Posted on Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink
"Weightless" is the sophomore full-length (compliments of Prosthetic Records) from most impressive instrumental act Animals as Leaders. It's funny, because I was listening to a lot of Cacophony a few weeks ago and started thinking, "Man, there's not a lot of super flashy, technical shredding stuff around these days that's focused more on the melodic side of things, as opposed to the super aggressive, over-the-top death metal angle or whatever." And then I somehow stumbled upon Animals as Leaders. I'm not sure how I managed to avoid hearing the band for so long, as apparently they're actually quite popular, which sort of shocks me since I don't think of highly technical, instrumental metal as a "hot item", but… hey, they're an amazing band, so good for them. Expect over 45 minutes of completely badass riffs, intense melodies, sick solos, and excellent jazzy flourishes that are right up my alley. And since they use eight-string guitars there are quite a few moments that are just ridiculously heavy without even really trying to go for that angle. Also present are a number of surprisingly tactful atmospheric elements that utilize a lot of ethereal effects that almost create an "electronica" vibe or something. I hate to refer to it like that, but… it's weird, and I don't know what the hell you'd call it, really. As with all bands of this nature there's of course some degree of… I don't want to say "showing off", but… I guess you'd just say complexity for the sake of complexity. But damn, when you're capable of musicianship like this, you've gotta just shred faces off here and there, right? Overall the songs do achieve much more feeling and force over flash, so… I was sold right off the bat. This shit actually makes me want to start playing guitar again, it's just awesome. It bums me out that they weren't on my radar back in 2009 when their first album dropped, so if you're still unfamiliar with their work, absolutely give 'em a shot. I've been quite surprised and impressed…
Posted on Monday, November 28th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink
Another winner from A389 Recordings, this 12" offers up three songs apiece from Seven Sisters of Sleep and Children of God. Seven Sisters of Sleep kicks things off with about 14 minutes of their crawling, dingy doom/sludge infused with a subtly crusty hardcore/punk energy. The tracks are a little longer this time out so they are starting to lean more exclusively towards the sludgy side of things, but their approach is dead on so there's certainly nothing wrong with that. Great production, too. Everything's heavy as hell with just the right amount of grit to both the guitar and bass tones, which is perfect for this style. Children of God then follows with 11 minutes of material that ranges from frantic, chaotic bursts with somewhat of a weirdly discordant D-beat edge to slow, crushing rhythms. The combination could indeed be tagged "power violence" on some level, but it's a really interesting take on such influences that still manages to come across as something a bit different. The recording has an aptly raw feel to it that highlights the more dissonant textures as well, which is awesome. What more needs to be said? This is a great match-up for a split, and I look forward to hearing more from both bands…
Posted on Friday, November 18th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink
Well, what do you know? Divebomb Records, my favorite active record label, is finally warming up to the mp3 era with a few digital-only releases, among the first of which is the "Not on My Watch" EP from New Jersey's For the Love Of… This material was originally self-released by the band in 2009 and contains seven tracks of scorching "metalcore" (the good kind) in a little over 20 minutes. Despite my obsession with a million other bands from New Jersey, I've never really followed For the Love Of… very closely (I have no clue why), but apparently that was a critical mistake on my part, 'cause I'm absolutely blown away by how awesome this shit is. Almost every song runs less than three minutes and keeps the energy running high with a great balance of chunky, metal-based riffing; acerbic textures and faintly chaotic arrangements; surprisingly technical outbursts; and some excellent little melodic/post-hardcore flourishes. You could loosely compare different elements of their approach herein to a number of varying bands/styles from the 90's era, but they're able to bring those influences into the present as well, so everything still sounds fairly "current" (for lack of a better word). Great production, too. It's got just the right amount of pulsing low-end, a really crisp guitar tone, the mix is nicely balanced… I have no complaints. I had no expectations one way or the other for this EP, but I was sold before the first song had ended, and every single track's a keeper. I don't know if these guys are still semi-active or not, but I hope so, 'cause this is an incredible set of tunes that certainly deserves more attention, and I'd love to hear more along these lines. Fuckin' highly recommended…
Posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink
From Duplicate Records comes the sophomore full-length from excellent Norwegian death metal act Execration (it's supposed to be coming out in the US on Vendlus, but their website has stated such with no specific details for some time now). While 2008's "Syndicate of Lethargy" was somewhat more straightforward and in your face, it's now obvious that the band is taking their core of classic, aggressive death metal in varying directions – with quite a bit of subtle technicality in tow. This time out there's a lot more atmospheric, discordant riffing; weird bends; atypical uses of dual guitar harmonies; slower, "doomier" passages; etc. – all of which is actually somewhat reminiscent of a less chaotic Ulcerate. "Grains" is among the shortest, most furious attacks; "Intermezzo I" and "Intermezzo II" utilize somber, warped clean passages over restrained feedback or distant percussion; "Left in Scorn" opens slowly with some crawling, hard-panned melodies; and "A Crutch for Consolation" tops 11 minutes – complete with sleek acoustic passages, tons of tempo shifts, and some flurries of hyper tremolo picking with additional vocal variation (not to mention some really energetic vocal arrangements); to cite but a few areas of interest. The recording has a little more of a raw warmth to it here as well, which actually gives the vocals a nice, strained texture so they no longer come across as just guttural growls; as well as offering the bass just enough breathing room to be audible in the mix. Great covert art, too – simple yet effective. I don't really follow much death metal these days, but Execration is absolutely top-notch stuff, so I certainly recommend their efforts…
Posted on Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink
From Fuck Yoga Records comes this intriguing Noothgrush release containing material that was recorded in 1994 shortly after the band formed, and apparently only released on "a handful of cassettes" back in the day. Whereas the band is now well-known for punishingly heavy doom/sludge with vicious, snarling vocals; this five-song, 44-minute collection offers a really cool glimpse into how they landed on that approach. These tracks are still dominated by slow, pulsing tempos and an ominous atmosphere; but with droning, monotone vocals that are sort of sung/sort of spoken and definitely change up the overall vibe. That being said, the plodding, repetitious rhythms and dense, oddly melodic bass runs also possess a more stripped down aesthetic that I guess could be said to suggest a more obvious Black Sabbath influence or something like that. The raw, aged recording actually fits the peculiar nature of the material as well – especially in that the structures often decay into loose experimental textures and/or subtly spacey effects (best exemplified by 22-minute behemoth "8D8", which also throws some samples into the mix). In addition to its superb song title, "Life Shatters Into Pieces of Anguish" is probably my favorite of the tracks; while "Deterioration" amps up the heaviness factor a bit and – at least musically – really starts to hint at where the band ended up. All in all, this is a great look back at the band's earliest output that also reminds me why I was a Noothgrush fan in the first place. I haven't really listened to any Noothgrush in a good while, but now I'll be pulling all that stuff out again soon.
The pressing info is 150 on clear vinyl (50 of which had a foil-stamped logo and included a large embroidered patch, but those already sold out), 350 on black vinyl, and 500 CD's (50 of which include a small embroidered patch), so make the grab if you like what you hear…
Charred Walls of the Damned "Cold Winds on Timeless Days" CD
Posted on Monday, November 14th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink
The self-titled debut from Charred Walls of the Damned really surprised the hell out of me last year (even making my "best of" list for 2010), so I was psyched to see them keeping active by already following up with "Cold Winds on Timeless Days" (once again from Metal Blade Records). If you're unaware, the band is something of a metal "supergroup" featuring Richard Christy, Steve DiGiorgio, Jason Suecof, and Tim "Ripper" Owens unloading solid, energetic heavy metal that's neither overly modern nor simply looking to the past. Stylistically and in terms of the production values this material is very consistent with the band's debut (to the point where I'd still prefer DiGiorgio's basslines to come up in the mix) – offering a good range of tempos from surging midpaced rhythms to thrashy, high-speed assaults that are still loaded with epic melodies and slick leads. The songs are slightly longer this time, though. On the debut everything generally hovered between three to five minutes, whereas here that range is more like four to six minutes. And that might be affecting the overall energy level just a bit, because these songs aren't as immediately catchy and require a little more time to digest (granted there are still a number of great choruses that utilize really unique vocal arrangements). Opener "Timeless Days" throws in some classically influenced acoustic leads; "Forever Marching On" opens with rolling bass runs and faint synths before breaking into some surprisingly staccato riffing; "Guiding Me" and especially "The Beast Outside My Window" start off with ballad-y clean/acoustic passages, but then change direction towards some of the more aggressive riffing of the album; etc. I could see people failing to give this band a fair shot, but trust me, these guys are cranking out excellent straight-up, no bullshit metal. I'm a big fan, so I really recommend exploring both of their albums…
In my opinion the following are not the best songs on the record, but they're the ones the label has made available, so… while good for a taste, keep in mind that the complete album has more to offer!
Posted on Friday, November 11th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink
Outhouse was a trio from Kansas City that formed in 1994, released one full-length ("Welcome") in 1997 on Mercury Records, and… well… that's about the extent of my knowledge of the band. I first discovered this album about five years ago via the excellent Built on a Weak Spot blog, and have been a fan ever since (this remains my favorite discovery made via BOAWS, in fact). I guess you'd refer to this as "alternative rock" or something, but not to the point of being just some typical radio rock band or whatever. There's definitely some kind of an "edge" here. I don't really listen to a ton of this stuff, but great songs will hook me in every time, so in that regard this album is an absolute goldmine. (I defy you to tell me that "Nowhere, Man" isn't one of the catchiest songs ever written!) I read something once that compared Outhouse to The Replacements, and the band confirmed them as an influence, so I'm sure that means something to someone out there, but I've never really explored The Replacements myself so I can't form an opinion on that one. To my ears the material is kinda comparable to the Doughboys' "Crush" combined with Failure's "Magnified": It's really "poppy" and catchy, but still has some angular riffing and a mildly heavy post-hardcore surge to it. Obviously I'm throwing all this crap out there because I really don't know where the hell these guys would accurately fall in the grand scheme of things. Maybe that played into the fact that they kind of flew under the radar and never received the recognition they deserved? I don't know, but it's a damn shame, 'cause none of that shit should really matter. This is such a great record, and I would've loved it had they managed to release at least another album or two before vanishing from the face of the earth. Keep an open mind and give this stuff a shot. Hopefully you'll be as pleasantly surprised as I was…
Apparently Outhouse played one single reunion show back in 2008, and I saw a comment online somewhere suggesting that they were selling a CD of unreleased tracks at the show. If anyone has that CD or knows of any information that would allow me to purchase a copy for myself, please, please, pleaselet me know! Thanks!
Posted on Thursday, November 10th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink
For some idiotic reason I had forgotten how much I love Exhumed, but their latest, "All Guts, No Glory" (once more from Relapse Records), provided a firm reminder within seconds of its opening track. Including this album, I have over 100 different Exhumed tracks on my iPod, and in my younger days I collected a number of obscure selections from the ranks of their massive discography, too. I don't exactly know what it is about a band that basically turned the whole "Carcass worship" thing into a bona fide genre, but I definitely latched onto Exhumed at some point in the 90's and became a huge fan. This album proves without question that the band is still capable of cranking out "Symphonies of Sickness"-esque tunes with more energy, tighter musicianship, and better production. And, dare I say, "All Guts, No Glory" just might be the band's best album yet. I mean, this thing is just crammed with fucking excellent songwriting. It never lets up. It's got everything you'd expect based on the band's history: Raging speeds, meaty riffs, slick melodic leads, an assortment of midrange snarls and guttural growls, etc. But whereas so many "gore grind" albums are just an indecipherable mishmash of interchangeable songs, Exhumed really developed over time, and this record perfectly demonstrates that fact. Not that Exhumed is "diverse" per se, but they're really able to inject catchy and memorable songwriting elements into one of the most stripped down and primal corners of death metal. And that pays off huge here. The energy level maintained throughout the entirety of this album is most impressive. I'm just blown away. The production is damn near perfect, too. I'm sure there are some listeners that would prefer a little more of a "brutal" rawness, but… it's crisp and warm without coming across as "polished" or anything like that, so I think this is the most efficient and balanced Exhumed has ever sounded. It's so good… I'm all over this!
It looks like the vinyl is already sold out, but you can still grab both versions of the CD. The bonus tracks are available on iTunes, too, which is an awesome touch. There are four additional new tunes plus re-recorded versions of mid-period classics "Necromaniac" and "Forged in Fire (Formed in Flame)". Awesome.
Posted on Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink
"The Dirty Swagger" is the debut full-length outing from New Jersey's Torchbearer (released via All Ears Music), offering up 10 tracks of surging, heavier than average post-hardcore (plus an unreleased B-side on SoundCloud) in about a half-hour. It's really interesting, because the band works with a good deal of chugging rhythms, harshly strained vocals, caustic textures, and jaggedly aggressive arrangements without really coming across as "metalcore" or "metallic hardcore" – despite there being a certain air of influences related to the less straightforward elements of the 90's era of that niche. All the roving basslines and dissonant textures amount to what I guess you could call a noise rock-ish take on post-hardcore or something, but… all that genre stuff doesn't really matter, right?
"Pearls Before Swine" is a great opener because it kicks things off with what I think of as the band's trademark sound: Loosely discordant, hard-hitting rhythms with a nice low-end pulse throughout. But then you've got shorter, more energetic cuts like "P.S. I'm Banging All of Them" (which actually tosses in some of the only straightforward-ish hardcore elements you'll find herein); the noisy bursts of "Ill Advised"; and the slower, darker passages of tracks like "Stutter Syndrome" and "Decay" – the latter of which lightens up on the distortion and gives things more overall breathing room. There's a little bit of a sheen of treble over certain elements within the mix that took my ears some time to adjust to; but I love the bass presence, and the vocals have some great oomph as well. I feel like these guys have yet to stumble upon the production values that would really hit the mark for what their work has to offer, though. I think something like a Steve Albini style or whatever could really open up some new angles and textures within this type of material that could be just incredible, but who knows? Regardless, as far as the songwriting goes, this is easily the band's finest work to date. They've stepped up the visual aesthetic, too. Good stuff. Stream the entire album below via SoundCloud:
Raucous mind drowning out the present, providing distraction from the sense of unease. Can't put our fingers on it, the devil in the details, in the background out of sight. Omnipresent but never overwhelming, the problem is peripheral. Never out of sight, never out of mind, I'm turning my head to look the devil in the eye. I am not my obsession with yesterday. I am not my dread of tomorrow. So I'm screaming at him, "I am not my mind." Through waiting for someone to take me by the hand and show me a new way to live, I still can't bring myself to worship. I have yet to find anything eternal in myself. I am not mine. Omnipresent but never overwhelming, the problem is peripheral. Never out of sight, never out of mind, I'm turning my head to look the devil in the eye. Last year I asked for forgiveness, the year before I begged. Today I'm stealing it and walking the fuck away.
This is currently a digital-only release, but they're working on finalizing a vinyl pressing as well, so keep your eyes peeled if you'd prefer a physical format…
Posted on Monday, November 7th, 2011 @ 6:33am » permalink
"Spiritual Treatment" is the latest eight-song, 21-minute EP from Low Places (compliments of A389 Recordings, with a limited edition cassette pressing from Work in Shadows), which sees the band continuing to deliver their brand of superb, grinding "power violence" (including re-recorded versions of three songs from their previous EP). Opening track, "Opfer", is a seven-and-a-half-minute instrumental that's nothing but sludgy, pounding doom laced with eerie feedback and a few caustic lead textures; but beyond that pretty much every track has a nice mix of tempos happening, which really keeps things interesting… so, they're not just constantly beating you in the face with relentless speed. Don't get me wrong, there's a ton of blasting percussion and frenzied high-speed riffing alongside harshly yelled vocals, but they tend to perfectly balance things out with a nice range of influences. There are a few bursts of more straightforward hardcore/punk; plenty of churning midpaced rhythms with occasional forays into crawling, sludgy, slow-paced runs; and "Struggle to Exist" even delves into some borderline death metal-esque tremolo picking. They drop a great cover of Neanderthal's "Crawl", too! The recording is aptly raw and adds to the already rugged and in your face appeal of the material, so… no complaints here. Low Places has this style down pat, and I'm always looking forward to hearing more.
Posted on Friday, November 4th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink
Via Relapse Records comes this compilation of early recordings from Wisconsin death metal act Morta Skuld. Despite the fact that the band released several full-lengths throughout the 90's, I had never actually heard their material prior to this, I was only familiar with their name. This CD collects their two 1990 demos, "Gory Departure" and "Prolong the Agony", on one disc. Also included are two non-demo tracks, "Eternal Suffering" and a cover of Metal Church's "Metal Church", but I can't seem to figure out any details surrounding those recordings (Perhaps they're from the same sessions but weren't included on the actual demos back in the day?). Most such early demo collections are dominated by tracks that were later re-recorded on proper albums, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. From what I can tell, only one of these 11 songs ever appeared elsewhere in the band's discography (on a rare split 7" with Vital Remains), which makes this outing even cooler in my book.
This is some great old school death metal dominated by moderate speeds; burly vocal snarls with light effects (delay, etc.); and lots of chunky, midpaced riffing (which actually lends a "doomy" vibe to a few cuts, especially when utilized alongside simplistic lead melodies). They obviously weren't concerned with being the fastest, most brutal band on the planet, so these demos present a straightforward, "meat and potatoes" style that's neither one-sided nor lacking in atmosphere. I'm really quite surprised by how good the material sounds, too. I mean, we're talking about 21-year-old death metal demo cassettes, you know? Even when this kind of stuff gets remastered onto CD years after the fact it often still sounds like complete shit, but this thing sounds very good considering. You can discern a slight tinge of aged ruggedness, but it's clear, still has strong density, and holds up excellently well. If one of today's "retro" death metal bands released an album that sound just like this, I'd have no complaints. It should come as no surprise that I'm a huge, huge fan of reissues like this, and "Through the Eyes of Death" is a very solid collection that has me interested in starting to check out Morta Skuld's proper albums now. If you're into that classic, early death metal sound you should absolutely give this disc a shot. Awesome.
Posted on Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink
From Trip Machine Laboratories comes this killer split 7" between two current bands that are both heavily influenced by the 90's style of metallic hardcore. Long Island's Incendiary kicks things off with two tracks full of chunky rhythms, killer bass runs, and a solid sense of groove. The vocals are just a little higher-pitched than average, which gives 'em a really pissed off sound that always works. "Cold War" is my all-time favorite Incendiary tune, in fact. Good stuff. Unrestrained (Portland) then follows with two tracks of their own, which are in a more diverse vein that includes harsher vocals and more tempo changes. They still remind me of Harvest, and that's still a compliment. Expect heavy, churning riffs with a nice bass presence and plenty of discordant textures. "Deconstructing" just might be their best track to date, too. When all's said and done you've got four songs in about 13 minutes from two great bands that I'm definitely looking forward to hearing from again, and that's precisely what every good split should achieve. It's no secret that I'm a sucker for that's 90's era of hardcore, so of course I'm all over this!
Each 7" includes a download code and there are several different colors of vinyl still available. Both bands also have their tracks up on Bandcamp as name-your-price downloads, so… no excuses!
Posted on Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink
When it comes to Sweden's Craft, it's become relatively safe to anticipate a high-quality brand of fairly raw, aggressive black metal in what I guess is typically thought to be the "classic" approach – with the usual dose of creeping dissonance, pounding midpaced oomph, etc. Upon my first listen to their fourth album, "Void" (released by Southern Lord), I actually felt that this album was a bit of a change of pace for the band. It seemed somehow a little more stripped down, and perhaps Motörhead-ish (in a manner comparable to Darkthrone's more recent work, for example). But I don't really feel that way anymore, and I'm not really sure why. I guess this material is a slight shift from "Fuck the Universe", at least. The production feels like it has a little more of a rugged density to it, and there's at least a perceived increase in pulsing, efficiently repetitive riffing – in part evidenced by the fact that the nine songs (one of which is a mere 20-second intro) clock in for a total of nearly 50 minutes. And, yeah, there are a number of passages that possess more noticeable nods to that straightforward, moderately paced, Motörhead-esque "rock" element. But where Darkthrone will do that kind of thing for three-and-a-half minutes straight for a song called "Raised on Rock", Craft will do it for a minute or so before moving in another direction in tracks like "Come Resonance of Doom" or "The Ground Surrenders" (both of which push the six-minute mark). It's possible that the bulk of the album is just a touch on the "slower" side of things, and that's enough to alter the listener's perception. And they'll throw in some weird bends, harmonics, or uniquely textured layering to keep things interesting, too. There are even a few quick, surprisingly melodic leads scattered about. But, all that being said, there are also fierce, snarling screams aplenty; not to mention gnashing tremolo picking; blasting percussion; eerie, discordant riffing; and all of the other characteristics mentioned above as generally expected staples of the Craft sound (the final two minutes or so of the otherwise very atypical 8+ minute title track are a fine example of the band's epically bleak potential). You really can't go wrong with Craft. They may tweak the formula here and there, but they consistently deliver awesome albums, and "Void" is no exception.