[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.