall after the record finishes.

The musical elements on “Hell’s Domain” are all in order. The riffing is crisp, and crunchy, as if Gary Holt himself approved the guitar tone. This fantastic sound is best noticed on “In The Trenches…” where a thrash breakdown comes in to obliterate your aural senses. The drums are extremely abrasive and in your face, but do so without being the loudest instrument. Singer Alex Clausen has a fairly melodic voice. His accent is noticeable, but not overly thick (unlike thrash’s German counterparts). He can sing, scream, or shout when he needs to, and mostly just adapts to whatever the remaining instruments are doing. A great example of his versatility is on “Order #227”, where Clausen pulls off some John Connelly-esque singing moments in the chorus (the “Evil prevails” line mirrors Connelly’s nasally tone), but also sticks to his bark in other parts of the track.

Hell’s Domain” isn’t anything you haven’t heard before. It’s not remotely original, but that doesn’t make it terrible, nor does it prevent it from being a solid record. It may take a few more listens to really get into than some other new thrash albums, but there is plenty worth hearing here. If you are someone who likes to stay on top of the best new thrash bands around, Hell’s Domain is well worth hearing! 

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"The Needle and the Vein"
"In The Trenches..."
"Crawling In the Shadows"

Final Rating
3.7/5 or 74%. 

Written by Scott 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fleshgod Apocalypse - Labyrinth

The first three Fleshgod Apocalypse releases showcased an incredible development in style, as the band has moved from brutal death metal to a much more technical, convoluted symphonic style. While I feel that “Mafia” was and will always be their best release, there was no denying the hilarity of “Agony”. The symphonics were so ridiculous and over-the-top that it was easy to enjoy. The entire album consisted of only blast beats in the drumming, and it never stopped hitting you. And while this meant that the songs themselves were not well-constructed, “Agony” was still fun to listen to because of how insane it was. This brings us to “Labyrinth”, which I expected to be a flop, mainly because bands that get this popular this quickly generally drop the ball. Luckily, however, “Labyrinth” shows the band learning from the mistakes of “Agony” to create a well-orchestrated symphonic brutal death metal record.

As with every Fleshgod Apocalypse album, the highlight here is the drumwork of Francesco Paoli. Unlike those other records, however, he delivers an extremely varied performance on “Labyrinth”, utilizing a variety of different drum beats and fills. In addition, the drums are no longer excessively loud, and give room for other instruments to breathe. There are numerous sections where Paoli lays off the intensity to allow the piano to take centre, and it helps to create a more orchestral atmosphere. This would prove to be a good thing, because the keyboardist is the other musician who has stepped up on “Labyrinth”. No longer do the symphonics seem tacked on, nor do they actively combat what the rest of the band plays. Instead, they complement the rest of the music, and often lead it towards new directions. One of these new directions is the inclusion of opera vocals. These generally replace the clean vocals that used to appear in the band’s music (these cleans are still present on “Labyrinth”, but are far less prevalent), and are well done. Once again, it is more about contributing to the atmosphere and epicness of the music, than actually writing a catchy melody. There have been some complaints about this opera singer, but she is a perfect fit for the sound the band is trying to achieve, and its difficult to see how somebody who enjoyed "Agony" would be against the inclusion of these vocals. Another change to the band’s music is the use of vocals that are somewhat speaking and somewhat shouting. Fans of Roman death metallers Ex Deo will be used to this when it pops up, and, when combined with the backing chanting choirs and orchestras, it enriches the experience.

Labyrinth” is truly a behemoth of a record. There is so much going on, but unlike on “Agony”, it is all laid out for the listener this time. Once again, the songs themselves are a bit underdeveloped, but the improvement in atmosphere helps to make “Labyrinth” a cohesive, enjoyable listen. While it may not have as much surface value for entertainment as the previous albums, it is easily their second best work behind the brilliant “Mafia” EP.

Be sure to check out and like Fleshgod Apocalypse on Facebook!

"Minotaur (Wrath of Poseidon)"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 

Written by Scott 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Volture - On The Edge

Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, and sharing members with Municipal Waste, it’s fair to say that Volture is more than experienced when it comes to great metal. After a quick EP in 2011, the band is back with their debut, “On The Edge”, and it is exactly what you might expect, minus one unfortunate exception. The band has recruited new vocalist Jack Bauer. While he has his moments (see the delivery of the “Can’t you see that we are out of time” phrases in the title track), his delivery is too dry for me. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t sound like your standard traditional heavy metal vocalist, but he comes across as grating, and actively battles the listener’s enjoyment of the music.

With that out of the way, what remains is very competent, predictable heavy metal. “On The Edge” opens with the enjoyable high-speed burst of energy title track that is all too common, but as you might also expect, it is one of the stronger tracks on the record. The tempo does tend to vary, with some tracks leaning towards a stomping, headbanging inducing charge (“Heat Seeker”). Other songs, however, follow the title track. “Ride The Nite” uses a common downpicking speedy riff to satisfice you, but it somehow feels empty. “Desert Pursuit” also uses plenty of chugging (the good kind), while leaving some space for Bauer to wail in the chorus. It isn’t until “Brethren of the Coast” that the album picks up steam again, with a flashy riff that ups the tempo further. The song also displays one of the few moments of Bauer’s vocals that doesn’t get on my nerves, as he soars in a catchy sing-along moment. Harmonized lead guitars later emulate a similar section that would be perfect in a live setting. The remaining songs provide some good moments, but nothing particularly new or interesting. “Hot Wired” is another riff assault, and probably one of the more impressive songs. “Heat Seeker” likewise provides more material that is good for rocking out and getting lost in.  The most impressive display of lead guitar work comes “Nightrance”, which is filled both with extensive guitar solos and dual-guitar patterns. 

On The Edge” is a good record for what it is trying to accomplish, but it doesn’t click for me. The songs lack the enthusiasm and staying power that bands like White Wizzard and Holy Grail achieve effortlessly. It isn’t for lack of trying on my part; I’ve listened to “On The Edge” numerous times, and I will continue to come back to it, but traditional heavy metal is normally a very easy genre to get into, and Volture is testing me as best as they can. Perhaps a better singer would solve the issue, but sometimes the songs just aren’t up to par.

Be sure to check out and like Volture on Facebook!

"On The Edge"
"Brethren of the Coast"
"Hot Wired"

Final Rating
3.9/5 or 78%. 

Written by Scott 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sinister Realm - World of Evil

In just a few short years of existence, Allentown, PA’s Sinister Realm is already on their third record, “World of Evil”. This was my first hearing of them, and after seeing the album cover, it was clear that some serious heavy metal was about to be unleashed upon my ears. Perhaps rather than heavy, the key word here should be power. That isn’t because this is power metal (it’s not), but rather, it’s because of the sheer strength of the vocals of Alex Kristof. His ability is far greater than he ever lets on throughout the course of this record, and that is a great thing for the band. Rather than trying to deliver a consistently over-the-top performance (ala Ripper Owens), Kristof uses his normal singing voice and lets the catchy melodies take center. This is no more obvious than on the opening track, “Dark Angel of Fate”, where his voice soars over the uplifting guitar leads underneath. If it isn’t clear yet, Kristof’s performance is the highlight of “World of Evil”.

Luckily, however, the rest of the band delivers as well. Though this album is never particularly fast, there is no shortage of interesting, heavy riffs. Sometimes when bands play more mid-paced stuff (“Bell Strikes Fear” is one such rocking song), there is a tendency to become plodding and boring, but that isn’t the case with Sinister Realm. For one thing, the bass cuts through the mix consistently, making Steve Harris proud, and offering relief in case you ever want to look beyond the riffing. Speaking of Steve Harris, the bass tone is remarkably similar to any of the four Iron Maiden reunion records. Very few albums manage to command this much attention on the bass, and it is satisfying to say the least. Beyond the rhythm work and the riffs, the guitars also offer wicked harmonized leads. The best example is the bone-chilling opening to “World of Evil”, which sets the mood for a true heavy metal classic, where once again, Kristof's vocals shine in the chorus. 

At this point you may have noticed that I’ve only made reference to the first three tracks. As with many records that was deliberate. These three songs (alongside “The Ghosts of Nevermore”) are by far the strongest on the album. This is definitely a front-loaded record, but unlike other similarly designed records, the remaining songs on “World of Evil” are still very good, just not up to par with the first four. Nevertheless, the record as a whole is a bit of a grower because of its slower pace, and so these other songs may become more interesting over time. “World of Evil” is highly recommended to anyone who can appreciate brilliant singing, and a fantastic attention to songwriting.  
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"Dark Angel of Fate"
"Bell Strikes Fear"
"World of Evil"

Final Rating
4.25/5 or 85%. 

Written by Scott