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.

Monday, March 24, 2014

RIP Oderus Urungus

Everyone has those random sleepless nights; you're just not tired for some reason. Last night was one of those nights for me. Despite being in my warm, cozy bed, I wasn't tired at all. So while rotating between reddit, twitter, and my rss feed with Marduk playing in the background, one of my fellow twitter buddies retweeted that dreaded blabbermouth post that you may have seen. This was about 11pm PST or something like that, it was around midnight at least. Blabbermouth did an excellent job of not jumping to any conclusions by carefully wording their article using terms such as "sources claim" and "reportedly" and other indefinite words, obviously in hopes that this was all just some sort of sick hoax or stupid rumor. I was part of the crowd that wanted to hear/see more evidence before having a meltdown. 

Then I started to notice high-profile people tweeting "RIP" related stuff. Earache Records, Relapse, Dez Fafara, Broken Hope, and a few other twitter accounts belonging to musicians/labels/etc. were all saying "RIP Dave". Well shit, if this was all a hoax, why would so many people be setting themselves up for embarrassment by falling for a stupid rumor? Dez said one of the members called him and told him...okay....then I went to Instagram and, not even 3 minutes before that, Randy Blythe made the post you've probably all seen by now. 1. I know he is personal friends with the entire band. 2. He would NOT take the time to write such a deep and touching post about this if it wasn't a hoax. I heard on facebook people such as his family and girlfriend were confirming it. There was just too much evidence supporting the reality of this and next to no evidence that it was a rumor. Dave was active on twitter, but all day yesterday, his account was pretty silent, which was all the more I needed to believe it without an official statement from the band (in this case, it was their manager). 

GWAR in general is one of the most notable and best bands to exist. And anyone that has seen them live can agree that there is not a SINGLE show on this Earth that can ever come close to a GWAR show. It's a one-of-a-kind, once in a lifetime experience that is truly unforgettable. I saw GWAR once, it was in 2011 with Every Time I Die and Warbeast. I'm not a fan of Every Time I Die at all, and Warbeast is alright, but GWAR put on one of the SINGLE best live shows I have EVER experienced in my life. Everything from the theatrics to the Dillinger Escape Plan-worthy craziness of the crowd, it was one of the best nights of my life. Because it was at the Showbox SoDo, there was a barricade in front of the stage, so one of the two times I crowdsurfed to the front, once I was on my feet on the other side of the barricade, just as I was about to run off to the side, Oderus and I made eye contact for a split second. This followed with him spraying my face with...whatever the hell it was (I'm pretty sure it's not fake blood, it tasted weird though) until my hair and face were soaked. I almost puked due to it being at the same time as I was trying to catch my breath. 

Man, that was fun! I'm glad he was around! He did a lot of crazy shit and was one of the single best, most creative, and most humble musicians ever. Not to mention his songwriting. Unpopular opinion: GWAR's most recent album is my favorite, one of the best of 2013. Really wish I could have seen them again, but that one show is enough for me to never forget. Rest in Peace Dave. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

2 Tours

I'm going to see two shows this next week!!! First ones in a while. The first one features my favorite deathcore band, Oceano!!!
This will be my 2nd time seeing Oceano, my 2nd time seeing Fallujah, and my first time seeing Rivers of Nihil and Broken Hope. Fucking stoked!!

Of course, I've been to the Decibel Magazine tour every year it's been in existence. And to be honest, they still have yet to have a shitty lineup. The first year being a slightly more black metal year (w/ Behemoth, Watain, In Solitude, etc.) and then the second year being made up of 3 metal gods, Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death, and Immolation, as well as the almighty Cretin, this is amazing. I have never seen Carcass or Gorguts before (obviously) but this will be my 4th time seeing The Black Dahlia Murder!! I will be seeing lots of you at this one!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Impending Doom - Death Will Reign

Because I’ve already reviewed all of Impending Doom’s albums prior to this one, I almost feel obligated to keep the trend going by reviewing this album too. I’ve had this album since its release, but the reason why I haven’t written ANYTHING about it until now is because this record leaves me so little to discuss. My original intention was to write a review on it right around the time it came out so that I could be a part of the collective initial reaction, but that proved to be virtually impossible no matter how hard I tried. After listening to it for the first couple of times, I was left completely uninspired to write anything; it was so marginal that I didn’t even develop an opinion on the album. So I put it down with the intentions of picking it back up later with hopes that I would actually be able to write something about it. Well I finally picked it back up a few days ago while doing some coursework, and then sat down and put my full attention on the album the next day.

Part of the reason why I was left so unimpressed and untouched by this record at first was because I had not listened to much deathcore at all during the year of 2013. The only occasions where I had (that I can remember) were at Summer Slaughter (Thy Art is Murder), discovering and seeing Lord of War, and listening to the new albums released by Winds of Plague, Oceano, Lifeforms, Iwrestledabearonce, Eat a Helicopter, Born of Osiris, Delusions of Grandeur, and the occasional listen of Suicide Silence, Whitechapel, and Despised Icon. The majority of that year was taken up by listening to and discovering black metal artists. So I wasn’t at all in the right mindset to have an optimistic listening session of a generic deathcore record.

If you’ve chatted with me before or have been reading my reviews for a while, you already know that I never use the term “generic” in a negative or demeaning way at all. Generic simply means the pure/raw form of a genre without any extra bullshit to try to be different and unique. Impending Doom have made it clear on every single one of their albums that they’re not interested in “pushing the boundaries” or being “progressive”. They know exactly what they want to do and they have more than enough evidence that they know exactly how to do it.

If I remember correctly, the album before this one caused a mixed reaction due to it following the major trend at the time that consisted of overusing those polyrhythmic breakdowns. Although these aren’t the bands responsible for inventing this style, After the Burial, Veil of Maya, and Born of Osiris are definitely responsible for sparking the trend of using this in the deathcore genre. Once Veil of Maya released The Common Man’s Collapse in 2008, WAY too many bands popped up out of nowhere and started copying this. And in order to stay in the loop and stay under the spotlight they had lost after the release of their debut, Impending Doom decided to follow this trend on their last record. Although they didn’t really do the best job at it, they still managed to create a solid-sounding album that expressed their ability to experiment while staying well within their comfort zone. And I might’ve bashed them a little more than I should’ve in my review of that album, but nonetheless, they’ve responded to the quick decline of that trend and have returned to their base sound….for the most part.

The band really did a lot of advertising work last time, which is probably the only reason they managed to narrowly avoid being completely forgotten about like Suffokate, In the Midst of Lions, Through the Eyes of the Dead, Here Comes the Kraken, As You Drown, Bleed From Within, Salt the Wound, Arsonists Get All the Girls, and countless other previously relevant, but still active deathcore bands. Thankfully, the excess advertising of Baptized in Filth’s release in 2012 paid off. It landed them on a couple of popular tours, most notably the one that I saw them on (my first time ever seeing them, great nostalgic experience) with DevilDriver, The Faceless, Dying Fetus, and a bunch of other bands. Another tour that helped album sales was when they opened for one of the currently thriving metalcore bands, For Today. But after the big touring run in support of Baptized in Filth, Impending Doom quieted down a little too much too quickly. They did almost no advertising and hype work for Death Will Reign. And as a result, barely anyone was aware that they had even recorded new material!

After listening to this again recently, I’m getting the feeling that Impending Doom haven’t taken as much pride in this piece of work as they did in Baptized in Filth. Most likely I’m wrong and I’ll get an email or something from them bashing that statement and whatnot. But really, everything about this album seems very minimal. The album cover isn’t very attractive, they did next to no hype for this album, and I’m not aware of them being on any recent tours. What the hell happened?? But most of all, the music feels dry.

One thing that Impending Doom has never failed to do is make a record that has a solid foundation and isn’t lazily slapped together and rushed. So I’m not at all worried about them failing in that area; these guys know how to at least make a record that doesn’t suck. But this feels like The Serpent Servant all over again…except this time it’s more tight and practiced. So if you love the deathcore sound in general, you’re going to love this, Impending Doom is very good at what they do and have always had more brutality and power in their sound than the average band of their style.

For those expecting even a LITTLE bit more than just the bare minimum, it might take you a little while to warm up to Death Will Reign. The step in the right direction that the band has taken is keeping some of the new “djenty” elements from their previous record and implementing it into this one. The step in the WRONG direction that they’ve taken is a little hard to explain. They haven’t exactly put more emphasis on breakdowns as much as they have put less emphasis on everything else. So that’s the main reason why I feel so dry and unsatisfied after listening to this; it feels lazy. The breakdowns are VERY tight, but everything else in the music is either the bare minimum or just overly predictable. The only thing that saves them this time is the fact that they’re all outstanding musicians. If they couldn’t keep time and stay tight with each other, this would be a dismal failure.

So once again, if you like deathcore in general and enjoy obliterating breakdowns, you should at least check this out on YouTube or Rhapsody or whatever free music service you fuckers use. If you know Impending Doom and love what they do, pick up a copy of this because you will NOT be disappointed in the least bit. But if you’re looking for something with a little catch, sorry, you might want to just wait until their next album in hopes that they surprise us. I would give Death Will Reign a good solid score of 10/20. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Sinister - The Carnage Ending

Almost every band that has been around for more than 20 years has put out at least one bad album. Sinister, despite having a quite massive “former members” list, have managed to pull through with each release. In light of the Dutch death metal pioneers’ new album that is set to be released sometime this summer via Massacre Records, I thought it’d be nice to look back to 2012 and peel back the layers of their most recent release, The Carnage Ending. A few years back, I reviewed The Silent Howling, and because I live under a fucking rock, a lot happened between The Silent Howling and The Carnage Ending and I didn’t learn about it until recently. Despite that, I have had this album in my library since its release because of the dependability of this band. Even though I didn’t really have the time to listen to it because of being busy with other things, I knew that it didn’t matter when I listened to it; Sinister has yet to disappoint me.

The crazy thing that happened between 2008 and 2012 was 3 of the 4 members parting ways with the band. So now, the vocalist isn’t just the only remaining original member, but he’s also the only member that has been in the band longer than 5 years…great. And although he is an original member of Sinister, some take the technicality that he was their drummer when Sinister first formed in 1988 and didn’t become the vocalist until he and another member decided to resurrect the band after a 2 year hiatus (which obviously didn’t include their original vocalist). So because he’s not their original VOCALIST, people take that and say that there’s no original members left in the band. And yes, there are plenty of bands out there that only have one original member still standing, but I can’t think of a case where EVERYONE except for one member just left the band at once. If you can name other bands that have endured this type of loss without breaking up, please leave a comment on this post!

Due to the completely different lineup, I’m not going to compare this one with their extensive discography quite as much as I would with any of its predecessors. On top of that, what does it fucking matter? Have Sinister ever gone to shit before? No! And I can reassure you that The Carnage Ending isn’t any better or worse (by a whole lot) than any of their other albums! If you know these guys well, you know exactly what to expect; pure, uncut, straight-up death metal. No excess technicality, minimal melody, little emphasis on breakdowns, and a record that is better sounding as a whole than the individual songs by themselves.

On that note, there are some progressions that have been made. Although not completely necessary, it’s best to have a good variety of different tempos in each track. Sinister have proved to not be the best at this. They’ve made multiple attempts at putting in breakdowns, extreme tempo changes, and oddball breaks in their music, and every album in which they do that, it ends up sounding very choppy. Every time they produce an album like this, they always go back to just sticking to a few similar speeds. Thankfully, the guitar and vocal work have kept the music interesting enough to avoid getting the “monotony” sticker. In my review of The Silent Howling, I did mention that, in order for these guys to keep up on their game, they needed to have some hidden surprises in the next album to keep the predictability level from getting any higher than it needed to be.

I’m not saying that this is because of the lineup being COMPLETELY different aside from their vocalist, but Sinister have finally figured out how to use a magical tool known as a “transition”. Ever wondered why your music sounded so goddamn choppy on Savage or Grace? Because the album is completely void of any attempt at transitions. Something must have clicked this time because this album has everything that they’ve tried to do, only they’re actually succeeding! There are breakdowns in almost every song that are laid out PERFECTLY and aren’t over exaggerated like the breakdowns on a deathcore album would be. Sinister is way too Dutch to turn into a deathcore band; as well as being too old. Anyways, there’s a lot more variety WITHIN each song than anything they’ve ever done before. Yet interestingly enough, when you look at the album as a whole, the songs all generally sound the same (with some give or take of course).

The guitar solos haven’t changed since the band’s return from hiatus in 2005, which is good considering the unique shredding style of the solos are an important part of Sinister’s sound. In exchange for an increase in groove, Sinister have given up some brutality, which is a loss for me because of the PERFECT brutality level The Silent Howling had.

I’m not a fan of the overly processed sound of the vocals. I know this isn’t the raw sound of the vocals because of how much less polished the vocals from The Silent Howling sound. Although it’s a minor alteration, it’s enough to be noticeable by me. Then again, I wouldn’t have noticed that if I wasn’t reviewing this album. A lot of the things that make us reviewers seem nit-picky and snotty are things that we wouldn’t have noticed without analyzing the music closely and paying attention to every individual little thing. It’s something I consider to be somewhat of a curse that comes with the album reviewing process; you start noticing negative things that you wouldn’t normally hear through leisurely playing the album.

There’s one last thing I want to point out: the drummer. This album has the best drum work out of Sinister’s entire discography. Yes, even the drumming off of Aggressive Measures doesn’t amount to the drumming on this record. Maybe the drumming on The Carnage Ending is not quite as tight and solid as Aggressive Measures, but definitely far more creative and intricate. The blast beats are very crisp and a pleasure to the ears. Overall, this is more than any casual death metal fan could ask for! It’s quality! Personally, the interest factor doesn’t match that of The Silent Howling or Hate, but this is a big step in the right direction. Death metal fans need to give this one a listen. The Carnage Ending gets my score of 15/20. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Death Angel - The Dream Calls for Blood

Death Angel is an interesting band. When I first started listening to them, everyone in the band except for the vocalist was related. Not even months after I discovered them (I didn’t find out about this until years later), two of these members dropped out for reasons I honestly couldn’t give less of a fuck about. If you know the predictability of the thrash metal community, you can already correctly guess that this was a big blow to Death Angel’s reputation and caused a lot of thrashers to basically slide the band into the “no longer relevant” category. But for me, because my first time seeing these guys live was after this had already happened (plus the fact that I didn’t know it had happened at all), I was blown away by the performance of all of the members; so I don’t have any negative thoughts toward the band at all regarding that infamous lineup change. The reason why this is so relevant right now is because their 2010 album, Relentless Retribution, was really a major hate-target for the old school thrash metal bigots because it wasn’t the same Death Angel they had been listening to since the early 1980s. If there’s anything more important than the first effort, it’s the follow-up to show that they can still hold together. But in all honesty, I couldn’t care any fucking less about the lineup as long as their lead guitarist and vocalist stay in the act.

People that have listened to Death Angel more than once already know that innovation and progression is not something that should be expected from these guys. If you’re looking for the progressive thrash bands, you’re barking up the wrong tree. These guys deep it raw and traditional, but in no way are they a band that resorts to the bare minimum. Death Angel know the thrash metal style well enough to be able to be unique, new, and interesting without stepping too far out of the boundaries. This is probably because they don’t see any boundaries and that they know that pure thrash metal is what they do best. And to be honest, I’m glad that they’re sticking to that plan because they’re standing as one of the top dogs and examples to look up to. They’ve been around long enough, they haven’t grown progressive, they don’t have their heads stuck back in the 80s; they have evolved with the genre while at the same time still having the Death Angel sound, and they haven’t gone down the borefest of tremolo picking, ridiculous shredding solos, and blast beats that many have gone down.

Relentless Retribution was a perfect example of that, and really showed a lot of experimentation with slower, less “thrashy” speeds. This new record is obviously making up for the speed and brutality that its predecessor lacked. How soon is this apparent? 25 seconds into the first track, it’s instantly brought to your attention that The Dream Calls for Blood is NOT a record that will leave you fully intact afterwards.

The main highlight that I would like to bring up first is the number of guitar solos. Compared to most of their discography, The Dream Calls for Blood has A LOT of guitar solos, and they aren’t the typical randomized over-the-top shredding solos you may be used to hearing. The way in which the solos are presented is very traditional; the whole entire band suddenly shifting into overdrive in order to intensify the first squealing notes of the solo. But these are the big solos, the memorable ones. There are A LOT of shortish solos at act more as filler during major transitions within a song. The reason why i say “shortish” is because although it’s obviously being used as a filler, it’s a lot longer than usual; it’s not just a simple blasting 3-second riff, but at the same time isn’t long enough for me to consider it a full-blown guitar solo.

It’s easy to cover up not being tight with speed. If you have the guitar distortion sounding just right and the cymbals are louder than anything else, it just sounds like grinding speed and...well...who doesn’t love grinding speed in their thrash metal? Death Angel never does this. They have their guitars sounding very pure in the sense that you can hear precisely what they’re doing and they can palm-mute easier. You can hear the exact speed they’re tremolo picking (the title track is a perfect example of this). It’s the same deal with the drums, you can hear everything, and if you have a good set of subwoofers, you will be very glad with how the drums and bass guitar are mixed. And you can probably assume from what I said earlier about Death Angel being tight that the drummer is top-notch in terms of both technicality and never falling even a LITTLE bit out of time.

The other thing that Death Angel has always been very good at is avoiding monotony. They always have a good mix of different-sounding songs on every album. This is where I think they’ve fallen a bit short this time around. Although every track is immensely brutal and always filled with the best headbang-worthy breakdowns and catchiest solos, the song’s don’t differ from each other nearly as much as they have in previous efforts. So by the time the 8th track comes on, the euphoric feeling feeling the first few tracks gave me is still there, but isn’t nearly as intense. The only major turning points being a short interlude acting as the first part of Don’t Save Me. But although the monotony this album has is noticeable by most, it’s minimal and most likely won’t be an issue for you due to the things this album DOES have to make up for it. For me, it’s not so much that I get irritated DURING the record after a while, but the lack in variety doesn’t make my hand move towards the replay button. It leaves me feeling less satisfied than I would want to feel after listening to Death Angel.

So if thrash is your thing, I would HIGHLY recommend you pick this up. If you’re into thrash but really hate the new wave of boring bands that have risen out of the USA recently, chances are you’ve either already heard this album or at least Death Angel. If you haven’t, you’re missing out on one hell of a fucking band. This album has offered up some of the best guitar solos I’ve heard in years, and that’s saying a lot because I haven’t even been listening to extreme metal for 10 years yet, most of the bands I know are ones I’ve discovered sometime within the past 3-5 years or so. Despite a lack in creativity and variety, The Dream Calls for Blood is enough to prove that the Oakland thrashers are FAR from going downhill. Death Angel has still got it and gets a 16/20.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Elysion - Someplace Better.

Another Greek band! And what’s this? It’s not black metal! One of the most unique underground gothic metal bands, Elysion, are finally back with their overdue sophomore release, Someplace Better. I was beginning to think that they were going to end up being another one-album-wonder group that vanished into thin air after it came to be 2012 without any notable updates other than an EP compiled of live and acoustic tracks. Yes, that’s right, I’ve known about these fuckers since I received a copy of their debut album in 2009 for review through the webzine I was writing for at the time (those of you that know my history well can easily guess which webzine). Although their first album isn’t anything over-the-top outstanding, it was more than enough to get me pumped for the band’s next release.

Well 2014 is here and they have finally put out what they should’ve put out years ago. I don’t know much about the band’s background info and don’t really care about it either because I don’t love these guys, their last effort was average, why should I waste my time when I could be drooling over the musical backgrounds of Karl Sanders and Devin Townsend? Moving on, the band have managed to keep their logo, which is good because it’s not some boring ass font like a lot of these other gothic metal bands use. The intro to the first song sounds like they held up a microphone to a stereo playing a Lacuna Coil song. The signature eerie harmonies that Christina Scabbia is known for appear in numerous places all throughout the first track (and the whole album really). But besides that, there isn’t really other Lacuna Coil carbon-copy shit that’s obvious enough for me to hear. The slow, heavy, dark chugging riffs aren’t really Lacuna Coil shit as much as they are a gothic metal thing because every gothic metal band I’ve ever heard (I only listen to a dozen or so bands from this genre) does this.

I never really put much shit on the vocals of their first album because I didn’t really know what the generic gothic metal sound was at the time. So I’m going to put that record out of the picture and stop comparing/contrasting. Probably the thing about Someplace Better that bothers me more than anything else is the vocalist. I don’t know what it is about her, but her voice is so unique, yet so uninteresting. Don’t get me wrong, her voice is PERFECT for Elysion’s sound, but because this style of music puts so much emphasis on the female vocals, she seems to come up a bit short. She’s not out-of-tune, she has power, she expresses emotion, and she has a great dynamic range. There’s just something about her voice that makes it easily forgotten and never sticks to you in the way that singers like Floor Jansen and Simone Simons do. It’s not the absence of the operatic singing that a lot of these chicks like to do, that’s not something I require in a female singer. The issue I’m having is that she sounds so “generic” and ordinary, but I can’t find anyone else that sounds anything like her!

When listening to this record, the perfect harmony between the vocals, keyboards, guitars, and drums put you in a headlock and hold you in tight until the last track has finished. Then, once it’s over and the room has fallen silent, you completely forget what you just listened to. There’s nothing memorable about this album despite the solidity and crispness of the well-composed music. I’ve had to listen to this album over and over so many fucking times because if I go for more than one hour without listening to it, I’ll completely forget what it sounded like and how it captured me on that personal musical level.

The frilly keyboards are perfectly placed in the background where they should be. They don’t take the forefront like a lot of halfwit bands are doing these days. The keyboards help provide a beautiful atmosphere that, when mixed with the melodic crunch of the guitars, creates a beautiful cacophony of sound that encircles you. But like I said before, once the album finishes, it all vanishes into thin air like it was never there in the first place. There’s no after-effect, the album doesn’t leave you with any feeling, nothing like that. When you finish the album, the feeling you get is the feeling that you had before you pressed play.

If you’re a gothic metal enthusiast or love female-fronted bands, this is definitely something you need to check out because this is one of the stronger gothic metal releases I’ve heard in years. A lot of these bands have been growing dry (i.e. Sirenia, etc.) and this new Elysion album is like a breath of fresh air for someone that rarely hears a truly great symphonic or gothic metal album. This is one of the better Greek bands and I would give this album an above-average score of 14/20. The reason it’s so high is because although it’s very forgettable, it’s a fantastic piece nonetheless and does a great job of capturing the precise feeling it wants to. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Grue - Casualty of the Psychic Wars

Aside from Judas Iscariot, Inquisition (sort of), Xasthur, and a few other names, black metal from the United States isn’t normally mentioned when tossing around notable black metal artists. And regardless of what people might say, the black metal scene in the USA doesn’t have much to speak for. Yeah, we have A LOT of black metal bands/artists spawning from our capitalist landscapes, but most of them are…well…shit! We’ve had a few fantastic names pop up over the course of two-ish decades, some of them even getting very popular! Fantastic bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, Ceremonial Castings, Agalloch, Inquinok, Leviathan, Lightning Swords of Death, Castevet, Valdur, Lost Inside, Lamentations of the Ashen, and quite a few others have come out of the states. But the sheer number of pathetically short-lived and/or repulsively bad black metal bands that are from here have really poisoned the country’s reputation and reliability.

In 2010, some moron from Boston that calls himself Barghast started a solo project called Word of Unmaking. No idea where that went, but a year later, Barghast teamed up with one of his drummer buddies and started a black metal duo known as Grue (Barghast being on vocals and guitar). The first piece of material that Grue released was in 2012 on a split with none other than Word of Unmaking. Okay, well I guess having your band be on a split with your solo project isn’t something that’s done every day so…points for creativity! Have I heard this split? Fuck no; I’m not even here to talk about that. What I’m here to talk about is the piece of material that spawned out of the decision that Barghast wanted to get serious with Grue and see what he could do with it.

Part of the reason the United States black metal scene is so weak is because of the lack of solid generic bands. In order to have a house, you need a strong platform to build it on. The USA has A LOT of progressive black bands and this new “post-black” bullshit, but very few truly great bands that stick to the pure black metal sound. Grue is one of those bands. These two dipshits are what we need, people that KNOW how to play black metal. If there’s any new band you should be watching, it’s these guys right here. This record has anything you could ask for, whether it be melody, thrashy parts, blast beats, droning, atmosphere, etc. The duo doesn’t bother with a droning intro you might be used to hearing from new bands; they just go straight into playing at full-force. But unlike something Gorgoroth or Enthroned might do, there’s a lot of melody involved in what they’re doing. If you listen through the repeated crashing of the cymbals in the first 30 seconds of the opening track, you can hear the base melody that’s used throughout the song; and it’s not some corny or simple black metal riff. It’s just the right amount of melody to keep their music from being tasteless and dry as well as avoiding going down the Wolves in the Throne Room path.

My favorite thing about this album is the drummer. A common issue that comes up in this style of music is having a drummer that can only play one pattern. The constant blast beats have given black metal a hard time due to how irritating it can get. The drummer on this record is AMAZING. His blast beats are perfect, don’t get me wrong there, but he does SO MUCH MORE! He primarily follows the “3 different drum patterns on the same speed, then change the speed and do 3 patterns on that speed”, but he constantly throws in random surprises that do the opposite of make the music predictable. He never falls out of time, his technique is superb, and his creativity is to the point of being one of the best black metal drummers I’ve heard in years! Along with the atmosphere and complex melody, the drummer is definitely the main highlight of Casualty of the Psychic Wars.

An issue that I have with music in general is monotony. I NEED there to be variety within the song. Even in grindcore, I require changes in tempo and pattern. That’s why I love Wormrot, Pig Destroyer, Fuck the Facts, Gridlink, Rotten Sound, and Napalm Death so much, they aren’t constant mayhem and speed; they add MORE to it. Grue is an example of a black metal band that has everything you could expect to hear along with a plethora of surprises and interesting variations that make them interesting.

Those of you that like to be extra critical on the vocals, this guy isn’t the absolute best, but he’s not shitty even in the slightest sense. He sounds a lot like the vocalist for Kvelertak; having a lot of voice, power, emotion, and sort of a mid-range tone. Lyrical content…I have no fucking idea, but I just bought the CD (and a shirt) the other day, and the online description said the CD contained lyrics, so I guess I’ll find out then and probably add them to a few of those online metal encyclopedias since no one seems to know (and in my case) or care about the lyrics.

Grue’s Casualty of the Psychic Wars is what I consider to be the best debut album of 2013. So if you’ve still got your panties in a knot about Rivers of Nihil, Lost Society, Essence of Datum, and all those other awesome debuts that were released last year, drop your fucking shit and listen to Grue because it may change your mind. This record is anything but tasteless and boring. It has substance, color, emotion, variety, skill, talent, creativity, grimness, and some of the best fucking musicianship you’ll ever hear from a black metal record. Everything about this album is 100% flawless. This is a perfect debut, which means that the bar has been set pretty damn high for whenever they release their next album (hopefully soon). Give this a listen, obviously the score is 20/20. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Gortuary - Awakening of Pestilent Beings

So apparently Gortuary had released a follow-up to their AMAZING debut, and I didn’t find out about it until three years later; way to stay in the loop. During fall of last year, I stumbled upon Gortuary’s little (but official) online merch store, which is where I saw that there were TWO CDs available. Now if you read my review on their debut, you know that my favorite thing about that album was the vocalist. That guy has some of the most gruesome and unique inhales I’ve ever heard. That along with how the drums sounded were the key contributors for why I love that album. With high anticipation to hear those vocals again, I play the record and hear a completely different voice.

For reasons that, no matter how much research I do, I can’t seem to find, Gortuary’s original vocalist is not featured on this album. Once again no idea why, or even when (well obviously sometime in between the releases of their first and second albums) this happened, but that’s not even the biggest disappointment. The worst part is the guy that replaced him. He’s one of the best prime examples of the absolute most generic inhaled vocals sound like. If you lose a very unique vocalist, the least you could do is find a replacement that’s also unique. It doesn’t have to be just as unique as his/her predecessor, it can be a completely different type of uniqueness! But the WORST thing you want to do is replace an extremely recognizable and unique vocalist with a bottom-of-the-barrell easy to find generic guy that sounds exactly like 60% of the other ones! What the fuck happened to having standards?? Even having some random fuck like Matti Way or Blue Jensen or just SOMEONE that’s not average appear as a session vocalist would’ve been a better idea than to pick up some random fuck off the street.

But then again, I don’t know this guy, there’s a big possibility that he has a long history with the members of this band and was chosen because he’s their friend and they get along great. Or maybe he volunteered to step in when Oliver was no longer a member of Gortuary. I’ll never know for sure why the chose this new fuck, but that’s not my job, I don’t think he’s a good fit for these guys and because of his vocals, this whole album sounds purely generic and uninteresting compared to the band’s debut.

When I looked up this new guy, Nate, to take a look at his musical history, it’s pretty obvious that he’s fairly new. But the odd thing is that it doesn’t seem like he’s ever been in any super underground bands. He did guest vocals on two tracks from the album Shattered Eyes put out in 2010 (and recently re-released via Amputated Vein), and he was the official vocalist for brutal death behemoths Disgorge from 2012-2013, which means that all he did with them was tour a bit and maybe make attempts at writing. But his gig with Pathology wasn’t until two years AFTER this album was recorded, and the Shattered Eyes thing was at the same time. So this might’ve been Nate’s first time recording with an actual band. My suggestion? TRY DOING SOMETHING MORE UNIQUE AND RECOGNIZABLE.

Moving on, the overall production of the album is very dry and unmemorable. As I guessed, they got a different producer for this album, and his resume is pathetic with the only notable albums he’s produced being a Bleeding Through album and the first two Pathology records. So the guitar distortion is dry and tasteless, the drums never stand out, the only time you can hear the bassist is during the two or three solos where he’s the only one playing. Everything just seemed to go the minimalist route this time around which is very disappointing because I LOVE their first album, I always mention it when listing off unique and very good brutal death albums, but this is not the same band that’s on Manic Thoughts of Perverse Mutilation (okay yes I know the only difference in lineup is the vocalist but they don’t sound the same).

Aside from all that, there are some musical progressions the band has made. I don’t exactly remember there being many guitar solos on Manic Thoughts, but there are plenty of them on Awakening of Pestilent Beings. They aren’t anything special, but I am glad that they’re not just random shredding that sounds like absolutely nothing (very few bands sound good with that). There’s even a nice interlude somewhat similar to the last track from Guttural Secrete’s legendary Reek of Pubescent Despoilment.

Another change to take note is that the breakdowns are much more profound and are played in a more traditional fashion. To me this is a step in the wrong direction, but I know some of you out there prefer this style of brutal death so I’ll let you be the judge of that. Regardless of all the negatives, the band is still tight, none of them suck at what they do, they’re great as a band! So this album is very solid in terms of the basics and mandatory elements, but it’s the fact that they went from going above and beyond on their last album to going with the bare minimum is sickening to me. It makes this record sound a lot worse to me than it actually is because of the disappointment it’s caused me.

For those of you that are simply looking for a piece of slamming brutality where the band doesn’t suck, this is not a bad choice. The band is very tight, and there are a few hidden surprises you might like. If you’re one of the fuckers like me that was expecting a follow-up to Manic Thoughts of Perverse Mutilation, sorry, nothing to see here. It’d probably be best to save yourself the disappointment by not listening to this because’s just not anywhere near being as good as Manic Thoughts. I would give this new-ish Gortuary record a 9/20.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Black Dahlia Murder - Everblack

The number of bands out there that are as dependable and consistent as The Black Dahlia Murder is so small that it’s almost irrelevant. Ever since their sophomore release in 2005, the technical death behemoths have yet to release a less-than-amazing record. Each album has only made them bigger, each one doing more than its predecessor. If you’re a loser like me and track all the big metal labels on SoundCloud, you probably remember how quickly Metal Blade racked up the numbers when they posted the first single off the new Black Dahlia Murder album. I remember looking at my dashboard on SoundCloud and seeing that Metal Blade Records posted the “title” track from the new album 2 hours ago and the play count already being more than 9000. I know that may not seem like much, but considering how small the metal community on that site is, that’s a fucking hell of a quick response. The title of the new record, Everblack, once again continues their trend of using only one word (Unhallowed, Miasma, Nocturnal, Deflorate, Ritual, and now Everblack).

The Black Dahlia Murder is known for a lot of things. One of these things in particular played a big part in everyone’s thoughts on what this record might sound like. When you listen to just about any Black Dahlia song, especially Black Valor, Necropolis, Carbonized in Cruciform, A Selection Unnatural, and a few other select titles, you hear one of the most unique-sounding blast beats known to humans. The speed, technicality, skill, and utter tightness is literally unlike anything I’ve ever heard before with the exception of a FEW (very heavy emphasis on FEW) drummers/gods. But even then, none of the drummers that I’ve heard have a blast beat that sounds even CLOSE to what Shannon Lucas does. When I first started listening to these guys back in 2007 (the year that their legendary Nocturnal album was released), I only liked them because of the drums. I didn’t start to realize that the rest of the members also had talent until I saw them live for the first time in 2009. Even today, every time I listen to these guys, the drums are almost always what I end up focusing on (especially if it’s their Deflorate record).

So taking that into consideration, you can probably imagine how I might have felt when I saw the video on YouTube of Shannon Lucas, my favorite thing about that band, announcing that he was leaving The Black Dahlia Murder. Seriously, you can’t listen to Black Valor and not be able to tell how fucking unique his blast beats and…well…overall playing style is! I was almost totally convinced that there was no way that they could find a replacement that was HALF as good as Lucas. When the song Into the Everblack went live, I actually didn’t listen to it until over a week later out of fear that the Black Dahlia Murder that I’ve grown to love and respect was not going to be the same and would have less-impressive drums. Well obviously, if you’ve already listned to Into the Everblack, you can probably guess how fucking embarrassed I was with myself for having even considered that these guys wouldn’t have high enough standards to never settle for a musician that isn’t top-notch and one of the best at what they do. This is the fucking Black Dahlia Murder. So yes, the drums on this album are fucking amazing. The blast beats are SOMEWHAT similar to Shannon’s, but definitely not the same. Regardless, it doesn’t bother me because this guy is just as good as Shannon in everything else, and his blast beats are similar enough to Shannon’s that I can let it slide and not let it bother me.

Who is this drummer? Well he’s only a few years older than I am. From the minimal research I did on him, the earliest thing he did was for some metalcore or deathcore (I didn’t bother listening to their music) band called The Breathing Process in 2008. The other bands he’s played with are very recent bands or ones that he just joined in the past two or three years. The only “notable” band that he’s played for is Abigail Williams, which was from 2011-2012. Although I honestly wouldn’t count that because he didn’t do any recordings with them that I’m aware of. So basically, this guy is pretty new to the scene and has to have a hell of a lot of talent and skill to have a band like Black Dahlia say “that guy right there, we want him on drums”.  

As for the rest of the overall sound of the album, it’s pretty much like every other album they’ve put out. Everblack continues the change that the band made in Ritual by not having the blistering speed as constant. But the difference between the two records would be that the mood of the songs are much more like Nocturnal and Miasma than Ritual, which was a good decision for them to make. So a simple way to think about it would be to imagine the Nocturnal album, only a tad slower and not as much blast beat drumming. The vocalist has gotten a lot better at hitting the low growls, which has always been an issue before because of how fucking high-pitched the shrieks he does are. There’s nothing at all about this album that will let you down.

Everything about this is just yet another example of how consistent and dependable The Black Dahlia Murder is. Despite almost constant touring, these Midwesterners have managed to craft another masterpiece that I can say is on my favorite albums of the year list. If you’re very familiar with this band’s sound, you already know that this is one hell of a fucking beast of a record. Even if the band’s sell-out reputation has distorted your opinion on them, I would highly recommend that you listen to this album, or at least Into the Everblack. Anyone that loves extreme music can find something on this to love. This gets 19/20.