Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Reviews 10/26/2015

Cannibal Corpse "A Skeletal Domain (Metal Blade) 8/10

As many albums as the Corpse have, it's difficult for them to put out a bad album because they have endless killer riffs and one of the best drummers in Death Metal. And although my interest in this band has waned, they never let me down in terms of constantly creating interesting musick. This album is no exception.

From the start it's very aggressive, but within the familiar Cannibal Corpse style structure. Lots of changes, but without losing that early Death Metal "Thrash" crunch, not to mention the crazy interludes. And they are the kings of the blast beat as far as I'm concerned. Blast beats don't NEED to be faster than this. They don't get any heavier, so why speed it up? STAY HEAVY! The Mazurker Berzerker knows this!

Solos skitter about with perfection like a zombie surfing in the sewer chased by shit sharks. (haha that's a "shaxul classic" right there I think!)Anyway, as you can tell, I'm kinda bored reviewing this. It's not CC's fault, they are shredding all kinds of steak - I just gotta be in the mood for the Corpse these days, and that's usually only when I am at a Corpse show. Go see them, they always rule and these songs will fit perfectly with the rest.

Contrarian "Polemic" (Willowtip) 8/10

Pretty damned heavy. Reminds me of that early Aeternus EP. Very low vocals, good grim, yet thrashing riffs. Also sounds a bit like Amon Amarth with it's thick, melodic tones.

What sets this apart are the rhythms. They seem to prefer a mid tempo odd groove over a blast beat, which is a good thing because blasting has gotten a little excessive over the years. Guitars and bass are constantly doing interesting things. Solos shred of course. It almost sounds too easy here! But then, with so many years of death metal to draw from, this is how a modern death band should sound like.

Only drawback, if one could be pointed out, guitars get a little excessive on the shred fest where it might make more sense to just let the song and riff do the talking. That last Carcass comes to mind. Great music, but a little bit too much in terms of the whole "hey look what I can do!" aspect. But for the most it does work for the benefit of the music.

Iron Maiden "Book of Souls" () 8/10

Being this album has already been talked about to death, I'll do my best to stick with observations less mentioned. But of course, there are elements to this album that inevitably must be addressed. Mainly the length. I don't have a problem with length as a rule, but usually long albums drone and contain shit that probably was more interesting to the band than the audience [example: "Nostradamos" by Judas Priest]. While this is much much better than "Nostradamos" it does go on much longer than it needs. And while much of it does sound unexpectedly inspired, there's just too many cooks n the kitchen. Too many extended epic sections [I call them "plateaus of boredom"].

Things start off on a decidedly dark and gothic note, similar to "Seventh Son" (one of my favorite Maiden albums). The first few songs are quite solid, and Bruce's voice isthe best it has sounded in many years. Even back in the late 80s it was clear his voice was either losing it's range or he was just getting tired of singing that way - this just before heading into his solo career. This album would seem to be his very long and gradual return to form. At least in my eyes, and he seems quite aware of the vocal range he is exrecising here. And it's very cool to hear, despite the fact that he is obviously straining himself in places. For me, he could have toned it down a bit and could have delivered just as good, if not a better performance. But that's me being a dick I suppose.

Anyhow, first few songs are quite solid IMHO. Up until "The Red and the Black." Clearly, Maiden is strivng for the epic on almost this entire album. But there comes a point in this song where they reach a kind of climax and then sort of refuse to end it. It just keeps going, on and on! This is the "plataeu of boredom" I mentioned earlier. And any weight the whole "Whooaah ooowhoahhh!" part has initially, is made into a joke by the end. Still, it is better than many of Maiden's post 80s tunes - but far from a masterpeice. The great parts also seem to draw from "Alexander the Great" and "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" quite a bit, but that's splitting hairs I suppose.

Next 2 songs are kinda cool but kinda generic and start giving us more of that plateau of boredom. Title track starts out so great, but just rambles like fuck for like 4 minutes. I don't get why they couldn't see how unnecesarily long it is! Nearly ruins an otherwise great tune!

"Death or Glory" and "Tears of a Clown" are both very solid. "Tears" in particular struck me a bit, as I am from San Francisco and grew up watching Robin Williams. I thought it was a very cool gesture by the band to write this great song. But "Shadows of the Valley" is just kinda blah with it's "Wasted Years" intro and then right back into what sounds like an extended boring peice from a previous song on the same album. And finally, "Empire of the Clouds" contains some very good music. But it did not need to be 18 fucking minutes long! (or whatever absurd length it is!) Everyone seems to think it's a goddamned masterpeice - well that's cool. I think so too, it's just too goddamned long!

As far as production - no complaints there really. I think it sounds very good and clear. Nicko's drums sound very real and he pulls some nice moves. he sounds like a real drummer, and his playing is a highlight for me. Steve's bass has never been more quiet on a Maiden album far as I remember, and other than his silly little ditty at the beginning and end of that one song, he seems strangely absent most of the time. Or maybe I just didn't turn the volume up enough.

Overall, there is an EXCELLENT album here. Best one in years! In fact, I'd say this is the album I was hoping for right after "Seventh Son." But it's just buried by too much excess jamming and extended "epic" sections which all really start to sound the same. More memorable solos woulda been nice as well. I cant think of one stand out. Overall, songwise there's just too many notes! If they just cut a few it'd be perfect!

Magic Circle "Journey Blind" (20 Buck Spin) 5/10

The singer sounds like Paul Stanley. Kinda neat for a doomish band! Thing about Doom bands, they gotta have great riffs or its just a bunch of hot air. And unfortunately, these guys can't write very many killer riffs. I mean, they have most of the ingredients of a classic heavy old school Doom band. But for me, they seem to try too hard to fit within a genre and not enough on the quality of the music. It's "label ready" if you will. To put it another way - there are plenty of old bands from the 80s who sound "authentic 80s" but just aren't that good (and that's why you never heard of em!). So basically, these guys think "sounding 80s" is enough to get them the same respect an authentic killer 80s doom band should. The TRUE shall not be deceived by this falsery!

While this does have some nice sections, I find myself more entertained by the Paul Stanley vocals than the music. I also saw this band live and found them boring. Too bad, because they are reaching here for something classic. I just don't buy it. These types of bands lower the bar in an area that needs more creativity. Try Visogoth!

Satan "Atom by Atom" (Listenable) 10/10

Wow. Where to start? This kicks so much ass on so many levels I am stunned. Having seen them on that excellent recent tour they did, I certainly knew the magic was still there. But to be able to conjure that up with a new set of songs with such consistency is just the stuff metalheads dream of.

I won't go too into it, as I assume most of you already know who Satan is - now I am no expert, but I have been listening to them and their various incarnations for quite a few years. And this only reinforces the fact that Satan are indeed one of the great kings of metal. With particular regard to the precious moment in time where NWOBHM turns into Thrash, back in the early 80s. Satan was right there, and young fans that would form bands such as Exodus and Death Angel were paying attention. And here they are, to give another lesson in ass woopin! They have not lost a thing! In fact, I dare say this is possibly their best shit!

Immediately the signature "wild west" riffs come in all guns blazing. We are not just bringing back the 80s here, we ARE the fucking 80s. We are SATAN! And you can just hear all the wannabe bands cringing at the utter conviction of this. Whether it's the intricate signature riffing, the shredding solos, the soaring melodies, or Brian Ross' flat out owning of the mic - heavy metal does not get any better or more true in it's presentation. No bullshit, no pretense, no "trying to prove this or that" just simply an all out asskicker. Only band that has risen from the grave so triumphantly in recent history would be Pagan Altar (RIP). There's no point going into more detail (especially because I'm only on my 3rd listen!) But I would suggest putting that new Iron Maiden down and spending your time on this instead. You shall be rewarded greatly.

The Body/Kreig (At a Loss) 0/10

This must be what death metal sounded like to my grandparents.

Vastum "Hole Below" (20 Buck Spin) 6/10

This is quite crushing in an early 90s Swedish Death Metal sort of way. It's a bit on the slow side, opting more for a mid tempo sort of aggression. Vocals are quite low and creepy, not unlike the first Grave album. Singer's got this talking thing he does as well, which is fairly scary sounding but kinda like - just not sure I get what he is trying to get across. Because it doesn't exactly take things to the next level.

There is not much more to it than that. riffs are fairly good, but all start sounding the same. It's not enough to rely on a "heavy sound" (I feel like I said this in another review here - am I going senile?) I feel like the band is almost making a concious effort to be simple and kinda generic to appeal to that punk/crossover Boltthrower crowd, which I never quite understood. On the other hand, I cannot deny that it does sound like some lost early 90s underground Swedish Death Metal band. Difference is, those bands didn't really have much of a history to draw from so they were, you could say, more authentic. Whereas this is a sort of echo of that.

In short, this is a whole lotta heavy and scary faces without much else going on. Surely a pleasure to listen to live, but when you really put it under a microscope, there really isn't a whole lot to it. It seems the goal here is to create a scary feeling. Not sure the point really. Still, nice to hear this kind of stuff coming out of the Bay Area still. Just seems a bit uninspired and same-y musically, which is disappointing considering the talent within the band.

Vhol "Deeper than Sky" (Profound Lore) 8/10

New release featuring John Cobbett (Hammers of Misfortune/Ludicra) and Aesop Dekker (Agalloch/Ludicra). It's fairly unique with its combination of harcore/Black/thrash riffs, melodic guitars, and roller coaster progressive sections. The Hammers elements are quite recognizable here. Must be a signature Cobbett thing. The tunes also go into more straight forward territory, seamlessly moving in and out of the "Thrashier" sections and into more 70s prog territory. In fact, this shift of dynamics seems to be the signature sound of this band, which is cool but gets a bit excessive at points. It doesn't seem comfortable at any speed for very long, so it constantly shifts. But it does conjure up that epic Cobbett feel, which is recognizable if you've heard his other projects.

Vocal wise - I guess this is the Yob guy. Not sure what to make of it. I suppose it's perfect since he can flow from a sort of punk shout and right into melodic vocal territory, as the songs require at given points. The more layered vocal sections (again) conjure up Hammers for me, and give it that soft/psychadelic adventure feel. Not sure what that means but that's the best way I can put it.

Drums are quite good, but if you've heard any of Aesop's other bands you could have predicted that. Very solid, always giving a straight forward feel, even when things get hectic which shows the control he has over rhythm. Never loses the groove even when blasting, and it's a huge benefit to the overall sound.

The album is pretty dense, and I might say it's the best thing I've heard from Cobbett in a long time, if ever. It doesn't really leave much room for flaw though. And by that I mean it seems to try too hard at points, where it could benefit from just laying back a little. Like a nervous supermodel starving herself to look "perfect." It tries to be too many things at once, and ultimately gets a bit lost in its own pretense at points. Again this is the formula of Hammers for the most part, and why I couldn't get totally into em. But this is for sure for fans of more progressive metal. Opeth or Sigh for example. It's just as comfortable rocking out with piano leading things as it is with guitar riffs taking the lead. All the while, maintaining a fair amount of aggression throughout.

Overall, pretty impressive and original. For me it's just a bit too much. But if you like said comparisons, you probably wanna pick this up. It will be interesting to hear the next recording by this band.

ZEX "Fight for Yourself" (Magic Bullet Records) 7/10

I guess this is a Canadian band and originally recorded this in 2014. It's been re-issued obviously to, I suppose give it wider exposure.

This is some great classic sounding hard rock/metal. Singer reminds me of Geddy Lee a little. She does manage to conjure a bit of an 80s punk/early goth/new wave kinda vibe as well. Early April Wine comes to mind at points. Same stripped down/catchy approach (although this has a more 3 peice kinda sound).

They list a lot of 70s influences in their bio, and I can surely hear it. Makes em a little more original sounding. What I really like about this is the combination of influences. It's got just a touch of punk which only compliments the classic stripped down metal approach. Songs are very straight forward and to the point. It is pretty hard hitting drum wise, but much more in the pop/punk NWOBHM style and doesn't really venture into anything close to thrash.

This was a really interesting surprise. Not exactly "heavy" metal, but if you like old traditional metal and 70s hard rock you will dig this.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Reviews 09/07/15

Cattle Decapitation" The Anthropocene Extinction"(Metal Blade) 6/10

Things start off quite fast and brutal from the start here. Sounds kinda like a really really fast Carcass, but without all the memorable riffs. Although there are some good ones here and there. It just seems like the band is too worried about maintaining breakneck tempo to be overly focussed on riffs. Some of the riffs for sure have a little black metal influence, but it's done in a way that you still hear mostly Death Metal. I suppose it adds a depth, which is kinda cool.

Vocals vary from toad-like lows, to screaching highs, and some acceptably dark melodic vocals. The melodic vocals kinda remind me of Wendy O Williams of all people. They do tread a fine line between "acceptable" and the Disturbed sorta territory. But overall it's fairly interesting without ruining the darkness.

Some songs are more straight forward than others, but clearly the band has been working on diversifying their sound while remaining as brutal and fast as possible most of the time.

Overall it ends up getting lost in a sea of gurgles and blasts. SOngs are not that memorable, it for sure lands in that "cut and paste riffs" territory. I'm also getting kinda tired of this style, but if you can't get enough brutality you might wanna check it out.

Hellbastard "Feral" (Patac Records) 6/10

I'm not sure what to make of this...it's got some great metallic guitar thrashing riffs. Some nice powerful drums with lots of double bass. Musically, it's powerful sounding thrash metal. Even down to the slow down mosh riffs. Production is clean as an 80s Metallica album. In fact, "good" Metallica comes to mind with these riffs. That's not to say it's that good, but the fact it conjures up them riffs is a compliment.

Vocal wise there is an obvious effort to be more on the punk/hardcore side. He sounds like a cross between Cronos and the Amebix guy. What lyrics that come through are just as retarded as the average thrash band. So these guys might as well drop the whole "we're crusty" thing and just admit that they are a thrash band trying to market to crusties (whatever those are anymore - kids with rich parents who purposefully try to look homeless and "street?")

There's some nice guitar solos on this. Again - what are the rules with crusty music? I thought guitar solos were frowned upon. Anyway, again this is killer thrash metal the way it should sound. Very metallic in an 80s/90s kind of way.

"Wychcraft" has a guest appearance by one of the Amebix guys (just in case you were not convinced of their "crusty status.") This song sounds kinda like a dirty Pantera song or perhaps Biohazard. It grooves an awful lot, which is cool - I just didn't expect it from a band with an image such as this.

Overall, this is a killer recording with enough surprises thrown in to keep you guessing a bit. But most of the surprises are just thrown in to give it some sort of unique/progressive character. But it comes off as random sometimes but it does break up the thrashing a bit. So as I said already - this is just a really killer thrash/crossover album with very clean production. Nothing more, nothing less. Call it crusty if ya want, I don't care.

In Defense "Don't fuck with the dungeon master" (self released) 5/10

Speaking of thrash, here's some THRASH for you. Uhhhhhhh jesus, what the hell am I supposed to say about this? It's got some great aggression to it, sounds like the same thrash riffs that have been floating around for 25 years or more....it's good and fun, just kinda like..."why?" It seems I am getting too old to review shit like this. It all sounds the same now! Kinda reminds me of many European bands I've heard that THRASH about beer and tacos and posers, and whatever other random funny thing they can think of to THRASH about or whatever Paul Baloff might have talked about into the mic while drunk.

Singer does a good job leading the thrash attack, and there are plenty of "thrash metal backups" going on. Great thrash tunes, rediculous lyrics - but it's nice to hear a band with a good sense of humor. I dunno, buy it I guess?

Iris Divine "Karma Sown"(Sensory Records) 4.5/10

This has got really high end production, to the point you can almost smell the new shoes they are wearing. I don't have a problem with over-produced bands as a rule or anything, but this is just kinda silly in an overproduced 80s sort of way. Perhaps a good comparison would be some super buff guy with a bunch of dumb tattoos, super fake tan, who ironically ends up looking worse than he would if he didn't try so hard. I hope that helps. Oh, yeah anyway let's talk about the music...

Singer is quite adept. He's got a 90s sort of talking/crooning/singing style. This compliments the 90s sounding riffs - which remind me of some VERY 90s bands like Grotus, Quicksand, Helmet, or middle era Corrossion of Comformity. Many singers try really hard to nail that middle ground between being melodic but having an "edge." This guy pulls it off pretty well. But the production is just so polished it's hard for me to take it seriously. It goes from sounding kinda like 80s Whitesnake, to Alice in Chains, to some shitty forgettable emo/nu metal 90s band I can't place (ok yeah I do remember: TRAPT!) The drums and bass in particular sound about as pro as one can get. But again, I constantly feel like I'm at guitar center hearing the music on the PA. Perfect tones? Yes. Do I care? No.

Overall, I'm gonna say this kinda sucks and just tries way too hard. I'm not buying it. FALSE METAL!

LEGION OF ANDROMEDA "Iron Scorn" (Crucial Blast) 5/5

First, take a drum machine and program about 3 different beats. Change the tempo slightly for a few songs, and you have the drum performance on this album. For the most part it's just a retartedly simple pulsing bass drum with a super fake sounding ride symbol.."PANG!.....PANG!...." and so on. The record label name is highly ironic, considering the overall tempo is painfully slow and dragging on this.

The riffs are so low and monotonous, they are more or less indestinguishable from each other. It's really quite robotic and simple. Almost trance inducing with it's simplicity. Laughably so at many points. More than once I thought to myself "who the hell thought this was good enough to release?" It almost sounds like a demo someone would do with ideas. Or a soundcloud stream from some beginning death metal musician who's not sure what to do with himself.

The vocals are really the only reason I bothered to review this, as you'd really have to be at least a little fucked in the head to sing this way for this long. The only thing that really comes to mind is a horribly drugged out, ostricised Phil Anselmo making ugly noises into a microphone for his own appeasment. That or it's someone trying to growl like a dog behind the garage door to scare the mailman away - can't quite decide... Not really the kind of thing you listen to the next morning and think is any good. More like, "damn I musta been WASTED last night to think this was good!" Still, this does capture a glimpse of something interesting, not exactly sure what.

Basically, this does suck pretty bad. But it manages to GRAZE interesting territory. But without being on drugs, it's hard to detect. Not that I'm on drugs right now, but if I were, I might let this racket wrestle my fucked ears for a few minutes. But then I'd probably start laughing. Once I was done laughing, I'd be like "alright fuck this shit" and turn it off.

SIGH "Graveward" (Candlelight Records) 8/10

Well goddamn these guys come out with all guns blazing don't they? fucking, guitar sweeps, fucking trumpets and all kinds of brass, crazy prog synth/piano, and all kinds of wacky vocals are bombarding my unsuspecting ears within the first 60 seconds! I guess it's been a few years since I heard a Sigh album - but now that I think about it, the last thing I heard was pretty nutty. And by that I mean extremely ambitious musically. I just didn't realize they had gone so far from the "black metal" tree!

Anyhow, this band clearly is trying to push the boundaries of what they do and don't want to fit into any sort of category. Riffs are nice and crunchy, little leads are all over the place skittering about, vocals are nice and raw. Almost sounds like Witchtrap at times, but with way more going on musically. It is very cinematic music, almost like a Japanimation preview soundtrack. Or like some modern dark opera. Hammers of Misfortune anyone???

Although this stuff is impressive, it's just a bit out of the realm of what I like to listen to. But if you've been following this band through the years and you like what they've done already, odds are you'll consider this aninstant classic. Just too much shit going on for me. If they just stuck to those heavy as fuck riffs I've probably listen to it more. () /

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Valdur "Pathetic Scum" (Bloody Mountain)

Many years ago around the time this band started, I tried to get them to play a show. But I was told the singer was in Norway hunting the Moose, so therefore they couldn't do it. I always thought that was one of the best excuses to not be available for a show that I ever heard. But then I wanted to ask, "why does he go all the way to Norway? They have Moose in Canada!"

Anyhow, even though I was never overly impressed with this band's music - I always felt they were serious about what they were doing, so I like to check in on what they are doing once in a while. This album manages to conjure a dark, primitive atmosphere. This band is the raw sort of Black Metal, and honestly I found their live shows almost too raw and noisy for my tastes. But this recording is far clearer than the last thing I heard from them. Of course, I might be talking about their first or 2nd demo so I'm not sure how helpful that is.

Overall I think this is some pretty good Black Metal. Not astounding, but I would go see them again as it does successfully conjure a very dark feeling, and quite consistently. Fans of cold, dark, unfeeling BM should check this out.

VALBORGRomantik (Temple Of Torturous) 9/10

I get lots of promos from bands which have words like "experimental," "collective," "noise," and "doom" Usually this means I don't even wanna hear it because ironically these bands all end up sounding this same in their quest to be "more artistic than thou." with their pretentious, overly long songs which are generally full of hot air and empty space which is somehow supposed to take me some place. But all they are really doing is prolonging the sad fact that the band cannot write a good riff to save their ass....But this is a case where the description makes sense and the band actually delivers it. Well, I dunno about the "collective" part - but anyway this is clearly a BAND making interesting music.

There is an immediate seriousness to the tone of it, as the keys and distorted guitars slowly build up an apocalyptic wall of sound which swallows the listener whole. The music is quite compelling, when finally a gnarley voice comes out gurgling and screaching just below the surface.

On the more accessable end of things, it's somewhat similar to Type O Negative's doom ballad approach. But it also has that obscure German Bethlehem sort of tone. But perhaps more controlled and not quite as industrial sounding - although it does have that element.

What really makes this stand out as a non-copycat band is the ease with which it goes from sound to sound without sounding out of place, yet I can't really associate it with another recording. For instance, the low whispers which erupt into a vocal choir of the damned at will.

Not overly technical or flashy, but at the same time - great production and there is obviously plenty of musical ability contained here - it is just subdued for the sake of crafting dark tunes. Only reason I didn't give this a 10 is because the vocals are almost TOO sparse. There also could have been probably a few more lead guitars on it. But overall, I was quite happily surprised to hear this. Not for everyone - but for the style, it crushes most.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Reviews 5/7/15

[A typical Goatsnake band rehearsal...]

ARSTIDIR LIFSINS"Aldafǫðr Ok Munka Dróttinn"(Ván Records) 8/10

This is Folk Black Metal, incorporating most of the important elements such as string arrangements, black metal stretches with harsh vocals, and a very nice vocal chorus section - mostly baritone (very low vocals). Typically I would love this - but it is a bit overproduced and obviouse. Even the subtle string arrangements seem like they are trying a bit too hard to be "authentic" to the folk metal tradition. Also, for all it's attempts to invoke a folk feeling - it is rather "the same" sounding from song to song. There is not enouogh of the true Bathory/Falkenbach epic moments which I like to hear. The songwriting leaves a bit to be desired. I'm listening for the heart and soul and it illudes me. It concentrates on more of a war-like feeling, which, again, does not approach that of Bathory. The tempo is mostly mid-to fast, rarely does it conjure the mighty war-march - which for me is a good element to have. It comes off more like a cheap immitation of certain scenes in Lord of the Rings. But if you like some good black/folk metal and just cannot get enough, pick this one up. The best thing about it is the incredible baritone vocal choruses.

CONNOISSEUR "Stoner Justice" (Tank Crimes) 5/10

So this label Tank Crimes also has Cannabis Corpse. Connoisseur seems to follow the same "cannabis theme" and that's cool. Being a fan of cannabis myself, I'm not one to argue! Anyhow, I'm not here to talk about cannabis, I'm here to talk about music. And what I hear is nothing special. I mean it's lots of yelling and intensity. But I'm scratching my head to come up with a way to descibe it beyond that. Being a dude who kinda came up in the bay area underground heavy sound, I can for sure hear the east bay tradition here. Or at least I think I can - but without the personal attachment of seeing these sorts of crusty/hardcore/noise bands up close, perhaps it's going over my head. I think what they are going for is a very intense energy. But I cannot make out much of the drums, as they are buried in way too loud guitars. But this is not uncommon with noisier acts, and it's probably done on purpose to sound more like they do "live" it's just not my personal preference. It's a bit noisy and samey for my taste.

"I am weed" starts out with a nice slow trudge that I can get into. I'm sure if I memorize the lyrics i can go to their show and chant the lyrics and weed all be in the pit winking at each other n shit. But I mean - is it musically amazing? The "no guitar solos" rule seems to be in effect here. That is ok when the music is more interesting. It probably comes across live better - this music often does.

I guess this band is more about "the message" than the music? Ok well message received! Now come up with some better music please!

Goatsnake "Black Age Blues" (Southern Lord) 6/10

It's kinda nice to hear a real rock singer with some soul. Sounds like Wino or the dude from Iron Man. As the album title suggests, there's a blues element that is being strived for. But all I can hear is Iron Man. Have you heard Iron Man? Check em out they are way better than this band. When they have a stable line-up that is. Anyway, back to Goatsnake...

This kinda remonds me of the 90s when bands like COC and Kyuss and shit were popular. Bands were trying to be all bluesy and heavy. But the thing is, if you throw a harmonica on top of some heavy ass riffs, that doesn't automatically make it "the blues." It's cool that they are trying to do something a bit more stripped down and "pure" I guess - but the riffs just aren't that good. And the guitar player cannot solo to save his ass. How long have these guys been around? I guess if you really like the vocals, the music doesn't matter - but I just keep thinking "uh, can someone pass me the Iron Man or the Saint Vitus CD."

Gruesome"Savage Land"(Relapse) 8/10

The Gruesome logo is an obviouse homage to the band Death. Sound-wise I can certainly hear the influence. But there is also a general sort of old school Death Metal feel to it that could just as easily be a swedish or any other old school Death metal band of the early 90s. This is to say it's good and raw and full of killer riffs. But the leaning is for sure towards the early 90s Shuldiner sort of persuasion. I'm not sure what to make of it (considering Matt Harvey already has a Death band in Exhumed), but it does kick ass so I can rekkomend it without hesitation to old school death metal freaks. It's not as technical as more modern Death or even middle era Death Metal. But I think this is the idea. Keeping it "true old school" and all. No blast beats so far. And as the reader probably knows, Death never had blast beats. So there is no doubt to the "authenticity" in that sense.

My problem with this is it sounds like a tribute act. Not that there is anything wrong with that, if you are going to pay homage, emulate the best! But it would be nice to see more of Dekapitator (one of Matt's previous bands) which was more of a German thrash homage - and that is something sorely lacking on these shores in my humble opinion...still, this is very good to remind people what the old school Death Metal should sound like, and to teach the new generation what is wrong with modern death metal.

Six Feet Under"Crypt of the Devil" (Metal Blade) 6/10

On this album Chris Barnes decided to write with the dude from Cannabis Corpse, a HEMP themed Cannibal Corpse homage band. It was also recorded and mixed by Cannabis Corpse dudes. So the album basically sounds like Cannabis Corpse with a rather hoarse voiced Chris Barnes on vocals. I like the idea, I just would rather listen to old/middle era Cannibal Corpse instead.

Chris is an interesting figure in the Metal world. But I think most of us are still waiting for the big come-back album. Not likely anytime soon (unless Corpsegrinder meets with an unfortunate accident!) But in terms of "keeping it brutal and old school" my hat is off to Barnes. If anything, this album is the most old school death metal thing he's done since leaving the actual Corpse band. It's just kinda hard to watch him try and fail to re-create his old band with different musicians. But then, I am sure that's what most fans want of him.

KING PARROT "Dead Set" (Housecore) 8/10

This is a death metal/grind band which features a singer who sounds like he is half Parrot. It's a good gimmick and I kinda fell for it. But I would not give it the time of day if it wasn't half-way decent and it is. It's just not much more than that. But in terms of Death Metal - it is quite killer musically. Lots of "you're in deep shit" riffs - very thrashy and makes you wanna get into the pit for sure. Live they would kick ass no doubt. There is a bit of the power violence feeling, but mostly it sounds like really killer old school death metal Kinda like Suffocation meets old Carcass, and perhaps a little bit of Finnish Death.

I like what Phil Anselmo is doing with his Housecore label - cleary he has a good ear for new bands. And this is another example.

Macabre Omen "Gods Of War - At War" (Ván Records) 8/10

I'm seeing a theme with this Van Records label - they are bringing the folk to the people! This one here sounds like the band Weakling from the bay area, but with a folk leaning. I say this mainly because of the vocals, which sound exactly like Gossard of Weakling. but then, Gossard was probably trying to sound like Varge Vikernes or something. Anyway, the musical changes also evoke a Weakling sort of feeling. So my guess is that this is a coincidence or the band just really likes that one Weakling album. Oh, their logo also looks a little like Weaklings.

After a few songs though, the European folk elements begin to shine through a bit more. So perhaps I am selling them a bit short with all of these Weakling comparisons. But overall, it has a great war-like cinematic feature and surely is more listenable than that ARSTIDIR LIFSINS album I reviewed earlier. Reccomended if you like long, epic war-like black metal with a slight folk influence.

Poison Idea "Confuse and Conquer" (Southern Lord) 4/10

This is punk rock. Uhhhhh....songs are short. Mostly mid paced or thrash beats. Uh......vocals are yelled....lyrics cover lots of topics from cowboys to psychic wedlock. I suppose there is a slight pop punk element. I mean it's kinda catchy but avoids doing anything memorable. I guess for the sake of remaining "punk." They seem to have their sound real dialed in - so if you like their sound, you'll be in heaven because that's all ya get the whole time. I find it pretty goddamned boring myself. I know these guys been aroud a while so I guess they are catering to their fanbase or something.

Skitzo "Dementia Praecox" (self released) 8/10

This band has been around since the early 80s and have been delivering solid Thrashy/Death in the underground for as long as it has existed. This latest album features a collection of covers and originals - excellent production, killer solos, shredding drums - but all without getting too out of hand or removed from the basic bay area thrash roots. Also features solos from Tony Rainier from Blue Cheer! Nice Axe Witch cover!

The amazing "puke on command" singer Lance Ozanix delivers his unique vocals style and his original sense of b-movie psycotic rollar coaster voyages. Each song is a trip through the warped caverns of his mind culminating, of course, with the "Attack of the Zombie Hippies." This album will surprise you at every turn. Just when you think you know ehere it's going, a mad man with a knife comes from out of nowhere and stabbs you in the eye! So this is more than just a killer kollektion of Thrashing death pit stomps - it has a purpose. And you only find that purpose when you chance a listen! So if you want something a little more than just "10 dumb songs about satan" check out Skitzo! www.skitzo.biz

TREEDEON"Lowest Level Reincarnation"(Exile On Mainstream) 4/10

This is real sludgy and heavy and kinda boring. Sound like Wino from Saint Vitus takin a dump. My guess is that they tour alot, drink alot, then take stinky ass hangover dumps and then write songs about it. To put it a friendlier way - it's like a slower, slightly less heavy Eyehategod. Since they are from Germany they probably don't do speed. Maybe they need to start.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Reviews 2/19/15

[Sarpanitum. Posing in the forest behind Trey Azagthoth's house]

Atomic Aggressor "Sights of Suffering" (Hells Headbangers) 8/10

"Cult Chilean legends" Atomic Aggressor return with their debut (I have an older recording of them from the 80s but I'm not going to pretend to know it front to back, I just remember it was brutal!) This is some killer straight forward Death Metal. Reminds me of Terrorizer mixed with Sadistic Intent and probably early Sepultura. Very nice thrashy riffy workout sessions. Drums are quite moshariffic. This is a mosher like the great old Swedish Death metal such as the first Unleashed. Only problem is the lack of solos. I can't understand why a band would shred so hard yet not include more fukked solos all over! There are some solos and they are very good. But more would have been nice. Points were subtracted because of this! But dude, the riffs are very catchy and makes this old fukk wanna mosh!

Excellent to hear such killer music from an old school underground obscure death band. A STRONG come back, and if these fucks step anywhere near my town, I will be there banging with all the other true DEATH FREAKS!

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth "s/t" (Neurot) 6/10

So this is the Tad guy's current band. Tad was a kinda grungy punk-ish band from th 90s. This is a bit darker I guess. Real slow and heavy, nice thick bass tone! Vocals are yelling out from a distance. In other words, they are slightly buried on purpose, and it gives a kind of "suffocating" sort of feel.

Things get real slow and heavy at points. There's some tuvan throat shit going on or something, giving that extra scary movie feel. Kida reminds me of something from Celtic Frost "Monotheist" the way it drags (on purpose). Lots of heavy music like this sucks because the musicians aren't really doing shit but smocking tons of pot and turning up. But a few know the art of manipulating noise in interesting ways. And I would say this band is pretty good at maintaining interest and building dynamics in an intense way.

There's some nice crunchy riffs here and there which gives it a more hardcore metal sort of sound. Overall, not amazing though. Just good and heavy. I think for me what is missing is a strong musical presence. In the form of a voice or a guitar or something. It never quite goes past slightly above average.

Gouge "Beyond Death" (Hells Headbangers) 8/10

Dirty fucking death. Primitive. Somewhat droning in the way Hellhammer was. A steady pulse of thrashing death. Reminds me of Autopsy at times. First Entombed comes to mind as well. Some good basic Scandinavian brutal death. This is the way to do it old school, no bullshit. Hells Headbangers does it again.

Satanic Warmaster "Fimbuwinter" (Hells Headbangers) 8/10

Black Metal gets monotonous very easily, due to it's stripped down and singular nature. But at this point the way I see it, any band that can conjure the spirit of Darkthrone's "under a funeral moon" has it right. And this album does it well, conjuring that frozen black metal mayhem. It is not magnifficent, it simply IS.

It actually reminds me at times of killer old BM demos I can't recall. Lots of nice breaks with moody melodic passages. I didn't read the lyrics, but I'm sure I would find something sketchy. I seem to recall a picture of Mr Werewolf saluting a certain evil leader of the past, but not sure how much that is injected here.

Production is very good, but not so clean as to fuck up the cult atmosphere. The problem comes down to the fact that we've heard this many times before. It's more like a potent ritual than it is "new music."

Einherjer "Avv oss, for Oss" (Indie Recordings) 6/10

It has been some time since I checked out a new Einherjer recording. This is because everything I have heard after their first couple recordings was way less interesting. It's like they were blessed by the great Norse gods for a couple years, and then they went the way of YAWN street.

I like the stripped down approach of this recording though, so while it is nothing amazing, it has a very consistent feeling from track to track. The riffs are genrally mid paced or slow in the Bathory sort of way. Although this NEVER even approached Bathory in power. But there is a bit of that old Noric energy felt within the simplistic, slightly melodic tunes. Vcals are very good - just straight forward "troll" style. Well I call it "crab vocals" but people look at me funny when I say that, so let's just say "Troll vocals."

As much as I would like to praise this recording, especially given the bands historical signifficence, I really can't detect much of the power I hear on the first EP. But it's not bad opening music for the headlining act. A band doing more interesting music is Metsetoll.

SARPANITUM Blessed Be My Brothers (Willowtip Records) 8/10

Well SOMEONE has been practicing their instruments! Right off the bat, this recording kinda slaps you in the face with this massive production. I mean it's bloody well done! Like this massive symphony. Very nice vibe created, heavy, powerful and epic.

Once the shit hits the fan, the band reveals its true colors - a technical Death band. Now they aren't quite as insane as these Unique Leader bands, they sound more like they stopped at Nile. In fact, this is very similar to Nile in many ways. There is also a bit of a European, or perhaps melodic Black Metal feel to some of the parts. Dissection creeping in a little? Not enough I'd say. More Dissection guys!

The drums hold a very solid beat at blast speeds. Double bass is like a computer, which is to say it's very fast but SO THE FUCK WHAT? It does sound pretty good though. I like the tones here.

Guitars are very similar to Morbid Angel FFTTF era. Very creative interplay between the two guitars. Clearly lots of work went into this recording. And about 20 years ago this would have been fairly unique. But now it just sounds like unused riffs from the bands I mentioned. And that IS a compliment by the way. Solos just sound like, again, unused Morbid Angel "Domination" solos.

Vocals groan away in a similar way as Nile or Steve Tucker era Morbid Angel. This band has some very interesting moments, but I think it needs to be developed into something more unique. Because all it is right now is Nile with a different mythology used as lyrics.

Xibalba "Tierra Y Libertad" (Southern Lord) 6/10

This is not the black metal band from Mexico, it's the hardcore/grind band from California. I like the whole apocalyptic feeling surrounding the album. It has a sort of 3rd world feeling to it, similar to middle era Sepultura. But it's got the influence of Napalm Death and many other heavy bands I can't place. Middle era Sepultura comes to mind though (chaos AD mainly).

Vocals are yelled in the classic monotone "mid yell" hardcore style, while the drums and guitars are closer to death metal. Some nice grindy slow sections sound particularly death metal influenced. Drums are excellent. Pounding, fairly simplistic, but perfect for the tunes. I get bored though due to the lack of solos and variation of songs. And the music is not impressive enough to really take it over the top. There were many bands like this in the 90s.

Overall this is pretty awesome for a style I don't listen too much to. The production, and in particular the drums, are so well recorded it's kind of a pleasure to listen to. But as far as songs I can't say it's amazing. I'm sure their live shows are a heavy duty sweaty affair though so I may actually check em out some time, but wouldn't go out of my way.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Shaxul Embroidery FAQ

I created this blog to answer most of the basic questions people have when they want to order embroidered patches or hats. I know there are many details you are concerned with, so definitely read through everything below as it covers most of the specific questions regarding everything from art work to pricing. Embroidery looks awesome and the process is a lot of fun!


1 - Shaxul, just HOW DID you get an interest in embroidery?
2 - What is digital embroidery?
3 - How do I prepare my artwork for digital embroidery?
4 - How much will my patch/hat cost?
5 - What is the minimum order?
6 - What type of border can I have for my patch?
7 - How big can my embroidery be?
8 - What materials do you use?
9 - Turnaround time?
10 - Do you use metallic thread?

1 - Shaxul, all my friends wanna know...just HOW DID you get an interest in embroidery? I never woulda thought!

I used to sell lots of patches at my store on Haight Street. It was really hard to find old school embroidered metal patches though, and I felt it was my job to find them so people could have one place to go shop in person for killer metal patches. The screened ones look cool, but they tend to lack depth and character when compared to embroidered. This is where my appreciation, and eventual passion for embroidery came from. So I picked up a beginner's Janome home embroidering machine, and the rest is history! In the years since the store closed I've upgraded to a professional 6 needle machine. This enables me to render top quality, professionally embroidered images at a rapid pace. So drop me a line with your orders!

2 - What is digital embroidery?

Embroidery is the process of stitching 2 intertwining threads together to make a knot on the fabric. The knot is sewn underneath the material where it cannot be seen, but it leaves a trail of thread on the top of the fabric which is called the "top stitch." This is what you ultimately see when the image is complete. These stitches function similar to a pixel on your computer screen. But since this is physical thread we are speaking about, there are certain limitations with regard to very small details. However there are tricks of the trade that can be used to mimic such details, sometimes even better than the original art! But mostly it comes down to individual taste. And judging by the billions of sports hats, college logo/motorcycle club jackets, and military patches out there - people dig the way embroidery looks.

There's 2 main types of embroidery. Hand embroidery and digital embroidery. Here's an example of hand embroidery:

As you can see, hand embroidery can be quite nice and neat. But it's really no different than painting or drawing. It's just that we are using thread instead of ink or pencil. So the quality/exactness depends on who is doing it and how well trained they are.

Digital embroidery (what I do) involves feeding a digital image (such as a jpeg) into the computer and converting all the lines to stitch patterns so the machine can stitch it out. As you probably gathered already, this tends to be much faster and more exact in terms of replicating the same image over and over vs hand embroidery, which takes much longer and is far more labor intensive. But again, even with digital embroidery the person handling things needs proper training and a good eye to create an awesome product. Lucky for you, that person is me!

3 - How do I prepare my artwork for digital embroidery?

First, look at your image and try to envision what general shape it is. Most logo patches are a simple rectangle like this:

But other logos can be taller, requiring more of a square or even round shape (like the round Shaxul patch above for example) It's best to minimize dead space on a patch (we don't like dead space. It's a waste of material, a waste of space on a jacket, and looks awkward most of the time). In some cases, a shaped patch is the only border that looks right. But I can assure you - shaped DOES NOT always look the best, even if you think it might be neato! But I can help you make the call if you are not sure.

If your image involves artwork besides lettering/logo (such as album art) keep in mind, larger areas of shading require much more thread/time than simpler logos. So if price is an issue, be sure to keep the logo as simple and neat as possible without extra graphics requiring lots of shading in. Honestly, simple usually looks the best embroidered on a typical standard size patch. Try not to give into the temptation to just do "the whole album cover" because it doesn't always look the best embroidered (unless you blow it up huge and that means more $$$). That being said, some of my favorite patches that I've done are album covers, such as this one:

After all this has been mulled over, decide what size you want it to be. For patches, the best way is to look at another patch that you like the size of. Measure it with a ruler. This way, you can come to me and you already know the exact size you want. It's always best to email me an image (or just use the form on my website) which was saved about the size (or larger) than what you want it to ultimately be once it's done. 300dpi or larger is best to ensure it can be converted cleanly to digital format. Especially if it is very detailed.

For most logo patches, 2.5" to 3.5" width is best. Height will obviously be proportional. Images that are taller require more thread and are typically 2.5" x 2.5 up to 4"x 4". If you are going to go bigger than 4" in any dimension, remember this is going to be getting larger than what most people are used to sewing on their jacket, so be sure your customers WANT a patch that big before making the investment on it. They require WAY more thread and time, so again they can look absolutely badass, but will cost more. (more on size/cost below)

If there are lots of colors in the image (and especially if many of them blend together) this will require more time to setup, since the colors have to be separated before they can be converted. So you want to have your art as clean and color separated as possible before bringing it to me. Of course I am happy to prepare your art and do color separations, but it is $20 per hour. So you will save money by preparing your art first and avoiding a higher setup fee.

Last thing - with regard to lettering - if there is lots of shading/greys, be aware that these may need to be simplified to one or fewer colors, unless 1: letters are very thick or 2: the patches are gonna be bigger than 4" in at least one dimension. The reason is that the material can only handle so many stitches before it starts to get stressed and pinch and look like shite. It may look good nice and big on your computer screen, but remember that the skinny little lines that make that "T" in your logo will be WAY skinnier when it stitches out, and trying to shade in what might be 1mm of stitching ain't gonna happen in physical reality. It will LOOK BETTER if you make it solid 1 color in most cases. This is where we find out if the artist who made your logo was thinking about how hard it would be to duplicate or not ;)

4 - How much will my patch/hat cost?

The markup on patches and hats is quite good. At my store I used to buy them for like $1.50 - $8 each. I'd sell em for $5 - $15 each. Hats would go for $15 - $20. So these types of products have great return, assuming you've got an image people want. For bands, building up your name and having some killer merch with your logo floating around is great promotion.

Since we are dealing with thread and fabric, costs come down to materials and time. Simple logos are the easiest and cheapest. 2.5" - 3.5" are between $2.50 and $4 each depending on complexity of the image. For instance, if there's a lot of detail requiring more thread, it will simply take longer than the exact same size patch with a simpler image. So size is a factor, but so is the type of image. This is why it often is a case by case basis. But hopefully that gives you some idea. If you send me an image, I can have an estimate for you withing 24 hours. Just make sure to include the image, desired size, and quantity.

Larger patches (from 5" x 5" up to 11.8" x 7.9") can be between $5 to $10 each. Here's a larger one I did recently:

Minimum order for patches is 50 pieces. Price breaks are at 100, 200, and 300.

There is a one time setup fee of $20 for all orders. This includes an hour of design work. Most images are no problem. But if the colors are not separated or the image requires quite a bit of adjusting, I may ask you to work on it more or I can just take care of it for $20 per hour. But odds are you don't hafta worry about any of that, I've only had to do that once ;)

Hats have a more limited area to work with. 5"w x 2.4"h is the maximum. With hats, it is particularly important that the image be fairly simple and clear. Avoid lots of text. You don't have much room, so make your LOGO or your picture/mascot the focal point of it.

Remember, this is a small space we are working with so you wanna maximize it with BOLD and simple designs easy to see from a distance. If you got a black metal logo with a million little lines, don't include a forest around it or some old painting in the back - it's gonna look like shite! Costs for hats range from $6.50 to $8. That includes the price of the cap. If you wanna provide caps then I can charge you the patch rate per hat. It would still be a 12 hat minimum and take into account shipping in both directions, which I cannot cover. Besides the cost of the hat, labor is more intensive on them. So they are a bit more overall, but the markup also tends to be higher as well. People like hats. If they like the image on it, they will pay $12-$20 for it.

5 - What is the minimum order?

50 on patches, 12 on hats. Hats are always increments of 12.

6 - What type of border can I have for my patch?

The borders of my patches are created using special heat resistant embroidery thread (used on all patches pictured on this page). A "satin stitch" of 3.5mm is used on most patches. Satin stitches are basically rows of stitching laid down next to one another creating the familiar lines you are used to seeing with baseball hat lettering on caps. The patch is then cut out with a hot knife, which heat seals the threads so they can never come apart. For circular or shaped patches, I might make it slightly thinner because it looks better and its easier to work with.

I don't currently offer "Merrowed" borders due to the fact that it's not necessarily better or worse than a satin stitch and the machine is fucking expensive! Also, merrowed edges can come apart a little easier and are a little more fragile since they use a series of loops. But if I get enough requests maybe I will use them in the future.

7 - How big can my embroidery be?

For patches, up to 11.8"w x 7.9"h. For caps, the image must be within 5"w x 2.4"h.

8 - What materials do you use?

I use a combination of high quality embroidery threads such as Sulky and Madeira. A combination of high quality durable fabrics, and 2 layers of stabilizer make the patches firm, but not overly stiff. You can feel the quality instantly when you hold it. These are made for battle! I can make a fusible/iron on back, but this is not recommended as they tend to fall off over time. It is best to sew them on.

Once the patches are sewn on, you can machine wash your jacket. But I would advise hand washing and hang dry. I don't wash my battle jackets but that's just my preference. Haan makes a hand steamer that you can use to kill the stink out of it if you've got a hot date or something and you don't wanna wash it.

For hats I just use a standard black baseball cap with velkro strap. If you have any special type/color of hat you like, or if you wanna provide the cap by all means let me know. A tear away stabilizer may be used behind the cap to keep the image clear when stitching out. Since caps do not have a flat surface, they are a little more awkward and labor intensive, even if the image is rather simple. As a result, they tend to be a little more expensive than patches.

9 - Turnaround time?

If you want 50-100 patches, I can usually have them done within 2-3 weeks of receiving payment. More than that, or if they are very large patches, it can take a month to a month in a half. Expedited turnaround is available for an additional fee.

10 - Do you use metallic thread?

I can, absolutely. Metallic thread costs a little more but can give that extra dazzle to the patch. Just remember that metallic thread is a bit tougher to work with and it's best to keep the image real simple (or at least the part that you want to be "metallic.") An unreadable black metal logo may look like shite with 100% metallic thread. So don't always assume just because you use metallic thread it's gonna look amazing! It's best when used as an accent. You can't see it so well here, but that little sparkle thingy is metallic.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Reviews 1/11/15

Goat Semen Guy

Child Bite "Strange Waste" (Housecore) 8/10

This band has great song titles. But I think "Garbage Odyssey" is my favorite. This is the sort of band that you really won't like unless you are at least a little fucked in the head. The songs are mostly driven by the singer's fucked up stories and lyrics.

Musically I'm not sure how to describe it. I guess it's basically early 80s punk with a slightly modern heaviness to it. It reminds me of the first Gwar album, which I love. It's got the same funny ass energy. Singer even sounds like Oderus at times. Jello Biafra at others. This would be a great live band.

The music seems to lend itself very well to visuals. But again, it's got a more street level punk feeling. Very Dead Kennedys at times. Just very hectic storytelling epics. Crazy demented circus guitar lines thrown all over the place. Very acid friendly music, this is.

Dreadlords "Death Angel" (Not Just Religious Music) 7/10

This initially sounds like the Doors if they tried to play doom metal. But in the 60s, there were no big fat riff layers, it was more about the "fuzzy guitars." So that's what we have here. Really fuzzy,thin guitars, but which sounds like it's coming out of an old radio. Drums are almost comically simple and cheap sounding.

The songs vary quite a bit dynamically- but always retain that extremely lo fi sound which recalls the Cramps as much as it recalls Danzig or even George Thorogood. Satanic Thorogood? I guess you could say it's like America's answer to Ghost. I dunno exactly how to rate this because I find myself tripping on the sound so much. I guess the songs are pretty good, but it will take many more listens and time to see if this is real or some sort of Rob Zombie experiment.

Goat Semen "Ego Svm Satana" (Hells Headbangers)

I've known about Goat Semen for many years just like most people who know about them because of their rediculous name. Not sure how many times I've checked em out, but they are certainly living up to my expectations here.

Being from Peru, it's hard not to first compare them to Brazil's Mystifier. Especially given the crazy, brutality that rips out of the speakers like 100 drunken serial killers who just got thrown into a mosh pit. SOme crazy vocals, some crazy laughter, blasting away at mayhemic tempos..

I would call this Death metal, but it has that primitive South American energy that only they possess. At times sounding a little more 80s thrash. But mostly just sickness. And I mean that in the old way, where "sick" was a high compliment with regard to Death Metal. This is sencerely sick.

Necrofilth "Filling my blood with Poison" (Hell's Headbangers) 8/10

I feel like I'm giving lots of "8s" this time around, but there is a point where a recording is really good, just not "over the top" good. And this recording is in that area. It's got a very nice garage kind of sound. I mean, rehearsal room. There is actually an art to this, as the one "Bedemon" album demonstrated.

Anyway, this has that Hellhammer sort of feel with the music. Almost crusty punk at times. Vocals are ery punk/thrash. The dude is just basically talking and yelling very hard. So you can hear what he says. Right now he's saying "You're rotting!" over and over. So you get the idea.

This band seems pretty inspired so they are a nice diversion from Midnight who thankfully, are not the only band playing this raw type of punk/death/thrash/whateverthefuckyouwanna call it.

PORTAL / BLOOD OF KINGU Split 7" (Hells Headbangers) 8/10

I guess the Portal song was recorded on 4-track in 1999. Why Portal dug it up for this, I'm not sure but it's not bad. It's basically a cheaply recorded demo song with non-stop drum machine blast beat. It's hard to make anything sound this good with such lo-fi production, which is a testament to Portal's ability to make crazy sounding shit with very little to work with so early on. Guitar riff is simply MAD on this. No way to describe it. But if you've heard Portal's windstorm of madness before, you can probably guess. I've seen Portal but I don't listen to much of this shit as it's not really my thing at the moment.

Blood of Kingu has a similar relentless blast to their tune, but there's much more of a detectable death metal influence. It's really good, gutteral death metal. I would check out more songs by them - some nice guitar layering and strange melodies happening.

Primordial "Where greater men have fallen" (Metal Blade) 8/10

This album begins on a very strong note. Well, it's more the overall power of melody, vocals, and riffage. All of which come together perfectly to bring fourth something that suits the song title very well. Impressive.

I saw this band once and the singer's presence was felt around the room, regardless if you liked the music, which at the time, I wasn't real familiar with. If this is the same singer (Alan Averill?) then I am more impressed by his studio performance. Very good combination of melody, screaming, and just very apocalypic energy this man emits.

Musically, things are mostly mid paced to slow. Guitars are not so much heavy as they are just very full sounding. Yet, there is space in the sound unlike most bands these days in the "extreme metal" genres who fill every space with walls off guitars. It is very cool to hear a band with some a real and unified sound. The guitar melodies are so very effective. Notes pop out at just the right time, evoking a somewhat early 90s black metal vibe at times. At others, kinda like Blut Aus Nord or what's that band... Winterfyleth? Anyhow, they got their own sound more than anything. Solo wise I suppose I could ask for more, but these songs are so well composed you don't miss them too much.

Things get a little faster at points and when it does, it sounds pretty much exactly how good black metal SHOULD sound today (yet rarely does). Because this does not ignore the past, yet it is not trying SOOOOOO hard to immitate the past. It's very natural. Sounding kind of like early Enslaved or the first Aeturnus promo ep.

Only criticism is that perhaps thigs tend to sound a little the same after a while, but the energy is very good here so I can handle quite a bit of it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Break on through to the DOOMY side! (and do it quick please)

ANAAL NATHRAKH "Desideratum" (Metal Blade) 0/10

This is industrial Black Metal. It really sucks.

Ancient Wisdom "Sacrificial" 8/10

This is a combination of I guess Gothic Rock and perhaps a softer doom. Pagan Altar comes to mind in terms of the combination of a folk atmosphere with gothic doom sections and restrained but solid riffs. Not many solos, so don't expect any of those.

The vocal melody drives the songs clearly, it's not about huge guitars here. I actually like this because it's not trying to be "extreme" it's just rocking and well put together. Alice in Chains anyone? It's kinda in that category. Real sad but kinda pop-ish. Not as heavy though. And no solos (but this has other things going on).

I like the understated quality of this, but it's hard to say it "kicks ass" upon first listen. But clearly this band has worked on its sound for some time and i'd advise checking em out if you just want some good original "dark rock."

Atriarch "An Unending Pathway" (Relapse) 7/10

I saw this band years ago in some small club in San Francisco. They had a heavy atmosphere and sound. The singer does this Tuvan throat thing which is very cool for like 10 minutes. I think they burn incense and shit to make the environment all "cult." After that I start wanting riffs. These guys like to wait a long time though, to build up a dark feeling before they start "rocking." That's exactly how this album begins. It never quite delivers the "sabbath riff" I wann hear though.

So once the shit inevitably hits the fan, what do we have? Mostly obscure doom with lots of dead noise floating around. The singer rambles in a kinda Jim Morrison/Peter Murphy kinda way. I think he's trying to conjure some ghosts up or something, which I'm certainly in support of! His voices range from gothic moans to more black/death style, but it's all over the map the whole time.

This is very atmosphere oriented and gets monotonous. But I think that is the point. To get the whole "trance" thing going. What's interesting about these guys is it's not one specific sound. It's fairly original and is pretty cool at times. It seems most comfortable at a Doom/Goth area. It tries to be black or death at times, but this feels a little more forced and thrown in. But I salute the attempt, as it's not entirely bad.

Worth checking out. Is is brilliant? Very hard to tell without a few more listens. But it certainly rises above most bands swimming in the sea of artsy doom/noise (of which there is a tremendous amount of - and it's mostly forgettable.)

Execration "Morbid Dimensions" (Hells Hedbangers) 9/10

This is some very excellent, raw Death Metal. Quite original, and way more atmospheric that you'd expect. It's kinda like a combinaton of early Paradise Lost, Obituary, and perhaps a touch of shit, I dunno...early Gorguts.

Put it this way - it's well produced, but way more raw and listenable than most modern Death Metal. The feeling is almost closer to obscure Black Metal. Very doom at times, but without the usual thick production you'd expect. Which just makes it that much more interesting.

A very good obscure treat if you are tired of the same old Death and need a fresh injection!

Nunslaughter/Perversor (Split 7") (Hells Headbangers)
9/10 Nunslaughter/Witchtrap (another split 7") 9/10

Fuck, Nunslaughter has got to be close to breaking some sort of record (pun intended) for all the fukking 7" and splits they been on! These 2 happen to be with 2 killer South American bands.

The Nunslaughter tracks on the first 7" are well recorded. Very clear, more of a thrash production. Like a more raw version of Carcass' last release. The vocals are kinda Jeff Walkerish too. Musically it's the usual dependably classic Death metal with a solid foundation in old school Thrash education.

Perversor has a really brutal sound. And I don;t mean the sound - the energy is just very heavy. The singer is quite dark sounding (in the evil sense). Very good, thrash tempo, old school RAW Brazilian Death metal. Like the early Sepultura shit. I hate to say it, but Perversor kinda outshines Nunslaughter here with their sheer brutality. The riffs are more sketchy too. Fuckin killer! Sounds like old Morbid Angel at times. Perverson - fuck, check these fucks out asap!

The 2nd split is a bit more aggressive in terms of Nunslaughter's performance. Kinda reminds me of old Exhumed. Or maybe it's the other way around? This is real killer old school Death Thrash. Some very headbanging riffs here! OLD OLD OLDSCHOOL all the way...I will see Nunslaughter anytime they come into town. They are a band that keeps the fukking fires burning!

Witchtrap - well they are one of the best bands to come out of South America as far as Thrash goes. Really awesome early Kreator influence is all over this. These guys simply kick fucking ass. All I can really say is if you want some good modern thrash this is where you look. Some nice wailing solos here and there, but mainly just killer fast riffs and unrelenting vokills. They are awesome live too if you ever see them coming to town, DO NOT MISS IT.

Orange Goblin "Back from the Abyss" (Candlelight Records) 4/10

I know this band's been at it a while because back in 2000 or something I used to work with the chick that posed on this bands early album cover. I don't remember much about the band, other than they were in the "stoner rock" category.

Anyhow, the singer sounds like he's from the 70s or something. Kinda like the Molly Hatchet guy. I guess it's like Black Label Society if they didn't completely suck. It's got the retro thing, rockin riffs, and very few guitar solos. Mostly just rocks at a kinda mid pace with vaguely lame bluesy 3rd rate Thin Lizzy riffs.

I feel like I should "stay stone free" and wear a headband, get on my harley, and wear an Orange Goblin patch on my back right now. But there's no fucking way in hell I'm gonna do that because being a better version of Black Label Society is not really a compliment. Although if I heard this in the mid 90s I probably woulda loved it. The problem is, it needs more Saxon and less Black Label Society. Come on UK, wtf happened to you?

I gave Shadow over Innsmouth extra attention because I am a Lovecraft fan. It's a really lame instrumental that could been on Metallica's "LOAD" album.

Today is the Day "Animal Mother" (Southern Lord) 4/10

I remember this band from the 90s. I dubbed them in my mind "the short haired band that opens for Death Metal bands." I know, I'm such an asshole right? Well look - the music was very bland and I musta saw them like 3 or 4 times. They were ALWAYS underwealming...anyway, I guess they went away and then came back (yay).

This is kinda like a more riffy, doomier version of Neurosis. Which sounds like it would be a really amazing thing. But unfortunately, it isn't. This is the same bland forgettable shit they were doing 15 years ago. I would describe it if anything jumped out - but nothing does. It's just totally utterly boring and goes nowhere. Yeah, it's heavy I'll give it that. But ya need more than just "heavy." How about, I dunno...a FUCKING GUITAR SOLO???