Saturday, December 6, 2014

2014 in review: Concerts

I haven't really had it in me to write reviews much this year. And since these reviews are my personal reviews, I'm never going to force myself to write. So I'm not done writing reviews, but I can't say when I'll ever write one again. Here is a list of MOST of the concerts I went to this year
(Not pictured: Nile, Northwest Deathfest, Sanctuary)





















Saturday, July 26, 2014

Toxic Holocaust - Chemistry of Consciousness

There have been a lot of bands lately that are bringing back the thrash black sound (some call it “first wave black metal” it was pretty much the movement that branched away from thrash metal into darker and more aggressive territories) that bands like Hellhammer, old Venom, old Bathory, Von,  and Root. Although, unlike those bands, that were basically thrash bands playing new (at the time) and more aggressive “black metal” sounds, this new “revival” is more of the combination of modern-sounding thrash metal with traditional black metal. Still in a similar sound, but somewhat different. Bands like Goatwhore, Skeletonwitch, Melechesh, and Varg are seeing a lot of success. Toxic Holocaust is always a name that gets thrown around during topics of overly-aggressive thrash metal or even just thrash black. Here’s what sets this band apart from most of these other newer bands: they’re doing the exact same thing as the bands from the 80s were doing, except instead of branching away from the CLASSIC thrash sound, Toxic Holocaust is simply playing a more aggressive (you could even say “blackened”) form of the MODERN thrash sound. So Toxic Holocaust is almost like a modernized Venom.

Hard, catchy thrash metal grooves and epic shredding solos are coated with black metal vocals and grim atmospheres. With this formula, Toxic Holocaust have managed to develop an unusually diverse fanbase. I’m an avid concertgoer and have developed a (what I would like to think) fairly good understanding of the metal scene here in Washington State. The reason I say that is because when I saw these guys live (with Mammoth Grinder, Exhumed, and Ramming Speed), everyone seemed to be there to see Toxic. And there was a very diverse crowd there; hardcore kids, thrashers, black metallers, grindcore fans; they were all there to see one of the opening acts and Toxic. And although on record, Toxic Holocaust sounds much more thrashy, seeing them live really exposed the underlying grimness and the black metal type aggression. For years, Toxic have been thriving in the underground thrash, black, and death metal communities, and it seemed that, while touring in support of Conjure and Command, something happened and they broke out of the underground; acclaiming far more success by the time this new album, Chemistry of Consciousness rolled around last year.

I never really took much of an interest in Toxic Holocaust until this album, and I feel really bad for missing out on this band for so long! This band has managed to achieve great success without losing their respect from the underground. The production of this album is far better than any of the previous records, but unlike a lot of the modern extreme metal albums being released today, there’s very little compression. Everything still feels very gritty and rough. It’s extremely bothersome when bands think it sounds good to water down and soften the entire production of their album and compress the guitars so much that it cuts out literally all high end. Those are the albums I rarely buy physical copies of, because they feel so digital and fake! The production on Chemistry of Consciousness, on the other hand, maintains the raw qualities while still having a refined, crisp sound. A problem that I do have with this album (and every other Toxic Holocaust album) is that I can’t hear the bass guitar. Obviously there’s plenty of bass in the mix, but I can’t hear the notes that the bass guitar is playing or the metallic rattle of the thick strings that I would prefer to hear in thrashier music. But, like most albums of this style, the guitars drown out the bass.

The drumming is a bit monotonous. I completely understand the whole classic hardcore punk thing that the drummer is going for, but the majority of every single song uses that exact same drum pattern that’s already overused in punk AND thrash metal. Would it hurt do throw in some blast beats here and there? Maybe even get a cowbell and pick a song or two where you use that instead of the snare; or even a different drum to make more room for variation! Whatever works; because it only sounds like you’re using half of the kit I saw you using on stage. And there’s nothing wrong with working with a small drum kit, it just means that you have to be very good at coming up with tons of different patterns and ways to use that small kit. The drumming on this album is very tight and everything fits the mood perfectly, but if I were to have my moment as a nitpicker, I would say that there should be more going on with the drums, that there’s not enough. So now that he’s proven to us that he’s truly mastered this, I would like to see him do some experimenting and exploring with different patterns before it gets old.

Other than that, this is enough to make just about any Toxic fan happy. There isn’t too much variation in song types; the band maintains the same general sound/vibe for the duration of the record without letting things get too monotonous. Honestly, after taking the time to listen to the band’s entire discography, this is by far my favorite release they’ve done so far. Although they don’t seem like it at first, this is a band that pleases a wide-variety of heavy metal fans, and I would recommend it to just about anyone. I would give this a 17/20. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Origin - Omnipresent

Ever since 2002, Origin has stuck to an every-third-year album release pattern due to the extensive touring they do. Well, come 2014, three years after releasing their masterpiece Nuclear Blast debut, Entity, Origin is back with Omnipresent. First thing that should be mentioned about Omnipresent is that it’s the first Origin album to actually have ex-Skinless vocalist Jason Keyser. Because it’s hard to make sense of the frequent lineup changes many of these bands have, I assumed that Entity was Keyser’s first appearance on an Origin record, obviously I was wrong (even though my copy of Entity is signed by Keyser). So now that we’ve got all misconceptions taken care of, Omnipresent is Keyser’s entrance into the Origin discography and..well...the lead vocals don’t sound very different at all from the vocals on Entity or any of the other albums.

That’s probably the most shocking thing about Omnipresent, Jason Keyser doesn’t bring anything new to Origin’s sound. He could’ve been their vocalist all along, or there could be some unnamed person that’s secretly been doing the vocals on all of their studio albums this whole time! It’s like Keyser fits in Origin a little TOO perfectly. To some, this may come as a very irritating factor, but for me, although it is disappointing, I moved past it fairly quickly because…well, if you’ve ever listened to Origin, you would understand. One last thing on the vocals I would like to point out is that this is the first Origin album to feature a guest appearance! Yes, that’s right; the first track features guest vocals from the one and only Chris Wilson! Seeing that the only three bands he’s been in (Jesus Corpus, Troglodyte, and Opaque Notation) are all from Kansas City, Missouri, one can probably figure that this guy has probably been buddies with the guys in Origin. Supporting evidence? Not really that much other than that Topeka, KS (home of Origin) and Kansas City, MO (probable home of Chris Wilson) are very close together. So those really nasty grindcore-sounding shrieks in the first track are probably Chris Wilson since you don’t hear them anywhere else on the record. Okay, moving on.

Origin is a band that has stuck to the same basic formula for the duration of their career and hasn’t felt the need to stray away from it (yet?). Bands that remain very consistent with their sound are very hit or miss because they need to have a sound that leaves room for enough different songs and that has A LOT of replay value. Every Origin album is better enjoyed as a whole because all of the songs sound so similar that they almost just blend together. Lucky for Origin, their sound has a lot of replay value and has helped them achieve a lot of success. Their sound really never gets old, but what I AT LEAST like to see is to have the instrumentation sound different on each album. So maybe you have a finer, cleaner guitar distortion and not quite as much bass in the kick drums on one album and then have a really loud, crunchy distortion with the kick drums pounding you into the dirt on the next album. You see what I’m saying? They can change shit around and make everything sound different without straying too far from their musical formula. Origin hasn’t really done much with this; when listening to their entire discography on shuffle, it’s hard to tell exactly what album a song is from based on how it sounds (except for Entity, which has a much cleaner and more polished sound).

Now that I’ve at least attempted to explain that side of Origin, we now come to the big downside to Omnipresent. It is literally Entity part 2. While listening to it in my car a few days ago, I couldn’t stop thinking how much literally everything about this new record sounded like Entity, so I decided to put both Entity and Omnipresent on shuffle, and aside from a few of the popular tracks from Entity (Expulsion of Fury, Swarm, and Purgatory, to be exact), I literally could not tell the difference between the two albums; they literally sounded like they were all part of the same album. I’m okay with Origin’s method of having the same exact musical formula on every record, but could they at least have bothered themselves to mix Omnipresent differently enough to where it didn’t sound like an Entity re-release? I can’t call this a lack of creativity and originality (heh) because that’s not what these guys are about; they’re not trying to be super innovative and unique, they’re just sticking to the sound they know and love best. I have heard albums by the same band that are mixed exactly the same, but have musical differences, which is okay, but this really bothered me the first few times I listened to it.

Aside from that somewhat major (to some) downside, Omnipresent is exactly what you expect from Origin. Blistering speeds, inhumanly fast blast beats, fairly monotonous, but extremely technical guitar/bass work, and undeniable tightness for the duration of the record. Origin fans will love this, and although I love it too, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to compare this album to Entity because it basically is Entity. And yes, although I am giving it a lower score than its predecessor, this is an amazing album that I would recommend that you pick up if you feel the need for more of Origin’s sound. I guess I just really expected something a little more from these guys than what they delivered. I would give this 16/20. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Update

Not quite sure what this post is about. Probably just making notes so that I can forget them while I'm working on finals. Or just a rambling that's better fit for my G+ page than here but it's my blog anyway so why the hell not?

Went to one of the best shows ever a few nights ago; the tour featuring DevilDriver, Whitechapel, Revocation, Carnifex, Rivers of Nihil, and Fit for an Autopsy. I was surprised to see no local opener this time! Probably the biggest disappointment of the whole night was Fit for an Autopsy's new vocalist. Yeah, right before the tour started, something happened and they got a new vocalist. Their original vocalist is one of the best growlers I have ever heard and I was super pumped to see him live. I've noticed that he never stays in a band for more than two albums...and he's been in A LOT of bands. But other than that, they were pretty good. The new vocalist sucks.....either they'll get a new vocalist or the vocals will suck ass on the next album.

Revocation announced during their set that they're set to release a new album this fall....

Still awaiting the new album by my favorite band, Opeth...the album cover is beautiful by the way and reminds me of ELP's Pictures at an Exhibition.

Supposed to also be getting new albums soon (either this year or early next year, all of these bands are at least recording) from Suicide Silence, Vader, Cannibal Corpse, Disentomb (finally), Vale of Pnath, Abysmal Dawn, Arch Enemy, 1349, Goatwhore, Eluveitie, Den Sakaaldte, Equilibrium, Incantation, Gorgoroth (they've been relatively quiet about it lately), Sabaton, Wolves in the Throne Room, Septicflesh, Nile, Goregasm, Pathology (unless they've already released it), Gortuary, Devin Townsend Project, Strychnia, Veil of Maya, Belphegor, The Word Alive, and a few others...

I'm really glad Disentomb, Goregasm, and Gortuary managed to get out of the mess known as Brutal Bands records. What the fuck happened to that label? Devourment left, they signed on a ton of bands, then just sort of dropped off the face of the earth. I know it's run by one individual (Scott), so is he still alive? I never had issues with not getting my orders from them (him) because I was buying shit from Brutal Bands during the time period (no idea how long it lasted) where everything was super active over there; I would buy a shirt and get it before the week was over. But now there seems to be no activity. No one answers calls, no emails are replied to, no snail mail in their outbox, nothing! It's like he just vanished and left www.brutalbands.net behind without any word! I'm very disappointed because I loved this label and the music they released.

Edit 6/20/2014 i crossed off the new albums i now have in my collection

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hoth - Oathbreaker

Earlier this month, I had the unique experience of going to the last date of this year’s Metal Alliance Tour featuring Behemoth, Inquisition, Goatwhore, 1349, and Black Crown Initiate. Because I had already seen them multiple times in the past, I decided to take my dinner break during Goatwhore’s set. When I was standing towards the back enjoying my cheap burrito, I noticed two nerdy-looking guys wearing matching shirts walk into the venue. I assumed that it was a local band on their shirts, so I decided to write it down because of how cool the logo looked. About a day or so later, I found the band’s various social media pages, listened to the song from their upcoming album (which was just released today!) that they had available for streaming, and needed more. The song that they had available for free listening on their bandcamp was one of the best pieces of music I’ve heard from a local metal band in YEARS, I had to get my hands on this album! They gave me a copy for review roughly a week or so ago, and now that I’ve overplayed it enough, I’m ready to share my thoughts.

The first thing that I should probably get out of the way is that Star Wars is Hoth’s theme. Everything from their logo to their artwork to their band name is based on the legendary sci-fi movie series. If I hadn’t have looked them up on various sites and read other reviews on this album, I wouldn’t have known this about them. These two men have done such a spectacular job of writing music about something like Star Wars without sounding laughable or corny that I don’t think of something like Star Wars when I listen to them! Their music could have the theme of anything and I wouldn’t care because of how fucking well they’ve pulled this off. Also, the way in which they managed to have science fiction-themes in a black metal setting is phenomenal. Taking a theme commonly associated with deathcore and technical death and applying it to black metal and still have it SOUND like black metal is something that requires a lot of creativity and resourcefulness.

Even though it’s pretty easy to make a fairly professional-sounding recording, most bands as underground as this have recordings that are obviously raw and not 100%. Sometimes this is how I would prefer it; I love the realistic approach of recording something and doing very little mixing/production work. There are other bands, like Phalgeron, that don’t sound the best that way. Oathbreaker has amazing production quality. Everything can be heard, the vocals are mixed to blend in with the other instruments instead of jutting out in your face, and the drums match up perfectly with everything else.

Oathbreaker is a concept album, which most likely means that the band intended for it to be listened to as a whole because of the massive story (whatever the hell it is) behind the music. The first two tracks stand out to me SO MUCH that, despite this being more of an album than a collection of songs, I’m going to go over. The first track, The Unholy Conception, if I remember correctly, was the single that made me say “I FUCKING NEED THIS”. The overall sound of this particular track is a very atmospheric melodic death sound. It’s interesting because although it has the true black metal sound that I’ve grown to know VERY well, it has a thin layer of death metal resting on top to influence some of the vocals and guitar melodies. The highlight of this track is the acoustic part during the second half. I’ve heard A LOT of acoustic guitar stuff in black metal, and what the beauty in the melodies of what Hoth have done here is (in my mind) easily comparable to Woods of Ypres and Agalloch; it may be somewhat short, but the beauty and emotion in this is enough to blow me away no matter how many times I listen to it. And I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating, but I’m not, this is one of the most beautiful and refreshing moments an audio recording has given me in years.

The second track starts off in an acoustic Agalloch-style setting. Once again, everything here is filled with inspiration and blankets you with a cape of grim, dark, yet blissful solitude that can only be described as unforgettable. During my first listen of this album, right after the intro to this song, the first riff that the bass guitar plays is what pulled me in. This music truly encourages you to let go of yourself and completely submerge yourself in the sounds that flow into your ears. The same melody that pulls you in is then played at a much faster pace in the band’s signature sound, which at first kind of ruins the mood because of how relaxing and melodic the atmosphere becomes. But after about another minute, the music pulls you back in and helps you forget the disruption.

Oathbreaker is a rare example of a record with absolutely no filler. A lot of bands will say “this album has no filler” simply to distract people from the fact that, it does indeed have filler. You can tell that the music here wasn’t written during a short time period. Sure, the band claims to have written the majority of the material during “the cold, winter months of 2013”, but Oathbreaker is way too thought-out and solid to have been written in a matter of months. The production is superb, the musical structure is superb, and the album feels solid as a whole while at the same time, each individual song holds enough substance and beauty to be just fine on their own. The vocals are some of the best I’ve heard all year, the guitar, bass, and drum work are all superb, and you’re a sorry soul if you don’t listen to this at least 10 times. Consider this to have already reserved a spot on my “best of 2014” list. Check this out, you won’t regret it. This gets a perfect 20/20. I don't come across as many albums worthy of that score nearly as much as I used to, so this, to me, is a true gem. All I can say is that I was not expecting something THIS good. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Emmure - Eternal Enemies

Emmure’s past two records have shown improvements in many areas, especially with the only two songs I actually enjoy by them being on those two records. After hearing a song like Protoman, I was given a TINY spark of hope that they might actually progress their sound on their next album; and apparently I wasn’t the only person that was given that little spark. Well guess what, THEY HAD US FOOLED LIKE A GREYHOUND CHASING A HARE INTO A DEATHTRAP! Welcome back, everyone! A new chapter in Emmure’s successful, yet unchanging career is upon us and I am here to go through the chore of taking my time to listen to the WHOLE thing and tell you about it so that you can save yourself the 30 minutes and go do something productive like walk your dog (whatever it is you people do).

I’ve never been big on lyrics in heavy metal, but a piece of commentary on the first (of probably several) music video from this album that I read on Under the Gun mentions something very interesting (to me, at least). And I’m not quoting them because I realized something else from what they stated. Since the beginning of his career, and still to this day, Frankie Palmeri has had a strong “me against the world” theme going on (obviously the source of his rage and energy). Actually, I’m going to quote what Under the Gun said because I couldn’t have said it any better myself (link to the article I’m referring to can be found at the bottom of this review).

What they accurately stated was “Fuck you for not getting him. Fuck you for not understanding what Emmure are trying to do. Fuck you for trying to hold them back. Fuck you because fuck you. He’s Frankie Palmeri and even though he’s toured the world for the past several years and touched the lives of countless people worldwide, who in return have supported him financially and allowed him to avoid needing a [minimum wage] job, he still feels like the world is a cold place void of love and compassion.” And to add on to that, Emmure has also hopped on the “stand your ground, don’t give up, be yourself, party it up, fuck what others think/say, YOLO” bandwagon by having two or three songs on each record having that message.

If Frankie is such a victim of this cold, heartless, desolate place we call Earth, why are there these random songs with a completely contradicting message? That’s a rhetorical question because the answer (for some of you) should be obvious. A lot of people also ask why he seems to appear so full of himself and egotistical if his lyrics are so self-victimizing. I’m not even going to bother with that because talking about Emmure is a chore of its own that I don’t want to drag out any more than I have to.

Eternal Enemies begins with a song titled Bring your Gun to School, which obviously seems to glorify causing a mass murder inside a school and killing kids. I agree with the guys from Lambgoat on this song; I’m just going to assume that Palmeri wrote this song purely for the sake of pissing people off and causing controversy (something he seems to enjoy). So yeah, with that said, mission accomplished. Next.

Emmure promised us that this was going to be their darkest and heaviest record yet. I didn’t actually think they would succeed; but they did. This album is heavier and darker than any other Emmure album. Being an avid heavy metal fan for quite some time now, heaviness/brutality has become a trait that has no influence on my opinion of a band. Unless, of course, I’m in the mood for slamming brutality, how brutal or heavy a band is doesn’t really matter to me; it’s not going to make me like them more or less. But I do know that there are a lot of people that do have that in their criteria, so if you were hoping for an Emmure record, only heavier, congratulations! If you didn’t want that…well I guess that just sucks for you because Palmeri sure as hell doesn’t care what you think.

I originally thought that Mark Castillo joining the band was going to change them for the better. Considering that he was the drummer for Between the Buried and Me (he played drums on The Silent Circus) before quitting due to his side project, Bury Your Dead, gaining enormous popularity, and then playing with Crossfade for a year or so, it would make sense that he would help influence Emmure’s musical direction for the better. I was pretty sure he didn’t do anything fancy on Slave to the Game because he was new in the band and was still solidifying his place on the lineup, which is totally okay. Well, how does he sound on Eternal Enemies? EXACTLY THE FUCKING SAME. You can’t even tell that the band has had a change in drummers at all during their career! I know this is a cliché and overused statement, but really, it’s sickening to see such talent and skill go to waste like this.

Oddly enough, aside from their drummer and one of their guitarists, all of the members are original. If you’ve been in the same band, on the road almost constantly, with no escape from the other members due to living in a van, especially when one of those members is Palmeri, you’ve got to be pretty goddamn tight with the others. So SOMEHOW, I can’t say or imagine how, these guys, despite having a raging asshole in the band, have managed to get along and not get sick of each other for more than 10 years.

There’s not much to say about this record. I could’ve made this one massive rant about how EVERYTHING this band writes is a carbon copy of EVERYTHING they’ve written and how they play nothing but uninspired, overused, simple, boring, tasteless breakdowns, but I wanted to avoid that this time to see what else there was about an Emmure record to discuss. The only positive about this album is that they remain tight and solid as a band; no one falls out of tempo, even though what they do sucks BIG TIME, they do it very well without fail. Eternal Enemies gets 2/20. 

The Under the Gun review I mentioned: http://www.underthegunreview.net/2014/03/03/even-emmure-look-bored-listening-to-their-new-song/

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Monolith - Voyager

The term “progressive” seems to be pretty fuzzy lately. Personally, for a band to be “progressive”, it has to have one of two qualities. The first being the original meaning of the term, which is that the band’s music is extremely innovative and either sounds like something NO ONE has done before or has a sound only a small number of other bands have had. The second criteria, which is more of a personal thing, is actually something that the first one fits into anyway. I like keeping my music library on my laptop pretty organized by genre; I don’t have a million different categories, but I have enough. And if I have an album that doesn’t seem to fit into any of those genres at all because of how unique it is, I’ll put it under “progressive death/metal/rock/jazz/etc.” Monolith is one of those bands that, although they don’t sound very unique on the surface, don’t seem to fit under anything I have. But anyway, I’ve been meaning to write something on this album for a few months now because of how much it’s intrigued me.

I found Monolith via SoundCloud and noticed that they had their (at the time) brand new album available for free download. I’m not a huge “prog nerd” like some of you are, so I’m not as concerned with HOW progressive and innovative it is as much as I am concerned about if it’s good or not. So with that out of the way, let’s look at the overall sound of this record. Because of how easy it is to self-produce an album and have it sound professional, the production quality is fantastic; but then again, this is better than most self-produced records I’ve heard. There doesn’t seem to be a bassist amongst the Canadian trio, so let’s assume they doubled the guitar track and turned it down an octave or two. What I don’t get is the keyboards. Just by listening to the music, you can tell there were keyboards playing because of all of the epic synths and orchestral elements in the background. The part that’s confusing me is that it doesn’t say ANYWHERE that anyone in the band played keyboards or that there was a guest keyboardist or something. And I wish I knew who it was that arranged the background keyboard parts because they sound BEAUTIFUL and flow with the music with extraordinary precision. It’s very rare that young underground bands get the background keyboard thing right, and Monolith is one of the best examples of a band getting it right.

Monolith’s sound is hard to describe 100% accurately because every description you could come up with only applies to a certain number of tracks. The majority of this album tends to sound like a really epic melodic death band (like Amon Amarth or Wintersun) playing really generic metalcore. Most of the drum patterns that are used are the simple, extremely repetitive ones that are commonly heard in most pure metalcore and hardcore bands. Aside from their drummer’s lack in creativity (or interest in being creative) holding them back, he’s very good at what he does. The drumming on Voyager is simplistic, repetitive, boring, but very solid and tight. This might even be more of a “sacrificing creativity for the sake of quality” sort of thing than just laziness. And when you hear what the rest of the band is doing, it makes sense. And it’s the exact same thing with the guitarist too.

The guitarist does every single cliché metalcore/hardcore thing that you can think of. Overdoing pitch harmonics, rhythm guitar riffs that sound identical to numerous tracks by As I Lay Dying, Parkway Drive, and All That Remains, high predictability levels, those slowish guitar sweeps, taking the same riff and using it WAY too much, it’s all there! I’m not saying that all of those things are bad, but it’s something that can put a lot of people off and really doesn’t make them a band that I would listen to a whole lot because there are so many other bands that sound the same as well as being better! Once again, just as I stated above, the guitars have the same catch as the drums; they are played very well. There’s a lack of creativity in the core composition, but the catch is that everything is spot-on and played with flawless precision.

The vocals are alright; not very much I feel that I need to say. The clean singing strongly reminds me of Scar Symmetry, except the harmonizing isn’t as interesting. The vocalist’s growls are deep in pitch, but not in sound. They don’t have that wide, powerful sound like the growls you hear from Amorphis. The singing is all in-tune and the harmonizations are good, but they don’t really fit the music. The vocalist should experiment with not doing any harmonizing at all in the future because his voice has a very pure and crisp sound that sounds great on its own.  

Monolith is just weird. Each musician individually lacks creativity and skill, but when they’re all playing together, the sound they create is fucking massive. They’ve managed to be a band and not a bunch of musicians because they stayed within their limits and did everything perfectly. Although not super innovative, the overall sound of this band is a sound that progressive fans might be interested in. Voyager isn’t way better than average, but when you take away the nit-picking and just judge it for what it is without any extra expectations, this is almost flawless! There are very few things wrong with this record, but it’s not something that fits my personal needs because when it comes to this type of music, I require something a little more. But this band is headed in the right direction. If they increase the interest level on the next record, we could have something very big here. I would give this album 12/20. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Carnifex - Die Without Hope

After disbanding for an amount of time so short that it’s not even worth mentioning, Carnifex is back. These guys were one of those bands that were very popular amongst the huge deathcore fans; the people that listened to the underground shit like In the Midst of Lions, Annotations of an Autopsy, Here comes the Kraken, etc. As far as I’m aware, Carnifex got their big break when they landed a spot on the 2010 Summer Slaughter Tour, which was also my first time attending the annual event. Before that, their second record had been circulating throughout the underground deathcore and hardcore community with tons of positive feedback. After releasing the follow-up, Hell Chose Me, and getting on a major tour that same year, Carnifex had officially broken out of the underground. Then after releasing an album that I wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for my visit to the Victory Records website, they disbanded seemingly out of nowhere.

I think that although they managed to attract a fanbase beyond that of the diehard deathcore fans (something that many similar bands never succeed in accomplishing), they were in the wrong place. Victory Records has the odd reputation of having primarily shitty deathcore and metalcore bands while having some legit death metal and...well….bands that don’t suck on their roster. I’m not super knowledgeable on the business side of the music industry, but I’m going to assume that the band disbanding caused their contract with the infamous Victory Records to fall through.

After announcing their comeback, I see an announcement about Carnifex from the last place I would have expected to even deem them worthy of mention, Nuclear Blast Records. The legendary label that only signs on the best of the best when they’re in their prime, the home of Immortal, Dimmu Borgir, Epica, Nile, Decapitated, Meshuggah, HammerFall, and numerous other bands that are nothing short of superior, signed a deal with Carnifex!? The last time I checked, the only deathcore and metalcore bands that have managed to maintain a spot on the Nuclear Blast roster for more than one album are All Shall Perish, Mnemic, and Threat Signal. The only reason this could be is that Nuclear Blast saw Carnifex cooking something up that would put everything they’ve ever done in the past to shame. So what was the final result?

One thing’s for sure, the first track was the worst choice for a first impression. If you’re someone that is quick to judge an entire album while listening to the first track, now is the time to go against your normal methods and keep listening. The first track is heavy as fuck, to put it simply, but there’s not much interest to it; it sounds like the bare minimum, except being done Carnifex style. Imagine Aegaeon, except with much better musicianship and some blast beats here and there; that’s what Salvation is Dead sounds like. But then again, by the time you’re halfway through the next song, this song will have been long forgotten.

Dark Days is where things start getting interesting. I’ve always been aware of Scott’s love for black metal, and he told me on a few different occasions that he was going to let some of that bleed into the sound of this new record. Now that I’ve heard the final result, it seems that the black metal essence of this record is being over exaggerated because there’s not much of it at all. What there is, though, is something very refreshing. This album is meant to be heard by the people that are tired of deathcore and are saying that it all sounds the same now and that none of the bands are progressing. If you can get your heads out of the mud long enough to listen to this, it just might be the breath of fresh air you’ve been needing. Dark Days takes the pianos, melodies, and orchestral sounds that the band has only merely toyed with in the past and weaves them seamlessly throughout the entire song. And when I say “seamlessly,” I mean perfectly. Not only have they managed to increase their already unmatchable brutality, but they have also successfully implemented grim melodies without sacrificing ANY of that brutality. The breakdowns are extremely memorable in this song, especially the one during the second half that has the screaming guitar melody on top of it to send chills down your spine. I know it sounds like I’m being overly poetic with my descriptions right now, but it’s the only way I can think of to accurately describe the sheer power of the sound Carnifex has created.

Scott’s vocals have never felt very emotional to me, which is why the pure anger of the music helps intensify his messages. But then again, all of Carnifex’s previous records were just pure anger; it almost felt dry at times. The lack of melody was one of the only (but major) downsides to their music, and probably was the reason why my immediate interest in them has grown smaller over the years. The big change that has been made in Die Without Hope is that it has more emotion than just anger. Before, the transitions were smooth, but there wasn’t much change in the mood. But now, the already perfect transitions are given the most unique twists with the different melodies I mentioned before. Going from a blast beat-driven stampede of anger into a blissful and almost peaceful piano or guitar melody that then drops into the most crushing breakdown like a bomb was just dropped is the best recurring trait about this album. And when you have that much of an improvement with the music as far as portraying a variety of moods and emotions goes, it helps expose the true feelings behind the vocals more than ever before. The vocals haven’t changed a bit, but they sound much more intense because of the music behind them.

The instrumentation is nothing short of perfection, the musicality has grown infinitely stronger, and the creativity has taken an enormous spike. Everything is mixed perfectly; the symphonic elements are in the BACKGROUND where they need to be; nothing is overpowering. If you liked the new Fit for an Autopsy record and want more brutality, this is an album you’ve probably already heard and love. Carnifex do a perfect job of staying very true to their roots while taking the things they’ve merely toyed with in the past and actually putting them to use without fail. Die Without Hope is not only a surprise, but an album that goes far beyond the expectations I had for this group. I’m giving this album 19/20.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Angantyr - Forvist

The fact that Angantyr, after all these long years, have gotten minimal recognition outside of the underground black metal community (most of which is in Europe) baffles me. Possibly one of the best black metal bands to rise up during the 90s, Angantyr have continued to release masterpiece after masterpiece. This album, released in 2012, was one that apparently slipped past my radar until a few months ago. If you’re not familiar with this band, the official lineup consists of Ynleborgaz, also responsible for Make a Change…Kill Yourself, as well as being the drummer for Profezia and Blodarv. Unlike many one-man black metal projects, Angantyr actually plays live shows with the support of a live bassist and drummer (I assume that Ynleborgaz plays guitar and vocals). But even then, this band seems to have only played in and around Europe with minimal success, and considering that there are several other lower-quality black metal bands that are all about the stage performance doing much better, it’s refreshing to know that there are still bands that have continued to focus on making the best music out there. This is Angantyr’s most recent release, titled Forvist.

Part of the reason why Antantyr doesn’t grab as much attention as other similar bands is the absence of Satanism and cold blasphemy/violence in the lyrical themes; everything Angantyr writes has something to do with Scandinavian/northern European history. Obviously, this means there’s a lot of Viking shit in there! But unlike a lot of other Viking-themed bands like Turisas, Amon Amarth, Tyr, and Ensiferum, Angantyr isn’t all loud n’ proud about it; they don’t have Viking shields and guys in armor battling some mythical sea monster on every album cover; this is the real shit. Somewhat similar to Tyr, Angantyr talks about the extreme hardships the people of Scandinavia were put through. Except the stories that are told in this case are much older and brutal ones; a common theme being that of Christianity being forced onto the people of Scandinavia, causing them to expand their homelands and find new places to settle. But after the release of Sejr in 2007, the themes seemed to move more towards the exploration and discovery side of that era. The fall of England making it an easy target for the Vikings and the brutality that followed. What I’m trying to say is that this shit isn’t the exciting, epic, glorified fairytales that other Viking-themed bands write about; this is the real shit, this is much deeper and darker (much more fitting for the style of music). And to be honest, it’s much more interesting to listen to; it’s much more emotional and has more power behind it that the music can intensify.

The intro to the first song is a stripped-down example of the melodic atmosphere of the entire album. A purely acoustic line backed by the relaxing rolling of waves on the beach, it’s the best intro Angantyr has produced yet. All of Angantyr’s records have a soft, melodic intro, but this one, although shorter than the others, is the most profound and does the best job of setting the mood for the entire album. Another thing that helps make the intro stick more is the intensified melody in the guitar work. In a few of the previous albums, the melody was achieved through the commonly-used method of having a guitar track tremolo picking a single note at a time (the particular note obviously changing with the movement of the song). This method is used on Forvist, but not nearly as often as before. In Forvist and Svig, its predecessor, the guitar melody is implemented into the chords already being played. Ynleborgaz has one (maybe two) backing guitar tracks, the main rhythm guitar tracks, and a second rhythm guitar track that plays everything the main one is along with the added notes to the chords to create the melody. I’m most likely wrong in this assumption, so don’t take my word for it, but this is what it sounds like.

Angantyr is always spot-on with drums. Ynleborgaz’ drumming is spectacular; his blast beats are some of the most solid in the genre, and at the same time doing a great job at keeping things interesting by adding numerous riffs and flairs. The dramatic change that Ynleborgaz has taken on this album is adding larger sections that use completely different tempos and drum patterns. The alternate patterns that he’s always used have been the same ones, but on this album, he creates new ones, as if he finally realized he was overusing those other alternate patterns. The vocals could use to be a lot more powerful; but nonetheless, you can easily hear the emotion behind them. If he were to add some variety in pitch, that would make everything much more interesting and grim, especially if it were growls.

If you are in any way a listener of black metal, you need to pick up this record because it takes you on a journey beyond written description; the atmosphere and melodies are indescribably beautiful. The songs on this album don’t exactly differ from each other to the point of being separate songs. They more so tie together into a seam of raw bleakness. I don’t mind the low production quality of black metal, but there are some cases where it’s stupid. Do the drums really have to be THAT overpowering? Do the vocals have to stick out THAT much? Although this album has the pure rawness that it should have, the mixing work has everything balanced out PERFECTLY so that it flows through your ears like silk. Forvist gets 19/20. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Current Status

I have been getting a lot of music submissions over the past 3 months or so. Coincidentally, at the same time, my activity on here has been minimal due to recent events and, the main reason, school leaving me with a lack of energy. I do advise you to keep bringing in the submissions, I'm not forgetting about them, I'm saving every single one of them. There have been some pretty shitty submissions, as well as some fantastic ones that I have really been meaning to write about. I've also been getting emails from bands and labels that have found reviews I've written in the past and those literally make my day.

If you've been waiting on me to write reviews for a while now, I apologize for testing your patience. But please know that what used to be something I did daily has now become a hobby that I'm only able to do when I have the time and energy. No, not going on hiatus, just answering the questions regarding my blog's current status.

I'm going to start reviewing some albums that aren't metal as well so that I can stay well-rounded and whatnot.