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!

Contents:

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. So I ended up getting them from a dude all the way in South America. This worked out great except the orders took a VERY long time and payment was inconvenient. It also occured to me that if I made my own I could get a better return on them. And that store needed all the income it could get! 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 picked up a professional 6 needle machine. I have worked and studied to the point where I truely think that digital embroidery can be an art form. So it is very satisfying for me to see when a patch or hat comes together. Very similar to the feeling of receiving a new vinyl in the mail!

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 done. These stitches function similar to a pixel on your computer screen. Now the pixels on your screen are obviously very tiny. The size of the pixel relates to screen "resolution," which is a phrase I'm sure most reading this are aware of and has to do with how clear your image will look on your screen. But unlike pixel technology, embroidery stitches have not gotten much smaller than they were a hundred years ago, due to the fact that we are dealing with a physical thread in physical space. And a thread will break if it is too thin. So just remember, nothing can be THINNER than the width of a thread. This may sound like a limitation, but there are tricks of the trade that can be used to mimic 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:

Some hand embroiderers operate with a grid or some sort of guide. But some embroider freely, without guides which is basicaly like painting a picture with thread, much the way ancient native cultures weave fabric together to make insignias or images that we see in history books and museums. Hand embroidery takes MUCH longer and therefore is difficult to do commercially without charging way too much for labor. 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. And stitching out is where most of the labor is. With digital embroidery, many more units can be completed with accuracy, and at high speed. That being said, it still takes much longer than standard screen printing takes for example. The process can be very tricky, and special software and training is needed. Lucky for you, I am a pro at this shit! And no, this does not mean your patch will look "like a computer did it." Digitizing is an art form and it's only as good as the person doing it. If it looks shitty it's usually because the person who digitized it and/or stiched it out was not real good. I always strive to make things look as clear/precise as possible without looking too "robotic."

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 (such as a dragon or album art) keep in mind, larger areas of shading requires 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 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 seperations, but it is $20 per hour. So you will save money by preparing your art first and avoiding a higher setup fee.

Last thing - for plain lettered logo patches, if there is lots of shading/greys, be aware that these will need to be converted to the color of the rest of the lettering so the whole thing is ONE solid color, 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 peices. 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 to give it that smooth, clean border. 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" edges 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 fuse-able back upon request, but so far not many people have asked. Still, just thought I would mention that.

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.

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???

Friday, September 19, 2014

Reviews 9/19/14


[Chris Barnes, inventor of Viking Metal]

Arcrania "Totalitarian Dystopia" (Unique Leader) 3/10

Ah jesus, forget it, I'm not reviwing this label's shit anymore! I mean I respect what the label is doing, but I'm just not into this super duper tech death. I'm beyond over it. And now they got England taking their stab at it. Come on England, how bout some more classic NWOBHM like you all used to make???

Brimstone Coven (Metal Blade) 0/10

Shameless GHOST worship.

Earth "Primitive and Deadly" (Southern Lord) 6/10

This is one of those bands that tries to leave their minds open when they write "heavy music." In other words, it doesn't really fit into a specific "Metal" category, yet it manages to remind me of countless forgettable artsy drone/doom bands. Er uh, "collectives" I mean. I guess they think it's acceptable to sound like other drone bands but don't dare play an actual METAL riff, goodness no! What was that one band that collaborated with Ian Astbury? That made no sense. Just like this. The irony of this style is that it still ends up sounding like a ton of other bands whilst avoiding the dreaded labels.

Singer kinda has Ian Astbury's vibrato. Or like Iggy Pop in his classic era. Honestly, he's too good of a singer for this band. My problem is not the sound per se. It's the monotony of it. I mean a SABBATH sort of monotony is about pummelling an amazing riff into your brain. This is a "wash of sound" approach, and I rarely dig it. I mean the drummer is just barely keeping the beat to the drone and it's crying out to be passionate - but only ends up sounding boring as hell. The vibe is really similar on the songs I checked. Didn't have the patience to dig deeper into the 8-9 plus minutes of all the songs.

It's a bit pretentious as well for my taste. I don't like music that basically says "hey, you have to like this because we know more about music than you." And these guys are definately trying to sell their sound to the listener, whilst practicing a well rehearsed "oh we really don't care what you think" sort of vibe. I mean maybe I am just looking WAY too far into this, but it just smells too manufactured. But all that said, these are clearly competent musicians and the production is very sculpted. It's an interesting sound. But I'm not sold on the sound alone - and that's what this band is selling. Sound, not necesarilly songs.

Embalmer "There Was Blood Everywhere (MLP)" (Hells Headbangers) 7/10

I'm not a big fan of "gore grind" these days, but this is the way to do it right. Very primitive and gory sounding. Deep vocals which were obviously influenced by the best Chris barnes era. Thee's also this crazy nut who adds his screams of terror for contrast. It's very close to sounding like power violence at times. It's basically really gory, gutteral, death metal influenced power violence. Early Carcass comes to mind. As well as a million grind bands I used to be able to name but have since forgotten. A typically, dependably GOOD Hells Headbanger's release.

The Lurking Corpses "Workin for the Devil" 8/10 (Hells Headbangers) 7/10

This singer really tries to be like King Diamond. But like a cheap high school Thrash metal version. Riffs are cheap, yet effective. There was a late 80s Bay Area band that sounded like this and I think they were called "Nitemare." Basically, their shitty 80s demo I have stashed away some where sounds about like this. But this has sound samples which help give it more of b-horror feel.

Musically, this is very much mid paced Thrash. Recalling some of Forbidden's more classic gallop riffs. But the drums sound kinda cheap - so the sound never really gets too clean - which I assume is on purpose.

The classic Thrashing continues with Blind Dead Arise which totally reminds me of late 80s Suicidal or Cro Mags - but with some cheap King Diamond immitator and some other guy growling. It's kinda like a better version of 3 inches of Blood I guess. I never liked 3 Inches of blood. But I always thought they had good elements. It just doesn't come together right for me. But this here band LURKING CORPSES does it a litte better in terms of getting the old school melting pot fairly right.

There's a cover of Slayer "Tormentor" which is cool - I fuckin love that song. This cover isn't bad, but it sounds more badly recorded than Slayer's version and that is saying alot because the Slayer version is from 1983 and is VERY lo fi. But Slayer has the atmosphere to make up for it. This singer has an interesting variety of voices though, so it's not without it's cool moments. You never know if the guy's gonna howl or grunt or bark. Solos are nailed pretty good here - clearly dude spent some time tryin to learn em. Maybe this was a Jeff Hanneman tribute? They go into Crionics at the end of the song which is where they take things too far - just sounds like crap. Shoulda quit while you were ahead guys!

October 31 "Bury the Hatchet" (Hells Headbangers) 7/10

I know I'm supposed to think this is amazing because King Fowley is in it, but all it sounds like is some good fun time kinda retro thrash with a traditional leaning. Not enough guitar solos though. I guess it's too "punk" for that or something. Although there are a couple good ones here and there. Some nice "twiddly widdlys" every so often. But clearly the in your face vocals and melodies are the primary focus, which is cool. At times it kinda recalls Desaster's slower stuff - which is to say it's got some good old school Metal power behind it.

Under my Gun has a pretty killer catchy thrash riff. Nice and ugly. Vocals are really what set this apart. It's got character, which is hard to find with newer bands doing a similar style. Sounding kinda like Oderus Urungus at times and slightly Chronos in mannerism. But you know, I would say the guy is pretty original in his own right.

Drums are a nice balance of being straight forward to a headbang speed while keeping the fills and chops in plentiful amounts.

Basically, this is a meaner, uglier, fist banging Metal Thrash anthem sort of band. not my favorite, but certainly worthy and I could probably bring myself to memorize some of the lyrics just so I can sing them loudly at their show and look like a real TRUE motherfucker with beer in my hand. But then I probably wouldn't go home and listen to it after that.

Swashbuckle "We Hate the Sea" (Get this Right Records) 3/10

I don't really like this band, I'm reviewing this mainly to go into how much I don't like it. After all, it does suck, so it deserves an honest break down.

First of all, the Pirate thing is SOOOOO weak and fake here. I mean it makes about as much sense as putting a viking hat on Chris Barnes and calling Six Feet Under "viking metal" just because he has a stupid hat. And this whole "we hate the sea" thing - oh HAHAHA the irony! It almost reminds me of Slipknot. A band that relies on this violent circus energy where the music is just kind of soundtrack to a bunch of fools posing all angry in the pit. Only here, we're supposed to be pretending to thrash around in the water angrily because we're pirates and we...hate the sea....or something...[way to work out your fictional mythos guys]

The music is basically unmemorable Thrash which doesn't really know the line between Thrash and Death - so it kinda goes from frantic Death to thrash. The Keyboards don't seem to serve any other purpose than to qualify them as "folk" or something so they can get on the next Paganfest tour.

The only thing I can really say positive about this is that the drummer's got chops. But it sounds like a session drummer. There's zero chemistry here. So in conclusion: This is all just very generic and fogettable. Just crappy and disposable in every way. I seen them live to, and I got the same impression. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to put on my Darth Vader outfit and start baking a pie....

Monday, September 1, 2014

Shaxul's "crazy trade sale!"

Here is a list of some recent items I obtained through trade, as well as a few others I have in stock. Everything is $5! Most are new and in shrink. Used/imperfect items will be notated in the description. Email shaxul@shaxulrecords.com to order...

BLACK/WAR/FOLK METAL CDS:

ADHUK "Rituals of Personal Universe "(2014) Black Metal from Poland featuring former members of Algor. Limited to 500 copies.
AMEZARAK "Daemonolatreia" (2014) Russian Black Metal.
BLACK CULT "Neo-Satanism" (2014) Black Metal from Croatia.
Conqueror "War. Cult. Supremacy"
EXTERMINAS - Seventh Demoniacal Hierarchy CD (2012) Blasting & bombastic Black Metal from Italy.
Folkearth "By the Sword of my father"
Folkearth "Drakkars in the mist"
Kerasphorus "Cloven Hooves at Holocaust Dawn" (EP) Black War metal project featuring Pete Helmkemp.
NAZGHOR "Through Darkness and Hell" (2014) Swedish Black Metal. Limited to 500 copies.
NOSCE TEIPSUM "At the Heart of Hell" (2013) Pummeling Misanthropic Black Metal from the Ukraine. Deluxe reissue edition includes 6 bonus tracks (the "Riders of Human Death" Demo from 2011). Features all new artwork & layout + all tracks have been remastered exclusively for this release.
PROCLAMATION "Advent of the Black Omen"
PROCLAMATION "Messiah of Darkness and Impurity"
PROCLAMATION "Execration of Cruel Bestiality"
REXOR "Nox Obscura Sortis" EP (2012) After sharing the stage in 2011 with legends like Mortuary Drape, Taake, & Aura Noir, the Italian Black Metal horde Rexor are back with an all new release.
WRATHFUL PLAGUE "Thee Within the Shadows" (2013) Wrathful Plague's triumphant return after a 5 year hiatus with an occult/medieval folk Black Metal opus, mixed at Kheper studios in Poland and featuring a member of Cryptic/Panzerdivision.

FUNERAL DOOM, GOTHIC, AMBIENT CDS:

APOSTATE "Trapped in a Sleep" (2011) Top-notch Death/Doom Metal. A must for fans of early Paradise Lost.
DARKFLIGHT "Closure"(2014) Crushing progressive Black/Doom Metal from this Bulgarian duo. Limited to 500 copies.
EMPTINESS SOUL "Three Days" (2013) Crushing yet majestic Depressive Black/Doom Metal.
HALO OF FLYS - "Bloodier Shade of Red" (2012) Gothic/Horror Metal that evokes the wisdom of Charles Manson, the spirit of late 70’s Alice Cooper, & the atmosphere of Grindhouse horror films. Yes, there will be blood…
SLOW "Unsleep" (2014) Funeral Doom Metal from Markov of Eternium. Limited to 500 copies.
URUK-HAI "The Fellowship"(2014) Pagan/Battle Ambient/Metal. Limited to 500 copies.

DEATH/GRIND CDS:

BLASPHEMATION / BLOODINGTON / PIGSHIT "The Putrid Byproduct of a Lifelong Pursuit of Gross and Wreckless Excess" (2014) 3-way split CD of sickening Goregrind/Crust/Noise. Limited to 500 copies.
COLDBLOOD "Chronology of Satanic Events" (2013) All new material from Brazil's Coldblood. Old-school style Death Metal in the vein of Deicide.
DISCREATE "Contingent Development of Inanimate Modifications" EP (2012) Technical Brutal Death Metal from the Philippines.
LUCIFER D. LARYNX & THE SATANIC GRIND DOGS OF DEATH "Absolute Defilement" (2012) Blueprint Grindcore taken to it's pulverizing limits. Heavily influenced by early Napalm Death, Carcass, 70's and 80's B-Movie-Gore-Horror-Sexploitation Flix and related sickness.
OLD GRANDAD "The Last Upper" (Featuring Will Carrol, currently of Death Angel)
LYCANTHROPY - Totenkränze CD (2014) An album of hateful, dark, transcendental Black Metal from this prolific Russian band. Limited to 500 copies.

THRASH/TRADITIONAL/PROG CDS:

DEALER "First Strike" NWOBHM originally recorded in 1986. Excellent and aggressive. Similar to Tygers of Pan Tang and Angel Witch. (Booklet may be slightly wrinkled, but otherwise brand new)
EXOCOSM "Spiral of Decay" Technical Finnish Thrash. Fans of Coroner, Vektor recommended. (Booklet may be slightly wrinkled, but otherwise brand new)
LAAZ ROCKIT "City's Gonna Burn"
Queensryche "The Promised Land" (Used, very good condition)

SHAXUL FEATURED ITEMS....................

Embers of Euphoria (Self Released Full length)

San Francisco based traditional heavy metal with massively heavy/down-tuned rhythm section. This was the result of years of work by Jesse Ramada, who also produced Saros and Passive Aggressive. Songs have a mid/fast tempo with emphesis on strong vocal melodies and borderline virtuoso guitar work. At times sounding like Arch Enemy, and others sounding like classic Megadeth. But overall, quiet its' own character and quiet a bit more attention to detail than one would expect from an American melodic traditional Metal band. From the greek mythology inspired cover art to the painstakingly constructed songs - this is among the great underground Bay Area traditional Metal recordings. Music Samples: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTUxLwxstnY

Passive Aggressive "Hardchrist" (Shaxul Records)

Debut full length featuring songs recorded between 2003-2005. Here the material ranges quite a bit from Thrash, Doom, Black, and Death Metal. There seems to be people who really "get this" and people who just don't. There's not much in between! But time has told that those who "get it" are quite into this obscure collection. Fans of Bethlehem, old Darkthrone, old Entombed, old Danzig will all probably find something they like here. Dark, raw, and original. CD digipak fearures original artwork designed by Shaxul (who is also in the band) and drawn by Charles McNary (who created the band's logo.) Inner panel includes lyrics. Music Samples: "The Ancient Bitch" http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/11648562

Sangre Amado "Ancient Bitch" (Shaxul Records)

This was the last of 4 albums S.A. created. Songs range from straight ahead to long and somewhat progressive. Most were a collaboration between Stone Wolfgang (Shaxul Records, Passive Aggressive) and Bloodeagle (Weakling/Saros). Comparisons have been made to everything from Neurosis to Winter to Cannibal Corpse. If you are looking for something different, obscure, and very dark check this out. Awesome original full color "Ancient Bitch" painting was exclusively created for this album cover. Lots of creepy artwork on the inside panels, plus lyrics. Recorded in 2003 by guy Higby (Epidemic). Music Samples: "Bestial Virgins" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ropid0MDCNs&context=C3aaef6eADOEgsToPDskKT_ZEdnhP_yAGmjViDgQV1

VINYL:

Hellhunter/Unholy goatfucker (split 7")

Hellhunter is a San Francisco based Black/Punk/Thrash band that has hints of NWOBHM at times. Songs are generally very simple, short, and to the point. Mostly Black Metal in sound, but leans towards the other genres mentioned at any given time. Cohesive overall and fairly original. Unholy goatfucker plays cold Black Metal in the raw old school style with a slight symphonic edge at times. Music Samples: http://www.myspace.com/hellhunter666 http://www.myspace.com/unholygoatfucker666

Passive Aggressive "Hardchrist" (Shaxul Records) (see CD description above) Music Samples: "The Ancient Bitch" http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/11648562

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I'm NOT Nostradamus!

Judas Priest "Redeemer of Souls" 9/10

When a band has so many classic albums, it's hard to hear a new release with open ears. But since "Nostradamus" sucked so bad, this album immediately sounds proper right off the bat. And that's all due respect to "Nostradamus," clearly it was musical - just WAY overboard and, in my opinion, misses the mark it set to hit. So rather than attempt to do anything daring, Priest has gone the safe route if you will, and put out an album of classic heavy metal. Almost makes me wonder if K.K. was responsible for the blunder that was their last album? Hmmm...

Speaking of which - I don't know if K.K. was stunting the band's creative juices or if Richie Faulkner is just an amazing songwriter - but this album really has that perfect combination of classic metal and modern european style. It feels fresh and inspired. One of the problems with "Angel of Retribution" was that although it's very inspired at times, it's a bit uneven and sound kind of tired and forced at some moments (Revolution or whatever the hell it's called - the one with the Janes Addiction riff?) It's as if the metal gods themselves came down and said "ok guys, we will bless one more album with the magic!" The riffs are crunchier than ever, like a powerful Wacken sound system. When the band said they have been somewhat revitalized, this was actually not an exaggeration!

Vocals are subdued, but tons of conviction, without being contrived. Halford is simply inhuman. He must be (see "Halls of Valhallah" for more proof). I mean seriously, what the fuck is in this guy's blood, fucking propane??? There is a really good variety here of powerful Painkiller Halford as well as the more dynamic 70s version. It seems the band really had a concept to create great songs here, and the vocals are a real center point. This was not an attempt to show how high he can scream, although it certainly shows he can still belt it out. But there is a humbleness to his delivery that makes it more appealing than the last few recordings he's done. He's also a bit more creative and experimental than he has been for some time. Halford sounds engaged, and it almost sounds like he's been listening to some viking metal if I'm not mistaken! Does he sound old? Well yes, at times he sounds like he's fighting age, but so far he's still winning. And I think he's still got a few albums left in him yet.

Drums - well Scott Travis is the atomic clock at the center of the earth last I checked. But sometimes he can sound a little robotic. You gotta admit right? Well he lays off a little on the double bass, and digs a little more of the riffs. "Metalizer" has an almost raw swedish guitar tone - probably the meanest tone heard from Priest...but the drums are a great example of Scott's extremely brutal, yet clean delivery. "Crossfire" is the real surprise on here though. Scott is kinda forced to dig into the bluesy riffs, and this gives the whole album a much needed vintage feel at times - and detracts from the sometimes robotic sound Scott can fall into.

The solos are surprisingly subtle in the mix, although they are all over the place. It seems the band has focused more on extremely solid riffs and melodic passages. So although I can't say there are any solos which approach the greatness of their best 70s material, what IS here is more dedicated to the song than the individual ego. This is a first on a Priest album I would say! But there are so many amazing details besides solos here. I'm somewhat beside myself here, because you can really feel the effort the band put into this. And it is inspiring to hear how much this great band still has to offer.

The inevitable comparison to "Painkiller" needs to be addressed. And it's pretty easy to see the contrast. "Painkiller" was just a straight forward ass kicker, done as aggressively as possible. "Redeemer" is less focused on brutality and more on great classic metal fist bangers. But without getting into cliche Euro metal territory. And yet, there is a modern sensibility to this. Again, what the fuck? Must be Faulkner's influence. He's in some other power metal band right? Yeah it's true the title track shares a strong resemblance to "Hell Patrol." But I wouldn't say it sounds like a copy. In fact, "Hell Patrol" almost sounds like it could have been written after this song, if that makes any sense. It's a more varied tune, which kinda sums up the whole album. Varied, yet cohesive.

Richie Faulkner's playing is really distinct from Glen's, and I can tell it apart even more than I could with KK. He's got a really cool vintage tone that is rich and full of character. This is no "stand in" the band really knew what they were doing with this fellow! Glen lets him shine which is cool - he rips many solos here.

"Down in Flames" does kind of sound like a Halford tune. But Roy Z has a certain sound, and that's not what I hear on this. Which makes it superior, of course! Speaking of which - the last Halford album was not that great. And I was beginning to think Halford was going to start becoming kind of a self parody soon. But here on "Redeemer" he shows that he can still create some material on par with his best.

"Hell and Back" is a real obvious "Metal Gods" sort of crowd pleaser/fist banger and does tread the cheese line pretty steadily. But the tone is real heavy and gives the band more of that laid back bluesy feel they had abandonded some years ago. It heads into directions you would not expect, and Priest does this a lot on this album. Again, either the new guy freed them to branch out or KK was holding the band back creatively. (Sorry KK I know I am assuming a lot here!) Some real killer solo tones on this one!

Overall, what I like most about this album is that there is no feeling of "trying to please" anyone, or trying to capture a sound. It really seems as though this new version of the band has simply come together and made a killer album. Another true metal classic from Judas Priest!