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Vomit "Still Rotting" CD

Posted on Friday, June 29th, 2007 @ 8:55am » permalink

Vomit - Still Rotting"Still Rotting" is a killer collection from Lyderhorn Records that gathers almost every track recorded by classic Norwegian death/thrash act Vomit. The band formed in 1984 (or 1985, depending on where you read it) and is apparently cited as one of the earliest and most influential bands in the Norwegian metal scene – not to mention being known for their friendship with Euronymous and the fact that they briefly shared a couple of members with a pre-Dead and Hellhammer Mayhem in the mid-80's. This CD contains 22 tracks in all (in the following order) from the "Rot in Hell" demo (1987), a November '86 rehearsal, tracks from a rehearsal sometime in 1987, a June '87 rehearsal, and a March '87 rehearsal. While certain elements of the material do lean towards the aggression and speed of early death metal (mainly on the "Rot in Hell" demo, where they seemed to perform with greater speed and ferocity than elsewhere), this is basically primal thrash with straightforward riffs and structures, ripping solos, and probably a few more tempo changes than one would expect. In fact, the earliest tracks from 1986 (which actually sound slightly better than any of the other sessions herein) – while quite fast at times – tend to be a little more midpaced and "traditional" sounding with regard to early- to mid-80's thrash and metal, with a couple of lightly melodic areas strewn about, as well as occasional similarities to "Show No Mercy" era Slayer. Beginning with track 12, the first 1987 rehearsal (complete date uncredited), things start to sound rougher on the ears and the recording quality starts to vary significantly in terms of clarity, noisiness, and balance. But for the most part everything on this CD is surprisingly listenable considering its ages and sources, and it's only the March '87 rehearsal (which closes things out) that's a little hard to sit through in terms of its super muddy, dirty, degraded sound.

The LP version of the release contains 50 minutes of material with one exclusive track ("Death to Children"), which would've annoyed the hell out of me except that it probably wouldn't fit on the CD anyway seeing as the disc is already a little over 79 minutes in length. Plus, that song came from the crude-sounding March '87 rehearsal anyway, so… screw it. The packaging variations between the two formats is my only point of contention here, as the CD packaging has cooler looking artwork, but the booklet (which basically contains nothing but a few old photos manipulated to match the high contrast black/red aesthetic of the design) blows compared to that of the LP. The LP contains an awesome 11" x 11" black and white booklet with a brief band bio, shitloads of photos, scans of old fanzine reviews and interviews (as well as a few handwritten letters from years and years ago), etc. So… if nothing else, I definitely think the CD booklet should've at least included the bio, you know? But… what can you do? It's not that big a deal when all is said and done, though, because I'm just glad to see releases like this happen at all. I've always found these types of records that document heavy metal obscurities to be really enjoyable and interesting, and that's what truly matters at the end of the day…

Vomit "Armies of Hell"
Vomit "Lord of Death"

Absolutely show your support for these types of diehard releases and purchase a copy if you're interested in the material:

@ Lyderhorn Records

Seconds Before "Galvanic" CD

Posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2007 @ 8:42am » permalink

Seconds Before - GalvanicFinally, the first (real) new release from Seconds Before in, like, three or four years!? (They did a "digital only" EP last year, but that doesn't count!) If you forgot (or just never knew), the band's lineup features former members of Threadbare, Krakatoa, and Picturesque (among them Carl "The Fucking Man" Skildum, so you know that killer riffs will be present), and "Galvanic" (on Blue Worm Records) actually feels perhaps more streamlined and consistent than "Further Destinations", which was already an extremely solid debut. For the most part it's still fairly catchy, melodic indie rock with post-hardcore twists that's neither generic nor simplistically delivered. That is to say that the band knows how to craft memorable tracks with a good amount of energy and all that jazz, but there's actually a great deal of musical substance happening in terms of the layering together of subtle intricacies as well as the general quality of the performers themselves. The crisp recording also grants a great deal of prominence to the throbbing bass runs (awesome), as well allotting plenty of breathing room for the various pieces of the puzzle to fall into place within the big picture. Very well done. Since this is just a four-song, 16-minute EP, another full-length is long overdue, and I'm certainly hoping it won't take another couple of years to hear some new material from these guys!

Seconds Before "The Shore"

Absolutely show your support and make the grab if this is your thing:

@ CD Baby

Funeral "From These Wounds" CD

Posted on Wednesday, June 27th, 2007 @ 9:14am » permalink

Funeral - From These WoundsThough somehow only my first exposure to the band, "From These Wounds" is the fourth full-length release from longstanding (and quite aptly-named) Norwegian doom act Funeral (on Candlelight Records). And tragically it would seem that the band has absolutely horrible luck, as they recorded this material – their first album since the death of original bassist Einar Frederiksen in 2002 – only to suffer the sudden loss of founding guitarist Christian Loos late last year prior to the record's release. This leaves drummer Anders Eek as the only remaining original member, and the band has chosen to soldier on to honor the legacies of those ex-members lost. With a band name like Funeral one would likely expect pure and total doom, which is – at least to some degree – the case here in terms of lengthy compositions (averaging eight to nine minutes apiece), moderately slow tempos, and densely churning power chords and lead melodies… but it's not quite that simple. While of course crushingly heavy on some level, the melodic sensibilities within the riffing (and the surprisingly tactful uses of "orchestral" synths) lend a different kind of vibe to the material alongside the vocals – which are a deep, monotone form of oft-harmonized singing as opposed to any "growling" or what have you. This creates a morose, depressing kind of atmosphere that tends to dominate the more aggressive backbone of the work, and creates a nice balance in the process. It's consistent and linear, but without necessarily feeling like a one-sided release. So while it's not particularly original, it's not wholly standard as far as "doom" is concerned either, and there really are some quite nice little melodies and moving senses of emotion throughout the well-layered flow of the compositions. Well done.

Funeral "Vagrant God"

As always, purchase a copy for yourself if you like what you hear:

@ Candlelight Records
@ The End Records

Severed Head of State "Power Hazard" CD

Posted on Tuesday, June 26th, 2007 @ 10:08am » permalink

Severed Head of State - Power HazardI honestly haven't kept up with Severed Head of State much in the last few years, because with such a powerhouse lineup (members serving/having served in Defiance, His Hero is Gone, Masskontroll, Signal Lost, Tragedy, Warcry, World Burns to Death, and many more…) I've always sort of expected more from 'em in some way. Don't get me wrong, I've been a fan of their earlier work, but oftentimes I'll revisit those records and just kinda feel like they're not particularly memorable. While the new "Power Hazard" EP on Havoc Records doesn't exactly "break the mold", it does shift direction just enough (check the darker clean riffing at the start of "Sacrament of the Sick", for one) to tend to feel a hint more interesting than some of the band's past efforts. The label refers to the eight new tracks as being "more mid-tempo in the tradition of mid-period Poison Idea and other hardcore/punk bands that took some cues from Motörhead", and that's pretty accurate for the most part – at least in terms of there being little bits and pieces of subtly rocked out and vaguely Motörhead-esque tinges that tend to spice up the songwriting here and there. The recording's also nice and balanced with just the right amount of density and gritty texture, and the vocals sound fuckin' great, so… that certainly doesn't hurt! The "Fucking Butchery" and "Charge Ahead" 7"s are also added onto the CD pressing as a bonus, totaling 14 tracks in 31 minutes, so… it's still not the most memorable hardcore/punk in the world, but it damn sure has its moments, and the total running time definitely keeps everything in check. Good stuff, these cats are definitely improving…

Severed Head of State "A Future Like a Guillotine"
Severed Head of State "Sacrament of the Sick"
Severed Head of State "Born to Be Hanged"

Make the grab if you like what you hear:

@ Havoc Records

Dead City "Demo 2007" CD

Posted on Monday, June 25th, 2007 @ 9:06am » permalink

Dead City - Demo 2007Dead City fucking rules. That's all there is to it, really. I can't believe these cats haven't been snatched up by a label yet, but it's often the case that the best bands are those most frequently fucked, so… I'm just glad they keep recording material and getting it out there in one way or another. This demo contains four tracks in 14 minutes and continues in the general vein of "The End of Communication" by combining thick, burly metallic hardcore power chords using just the right amount of speed with little bits and pieces of sludgy midpaced grooves and a darker edge that totally grabs my attention and hooks me in time and time again. They're still loosely comparable to the mighty Bloodlet on some level (especially vocally), though structurally Dead City's definitely coming at things in a more straightforward manner. Whatever you want to say about it, it's definitely more in that 90's vein of "metalcore" that I'm all about. Still loving those lyrics as well:

The righteous have faded. Who the fuck cares? I recognize the outdated and cast away my fears. Survival is calling, I'll get what I need. Calloused hearts sustain by whatever means. Shattered mirrors, I won't face myself. Why die hungry, when I can eat my fill? So stand in judgment, as I stake my claim. No room for the spineless, at the top of the chain…

Great fucking recording for a demo, too. I have zero complaints. Everything sounds crisp and clear, the tones are powerful, the mix is balanced… I mean, shit, if they dropped a full-length that sounded like this I'd be sold. I've heard material released by established labels in the last three months alone that sounds significantly worse than this, so… well fucking done once again, gentlemen.

Dead City "Top of the Chain"

There's plenty more ranting and raving I could do about these guys, but I'll leave it at that. Thanks to the band you can download the entire demo here, so what the fuck are you waiting for? Hear for yourself. These guys are seriously one of the only hardcore bands I've been excited to hear new material from in recent times, and I'm already looking forward to more…

Time? Energy? Motivation?

Posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2007 @ 1:02pm » permalink

I'm waaaaaay the fuck behind. Hopefully I'll get it together next week…

Marty James is a fucking genius. I've neglected to declare this fact here on the site for far too long.

Damnation A.D. "In This Life or the Next" CD

Posted on Tuesday, June 19th, 2007 @ 8:47am » permalink

Damnation A.D. - In This Life or the NextAm I a Damnation A.D. fan? Of course I'm a fucking Damnation A.D. fan! Love 'em. And seeing as it's been almost nine years since their last album, the absolutely impeccable "Kingdom of Lost Souls" ("Wait for a Day" is one of the greatest songs ever), I was psyched when this shit showed up in my mailbox. I'm generally at least mildly hesitant as to what I'll expect from a reunion album, but for some reason I didn't even think twice about that with regard to "In This Life or the Next" (on Victory Records). The layout stinks, but I looked right past that and popped the disc in immediately. So… the verdict? Well… honestly? I don't know. It's not bad, but oddly enough considering my complete lack of doubt as to its quality, it's definitely not all that it could have been. I think one of the biggest issues with the album as a whole is the recording, though. It's a little inconsistent in that you can't hear much bass in most of the songs, so it sounds like there's a pretty big gap between the guitars and the drums, but everything sounds a little weird to me regardless (except the bass, when you can actually make it out). The band has almost always tended towards thick, oddly textured guitar tones that take some getting used to, so I'm not necessarily bothered by that here, but there's something about the drums… they're super dense, but they sort of sound unnatural sometimes as well, which is an odd contrast. I mean, to me, the production on "Kingdom of Lost Souls" was flawless across the board, and this album sounds like perhaps they were reacting to that "polish" with an intentionally rawer, dirtier sound. Something's off, though. I don't know, I remember the first time I heard "No More Dreams…" 12 or so years ago, I fucking hated the recording, so… maybe this is a similar situation where my ears just have to be forced into getting used to it? The problem is that the songs on "No More Dreams…" were fucking incredible, whereas here… I mean, like I said, it's not bad, but… it's just not what it could have been.

To clarify that, this is still clearly a Damnation A.D. record. It's not like they've changed their style at all. It's just that the songs themselves aren't as gripping or powerful as the band's old material. I do think that a stronger recording would've benefited the material – I could see some of these songs more immediately connecting under such circumstances – but… you know, that's still not optimal. And why did they re-record three old tracks? Even "The Hangedman" – which I guess is considered one of their "classics", though honestly it's never been one of my favorites – isn't better than the version on "No More Dreams of Happy Endings". The same goes for "Rain as My Veil" and "Addiction" from "Misericordia", I just don't see that there was a need to re-record any of these tracks, you know? And dudes from Fall Out Boy contributing vocals to a Damnation A.D. song ("If You Could Remember") is just fucking wrong. I'm sorry. And I am not saying that in any manner of bullshit hardcore "principles", either. I like Fall Out Boy and own a couple of their albums, but that vocal style just doesn't gel with Damnation A.D.'s punishingly heavy attack. That's just a fact. I'm definitely really torn here, because I don't dislike the album, but I'm disappointed, I can't lie. I hate "complaining" about bands that I've loved for over a decade, and in situations like this there's always the issue of having exceedingly high expectations because of being a longtime fan, but… who knows? A few of the new tracks are definitely very solid (the album basically starts out pretty strong and slowly starts to lag around the latter half), and I do hope the band's reunion continues on to yield future albums, but… if you're not familiar with 'em already, I'd highly suggest checking out "Kingdom of Lost Souls" to get a true impression of the sheer mastery that these guys are capable of at their best.

Damnation A.D. "Knot"
Damnation A.D. "Jigsaw"

Don't leech shit for free, if you want it, buy a copy:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Go it Alone "Histories" CD

Posted on Monday, June 18th, 2007 @ 8:38am » permalink

Go it Alone - Histories"Histories" (on Rivalry Records) is the latest from the always impressive Go it Alone, offering up 11 tracks in about a half-hour. It's still an energetic and melodic take on the old school style – occasionally accented by added heaviness – but the songwriting on this record is much more stripped down, and seems to integrate the melodic attributes more directly into the old school hardcore heart of the music. There's a good variation in tempo, however, with some emphatic breakdowns (though not of the "moshy" variety) and little hints at subtly rocked out riffing adding some breathing room amidst the fast-paced power chords. But there's also some great dual guitar work that can get pretty epic sounding at times, and some of that actually lends a bit of a darker vibe to the material, which is awesome. In fact, the label refers to the album as having "a darker, heavier sound à  la Damnation A.D.", which I did not buy into at first, but the more I listen to this thing the more I start to find myself saying, "Oh yeah, you know, that riff does sound like Damnation A.D. – just without the detuned sludge factor going on," here and there, so… it's in there! Beyond that, the recording sounds great; the clean, simple layout does its job well; and the lyrics definitely continue to bear more substance than the majority of what people tend to expect from old school-rooted hardcore:

Sometimes love is not enough to clear my clouded heart, strangled by mistrust. Sometimes love is not enough. I'm trying to sort through the way I feel and getting nowhere quick. This chip on my shoulder feels more like a ten-pound brick. You want to know what's smashing through my mind? Well, take a number and get in line. I'm being pulled in two different directions: Love and hate, getting confused inside.

Nicely done. This one doesn't hit me quite as hard as "The Only Blood Between Us" did, but it's still a great record by a great band on a great label… and it might just need a little more time to grow on me, as it's a different type of album that has a little more diversity and substance working under the surface.

Go it Alone "Love"
Go it Alone "Rapture"

I'd prefer to have posted a track that's a little more blatantly demonstrative of some of the aforementioned "darker" textures that are happening here, but you can buy these jams on iTunes (ugh, paying for intangible digital files is disturbing), so I'm only posting tracks that you can already hear online. You should absolutely buy this if you like what you hear, and I certainly encourage you to grab the CD itself and read the lyrics and all that shit:

@ Rivalry Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Ritual Sacrifice "The Early Years: 1988 – 1992" CD

Posted on Friday, June 15th, 2007 @ 8:59am » permalink

Ritual Sacrifice - The Early Years: 1988 - 1992Another badass new release from Areadeath Productions is an early discography of ripping thrash from Rhode Island's Ritual Sacrifice. Included are the "Into Darkness, We Fall" (1992), "The Inhuman Race" (1990), and self-titled (1989) demos, along with a seven-track live set recorded on WRIU radio in 1991 – totaling a little less than an hour's worth of absolutely awesome underground thrash that absolutely deserved a release of this nature on every level. I sort of expected there to be more of a death metal vibe happening with this material, but that's not the case at all. For the most part it's just straight up thrash chock full of raging riffs and some fuckin' sick breakdowns, and in fact there's even quite a bit of a crossover influence happening from time to time, especially with some of the rippingly fast vocal arrangements. It's just the perfect combination of the crunchy and somewhat technical edge of the late-80's Bay Area scene with some of the slightly catchier "groove" of east coast bands like Anthrax and Nuclear Assault (though they do not sound like either of those bands, so don't get the wrong idea). The songwriting is just total fucking gold across the board here, I'm totally blown away.

The sound quality's pretty damn good, too. There's just a touch of tape hiss here and there (no big deal at all), but nothing sounds muddy or uneven, and to my great surprise the live radio tracks sound almost exactly like the studio demo recordings. There's almost no indication whatsover that they were recorded live. Impressive. Even the 1989 demo, while a bit rougher, sounds pretty damn good after all these years. I'm not sure why the tracklist isn't arranged in reverse chronological order, though (the 1991 radio set – which includes two tracks not on any demo – for some reason appears after the 1990 demo but before the 1989 demo). I guess it's because the 1989 demo does have the rawest sound quality, but… like I said, it sounds fine, so… if not following a timeline they probably should've put the three demos together and tacked the live tracks on at the end. Go figure. The full-color 12-page booklet contains lyrics, a partial band history, and plenty of old photos and artwork. There are some surprisingly awesome lyrics, too. The band name might suggest your typical "evil" lyrical content, but that's not really what's going on here at all:

Our churches are empty – our prisons are full, a state of depression exists. Mothers and fathers abusing their children, and blame music when they slit their wrists. Preaching conformity – watch the TV, spreading the corporate disease. Without faith in mankind – hell on earth we will find, until death brings the only release.

Awesome, awesome stuff. I'm all over this…

Ritual Sacrifice "Condemned to Live"
Ritual Sacrifice "Day of Retribution"
Ritual Sacrifice "309"
Ritual Sacrifice "This is Your God" (live)

Completely and totally recommended, so support these impressive endeavors with a purchase if you like what you hear:

@ Evil Legend Records

Rafflesia "Embrace the Final Day" CD

Posted on Thursday, June 14th, 2007 @ 8:58am » permalink

Rafflesia - Embrace the Final Day"Embrace the Final Day" is the debut full-length from Rafflesia (on Genet Records), one of the new breed of H8000 metalcore bands from Belgium. And of course this means their sound is far more metal than hardcore, taking the scathing screams/growls, chugging rhythms, and thick death metal-esque picking patterns and note-based riffs of that 90's era of European metalcore and blending in a more contemporary form of dissonance (and sporadic guitar solos) with touches of Swedish-infused melodic attributes. They don't take the melodic Swedish angle too far, however, so thankfully most of the riffs are built around that dense core of chunky power chords and churning tremolo picking runs with occasional hints of powerful breakdowns and even a few quick little clean breaks. I don't even know what more to say, really. Solid recording with a good level of crisp, clear density and just the right amount of added thump from the bass presence, solid layout with cool looking artwork that matches the apocalyptic tone of the lyrical content… that about does it. It's not a particularly diverse album, but neither were the early classics from the H8000 scene, so that's not an issue at all. This is a strong debut that should appeal to most listeners that have been interested in the H8000 niche over the years, as well as some of those who may be too young to really be aware of it!

Rafflesia "Annihilation"
Rafflesia "The Beauty of Silence"

I'm not seeing this one around at any US distros yet, so you'll have to keep checking around in the coming months. Until then, you can grab it from Genet's massive online store at Pyrrhus:

@ Pyrrhus Records

Pale Divine "Cemetery Earth" CD

Posted on Wednesday, June 13th, 2007 @ 9:33am » permalink

Pale Divine - Cemetery EarthAnother recent release from I Hate, "Cemetery Earth" is the third full-length from Pennsylvania's Pale Divine, though I believe this is the first time I've ever heard 'em. The label "describes" their style as being "steeped in a Pentagram mold under the influence of The Obsessed Witchfinder General and consecrated at Candlemass through Sabbathic sermons held by the Judas Priest and the Saint Vitus up the tower of Ungol", which offers far more loose comparisons than I ever could being just a cursory fan of this particular niche, so… that should at least give you some indication of what to expect here. What first struck me about this album in particular is the weird guitar tone that's very textured, but not particularly "heavy" – which lends plenty of breathing room to the mix and really allows the rhythm section to shine, which is awesome, but it definitely takes some getting used to. I'd honestly like to hear a hint more attack in the guitar distortion, but it's not really a big deal. The already killer solos sound fuckin' great, and the songwriting's pretty damn solid throughout, so… I can certainly live with it. In addition to the solos, I also really like the vocals, which aren't strained at all and possess just the right amount of throaty texture and melody to catch your attention. I don't know, they've just got a great vibe that really works well with this style of metal. Most of the tracks are five to six minutes apiece, with a few stretching to eight or 10+, so I can get a little winded during the hour-long listen since the majority of the pacing is relatively steady, but there are a few slightly more energetic bursts, and as mentioned the solos are pretty slick, so such elements do help to carry the weight more often than not. Oh, and the cover looks fuckin' awesome, too. Not too shabby…

Pale Divine "The Eyes of Destiny"
Pale Divine "The Seventh Circle"

Be sure to buy it if you dig the tunes:

@ The End Records

v/a "Our Impact Will Be Felt: A Tribute to Sick of it All" compilation

Posted on Tuesday, June 12th, 2007 @ 8:55am » permalink

v/a - Our Impact Will Be Felt: A Tribute to Sick of it All - compilation"Our Impact Will Be Felt: A Tribute to Sick of it All", recently released by Abacus Recordings, sees 20 acts from Rise Against to Napalm Death paying tribute to what is inarguably one of the greatest hardcore bands of all time via the good ol' cover song. It's a little weird to see a tribute album for a band that's still active, but you can't really go wrong with Sick of it All, and seeing that most all of these renditions are perfectly solid is definitely a testament to that fact. The sources of cover material are limited to SOIA's first four full-lengths and early 7"s (which, despite the fact that the band's still been going strong since that time, makes perfect sense), and for the most part the contributing acts stay pretty damn true to the originals aside from the occasional hint of added metal influence or subtle shift in attack, etc. Ignite ("Cease Fire") is among the few bands that takes any true liberties with the material in terms of switching up the arrangements a bit and of course making use of Zoli Teglas' vocal talents by adding in some harmonies and such. Rise Against does provide a similar vocal treatment in their take on "Built to Last", but they left the rest of the song basically untouched, which is perfectly fine. I didn't expect it to be the case, but my favorite track of the disc is definitely First Blood's absolutely crushing version of "Just Look Around" (easily one of my favorite SOIA songs in the first place) – which basically sticks to the original but makes everything 10 times heavier. Some other unexpected twists come when bands that are generally quite identifiable go by unrecognized: Bleeding Through ("We Want the Truth") has one of the rawest recordings of the disc, which is mildly unfortunate, but proves they can actually sound like a hardcore band; Hatebreed honestly does not sound like Hatebreed doing "Rat Pack" (I could barely even recognize the vocals!?); and I had no fucking clue that Sepultura was even on the disc until I looked at the tracklist. Sadly the worst of the surprises (and really the only blemish on the disc) comes from Napalm Death, whose take on "Who Sets the Rules" suffers from an utterly horrendous recording that sounds like it was recorded in their practice space or something like that. A damn shame. I guess that's why their track appears last on the disc! But elsewhere even bands that I've never been particularly fond of – Unearth, Bouncing Souls, Himsa, Stretch Arm Strong (their take on "Busted" is actually fuckin' awesome, perhaps due to the fact that the original's totally unstoppable), Walls of Jericho, Suicide Machines – do alright here. Also present are Madball (who can do no wrong), Comeback Kid, Pennywise, Kill Your Idols, Most Precious Blood, Bane, and No Redeeming Social Value. Are some songs better than others? Obviously. Are there a couple I could do without? Sure. But again, aside from the Napalm Death track this is a totally solid listen from start to finish. 20 tracks is a lot I guess, but the running time is just under 45 minutes, so… in a way I almost feel like there should be more songs! Sick of it All certainly has plenty of other outstanding tracks (I can't believe no one covered "Consume"!?), right? I'm not saying they should've filled up every single minute available on the disc, but… you might as well cram as much onto a "tribute" as you can, eh? No big deal, though. And the 16-page booklet is jammed with liner notes by Eric Weiss from Rumpshaker fanzine (one of the greatest zines ever), as well as members of all of the contributing bands and a couple of record labels to boot. Good stuff. I guess that's it.

First Blood "Just Look Around"
Rise Against "Built to Last"

Abacus is selling their shit as downloads now if you, uhhh, prefer that route (Booooooooo!), but I encourage you to buy a real, legitimate copy of the CD if you like what you hear. All of the liner notes are definitely a cool touch! Get to it:

@ Abacus Recordings
@ RevHQ

Zatokrev "Bury the Ashes" CD

Posted on Monday, June 11th, 2007 @ 8:47am » permalink

Zatokrev - Bury the Ashes"Bury the Ashes" is the sophomore full-length from Swiss act Zatokrev (released by Firebox), and much like their debut unloads seven lengthy tracks in an absolutely mammoth 73 minutes. They've since added a second guitarist as well, building additional density and texture into their thick, pounding rhythms with just the right amount of subtly sludgy undercurrents by accentuating the amount of twisted dissonance and melodic attributes that are layered amongst the churning power chords and wandering basslines. Three of the band members contribute vocals as well, so the strained midrange sneers of the lead vocals (which are pretty damn cool on their own) are occasionally joined by lower grunts or distant howls and wails. They still seem to be compared to Neurosis and such on many occasions, but I must say that I'm hearing far fewer similarities between the two these days beyond superficial characteristics such as being "really heavy" or having "long songs". Zatokrev's style of songwriting is more linear, for one thing, and these pulsing arrangements – especially with their increased levels of forcefully melodic tinges – create a hypnotic kind of niche that really grabs my attention, and in many ways communicates a more direct sense of feeling that I can latch onto. There are variances in atmosphere, of course, what with several breaks of throbbing distorted bass or softer, spacious "clean" passages (they usually retain at least a little bit of grit regardless), but the material never lacks cohesion. When tracks occasionally range from 10 to 18 minutes your patience will always be tested, but Zatokrev basically pulls it off without a hitch herein. They really do a nice job of mashing together a lot of different influences into a consistent core, and the fact that they simply write some great fuckin' riffs certainly doesn't hurt! Well done…

Zatokrev "Starlight Leader"

As always, support the band and the label with a purchase if you like what you hear:

@ The End Records

Redrum "Power Corrupt$" CD

Posted on Friday, June 8th, 2007 @ 8:46am » permalink

Redrum - Power Corrupt$Continuing to impress, the second outing from Evil Legend Records is the "Power Corrupt$" album from Sacramento, CA's Redrum – which was recorded in February of 1989 (shortly before the band called it a day) and first released in an inferior form in 1990, so this is the first time the material has been properly and officially released on CD. Also included are two brief live sets as a bonus – one recorded at the El Dorado Saloon (four songs, 1987) and the other at the Oasis Ballroom (three songs, 1985) – for an hour's worth of old school thrash when all is said and done. For having been recorded in 1989, these guys were doing a great job of blending the more "technical" and dynamic late-80's thrash sound with the sheer intensity of the early- to mid-80's style in terms of applying the fluid midpaced to moderately fast crunch, light complexities, and memorable writing tactics of the former to the bits and pieces of traditionally-based heavy metal riffing and loads of loosely acerbic yet still rock-based solo bursts of the latter – while the vocals tend to fall into the upper-range of the singing spectrum without getting too high-pitched or lacking an aggressive edge that hints at shouting/yelling. It's nothing that blows my mind or anything, but that's not to detract from the quality of the material at all, because the riffs are totally solid and at their best the band cranks out some absolutely raging tracks that can actually get pretty damn catchy. Hell, there's even a little bit of a crossover sort of thing going on from time to time during some of the faster and more hardcore/punk-infused chord progressions. Good stuff. The killer mastering job brings out the punchy basslines exceptionally well and keeps things sounding crisp and cohesive with an unexpectedly forceful crunch – though, in line with the songwriting, the production values actually have a little bit of a pre-1989 vibe as well. Not too clean, not too rough around the edges… just right! The live tracks sound much thinner, but they're perfectly listenable, and the album itself is what truly matters, so… no real issues there. And of course there's some fuckin' awesome cover art adorning the slick 12-page booklet (full-color), which contains liner notes from Laurent Ramadier of the mighty Snakepit magazine, lyrics, tons of old photos and early artwork, etc. This is another extremely admirable release from the Evil Legend camp, so I can't wait to see what comes next!

Redrum "P.T.L."
Redrum "World War III/Aftermath"

If you download stuff like this instead of buying it, I hate you. Stop doing that shit. It's not cheap to release material such as this (especially at this level of quality) and it can be pretty damn hard to find people who give a shit about obscure underground thrash from nearly 20 years ago, so… show your support with a purchase if you're a diehard fan of thrash metal's classic age:

@ Evil Legend Records

Great Coven "Viaticum" CD

Posted on Thursday, June 7th, 2007 @ 9:28am » permalink

Great Coven - Viaticum"Viaticum" was the sole release from Spain's Great Coven – originally self-released as a CD-R by the band in 2004, and properly re-released on CD last year by the mighty I Hate. The band seemed to live by the creed that "doom and sorrow are the only ways", which should give you a pretty clear indication as to their sound, which was driven – unsurprisingly – by relatively slow, pounding tempos, crunchy downtuned riffing, and plenty of darkness. Now, I'm not gonna lie, while I do dig this genre, I really haven't listened to but so much of this type of thing over the years, and in the last five years or so I've been especially unaware of what's going on out there with regard to this niche, so… I'm certainly no authority. These cats seem to have had their own kind of thing going on, though. That's not to say they were entirely "original" (not that any band is in this day and age), as with damn near every single band operating in this realm they wore some of their influences on their sleeves, but there are just enough atypical elements at work to add some distinction. For one thing, the vocals are a little different from the norm – neither particularly aggressive nor monotone, but not wholly "sung" either – and there are also some really cool solos and surging rhythms that add a little twist to the straight up sludgy power chords often employed. They didn't really venture into too much of that fuzzy kind of rocked out 70's stuff either, which is fine by me, so… it's not as pummelingly heavy as what I tend to associate with "doom", but it's definitely much heavier and more sinister than that whole "stoner rock" realm (and I fucking hate that term, for the record). Almost every track hovers right between five and six minutes, making for nearly an hour's worth (and yeah, that can test your limits a bit) of "doom and sorrow" when all is said and done, so… hey, whatever you want to call it, it's solid material that was pushing the boundaries a little bit. It's never a bad thing when a record can't be pigeonholed into one tidy little corner of a genre, you know? Not bad at all…

Great Coven "Reign of Thorns"
Great Coven "Viaticum"

As always, make the grab if this is your thing:

@ The End Records

Achilles "Hospice" CD

Posted on Wednesday, June 6th, 2007 @ 8:54am » permalink

Achilles - Hospice"Hospice", the sophomore full-length from Achilles (on Hex Records), sees the band continually evolving with their brand of rhythmic, angular – and now increasingly melodic – material, which just keeps getting better as far as I'm concerned. Few tracks top three minutes, and the entire album's only about a half-hour long, so they really keep things moving and leave no room for stalling out. The staples of the band's sound remain firmly intact in terms of aggressive yells breaking through diverse layers of chunky guitar work and a rhythmically pulsing backbone, and there are still plenty of controlled yet chaotic guitar textures and that kind of thing, but there's also more of a dissonant post-hardcore angle happening with a lot of the chord phrasings and arrangements. There are a hell of a lot of twists and turns here, though, so the song structures don't necessarily come across as more streamlined or anything, they just seem to be tapping into a slightly more energetic sensibility that works together with the fluidity of the transitions to maintain the momentum of the album. And shit, I guess they're just progressing as songwriters, which makes perfect sense, so there are some real fuckin' gems on this thing, I can say that much. Killer recording, too. Everything sounds nice and natural with a crisp mix that really utilizes space and breathing room – which lets the distinct basslines take a focal role on occasion, and I'm always a fan of that. The thick booklet looks quite nice as well, devoting one full page photograph to each song with the lyrics across the center spread:

Wake up wake up we're losing everything our minds lifted stripped of our will to fight complacent ideals we are fixtures barely passing as living human beings we are fixtures we are fixtures wake up wake up we're losing everything wake up wake up we are fixtures do we really want to face reality?

Great work. There's a lot of ground covered here and what I've stated above doesn't really come close to properly explaining it, which sort of makes me feel like an ass, but it also speaks to the band's efficiency of blending influences, so listen for yourself and be the judge:

Achilles "Reprieve"
Achilles "We Are Fixtures"

And if you like, you know what to do:

@ Hex Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Asbestosdeath "Dejection/Unclean" CD

Posted on Tuesday, June 5th, 2007 @ 9:20am » permalink

Asbestosdeath - Dejection/UncleanAmong the latest from Southern Lord is this killer collection from Asbestosdeath – whose members went on to form Sleep and High on Fire, among others, of course. Despite containing but a mere four tracks in just under 20 minutes, this is actually a complete discography from the band – remastered from the original vinyl releases – who only released two 7"s before morphing into Sleep. The first 7", "Unclean", was self-released by the band (in 1989, I assume), while "Dejection" was originally released by Profane Existence in 1990. And call me crazy, but to some degree I actually dig this material a little more than what most of these guys are best known for! Of course there are plenty of slow (but not too slow), pounding riffs with a good balance of intense midpaced chugging and somewhat Sabbath-esque runs over murky, plodding basslines, but there are also occasional breaks of eerie clean guitars that really add to the overall vibe. The cool thing is that it doesn't come across as particularly "sludgy", either. There are elements of that in place, but I don't know, there's just a really dark, powerful atmosphere surrounding the material – some of which stems from the excellent vocals – but it feels more creative and interesting to me than much of what started to develop within these types of circles in the decades that followed. It sounds fucking great for its age, too. No gripes there. My only minor complaint is that there's very little information in the booklet, actually. It looks great – high contrast black and white graphics printed on uncoated stock, etc. – but other than the band lineup and a little bit of recording information (though there's not even a date given for the first recording session, and neither record's original release details are mentioned at all) there's basically nothing there. Not a big deal, but 17 – 18 years after the fact it would've been cool to have seen at least a little more insight offered up in one form or another. Fuck it, though. All four tracks totally kill it, and this one comes very much recommended…

Asbestosdeath "Anguish"

I can't stress enough my desire for people to support these types of releases so that labels will continue to undertake them, so fucking buy a copy if you like what you hear:

@ Southern Lord
@ The End Records

"How much primitive can you get?"

Posted on Monday, June 4th, 2007 @ 10:19am » permalink

I really think this just might be the greatest fucking thing I have ever seen in my life (it is in English, stick with it):

I've seriously watched that shit like 10 times in the last week or so. Can't get enough. I always thought Fenriz was a cool dude, but I mean… this shit is simply beyond belief. Dude is definitely the fucking man. No doubt. The sheer number of one-liners alone should have you rewinding time and time again. I've been walking around all weekend saying "Steeeaaady…", and talking about "taking… care… of business" and "a little bit boring thrash with great vocalists". Fucking classic.

I'll be back to regular updates tomorrow…

"Rock 'n' roll gas statiiiiiioooooon!"

Swallow the Sun "Hope" CD

Posted on Friday, June 1st, 2007 @ 8:46am » permalink

Swallow the Sun - HopeThe latest from Finland's Swallow the Sun, "Hope" (on Candlelight Records) sees the band continuing to supplant themselves as one of the absolute finest in their niche with eight tracks in nearly an hour's time. Many would tag the band's style with some form or another of "doom", which isn't inaccurate per se, but it certainly doesn't do justice to the variety and sheer force of their material. Slow, plodding tempos with surging power chords and emphatic lead melodies do make up the core foundation of the their work, but there are always a number of more involved chord phrasings and subtly dissonant runs that color up the tracks nicely, and the superbly powerful vocal growls actually manage to achieve an intense level of feeling and emotion (all too often absent within this particular style of vocals) – further balanced out by smooth, fluid singing on occasion. I wouldn't exactly call the songs "catchy", but for a band that deals so heavily with dark, somber aesthetics the compositions are surprisingly lively and memorable – certainly far more involved and in some abstract manner "energetic" than the bulk of their contemporaries (and, shit, many of their influences as well). Seeing as the tracks routinely top seven minutes it's certainly an enduring listen, but lulls in the impact are few and far between ("Too Cold For Tears", coincidentally the longest track on the disc, represents the only slight lag for me), and the fact that there are so many beautiful moments throughout more than makes up for such. The recording is fucking pristine, too. The guitars are crushingly dense without lacking detail, the percussion is fluid and crisp while remaining naturally warm and spacious, the bass pulses away in the distance to round out the core heaviness, the keyboards are superbly clean and clear and actually add to the atmosphere of the material rather than distracting the listener, and the vocals are perfectly mixed so as to blend in with the instrumentation rather than fighting for attention at the forefront. Love that cover art, too. Swallow the Sun is just an exceptional band. If you're a fan of this particular realm of metal, you simply can't go wrong with these guys. Very much recommended.

Swallow the Sun "These Hours of Despair"

Pick one up if you like what you hear, and absolutely look into the band's back catalog as well if you're new to the fold:

@ Candlelight Records
@ The End Records