the underground music magazine    

issue #15 October, 2003

 


Untitled Document

Dear Maelstrom readers,

Hi again. We’re not sure if you remember, but way back in July we mumbled something about how big and great and all this latest issue of Maelstrom was going to be.

Ta-da! Here it is unveiled. Issue #15. The big changes: Maelstrom has gone commercial! Ok, what does that mean? From now on, you’ll be able to buy the records we review through our new web store.

You may be thinking: “what? So much for the objectivity!” Not so. We will continue to not only bring you some of the best writing of any music zine, but also not budge at all in our mission to do so honestly. We hate zines that recommend everything. That’s just dishonest *and* bad journalism. We’re confident that there’s so much new, great music out there at any given time – and so much of that reviewed in our pages – that there’ll be plenty for us to recommend to you to spend your precious resources on.

You’ll see that we’re branching out more and more into non-metal territory. Are we getting tired of metal? Of course not! But we’d like to think our readers appreciate other kinds of music just as much as we do.

Also, starting this month, Maelstrom will be a monthly zine. Yes, we’ve always treated our site like a print zine, and now you’ll be getting notifications of complete blocks of new information every month. All you have to do is sign up – for free.

But on to the issue at hand. Issue #15 further solidifies Maelstrom’s presence around the globe with live reports from THREE continents! And not shitty shows, either. You can read up on our reports from Wacken Open Air 2003, Milwaukee Metalfest 2003, and the Fuji Rock Festival 2003. Also in this issue are interviews with The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Every Time I Die, Aborted, Withered Earth, Ewiges Reich, and more! And last but not least, the bulk of our zine, the album reviews, which this time number in at 160.

And the revolving staff door continues to go around. We’ve got some new arrivals. Firstly, welcome Bastiaan de Vries, a plucky young Dutchman who’ll be covering grind and dark ambient. He’s already contributed a good interview with world dark ambient scene leader Nordvargr. Check it out.

Also poking his head through is our second member of the Maelstrom Israel office, Avi Shaked. Avi’s specialty will be mostly prog metal and rock. We welcome him. Look for more new staff members next month!

In other news, The Condor will be getting hypnotized into liking vegetables; Abhishek Chatterjee is up to his ears in vacuum switches (or whatever he does as an electrical engineer over there in India); Matt Smith has become THE man at the Missouri U. metal radio show; Roberto Martinelli has started writing for hilarious, offbeat porn site skullgame.com; and Dave McGonigle has opened our Maelstrom France office as he moves to Paris in the name of science, and love, and the love of science, and...

And finally, here’s a letter from one of our readers.

From: r r <lemming762000@yahoo.com>
Date: Sun Sep 7, 2003 5:51:43 PM America/New York
To: lnp2@cornell.edu
Subject: your review

Dear Ms. (?) Parson:

I recently read a music review of yours on maelstrom and one on another site I visit from time to time. I hope you won't mind me asking, how long have you been a critic of music, and what kind of training do you have? I ask because your reviews seem very shallow and miss the boat because of generalizations and bad judgments. I have been a semi-professional music critic for 12 years now so I know the business very well. I believe in keeping a very high standard in this business and I don't like to see it tarnished. In case you're wondering, I wrote to one another reviewer too (take heart, his mistakes and technique are far worse!). I hope you will take this as constructive criticism.

Sincerely,
Richard

Dear Dick (we may call you Dick, right?)

Thank you for your mail and critique. We’re not sure if our staff has had quite the same education in music journalism that you have had, but rest assured that everyone who writes for Maelstrom must pass the rigorous exam to be, yes, *knighted* with the title of “staff member.” Why, if you could imagine what the poor souls who dare try to be on our staff must go through – The trials. The physicals. The mental torment. The middle-of-the-night grammar and punctuation quizzes.

Larissa passed such tests with her incredible knowledge of music and intelligence. So, anyway, we’re sorry if we’ve tarnished something you hold dear. (Excuse us for being a little hazy of the specifics of what you’re talking about). Tell you what, we’ll send you some rags and a stain removal product of your choice, and you can get to it.

- Roberto Martinelli

%%alternate_content%%
%%content%%

 

 

 

interview by: Roberto Martinelli

With all the tired, tired bands out there playing heavy metal, itís easy to get the idea that the genre, the way it was revolutionized in the 80s, has gone as far as it can go. But every time you might think that heavy metal, in itís most traditional, original form, is played out, all you have to do is listen to The Lord Weird Slough Feg to realize that itís not.

Just like any other musical genre, good old heavy metal can continue to exist as long as there are bands that approach it in an original way. And for San Francisco based Slough Feg, that means doing so at the expense of seeming like total geeks.

Slough Feg guitarist, songwriter and lyricist Mike Scalzi has been making songs about obscure Irish mythology, space pirates and highland battles for ten years now. His bandís latest record, Traveller, a concept record entirely within the framework of an obscure 1970s role-playing game of the same name, sets the bar even higher. But as geeky as this band may seem, thereís something undeniably honest about them: you may not feel any connection to the life and times of a highway corsair, but if you listen to Slough Feg play their special brand of energetic, barbaric, melodic heavy metal, you may just find yourself starting to empathize with the main characterís plight. I sat down with Scalzi one day in a bar on San Franciscoís famous Haight Street, to talk about his unique, quintessential band.

Maelstrom: From what I understand from close friends of yours, you donít care about what label youíre on; you donít care about artwork. You just care about making music.

Mike Scalzi: Is us being on Dragonheart the best deal we could get? Thatís not necessarily true. Itís the *only* deal we could get. Itís the only decent sized deal weíve ever been offered. And itís not like we didnít send CDs around. People say that a lot, ďwhy canít you get on a better label?Ē Thatís a good question. I donít know.

The immediate assumption is that all our fan base is in Europe Ė only Europeans would like us. But thereís a side to us that some Americans would like better. We have a rougher edge Ė some influence from hardcore. Of course, we have a much bigger influence from Maiden and Priest and Sabbath. How did you get into our band?

Maelstrom: I went to this show at a place that closed down years ago, The Coco Club. You played with Dekapitator. I went to go see them. (But they actually didnít show up).

But there was this band there, and I thought, wow!

Itís funny, because at first, I didnít like your vocals. But you had these solos and harmonies. It was exactly like when I first discovered the magic of Iron Maiden. I asked what your band was called. ďSlough *Fag*?Ē Thatís the worst band name Iíve ever heard. So I begged my friend to give me his copy of Twilight of the Idols. The song on that record that really got me was ďThe Wickerman.Ē That record in general has a lot of Iron Maiden Killers stuff in it.

Mike Scalzi: I like that album maybe even best. Well, itís hard to say. Itís the most pure, progressive... exactly what we wanted to do.

Maelstrom: The stuff at the end is pretty unusual.

Mike Scalzi: Totally. Itís the most progressive rock album weíve done. And some of those songs had been sitting around for a long time. We werenít signed to Dragonheart when we recorded it. The truth is, the reason it sounds the way it does is, first of all, after the first album, I refused to use any reverb of any kind in the studio, which I think might have been a mistake.

Maelstrom: Why didnít you want any reverb?

Mike Scalzi: I wanted it to sound really raw. The result is that I donít like the way Twilight of the Idols is produced. Our old bass player, Justin, recorded it in a studio at a recording school he was teaching at. We had nine months to do it, so we had a lot of artistic freedom. The students were helping me out. I was able to experiment a lot on songs like ďBrave Connor MacĒ and ďWeíll Meet Again.Ē Some of these songs would never have been able to be done with the amount of money. We had so much time in this ok, sort of half-ass studio. So the production isnít what it should be, but I had so much artistic freedom. I wanted it to sound really live. Like, youíre sitting in your room and we were playing next to you. I wanted to make it sound just the way my amp does, letís put it that way. It kind of backfired in a way. It didnít sell as much as the other records.

Maelstrom: I first got into metal when I was seven, through the older brother of this guy I went to school with. He was also into D&D.

Mike Scalzi: Yeah, thatís usually what happens (laugh).

Maelstrom: But I definitively got into metal when I was 11, when Iron Maidenís Somewhere in Time came out. Thatís maybe my favorite metal record ever.

Mike Scalzi: Really? Oh, man, I like that album too, but I thought they were on their way down actually after Powerslave. Itís much more slick. They lost a lot of their balls. The guitar sound is more synthesized and poppy sounding. But I like it.

Maelstrom: Somewhere in Time for me *is* Iron Maiden.

Mike Scalzi: Itís the first album you ever had.

Maelstrom: Anyway, when I heard your music, it reminded me of the same feelings I had when I first discovered Iron Maiden. The same flavor, the same energy that I felt when I was eleven and listened to Somewhere in Time hundreds of times.

Mike Scalzi: Iím sure you went back and listened to Killers and Powerslave.

Maelstrom: Sure. And I love Powerslave, by the way. Killers, for so many people, is *the* Maiden record. Same for Number of the Beast. I dunno, I think there are some songs on that record that are terrible.

Mike Scalzi: Yeah, there are some ďmehĒ songs.

Maelstrom: ďRun to the HillsĒ? Thatís a big favorite. I donít know why.

Mike Scalzi: I like it. I donít really have a favorite album. Everything from Killers to Powerslave is equally amazing.

Maelstrom: Your new record, Traveller, has just come out. Initially, I thought Down Among the Deadmen (the previous record) was better. But I listened to Travleller about eight times, and each time, it got better.

Mike Scalzi: A lot of people think that. Itís one of those records that will do that to you. Itís not a hit-you-over-the-head-at-first record. Itís a concept album. This is how I felt when I got Black Sabbathís Sabotage.

Maelstrom: I love that record. Black Sabbathís most metal riff is on there Ė ďSymptom of the Universe.Ē

Mike Scalzi: Thatís the beginning of Metallica right there. Thatís the first speed metal riff ever written. Anyway, what Iím saying is when I got that record; the *production* Ė that 70's, Led Zeppelin-ish, more commercial sound Ė the guitars werenít as heavy, the vocals were louder, and I wasnít sure if I liked it as much. Especially since it came after Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath. I thought they were going downhill. Then, I listened to it five times and realized it was brilliant, and in a totally different way from the other records. And thatís what Traveller is, well, I canít say itís incredible...

Maelstrom: Thatís ok. *I* can say it.

Mike Scalzi: Itís the same idea.

Maelstrom: Is that what you set out to do?

Mike Scalzi: Well, no. I didnít *try* to achieve that. But I realized that making a concept album is like that. The first song I wrote for it was the first song on the record, ďHigh Passage, Low Passage.Ē I knew that song would not be the best song on the record. I wanted it to sound like Thin Lizzy, which is not a hit you over the head band. You have to listen to all their songs.

Maelstrom: ďKingís VengeanceĒ is great.

Mike Scalzi: ...Ok, maybe. But when I wrote that song, I wondered, ďis it going to be like ĎHighlanderí or ĎShadows of the Unborní or ĎSky Chariots?Ē Itís not. You can listen to ďSky ChariotsĒ and think youíve heard the whole album. Traveller goes up in the middle, and then goes down. I wanted the first song to sound not incredibly overpowering. I wanted to get the feeling of a science-fiction atmosphere meets a 70s cop show. I wanted there to be an established background that you donít know about yet. I wanted it to feel like me being a space pirate was run-of-the mill. I wanted it to seem like I was burnt out. Thatís the way I felt about metal at the time. I toured, I went around...hereís another riff; hereís another song.

Maelstrom: I love the song ďBaltechís Lament.Ē Itís not a hit-you-over-the-head song. Part of what I love about it is that so many heavy metal bands do the thing about slaying dragons, Lord of the Rings, knights...

Mike Scalzi: Yeahyeahyeahyeah....it gets a little tiring after a while.

Maelstrom: Not only do I not know what theyíre trying to say, but you can tell that they donít either. Thereís no heart. But with you, Iím may not be necessarily sure what youíre saying, but I can tell you mean it. When you sing ďrelease the sporesĒ in ďBaltechís Lament,Ē there is so much meaning in that. I get so many records, and almost all of the content of their lyrics is of no interest to me, as I know it wonít be worth my while. But when I heard Traveller, I felt compelled to read all the lyrics and find out what the album was all about.

Mike Scalzi: See, you know what Iím talking about. You obviously understand what Iím doing perfectly, as about one percent of the people who hear the record do. Iím writing for people who have some intelligence and imagination. It would be good if you were talking about a specific dragon in a specific dungeon that a specific character was battling. But these fucking bands talk about ďdragon, sword, battle...Ē... Itís shit because it doesnít have any sort of relevance. Itís like people in the 70s singing, ďdisco! Cocaine! Romeo!Ē

If ten years ago, when I was living on Haight Street and playing shows with punk and grunge bands, if you had told me that today there would be so many goddamn bands singing about slaying dragons.... it could be worse. But I canít stand that shit. I canít believe people are selling out by singing about dragons and kings. Thatís insane!

Now Voivod, on the other hand, does science-fiction with very specific story. ďJack LuminousĒ is a very specific story. You could write a paper about it. Whereas Ronnie James Dio, singing about a rainbow in the dark (even though I like Dio Ė probably more than I like Voivod), heís not talking about anything.

Maelstrom: Do you think you should buy a record because itís a good story? Like, King Diamond puts a lot of effort into his stories, but a lot of the music...

Mike Scalzi: The newer albums are really bad. He writes good lyrics and stories, but the vocal melodies donít exist. He sings the way he sings, like it or hate it.

Maelstrom: It seems to me that most concept albums arenít any good. It seems that itís more of a focus on telling a story and sticking to a concept than writing good music.

Mike Scalzi: There are plenty of great records that donít have any good lyrics or concepts at all. Like we were saying, Holy Diver has some of the worst lyrics Iíve ever heard on it, but I love the album. Iron Maiden has a lot of bad lyrics, too. They have some good stories that arenít told very well. Thin Lizzy has some great lyrics, and some really bad lyrics. Well, I take that back. Phil Lynott is so obviously intelligent and sensitive to what he is doing. I think his deal is that he wrote bad lyrics intentionally. Iíve written some songs where I tried to write dumb lyrics, too, just to be macho or stupid.

Maelstrom: Like what?

Mike Scalzi: Like ďBipolar Disorder.Ē We have a lot of silly lyrics. But thatís a different story.

Maelstrom: The only song I canít seem to like on Deadmen is ďTroll Pack.Ē Itís too silly.

Mike Scalzi: Thatís weird, because you like extreme metal. But a lot of people say that about ďTroll Pack.Ē Itís wacky.

The way I look at Deadmen is, everything makes sense on it except ďMarauderĒ and ďHigh Season,Ē which donít belong there.

Maelstrom: Those are re-recorded, old songs.

Mike Scalzi: Yes.

Maelstrom: ďHigh SeasonĒ has the bit about arrows of sun dancing on your head. I get goose bumps every time.

Mike Scalzi: That song is about taking a lot of acid on Haight Street.

Maelstrom: See, you donít need to tell me that. Youíre ruining it for me.

Mike Scalzi: I used to do a lot of acid, but not in a hippie way. I did acid listening to Dio, going through some kind of Machiavellian transformation, a kind of Nietzschean, Valkyrian human spirit.

But I actually like ďTroll PackĒ a lot.

Maelstrom: Why?

Mike Scalzi: The riff sounds like a ďLord of the RingsĒ cartoon, or something. I did the sort of death/black metal vocals. Itís a very black metal concept, ďTroll Pack.Ē Itís very indulgent. Obviously, I enjoy doing silly things.

Maelstrom: On the new album, you reprise your theme of the Spinward Marches.

Mike Scalzi: Yeah. Do you know about the Spinward Marches?

Maelstrom: Iíd like to ask you. I mean, you can glean some sense of it by looking at the map on Traveller. But Iíd never heard of the Spinward Marches, and Iíd never heard of the Traveller RPG.

Mike Scalzi: The Spinward Marches is part of Traveller. Itís a large, large area of space in the gameís universe.

Maelstrom: So, what is this game? Itís a 70s role playing game?

Mike Scalzi: It started in the late 70s, and was published until the early 80s. I would not do a concept album about any other role playing game, simply because itís too geekish.

Maelstrom: Are you a role playing geek?

Mike Scalzi: No. But I was at one point. Well, I canít say Iím not, because I just made a concept album about a role playing game! But Traveller was the one game that seemed to me to be not as fantasy, geek oriented. There are army people who played Traveller who said it was the most military, systematic game. Itís more like a war game.

Iíve been in touch with the creators of the game.

Maelstrom: They must have been thrilled.

Mike Scalzi: Well...no, actually, they werenít.

Maelstrom: What!!?

Mike Scalzi: I suspected as much, too. I realized how people are, a long time ago, when I started making records about things like this. I was lucky that Errol Otis (famed original Dungeons and Dragons artist) was such a nice guy and so thrilled. I could tell by the spirit of his artwork, like on the old Dungeon Masterís screen. He has a giant Dead Kennedys emblem hanging off the main barbarian womanís medallion. But the other people in the gaming world tend to be really geeky, defensive people. Iím not saying the Traveller guys are like that.

We were originally going to get the artwork of the guy who created the Traveller art in the 70s. He said, no problem. But Game Designerís Workshop and the creator, Mark Miller, has the rights. We contacted Miller. We were in touch, but communication was very difficult and spotty. They donít even know about it yet. Iíve gone to Traveller web sites to tell people about it, but theyíre not very responsive. I donít think that gamers as a whole are very responsive to heavy metal. It may seem weird, but itís true.

Maelstrom: You know how Bolt Thrower was with Games Workshop for a while?

Mike Scalzi: Yes.

Maelstrom: I was in London and I went to a Games Workshop store. I asked the staff if they remembered Bolt Thrower. They did.

Mike Scalzi: But they donít really give a shit.

Maelstrom: Not only did they not give a shit, but, if you go to these stores Ė which sell these models that are all about massive killing and barbarity Ė they play the most insipid pop music imaginable.

Mike Scalzi: I know! I wonder if Iím a nerd or not. I grew up a jock. I played football in high school and also played Dungeons and Dragons. But I really like to play games, but I didnít want to admit it, because a lot of gamers are really fat, gross, greasy guys who are really defensive. They get into gaming because theyíre intelligent, but theyíre intimidated by sports culture, music culture (punk, heavy metal). They canít get laid and they go into themselves and become nerds. I was all about playing football, playing heavy metal, playing games. I got something out of all of them. Geekishness is ok as long as itís not a form of escapism from the world.

Maelstrom: What your band exemplifies is, from a pop culture standpoint, is that thereís nothing cool about this band.

Mike Scalzi: Yeah, thatís it.

Maelstrom: But thatís whatís cool about it. And itís not even cool in terms of whatís cool in metal these days.

Mike Scalzi: What I want to do is the purest version of what I think is cool. I like mythology and the historical aspects of that. I donít like dragons and castles and fairies. I donít like magic. In terms of science-fiction, Iím not so much into the technological stuff. Iím more into the characters. Alfred Bester, who was an early 1950's writer, is the greatest science fiction writer ever, without a doubt. If you read ďThe Star is My DestinationĒ and ďThe Abolished Man,Ē youíd agree with me completely. The idea of Slough Feg is to be into these things because I like the stories.

I want to be cool. Many bands say they donít want to be rock stars. Bullshit. But I want to be cool in my way. I think itís very cool to have the confidence to do exactly what you want to do in your way.

Maelstrom: Who did the artwork for the Traveller album?

Mike Scalzi: Martin Hanford, the guy whoís done a lot of the Bal-Sagoth covers. He also did the art for the Slough Feg re-issue on Miskatonic. Itís a little more comic book-ish than Iíd like, but I always give the artist full control of what he wants to do.

Maelstrom: In your Twilight of the Idols album, thereís a lengthy text in the inside cover linking the fall of society with the decline of metal. The text culminates in how [Slough Feg] will ďbring culture back to the western world.Ē Thanks, by the way, for doing so. (Wink)

Mike Scalzi: Haha! Well, it didnít succeed. If the album did what it was supposed to do, [the text] would have been seen as this great thing, as opposed to a stupid, geeky thing.

[The text] is from Justin, our old bass player. It addressed people not understanding us; people not liking us because they thought we should be doing grunge or punk. All that happened right here on Haight Street. We used to practice below Walgreens. We wrote songs about dungeons, and thatís what our practice space was like. (below, Slough Feg circa 1992. Scalzi is at far left)

Ok, this is going to sound really cheesy. There was a certain dichotomy about us. We were really nerdy, but we were cool. We got a lot of chicks Ė especially Justin. We got laid a lot; we did drugs; we played a lot of shows. And yet we were playing this geeky music that was the most un-hip thing in the world Ė especially during the early 90s. Girls didnít understand us, but they hung out with us because they though we were cool. So we were feeling macho. But the songs arenít geeky in a historical sense. Theyíre very Machiavellian, Wagnerian songs. I was reading a lot of Nietzsche and listening to Wagner, getting interested in a lot of theatrical stuff. That stuff isnít geeky at all Ė itís high culture; itís the coolest of the cool for its time. Whether itís 1890 Germany, or 1960 on Broadway, or 1992 in the US, with grunge.

I donít listen to music by category. I listen to Elvis Costello and XTC when I go home. I listen to what I think is good, and thatís spread out all over music. If you look at my record collection, youíll see Genesis, the Kinks, the Beatles, the Doors...Priest, Maiden, Sabbath, Brocas Helm, St. Vitus. Heavy metal, pop, new wave...

Maelstrom: If you became massively successful, how do you think that would change you?

Mike Scalzi: Thatís a circular idea. Thereís no way that we could become popular based on what weíve done already. Itís kind of like asking, ďwhat would happen if America elected Ralph Nader as president?Ē Heíd probably get his head blown off. But an America that would elect Ralph Nader would be very different from the one that exists now. So the only way weíd become gigantic would require the music industry to somersault. I wish it would. I do. But if I got big off of what I already do, I wouldnít have to change, because I like what I already do.

But if I could get a bunch of money to write poppy songs, like Thin Lizzy did with ďThe Boys are Back in TownĒ? Fuck, yeah, Iíd do it. If I thought I could do it. Iíd become a rock star, just like I always wanted to be. Anyone would.

Maelstrom: From what I understand, the Lord Weird Slough Feg is a character. Heís a kind of idiot savant that lives in a cave and gets mental messages that he writes on the walls. His body is decomposing.

Mike Scalzi: Yes. Iíll tell you, I donít regret using that as the band name. When I first heard that name, it represented the agenda that I had. Slough Feg was a name in a comic book (called ďSlayne the Berserker).

Maelstrom: According to you, itís a name from Irish legend.

Mike Scalzi: Yes, but oral legend. Iíve talked to Irish people who had never heard of ďSlayne the Berserker,Ē and they knew about Slough Feg, the demon lord. It shows you how researched those comic book guys were. Whatís most representative about the character is that he refuses to die Ė he wants to keep doing his obscure artwork that no one gets to see.

 

 the Traveller lineup from left: Greg Haa (drums), John Cobbett (guitar), Mike Scalzi (guitar, vox), Adrian Maestas (bass)

 

 

 

interview by: Laurent Martini

Skid Row blew onto the hard rock scene in 1989 with a self-titled album, a youth anthem called ďYouth Gone WildĒ and one of the best ballads of the 80s with ďI Remember You.Ē Their second album debuted at #1 and they became a major force in what was becoming a disappearing and unpopular genre. This change in music coupled with the in-fighting with ex-lead singer Sebastian Bach caused Skid Row to fade from the general scene. But now the band is back with a new singer, a new drummer, one kick-ass album and an attitude that never changed. I was lucky enough to get to speak with Snake, one of the guitarists and a major songwriter, and hereís what he wants the world to know...

Maelstrom: Howís the tour been going so far?

Snake: For us, itís been amazing. Thereís such a great camaraderie out here with everybody. Thereís a great amount of respect among the band members and the crew and stuff. And everyoneís really making a concerted effort to make this the best tour of the summer. For me, Iím just humbled by the fact that so many people are coming out here to see us Ė theyíre getting here early to see us and whatnot, and the amount of respect that weíve been getting. Especially with a new record coming out you want to play the old stuff that the people know and love, but you also have to throw some new things in there too, to get an idea about what the new recordís going to sound like. So far so good, everyoneís been really responsive to it.

Maelstrom: Youíre playing a few dates by yourself on this tour. Are there any plans to tour alone more extensively afterwards?

Snake: Oh, yeah, weíre going to tour, weíre touring the world and weíre going to beat everybody down with this new record. Weíre going to be on the road until the end of next summer.

Maelstrom: Subhuman Race, your third album, was released in 1995. Why did it take so long for Thickskin to come out?

Snake: Well, a number of reasons. One, we had to get rid of some members of the band, as you obviously know. And we needed time away from each other. There was so much dissension amongst the group: friendships were being ruined because there was a cancerous element in the band and Rachel (bassist), Scottie (guitarist) and myself needed to get away from each other to remind ourselves how much we love each other. Sometimes you need to do that. Separation sometimes allows you that time to realize what you truly had in the people that are your brothers.

We realized that the three of us love each other and want to continue to do this, so we want to do it in a different way. A way that was more conducive to just going out there and have fun and be happy and not having arguments about what colours should be on the freakiní t-shirts. When it gets to that point and one personís ego becomes larger than the band itself, itís really time to move on and reassess what youíre doing and what youíre doing it for. Not only did we need to reassess it, but we finally got everything out that we needed to do, which was side projects and adventurous other things.

When we regrouped in late Ď99 we realized that we had started this thing and we build it up from nothing and there was some ďlegacyĒ to uphold. It was our band and we got questioned quite a bit about why we kept the name Skid Row. Well, itís because itís our band. Tell Van Halen to change his last name. So for us it was a no-brainer. And we got some flack for it. We knew that we would, but thatís OK because this band has always had to face an uphill challenge. Weíve always been an underdog; weíve always been the guys that were criticized and scrutinized for being successful for every other reason other than the fact that we play our asses off every night and wrote some pretty decent songs.

When we found Johnny in early 2000, it was a revelation because heís such a sweetheart of a guy and a wonderful human being and heís exactly what we were looking for. Heís a great singer, heís a great frontman. Heís not trying to be anybody else. Heís not trying to emulate anybody, heís not trying to fill anybodyís shoes, he wears his own shoes and thatís exactly what we were looking for. Luckily, we had the opportunity to go out on tour with Kiss, on our own, with Tesla and now Poison and now hereís a great opportunity to finally release this record. We needed that time to grow again as a band and we were given that opportunity in front of a lot of people. That gave us that comfortability with ourselves. Because when you have a new guy fronting the band and a new drummer you gotta find your footing again. And once you get to that point of touring together and living together at home and all that stuff, then you get the opportunity to create music on a level where youíre not worried about being scrutinized as a band.

Maelstrom: A lot of pressure was on you to find a new frontman, especially considering the one you had before. What was the process like?

Snake: We were looking for a guy that could do justice to the songs that we had written in the past and would treat them with respect. Some guy that could front the band on a level that we were accustomed to and also to be able to partake in the future of our songwriting. And it didnít take us very long, it took us about a month or two. We only auditioned three or four guys before Johnny.

Maelstrom: You and Rachel are the main songwriters, although there has been credits to some other members. Did Johnny have a hand in writing some songs for the new album?

Snake: Oh yeah, everybody does. Songwriting credits are kind of a misnomer because Rachel and I come up with the skeleton of the song but everybodyís got to make it their own. So there was a lot of changes to a lot of songs like trying it in a different key, or ďI like this melody but let me try something different,Ē or, ďyou know, let me try this here,Ē and thatís how you win. Everybody has a hand in it and if everybody canít contribute and make it their own, then itís not a Skid Row song.

Maelstrom: Weíre been talking about your new singer Johnny but not about your new drummer Phil. Tell me a little about him.

Snake: Well, we know Phil since 1991, when we recorded Slave to the Grind. He was down in Fort Lauderdale, right close to where we were recording. He was in a band called Saigon Kick. We befriended each other and his band went into the studio to record with Michael Wagner, who produced Slave.... Having Phil in the band was a no-brainer. He had played in a side project with Rachel when we took some time off. When the opportunity came up that we needed a new drummer on the Kiss tour there was no audition process, it was Phil. He came out, we knew what he could do. He should have been in the band a long time ago. It worked out perfect.

Maelstrom: Each Skid Row album has progressed to a meaner and heavier sound. How do you compare your sound now to what you were doing back then?

Snake: I just think that itís exactly where we should be in 2003. Thereís no scratching or rapping on the record or anything like that. Itís just us being who we are. Obviously you have to evolve. It doesnít mean you have to follow trends but you have to evolve as human beings. When youíre writing a record, hopefully that evolution in your personal life will be reflected in the songs that you write. And you have to keep your hear to the ground at all times. The fact is that this band is not based upon nostalgia. We pay a lot of credit to our past, weíre proud of what weíve done and weíre not trying to deny our past but by the same token weíre all about moving forward.

Maelstrom: What was the impetus for re-recording ďI Remember YouĒ in an upbeat, ska style?

Snake: It was a way for us to raise peopleís eyebrows. More importantly, it was a way for us to have fun. Rachel came up with the idea and said OK, what would be the most extreme thing that we could do? And itís not to denigrate our past or anything, weíre very proud of what weíve done. We always play the original version of ďI Remember YouĒ because we know that the people want to hear that and we respect our fans too much not to give them what they want. But we just thought, ďletís take out biggest ballad and make a punk rock song out of it.Ē It was all based on having fun and we just started jamming on it and the more we played it the more we dug it. We played it live and had a blast playing it live and we said, ďyou know what? This sounds cool. Letís record it and put it on the record.Ē

Maelstrom: A lot of bands have found out how hard it is to replace a singer and still be able to please their fans. A good example being Vince Neil, whom youíre on tour with, when he left Motley Crue. What has the fan reaction been so far?

Snake: We knew that we were going to face a lot of skepticism and criticism because people are afraid of change and I understand that. But itís been 3 1/2 years now so I think people understand that this is the band and have grown to accept it.

Maelstrom: So the fans have been happy so far?

Snake: Yeah. If this tour has been any indication, absolutely. The fact that people still come out to see us and hear us and get here early, I have to say that people have been able to accept it and you know what? if you open up your ears a little bit and give it a chance you wonít be disappointed.

Maelstrom: The music scene has changed since you came in 1989. You donít have the support of Atlantic and MTV anymore. Is that why youíre also releasing a DVD with the album? As a way to market the new album and reach more fans?

Snake: Actually, it just fell into our laps. We had a friend that was filming us for the past two years basically because he loves the band so much. He was approached by a company and said, ďyou know what? Letís do a DVD.Ē We have between 60 and 80 hours of material, why not? So the whole concept came up to chronicle the making of this record and everything that went with it, the tension, the idiocy, drunkenness, whatever. And itís really entertaining because it shows a lot of different aspects of us. Itís more personal than anything weíve ever done in the past because you get an insight into each person.

Maelstrom: How long did it take you to make your new album Thickskin? Did you write while on tour with Kiss?

Snake: It was really weird because you try to re-establish yourself and rebuild your band. In a sense it was like starting over but with a wealth of knowledge. So we were going on tour and recording and writing and going back on tour. We had never done anything like that before. On the other hand it gave us a chance to be objective about what we were doing so we actually recorded the record once, then went back on tour. We had to live with it for awhile and we saw that we werenít too happy with the way that it turned out. We were able to go back in, re-record a bunch of stuff and write some new stuff and finally got a record that we are happy with and satisfied with.

Maelstrom: Snake, thank you for your time. Good luck with Thickskin and the new tour.

Snake: Thank you.

 

 

 

Interview by: Bastiaan de Vries

Henrik Nordvargr Bjorkk is a man well known for his countless musical adventures. Whichever project of his you choose, whether it's experimental noise like HH9 or military soundscaping like Toroidh, his talented touch of genius is clearly visible. His long career dates back to Pouppťe Fabrikk, followed by Folkstorm and the highly succesful MZ. 412. He more recently began a self titled ambient project, and another called Sleep Therapy. Not just an individual that creates music, Nordvargr creates timeless musical moments.

Maelstrom: At which age did you became aware of music? I'm not talking about discovering your first bands or anything of that matter. I think I am asking for that defining moment, where you discover that music, in all its sonic forms, was something you could identify with, something you could live through. But perhaps for good measure you can also throw in some bands that influenced you, or perhaps pushed you to create music. After all, we get a push from so many things in everyday life, and other artists can be a big part of that.

Nordvargr: I think that must have been in the late seventies when I heard and saw Kiss for the first time... that really moved me, probably most of all because of the costumes, fire and makeup. After that I started buying music on a regular basis... I stayed true to the metal scene during my early teens until I heard Kraftwerk. Then everything changed.

Maelstrom: What changed? And what did it change into?

Nordvargr: It changed my world - the robotic voices, the cold machine-beats... I began thinking in completely new ways about music, before it was just something I consumed, now it almost consumed me. I have been a music-junkie ever since.

Maelstrom: A music-junkie.. I think many readers of Maelstrom can relate to that.

Now, the moment you first heard Kraftwerk, were you already creating music yourself at that time? If so, how did it affect you musician-wise? Maybe you can also give us a brief history lesson about how you started to become aware of the possibilities of creating music yourself. Creating something that has been consuming you after you heard Kraftwerk.

Nordvargr: No, this was when I was very young... I think it all started when I was something like 16 - 17 years old and bought my first synthesizer (Roland SH-101). At the time I was getting into DAF, Front 242 etc, which also was what I wanted to make - thus me and some friends started what later became the successful EBM band Pouppe Fabrikk. We later branched out into Maschinenzimmer 412, some leaving PF, some coming and going...

Maelstrom: When can we expect the new MZ.412 material? I have been a fan since I can remember so I am always very excited when it comes to all things MZ.412. Any news you can give us about that?

Nordvargr: We are still working on the Infernal Affairs box set. The process is very slow as all members live in different cities, and we only get together a few times a year. But it will all be worth waiting for... MZ. 412 releases are not something that we take lightly - it is a process that has to take time.

Maelstrom: How does the process of creating music go for you? Do you sit down and try to make songs, do you get a strange kind of "moment of clarity" in which you discover something you would like to compose, or is it a mixture of those? Or of course, something completely different.

Nordvargr: I have many different approaches to making music - sometimes I get an idea that I just have to realise at once, sometimes the music comes through improvisation. It usually depends on what project I am working on... HH9 is pure improvisation using my own recordings as backbone, Toroidh is usually very thought through etc...

Maelstrom: What do you try to accomplish by creating music, in general, or more specifically?

Nordvargr: Basically, it boils down to two things: Pleasure - mine, and the one enjoying my music. I find great pleasure in making music, and it is also kind of a purging process which keeps me sane. When someone confronts me and says that my music has affected them in ANY way, thatís when I feel that it is all worthwhile...

Maelstrom: Now, we all know you are a man of many projects, old and new. Which one would you say was the most satisfying? The most rewarding mentally, physically or materialistically. Maybe you can name one project for each of those three things.

Nordvargr: The most satisfying project usually is the one I am currently working on, but I think that if I had to choose one it must be the work I do as =hNb=. At the time of this interview, nothing has been released as =hNb=, but it has been described as "the missing link between the best Autechre or any good Warp stuff and industrial way of thinking ambient music". The first =hNb= release (I End Forever CD) will be out this autumn on Horch.

Maelstrom: Perhaps you can tell me a little bit more about the project? The description you gave is wonderful, but maybe you can tell me something more concrete?

Nordvargr: Sound wise it is a mixture of my trademark dark ambient sounds together with electronic, rhythmic and glitchy elements. It is by far the most "commercial" music I have ever made, but it is not easy listening... The CD will be designed by French designer JS Rossbach and will be the most beautiful and twisted thing.

Maelstrom: You also teamed up with your partner in life to create some music right?

Nordvargr: My wife contributed on the Folkstorm Live CD, <Hurtmusic>, but that was just a one time thing... she hates noise!

Maelstrom: What does the title of your project Folkstorm mean? I mean not only in a dictionary way, but what is the meaning behind it?

Nordvargr: Folkstorm is Swedish and translates loosely as "storm of the people." The name was primarily chosen because of its powerful meaning. Folkstorm, by the way, is defunct now - the final release will be out on Cold Spring Records before this year is over (not the final recordings, that was For the Love of Hate, but the last
thing that will be released in that name).

Maelstrom: Is there any particular reason why Folkstorm is defunct now?

Nordvargr: I had enough of it... I wanted to move on and do new things, which I did - Toroidh, HH9 and hNb are what came after...

Maelstrom: Next question, more of a "fan" question from my side. Which other projects are you currently working on?

Nordvargr: I am currently finishing the mastering of Steril, which will be released in my own name later this year. No official label yet, but I am currently discussing it... this is a deep, dark, ambient journey
sound wise somewhere between Sleep Therapy and Awaken.

Maelstrom: And perhaps as a footnote to that question: I read on your site that you will soon share some reports on your Sleep Therapy project. Maybe you could also tell us more about that.

Nordvargr: Not yet... I am currently trying to find the time to edit all the text...

Maelstrom: Also another "fan" question from my side, I really loved the Toroidh trilogy. Not only does it show what a wonderful musician you are, it also has a strong message. What would you say was the reason to create something with such a message? Maybe some people see it more as a political message, but I see it more as a social message, something that speaks to every man and woman on this planet. Also was it more a choice of wanting to express those feelings/troubles, or was it an honest attempt to "change" some things? perhaps only in your own surroundings.

Nordvargr: Thank you for the kind words... I donít think I can change anything drastically by making a few Cds, but still I believe that music can influence people to some extent. The European trilogy is probably more my own feelings ventilated about the subject. Sadly I hear about people who totally misinterpret the message and only see things, shall we say, "brown"...

Maelstrom: So when you say a lot of people interpret your music as "brown," what does that mean exactly? It's not a secret that the music from Toroidh bears a resemblance with the militant vibe of Nazi Germany (at least some parts). Now, I myself think that the Toroidh trilogy is not meant to glorify those times (like some people think), but to give another point of view; To be careful and to learn from the past so we won't have to go through all of it again. But I can see how other people could get a totally different idea while listening to the trilogy.

Nordvargr: I think the title of the first Toroidh album says it all: "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." It is not a standpoint in any way, it is a reflection of past times and the turmoil of the creation of Europe.

Maelstrom: Regarding such antics in music, do you think an artist should be valuated on his personal political views?

Nordvargr: As long as his personal views doesnít affect the music all too much, it doesnít matter. But music should not be propaganda... besides, I think most people are intelligent enough to not change political views after listening to music - that is something that
comes from the values and morals you have been learnt growing up.

Maelstrom: And for the last question... I know it's usually a terrible idea to ask the cook about his recipes...

Nordvargr: Yes, this is not for you to know... but there is a lot of equipment being used, that much I can tell.

Maelstrom: And so ends this interview, which barely even scraped the surface of who this great musician is. If you wish to know more please visit http://www.205recordings.com

 

 

 

interview by: Roberto Martinelli

The metalcore boom is in full swing, and Every Time I Die has to be considered one of the brightest spots. I sent these questions to vocalist Keith Bucklet.

Maelstrom: It's been great to discover the young, vibrant scene that your band is a part of. Call it metalcore, hardcore, or whatever. I checked you guys out when you played in San Francisco with Hopesfall in May of 2003. You can feel the love between the audience and band. It's something that the metal scene (in the Bay Area, anyway) is sorely lacking. How does it feel to be part of this movement?

Keith Bucklet: Iím not really a part of it. im an antennae for a higher power that just simply administers a "vibe" unto the legions of followers. But Iím up for promotion in 2005, and I just recently got dental benefits, so I canít really complain!

Maelstrom: Is there a particular philosophy that you think this movement adheres to?

Keith Bucklet: Get hard, stay hard. I mean, that's our philosophy, whether itís applied to life, love, or our diets. It also sounds really macho, which compensates for our discreet love of the oxygen network, and any Barbara Hershey movie.

Maelstrom: What were the goals you set for yourselves as a band when you formed?

Keith Bucklet: We didnít even have goals. We just wanted to play music. I had always wanted to be in a band to play at a certain club that used to have shows in Buffalo. It was such a great venue, and I had always said that if I got into a band, I would get to play on that stage. But then they shut down and we were stuck with a band.

Maelstrom: What keeps you hungry?

Keith Bucklet: My parents. They donít feed me until I can recite my timetables without error, which I canít.

Maelstrom: It seems the indie rock look is beginning to trickle down into metal, and you guys are perhaps the prettiest of the bunch. But your website is (or was, anyway, now itís http://www.everytimeidie.com) www.shittydudes.com. How shitty are you guys, really?

Keith Bucklet: Actually, that was a misspelling. our website was supposed to be www.shy tit dudes.com. we're all really shy.

Maelstrom: The new Every Time I Die album is called Hot Damn! Hot damn, what, may we ask?

Keith Bucklet: Itís just fun to say. It conjures up feelings of jubilation, which we try to portray. Then, when every one is having a good time, we turn the lights on and ask them to leave. Itís a little joke to us, but people get pretty bummed on it.

Maelstrom: Have you heard of the band Oxbow, by any chance? Your vocals remind me of that band. That's why I ask. They're kind of sweaty and southern sounding.

Keith Bucklet: Iíve never heard them, but any band with an ox in it get the thumbs up from me.

Maelstrom: The softest song on Hot Damn! reminds me a lot of Enslaved. Have you heard that band?

Keith Bucklet: Never heard them, either. Iím quite sheltered in my musical library. But if they're good, then I take it as a compliment.

Maelstrom: Is Metallica still fucking ridiculous?

Keith Bucklet: By fucking ridiculous you mean fucking terrible? St. Anger sounds like it was recorded in a bathtub under dry wall. If you make an entire career being an addict, donít fix what ainít broke. Donít get sober to write an album, because what you get is St. Anger, and what your fans get is ripped off.

Maelstrom: Please explain the therapeutic effects of pornography. And to inspire you, take a look at http://www.skullgame.com .

Keith Bucklet: I unfortunately canít access the world wide web from where I am right now, but Iíll look it up at a later date. As far as the therapeutic effects, itís all derived from ďA Clockwork Orange.Ē The main character, being overexposed to something for so long, doesnít register it as shocking anymore. It was therapeutic, but in an ironic way that it discredited the basic instinct of willpower. It helped to heal an aspect of himself that wasnít there anymore once the remedy was applied. He didnít have a choice. We donít have a choice. Pornography is everywhere.

Maelstrom: Who's the cute girl with the tongue on the cover of your album? How does that picture fit in with your image and concept?

Keith Bucklet: Those girls are friends of ours from Buffalo. I donít really think it fits, nor does is act in discordance with what or who we are. It was just a good picture, but it enhanced the lyrical content as far as Iím concerned. I wonít tell you how, because thatís not for me to decide. Itís open to interpretation.

Maelstrom: What's the objectively geekiest thing you guys are into?

Keith Bucklet: Video games. And beastiality. Oh, GEEKiest. I read it creepiest. Sorry.

Maelstrom: Which one is better, "Matrix 1" or "Matrix 2"?

Keith Bucklet: Iím ashamed to say I havenít even seen the second one yet. I actually want to see the ďAnimatrixĒ before I attempt to get too far into the ďMatrixĒ trilogy. and I hear you have to play the video game to understand it. Much like with ďJurassic ParkĒ for Sega Genesis.

Maelstrom: What's the best thing in the world?

Keith Bucklet: Air.

Maelstrom: Thanks for the interview. Keep playing with the same boundless, fun loving energy that you had in 2003. And then when you can't, stop.

Keith Bucklet: Thanks, bro. This was fun. See you soon.

 

 

 

interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Abortedís Goremageddon is undisputable death metal brilliance. It manages to be instantly catchy, memorable, and remarkable. And it makes your head spin. Whatís more, it continues to do so no matter how many times you put the CD on. Aborted seem like a bunch of pretty goofy guys, too, so we sent some questions over to Sven, the bandís vocalist, who talks about his interests in hamsters and movies with whales as the main character.

Maelstrom: I was reading up on you guys on your website. Your guitarist, Bart, has been listening to Metallica`s St. Anger and Stratovarius` Elements Part I. Both albums are VERY different from Aborted. Could we get your impressions on the two records (especially St. Anger, which NO ONE seems to like)?

Sven: Heya. Well, that would be Bartís personal taste. Everyone in the band listens to a lot of different shit, which in my opinion only helps to broaden the influences of the band. Personally, though, I have never even liked Metallica. I listened to Bartís copy of St. Anger, and I must say, I already thought Metallica was terrible, and this didn't make the impression get better. As you can guess, I'm not a Stratovarius fan, either. But that's totally not my genre. I'm not gonna say they suck or anything like that, to each his own.

Maelstrom: Indeed, it seems that some of your band LOVES power metal. Helloween, Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius. Is that because power metal is in such great contrast to what you do, or are you trying to be great metal contrarians?

Sven: Yeah, Bart and Frť love it.

Maelstrom: So, this new record, Goremageddon, is likely to be the BEST death metal album of any kind this year. Really, congratulations. How do you feel the new album is superior to your previous recordings? What are the standards that you set for yourself, both technically and musically?

Sven: Thanks alot for the kind words on the album. Personally we're very satisfied with it. I'd say that the production and the song writing are definitely a big step up to the previous recordings. We did everything the way we just wanted to. It's quite different from the previous stuff and this is just what we wanted. We feel there is no point on writing the same album over and over again. There are few bands who can keep the interest if they do that. We definitely took the ďmusicalĒ aspect harder than the technical level. It's easier to write a 164654 riff song with complex shit in there than to write a good catchy and intricate song. So we focused on trying to make actual songs that stick to the head and are still extreme as fuck.

Maelstrom: Which is better, "Matrix" or "Matrix Reloaded"? Why?

Sven: I'd say I prefer ďFree WillyĒ by far. Such an epic tale is a classic and should be in your DVD collection and you are a flaming homo if you don't have it by now. That and ďTitanicĒ are modern masterpieces finally surpassing the legendary ďMary Poppins.Ē That is all. I liked both ďMatrixĒ movies, though I prefer the first one. The second one is a bit too much ďout there,Ē if you know what I mean.

Maelstrom: Have you seen the Hulk movie? I understand it`s very weak.

Sven: I would say its extremely shitty, yes. Then again, who wouldn't dream to be green and throw a tank about? A pity 95 percent of the movie is bullshitting, and five percent is action. Boring. Yes. Very boring.

Maelstrom: And being contrarians, I think you should go out and see the Pixar movie "Finding Nemo." It may be my favorite movie this year. No joke.

Sven: Actually, I'm waiting for that. It's not out here yet and I'm quite curious to see it. I liked ďIce AgeĒ and ďMonsters Inc.Ē a lot, so I'll definitely check it out when it comes out here. There's something about turtles that makes us drool.

Maelstrom: Who`s the most underrated band?

Sven: Rotten Sound, among many others.

Maelstrom: What`s the funnest part about being you?

Sven: I can read menus to women in order to seduce them. It's a gift only passed on from generation to generation. I hope one day the world will realise the underlying power of being able to do that, seriously.

Maelstrom: Please talk about your musical upbringing. What were the most important events that led you to be a musician and end up in Aborted? Tell us a story or two.

Sven: Ok. When I was young, I had this little hamster called Poeziewoezie. This hamster was so cool, when he heard metal music he started to have instant diarrhea. Of course, this fact fascinated me, and I had the urge to see what flatulent action would come about if I took Poeziewoezie to a concert! The rest, of course, is smelly history.

Then, when I was 14, I got some cool records from some older friends who apparently were metal heads. They turned me into the extreme metal loving moron that I am now. This story may be less greasy, but itís maybe more truthful. It took me several years to find equally stupid people to join me in my quest for global hamsterisation, which still isn't working, but at least we don't give up.

Maelstrom: If I`m not mistaken, you guys are from the Flemmish side of Belgium. If you could play tour guide to our readers, what could you tell us about the land in which you live?

Sven: Well there's alot to see and do here, really. Weíve got some really cool old cities like Bruges, which are very cool to visit. Weíve got the best fries and some kick ass chocolate, hehe. And also one very fucking active metal scene. I think in the normal season (like October) you can go to four to five shows per week at least, if not more. It's pretty crazy for sure.

Maelstrom: Hey, thanks for taking the time to talk to us

Sven: Thank you for the support and you may now send your girlfriend over. We wouldn't mind. Unless of course, she has a mangina. Cheers! www.goremageddon.be

 

 

 

interview by: Jez Andrews

New York behemoths Withered Earth have proven themselves to be a formidable force in today's death metal genre. Their last heavyweight masterpiece, Of Which They Bleed, has taken them to new heights of notoriety. The music represents the very essence of what death metal has stood for through the years. I picked the brains of vocalist Adam Bonacci, without a doubt the most laid back sounding individual to whom I have ever spoken, finding out just what has made them tick...

Maelstrom: How would you compare the writing of the new album to that of albums past?

Adam Bonacci: I think the comparison would be that it's a little more straight forward. On the last album we were experimenting with a little off-time stuff and a few other things, and this is just more towards metal I think.

Maelstrom: Now, if I can go back to the beginning, what were your first impressions of death metal?

Adam Bonacci: I was totally blown away by it. I started by listening to Black Sabbath and The Who, cause that's what my older brother was listening to. Then I heard Metallica for the first time, and they were heavier than that, then Slayer, and that was heavier than Metallica. Carcass were the ones who really blew my mind, and it was all downhill from there. It's the best, y'know? An extreme form of metal...

Maelstrom: What did you set out to do with Withered Earth?

Adam Bonacci: Really just to make music that we were happy with. As far as the guys in the band go, we didn't set out with any particular message or some sort of cause in the lyrics or anything like that. We just wanted to play the music that we were into.

Maelstrom: There are certain bands in the death metal scene who have either used more melody in their music or have used cleaner production over the past few years. Would you see them as traitors to the scene, or do you feel a certain satisfaction in knowing that you're staying true to the roots of it all?

Adam Bonacci: Well, as long as you're not compromising your own ideas for the sake of trying to be more popular... Some people just prefer a raw, not very nice sound, y'know, to keep the balls in there, and some people like nice clean leads and over-production and stuff. I think it all has its good points if it's done for the right reasons. As long as you stay true to what you're doing, that's where it's at.

Maelstrom: I can remember that when death metal was starting to get real publicity in the late 80's, there was a huge underground scene of bands and tape traders on both sides of the Atlantic, and gradually across the world. Do you think the underground scene is just as important today?

Adam Bonacci: Absolutely. That's where the start of any band comes from. The majority of people that I know, if they're going to check something out, it's because their friends said, "Hey, listen to this!" Or you see people talking about bands on a chat site or something on the internet. It used to be all getting flyers in envelopes, and if you got the same bunch of flyers for one band enough times, you'd figure you might as well check 'em out cause there's obviously something going on with them. Some of the bands, you'd see one flyer once and never see them again, then never really think of them again.

Maelstrom: What do the members of Withered Earth do outside the music (day jobs and such)?

Adam Bonacci: Oh, shit (laughs). I work at a medical company, actually. I just make deliveries and sales and shit. Boring, but it pays the rent. We do a lot of shows, bringing in bands that are local.

Maelstrom: Have you ever toured with bands who have been a direct influence on your music?

Adam Bonacci: Yeah, the Gorguts, Marduk and Deicide tour. That was a big influence, to tour with that combination of bands, I think Gorguts especially. That made a big impact on us as a band.

Maelstrom: Going back to what you were saying about home town shows, I know that if Venom got back together and played a show back here in Newcastle again, there would be a very special reaction from the home crowd. Would you say there's something different about the home town shows?

Adam Bonacci: It's harder. We do better outside of our home town. I don't know if it's for any other reason than the fact that everybody likes techno music here. There's not a lot of people who are into the metal scene. It's getting better, y'know Ė it fluctuates. I'd say about ten years ago we had a great scene between here and the neighbouring towns, but it kinda faded away and now everyone listens to techno and rap music. It's just different.

Maelstrom: I know it's only when extreme metal acts play here that you see all the fans come crawling out of the woodwork. I wouldn't say it's a dying scene, but up here it's something you've got to look a little harder for. What differences would you say there are between the American and European scenes?

Adam Bonacci: I hear a lot more melodic bands [from Europe] y'know... A lot of American bands are more straight forward, all blasting drums and the lowest vocals possible and as fast as possible. Then a lot of European bands that I get to hear, it's mostly guitar harmonies, more structured songs and stuff like that. That's the difference I hear.

Maelstrom: On the new album, I hear a lot of old-school influence. Was that intentional or was it just always at the back of your minds?

Adam Bonacci: I think it happened because while we were writing all the songs for the new album, all I was listening to was old metal stuff, and it just happens when you're writing. I always wanted to take it back to that stuff because that's what inspired me to get into this band anyway.

Maelstrom: Do you think that the scene overall has improved with age in any way?

Adam Bonacci: In some ways it has. There's a lot of bands experimenting, and that's something that I like to see. Some people don't like that, but if it's done in the right way, I'll listen to it. The scene overall is not as big as it once was but I see it coming back around again.

Maelstrom: This is a question I've never asked a vocalist all the time that i've been listening to extreme metal: Have the death metal vocals ever messed up your throat?

Adam Bonacci: Yeah! In the studio, trying to lay down vocal tracks, singing for like four or five hours straight. I just blow it out and have to wait a week, go back and start over again. Too much like that. Really only in the studio when we're in there for hours on end doing it over and over. We did the tours, thirty days straight, every night, no problems. Usually it holds up pretty good.

Maelstrom: Well, thanks for your time, and congratulations on the new album. Best thing i've heard this year so far...

Adam Bonacci: Awesome, thanks.....

Of Which They Bleed is out now on Olympic Recordings.

 

 

 

interview by: Roberto Martinelli (translation from German by Steppenvvolf)

The German black metal band Ewiges Reich may not be doing anything new, but weíll be damned if thatís something that will stand in their way. We fell in love with this band when we discovered to their second record, Zeit des Erwachens (review here), thanks to tremendous conviction of the black metal variety: ludicrous speed, sharp rawness, and throttling, spittle emitting savagery. Too bad the follow up record wasnít nearly as good. But we wanted to find out more, so we contacted Ewiges Reichís vocalist, Maldoror.

Maelstrom: It is made clear to me over and over that the best black metal scene in the world today is from Germany. Nargaroth, Nagelfar, Bethlehem, and to a lesser but important extent, Silencer, Lunar Aurora and ZornÖ Germany has its stuff dead on. So now we're treated to another ideal black metal band, Ewiges Reich. Do you have any theories or explanations as to what makes German black metal so good?

Maldoror: One reason could be the inspiring landscape we live in. There are a lot of forests, castles and ruins where you can retreat to dwell in your thoughts. On the other hand, it is such that our society more and more falls prey to stupid consumer mania. People keep on living according to the same pattern without ever thinking about it or questioning their shitty lifestyle.

Maelstrom: I wonder if you would be interested in a discussion about various countries' scenes, namely the Swedish one.

Maldoror: I don`t think that it`s worth talking about the Swedish scene (particularly because thousands did so before us with the same outcome), but according to my opinion it has lost much, if not all, of its former quality. The same holds for the Norwegian BM scene. But, for example, the Finnish scene generates a lot of very good bands at the moment. Just to name a few, Horna, Satanic Warmaster, Clandestine Blaze.

Maelstrom: I like the sound of Zeit des Erwachens a lot. It's powerful but not polished. It's dark and furious, and the creepy, soft parts really pace the album well. It's the perfect soundtrack to the place the booklet pictures were taken at. Could you talk to us a bit about the conceptual and recording process?

Maldoror: There`s actually not much to say about it. Our songs just develop in the rehearsal room. One of our guitarists comes up with a riff and if all like it, we create a song. The advantage of that is that each of our songs is something very special from one of the band members. About the recording process, too, there`s not much to say. We had been to the studio and played in the music in one day. On the next day, I contributed my vocals and then we were occupied for another couple of days with mixing.

Maelstrom: I think it's really cool how most German black metal bands write lyrics in German, except this leads to American reporters asking what the album and song titles meanÖ So, what's the meaning of "Zeit des Erwachens"? Is there a common thread in the album song titles? Any themes?

Maldoror: "Zeit des Erwachens" means "time of awakening." It is a battle cry to rise from the uniform mass that calls itself mankind. There`s actually no coherent concept for the album, but all lyrics are in one way or the other related to my hate to this stinking mass called human being.

My general opinion concerning this civilisation is best made clear by the terms "nameless hatred" and "human being mass." "Traum von Chaos" (dream of chaos) relates to the wishful dream that this world cleanse itelf from this annoying illness called "human being." In "Prophezeihung" (Prophecy), just as in "Zeit des Erwachens," I address those who are not willing to accept this life that is forced upon them. In "Auferstehung" (Resurrection), I show how I am dealing with it. "Ritual" is about genocide on Christians who are trying to force their hypocritical belief on us.

Maelstrom: It's a real funny contrast how you've got these great German black metal bands, but then Germany is the originator of the happiest, sappiest brand of metal ever, power metal. Now there's this whole "true metal" movement. What is the common German metal fan like? How does it all fit in?

Maldoror: The smallest part of the German "metal" scene are Black Metal fans. Unfortunately, the greater part are fans of this "true metal" scene. I can`t quite understand that, because the music simply sucks, but I think this is losely connected with the society we live in. It`s simply not music you need to ontemplate about. You can listen to it without really listening to it and get drunk with your stupid, stupid friends.

Maelstrom: I like the painting on the cover of the album. Who painted it and why did you choose it?

Maldoror: It`s from Beter Bruegel, who lived during the 16th century in Belgium. We chose it for its atmosphere. We felt that the cold atmosphere with those proud, solid rocks was as if made for our Zeit des Erwachens record.

Maelstrom: What are some of the best records, metal or otherwise, that you've heard in the past year or so?

Maldoror: Very good records are: Clandestine Blaze Night of the Unholy Flames,Paisage díHiver Steineiche, Krieg Rise of the Imperial Horde, Satanic Warmaster Strength and HonourÖ

Maelstrom: Have you ever been to the Wacken Open Air? If so, what is your impression?

Maldoror: I have never been to the Wacken or a similar big event. I hate this kind of merchandising metal. It`s only about snatching as much money as possible from the fans.

Maelstrom: What are your thoughts about the US war on Iraq?

Maldoror: I don`t think there`s a reason for waging this war. The government of the USA has once again had the arrogance to show off their superior military power. In addition they had seen the chance of earning a couple of bucks. At least the latter has failed.

Maelstrom: How many Ewiges Reich recordings are there? Do you have any for sale?

Maldoror:
2001 Ewiges Reich CD lim. 500 handnumbered
2001 Jerusolima Est Perdita/ Ewieges Reich Split 7ď lim. 350 sold out
2002 Zeit des Erwachens CD
2002 Totembur/ Ewiges Reich Split 7ď lim. 666 sold out
2002 Rerelease Debut on LP lim. 500
2003 Thron aus Eis CD

Maelstrom: What's been the highlight of being in Ewiges Reich (so far)? What would be the best imaginable achievement?

Maldoror: We like being on stage. Itís a great feeling to perform live. We didnít have a lot of gigs so far but they were great. Our best imaginable achievement is to continue to make good music.

Maelstrom: The "new" Immortal: great or weak?

Maldoror: The ďnewĒ Immortal: absolutely weak, not acceptable at all. We really donít like it! Itís too bad, because the first three records were unbelievable good, and so weíre kind of sad that they became so weak.

Maelstrom: You once mentioned "being agressed" by a lot of things in your country. What do you mean by that?

Maldoror: We are not directly being attacked, but one is forced to live in this society and deal with it day after day. That`s close to tantamount to a personal attack if you`re permanently surrounded by this stinking scum.

Maelstrom: All your lyrics and title are written in German. Do you think that it makes yours songs special to write in your mother tongue?

Maldoror: I don`t know if necessarily the music makes it special, but after all, we are Germans. Our thoughts and feelings are in German. Therefore the atmosphere would suffer for sure if we`d translate our lyrics into a foreign language.

Maelstrom: Let`s talk about the new Ewiges Reich Album Thron aus Eis. I have to say I find it quite quiet sonically. You have this loud horn at the beginning of the record, and then the actual music loses so much volume. This is totally different on your previous records. Was this intentional?

Maldoror: We like the sound of Thron aus Eis (Throne of ice), it has got something genuine and honest to it. Looking back there are always things attracting attention and that one could improve, but it`s done and I can live with the result.

Maelstrom: Back to the horn, I like it a lot. What is it and where did you get the sound from?

Maldoror: It`s a so-called "Lure." It was used by the Teutons to communicate over large distances. Of course it was also known for summoning troops for a battle.We found that very fitting for Thron aus Eis.

Maelstrom: When will black metal die?

Maldoror: It`s been dying for years already. The name "black metal" has degenerated to a consumer good.

Maelstrom: Thanks a lot for answering these questions.

Maldoror: Thank you for the interview. If you have any further questions, please contact us under the e-mail-adress: ewigesreich@gmx.de

 

 

 

 

 
2/10 Jason
 

HARKONEN - Shake Harder Boy - CD - Hydrahead Records - 2003

review by: Jason Thornberry

Heavy guitars stop, start, and stop again. And then stop some more. Singer Aaron Connell drowns, waves, and yells in the same key throughout this disc, as each song blends into the next, and Shake Harder Boy becomes indistinguishable from the worst and most tiresome metal-core albums heard by human ears in recorded history.

If the competitionís running sideways shouldnít Harkonen proceed straight? While theyíre at it, Harkonen (whatever the fuck that means) easily seize the Dumb Song Title Award for the year so far with "All this Time I Thought Your Name Was Cool Dude," followed closely by "Introducing The Creeker Sneaker," and "The Burly Spur." Shake Harder Boy is textbook hardcore metal for people very accustomed to it. And people who hate surprises too. (2/10)

 

 

 

 
9.6/10 Roberto
 

ABORTED - Goremageddon - CD - Olympic Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

With Goremageddon, Aborted have not only made what is perhaps the best death metal album of the year, but are also upholding the tenets of Buddhist philosophy. A tall order? Letís examine more closely.

Abortedís music always lives in the moment, keeping the listener engaged throughout all its fury and finesse. And good goregrind is like good Buddhist practice - it lives for the present. Itís all about whatís going on now. You donít look at the music separated by track numbers as songs, but rather as a bunch of great little moments, which are in this case changes, grooves, starts and stops.

Ok, itís true that a bunch of these moments on track 6 are very Carcass-influenced, as are the clips about how to use a hand saw during brain surgery. But Abortedís greatest strength has nothing to do with being absolutely original, but rather how the tools are applied.

Goremageddon is rabid, thrilling and fun, and is essential listening for all death metal fans. (9.6/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Nikita
8/10 Roberto
 

16 - Zoloft Smile - CD - At a Loss Recordings - 2003

review by: Nikita

Quiz: What happens when you mix a bloom of testosterone with psychoactive drugs and lots of Jack Daniels? The answer lies in this classically named CD, Zoloft SmileÖ

Even the CD cover fills me with feelings of alienation and latent, spun out social maladjustment. Iím not sure if this is as serious as it sounds, but if it is, someone should tell this guy not to mix his shrink doses with other downers and god knows what. Iíd be surprised if they made it through another tour.

WOWÖ this is the pure distillation of death punk with no sense of humor. It makes me want to cut myself and let it bleed, watch it drip with some expanded sense of self-importance.

This is about decay, despair, drugs, and did I hear "prior convictions"? This is apparently their fourth CD, which makes me think that 16 is working the venue rather than losing "the urge to save themselves." It takes a lot of work and perseverance to cut these CDís. Somebody over there must have their hands on the wheel.

Where I can appreciate the need to share a violently disturbed psyche in order to get help Ė 16 just want you to go down with them. I resist and I head into the bathroom to wash my ears out with soap. (3.5/10)

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Thatís pretty funny, Nikita, because I totally agree with your points, except you missed out on the major detail of how much Zoloft Smile RULES.

16 is metalcore fury in a hard rock package. Rough vocals that are halfway between both genres, and rockiní grooves to energize the dead. 16's music has a good amount of blues influence in it, but the sheer anger of the delivery steers Zoloft Smile far away from smelly, hippie stoner territory.

And thank god for the production. Itís huge and crisp and HEAVY. No, Zoloft Smile is a record that you put on to taste and never turn off until its air drumming, fist pumping end. Great. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Abhi
 

ADMORTEM - Living Through Blood - CD - Adipocere Records - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Rather than shooting you in the head, Admortem are content with making little gashes and letting the blood ebb out of your body slowly. No, I donít mean to say that they are not brutal. Just donít expect instant salvation from them as this is a death metal album that is going to grow on you gradually.

There is a lot of pace variation on offer here, from Cannibal Corpse-like fast hammer-on riffs to spiteful, lurching grooves. The solos are few in number but they have to be talked about; they are just like the little gems that the new Vital Remains album is filled with.

Living Through Blood belongs to the rare of group of albums that actually get better towards the end. Check out the riffing to "Severely Mentally Retarded" or "The Plastisurgist," and if that doesnít make you headbang, donít bother checking for a pulse. And this is exactly the thing that makes this album such a specialty: aggression, technicality and beauty are merged together seamlessly.

Oh, there are *some* bonus tracks too. Not one, not two, not three either, but TWELVE! Taken from a show dating back to 1999, these tracks have a pretty good sound, except for the drums, which sound a bit muffled. Of course the whole thing cannot be digested in one sitting, as there is about 70 minutes of music on offer here, but you will find yourself coming back to this album for more very frequently. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Tom
 

AGALLOCH - Tomorrow Will Never Come - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Tom Orgad

Each copy of Agallochís recently released 7" EP is hand numbered and signed by a member of the band. For me, it was quite a surprise, not to say a disappointment: Agallochís expression of existential pondering, abysmal mourning and natural sublimation doesnít exactly match the concept of intermingling within the world of collectorís items and music memorabilia. When one is engaged with desperately seeking a tangible essence for oneís being, a commercial rarity should be viewed as rather superfluous and insignificant.

Unfortunately, containing an alternate version of the short opening track of Agallochís latest album, The Mantle, and another instrumental recorded during the sessions of the same album, the musical contents of the record donít have much to offer in terms of legitimate artistic justification for its release. The former features no added value whatsoever to the original album version. The latter, titled "Tomorrow Will not Come," being yet another moody, melancholic extraction of the maturing Agalloch, shifting from their youthful outbursts of externalized, aggressive wintry tragic-heroic desperation to a mature phase of acoustic autumnal melancholy, is a track that could have easily been included on the full LP from 2002.

Unlike most of the bandís material, which is usually composed by Haughm, this one was composed by Anderson Ė being mostly noticable due to the dominant presence of TV/Movie samples, a well-known attribute of his own Sculptured project.

The most notable effect created by the EP is the affirmation of the classification of Agalloch as an atmospheric, conceptual band (perhaps defining a new sub-genre - AOADM - Album Oriented Acoustic Dark Metal?). Not delivering much local innovations within each of their seperated tracks, their greatness stems from their ability to intertwine enshrouding textures, brilliantly depicting a crystalized manner of world perception, and allowing the listener to share it. At their best, Agalloch even forces the listener to be carried away by it.

When one has only two, relatively short instrumental tracks to absorb, the effect and capibility of such emotional assimilation is much lessened. The listener, not being able to become fully absorbed within the excruciated, contemplative world of Agalloch, may merely commit an external valuation of concrete compositions, which, again, are not the greatest merit of the band.

Therefore, Agallochís music is to be consecutively experienced and gradually submerged in, never distantly viewed in non-cohesive snippets, an ideal obviously impossible to be achieved within the limitation of the 7 "EP medium, rendering this release, even if not musically flawed, rather insipid nevertheless, somehow needlessly lotting the bandís name .

Well, at least, should I fall into Nihil, I will at least have a hand numbered, signed, exclusive item to accompany me on the way. (5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor (issue No 5)  
The Mantle (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
6.5/10 Roberto
5/10 Jason
 

ALL OUT WAR - Condemned to Suffer - CD - Victory Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

All Out War is kick ass metalcore. No, seriously, itís all about kicking ass. The music is heavy, brutal, macho, and aggressive. Itís non-stop metal riffing and aggro, muscular drums with screaming, croaking vocals, and a few blazing, Slayer like solos for some variety.

But the variety ends there. While Condemned to Suffer does have all the qualities described above, itís the same song 12 times in an album where the same song six times would have been enough. And if tough guy metal makes you go "bleh," then you wonít be thrilled about spending any money on this. But angry manly men abound in the extreme music audience, and theyíll dig it. (6.5/10)

review by: Jason Thornberry

These guys have scary tattoos, sweaty live shows, and lyrics about dwelling in misery, being raped by political thieves, shedding countless tears, blood, filth, pain, and a myriad of other nasty things that gave you nightmares when you were eight . Nowadays it's an almost numbing sensory overload of clichťs. Calculated resentment simply makes for one boring listening experience, regardless of how well it's ever executed musically, which is, sadly, the case on Condemned to Suffer.

All Out War play "hardcore" by 2004 standards, but their anxiety sounds quite a bit like something Slayer could record tomorrow, only a teensy bit slower. Didn't Hatebreed, an acknowledged "hardcore" band, just finish touring with Slayer?

The songs of All Out War usually have the stereotypical "breakdown" where the group drops to half time and lets their barre chords sag a

bit while the singer catches his breath, stares stupidly at the front row, and contemplates a new tattoo for his neck. Then he roars, and all the sixteen-year-old boys with black hair and matching studded belts get erections they can't understand yet. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Dave
 

SIXTEEN HORSEPOWER - Olden - CD - Jetset Records - 2003

review by: Dave McGonigle

For the impatient amongst us, Olden represents two years in the evolution of 16 Horsepower compressed into 70-some minutes. Itís just like one of those speeded-up films of seeds growing into flowers playing on the Discovery Channel. If youíve yet to be acquainted with the band, theyíd be represented on the musical island of Dr. Moreau by fiendishly grafting the lyrical concerns of Nick Cave (God, Sin, Redemption, the Book of Job, "Ödid I leave the gas on?") onto an effects-pedal-less Modest Mouse. Basically, theyíre a gifted band with a talented frontman: thereís really no-one else in the contemporary musical landscape that can slouch towards Bethlehem with the same intensity.

But enough of the bandÖwhat about Olden? WeeeelllllÖI have to admit that Iím not really sure what to make of it. You get two separate six-song radio sessions and a six-song live set (Get it? 6 songs, followed by 6 songs, followed by 6 songsÖlook, itís frickiní 666, ok? I tried to play the CD in reverse to check if it contained my own personal message from Satan, but only managed to sprain my index finger. Damn you, 16 Horsepower!). There are never-before-released tracks ("Train Serenade"), alternate versions of the same track ("American Wheeze" is represented twice). You get the picture.

And the result? The first session dates all the way from 1993, and is really only remarkable for how damn flat and lifeless most of the songs sound. Songs that should be thundering out of the speakers are handicapped by an incredibly narrow dynamic range, making the session sound amateurish and bootlegged. Luckily, by the second radio session the band have found an engineer who understands the difference between coffee breaks and moving EQ switches, and the songs find space to breathe.

However, by the time the live set spins round, youíll either be thinking "Great Ė now I must go back and listen to all my original 16HP records and compare the differences to these versions," or "hmmmÖmaybe I should buy the damn originals because the sound on these isnít much cop."

And thatís it, really. I threw you all a curveball when I said that this record represented the flowering of a young band Ė in reality, the bandís early recordings sound frighteningly accomplished. Weíre denied the chance to really see the genesis of 16HP, the fossil record that must lie somewhere beyond these sessions. Not quite the Creation, then, but good enough for aÖ (7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Folklore (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
8.1/10 Roberto
 

ATROX - Orgasm - CD - Code 666 - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

First off, you gotta love a CD with cover art like that. Looking like a mix between Where the Wild Things Are and the work of Hans Memling (whose "Last Judgement" painting is on, like, *ten* metal album covers), it signals that Atrox, be it good or bad, will certainly be weird. And in our book, weird always counts for a few points toward being good.

Further inspection leads us to the back of the record, which is in full blown Maurice Sendak mode. Six hand drawn caricatures of the band are represented, each with a silly theme. "Batrox" has them as bats, "Fatrox" as being overweight, etc... Off the wall, but unique and strangely alluring in this case.

And Atrox is weird, albeit not weird in the way we expected. We thought weíd get some kind of ultra-dark and blazing black metal fuckery, but rather, Atrox is, for lack of a better word, sort of an arty, jazzy band. But one that plays solid, technical metal.

Atrox sounds like The Third and the Mortal smashing into Meshuggah, with the Gathering singing a line here and there. The vocals sound very similar to The Thirdís Ann-Mari Edvardsen, complete with wacky vocal spasms that trail off into the distance. Most specifically, Orgasm has a lot of the weird qualities that The Thirdís In this Room album has, except itís good.

So youíll get excellent, acrobatic clean vocals with lots of odd times. Itís not as alien in a mechanical sounding way as Meshuggah, but frankly, it outdoes that popular Swedish band in that the songs here are distinct from one another. Thereís a lot of depth to Orgasm, whose worst point seems to be the not so well chosen album title. And unlike most of the progressive, jazzy bands that play heavy music, Atrox doesnít stumble over its motives in the way to making a likeable record. In fact, itís pretty damn great. (8.1/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Tom
 

ARCANE ART - KritaRan - CD - Dragon Flight Records - 2003

review by: Tom Orgad

In the booklet of their latest release, Arcane Art (a project led by Karsten Hamre, also the mind behind Penitent) claims that KritaRan is "a document with no sound barriers." Also featured is a short poem dealing with the self-indulgent conquest lurking in the shadows behind every form of personal sacrifice. Ironically, the achieved impact of the album itself is nearly polar to these. Be it done knowingly or not by its creators, <KritaRan> features little more then a deification of time as the imposing, ruling element of our existence, and the consequential diminution of the importance and significance of human feelings, tradition and values. In fact, it is done quite intriguingly.

The music of Arcane Art is composed of a repetitive, sluggishly altered industrial beats, overlain by synthesized sound layers (produced mostly by keyboards, bass, and heavily effected guitar) of a rather limited depth. The overall output sounds like a distorted variation of repetitive, primitive tribal music. The presiding beat imperturbably marches forward, dictating every notable aspect of evolvement in the frame of musical scenery, rendering the other expressive dimensions insignificant and negligible. While the varying themes presented by the varying instruments and sounds may change and evolve, flourish or wither, the meaning of all is constantly lessened, remaining subordinated to the formidable progression of time.

However, in tribal forms of creative storytelling (and music in particular) the zealous, ritualistic yielding to the factor of time is done voluntarily in order to reach a state of harmony with the ever-changing universe. But in Arcane Artís case, it features the acceptance as a submissive surrender, accompanied by the realization of our own self vanity: the different forms of atmospheric sound and melody freely shift between the realms of mystical ambient, medieval splendor, strictly composed chamber music and even catchy, clichť rock phrases.

Nevertheless, In spite of the alleged diversity, they all bear similar influential attributes: meek self obliteration in the shade of  advancing time, delivering the desperate tidings of our finitude.

Here, the uttermost merit of Arcane Art's creation is noticeable. Unlike other artists of noise, ambient and other related genres, artists who use different methods of external filtering and screening in order to achieve the desired sense of estrangement, the Norse duo of Arcane Art manages to render it to seem natural and imperative. Each of the instrumental entities is successively imparted with an inner sense of mechanism and coldness, bearing a synthesized sound that incredibly seems to stem from its innermost kernel. The articulated phrases always feature of amalgamation of robotic elements within the human-like faÁade, making us realize the banal triteness of any form of individual manifestation.

Arcane Art weave soundscapes according to which the axis of time doesn't interrupt or spoil us; we are simply meaningless derivatives of it, being defined by it. KritaRan confronts the listener with the sense of his misleading illusion, impelling him to face the unbearable truth: The actual, ultimate tribe is humanity; its continuous tradition is null.

Nonetheless, the release does bare a few shortcomings, preventing it from being a truly wholesome creation. Strangely, the album is divided to seven chapters. Now, as I described, the strongest message conveyed by the music is the vanity of any of the specific tales we encounter along the path of our existence. So, while supposedly shifting atmosphere with the autonomic realm of every chapter, they axiomatically fail to express a tangible, emotional essence: after making one realize that his humanistic agenda is intrinsically false, any attempt to submerge and involve him within a continuous, concrete narrative is vain, not to say farcical. Therefore, after successfully conveying an intellectual agenda negating the value of feelings, attempting to base upon it an expression dealing with such is bound to an inevitable failure. As ideologically impressive as it may be, listening to the whole album (nearly one hour long) is, to be honest, quite boring.

All in all, the latest release by Arcane Art is an interesting, thought provoking effort, worthy of observance and analysis. Still, in order to reach true greatness, they will have to resolve the paradox of endowing the tidings of indifference with more interesting and attractive traits. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Bastiaan
 

BATTLELORE - Sword's Song - CD - Napalm Records - 2003

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

"Northern warriors have mounted their horses and prepared for journey to the ancient world of Sword and Magic. They'll ride towards an eternal struggle of good and evil, where blades thirst for blood and axes leave enemies' faces mutilated."

That little tid-bit will give you a good idea what to expect on this release. Although Battlelore are not a straight AD&D power metal band, they come pretty damn close. The only things different are the more "gritty" sounding guitars, both in production and play, the clever use of vocals and perhaps the non-epic proportioned songs (not one over five minutes).

Battlelore features not only a male vocalist, but as you can guess, also a female vocalist. The two together could make for an interesting combination if it werenít for the fact that clean female vocals in this type of music is extremely tedious. The male vocals, however, are a nice touch, no hyper-falsetto singing but instead a nice mixture of DM grows and BM shrieking.

The songs are all memorable in some way or another, none of the songs becomes overly boring and some actually feature interesting musical moments.

If you fancy clobbering evil trolls over the head with a mace while riding your big, white steed to victory with the complimentary warm-blooded maiden, then I suggest you ride on over to the nearest CD shop and buy this release. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Condor
 

BELOVED US - Failure On - CD - Solid State Records - 2003

review by: The Condor

Okay, first things first. Beloved US? C'mon. Adding your country of origin to your band name is SO LAME. Is Beloved such a kick ass name and are you so well known as Beloved that you couldn't come up with a new name? Unlikely.

That said. This is pretty great stuff. This may be metalcore, but downright pretty little arpeggios send this careening into serious EMO territory with keening sad/mad boy vocals and melodies melodies MELODIES! Occasionally the guitars churn violently and the vocals slip into throat shredding metalcore howls, but things get all pretty again right quickly.

Think Get Up Kids, Sunny Day Real Estate, or any of the current crop of MTV heavy emo heart throbs, with a little bit of a harder edge. But only a little. Fans of Evergreen Terrace, Poison the Well, Between the Buried and Me (and the like) who are in the mood for something a little lighter may find this hits the spot. Plus they can use this record as poppier bait to try and lure their metal hating significant others into the fold. Woooohaaahaaaaaa (sinister laugh). (7/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Abhi
 

BENIGHTED - Psychose - CD - Adipocere Records - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This CD starts off with a small industrial piece not unlike to the intro to the Gerbe of Life split with Repudiate. Thereafter, the fare churned out by this band turns out to be a well balanced mixture of brutal death metal and melodic black metal riffing, like what you might get if you cross Aurora Borealis with Neuraxis.

A lot of articles about this album have been mentioning Marduk as a keyword, but I found little in common between the two except for the song "Aversion Fanatique," which starts off in a very similar fashion to some instrumental track on the La Grande Danse Macabre album of Marduk.

The really good thing about this album is that the melodic parts are majestic and the brutal parts are really brutal. The guitar work is absolutely fantastic, with fast picked fleeting riffs interspersed with fast palm muted riffs and some nice solos thrown in for good measure. The drumming is pretty varied, with a lot of different beats being employed during the slower parts, and itís blast beats galore time when the songs speed up. Vocals alternate between harsh black metal rasps and gutteral growls and both these style are mixed up quite well.

Frankly, hearing this French band was a big surprise because I had never heard of them before, and itís always a pleasure to be blown away by such a band. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
10/10 Roberto
 

BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME - The Silent Circus - CD - Victory Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Itís one thing when a band can do something really well. Itís quite another when a band attempts to do more than one thing, and pulls it all off masterfully.

Such is the case with Between the Buried and Meís The Silent Circus. Itís largely a metalcore album, but it leans very heavily to a technical death metal side. However, despite not being entirely death metal, The Silent Circus ironically outdoes nearly any band trying to uphold the established framework of the genre.

The Silent Circusí aggressive pieces shift and rage in a way that is nothing short of delicious. Each minute part is brilliant, and the incredible transitions that piece the parts together will make you chuckle in disbelief. Also, the drums are not triggered, which is refreshing to say the least. Itís nice to hear blast beats and intense technical drumming organically.

And itís precisely how Between the Buried and Me *donít* stick to the death metal framework, while still performing entirely original music that couldnít be confused as anything but, that yields success. Clearly, this is one band that doesnít limit its appreciation to any one style. So youíll get riffs that fit in comfortably with death metal and metalcore, but then out of nowhere a melody of purest constitution arises. Then, a riff straight out of a power metal album. The vocals are split about half and half between an organic, growly tone and one more identifiable with metalcore. But, again, odd and welcome variations show up, like fuzzed out, fucked up screams.

And we havenít even told you about the half of it yet. For about a third of The Silent Circus is as far removed from metal and aggression as you can imagine. Interspersed amongst the raging constructions are calm, soft, emotional songs, ones with singing. And the singing is GOOD. And if that wasnít enough, track five, "Reaction," is an ambient piece of ebbing, soothing guitar drone of *the* highest order. "Wow" doesnít even begin to cover it.

It takes real guts to make an album like this. Weíre serious. It takes guts to make an album thatís as brutal and crushing as The Silent Circus can be, but also not be afraid to show the bandís sensitive side. Death metal bands have toed over ever so slightly in this territory in the form of disconnected acoustic guitar pieces, but thatís as far as theyíll go. Between the Buried and Me go the distance, bearing their hearts and minds, as well as bearing their muscles.

Glancing at the booklet makes us realize that maybe we should be paying more attention to lyrics in general. And itís no surprise that The Silent Circusí lyrics are as deep as its music. Again, metal lyrics are almost always to be skipped over, but when an album like this can also make you think with its lyrical eloquence, clarity and creativity, then itís just another big feather in the cap.

The Silent Circus is best death metal. Great emo. Super indie rock. Wonderful ambient. All in one. And not only is it possibly my pick for album of the year, itís without a doubt THE best metalcore record. EVER. Period. (10/10)

 

 

 

 
7.8/10 Roberto
 

BEYOND DAWN - Frysh - CD - Peaceville - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Itís good that Beyond Dawn has ditched the plan to become the second coming of The Swans. I mean, their last record, In Reverie, was great. It sounds like a lost Swans album, right down to the vocals. But why be a perfect copy of someone else when you can be yourself?

Beyond Dawn has re-invented itself plenty of times. And Frysh is a major renewal. This time, the music is laid back rock/electronica with surf elements. Sometimes itís kind of like the Mermen kicked out their drummer, bought a beat box and moved to Norway. But then other times itís a lot like Manes latest record, Vilosophe - a monumental renewal in itself - but slowed down in speed and intensity.

Frysh peaks early on song 3, "Among the Sedatives," which sounds like sitting on an impossibly idyllic, videogame beach while bubble gum bubbles pop all around you. And the xylophone is way cool. The next track is another good one, with an atmosphere a lot like U2's "Where the Streets Have no Name." But for the remainder of Fryshís 10 tracks, thereís nothing as good as those two songs.

Unfortunately, Fryshís 66 odd minutes are perhaps too long for the albumís depth. The middle chunk of the record becomes more and more austere and electronic. A soft, whispery track breaks up the mood, after which Beyond Dawn create imagery in which you can really see the waves roll in on a Hawaii ocean side at 5 PM.

Despite its shortcomings, Frysh is an interesting CD to pick up, especially if youíve been a fan of Beyond Dawnís progression. The packaging is really cool, coming in a unique jewel case with eye-catching art. Sure the album could be tighter, but the filler, as filler goes, is high quality. (7.8/10)

 

 

 

 
1/10 Stv
 

BLACK TRINITY - Devil Worship - CD - http://www.angelfire.com/goth/ohiodarksc - 2003

review by: Steppenvvolf

The sound of Devil Worship, Black Trinity`s official debut to the scene, is slightly above rehearsal quality. The album leaves no doubt that some really bad boys came together to play the world to a pile of ashes, but good (bad) intentions do not yet make up a good album.

The material consists largely of relentless single chord slamming, with average bass lines and drum work. True, not yet a reason to write it off, but in terms of originality, though, Devil Worship doesn`t have much to offer. And this can, as it seems, largely be attributed to the limited technical capabilities of the band members.

Not recommendable to buy, but probably worth to check out their live performances in your local youth club... (1/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Roberto
 

BLEEDING THROUGH - This is Love, This is Murderous - CD - Trustkill Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Just what is metalcore, anyway? I donít even know anymore. You canít miss the sticker on the Bleeding Through jewel case proclaiming it the most talked about metalcore album "of the new millennium." (Any bets as to when that phrase will stop being used?)

But metalcore seems to be more about the metal and less about the Ďcore. Bleeding Through certainly is. In fact, through the albumís first two songs (one of which is called "Sweet Vampirous"), Bleeding Through sounds like this exploding genre called metalcore, crashing into Dimmu Borgir.

But as the keyboards take a break around the middle of the record, the scales tip more toward the Ďcore. Riffs that vaguely sound Swedish, rough, hardcore vocals. Then the Dimmu feeling comes back, thrown in with a bit of Cradle of Filth, too.

And Bleeding Through play this up a bit in their image. Six members, Gothy eye makeup, sex and bloodletting. The pictures of blood splatters and an attractive young couple nonchalantly holding guns amongst revolting carnage makes This is Love, This is Murderous look like the Tarantino metalcore album. And with the lyrics about how the singer will get revenge on all the people who hurt him, Bleeding Through would fit right in on the upcoming "Kill Bill" movies. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Roberto
 

BLOOD HAS BEEN SHED - Spirals - CD - Ferret Music - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Blood Has Been Shed comes storming out of the gates like Nileís metalcore playing brother, them slams into crushing grooves. But the band throws wrenches into the gears that had built up so much steam in such a short time - nearly bringing the record to a dead halt on several occasions.

Clean vocals that no metal fan could possibly like Ė randomly melodic vocalizations on top of start/stop riffs scream out, "Hey! Have you noticed weíve got a black guy in our band?" Perhaps Blood Has Been Shed figures that this gives them license to have "soul," but anyone taking an objective look will realize itís just cheese.

Track 11 is a laid back, ambient track featuring mostly wind chimes. Now, if Seth Putman were here, heíd tell you wind chimes are gay. Weíre not as intolerant as Mr. Putman; in fact, we think the track is pretty ok, but on its own. In the midst of this record, itís horribly out of place. Metalcore fans will probably find the good outweighs the bad here... but not by much. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
(7/10 for craftsmanship 2/10 for art) Tom
 

BLOODSHED - Inhabitants of Dis - CD - Code 666 - 2002

review by: Tom Orgad

As dubious as it may sound, it should be admitted that once, back in past days of innocence, when the underground metal scene and its various branches were still considered an infant sprouting from the sordid ground of our degrading worldís musical scene, there was some merit to being a copycat band. In order to spark the state of an infernal fire, to maintain the insidious, rippling movement underneath the despised surface of legitimacy, a certain fascist-like sense of forgiveness was necessary. Regardless of their creative ambitions and quality, underground bands deserved praise, even if merely for the merit of their active existence.

However, extreme metal has long transcended above the status of an obscure, flickering initial idea. Nowadays, being upon a stable, fertilized commercial and cultural pilaster, every uncreative group appearing within its realms should be instantly denounced, not only for its pathetic concept and aesthetic superfluity, but for threatening the legitimacy of the whole genre: The permeation and spreading of enslaving capitalism.

Take Bloodshed, for instance.

The Swedish group plays aggressive, strict black metal, combining influences of numerous Scandinavian bands (Marduk, Satyricon, Mayhem and so on, if pinpointing is required). Their technical performance is usually of a satisfactory manner: they manage to set a decent rhythm section, finely held by a technical drummer, and while leaning on the mighty props of well-distorted timbre (some of the clean and acoustic parts are mediocre, others are simply embarrassing), assisted by a modern, professional production, the whole affair sums up to a decent aesthetic effort.

Nevertheless, any aspect of their quasi-creativeness beyond cosmetic is nothing short of infuriating: Bloodshed seem to lack any spirit of innovation or renewal whatsoever; their compositional mannerism sounds like an artificial one-dimensional array, mixing bits of earlier influential creations. Unlike other conformist, contemporary bands, which manage to leave their own mark, add a certain supplemental value to their trendy creation (take, for example, Misanthropic, Sargeist and Shining, reviewed on this issue), they present no significant conceptual essence whatsoever. Rather they focus exclusively on splendorous outward attributes, utterly neglecting every conceivable productive aspect.

Bloodshed should be referred to as an unnecessary mirror that reflects past ideas, while absolutely and thoroughly sterilizing them of value and purpose. By sticking to the most ordinary riffs, the horrifyingly banal phrases and rhythmical structures, they mock and humiliate every sublime idea of rebellion and inventiveness their ancestors strived for, instead achieving the ultimately reversed purpose: a conformist, characterless, positivist effort of pseudo-Nihilism. In black metal terms, this is sheer sacrilege.

However, one may note a single advantage of an album such as this: as a footnote or reference point to commendable works of past truthful, profound creators.

Nonetheless, this may by no means be a justification to buy, or even acknowledge, the album. Any aware, venturing fan of progressive musical exploration, hoping to keep the metal field fit for new exciting achievements, must restrain his pointless, nostalgic collectorís urges and avoid getting such releases. (7/10 for craftsmanship, 2/10 for art)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

BLOODTHRONE - Shield of Hate - CD - Forever Underground Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Although they wonít get much attention for originality, Bloodthrone pull off the raw and buzzing black metal sound with aplomb. And with riffs and drums on full throttle, and a raspy vocalist to go along, black metal maniacs of all things freezing and grim will raise at least one set of devil horns. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
(7/10) Dave
 

BOOKS, THE - The Lemon of Pink - CD - Tomlab Records - 2003

review by: Dave McGonigle

One of the great discoveries of my life (no, not that, lascivious readers) was folk music. One rainy afternoon during a childhood notable only for its proximity to adolescence, I found Harry Smithís massive collection of American folk music at my local library. I didnít actually check it out for a couple of weeks, but once I had exhausted all the recent CDs (all two of them) it was the most impressive looking of the remaining collection, all fabric-covered boxes and spidery lettering. I now know the music inside to be examples of Cajun, Appalachian, even blues folk, but back then I was just amazed at how good half of it was. Although often consisting of little more than a guitar and a scratchy vocal, most of the tunes were pure pop gold, and I was amazed that the library had actually realized its worth and bought a copy. The moral of the story? Donít follow leaders, watch the library meters, man.

On to The Books, who obviously have listened to some folk music in their time, too. Not just listened, though: armed with a sense of the absurd, a lot of old, scratchy records and a license to laptop, on The Lemon of Pink, their second album, The Books create a beguiling mix of the lost and the found. In a similar (well, to me, anyway) manner to artists like Four-Tet and Manitoba, they create lush, organic mixes of sampled tracks of traditional instruments, found sounds and live playing. If you like either of the other bands, youíll find a lot to like here, too.

Not least the title track, in which a disembodied voice pronounces the title in a similar fashion to The Beatleís "Revolution No.9" over some deliciously lazy banjo and violin backing. There are some live vocals, too, but blink and youíd be forgiven for thinking that they were just part of the general mťlange Ė the point with The Books is to just sit back and let it all wash over you, not to sit with a notebook and work out where everything came from.

In general, it all works very well, although sometimes the Booksí uniqueness can work against them. Thereís few other people out there making 21st century Appalchian ambient, sure, but after the fifth song starts with another quickly picked string instrument you wish that theyíd vary the basic components of their sound, too. Nevertheless, thereís a sense of fun permeating the whole record, a sense that the band really loves gleefully picking these old sounds out of the ether where theyíve been sleeping and gently breathing life back into them. Itís a feeling that I last got when I listened to The Avalanches Frontier Psychiatrist, and The Books have it in spades.

P.S. I was extremely saddened when I realized that the track "Bonanza" wasnít their cover of the theme song to the TV series; bands have a habit of letting me down like that with interesting song titles (Iran - yes, I mean you! Go stand in the corner). (7/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Jez
 

BRAINSTORM - Soul Temptation - CD - Metal Blade Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

Brainstorm know how to make their music heavy, and how to make you nod your head in time, but have they got any genuine appeal?

Soul Temptation sounds like I should have enjoyed it a lot more than I did. It's got biting riffs, good song structuring, and above all, Brainstorm don't pull any punches. But not withstanding this, threreís little here to describe as memorable. Thrashy power metal can often be notable for the easily identifiable influences (Megadeth, Priest, Maiden, Helloween, etc.) and this lot are no exception.

The effort shows through clearly, as does the musical prowess, but nothing really about this album that jumps out and strikes me as anything special. It might be the kind of thing that would have me on my feet at a rock club, but on my stereo Soul Temptation doesn't have the impact I look for. (5.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Metus Mortis (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
9/10 Condor
 

BREATHER RESIST - Only in the Morning - CD - Deathwish Records - 2003

review by: The Condor

This is the shit. A whirling, spitting, mayhemic supernova of chaotic metalcore, equal parts Slayer, black metal and Black Flag. That's right, Black Flag. Super atonal weirdness intertwined with pummeling, brutalizing, neck snapping, total fucking chaos. Agonized, howled vocals, off kilter rhythms, insane Greg Ginn-like guitar shredding, and just massively damaged weirdness all over the place.

This seriously sounds like a death metal Black Flag. Snotty and growly and slippery but with massive, downtuned guitars and full on head crushing riffs that occasionally emerge from the relentless onslaught of corrosive punkrockgrinddeathmetal splatter. So good. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
0.56/10 Laurent
 

BRITNY FOX - Springhead Motorshark - CD - Spitfire Records - 2003

review by: Laurent Martini

Hey everybody, Britney Fox is back!!!!!

Now if the next question you ask is: "who?" then you are part of 99.9 percent of all of us out there. Britney Foxís first album came out in 1988. I remember the one minor hit they had, which was "Girl School." You might remember it if you stayed up until 1.56 AM on Saturdays when Headbangerís Ball played their last video (the most memorable part was the girl who starred in it.) Thanks to some coaxing I also remember their other minor hit, (thank you, Liam Deely) "Long Way to Love."

But 2003 is a long way from 1988. Britny Foxís last studio album was 1991ís Bite Down Hard, which barely caused a blip on anyoneís screen. Then they released a live and a greatest hits album in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Now theyíre back with Springhead Motorshark.

So hereís our story: a band comes out with their debut album and has a minor hit because the girl in their video is hot. Their second album does nothing. They fire their singer and release a third album which no one cares about and then disappear until 2003 when a new album surfaces. Who cares? Some bands should not give the nostalgia tour a try. What are the bandís greatest achievements according to the liner notes? Opening up once for Bon Jovi and being named to VH1 top hair bands of all time. This does not call for a freakiní reunion!

So what about the music? Well the bandís best attribute was singerís Dizzy Deanís voice. It was raspy and high, a cross between Robert Plant and a young Axl Rose. It was awesome! Even though their songs lacked originality it still sounded cool. But when he left what was there to care for? Loud guitars? Long, self-aggrandizing solos? Replacement singer Tommy Paris tried too hard to sound like Dean and instead of evolving like most bands, all they did was try to remake their first album again and again.

Springhead Motorshark is eminently forgettable. There is no heart to the music. Parisí voice is fine, Deeís drumming is in time and Smithís guitars are amped up to 11, but collectively, itís a black hole. This band never proved that they had what it takes to make it. Fifteen years after their only hit, they still donít. (0.56/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Jez
 

CAGE - Darker than Black - CD - Desert Rock - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

First listen: Iced Earth/ latter day Judas Priest wannabes.

Second listen: hmmm...well put together nonetheless.

Thrid listen: Full-blooded, modern heavy metal in its own right.

Cage have a few tricks to add to the groundwork laid before them. And it's clear that they have already made great use of the groundwork itself. As well as the Maiden and Priest influences (both musically and vocally), there are thrash elements to the riffing, and vocal styles comparable to that of Sodom and Death.

This mixing of style is accompanied by a wealth of musical talent. The screaming guitar solos are immaculately placed. The marriage of melody and brutality is captured in fine form by the razor sharp production of Richard Carr and Sean Peck, and songs like "Eyes of Obsidian" and "White Magic" lend distinction to the name Cage.

I would have to say that if you like your heavy metal with both tradition and freshness, check out Darker than Black. It's not just something to fill in the time before the various giants of metal make their next offerings, it's a slice of quality. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
1.9/10 Bastiaan
6/10 Abhi
 

ANVIL OF DOOM - Died Before Dawn - CD - Xtreem Music - 2003

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Anvil of Doomís Died Before Dawn is nothing more than a fruitless attempt to play half-decent metal. There is nothing remotely interesting about this bandís demo. Left is to wait for their full-length and hope they totally abandoned their ways of writing music. What a waste. (1.9/10)

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Within a few seconds of playing this disc I knew this was going to be Children of BoREdom influenced music. And keeping that fact in mind, immense credit has to go to Anvil of Doom since I managed to sit through this for four entire listens. However, the short length of the demo might have been as conducive a reason as any for such an achievement.

Actually, this Spanish band has made much better music than the last Children of Bodom album I heard (Follow the Reaper), but like most other bands that dip their nimble yet delicate fingers in this style, these guys also have the shortcoming of having really simple and bouncy rhythm riffs under the admittedly impressive soloing.

The originality factor rears its head up once in a while, but is much more content in being smothered by liberal doses of oft heard riffs and vocal patterns. They have managed to keep a respectable distance from sugary sweet keyboards and after listening to songs like "ÖWaiting" and "H3," it can be said that this is going to be a band to look out for in the future. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

CALICO SYSTEM - The Duplicated Memory - CD - Eulogy Recordings - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Itís cool when bands that play heavier/aggressive music slow down or pretty out their music. Itís done wonders for Hopesfall, On the Might of Princes and Between the Buried and Me. Metalcore/ indie rock group Calico System have the right idea in their changing from distorted to clean guitar and hardcore to melodic singing.

And in their individual parts, Calico System doesnít do too badly at all. However, the transitions between said parts lack conviction. Itís not totally haphazard, but that certain finesse that this band is lacking on The Duplicated Memory begins to make the individual parts seem tired and rehashed.

With that said, there are some memorable constructions and vocal lines. However, despite some good moments, you canít shake the feeling that overall youíve heard a lot of similar moments before on the records of the aforementioned bands. Calico System is better than some, but not yet on the top rung of this genre. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Abhi
 

CARNAL REDEMPTION - The Limits of Perseverance - CD - carnal_k99@hotmail.com - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This Greek trio have served up a decent offering in the form of this three track demo, and even though their material has very few moments that I could classify as something I have not heard before, there is a certain endearing aura about the music. Maybe it is due to the to-the-point riffing, or maybe itís due to the obvious effort they have put in to try and differentiate the songs from each other (a pretty good sense of song writing can be seen at work here).

A lot of the riffing sounds like a laid back Coroner, especially on the title track, but mid-paced material invariably gets on the nerves after a while, unless itís spiced up with some speedier sections, which is what Carnal Redemption deliver on the final track, "Victims of the Cyberworld."

It might be better if the band cuts down on the number of repetitions within each song or rather, trim the length of the songs so that the effect of the old school thrash/death they play is much more pronounced. Good effort! (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6.7/10 Larissa P.
 

CLEAR HORIZON - Clear Horizon - CD - Kranky - 2003

review by: Larissa Parson

A gentle journey across a landscape of white noise. A cross-Atlantic collaboration between two artists. The Kranky slowness and destructured texture. Yet somehow, I find this album more compelling and moving than I might be inclined to say on a first listen. I imagine these sounds filling in the background of a film, unobtrusive but decidedly there, creating a quietly ambient mood, occasionally intruding with some breathy vocals or acoustic guitars, but essentially invisible.

A touch of Low, a touch of My Bloody Valentine feedback, the unique personalities of the musicians themselves Ė Jessica Bailiff is a Kranky veteran, having released three albums on the label, and David Pearce, who is more well-known for his work with Flying Saucer Attack than his noise-scapes Ė all add up to a nice effect.

Top tracks: "Deathís Dance," the aforementioned feedback-fest; "Dusk," a song that is less a song than a collection of sounds, living up to its title. The album is seamless, so much so that I was surprised to hear it come to an end, and only slowly nudged myself out of the sleepy trance that had descended over me. Stay away from this album if shoegazing and drone never cross your musical threshold, but enjoy it on occasion otherwise. (6.7/10)

 

 

 

 
7.2/10 Roberto
 

CAVITY - Supercollider - CD - Hydrahead Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The dudes at Hydrahead know what theyíre doing. When they re-release a crushing sludge/noise doom album that fans of the genre probably already have, they make sure to spiff up the packaging to make re-purchasing the CD attractive. And the re-packaging of Cavityís <Supercollider> is pretty snazzy, with colorful artwork and a glossy booklet.

But more importantly, itís a good record. Bluesy doom can get darnright tiresome so much of the time. Thereís something about blues riffs played real slow and heavy that so often just feels like itís been repeated ad nauseam for the past 30 years. If you feel this way about Bongzilla, then weíre on the same page. But Cavity does it right. Every now and then some sunnier, more typical bluesy passages spring up, but they donít divert your perception of Supercollider as being a big olí fucked up doom album.

You wonít get the impression that Cavity is a group of burnt out, hippie stoners. Supercollider, with its occasional white noise vocals and smash-you-over-the-head drums, is far too angry and noisy for that. But it succeeds as any doom record should: itís got that comfortable vibe, like being in bed under a heavy blanket on a cold day. (7.2/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
On the Lam (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
8/10 Abhi
 

CEREBRAL TURBULENCY - Germ of Error - CD - Khaaranus Productions - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This is the kind of grind I really enjoy. Fast and brutal just like how its founders had wanted it to be, and based around such a framework that makes it obvious they have taken extra pains to write songs that differ from each other. In fact, this review could be an exact replica of the review of their previous full length, Impenetrable (check out issue #13), with the only difference being in the playing time (this MCD has a total play time of just 18 minutes, damn!).

From the Napalm Death influenced "Ensystemed" to the little System of a Down like part in the title song, one thing you are not going lack is variety. The Napalm Death influences keep popping up here and there but by now itís pretty safe to say these guys have developed a sound of their own.

One of the highlights of this disc has to be the opening segment of album closer, "The Others," where they kick off with a Alienation Mental-style off beat riff while a keyboard makes its presence felt for a few seconds before allowing the grind mayhem to continue. I didnít quite get what the artwork was all about, with the apple being a prominent item in the CD cover and inlay. And going by the way the lyrics have been printed, some one in the Cerebral Turbulency camp seems to hate space bars. Well, 18 minutes maybe a bit too short, but then it also means that I can play it many times over without getting bored. (8/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Impenetrable (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
5.6/10 Larissa P.
 

CHARLAMBIDES - Unknown Spin - CD - Kranky - 2003

review by: Larissa Parson

Deconstructed music fans rejoice: here is another disc to slide alongside the Godspeed! You Black Emperor. At times sounding more like new-age whale song than experimental guitar rock, this reissue of an album first released in 2002 in the form of CD-Rs may very well redefine the word "minimalism." It is in fact, spookily minimalist, from the vocals of Christina Carter and Heather Murray to the drawing out of notes on steel guitar.

Melodic passages seem to occur only accidentally, though many of the tones coaxed out of the various instruments are beautiful. But this is not an album for the short of attention. The title track runs to a gargantuan 29 minutes, in the opinion of this reviewer, a bit too long to circulate about the same theme. And this is where I suspect many who are fans of the aimless stylings of Godspeed! or the experimental rock of the Durutti Column will grow restless; in the first case, each long track is broken up by shifts in theme and tempo, while the second keeps each noodling idea relatively short. If you like sparse sounds, you could do worse than to listen to Unknown Spin, but then again, you might do better. (5.6/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Condor
 

CIRCLE - Vaudeville - CD - Reflections Records - 2003

review by: The Condor

Not to be confused with Finnish kraut/drone/hypno-rock gods Circle, this Circle is a much punkier, poppier proposition. Noisy, splattery, garage-y punk rock and roll ala the Refused, the Hellacopters, International Noise Conspiracy and the like.

Big cock-rocking riffs, punked up and fuzzed out, with wailing, screamo style vocals, simple RAWK drumming and pounding piano ala Skynrd/ Seger/Andrew WK/ Hellacopters. Very emo/MTV but plenty of weird song structures and spaced out experimentalism to keep things interesting. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Roberto
 

CONVERGE - The Long Road Home - DVD - Deathwish Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Playing an instrument is an endeavor full of passion and emotion Ė but unfortunately it usually results in the most retarded facial expressions ever. It happens to the best of us Ė Even Converge, largely considered the best metalcore band that ever was.

The packaging for the official, two-sided Coverge DVD is very nice: heavy, earthy cardboard stock that opens up in three panels, and a slipcase. But it turns out that the packaging and the content arenít a very good match for each other.

Perhaps itís a disclaimer; perhaps itís a statement. Hell, maybe itís a warning. Whatever, the viewer is clearly informed that the footage is raw, "= totally punk rock." Well, thatís one way of putting it.

The Long Road Home is a collection of 25-some separate Converge songs caught live on a home video recorder. If youíve seen at least a few DVDs for various bands, youíre already familiar with this kind of footage, which is generally relegated to the "bonus footage" (read: amateur) section.

But Convergeís amateur footage has a slight advantage. For one, itís shot very close to the band, often being right on stage with them. Two, this kind of poor quality, chaotic filming is well matched with the kind of shows Converge played: rooms full of rabid, lunging young men who hurtle themselves recklessly over and into each other, sometimes swarming around the band so densely that the only way to tell the two sides apart is to look for the end of a guitar.

And naturally, the sound quality varies greatly, even within the boundaries of a camcorderís capabilities. Unfortunately, most of it is either unlistenable or total noise, and itís doubtful even major fans of the band would be able to tell what song is being played without the serene prompt between tracks.

So while raw, "Iím (sort of) there" footage can be kind of cool in small doses on a DVD featuring a majority of higher quality sound recordings, spending close to $20 on something that consists entirely of two hours of it seems highly dubious... at least to non-punk rockers like me. (3.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Jane Doe (issue No 9)  
Unloved and Weeded Out (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
6/10 Abhi
 

CORPORAL RAID - Xenophilism - CD - Bizarre Leprous Productions - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Wow, this sure does sound sick. But where are the bloody guitars? All I can hear are rabid snarls and a lot of blasting drum noise. And on top of that, the guitars sound really funny when you actually get to hear them (when the drums stop), as if they are behind a wall of psychedelic distortion.

These guys some how remind me of Carcass Grinder from Japan and it really is a pity that this didnít sound better as the drumwork is brutal. This really is worth listening for the drumming alone, and things get a lot better during songs like "Rectal Collapse" where the palm muting helps the guitar to be heard. All said and done, Iíll probably listen to this whenever I feel like playing something unearthly and brutal, but this could have been so much better with a heavier sound. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Matt
 

CRAFT - Total Soul Rape - CD - Selbstmord Services - 2003

review by: Matt Smith

This is a solid release from this Swedish black metal group. Throaty screams accent quick-thumping drums and muddled, scratchy guitars. The production is a little grimy and cold, but it doesnít get in the way. Itís just right for setting the bleak mood Ė something all too familiar to black metal listeners.

But unlike a number of black metal albums, Total Soul Rape doesnít slide into cheesiness or relentless over-repetitiveness. Craft isnít afraid to experiment with something other than top speed, which makes for some nice variety. The instrumentation is a little sloppy, but not terrible.

The album is Craftís first release, though they recorded it several years ago and re-released it this year. I havenít yet heard their second album, Terror Propaganda, but Iím going to keep my eyes out for it. Craftís brand of black metal is really a throwback to the earlier days, and thereís not much new happening on this album. They do the standard stuff pretty well, though. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
7.3/10 Larissa P.
 

CRITERIA - En Garde - CD - Initial Records - 2003

review by: Larissa Parson

Omaha, Nebraska - the new Seattle - has been consistently churning out great music for the last few years. Stephen Pedersen (formerly of Cursive, a great band in its own right)ís latest venture, Criteria, is no exception. Hooky, melodic, and heavy-hitting, the debut album, En Garde, makes for good driving music, while providing the sorts of lyrics that would make any emo kid weep with joy.

The albumís opener, "The Coincidence," immediately grabs you with a low key bass line and steady drum beat (provided, respectively, by AJ Mogis and Mike Sweeney), then breaks into a staccato guitar and shoutfest. This theme resurfaces frequently on the record, providing continuity of sorts, although the repetition can be dulling after a while (see track 7, "It Happens," one of least memorable songs, or track 5, "The Life").

Nevertheless, the album as a whole has a frenetic energy to it, reminiscent of the DC sound, but with its own unique character. The band I thought of when I heard this was early-90ís group Dig, who played loud rock with an alternative edge to it, very appealing to a 15-year-old indie kid. The kind of stuff you play in your car and sing along to. This is a good thing, skating on the edge of the best pop-rock without crossing into the territory of conventional harmonics and saccharine hooks with not much more than fluff to support them.

The best track of the album is the closer, "Rescue Rescue," which artfully combines tempo changes with keys (courtesy of the Desaparecidosí Ian McElroy) to produce a slightly gothy, mildly orgasmic cataclysm of noise. The lyrics are a bit melodramatic: "when I say I donít know/ it means I donít want you to know," but thatís ok. The song is sonically interesting enough on its own, including, halfway through, a guitar and bass attack that just plain kicks ass.

Another standout is the third track, "Play on Words," which has the same push-pull tempo changes as "The Coincidence" and addictively angsty lyrics: "I still call you the one that got away/ and to think Iím the one that let you go." Anyone can relate to that sentiment, as trite as it may be, and the music backs it up.

While Iím not particularly in a "loud guitar noise" mood these days, Iíll definitely keep this around for when the urge strikes again. (7.3/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

CROWN, THE - Possessed 13 - CD - Metal Blade Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Possessed 13 is the best and most complete album The Crown has ever made. The reasons are many. Primarily, Possessed 13 benefits from tremendous energy. It engages the listener through the albumís sections, which are divided into three clear chapters.

In this sense, Possessed 13 is a kind of concept album. The three sections vary in compositional flavors, yet at the same time are eminently cohesive with one another. For example, chapter one is more raging and thrashy, while chapter three is more old school and mid-paced. Closer inspection reveals that the songs were indeed originally created over the bandís history, but have undergone some cutting and pasting to properly fit in together. Most importantly, the songs have a common sonic value, unlike albums where pieces from vastly different recording sessions are put together to form an album that wasnít initially conceptualized.

The greatest thing to note about Possessed 13 is that The Crown is that they totally avoid falling into the trap of being another Swedish death metal band. So, no At the Gates riff ripoffs. Also, outside of a minor nod to death and roll toward the end of chapter two of the album, The Crown avoids that problematic genre altogether. The Crown are Swedish AND original, and thatís the single highest praise we can give them.

In the past, Crown records have been overwhelmingly about two things: the elite drumming and the stunning solos. The other facets were mediocre in comparison. Showing maturity as a band, The Crown have toned down both elements, not by reducing them, but rather by *including* them in the overall framework of the album as a whole. So the skills are still there, but itís about the songs sum of all parts, rather than just a couple of them.

Having Swedish death metal icon Tomas Lindberg in the band (on the previous record, Crowned in Terror Ė review in Maelstrom) didnít really pan out as well as it was supposed to. Lindberg didnít last all that long, and the record, while good, didnít live up to the understandable hype. Now, with the original, relatively lackluster vocalist, The Crown has made the album that the last one was supposed to be. A very solid 8/10.

 

Related reviews:
 
Crowned in Terror (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

CSIHAR, ATTILA - The Beast of Attila Csihar - CD - Southern Lord - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This one will be a pretty big treat for anyone whoís even remotely a fan of Aborym or Mayhem. This best of record featuring Attila Csihar in all the various bands heís been in over his 15 year career is more than a mere compilation. Itís a virtual "from the vault" anthology, featuring many previously unheard or difficult to find tracks.

Attila Csihar (whom we interviewed in issue #14) is a living black metal legend. He somehow goes beyond many of the notaries of the Norwegian black metal scene: he has a certain unique sense of mysticism about him, and his artistic scope is broader. And he managed to rise to the highest rung of the black metal world despite coming from Hungary, where he had no musical scene to support him.

Csiharís work with nine different bands is represented here on 14 tracks (10 different bands if you count the mp3 of a Sunn 0))) track). Unfortunately, the band most represented here is that of his electronica project Plasma Pool, which really isnít very good. Itís goofy and frankly makes you wonder if itís a joke. You get the trademark Attila vocals, but itís on top of very weedy electronica melodies. Kind of like a far worse Kraftwerk but with absurd black metal vocals. Well, perhaps thatís up to you to decide, but one thing can be said about it, it certainly stands out the most of all the bands on the album.

The good news is that all the other tracks rule, especially the two early Tormentor songs (from 1988). The sound is raw and true, and for many, it will be the first opportunity to hear the songs, as old Tormentor albums are hard to find. Also on hand are tracks, alternate mixes and spontaneous jam sessions with Aborym, Limbonic Art, Mayhem, Korog (a Hungarian band Csihar joined in 2002 Ė the album is forthcoming), Professor Fate (a side project with Irrumator of Anaal Nathrakh), and Emperor.

And last but not least, the album is jam packed with an archive of photos of Csihar and friends from their earliest performances in 1986 to the present. In the end, The Beast of Attila Csihar may be a comp, but itís somehow more than that Ė like itís a slice of history. (8/10)

PS: Attila Csihar wants us to know that his label, Saturnus Productions, is up and running. Word has it the first thing to be put out is a re-release of Tormentor's first record.

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Abhi
 

CUNTGRINDER - Reign is Continued - CD - grindmaster_hippi@yahoo.de - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

The cover for this album is a spoof on Slayerís Reign in Blood with the addition of a few embellishments like an impaled teddy bear, a naked chick hanging upside down, a roasted chicken hanging upside down and an ass spraying out some white mist. When a band resorts to gimmickry like this, I tend to get overcritical about the band and just wait for a chance to tear them down. But this band didnít offer such a chance.

Cuntgrinder deliver some great, scorching grind with major sexual overtones. Like Profanation, this also boasts of a good sound, though I donít know whether this has been recorded at the same studio. However, Cuntgrinderís music is so much more effective than Profanation, mainly due to the better dynamics within each song. Luxl can blast like a madman, yet he maintains a level of tightness that borders on the unbelievable. The other members too play their part in making this grind contraption work, with the two guitarists playing some really fast riffs while a triple vocal attack adds some variety.

They have done a few covers, including an absolutely shredding version of Gutís "Cuntshredder" (and one of Saxon, too!!!). Also worth checking out is the 18th song entitled "Dildo Megawatt": their version of Slayerís "Raining Blood." Ah, well, the similarity lasts only for the opening riff and then the song literally explodes into a brief but intense grinding fury. Grind fans, this one is for you. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Stv
 

DARKLIGHT - I Know the End - CD - www.infaccia.com/darklight - 2003

review by: Steppenvvolf

I am still not sure if it's my stereo or the fact that this CD comes with quite some computer-readable stuff on it that makes it start off with six minutes of silence. Anyway, apart from this irritating oddity this CD is notable through and through, if only for the fact that the beginning of track two sounds like "Octopus's Garden" from the Beatles' Abbey Road, with Shirley Bassey's colorful deep voice from "Goldfinger" from the like-named James Bond movie mixed in...

The compositions are very multi-faceted. Sweeping from pretty, rough parts with guitars and drums to slower passages with delicate vocal parts, it takes up a whole set of different styles. Silvia's voice is very prominent throughout all songs, and despite her doing a great job with a lot of "soul" and coloratura, a little more restrained performance might have helped to give the album an a better sense of evenness.

Yet it is amazing how Darklight managed to combine her rather un-metalesque voice with the rest of the gang. If you listen to it more intently, you'll realize that the drumming is very elaborate (odd enough, somehow the snare sounds very dirty and punk-like).

This album needs intense listening, and even me, though being absolutely persuaded by this band, sometimes felt a bit exhausted from its many rhythm changes and the ever-prominent vocalist.

Unfortunately we're looking only at an album of 35 minutes, but as the contact info says, it's only five euros to order, which is a real bargain for this gem. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
(3.5/10 for the music, 8/10 for the lyrics) Jez
 

DBX (DAVE BROCKIE EXPERIENCE) - Songs for the Wrong - CD - Metal Blade Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

What would you expect from the brains responsible for the sick and twisted creature that was GWAR? Yup, more of the same sickness and perversion that endeared them to so many. Songs such as "Should the Ugly Girl Blow Me?" and "Hard for a 'Tard" show that Brockie (formerly known as Oderus Urungus) has by no means lost his touch.

It's a bizzare and amusing brand of punk rock that will make you grab the lyrics for every song, no matter what your opinion of punk. With lines like "Retarded chicks should be fucked and not heard," you might anticipate a little controversy, but it's not as if these guys are new to that game (once considered some of the sickest individuals in popular American culture).

For me, it's the comedy value that does it. (3.5 for the music, 8 for the lyrics)

 

 

 

 
6.6/10 Bastiaan
 

DEFACING - The Beginning of Human Cruelty - CD - Xtreem Music - 2004

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Defacing is actually pretty good, after you get past the rather shady production. Itís rampant and fast grindcore with a death metal flavour. Horribly generic for those that are already tired of the genre, but interesting enough for those always on the lookout for more of the extreme. However, this demo has only four songs, so unless you are a purist and want everything you can get, leave this demo alone and wait for their full length. (6.6/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

DENY LIFE - From the Ashes of Hate - CD - guillotpierre@hotmail.com - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Itís great to get promos by unsigned, DIY bands. Yeah, sometimes the music is great, but itís the glimpse into the personalities of the band members that is so fun.

Just this issue alone, Maelstrom has received DIY promos wrapped in a torn out page of a porn mag and a scientific form written in Russian. French screamo band Deny Life, whose first demo we adored, sends us their demo in a character sheet from some role playing game that fittingly combines martial arts and musical skills. Pierre Guillot, the organizer of the group, has just passed the equivalent of the French bar exam, he plays anarchistic RPGs, and heís the front man for one of the best screamo bands you may never have heard of. I love it!

The sound of From the Ashes of Hate is very raw. At times, if it were any rawer, the CD would be unlistenable. But it never goes there. Instead, the guitars maintain a precarious foothold on clarity and primal energy. Thankfully, the drums come across very clearly, with the toms being especially punchy. Same is the bass guitar, which is essential to come through on this kind of heavy music.

But Guillotís vocals is the gem of it all. Kind of like Barney Greenway if he had been raised in the wild by lions, Guillotís roar evokes strength and conviction. Itís muscular but not obnoxious or pretentious. His screamy parts are good, too.

On the last demo, Deny Life had a certain Bolt Thrower meets His Hero is Gone mixed with up-tempo punk attack. The music is a little different this time. The His Hero is Gone comparisons are certainly there, as much due to the vocals as anything, but the increased dynamics in speed and emotion make us think of All is Suffering, a hugely talented and underappreciated band. The latter has developed a bit further than Deny Life, but look out for this French group if they keep on going and stay true to themselves. (8/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Soundtrack to a Mass Riot (issue No 14)  

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

DESTRUCTION - Metal Discharge - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

We slammed Destruction pretty hard in review of their previous record, The Antichrist, saying that this once groundbreaking German thrash institution had inexplicably turned into one of the generic clones that it spawned. Unfortunately for hard core fans of the late, great, old school Destruction, the band that they love so much continues to be on hiatus. However, Metal Discharge is not without its good points.

Metal Discharge is much better than the redundant dorkfest of The Antichrist. There are a few good riffs and grooves to be found. And like all the Destruction records since the "rebirth" in 2000, the production and sound rocks hard.

But Schmier still doesnít sound like Schmier. He sounds like a thrash anyman. And thatís not right. Schmier, like the rest of the band, used to have a certain goofy quality to him, sort of like he partially didnít know what he was doing. It was all fresh and Destruction was making it up as they went along, thereby being original. Now, the thrash guidebook has long been written, and Destruction is merely a solid band following its cardinal rules. (6/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Antichrist (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
8/10 Jez
 

DEW-SCENTED - Impact - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

Dew-Scented have not put a foot wrong. Their uncompromising tempest of death influenced thrash is simply a wonder to behold, and <Impact> piles on the brutality thick and fast. Each album has been better than the last, and the band themselves have been criminally under-appreciated for their work. Yup, something is seriously wrong with metal today. But then again, if there was nothing to complain about in this world, things would be even worse.

The 11 tracks all have a certain flow to them, incorporating great use of bass drum rhythms alongside a traditional thrash style (the Slayer influence is hard to miss). The production suits the band very well indeed, but not something on which to comment at length.

"Slaughtervain" is the track that really stands out , but Impact hits the spot from start to finish. Dew-Scented are one of those bands who can only be fully appreciated on record once they have been witnessed live, but whether that opportunity is there or not, this album is a wise purchase (8/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Inwards (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
7/10 Tom
 

DIMENTIANON - Seven Suicides - CD - Paragon Records - 2003

review by: Tom Orgad

Aesthetically and conceptually, the awaited release of Dimentianon doesn't differ much from their 2k2 promo, reviewed in Maelstrom. Seven Suicides feature the same unique brand of raw, extreme metal numbing in its total absence of positive, humane elements.

When contemplating its essence, one should find the band's music inducing him to embark on a bitter, sober journey of self-exploration. Once having become used to their sporadic bundles of random atonal riffs, purposelessly sifting rhythms, somehow sloppy playing, noticeably live, untamed, chaotic atmosphere, lethargically intense vocals belching hymns of morbid phrases, either directly or allusively, around the immortal concept of suicide, the listener should gradually aim his attention at his own inner core of resumed essence. As an object, none of the band's pieces should be sufficiently unearthly in order to have a distinctive, colossal effect upon him.

However, being exposed for such a riotous, disarrayed havoc for a continuous period of time, its consequences shall reach him in an indirect, ironic manner: when losing focus of the album, allowing it to sink in the background, comes this realization: the music of Dimentianon is an agonizingly well-reflecting mirror of life Ė a praxis of cold, revolting, blunderingly geometric, at times horrific and grudging anger, aimlessly pointed outwards by all entities, engrossing the environment within its prevailing pathetic militancy.

When confronted with such a frustrating, realistic imagery, the gloomy, dismal ponderings are inevitable. Being unmediatedly faced with a refined, distilled stream of allegedly lively, active, powerful emotions, yet obviously and notably remaining distant and alienated, trapped within the distressing bounds of the lonely individual being, the repressed, ever present notion of the finite gateway is all of a sudden conjured and comes to mind. The menacing US trio has reached its fiendish goal.

Once again, an album such as this brings to mind the question regarding the significance of the original intention of the creating artist. Assuming that Dimentianon meant their album to genuinely, directly encourage suicide, they have obviously failed, joining hordes of similar bands performing linear phrases of pretended evil. The singular merit of their album stems from little but the resulting consequences of its subjective listening experience. Are they aware of it? Was it meant to be so? The discussion regarding the matter is vast and complicated, and shouldn't be dealt with here.

Those craving for a brilliant, glamorous, polished and involving musical creation should probably find Seven Suicides repelling. The ones looking for a basic, primitive outrage of mindless moshing may enjoy this, assuming they manage to overcome the lack of rhythmic cohesiveness. And finally, those seeking sophisticated, philosophically laden, sullenly hinting and idealistically haunting artistic creations Ė get this. At your own risk. (7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
2K2 promos (issue No 12)  

 

 

 
9.4/10 Jez
 

DIMMU BORGIR - Death Cult Armageddon - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

The field of black metal has seen much debate since the birth of the scene. There are those who believe that black metal died with Euronomous, and others who see the classic works of Mayhem, Burzum, and Darkthrone as nought but a drop in the ocean.

Some feel that incorporating keyboards into the style was a fatal error, and there are those who see it as a great virtue. So many questions that your seasoned black metal fan will ask themselves; is it true or false? Are they underground or commercial? We have reached a point where many cannot simply ask themselves, "Do I enjoy this music?"

Dimmu Borgir. Love them or hate them. The fact remains that they are a fantastic band in a league of their own. I was first bewitched when Godless Savage Garden was released, and once again, I find myself with a stunning album in my hand. What does it matter that Death Cult Armageddon wasn't recorded on a four-track, with a guitar sound comparable to the scrape of nails down a blackboard? I for one, as a fan of many underground bands, still consider them a jewel of the black metal crown. They know what they are doing when they go into that recording studio. They have the talent, the ideas, and they have still refused to infect their music with loops of techno samples.

With each listen, Death Cult Armageddon just gets better and better. The guitars are nice and heavy, the blastbeats and double bass drum assaults of Nick Barker are quite simply the tightest work this side of Morbid Angel, and the backing of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra has been used to great effect (more like a classical film score in places).

The soaring clean vocals of bassist 'Vortex' (Simen Hestnaes) are used more sparingly than on the last two albums, and on both "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" and "Heavenly Perverse," we are treated to the vocals of Immortal's Abbath.

Dimmu Borgir are a band who are by no means afraid to let their influences show through, with riffing styles harking back to some truly classic metal bands, such as Iron Maiden, Merciful Fate and Bathory. I don't think I've managed to spot a single moment of weakness on this CD, within it's "commercial" style, of course. I have the feeling that this band will remain one of my favourites for years to come.

If you're looking for wind tunnel screams and the true, cold, evil sound of the underground, then fair enough, this would not be your first port of call. Personally, I would just as soon pick this from my CD shelves as Nargaroth, Frozen Shadows or Thunderbolt. It's fantastic, and nothing short of what I would have wished for. Not perfection, but where can that be found? (9.4/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia (issue No 3)  

 

 

 
10/10 for DA fans, 5/10 for everyone else Roberto
 

DISCORDANCE AXIS - Perfect Collection - CD - Hydrahead Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This is one of those packages to die for. Perfect Collection is a compilation of a bunch of odds and ends throughout the now-defunct career of one of the undisputed gods of grind, Discordance Axis. Throughout 69 tracks, you get various EPs, splits with other bands, live tracks and rehearsal recordings. But what makes it really cool is how Hydrahead has decided to once again package a Discordance Axis album in a DVD case, which in this instance was essential to the goals that the label and band set out for themselves.

The 26-page, DVD sized booklet has lyrics and unique notes about every track on the album, along with new art, pictures, and the original artwork from the various recordings. The constant liner notes are interesting to read and help to engage you into the music.

The supreme irony, though, is that even with a lyric sheet, no one has any hope of following any of what is being said on the CD. Itís nothing short of curious considering how much the writer of the notes (who also wrote all the lyrics and, um, vocalized them) comments on how good or bad the lyrics are, or how such and such other band was more eloquent on the topic.

And, truth be told, the overwhelming appeal of this album is in fact the packaging, as the content of the CD itself is extremely repetitive. The songs are all essentially the same, and the only ones that stand out are the sort of joke songs like the slow "My Neighbor Totoro" and a spoken clip from "Akira Kurosawaís Dreams." The rest of the collected tracks pretty much differ only in their sonic values. For example, the tracks around 38-42 have super scathing vocals. The pace and fury of the tracks is dead on for sure, with Dave Witteís herculean blasting on showcase throughout. But Pig Destroyerís Prowler in the Yard this is not.

The end of the CD is a pretty big junkpile of a 20-minute live show mushed into one track, and some nigh-unlistenable mud from the bandís first rehearsal together that was probably caught on a hand recorder.

But that is the essence of this album release. Itís meant for Discordance Axis fans. And if youíre a rabid fan Ė and there are quite a few of you out there Ė there is no reason why you shouldnít get this. It will make you very happy. For the rest of you, you probably wonít need this album, as cool as its package is. Absolutely go for Discordance Axisí final studio record, The Inalienable Dreamless (reviewed in Maelstrom), which also comes in a DVD case with terrific booklet. Then figure out for yourself how much you might need Perfect Collection. (10/10 for Discordance Axis fans 5/10 for everyone else)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Inalienable Dreamless (issue No 2)  

 

 

 
8.3/10 Roberto
 

DIVINE RAPTURE - The Burning Passion - CD - Listenable Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

For almost all of The Burning Passion, Divine Rapture is a fine tuned death metal machine. Much of the bandís effectiveness is thanks to the existence of Morbid Angel, but with that said, Iíd reach for this record over Gateways to Annihilation any day.

And "passion" is the best possible word to be used for this disk, and for any quality extreme metal. And if thereís rapture to be found in incessantly callous, grim barbarity, and if this isnít it, then I donít know what is. The production soars as high as the thundering drums, screaming guitars and frightening vocals. Also check out the bits of Bach to be found in "Funeral Mist." Cool that someone other than a power metal band is incorporating some classical bits in its music.

And so, itís almost all great, except for the couple tracks where Divine Rapture decide to try to be the cheesy Renaissance Faire version of Lord Wind/ Graveland. Maybe theyíre trying to stick to the formula of "a bunch of hard songs, and then some ĎFriday the 13thí reject music, followed by some more hard songs" that Morbid Angel introduced. Whatever the reason, the really bad synth sounds and hilariously campy melodies are not only a baffling match for the rest of the record, but for ANY record, for that matter.

But nothing can detract from the fury of the other nine tracks. And all CD players conveniently come equipped with a skip button. (8.3/10)

 

 

 

 
9.4/10 Nikita
 

EARROTATOR - Holy Empire - CD - House of Renown - 2003

review by: Nikita

This album lives up to its bandís name. Rotate the ear, that is.

This music explodes into a place where pagan dancehall meets conscious intellect. This CD was released by two guys, Dave Barrows and Mark Schleunes. Their combined experience comes out of theatre, jazz and database science. The result is symbolic, merciless and totally original.

Most of the beats are canned but the final product fully transcends anything one would ever find in such a receptacle. This is an awesome collection whose subject matter is wildly current, smart and fearless. It confronts in large part Americaís indulgent aggression and the irony of its religious and humanitarian lip service.

Dave Barrows is playing a mix of classic and "outside the box" saxophone. The other featured instruments come and go in perfect cameo bits that serve the mood and message of each song. Itís techno AND itís totally satisfying for mind and body, especially if you love to funk it up while hopped up on the news of the day.

Listening to this CD is like listening to a radical political talk show that introduces historical and mathematical symbolism into a hot powered, hi-fi, techno, funk extravaganza. Their live shows totally benefits from the theatrical concept that make their music so original. Their audiences are hypnotized by the cool multi-media show and the compelling B&W CD cover design. It's deep and it's gonna get you going.

One cut says it all:

"Priest of the Abacus, Pray for us!"

Now, dance. (9.4/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Dave
 

ELEGY - Radio Ensemble - CD - Chairkickers Music - 2003

review by: Dave McGonigle%%

This release really requires some context, as the Elegy Radio Ensemble are not a band as such, but a collection of musicians who staged a 25 (!) hour improvised drone back in 2001 in Duluth in honour of a murdered friend. The two pieces on this EP are not extracts from that actual session, but two live "samplers" played on a local radio station as tasters for the session itself. Got all that? Good.

But of course you donít really need to know any of the above to simply appreciate and enjoy the music on the CD. The first is an orchestrated "drone" whose general feel will be familiar to everyone whoís ever bought a Godspeed! You Black Emperor record; whatís surprising is the level of intensity and emotion that the Ensemble bring to it. A slow-building track, it begins with a series of sustained notes played on the strings, combined with portentous drums in the background. As it progresses, several stringed instruments combine into a massive chordal drone, the drums become ever more insistent and a simple, delicate four-note phrase can be heard floating over the general hum. The effect is staggering potent and quite overwhelming; definitely not background music unless youíre desperately searching for a soundtrack to your latest performance art piece entitled "Armageddon."

All change for the second piece, which is more experimental and mood-based, but certainly no less powerful. Admirers of Plastikmanís recent forays into stripped-down techno and the Aphex Twinís shiveringly barren ambient will enjoy it: for the rest of us, thereís always the first track. Together, the two pieces are an intriguing document of the event, but sadly the limitations of the radio source of the recordings means that a lot of the subtleties of the performance are probably lost. I hear that thereís a documentary being made of the event, hopefully with better recordings; for now, this will suffice. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Condor
 

EMBRACE TODAY - Soldiers - CD - Deathwish Records - 2003

review by: The Condor

You gotta love straight edge. Seriously. I'm technically straight edge. Never smoked. Never done drugs. Never drank alcohol. EVER. But the one thing that kept me from identifying with straight edge is the music. It sucks. Always has.

Thankfully, straight edge, as well as punk rock in general, kept getting heavier and heavier and closer to actually being metal. So Embrace Today has that going for it, although at its heart this is still sort of old school, punky and fast, with lots of chug and pound, eye-wateringly wailing vocals.

My main complaint is the super brittle production (courtesy of Coalesce's Kurt Ballou) that sucks all the power right out. And then there's the cheesy airbrushed 9/11 cover art, complete with firemen and superimposed XXX's over the top. Whatever. There's some serious metallic mayhem potential but it's kept in check by the straight ahead punk structure. If you want some seriously crushing vegan straight edge fury try some Earth Crisis. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 for innovativeness, 3/10 for conceptuality Tom
 

EPHEL DUATH - The Painter's Pallette - CD - Elitist - 2003

review by: Tom Orgad

Combining an effort of aesthetic and conceptual musical experimentation with a predetermined, defined ideological theme is quite a problematic ambition, one often liable to fail. While the essence of experimentation stems from a core of exploration and spontaneous inventiveness, the confining, verbally stated limits commit the artists to a certain frame rendering their task, even if still possible, a notably more complicated one.

On their latest album, Ephel Duath have pretentiously tried to perform on both fields, causing their innovative and interesting, yet unripe musical output to appear as a much greater disappointment then it might have been.

Ephel Duath have taken on a multi-dimensional challenge. Musically, they feature an intriguing attempt of mixing aggressive extreme metal with jazz elements. Comparing several bands who have already created such amalgamations, to varying extents of success, Ephel Duath havenít settled for intertwining jazzy elements into their rooted compositions.

Theyíre still rooted in metal, but decide to base their whole creation upon (very well performed) jazzy drumming, over which are played alternating segments of pure avantgarde jazz, melodic vocals, screens of pummeling, distorted guitars, screaming vocals, as well as different combinations of both styles and more atmospheric bits.

The musicianship is more than competent, proving an impressive mastery of the band members on both complex free jazz and metal playing techniques. However, the compositions lack variety and cohesiveness; it seems that under the banner of exploration, no effort was put in the essential structuring and arranging of the contents of musical themes. The result is a dense, thick bulk of alternating complicated polyphonic interludes and blasting, overwhelming riffs, nearly deprived of any leading motives and central reference points, ironically reaching in its ideological lushness a state of indifferent monotony. This, indeed, could count as a conveyed message for itself.

While on Phormula Ephel Duath dealt with are sensual perception of the universe and its different implications, they have ascended to a somehow upper level, now examining our existential being within the world, our attempt to capture our manner of being and deciphering our enigmatic self, dealing with notions as irony, subconscious etc.

And yet, another concept is present: Corresponding with the albumís title, each track deals with a different color, supposing, according to the band, to represent a "sublimation of free interpretations,"presenting a unique feel and sensibilities.

Here, the contradiction is revealed: the concept of different "colors of existence," each demonstrating a different aspect of our perception, or perhaps even the notion of each human being the painter of his own existential image, may perfectly fit the lyrical expression, Ephel Duathís performance on both these aspects clashes with their conflicting musical implementation. A color is a definition, an enclosure of a truly subjective, intuitive way of interpretation of reality. Ideally, an album featuring such themes should feature different musical embodiments of our varied, dynamic views and states of facing our challenging burden of being. However, featuring a free group interpretation, being compelled to the liberated, rather free jazz frame, the band distressfully betrays the concept of subjectivity: dedicating themselves to the concept of experimentation and unprejudiced artistic exploration, neglecting the formation of a stiff compositional spine. On each piece they present quite an arbitrary, simultaneous bundle of varied subjective views of an abstract notion.

Not placing any limiting barriers, it all sums up to an average compromise of chaotic objectivity. In other words: besides the aforementioned interesting element of genre-crossing experimentation, the separated tracks, supposed to symbolize different colors, approaches and views, sound essentially insignificant, indecisive, repetitive and similar in their lack of distinctiveness or any actual crystallized statement.

Therefore, while being able to channel their resources for one main goal, be it aesthetic innovation or intellectual concept, Ephel Duath could produce either a satisfyingly unified album, or a more evolved and focused intriguing experiment. Instead, by trying to work on both levels in parallel, they mistakenly managed to express one notion: although we believe that our perception is composed of a palette of varied colors, actually, the difference is to be considered insignificant, existing in our surrounding space of random infinity. However, in order to internalize such notion, one doesnít need to get the latest Ephel Duath; he can simply sit and stare. (7/10 for innovativeness, 3/10 for conceptuality)

 

Related reviews:
 
Rephormula (issue No 9)  

 

 

 
5.5/10 Avi
 

ENCHANT - Tug of War - CD - SPV - 2003

review by: Avi Shaked

Enchant's seventh album, Tug of War, opens with the storming "Sinking Sand" - featuring a strong melody that flows naturally and beautifully from the energized sections to the more mellow ones, interesting solos and excellent singing from Ted Leonard.

The band has been around for quite a while, and it shows - they all sit in together well and tight, and each player can certainly handle his instrument in a professional form. For this album they abandoned some of their progressive ambitions and went for a more accessible sound.

The second song, "Tug of War," is a bit of a letdown. The Enchant sound relies heavily on melodies Ė certainly a thing to admire these days, and when the melody works (as on "Sinking Sand"), they sound superb. However, the melody on "Tug of War" isn't as strong, and the transition between the song's different sections sound somehow forced. It is on this track that the Manfred Mann (leader of the 70's progressive-rock band Manfred Mann's Earth Band) influence on the keyboards playing begins to surface - and it will come up again on other tracks, like "Living in a Movie." At certain points the band sounds like a metallic version of the 90's incarnation of Bad Company. What can I do? When there's not enough flesh to catch your focus, you instead play "spot the influence."

Which leads me to mention the obvious Dream Theater scent, especially on guitar, even if a word should be said in Douglas Ott's defense - he tries not to take it too far, and generally succeeds. Also, a hint of Steve Walsh in Leonard's high-register singing is noticeable every now and then.

It is the two first tracks that highlight the entire work Ė the album goes on with tracks that vary in the quality of their melodies and in the interest that they offer. "Holding the Wind" features a nice instrumental section on which the bass, keyboards and guitar trade leads. "Beautiful" is too simple, especially lyrically, and as a ballad it certainly suffers from it. In fact, none of the softer, ballad sections on this album are anything to be proud of (apart from the ones on the opening cut). Ed Platt's bass playing, however, brings some action into the song, as he does throughout the album, supplying great rhythm and most of the creative highlights. "Living in a Movie" is one of the album's weakest tracks Ė it suffers from banal lyrics as unfocused as the music. It is a track that seems to last forever; It is not the only one.

The album lasts for about 65 minutes, featuring only 10 songs, and since most of them lack any musical development or anything else that is overly refreshing, most of them are too long. In fact, even the album's only instrumental track, "Progtology," is tiresom Ė sure, the moody middle section, which transforms into an electric and bass guitar celebration is quite good, yet the first and the final sections of the track, which are quite similar, may cause the listener to lose his patience, especially with these annoying, cheap chapel keyboard effects.

Tug of War, once you get through the strong opening cut, is a "solid in being average" release, and although at times it has something to captivate the listener with (the bass playing in particular), it suffers largely from the length of its songs. If only they cut it down, it would have been more fun! (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

EXPLOITED, THE - Fuck the System - CD - Spitfire Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The latest record by this long-time punk outfit has got the right energy and attitude in place... but is it too much to ask for more than one simplistic song repeated 13 times?

Indeed, "too long" sums up all of Fuck the Systemís shortcomings. I understand up-tempo punk is all about the three chord progressions, that aggressive punk beat, and lyrics about taking down the man. But I dunno if I need this much of Exploitedís take on it. Even the undeniably rockiní, memorable opening song goes on about a minute and a half too long.

So, thereís not a whole lot of depth. Track 4, "Youíre a Fucking Bastard," sounds like the punk version of the "Fuck You, Uncle Fucker" song from "South Park: the Movie." The song has exactly *two* lyrics, the one in the title (about 75 percent) of the time, and "and a shit fuck, too" the remaining 25 percent.

But the record DOES rock. But it would be more effective if it could be broken up into six or seven parts and then thrown to the wind to land in various compilation albums. As an album youíd do much better to check out Driller Killerís And the Winner Is... if you want totally kick ass, up-tempo punk. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Condor
 

FIGURE FOUR - Suffering the Loss - CD - Solid State Records - 2003

review by: The Condor

Shouty, punky, fist pumping, testosterone soaked punk rock, that comes mighty close to being metalcore, but the shouted tough guy vocals and boom-bap-boom-bap punk rock tempos send Figure Four windmilling into an old school NY hawdcore mosh pit. Mediocre and sort of boring.

They do have a woman in the band, which is pretty remarakble in the manly world of punk rock/metal. But it's kind of depressing when that's the thing that stands out the most. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Tom
 

FOE - Arm Yourself with Clairvoyance - CD - House of Stairs - 2003

review by: Tom Orgad

The post-modern beast roams our world. It shakes the innermost foundations of our constructed perceptions and beliefs, the once-revolutionary notions of collision of moralistic values, instability of the sense of realized self, and presupposed subjectivity of every product of the human intellect.

Nevertheless, it is still intriguing to encounter new attempts of artistic representation of these disturbing ideas. Itís like experiencing the reflection of the bewildering sense of unguided straying within the realms of infinity as seen by the eyes of a different individual. Foe's latest release should be added to the never-ending, ever growing list of such efforts worthy of absorbing.

Foe, a British instrumental trio, bombards the listener with a generic, linear, usually one-dimensional array of throbbing, distorted guitar/bass riffs. The insidious, baffling element in their music is exceedingly notable and emphasized: their own path of deconstruction focuses on denying the principles of traditional occidental (and, actually, oriental as well) rhythm and harmony, most rarely combining within their plethora of dynamic phrases the familiar elements of non-chromatic scales or decipherable symmetric beat. Unlike numerous bands of extreme genres, Foe do not aim at generating an absolute whirlpool of frightening, disheartening chaos. They take on the more sophisticated, fastidious challenge of establishing their own local language, offering a supplement to the ones they actively deny.

Their sound and manner of playing remain constant and defined, featuring a rather clean and meticulously accurate output (also demonstrating laudable instrumental skills by all players). They choose to, although negating a few ideas, maintain a foundation of coherence and sonic cohesiveness. While surprising and disorientating the listener with their slippery volatility, the alternating and repeating phrases on each piece do attempt to adjoin one another in order to create a greater whole, thus giving life to a new (even if already similarly heard within the context of the math-rock genre and its derivatives) lexicon of self-defined values.

However, Foe doesn't manage to conquer the transcendental, mystical upper level of creation. This lack stems from a paradox bound to their own featured views, inevitably forcing the listener to explore unfamiliar realms in which his own mental conditioning of judgment and valuation are no longer valid. Therefore, his discriminating opinion Ė the one allowing euphoric, ecstatic pleasure as well as immersing disgust, is neutralized. Then, even if still capable of appreciating the meaning of such creation on the intellectual level, he is still left outside the heavenly realms of artistic elation.

The artist Ė in order to convey his manifest yet leave this blissful plot in the reach of the listenerís perception Ė must avoid his complete erosion to the parallel world of aesthetic terminology, imbedding within the hub of his pieces somehow familiar shards of the listenerís familiar environment. Thusly, the artist not only presents the listener with an alien batch of notions, but ironically proves the fragility of the listenerís own supportive views, forcing them to unavoidably yet willfully disintegrate.

This, Foe rarely attempt to do. In fact, on the few occasions when such effort is made (be it done consciously or not), glimpses of brilliance are clearly beheld. If they learn to evolve and expand this critical element of their art, they are bound to reach these yearned grounds more and more often, perhaps threatening the upper class of bands as King Crimson or Cheer Accident. In the meantime, you may as well enjoy this, even if not utterly essential, still interesting and quite good release. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Roberto
 

FOREST OF IMPALED - Forward the Spears - CD - Red Stream Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Itís been a while since the extreme metal world heard anything from Forest of Impaled. Thankfully, despite a long layoff and some personnel change frustration, the band have lost no steam in building on their great Demonvoid record.

Orcs are cool. And if youíre going to watch the second installment of the "Lord of the Rings" movie, the part with the attack on Helmís Deep, with the sound turned off, then there isnít a better album to put on than Forward the Spears.

Itís a perfect album title, really. Images of spiked implements of war wielded by barbaric, inhuman hordes as they roll like waves over the hilly countryside come up throughout the albumís 10 tracks. New drummer Duane Timlin (of Judas Iscariot fame) greatly contributes to the mood with rumbling drum work that features a strong medieval military vibe.

As always, Forest of Impaled incorporates some melody in their music every now and again. And as always, it works both in pacing the album and in the melodies themselves. Forest of Impaled has always been somewhere between the US and European styles of blackened death, and they take the best elements from all to make something original and worthwhile. Iíve been listening to Forward the Spears a lot lately - more than anything else, for that matter. You will, too. Recommended. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Bastiaan
 

FROZEN AUTUMN - Emotional Screening Device - CD - Eibon Records - 2002

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Goth-pop, who knew it still existed? Actually, if you look close enough, you can find many bands that still try to hold the melancholic flame up high. Frozen Autumn is one of them.

This dynamic Italian duo managed to get stuck somewhere in the 80s and are now making good use of that. This release is about as generic as you can get in the genre, but it offers some interesting moments none the less.

You can pass on this album unless you are one of the "dark romantic" persuasion. But even if you are than I suggest you to spend your money on something else (on good electro-pop bands like Diary of Dreams). (5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Pale Collection (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
5.5/10 Roberto
 

GAIA EPICUS - Satrap - CD - Sound Riot Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Sound Riot Records has a pretty interesting little trend going of releasing uncommon power metal. First we got Requiemís debut, and now Gaia Epicusí Satrap. Like Requiem, Swedish Gaia Epicus plays music clearly in the European power metal style, but with more than a few unique and interesting variations on the tried and true, be it an unusual break, arrangement, or use of melody.

However, all that Gaia Epicus might have going for it is almost totally ruined by the singer, who has good melodies but not the talent to convey them properly. (The clichť lyrics and heartfelt but smarmy song about loving heavy metal donít help, either)

Itís a real shame and yet another example that power metal bands must be built around the vocalist. No matter how good the rest of the band is, itís all wasted if the singer makes you wince. Take Vigilante from Japan as the perfect example. The most amazing music is almost entirely ruined by "youíve got to be kidding me" vocals. For these bands, we can only hope for next time. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.2/10 Roberto
 

GORGOROTH - Twilight of the Idols - in Conspiracy with Satan - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Satanism and lyrics praising it used to make a big splash. Singing about being on Satanís side WAS the big ticket for Venom. But over the 20 years since, itís gradually been diluted to the point where itís beyond run-of-the-mill. What was once unsettling or taboo became positively bland and silly.

But thereís still something genuinely scary about Gorgoroth. Like, they really *mean* it. The Satanic conviction comes across very strongly in the vocal performance of Ghaal, who is like public enemy #1 now in the black metal world.

Gorgoroth has always had intense, brilliant vocals, and the music to match. Think of Under the Sign of Hell and Destroyer. Simple, eminently effective music. Gorgoroth sticks to that formula on Twilight... Raging black metal that sounds like being caught under violent sheets of rain. Thick, buzzy guitars. And those desperate, hate-filled vocals.

In Gorgorothís body of work, Twilight of the Idols is not their best record. Not even close. It doesnít have the raw candor of Under the Sign... or the striking noisiness of Destroyer, but itís not a disappointment. It is more polished, but less so than the previous record, Incipit Satan. Yes, Satanic album titles and songs often seem like theyíve breathed their last breath, but when Gorgoroth does it, it feels nothing short of the upholding of tradition. (7.2/10)

 

 

 

 
3.8/10 Jason
 

GLASSEATER - Everything is Beautiful When You Don't Look Down - CD - Victory Records - 2003

review by: Jason Thornberry

The guitars in the opening seconds of the first song felt good, with their double-tracked riffing arriving in metallic chunks, but when the singing started I stopped.

If emo is truly dead, someone tell our friend here. The rest of Glasseater know.

Like a smart jacket, shirt, tie, trousers, but a pair of sand-caked flip-flops, the lack of momentum, of consistency, made this album seem to last several hours. And thatís only good when youíre feeling it. (3.8/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Stv
 

GRAVEWORM - Engraved in Black - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2003

review by: Steppenvvolf

I see myself jumping backwards off a skyscraper at night in slow motion. As my arms stretch out, they form a cross with my body. Against the sea of lights below, only my silhouette can be seen.

After a couple of rather dull guitar strokes, a solemn keyboard sequence on Gravewormís Engraved in Black evoked exactly those images.

Thick distortion, sustained guttural growls and clear double bass drums at moderate tempo are enough to form a dense and heavy atmosphere all over. To get a better idea of what weíre talking about, think of Graveworm as Crematory`s (RIP) sinister brothers-in-spirit.

Listening to this album, you`ll find yourself overwhelmed more than once by feeling of there being a sudden break in the flow of time; the song takes a snapshot of it and prolongs it to eternity, just as described in the vision in the first paragraph.

Graveworm`s work is definitely not outstanding in terms of intricate composition work with manifold patterns or solo parts, but also, you won`t find yourself waiting for any better in any one of the aformentioned qualities. You`ll simply love it for how it is. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
6.8/10 Roberto
 

GRIMFIST - Ghouls of Grandeur - CD - Candlelight Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

So, Immortal broke up and the entire metal loving staff at Maelstrom is in tears. Well, perhaps we can give our hankies a chance to dry out a little with the release of the debut Grimfist album, which features none other than super loveable Immortal drummer Horgh. He might not look like a giant tuna anymore without his Immortal makeup, but his photos are still as wonderfully goofy as ever, and he can fucking play. But is the record all we hope it will be? Letís take a closer look.

Grimfist is without a doubt a series of rapid fire punches. It shreds and rages along throughout its entirety, and Frediabloís vocal performance is well done, even the amusing, high pitched metal singing/shrieking on "A World of Wrath."

So Ghouls of Grandeurís songs are without question accomplished extreme metal compositions. But beyond that, thereís not that much depth to them. They "kick ass," but listeners with thousands or even hundreds of albums in their collection might not get more than two listens out of Grimfist. Something to consider. (6.8/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Dave
 

GROWING - The Sky's Run Into the Sea - CD - Kranky - 2003

review by: Dave McGonigle

Letís get straight down to business and dispense with all of the exposition (i.e. waffle) - this album just isnít as good as I had anticipated. Granted, my hopes had been unfairly raised by a number of factors: Growing are on Kranky records, usually a high watermark for all things post and rock; parts of the album, at least, are frustratingly good; and, well, el jefe liked the record. So whatís my goddamn problem, eh?

Well, while all the correct ingredients for a great album are present and correct, the all important contributions cohesion, purpose, and identity are not. On The Skyís Run into the Sea, Growing (a trio from Olympia, WA) wear a lot of their influences on their sleeves while forgetting to actually craft something new and/or remarkable with them. In this bizarre transformer of a record ("Look, this song can be a drone, a metal riff, or a strange mangling of a Beatlesí track! Thanks, Bandai!"), the band crafts complex tracks of guitar, bass and minimal electronics that argue and spit about what theyíre going to be once they grow up.

Itís like listening to someone whoís trying desperately to remember quotes from books that youíve both read; youíve heard pretty much everything that they have to say, and their strangled, faltering repetition of it only reminds you how much better it all sounded the first time around.

Itís not exactly bad, though: for your money, you get a smorgasbord of late 90s/early 00s drone-, post- and ambient-rock flourishes that go on for a very long time, mixed together with all the tender loving care of the mayonnaise guy at McDonalds. The worst things about the album are the small moments when an interesting riff or texture comes along, only to be buried in the miasma. One is left with the lasting impression that thereís probably a good album in Growing, but itís certainly not this one. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.2/10 Jez
 

HARMONY DIES - Impact - CD - Morbid Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

Harmony Dies sound like they had a decent battle plan when recording this latest dish of hyperspeed death metal, with the exception of the slightly flat drum sound .

It's furious and brutal as fuck, each track spitting out the raw essence of uncompromising death metal. I find most satisfying to discover a band who are worthy of high praise within any scene, and it's safe to say that this kind of quality keeps the genre alive and (double) kicking. The music is neither complex nor diverse, but it has just the right kind of anger to carry the songs across nicely.

If Impact had been given the same sound treatment as Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness, then songs like "Silence" and "Farewell" would have people throwing up their vital organs at fifty paces. The album still packs an almighty punch however, and something is seriously wrong if it doesn't lift Harmony Dies into the upper leagues of the global death metal scene. (8.2/10)

 

 

 

 
8.3/10 Jez
 

HAVOCHATE - This Violent Earth - CD - Root of All Evil Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

Thrash metal has been experiencing something of a revival over the past few years. It's been down to a few different factors. For one, the fact that the hits of Slayer, Metallica and Sepultura were still constantly aired in rock clubs throughout the nineties, even when thrash was considered a thing of the past, and the aforementioned giants had fallen from grace like dominoes. Secondly, bands of the death and black metal persuasion would never forget that which once inspired them. Personally, I think it was mostly because of the many who re-discovered something old in their quest for something new.

HavocHate are a band who clearly know how to celebrate such a revival, and This Violent Earth sounds fucking gorgeous, tweaked to perfection by none other than master axeman/producer James Murphy. They may sound suspiciously like Testament clones at times, but sheer quality is enough to divert attention from that. The classic chug of the riffs and spot-on overall reverb makes this a memorable album for 2003.

This isn't really one for the speed freaks out there, but the material honestly doesn't require breakneck speed to make an impression. It certainly is a thrill to hear a new sound that conjours up the skin-tight jeans, fully patched denim jackets and Reeboks, while maintaining a stern modern day integrity. (8.3/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Condor
 

HELVIS - Reverence the Sacrifice - CD - Loudspeaker Records - 2003

review by: The Condor

Been hearing about this group for a while now as it features members from UK noiserockers Iron Monkey and Pitchshifter. Neither of those bands ever did that much for me, so I wasn't expecting too much. And it sounded pretty much how youíd expect (although no electronic weirdness, which the Pitchshifter connection might have you expecting).

Amphetamine Reptile-style drunken, noisy scumpunk, a musical set of brutal brass knuckles to the jaw. Thuggy, sloppy, punky, almost Misfits-y noise rock brutality with crunchy riffs, growly, guttural vocals, fuzzed out bass, and pounding caveman drumming. Like a sped up/revved up Eyehategod, or a less sludgy Iron Monkey. Pretty cool, but nothing too earth shattering. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
8.3/10 Roberto
 

HORSE THE BAND - R. Borlax - CD - Pluto Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

There was once this band called Xerobot. They were perhaps *the* weirdest, most retarded sounding band ever. Like, it was so weird and cool that it began to warp the fabric of time and space around your person until you were awestricken by the uniqueness of what your ears were picking up. Like, it was so off-the-wall and whacked-out that it was art. Crazy, barely in control, angular music and the most oblique vocal interjections ever, including the unforgettable "weíre too tough to paint!" screamed over and over. You canít find this record anywhere.

Horse the Band may not be as weird as Xerobot, but thereís something about Horseís sound that made me think of them. Really, really bizarre, technical music with brain aneurism vocals and epileptic constructions.

Then Horse the Band throws in prog keyboards. The same kind that sound totally gay in all the prog bands that use them. Except here, they sound really great, proving that if you use anything intelligently or creatively, itíll work. In fact, Horse would be nowhere without their keyboard player, and how many other aggressive, heavy bands can you say that about?

The best songs of R. Borlax are clearly at the beginning, with "Cutsman" being the best of those. The second half is a bit less remarkable, either because Horse the Band tries to get too weird than they can pull off for their own good, or maybe simply because their material isnít quite as strong. Regardless, from the packaging to the music, R. Borlax is a unique album well worth checking out. (8.3/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

HOUSE OF LOW CULTURE - Edward's Lament! - CD - Neurot Recordings - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

House of Low Cultureís debut album stands as one of the better drone/ambient records out there. Guitar-based, it succeeds in being drony while at the same time offering the listener something to relate to through the familiarity with the sound of an electric guitar. Other guitar-based dronesters are out there Ė most notable of all being Sunn. But the unique signature style of Houseís Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom) makes the riffs and mood more immediately palatable.

Fast forward three years to the sophomore album, Edwardís Lament! The first track may cause some worries that Turner has junked his vision and gone the way of innumerable noise artists with directionless, abrasive sound, but showing some patience (track 2 and beyond) proves otherwise.

Turner has built on the very solid frame that held up the House of Low Culture sound on Submarine Immersion Techniques (the first album), which succeeded in its simplicity. Now, the sound has more layers and colors, as well as a few ambient noise pieces, to go along with what sounds like the national anthem of all drones.

One of the things that House of Low Culture does really well within this framework of ambient drone (or noise) is make music that is an exemplary representation of the genre, but isnít alienating. Houseís music is comforting and soothing, yet simultaneously engaging and stimulating. Another great record. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
4.3/10 Roberto
 

IN DYING DAYS - After The Fire - CD - One Day Savior Recordings - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The intensity of the blast beat-fueled moments of the first few seconds of After the Fire seems like itíll rise above the crowd of the group of samey metalcore acts that seems to be growing by the day. But unfortunately, what turns out to be is that In Dying Days is just another metalcore band that screams and smashes and gets wayyyy boring. The five-song album is 20 minutes long and you wouldnít mind it ending halfway through track three. (4.3/10)

 

 

 

 
8.7/10 Bastiaan
 

INSISION - Beneath the Folds of Flesh - CD - Wicked World - 2003

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

If you glance over and take a look at todayís death metal scene, you will find that unless you are willing to spend hours digging to find something decent, it has become a rather dull and uninspiring affair; bands are popping up like vile weeds everywhere, all trying to get a piece of the action but rarely leaving the listener satisfied with their redundant version of what has been done for years and years.

However, since you are one of those that is willing to dig a little, I suggest you check out Beneath the Folds of Flesh, as it is truly something fresh and exciting. Combining the speed and brutality of standard death metal guitar work with a more funky drum style that delivers interesting rhythms with high precision, this album works from start to finish. If you listen carefully this album is highlight upon highlight.

These five Swedish lads outdid most Death Metal bands walking about these days (including label-mates Morbid Angel) and created what could very well be the extreme metal release of the year. A stunning and impressive debut album. (8.7/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

IRON AND WINE - The Sea & the Rhythm - CD - Sub Pop Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The Sea & the Rhythm continues right where The Creek Drank the Cradle (review in issue #14) left off - and thankfully so. Soft country music with whisper vocals soothe the savage beast.

Like all the other country that we review in Maelstrom, this is not to be confused with the general, mainstream notion of "country": songs about how my baby done up and left, sung by guys who are physically unable, by law, to *not* wear cowboy hats - even in their jammies. No, this is nothing like that. Call it alt-country, or better yet, call it folk - American style.

Iron and Wine, in particular, is just Sam Beam and his one acoustic guitar, playing one or maybe two very simple riffs and delivering lilting, hypnotic vocals. Our girl Larissa Parson likened Iron and Wine the ideal thing to put on while swinging on the front porch - and thatís the truth.

The vocals are a lot like the pretty stuff that Simon and Garfunkel immortalized, but obviously without the harmonies. But the vocals of the two are effective in a similar way. Timeless, the sound of Beamís voice makes you long for the simple, comforting world that Iron and Wine exists in.

In the midst of all this angst-ridden, extreme metal listening, we all *need* records like Iron and Wineís The Sea & the Rhythm. I know I do. (8/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Creek Drank the Cradle (issue No 14)  

 

 

 
4.6/10 Roberto
 

JEZABEL - Legiones del Sur - CD - Cruz Del Sur Music - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The sophomore jinx has hit fledgling label Cruz Del Sur pretty hard. Their first production, Pharaoh (review last issue), ruled, but Jezabelís got more than a few suspect aspects about it that make it one to pass over.

Classic power metal stylings for sure, but if your singer isnít all that great, then youíre dead in the water. And for 68 minutes, Jezabelís frontman delivers a long albumís worth of a backup singer doing lead vocals. And the clueless melodies and wailing, wandering delivery are the metal equivalent of bad R&B singing.

Someoneís also got to put an end to the kind of keyboards found in Legiones Del Sur. If youíve heard Finnish power metal or prog metal youíll know about this. Keyboards that sound like theyíre made out of Lego blocks have no place in any kind of music that uses the adjectives "heavy" or "power" to describe itself.

Jezabel might have an audience in those disgusted with the contemporary styles of heavy metal, and the fact that all the lyrics are in Spanish is a charming point. However, said fans of the genre will always be looking for a good vocal performance before anything else, and those fans will probably be happier looking elsewhere. (4.6/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Matt
 

KILL 2 THIS - mass.[down.]-sin.[drone.] - CD - Plastichead Records - 2003

review by: Matt Smith

Well, this album started out promisingly. The drums and guitars are extremely tight, and the clear-sounding production helps bring the technicality forward. However, the vocals ruin the CD. The banal lyrics are sung with a bit of gritty seriousness that only serves to piss the listener off. Thereís practically no growling (which is a blessing, really, Ďcause when it does make an appearance itís not worth listening to at all), and the singing does nothing but suck.

Acoustic instruments are featured on some tracks for the more reflective, ballad-y sections, again ruined by the lame vocalist. However, the acoustic touches along with some electronic elements add some good variety. The guitars and drums clearly know what theyíre doing Ė they stay in perfect sync and bring some heaviness to the table, as well as some nice touches of technicality (especially from Steve Rooney on the drums). Though thoroughly enjoyable (minus the vocals), thereís nothing revolutionary on this release. Iíd much rather listen to Soilwork.

Iíll give it a 5, though it couldíve easily been a 6 or 7 if the vocals were more palatable and some less poppy-sounding rhythms were thrown in. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
???/10 Tom
 

KK NULL - Atomic Disorder - CD - Neurot Recordings - 2003

review by: Tom Orgad

As the concept of art becomes gradually vague and abstract, therefore permissive and inclusive, the world rapidly progresses towards a state in which every form of expression may be considered an artistic product, deteriorating the notion of art to a valueless term. In order to create "visual art" all one has to do is to produce a visible entity, whatever it may be; in order to be a musician, all he should do is make himself audible.

This chaotic situation, reinforced by the monstrous progression of technology, confronts us with an innumerable abundance of artists. Nowadays, anyone interested in committing an act of public self expression, be it due to truly pure, idealistic urges or simply a yearning for recognition, is able to easily do so. However, as the spare time we allocate for such exploration of art ever remains finite, the benefit derived from of the phenomenon is quite limited. On the other hand, we inevitably find ourselves drowning in the accumulating heaps of potential, possible genius, simultaneously being flooded by enormous amounts of junk.

Being placed in such a frustrating position, one has to narrow his choices. The most practical method for such a selective process, leaving aside the desperate alternative of total randomness, is, as ever, following well renowned names of artists.

In terms of choosing wisely amongst the avant-garde and experimental genres, this selective method becomes crucial. Many of the products of these genres require no technical abilities or professional musicianship, but merely the most common home computer handling skills. The recording of such abstract musical pieces may be completed, at times, in nothing more then a few hours. But he who has renown based on past achievements is granted the collective affirmation to be heard.

KK Null is a good example of this. Being active in the avant-garde scene for over 20 years, getting to cooperate with leading icons such as John Zorn, Steve Albini and Fred Frith, he has rightfully earned his life long position of a recognized, credible activist.

Atomic Disorder is constructed of ten tracks of exclusively computerized, synthesized sounds. No melodic or harmonic elements are featured on the album. The sonic timbre is rather homogeneous. It sounds as if KK Null has deliberately strived at establishing a representative array of childish, archetypal sonic symbols of alleged modernism and technological progress, founding and applying an aesthetic glossary of overstated, extremely shallow, inhuman and cynical engineered voices. Each different active being in the sounds may no longer be described as either an instrument or a defined part played by one. All are simply sound effects.

This minimalist arsenal of expression is, again, applied in a rather limited variety of manners. Most of the tracks present an organized, methodical rhythmical structure of insignificantly evolving mathematical patterns; others depict an undisciplined image of straying, disjointed, geometrical sonic formations, lacking any unified common denominator; some are completely arbitrary, or simply indolent and lethargic. Nevertheless, it seems as if KK Null has skillfully, menacingly denied the possibility of the album to be atmospheric or to serve as background music: the sounds are usually screeching and squealing, causing a sheer physical inconvenience for the sensitive human ear. It may have many possible meanings; surely, it wasn't meant for calm, carefree enjoyment.

A creation such as Atomic Disorder leaves much room for subjective interpretation; the artist has given birth to the object, leaving each of us to derive from it an absolutely personal, singular meaning. For e, some parts sound like a deviated longing for childhood symbolism, sounding similar to the innocent, magical imagery of war in the eyes of the infant of the pre-CNN era, a battle in which the guns fire luminous laser-rays and bear no casualties.

Alternatively, KK Null may have attempted to explore the world of mechanism and its relation to the human mind: perhaps his allegedly cold and estranged scene is actually a sobered, unprejudiced view of our existence as predetermined, meaningless, vain, biological machines?

Another possible analysis, even if a rather trite one, is the album being a cry against the uncontrollably expanding, outraging technology and its monstrously widening effect on our lives.

On the other hand, it also may include a much more personal statement: the refined effects/sounds on the album possibly symbolize the world of a person emotionally or physically detached from his ideal of ultimate, flowing existence, being able only to experience artificial, peripheral consequences of the truly significant event, ever frustratingly remaining outside the reach of his grasp.

Either way, one shouldn't forget that the album offers little more than intellectual pondering. The listening experience is rather dull and unpleasant, not properly rewarding the listener for enduringg its monotonous sequence. However, it was made by no other than the famous KK Null. (???/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Jez
 

LABYRINTH - Labyrinth - CD - Century Media Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

The last time I heard Labyrinth was 2000's Sons of Thunder. And while Labyrinth is a vast improvement, there are still a few things left wanting. As I have said many times, power metal is no longer as simple as once it was. A power metal band must have something truly exceptional in their armoury to make their mark in this day and age.

This particular Italian ensemble have been quite inventive in many respects, including their use of slap bass and colourful keyboard tracks, but so much about this album can be found in so many others. Roberto Tiranti's vocals, for instance. I mean, the guy may be an accomplished singer, but there's no distinctive style there. Is it any wonder that bands like Blind Guardian, Nightwish and Rhapsody have received such acclaim? All of them have forged a sound of their own.

The Ibiza intro to "Synthetic Paradise" doesn't help matters, whether it was intended as a joke or not. To their credit, Labyrinth do seem to have absorbed some kind of Dream Theater influence, particularly within "Hand in Hand," which I would have to name as the strongest track. No doubt this will go over a storm in mainland Europe, but remember this: the term "melodic metal" has been used to peddle a lot of suspect material. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.2/10 Roberto
 

HATE FOREST - Purity - CD - Supernal - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Try to explain to a non-extreme metal fan how your favorite bandsí albums all sound the same, and youíll get confused looks. But itís true: if we like one song by a band, then we donít mind if the band keeps playing that same basic song over and over again.

But itís trickier than it seems. Ironically, thereís some fine line to toe over making an album the same yet making it different. Seems logically impossible.

Anyway, letís look to Hate Forest for a nice guide to this dilemma. All of Hate Forestís albums up till now have done the exact same thing. Thick, churning vocals over fast, abrasive, black metal guitar, and a drum machine. And Purity is no different.

However, past Hate Forest albums seemed to have this quality of needing to be remixed. It was all a little too much about the vocals. Purity fixes all that and delivers the best overall sound this Ukranian one man project has done yet. Also thrown into the fold are improved slower parts that donít lose any of the faster bitsí intensity.

So the redundant realm of Hate Forest is safe. And as always, you get mysterious, black and white artwork depicting alien, austere nature. I donít think anyone would have it any other way. (7.2/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Most Ancient Ones (issue No 9)  

 

 

 
6/10 Stv
7.5/10 Roberto
 

LEVIATHAN - The Tenth Sub-Level of Suicide (vol. 2) - CD - Moribund Records - 2003

review by: Steppenvvolf

Don't mistake this album as a reissue of a Leviathan record previously reviewed in Maelstrom. The title is indeed the same, but all songs are brand new.

Leviathan accounts for an unbelievable 18 albums to date, and I am honestly at a loss of how to precisely distinguish this one from all the others. In this album Leviathan has adopted a more conciliatory sound, though this album would nonetheless traumatize most people, who would try to immerse it along with their entire stereo in a font of holy water. But all in all, It just doesn`t have so much of this dripping, coarse, dying out atmosphere to it like previous Leviathan works do.

This is not to be read as a disparaging remark on Leviathanís work. Recently I have begun to understand Leviathan as something of an organic, living beast, searching, preying, digging, dismantling, digesting and reforming manís feared dark sides. The music goes for your soul and unerringly lays bare the abysses of your alter ego. The phlegm you get with its songs.

If you`re one of those craving for more from forgotten chasms you should get this album. Otherwise keep to Leviathanís previous release, Verršter, which is sort of the refined version of earlier albums. (6/10)

review by: Roberto Martinelli

There *is* something curious about the new Leviathan. But that may have a lot to do with how familiar you are with the bandís huge body of work.

The Tenth Sub-Level of Suicide (volume two Ė volume one being self-released and practically impossible to find) is the best produced Leviathan yet. Itís still all recorded on a four track, but those recordings have been taken to a professional studio and improved. As a result, the sound is fuller and thicker.

However, the material itself is pretty run-of-the-mill as far as Leviathan is concerned. Itís a bit of a shame that the best of both worlds couldnít come together for this occasion. But thereís somehow more to it than this. There are re-recorded pieces that appeared on previous recordings, such as "The Idiot Sun" (from Leviathan #12, Howl Mockery at the Cross) and "At the Door of the Tenth Level of Suicide" (from volume 1). And improved as the sound may be, the original recordings are superior.

But this is all from the perspective of a long-time Leviathan fan. Due to the scarcity of the unsigned recordings, most people will be beginning their exploration of this marvelous band with the album reviewed here. And the core values still remain the same. Leviathan is simply some of the best black metal anyone could ask for, even if the album sounds retread and relatively uninspired. Keep in mind that average for some bands is unreachable for others.

However, there are other Leviathan recordings out there that are readily available. So our recommendation is to probably start with Verršter (reviewed in Maelstrom) and accumulate from there. The sound varies wildly, but the compositions are better. However, it is clear that you couldn't go wrong by picking up Moribundís release of The Tenth Sub-Level of Suicide. (7.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Misanthropic Necro Blasphemy (issue No 3)  
Shadow of No Light (issue No 3)  
Seven + Slaveship (issue No 5)  
Nine (Inclement Derision) (issue No 5)  
Ten (issue No 6)  
Intolerance (Eleven) (issue No 7)  
Howl Mockery at the Cross (issue No 8)  
White Devil, Black Metal (issue No 8)  
The Tenth SubLevel of Suicide (issue No 11)  
Verršter (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
5.9/10 Roberto
 

LIFE IN YOUR WAY - The Sun Rises and the Sun Sets...and Still Our Time is Endless - CD - Indianola Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The Sun Rises and the Sun Sets...and Still Our Time is Endless has a pretty package and layout, but essentially Life in Your Way boils down to being Hopesfall, but at 2/3 strength in everything they do. If you havenít heard yet, think metalcore, but not the brutal kind, with lots of clean guitar interludes and clean singing. Life in Your Way is more on the emo side in their lyrics, and do have a part or two that would be worthy of being on a Hopesfall record.

And while being a poor manís Hopesfall is still not too bad, thereís no strong case that you really need this. Sure, Life in Your Way does stretch for a little originality with a piano outro, but wouldnít you rather have something wholly original? Thereís plenty of it out there. Of course, if the sun rises and sets with Hopesfall as far as youíre concerned, then go for it. (5.9/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Jez
8/10 Mladen
 

LORDI - Get Heavy - CD - Drakkar Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

It's a sorry state of affairs when a Wacken festival appearance is the only way I got to hear about such a fantastic band. For all curious parties, Lordi are a Finnish metal outfit whose image is essentially a horror comic style a la Rob Zombie, except more theatrical.

The music itself, given the current climate, I would consider a work of genius. Take the basic rocking style of Kiss and mix it with the defiant snarl of Motley CrŁe and Twisted Sister. Now bring it into the modern day with a pounding crunch on the guitar and some keyboard tracks that nicely thicken out the sound.

I suppose that Get Heavy would make an ideal soundtrack to a haunted house ride, going purely on the song themes. Beyond that, every single track is just irresistibly catchy in a way that is rarely found these days.

Think Hey, Stoopid-era Alice Cooper, although Lordi seem to stand as one of a kind in the new millennium. They dress as ghouls and zombies, and grace us with such ribcage rattlers as "Would You Love a Monsterman?" and "Rock the Hell Outta You."

To start with, you've naturally got to be curious about a band who sing the words "The devil is a loser and he's my bitch."

The attitude exuded by the music is worth the price of the album on its own, and the quality of their presentation can't really be disputed. I can well imagine the reluctance of the many to take Lordi seriously. Different story fifteen years ago. I would simply say that they rock.

At the end of the day, it's just got to be appreciated on a different level to most bands because no other bands emerging these days are anything like them, and in most cases, those who influenced them have been moving with the times. I think the last comparison that could have been made was with GWAR, and even that is a pretty loose comparison.

Basically, just pour a glass of your favourite poison, kick back to "Monster Monster" or "Not the Nicest Guy" at full volume, and you'll feel that smile spread across your face. Or you'll feel yourself fighting it. (9/10)

review by: Mladen äkot

(review added 8/2008)

After Finland's debacle on this year's Eurosong contest, it is safe to assume that the pop-whatever audience still isn't ready for real metal. Although it was a pleasure to see Terasbetoni, with all the headbanging, two bass drums and proud vocals doing their heavy metal thing in front of an audience of millions, very few votes went into their direction. The Lordi phenomenon happened only once, and probably never again will. You might say that they are not metal at all, but, even if so, metal fans don't mind to be entertained once in a while.

You will find many respected musicians going crazy over KISS, WASP, Accept (okay, Accept ARE metal) or Twisted Sister ó and there is a little of each in Lordi, but mostly, there is something monstrous in them.

Now, don't expect to hear a goregrind band. Lordi's philosophy was very simple: to create a band they'd like to see on stage. They look like monsters for the 21st century, and I know a pesky 13-year old Christian girl who still claims they are repulsive and offensive. For the civilized world, Lordi are just hilarious, brainless, headbanging fun. They aren't trying to be anything else, and for people who miss the innocent '80s stadium hard rock/metal, they are the modern solution.

Of course it's necessary to look awesome onstage. But not like idiots ó if KISS look like leather machine tarts and sing about love and parties, and WASP like chainsaw weapons while singing about being sex beasts, Lordi are doing the whole deal. Wanna hear what monsters sound like when monsters have fun? That's Lordi. It's all ridiculous nonsense, but what a grandiose one. "The Devil is a loser, and he's my bitch..."? Hell, yeah.

Of course you can't separate their image from their music, and there's no need to. Would you still like Dark Funeral without the corpsepaint, or the sight of Gorgoroth in Capris and sandals? How about Slayer onstage, wearing suits? Thought so. Absorb the image, have a chuckle and forget about Gwar... at least I have never met anyone who has ever heard them, but some sources say they sound nothing like Lordi. Turn up the volume and enjoy.

What you get is straightforward and simple, deafening mid-tempo hard rock with a catchy chorus, and totally sing-along, fist-punching melodies. The riffs are effective and minimal (try to play anything harder wearing a costume), Lordi seem to always play the same chords through the same song structures, and still each song is a monster on its own. The lyrics are hilarious, the melodies delirious and if you're not actually sitting tied to a chair and trying to over-analyze, you'll never get enough of them.

Get Heavy is only the first Lordi album, originally released in 2002, but it is never too late to get acquainted with it. It might not appeal to you if you're feeling especially grim and necro, but when your mind needs a rest, and you would rather slash your wrists than go anywhere near pop or love songs (unless they are about burying the one you loved and killed), get Lordi. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.9/10 Roberto
 

LUCIFERION - The Apostate - CD - Listenable Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Not only does Polish-born Swede Wojtek Lisicki head the greatest power metal band on the planet, Lost Horizon, but his death metal band, Luciferion, is pretty damn great, too. Too bad for all death metal fans that Luciferionís debut, Demonication is so relatively unknown, because itís a high speed, precise metal thrill ride that was really before its time.

But back to the present and Luciferion album #2, The Apostate, only seven years on the heels of Demonication. And itís quite different. Most apparently, you can hear a lot of riffs that would be right at home on a Lost Horizon record. And secondly, staunch fans of the first record might be disappointed.

The Apostate is a concept record. The story is primarily told with ample movie sound clips, the kind of geeky science fiction clips that complement the nerdy metal guy image that Lisicki has so cultivated with Lost Horizon. The clips are great. But the thing that may turn off death metal freaks are the keyboards. Yes, theyíre very gay. But not necessarily bad. Theyíre of that variety that you can imagine being in some sort of Transylvanian dance musical. The scene is the inside of a campy, creepy castle. The keyboards hit and slutty vampire ballerinas wearing see-through nighties come skipping down the stairs on tippy toes. But if keys like that worked for Emperor, why not here too?

So itís up to you to figure out where you stand on the keyboard issue. Rest assured that thereís a whole lot else to this record, like furious guitar and awesome drumming. And if the keyboards drive you bananas, youíll be happy to know the last five tracks are of unreleased material from 1994, back in the fearsome days when it was just guitar and bass and drums. Thereís also a hyper speed, brutal, blurred-out version of "Circle of the Tyrants." Anyway, itís a very good disk, but some should proceed with a little caution. (7.9/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Tom
 

LYCKANTROPEN - A short film by Steve Ericsson - DVD - http://www.lyckantropen.com - 2003

review by: Tom Orgad

Like its soundtrack by seminal Ulver (see review in issue #12), "Lyckantropen," a Swedish short film directed by Steve Ericsson, may be a special source of interest to numerous metal fans.

Those expecting a jolly feast of growling canine men, slaughtered infants, bleeding maidens and silver bullets, will be disappointed. However, it does definitely deal with a horrifying concept, even if much subtler and understated: the conflict between the traditional, civilized, warm nucleus family and the lone, cruel wandering individual; between unleashed wilderness and conditioned domestication; between Dionysus and Apollo; between Animal and Man.

The plot is quite simple, simplistic and abstract even: it depicts a family of a husband, wife and a young daughter, torn apart by a probable affair in which the mother is involved. While the surface level appears to be quite idealistic, featuring the traditional archetype of a western cozy, happy family, it is actually permeated with ominous motives from its very beginning. Applying creative, well planned shots, the director manages to thoroughly capture and convey distressing, alarming flickers of animalistic angles in the cultured bourgeoisie. Besides the easily noticeable wolf imagery (like wolves seen on TV and in the street), the concentrated viewer will notice the sudden, momentary wild and raw appearance of the parents in certain cases.

The relationship between the husband and wife reaches its vivid, thrilling peaks only when their natural grain is let loose. Their innermost, ineffable shared emotions are always expressed by sharp, passionate glances, heaving breath and lustful physical, intimate touch. On the other hand, when following the rules of human society, pleasantly lying in bed with glasses on eyes and cigarette in hand, returning to the safe homely chamber after a day at work, they always seem helpless, disorientated, and detached.

Moreover, when their daughter is present, symbolizing the grounding factor in their life, they draw apart from each other just as an animal trapped in its cage would.

The daughterís part bears a certain duality: while functioning as a partition, separating the parents and standing between them and boisterous nature, it also represents the innocent, pure consciousness of the free, untamed individual. She feels comfortable with pictures of wolves when seen on television, although filled with great anxiety when noticing the brief, wild apparitions in her parentsí behavior.

As greatly induced by Ulver's soundtrack, one will watch the movie with a growing sense of unease. Just as the construction of the trusted family gradually decomposes, shards of instability are imbedded with different subtle, delicate visual and audible means, increasingly evolving to the atmosphere of an impending catastrophe.

Here lies the only weak point of "Lyckantropen." While it artistically deals with an intriguing issue in a talented, tasteful, interesting way, its analysis is rather simplistic and superficial. It seems that while putting much successful effort in the statement of the main subject and designing its leading motives, it lacks a further deep, cerebral dimension. When choosing such a significant philosophical matter to be engaged in, one is obliged to treat it more insightfully. Perhaps the limitations of a low-budget, short film are one of the causes for the flaw.

Nevertheless, although not ultimately fulfilling its potential, Lyckantropen is a gratifying piece of visual art, both on outwardly aesthetic and essential underlying levels. Recommended, regardless of Ulver. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Matt
 

MALIGNANCY - Cross-Species Transmutation - CD - United Guttural Records - 2003

review by: Matt Smith

Malignancy has more variety in their songs and cleaner production than most. This is probably because they actually experiment with time changes and other technicalities that would get lost in dirtier-sounding production. Theyíve got great timing Ė hardly a note out of place. The vocals arenít discernable, but thatís not really important. Cross-Species Transmutation is a solid album. The only complaint I have is that itís too damn short. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Condor
 

MARA'AKATE - Mara'akate - CD - One Day Savior Recordings - 2003

review by: The Condor

Short and sharp, clocking in at 11 minutes, this 6 track EP is a whirling maelstrom of avant hardcore, post punk chaos. Very reminiscent of classic San Diego hardcore/screamo, Clickitat Ikatowi, Heroin, and that sort of thing. Super dynamic, with stuttering start/stop arrangements, swirling and confusing dissonant guitars, pounding, tribal drumming, muffled, shouted vocals, and occasional damaged/sputtering breakdowns.

Once in a while, Mara'Akate slip into full on rock mode, spitting out an almost White Stripes riff, but it's quickly sucked under again by walls of sludgy, atonal crunch. Arty and spastic but still pretty nosiy and heavy. Amazing robot packaging too. Also has some CD-rom videos and stuff! (7/10)

 

 

 

 
-1/10 Laurent
 

MEATJACK - Days of Fire - CD - At a Loss Recordings - 2003

review by: Laurent Martini

Yup, that's a negative number. -1/10. This album makes me want to put Britny Foxís Springhead Motorshark on continuous repeat.

Itís really hard sometimes to review bad albums. The lack of anything worthwhile musically, lyrically and rhythmically makes it difficult to point to what was specifically awful about it. I mean, all of Days of Fire album is bad. Worst of all, itís dedicated to the memory of somebody. Can you imagine? At least try a little if someoneís supposed to be remembered by it. I mean, who wants to be remembered with shit?

Anyway, back to the music. Iíve said it before, but simply playing as loud as one can is not a sign of talent. And whoever writes the lyrics for Meatjack apperantly doesnít think that taking oneís time is essential. The not soon to be classic "50 Years" states "There is no life. Drained. Dry. Drunk. Feed. Control. Burn. Seething. Choke. Feeling." Fascinating, but what are we to take from that?

"Cold Fight" starts out with "Stench of Life. Caught within. Silver tongue. Misuser." Inspiring to say the least. In fact so much so that I wrote a little jingle for the band: "Donít. Sucks. Quit. Scrabble. Youíre. Pizza. Day. Couch. Job." (-1/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Tom
 

MELTDOWN - Inner Enemy - CD - http://meltdown.freehosting.net - 2003

review by: Tom Orgad

Glancing at the track list of Meltdown's demo release, one may wonder about the rationale behind the song order: surprisingly, the second track is a cover of Iron Maiden's "Wasted Years."

Now, when a novice death metal band starts promoting itself, especially when full length album is distributed, they should most likely try to prove their own concept and identity. Featuring a cover at the beginning of the album doesn't do much to serve that purpose.

However even before even reaching the discussed cover song, the aforementioned puzzlement is easily resolved. The death-ish Maiden interpretation is a nearly perfect representation of the band's aims and qualities. Unfortunately, these are not at all encouraging.

Some (mostly Swedish) bands have taken the best of NWOBHM and mixed it with death metal to form what is known as melodic death. And theyíve done it well. Sorrowfully, Meltdown seem to have taken the absolute worst characteristics of each. From Maiden they mainly adopt the standard, simplistic minor scale melodies and hollow, pointless use of formulated harmonies. From death metal, they remain loyal to the restrictive conventions of the narrow minded genre, embracing comically raucous growling vocals, monotonous, repetitive compositions. And the unprofessional (even if not utterly unfit) playing skills, and hideous mixing donít help. This kind of music is mere groveling to the appreciation of the stereotypical metal fan. It is a fake and languid sense of pseudo-aggression.

It should be noted that Meltdown's creation shows some positive facets. At times, they do manage to create a mystical, magical narrative atmosphere, a bit similar to the one typical to other Mexican bands like Under Moonlight Sadness and Buried Dreams. However, it still bears the disadvantages of composition, playing and sound. Also, when epic, story-telling elements are concerned, it is better to make the lyrics available, in order to help clarify whatís going on. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
7.2/10 Roberto
 

MINDFIELD - Be-Low - CD - Lifeforce Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Is it set in stone that because something is "radio friendly," it canít possibly be good? Beware of that trap, good reader. By description alone, Mindfield is an alternative/ metal band that you could expect to hear over the airwaves, but itís in fact more.

By description alone, Mindfield plays heavy music with slightly rough, clean vocals that sound like Metallica sometimes and ethereal Goth duo Lycia the next. But what Mindfield provides most is SONGS. Precious songs. And when you listen to a lot of music whose main point is to go really fast and be as aggressive as possible, itís good to have a break.

Be-Low has plenty of great tunes. Tunes that engage you and stick in your head. Tunes with soaring choruses and memorable riffs. Will it be one of the best albums of the year? Probably not, but at the same time, it seems to have gotten played here at Maelstrom HQ a lot more than a bunch of other albums that got more scintillating reviews. (7.2/10)

 

 

 

 
9.7/10 Roberto
4/10 Matt
 

MIRRORTHRONE - Of Wind and Weeping - CD - Red Stream Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Donít you just love one-man projects? Especially the ones where the dude is all alone in his bedroom? Mirrorthrone is just that. In fact, it plays it up, with a credit on the back of the CD clearly saying that the music was recorded, mixed and mastered in the bedroom of Vladimir, the Mirrorthrone man.

And donít you just love when said one-man projects also rule? Mirrorthrone does. Red Stream is a pretty strong label, and Of Wind and Weeping is one of their best releases.

Of Wind and Weeping is very dense and melodic. The songs have lots of parts and are quite long, but donít seem so due to the engaging nature of the compositions. Mirrorthroneís music is very deep: wonderful interactions between the guitars and various (superbly) synthesized instruments, and striking, clean vocals. Of Wind and Weeping has the best vocal harmonies of any black metal record, ever. But itís not all loneliness for Vladimir, who is joined by a woman, Marthe Gallaz, on vocals on two songs. If Gallaz looks anything as good as she sounds, then sheís pretty cute.

Shredding guitar and overdrive drums cut into melodic interludes of sweeping, delicate emotion. And Vladimir can play his instruments masterfully. The only thing it seems he canít play magnificently are the drums, so he makes up for that by programming a drum machine into oblivion. The detail and artistic sense of the programming here ranks with Necrophagist, among the best.

During the Christmas season, there are these TV ads in San Francisco for a jewelry store called Zales, and another jeweler called De Beers. Both use this kind of piano signature that obviously has a pretty big impact, as I canít stop thinking of those ads when the piano solo parts come along in Of Wind and Weeping. Well, the De Beers ads in particular are shot where you only see the black and white silhouettes of the people in the ads, inevitably making me think of "Psycho"; like, the husband is going to stab the wife to death with a diamond knife.

Of Wind and Weeping is actually a compilation of material that was recorded over the span of two years. The stuff fits together pretty well, but you canít help but notice that the quality of much of the earlier material, found at the end of the disk, is below the standard of the most recent stuff. Itís a small bone to pick, but itís the only thing separating this album from a perfect score. (9.7/10)

review by: Matt Smith

Mirrorthrone is enjoyable, though a bit theatrical. Rain falling and sad, symphonic sounds open Of Wind and Weeping (the title just nails it, really); a subdued piano line and synthesized strings are soon joined by harmonized, choir-like vocals before the guitars and drums kick in. This really sets the mood for the album, though the guitars make relatively few appearances until track six.

Itís mainly fake pianos and strings with drums behind and singing taking the lead. Itís well-produced, which does a lot for it. Itís hard to pull off something thatís supposed to sound seriously symphonic with hollow, dirty production. The fake strings are apparent, however, and some of the other instruments end up sounding pretty cheap. Nothing Cradle of Filth hasnít done before, though, right?

The synths sounds good, as does the drum machine that often tat-tat-tats like a machine gun. Itís just a bit ridiculous at times, and adds to the artificial sound of the album as a whole. The CD has a lot going on, but it all sounds separate. The instruments donít often play into

each other, they just play layered over each other, creating a disjointed feel. Itís one of the pitfalls of doing solo work, I suppose.

Of Wind and Weeping is full of decent, listenable songs, but none of the lines taken by themselves is all that impressive, especially since it is apparent that most of the instruments are clearly fake. If you like dramatic, atmospheric, symphonic stuff and donít mind a few cheap-sounding instruments, this would be a good album to get. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Dave
 

AGF - Westernization Completed - CD - Orthlong Musork - 2003

review by: Dave McGonigle

Somewhere, hidden deep within the toilets in Kings Cross Station, London, UK, lays a secret British government experiment in time travel that attempted to link the distant past to the far future. Or at least that was the plan. Instead, the calibration got all messed up (isnít that always the way!) and the mid 80s ended up getting a new neighbour in the shape of the early 21st century. All but forgotten about now, a few brave souls still venture there to ride the gauntlet and share in the rich cultural treasures that both eras have to offer. Or to buy lots of Enron shares and make a killing in the markets.

AGF (or Antye Greie) found it too, if her new album, Westernization Completed, is anything to go by. A bizarre cut-up of icy 80s goth-queen vocals and contemporary glitched beats, it falls uncertainly between two stools. The album is meant to function as one of those "oh-dear-isnít-technology-alienating-but-hey-I-canít-live-without-my-iPod" experiments. Yes, those. If you grit your teeth through some tracks, though, itís a failed but intermittently enjoyable excursion. Two or three tracks shine; "PRIVATEbirds" (yes, ITíS one OF those albums where the TITLES have to be IN a MiX of lowercase andÖyou get the point.)..ahem..

"ĎPRIVATEbirds," for example, sounds like the best pop music youíve never heard, a call-and-response hip-hop-esque brew-up/mash-up/love-up/whatever between Antye and her laptop with a fantastic vocal riff that teases the listener with the promise of a full-on melodic mash that never arrives.

Ditto "contemporaryWESTERNIZED"; Antye muses about growing up in her native East Germany over echoing synths stabs and punctate rim shots. Itís perversely danceable if youíre an octopus on speed. And on through the last three tracks; look, I get the overwhelming impression that thereís a very good EP in this album struggling to get out. Itís struggling, though, and thatís why the album rates a 6/10.

 

 

 

 
7/10 Tom
 

MISANTHROPIC - Soulreaver - CD - Xtreem Music - 2003

review by: Tom Orgad

As each of us sadly knows, thousands of extreme metal bands, adhering to the excuse of supporting an underground current, produce a shallow musical product composed of little but the application of familiar, worn out, trend and genre-following  principles. The final outcome varies in performance level and professionalism, yet ever common in their lack of originality.

The latest release of Misanthropic brings bad tidings for such claiming artists. Remaining loyal to rather common stylistic elements of old and later schools of death metal with an occasional BM shading, they contribute nothing to the already laden palate of the numerous sub-genres of the scene. Nevertheless, Misanthropic still manage to construct an interesting, valuable, creative and original piece of art.

Perhaps guided by their drummer, formerly in Agathodaimon, Misanthropic manages to forge an atmosphere unusual in its prowess and intricacies. Presenting a seemingly standard array of alternately crunchy, rapid, thrashy, down-stroking and tremolo picking guitars, fairly technical drumwork and at times a supporting keyboard player, they achieve a rare sense of genuineness. They approach the listener directly, delivering a unique message, at times bearing an ironically opposite vibe to the surrounding stylistic environment.

The music of Misanthropic inflicts the listener with contradicting emotions. Inside the whirling, tumultuous turmoil constructed by the rhythm section, the dynamic guitars often sound incredibly expressive, personal, almost human. But then again, the guitars also often sound simultaneously meek, vain, and gloomy. They bounce in their constant distortion, inevitably appearing in the context of their harsh environment.

When listening to the numerous pieces of the album, one's attention is constantly distracted between a roaming, heavy, low-tuned outrage to a moaning cry, wandering from a slightly unusual harmonized phrase to an enshrouding, eerie clean part. Separately, each of the mentioned elements doesn't offer any renewing, previously unheard notion. However, when being melted together, constructing the bedazzling state of cognitive dissonance with purposeful subtlety, they all adjoin to form a crystallized, conceptually harmonic creation.

However, the album is still far from being perfect. Even if being refreshing in its healthy implementation of the elements of a given genre without detracting from their artistic worth, Misanthropic are still imparted with a sadly common flaw: none of their compositions is imbued with true compositional brilliance. Although their craftsmanship of riff arrangement is more than decent, the album undeniably lacks the presence of refined compositional works.

Soulreaver is an uplifting apparition in our deteriorating world ofcommercial pseudo-extreme music, and is highly recommended for fans of standard blackened death metal. Nonetheless, for the yearning music fan, it should not provide anything beyond a temporary, passing comfort. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Abhi
 

MORGUE - The Process to Define the Art of Self-Loathing - CD - Adipocere Records - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Haha, is this the same Morgue that released Artgore? Well, what happened to all the gore? Artgore was a great album that blended in the noisy death metal style of Disgorge (Mex) with some cool old school influences.

Morgue have got rid of the old school influences almost completely, and have instead installed a brand new grind engine in their machine. Now they sound FUCKING pissed off and you had better stay out of their way.

The booklet claims that a lot of the inspiration for this album came from the events that occurred when this French band relocated to Cleveland, Ohio for what turned out to be a short stay (They passed up Cleveland, Ohio to go back to *France*? Who would have imagined that? - Roberto). Now back in France they have turned all their bitter experiences with a certain record label (or was it the other way around? Who knows...) into half an hour of pure aural hatred.

I was indeed disoriented when I heard this for the first time. For one, the vocals are so different I would never ever have guessed this was Morgue. Gone are the low grunts, which is now replaced by a screaming style employed by many grindcore bands. The music stills retains some familiar signatures, such as the abrupt pinch harmonics, but is much tighter and faster than before. Gone are the gory lyrics and songtitles, now replaced by cryptic introspective writings.

There are two things that work against this album: one is the lack of variety in the vocals, and the other is the lack of variety in the tempo. Even though I enjoyed listening to this relentless assault over and over again, I could not help but feel that I preferred the earlier Morgue. (1 less than the 8.5 that Artgore would have got/ 10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Condor
 

MURDER WEAPON - Nervous Wreck - CD - Martyr Records - 2003

review by: The Condor

You know I love my metalcore. But there are SO MANY bands that sound exactly the same. Not that I don't love that sound, but c'mon, you gotta try to make that sound your own.

Murder Weapon have their metalcore down pat: chugging, downtuned guitars and blasting drums, but for me the whole thing is marred by shout-y tough guy vocals and weird little guitar leads. Less metal, actually, and more NY hardcore ala Sick of It All, Hatebreed and that sort of stuff. No blast beats, just lots of punky 1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2 tempos. Metalheads should pass, but punk rockers may find themselves windmilling wildly around their room! (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6.8/10 Jez
 

NARTVIND - Until Their Ruin - CD - Painkiller Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

After a couple of tries, Nartvind finally broke through my barrier of scepticism. True, Until Their Ruin sounds as though it was recorded through the built-in mic of a tape recorder for the most part, and the music itself might sound a little rough and ready, but the feeling is definitely there.

Nartvind hail from Belgium, and specialise in a very cold and raw brand of black metal. The vocals are among the most throaty and abrasive I've heard within the genre, and coupled with the brutal guitars, this makes for some pretty evil noise.

There are some quality moments to be heard, including "Black Metal Mist" and my personal favourite, "Valleys of Extermination." The only track that lets the side down is the mood-crushing "Hail Self Destruction." The imperfections in timing and such can be forgiven simply by considering the nature of the music. (6.8/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Dave
 

NAZCA - Non Grata - CD - Eibon Records - 2002

review by: Dave McGonigle

Indulge me. What exactly do you think of when someone mentions Finnish music? Chances are that (as a loyal reader of Maelstrom) a copy of None More Black - The Finnish BM Scene is sitting dog-eared in your bookshelf, youíre already saving up for your next "Desecrated Graveyards of Helsinki" tour, and a t-shirt proudly proclaiming "The CHILDREN OF BODOM Were Innocent" adorns your chest. I applaud your ability to express your opinions. Just stay away from my Ďhood, pal.

Most of the mainstream world (well, me, at least) first encountered the Finnish music scene through the sensationalist treatment of some of its more "interesting" proponents in the press, and the fact remains that it has a certain reputation in the consciousness of John Q. Music Buyer. So I had some idea of what to expect from Nazcaís second album, Non Grata. Desecration, blasphemy, and probably a side-order of screaming "to go."

Nope. Itís goth, through and through, resplendent in all its mid-80s, mascara-wearing glory. Now, Iíve never let my feelings for a particular genre of music get in the way of a good tune, but I just canít get past the flat and uninteresting vocal lines, facile lyrics and crappy synths. There are a couple of rays of light in the dungeon Ė the discís sound is crisp and well-recorded, thereís a ghost of a tune on a few tracks, and it all starts pretty well (the first two songs could almost be another band), but sadly, the disc is more likely to be used as a shiny coffee coaster than darken the McG stereo ever again. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
8.8/10 Roberto
 

NEPHENZY CHAOS ORDER - Pure Black Disease - CD - Red Stream Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Thereís a big gas crisis again here in the United States. People always lose their minds when stuff like this happens. I think itís time for a change. Perhaps car makers can invent an engine that runs on vitriol. It sure as hell works for Nephenzy Chaos Order.

Nothing less than acidic spittle can drive the blazing, superhuman melodies and impossible drums found on Pure Black Disease. Throw in the throat-slit vocals and youíve got something thatíll really appeal to fans of Octinomos and the like. But in this case, the drummer is *real*. You may not believe it, either.

Maybe they should rename the band NeFRenzy Chaos Order.

But N.C.O. (as theyíre also called) mix it up in speed and heaviness, and to good effect. The band slams on the brakes after a song or two for some heavy, plodding guitars and deep, metal riffing grooves, without losing intensity Ė which is more than you can say for the slow songs of Octinomos. Itís a great way to pace the record. Me? Iím stuck on "Wounds," the ripping opener.

N.C.O. exude a fierce hatred of the activities of mainstream society and humans in general. Old hat for metal, for sure, but thereís something about the stuff coming out of Sweden lately (Craft, Shining) that makes black metal veterans notice. But even if you donít buy into the whole image thing, Pure Black Disease is a highly recommended album for any manner of extreme metal fan. (8.8/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Bastiaan
 

NEVER KNOWN - On the Edge of Forever - CD - Eibon Records - 2000

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Ambient releases are a tough one to deal with. The whole idea is for the soft and lush rumbling to guide you into a trance-like state and create a wonderful and relaxing atmosphere. Vast expanding soundscapes filled with harmonic synths and a variety of samples all come together with that one goal.

But what if nothing happens?

On the Edge of Forever sounds promising on the first run, but then after the second or the third listen there are some things that get unpleasant, mainly the pretty electronic feeling of the samples. Maybe this is more for the SF ambience buffs, but Iíd rather have it more natural sounding.

Nothing happened, but maybe the right moment hasnít come yet. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Abhi
 

NEVERMORE - Enemies of Reality - CD - Century Media Records - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Most people assume I donít know what Iím talking about when I say that Iíve been losing interest in Nevermore ever since Dreaming Neon Black came out. I guess it all has to do with when you got introduced to the band. Those of you who have been following Warrel Daneís work since his Sanctuary days will know what I mean when I say that his voice just isnít what it once was.

I got introduced to Nevermore with their debut self-titled album, an album which attracted my attention more due to Warrelís tortured wails and some good solid songwriting rather than fancy solos and pretty arpeggios. The second album, Politics of Ecstacy, had guitarist Jeff Loomis starting to show the world that he could play. And lets face it, unless you live in the heart of Timbuktu, you know by now that he can play some mean guitar. Politics... preserved some of the rawness of the debut and also had some real hard hitting riffs, along with the trademark Warrel style vocals.

It all started going downhill from there onwards, with their last, lack luster album, Dead Heart in a Dead World, being the pits: a mechanical beast that so totally lacked the feeling of previous Nevermore albums.

So how does the new album compare to all the above? First, the production totally SUCKS. New producer Kelly Gray has smoothed the edges so much that listening to this feels like you are sliding around on a highly polished marble floor. Sure, turn the volume up and youíll get plenty of booming bottom end, but it sounds so sterile, goddammit!

Next on my hit list are Warrelsí vocals. Iím pretty sure heís aspiring to do another James Hetfield-like transition. Not only has he lost all of the power he once had, he doesnít even sound like a metal singer on most of the songs.

So should you throw this CD into the dustbin? Not quite. Why? Jeff Loomis. He has come up with some such marvelous riffs that make me cry as I try to think how they would have sounded with all other factors of their debut album being intact. In fact, the riffing on this album reminds me a lot of Politics of Ecstasy in the way that they are hard hitting, yet with plenty of feel and played with a certain amount of looseness that doesnít give that mechanical type of feeling the last album gave. "I, Voyager" and "Create The Infinite" will give you the perfect picture of what Iím talking about.

They have cut down on the number of slow ballads this time around, with only one or two of those. And in "Seed Awakening" youíll get the most aggressive song Nevermore has ever written, with a starting riff that sounds like it came right out of the Bay Area metal scene of the 80ís.

Yeah, like their last few albums there are some songs that youíll skip over everytime to listen to the CD (the boring "Noumenon" or the polished sweetness of "Tomorrow Turned into Yesterday") but that still wonít deter you from playing the great songs on this over and over again. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Jez
 

NIGHTFALL - I am Jesus - CD - Black Lotus Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

There is something naturally morbid about Nightfall that is quite appealing. Having certain elements of Rotting Christ to the sound, you canít help but wonder if there's something in the Greek water...

I Am Jesus may take a few listens to really grow on you, but youíll be glad you gave it the chance. The melancholic atmosphere somehow falls outside the standard goth metal category in a manner I can't really explain. It's almost as if Nightfall are just one of a kind, with their own brand of darkess. Just when you feel like comparing them to Moonspell or Daemonarch, they change direction.

However, there is something far too restrained about the music. Maybe it's just the sound of the finished product, but despite the already bulldozing power of the songs, it feels like Nightfall have been holding back. But that's really all you can bitch about.

I love the way that simple ideas are expanded and decorated Ė such as in "Muscat (Darkdark Road)" and "Treasures in Aramaic Tears (Echelon)" Ė by the varied orchestration and the often machine gun feet of drummer George Kollias.

I wouldn't say that this album is designed to jump out and grab you by the throat...more to stalk you and wait for you to let your guard down, but at the same time, there are parts of I Am Jesus that allow you to slip into a very peaceful state. With time and patience, it makes for some very good listening. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Jez
 

NIGHTRAGE - Sweet Vengeance - CD - Century Media Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

For legions of death metal fans the world over, the name Tomas Lindberg alone will sell this album. At The Gates, The Crown, Lock Up, he impressed us time and time again.

There does seem to be something a little odd about the line-up of Nightrage, though. Lindberg is joined by the power metal stylings of vocalist Tom Englund and Dream Evil/Mystic Prophecy guitarist Gus G. Completed by guitarist and founding member Marios Ilopoulos (ex-Exhumation), bassist Bruce Leclercq, and The Haunted's powerhouse drummer Per Jensen, this band have something very special to offer.

I for one was hooked on the first listen. "Circle of Pain" is a glorious stab at sweet sentiment, but at the same time each and every track has a certain emotional quality to it. Opener "The Tremor" is a solid example of the modern death metal ideal, and Lindberg's vocals add some serious guts to the whole album.

In a sense, Nightrage fill the gaps left between Arch Enemy and Deicide, with a new panache that I find refreshing.

It's safe to say that this bunch are in their element. Death metal has developed to just the point where their sound will put smiles on faces. I wouldn't use the term "accessible," but it does have that relatively "ear-friendly" thing going on. I like it, and if this sounds like your cup of tea, then what are you waiting for? (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.9/10 Bastiaan
 

NORDVARGR - Awaken - CD - Code 666 - 2003

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

If you read the interview with Nordvargr in this issue, then you already know that the man behind this album has a wide array of musical projects. Noise, folk, ambient; he does it all. Give this man some equipment and he will create wonders out of thin air. He did so with HH9, the Toroidh Trilogy, and with this Nordvargr release it is no different.

This album is ambient with an edge; even though it manages to create an eerie atmosphere it keeps falling back on somewhat "harsh" and noisy rhythms to lull the brain. With mechanical rumblings and more, each track works like some twisted soundtrack you should play late at night while trying to sleep. Guaranteed that you will not, and instead experience and discover some wonderful moments on this disc.

Lovely highlight of this album: the song "Cellardweller," where MZ.412 buddy Drakhon helps out by rumbling his guitar. (7.9/10)

 

 

 

 
4.8/10 Jez
 

NORTHER - Mirror of Madness - CD - Century Media Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

I wouldn't say that this blend of Dark Tranquility, Amorphis and Children of Bodom is really my cup of tea, but no harm in giving it a fair trial. The Finnish sound is unmistakable, and in a similar manner to Dimmu Borgir's Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, the keyboards are ruling the roost a little too much, but Mirror of Madness is not without its qualities.

I can imagine that many In Flames fans will lap this up; melodic "death metal" (if it can really be called that) with a nice upbeat power metal mood. Attempts have been made to create a somewhat sombre atmosphere, but with Stratovarius keyboards, Norther are fighting a lost battle. For what it is, this album is pretty solid, though lacking in distinguishing features.

The real downfall of this stuff is the assumption that as long as there is a constant flow of ear-friendly chord progressions, the rest will take care of itself. More substance is needed! I'm not doubting Norther's collective musical ability, but the songs should be a lot more thought-provoking. (4.8/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Roberto
 

OMEN - Eternal Black Dawn - CD - Crash Music - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This is a pretty thin issue as far as good power metal is concerned, and Omen isnít helping out. While this band has good vocals and more than a few tasty dual guitar harmonies, the songs feel stale. Who can say if the problem lies in the recording or production, but Eternal Black Dawn is lacking big time in the urgency department. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
9.8/10 Nikita
 

PLACE OF SKULLS - With Vision - CD - Southern Lord - 2003

review by: Nikita

These guys come from the Black Sabbath heavy metal tradition. Place of Skulls is spearheaded by a powerful and experienced partnership of two metal legends, Victor Griffith and "Wino" Weinrich. The most recent and careful additions to the band are Tom Tomaselli on drums and Dennis Cornelius on bass.

Although metal is not my chosen venue, I have to say that with this CD, I am transformed. This stuff is huge, powerful and flexible. It is lyrical, mythical and beautiful. From the moment the music presents- it takes the listener to a land shrouded in mystical lore and alive with magic. It has a "Lord of the Rings" kind of sensibility to it.

These two go way back where they played in bands like St. Vitus, Pentagram and The Obsessed. Victor himself was a founding member of uber doom band Death Row, and as a guitarist in Pentagram, from which he eventually had to go on hiatus. Seems he was plagued by the devil of self-destruction in the City of Angels. Stands to reason. The hook up with Weinrich seems to suit them both brilliantly. Two fabulous, searing, soaring, evocative guitars and a Middle Earth drummer that rocks the world, takes me to places I have only dreamt of. The CD arrangements are interesting, complex and invigorating.

I feel like some bad-ass knight of yore, smoking a bone, driving down the endless highway in a Ď75 convertible Camaro, enlightened by ĎVision and Place of Skulls.

Thanks, guys. Great CD cover too! (9.8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Abhi
 

OXIDISED RAZOR - Carne...Sangre... - CD - Obliteration Records - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

The Mexican sickos with the unreadable but really cool logo are back with their second full length, and what an improvement it is, soundwise and music wise too. They have lost some of the rawness factor that their debut album, La Realidad Es Sangrienta, had, but that has been replaced by grooving and grinding parts a-la Haemorrhage and some really cool, demented muppet vocals. Sometimes the vocals just degenerate into what sounds like a couple of mad dogs barking away.

The guitars sound heavy - really heavy - and the playing is much tighter this time around; take a listen to "Nightstalker" to get a feel of how tight they have become now. But lest all this talk about groove and heaviness leads you to think they have lost out on speed, I must say that Luis knows how to smash the snare violently and fast. His abrupt speed changes on the blast beats reminds me of the first Tu Carne album. And to top it up, theyíve included two killer covers of Napalm Death and Necrony.

This album, just like Rompeprop, can come in very handy if you want to show your friends what some killer grindgore needs to sound like. This ends up as Pick Of The Issue #3. Rating: (8.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
La Realidad Es Sangrienta (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
4.5/10 Bastiaan
 

PRO-PAIN - Run for Cover - CD - Spitfire Records - 2003

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Ok, first of all, the fans that are mentioned in the booklet who have been requesting for this band to release a cover album should have their stereos removed and their CDs burned.

In fact, let me elaborate on this and say that Pro-Pain should have their instruments removed and be given a nice day job. I donít know much about the history of this band, but according to the little statement given in the booklet they have been around for over a decade releasing "original" records.

Nothing original about this disc.

I have no wish to go and find out how accurately they followed every note of every song they covered but from what I can tell they took the easy way out and gave them all a generic punk-rock meets metal sounding flavour. The only highlight on this disc would be the somewhat decent Celtic Frost cover, the rest is tedious and uninteresting. If you are not a fan of this band, keep your money somewhere safe and spend it on something worthwhile instead. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Abhi
 

PROFANATION - Dead Man Rotting - CD - grindmaster_hippi@yahoo.de - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Profanation insist on being very workman-like when it comes to the brand of deathgrind they play. Youíll get to hear deep guttural vocals, chugging riffs that can certainly induce a decent moshpit and overall song structures that simulate the mosh effect that Skinless songs provoke.

The riffs are simple and to the point, and are mainly effective thanks to the nice and heavy guitar sound. Actually I have to say that the sound they achieved at Polygam Studious is fantastic for this kind of music but this advantage has been partly neutralized by the inability of their music to step outside the norm.

I hope that next time they will step on the gas a bit and write more songs like "Blood Drenched Ground" and "Dead World": two of the best tracks on this album. The latter in particular is by far the most brutal song on this CD and does show that these guys are capable of some serious carnage. Letís hope that some serious carnage is what they serve us with next time. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.6/10 Bastiaan
 

PROSTITUTE DISFIGUREMENT - Deeds of Devourment - CD - Morbid Records - 2003

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Leave it to the Dutch to take something ordinary and turn it into something special. These fellow countrymen of mine are taking a big piece of the death metal cake (or corpse if you prefer) with this second full length, so be ready to digest and re-gorge the feast when you pop the CD into your stereo.

Finally being able to utilize the wonders of a flesh and blood drummer, their music has taken a huge leap forward; no longer will you be annoyed by electro-drums. Natural sounding drums is a must in the death metal genre and weíre all glad Tim stepped in to breathe life into the drums and add another face to the kitschy band photos.

This album is filled with above-average death metal. Prostitute Disfigurement manage to stay clear from the over-saturated, "standard" way of writing and deliver one of the highlights of this years releases. Satisfaction guaranteed!

On a side note, Niels should receive an award for best pig-like vocals, youíll never hear anything quite like it. (7.6/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Jason
 

PUNISHMENT - Broken but not Dead - CD - Thorp Records - 2003

review by: Jason Thornberry

Rifforama and a lot of screaming add up to almost nothing today. Why, even Punishment themselves sound bored by the time these eleven tracks have been hauled through the headphones. And whatís with the singer anyway? Did he get locked out of his Live Journal account?

"Dead failure hit our soft spot. Rotting swallowed more than my share of disgust for this world. Despite my best effort my prayers were not heard."

The photo in the CD tray is of some depressed, small town Ė El Centro or Calexico maybe Ė and the only thing that kept me listening. And hoping something would happen. (3.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Abhi
 

PUTREFIED - The Putrid Remains - CD - Sevared Records - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This Dutch band certainly doesn't seem to have had any second thoughts about following in the same direction as on their debut MCD, Bodybits. And this time they have come armed with a second guitarist, a meatier production, sharper riffs and a whole new bunch of killer songs (like "Skull Tortured" and "Scorched Face of God") that will appeal largely to fans of down-tuned, old school death metal. On the other hand, some of the really muddy old-school feeling on Bodybits has been lost in the process of sprucing up the mix.

Toep does an excellent job on the drums with a lot of variations, and the judicious yet highly effective use of the double bass pedal has to be appreciated. The inclusion of the second guitarist into the fold seems to have tightened up the riffing, giving a boost to the shotgun-blast-in-your-face factor. It's nice to see Putrefied getting more aggressive in their style but it's during the slower parts when these guys sound most menacing. One point I would like to add for the benefit of the band and/or label: please don't use JezusLooksLikeMe-Possessions for creating the cover art next time; they have made a real mess out of it. (7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Bodybits (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
9.5/10 Abhi
 

REEK OF SHITS - Bloody Obstetric Technology - CD - Bizarre Leprous Productions - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Just two songs into this album, and I was pretty sure that this was going to be my Pick of The Issue #1. Reek of Shits has just replaced Pigsty as my favorite Bizarre Leprous Productions band (maybe Iím speaking too soon as I havenít heard the new Pigsty MCD yet, but what the heck).

Heavier beyond anything else reviewed in this issue, containing more devastating grooves than all the albums combined together and having the perfect blend of really fast grinding parts and immaculately played chugga-chugga sections, this is just the kind of album that causes a short circuit in my brain and disables my normal logic circuits. Listening to this makes me want to GRIND! Listening to this makes me want to KILL! Listening to this makes me want to LISTEN TO IT AGAIN! Pick of The Issue #1. (9.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Condor
 

RINGWORM - The Promise - CD - Deathwish Records - 2003

review by: The Condor

Those cheeky bastards at Deathwish record have done it to us again. Packaged something so exquisitely and so EVIL-y that we could only assume this was going to be some serious, grim black metal. Eight panels of woodcut demons, black on thick brown cardstock, with THERE IS NO GOD printed on the back. Really nice.

But what this actually is, is a reissue of some seminal metallic early nineties punk rock, Ringworm's 1993 album, The Promise, and an additional handful of demo tracks. Pretty good stuff, actually. Thrashy drumming, buzzing metal riffs, throbbing bass and shouted hardcore vocals. Metalheads might find this a little too punk rock, but it's still pretty relentless and heavy and brutal. Especially considering this stuff is 10 years old. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Dave
 

ROBERTS, DEAN - Be Mine Tonight - CD - Kranky - 2003

review by: Dave McGonigle

Dean Roberts is a new addition to the Kranky stable, although heís been making guitars sound like jet engines since the early 90s. He was in a band called Thela, who released two quite brilliant-yet-harrowing albums to some distant fanfare and zero sales. After Theda split he embarked on a solo career that found him using laptops and guitars with equal ease, all the while producing music that I found easier to admire than actually like.

So when the press release stated in a matter-of-fact way that "Be Mine Tonight is a recording of songs," it was an intriguing premise. Dean Roberts? Songs? Ok, power drills, prepared guitars and the sound of a thousand Kenwood multichefs making a cake for Thurston Moore Ė that, I could handle. But songs? What dark marketing guru had taken over Robertsí career?

I shouldnít have worried: this is no sell-out album of over-produced pap. Instead, itís a very successful marriage of Robertsí guitar improvisation and sound manipulation skills with more traditional rock musical forms and instrumentation. Itís a record that sounds both lush and stripped-down at the same time: Roberts sings in a hushed, fragile voice while some excellent drum work from Antonio Arrabbito gently cajoles and leads each piece along, buoyed by clouds of hazy guitar chords, sparse bass and piano.

At times, the record sounds remarkably similar to late period Talk Talk and Mark Hollisí first solo album: all shambling, stumbling piano chords and jerky rhythms slowly coalescing into a beatific whole. Yet donít worry: every time the record threatens to get too polite, thereís always a distorted guitar or a slightly atonal chord just around the next corner, as if Robertsí past recorded career is threatening to break in and start those Kenwood mixers up again. But overall the tone of the record is languid and sad, melancholic without being self-indulgent. Itís definitely an album that will divide the masses, but I like it a lot. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Abhi
 

ROMPEPROP - Hellcock's Pornflakes - CD - Bizarre Leprous Productions - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

I doubt that even spending a few days in Sodom or Gomorrah would be as enjoyable as listening to this Rompeprop album. And it definitely wouldnít be as interesting as reading their lyrics.

Pathological gore lyrics are uninteresting and sociopolitical grind lyrics are tiresome; we all know by now that the government sucks and humans are a bunch of cunts.

What we donít know is what a "Coughing Coffin" is.

As you bounce about to the beat of this grinding revelry, check out the lyrics to the fifth song, which tells the story of a dead man who canít sleep in peace because his coffin keeps on coughing.

Jokes and humor aside, this four-piece can indeed grind. Try to imagine a goregrind version of an improved and faster Blood, mixed with the bulldozer groove of Cock and Ball Torture. The sound is almost perfect, just a little less heavy than the mammoth sound Reek of Shits attained on their new album. The riffs are razor-sharp and immensely crushing, and the drummer is pretty deft with his hands as well as feet.

I tried hard to decipher who was playing what in the band, but some rather cryptic descriptions thwarted my attempts (tell me what does "cumlord of bloodcockrape AAH" and "sarcastic fuckslutpounder of tupperware-negroes" mean to you?). All in all, this is a good solid piece that has narrowly missed out on being listed in my Top 3 list for this issue, and can only leave you craving for one thingÖan induction into the legion of the "Vaginal Luftwaffe"! (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
Infected Tendence - 7/10 Kremush - 6.5/10 Nefarious Crypt - 7/10 Abhi
 

INFECTED TENDENCE/ KREMUSH/ NEFARIOUS CRYPT - Proof of Our Existence - CD - http://bleedingscene.tripod.com - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Infected Tendence have recorded four quite good songs for this split. Freaked out blasting rubbing shoulders with some catchy riffing. The good sound helps definitely but it's a pity that the songs are too short. They get over just as one really starts enjoying them. However, itís pretty great the way the drummer increases his speed in the middle of a blastbeat and yet manages to stay in time.

Kremush take a more melodic approach to their music. The bassist seems to be pretty good and he puts in some wild little fills in the first song. But the brutality is still present and that's a good sign. The second song starts off with a riff that I'm sure came from Monstrosity's song "Manic." These guys have a lot more variation in their music than Infected Tendence. Another plus point is the punchy snare sound.

Now it's back to brutality with Nefarious Crypt. The drummer has a good speed on the kick drums and the blasts, but he goes a bit off-time on the double bass in the first song. The guitars are tuned low and the vocals are the standard death metal growls. It's hard for me to say which band I liked more: Infected Tendence or Nefarious Crypt, so I'll take the easy way out and say both are equally good. The addition of Kremush is a plus point for those who get easily bored by standard brutal death metal.

(Infected Tendence - 7/10 Kremush - 6.5/10 Nefarious Crypt - 7/10)

 

 

 

 
Rotten Cold - 7/10 Monolith Ė 5.5/10 Abhi
 

ROTTEN COLD/ MONOLITH - Split - CD - rotten-cold@gmx.at - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This is a split by two Austrian bands, one of which plays straightforward grind. The other plays what they call "noise grind," but in fact it ultimately turned out to be crusty grind with some peculiarities. Rotten Cold are the first band and they play some to-the-point grindcore with proficient and scalpel edged riffing. The vocalist seems to have taken some inspiration from Barney Greenway and the only weak point in their music is the drumming, which really needs to have more variation. Whatís more, the drummer needs to work on his speed to do the riffs some justice. "Milk of Greed" and "Here to Hate You Again" are their two best songs on this CD.

Monolith, on the other hand, have worked hard to stay off the beaten path. They start their part of the story with a foreboding piece that builds up very slowly but turns out to be too long for its own good. A highly distorted guitar tone sets the base for their mid-paced, crusty endeavor, and with liberal doses of weird clean vocals they manage to catch the listenerís attention, though it does leave a lot of room open for the listener to decide whether to take it positively or not.

I personally found the clean vocals to be interesting, especially in the way they have been worked into the songs. The only time when things got slightly out of hand was the starting to "More Emotions," which reminded me of some crappy pop tune I had heard years ago and made me cringe visibly. A decent release overall. (Rotten Cold - 7/10 Monolith Ė 5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
NR/10 Bastiaan
5/10 Matt
 

SCREAMING AFTERBIRTH - Metal Devastation Promo - CD - http://www.screamingafterbirth.com - 2003

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

This promo features six songs that will ultimately fill one side of a split CD (the other half being taken by Mincing Fury and Guttural Clamour of Queer Decay) and I can already tell you that it will be worth it for the Screaming Afterbirth side alone. This is grind the way it's supposed to be played.

Fast and funky.

They differ a little bit from the other bands in the genre (porno/gore grind) mainly because of the hysterical vocals. One moment you hear "a hundred words a minute" barfing only to be greeted by high pitched "kick me in the nuts" shrieking the next, all nicely topped off with some "strangled by my microphone chord" growling. The music itself in these six tracks are above average, filled with funky sounding breaks and the somewhat standard, yet satisfying US Death/Grind drum sound (a la Waco Jesus but more elaborate). Too bad they had to cover Terrorizer.

If the other half of the forthcoming split holds up to their end of the deal than this split will be well worth the money. (no rating yet/10)

review by: Matt Smith

These guys are good for a bit more than just shock value. They have an interesting tone; even when theyíre going fast, they manage to make songs sound laborious.

Itís some ultra-heavy death metal that comes at you in a wall of sound. Theyíve got really crunchy grooves accented by impossibly muddled growls and throaty screams. Of course theyíve got the obligatory samples that get one thinking about warfare and dismemberment. The fuzzy production adds to Screaming Afterbirthís heaviness, but you can still pick out the different lines pretty easily.

Twenty minutes of pretty intense death metal. And who canít get a laugh out of titles like "Stump Fucked Piss Flaps" and "No Orifice Shall Remain?" The song titles may be original, but their sound isnít particularly. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Tom
 

SARGEIST - Satanic Black Devotion - CD - Moribund Records - 2003

review by: Tom Orgad

Already being members of several prominent groups of the respectable Finnish black metal scene as Horna, Pest and Behexen, the members of Sargeist obviously don't consider themselves obliged to be groundbreaking all the time. And while not being unique or revolutionary, Satanic Black Devotion will grant the listener with the privilege of experiencing a coherent, well-manifested effort of extreme expression.

The music mostly uses continuous, stretching guitar riffs and multi-layered, tremolo-picked notes in order to create a dense, stagnant unity of shifting tones that lays the background for the vocalist's excruciated screams. Unlike angrier, rawer or more pessimistic acts, most of the presented musical themes prescribe quite a mild dosage of nihilism or disharmony.

Usually, the overall atmosphere is contemplative, ponderous and gloomy, a bit sinister, and most of all, vague and enigmatic. There is not much variety in the compositions of Sargeist. It seems that the songwriting is intuitive, perhaps even random at times, sticking to known, familiar, worn phrases of the genre. Also, there is nothing notable about the instrumental performance: the guitar playing never transcends the standard, and the drumming is mostly mediocre, at times even lesser than that. However, the different pieces do manage to avoid deterioration to tasteless formula, generating on most of the tracks a decent interest, even if none are especially memorable.

On the atmospheric, essential level, the band attains an impressive level of success, most likely achieving their own defined goals, establishing a proper expression of their world views and philosophy.

So, those searching for continuous progression within this genre may be disappointed by this album. Those of us remaining faithful to glorious nationalistic pride or self-contradicting nihilism should avoid this as well. On the other hand, whoever enjoys a good black metal album that doesnít have anything new to say should be more than satisfied with Satanic Black Devotion. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Jez
 

SECRET SPHERE - Scent of Human Desire - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

A talented power metal band doesn't mean a great power metal band. There MUST be some more substance than just technical ability. Italy's Secret Sphere are not altogether typical of their genre. The guitar tracks are a lot heavier than many, and the keyboards sound far more effective than in the tonnes of generic shit out there. A bold statement it may be, but I would have to say that in many ways this is power metal at its best.

The production brings the songs to life magnificently, but it is not this alone that distinguishes Scent of Human Desire. The band have displayed wonderful imagination when varying their style, delving into classic rock, funk, jazz and blues, whilst maintaining their infectious breed of metal at every step of the way.

Opening track "Rain" provides hooks that will draw in any fan of the genre, and as the catchy riffs and vocal melodies continue throughout, I find myself playing the album over and over again. It stands up to repeated listens and has that wonderful 'live sound' quality that few decent studio albums possess.

I can't deny that it can get a little over sentimental at times, but "Surrounding" and "Runaway Train" are quite irresistible. Secret Sphere - top stuff. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

SEPULTURA - Roorback - CD - SPV - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Let me first say that listening to the "new" Sepultura, the one fronted by Derrick Green, pales in comparison to seeing them live. This is especially the case with Green, who is an striking figure, halfway between the Predator and a charging bull. He steams and beams at the audience, and his voice is as impressive as his presence. But on CD, or at least this one, he sounds much smaller. The same goes for the rest of the band. Live, they are heavy and brimming with aggressivity. On CD, theyíre much slower. Still good, but different and much less intense.

With that said, Roorback is a pretty good album. But that shouldnít be too much of a surprise. Would Brazilís most famous metal band release a bad record? Wait, donít answer that question.

Roorback takes a couple or more listens to reveal its quality. There are more ideas going on here than an any other Sepultura record. You get the aggressive, kind of hardcore tunes that have become more of the trademark since Greenís arrival, but unusual bits pop up, like a plodding, heavy doom section, and clean vocals that really arenít half bad. With that said, you keep expecting Green to shout out, "war for territory!"

But Roorback is indeed an album that is listened to all at once. Itís because it works as a collage of songs interwoven together carefully, but then again itís also because the album is made up of 13 good little tunes Ė some are better than others, but none are classic material. Itís also a minor, arbitrary complaint, but the bonus, "hidden" material is more of a drag than anything else. At least the listener doesnít have to attentively listen while holding down the FF button, as the hidden track is conveniently separated from the last, printed track.

The good news is that although the glory days of olí Seppie are far behind, the band is getting more intelligent and attentive to detail with age, and are far from dead. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

SETHERIAL - Endtime Divine - CD - Regain Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

If youíve been following black metal at all at any point over the last 10 years youíll know what to expect from a new Setherial record. The Swedish bandís name has become synonymous (alongside others like Marduk and Dark Funeral) with speed-at-all-costs black metal.

And there are no surprises here. Rather, the point is to examine if itís a blasting speed fest thatís worth your time. And it is. But you have to really be into this stuff. Lords of the Nightrealm, one of the bandís older records, is fast fast fast and oh, so boring. But people dig it. Endtime Divine is clearly better than that, with more interesting and slightly more diverse melodies and constructions. With that said, the same bass guitar parts seem to be used far too many times.

Nord, Setherialís debut, will remain the bandís greatest work, ironically because of its dynamics. But Endtime Divine has got the sound and the fury to please lunatic black metallers hell-bent on warping their minds with numbing audial speed. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
8.2/10 Roberto
 

SHADOW SEASON - The Frozen - CD - Sound Riot Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Iím listening to Shadow Seasonís The Frozen in the car at night as I hurtle down a stretch of highway flanked by forest. The road is windy and downhill and the damp smells of the sylvan night are trickling through the vents.

Itís the perfect soundtrack for the occasion. The rapturous, sinister buzzing of the music is made more so by the sound of the engine, stripping the album down even more to its most essential, effective elements: primordial, throttling, ambient black metal.

And it turned out that even standing still, the album still rules. Stylistically, Shadow Season is most easily compared to Hate Forest in the way both bands play in that paradoxical style that goes a million miles a minute yet doesnít seem to move. The vocals are also low, like Hate Forest. But Shadow Season has a real drummer and more than one member, and have a few more tricks in their bag. So when violins show up on the first track, it just makes the whole experience better.

So Iím happy, passing cars, nearly gliding on the raw, painful buzz of The Frozen, when it all stops a mere 20 minutes after it had started. Surely the best things must come to an end, but not this soon. (8.2/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Tom
 

SHINING - Within Deep Dark Chambers - CD - Selbstmord Services - 2003

review by: Tom Orgad

Shining has stated that the purpose of their creative act is to achieve what they call "suicide music": a sonic expression to be presented in front of the happy, calm, harmonious and balanced living man in order to undermine his optimistic foundations, inciting him to submit himself to negation. An examination of the band's goals reveals an obvious failure. No nihilistic imperative is sown within the listener's mind. However, while vainly attempting to reach their destination, the band does manage to create quite an interesting piece of extreme, impressionistic art.

Shining's method of artistic conviction is based upon rather lengthy, repetitive, mid-tempo composition, comprising rhythmical simplicity, melodic meagerness and harmonic void. By lining generic phrases of resonating, heavily distorted guitar churns, they sink the listener in a bog of atmospheric atonality, attempting to erode him with their unchanging, steady beat, thus manipulating the kernel of being. The instrumental performance is reasonable, even if far from brilliant.

The compositions demand very little technical skills, and an examining ear may still easily note quite a few errors and slips. However, these are lost within the overall sonorous distorted havoc, therefore do not seriously affect the overall listening experience.

Open-stringed harmonies and clashing overtones generate an addictive, sweeping sense of mischievous turmoil, supplying a proper (even if not at all original) representation of the standard dismal perception of careless time, finite existence and absurd reality. Then comes the confronting melodic line: utterly simple and expected themes of dim murkiness, again, bearing the same traits of intoxicating, hypnotizing repetitiveness.

From here stems the main flaw of Shining's ideological fulfillment: their music contains a single, unified, predictable dimension of powerful rawness. When experiencing the album thoroughly, one becomes adjusted to the disharmonious movements, adapts himself to the simple dynamics. The childish melodies are no longer symbols of disheartenment. A new world is born in which the subjective creator does not feel estranged, sad or desperate. He wonders within his inner realms, finds an internal level of peace, experiences a comforting meditative break, ironically begotten by the very same values that were originally wielded against him. "Suicidal music' should be ever dynamic, changing, unexpected, bewildering and disloyal, as true randomness is Ė a notion the band doesn't successfully follow.

So, Shining attempted to make us lose faith in the innate quality of our existence, and found themselves inadvertently strengthening and nourishing the positive flame of being. As disappointing as they may be to hear it, let me emphasize once again it is a fairly commendable effort of ideological, descriptive, impressionistic, atmospheric black metal (howís that for genre labeling!). Recommended listening, which you might, not as promised, survive. (6.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Angst III (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
4/10 Tom
 

SHINING - Livets ńndhallplŚts - CD - Selbstmord Services - CD

review by: Tom Orgad

On their debut album (see previous review) , Shining had attempted to fulfill the goal of plunging the listener into despair, depriving him of his last bit of optimism by depicting a murky view of the world in an extremely intense, clear and simplistic manner.

Now, on Livets ńndhallplats, Shining has quite a challenge to face: creating a musical output still conveying their fatalistic realizations, yet managing to evolve and develop their method of expression. In order to do so, it seems that the band had chosen this time to offer us a more personal, introspective view of their stand. Unfortunately, this newly adapted approach does little to complement them as artists.

This time, the song structures, compositions and aesthetic aspects of the band's creation all share a decrease in their determination and decisiveness. While remaining loyal to the unquestionable prevailing bleakness, the music is not as descriptive in character, bearing a larger sense of ambiguity. Aesthetically, there are few notable changes. The variety of sound timbres has significantly grown; numerous guitar sounds are boasted, including a dramatic rise in the dominance of acoustic and clean guitar passages. These no longer serve as simple interludes, but now take a major role in the narrative of the pieces, pretending to impart them with a contemplative, uncanny feel. The distorted guitars have expanded their vocabulary, again, aiming at leaving a richer, thought provoking effect upon the listener. The bass lines have become much more free and expressive, also gaining a fair boost in the mix. On some tracks one may also find a rather dominant presence of atmospheric keyboards.

Now, as the reader may so far find the discussed album interesting and worthy of note, is the proper time to mention its deficiencies: although attempting to improve upon their art, the band members have obviously not improved their skills as composers or performers. Therefore, while previously limiting themselves to a rather narrow spectrum of ideological and musical manifestation, their more pretentious efforts unveil much of their fundamental disadvantages.

The music on Livets ńndhallplats loses much of its eroding, mesmerizing effect Ė which definitely was its greatest merit on Within Deep Dark Chambers Ė and, unfortunately, fails to provide a proper supplement: the compositions are still repetitive and formulaic in essence, this time not due to a firm ideological approach, but as a result of a lack of originality. The free structured pieces sound uninventive and worn; little of the relatively complex parts are played well, few are interesting, none is innovative or binding, mostly featuring the common, overplayed Norse black metal clichťs.

Shining has chosen to remove the veil of transfixing mechanical insistence of basic, raw musical creation, only to reveal their lack of formal musicianship. So, aside from eager fans of Shining's previous effort who feel enthusiastically obliged to explore the evolution of the band, I cannot recommend Livets..., surely not in order to get primarily acquainted with the band. You had better focus on the worthy debut instead. (4/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Angst III (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
8/10 Jason
 

SICK OF IT ALL - Life on the Ropes - CD - Fat Wreck Chords - 2003

review by: Jason Thornberry

Sick of It All took more than two years vacation from the world, and the resulting full-length borders on purgation. Modern "punkers" could do with a large dose of this electric ablution. Disturbingly vivid in one go, these eighteen tracks have remnants of deep agonizing misery, emphasized by the minor chords and reckless yelling. They seem to have been born again brilliantly, and itís time to phone a psychiatrist. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
0/10 Stv
 

SIEGFRIED - Eisenwinter - CD - Napalm Records - 2003

review by: Steppenvvolf

Campfire crackling, a battle cry, rattling of swords and some majestic riffing as an intro. No, it's not Manowar. Itís Siegfried, and we should all consider ourselves lucky enough that they have not tried to copy more from the masters of posing.

The listening experience is bearable about up to the singerís first utterance. The vocalist sounds, to put it carefully, very strained.  After a couple of minutes one grows really, really weary of it. Probably the only singer I am inclined to pardon for similar lack of talent is... Mille Petrozza, of Kreator.

Apart from occasional duets with like-skilled guys, Siegfriedís front man is on par with one of those boo-boo, sort of whispering, hissing-gothic-style female vocalists. And although he does that dire school of vocals as proud as possible, he is as inappropriate to Eisenwinter as he is incapable.

Perhaps the wretched guitar solos sum it all up perfectly: dull, predictable and uninspired, they rather proceed from chord to chord than develop personality of their own that fits into the overall performance.

To sum it up: Siegfried's fundamental problem is that it tries to unite elements that donít belong with each other. The goth babe with Siegfried's metal arrangements might have found some audience, although if you understand German, you'll find it annoying how the Nibelungs' legend is exploited for brainless blood-and-honour lyrics. Hands off. (0/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Matt
 

SIKFUK - Gore Delicious - CD - United Guttural Records - 2003

review by: Matt Smith

Sikfuk seems to be following the formula pretty well. Creepy movie samples introduce each track, and heavy, deep waves of sound wash over it soon after. The guitars go "crunch," the drums go "thud," but I have no idea what the vocalist is doing. It goes far beyond cupping the mic Ė it sounds like the microphone was surgically implanted in the esophagus of a throat cancer victim. Nothing is discernable, really. It just sounds like a bunch of vowels.

"Eeee-ooo-eoeoeoeoe-ooooooooooohhh" Yep, thatís it, just at varying speeds. He must have gone to Lord Worm School.

Gore Delicious is dark, dirty-sounding and just sloppy enough to add to the heaviness. The intensity never lets up for a second. Maybe thatís part of the problem Ė the intros are the only thing that let me know when one song ends and another begins. Otherwise, the muddled tracks sound far too similar. But, like I said at first, this is the sort of stuff that United Guttural tends to like. Shocking, gory, and heavy as can be. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
6.66/10 Roberto
 

SINGLE BULLET THEORY - Route 666 - CD - Crash Music - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Up until now, the ingredients most commonly found in metalcore came from the death metal and hardcore genres. Single Bullet Theoryís a little different, and their hardcore meets heavy metal take on the formula works.

Noodly solos, some clean vocals, and the occasional Devin Townsend-esque high wail are a good contrast to the chuggy, rhythmic riffs.

But an unbearably bad "spoken" part and not so great lyrics nearly ruin the whole thing - nearly. Route 666 is a good album, but Single Bullet Theory will need to develop their style a little more next time to make a great album. (6.66/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 (on a funeral doom scale only! Otherwise much, much less) Tom
 

SKEPTICISM - Farmakon - CD - Red Stream Records - 2003

review by: Tom Orgad

Gloomily marching under the shady banner of the funeral doom school, Skepticism's musical offering is rooted within a rather problematic ground. However, their latest release features a few refreshing evolvements in the approach towards their chosen method of expressions. Itís still exhausting and monotonous, but itís done to a much higher standard.

The musical output of the Finnish seminal group attempts to artistically express an overall pessimistic view of the essence of human existence. On this, Skepticism base their artistic expression upon the foundations of slowly progressing, repetitive, usually primitively composed, low-tuned, sluggish guitar phrases and grandiose, harmonizing keyboard sounds. The lot is backed by passive, lethargic and dry drumming. These instrumental ingredients usually stretch over countless minutes of would be entrancing cyclic depression, aiming at generating an atmosphere matching the innate pessimism of our experienced reality.

Such an aesthetic approach carries with it a significant inner contradiction. While the featured ideology supports the ever-disparaging concepts of nihilism, its outward rhetoric contains much of the opposite. Establishing a bombastic musical product of lush orchestrations, melodic recurring motives and frequent traditional western harmonics, it fails to create much more than a shallow,

superficial feeling of dim murkiness and pretended sorrow. Instead, they simply induce the listener to cheerfully wallow in his own self-pity, indulging over their conservatively composed lines of thin negation. 

However, it should be noted that on Farmakon, Skepticism has made a notable step in the direction of widening their spectrum. Even if still being a relatively minor part of the final outcome, it still includes a few explorations of a more profound manner, such as a factor of eeriness, sonically represented by less decisive, more contemplative dissonant segments, bearing less of the straight forward, slothful burden of their previous albums. It seems as if the band members have realized the triviality of their past simplistic moaning about the pointlessness of being, instead choosing to embark on a deeper examination of this odd, peculiarly thought-raising phenomenon.

Farmakon is more than yet another routine funeral doom release: it raises quite a few hopes regarding the future of Skepticism, and therefore the entirety of the genre. If its activists learn how to apply their great reservoir of abysmal anguish within a more reflective, thoughtful and insightful context, we may be introduced with some highly innovative notions. Indeed, while still boasting many of the common fallacies of its tiring school, perhaps Farmakon bears the revolutionary tidings of optimism for pessimism. (9/10 (on a funeral doom scale only! Otherwise much, much less)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Process of Farmakon (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
8.9/10 Laurent
 

SKID ROW - Thickskin - CD - Worldsound - 2003

review by: Laurent Martini

Skid Rowís been gone for a long time and itís good to have them back. From the first note of "New Generation" to the last cymbal crash on "Hittiní a Wall," this album is 100 percent awesome. Bassist Rachel Bolan and guitarist Snake are two of the best hard rock songsmiths, and they hit the jackpot with a slew of songs, especially "Ghost" and "Born a Beggar."

This is the bandís first album with new singer Johnny Solinger after the departure of Sebastian Bach. I was apprehensive about how this album would sound since I was such a big fan of Skid Rowís first few albums and Bachís distinctive voice. But my worries were unfounded. As mentioned, Bolan and Snake have written some of their best songs yet and Solingerís voice is great. His sometimes bluesy delivery is a perfect match to some of Hill and Snakeís melodies. True, not as unique as Bach but great nonetheless. As it turns out, Solinger even sounds like Bach when he hits those high notes.

Thickskin also proves that a "hard rock" band can continue to be true to themselves and still make great music today. Their sound hasnít changed: you can still recognize it as Skid Row, and yet it fits in with whatís considered radio worthy today. "See You Around" could easily be played on modern rock stations and be a hit. The band even gives a shout out to their past with a punked out version of "I Remember of You."

Alien Ant Farm launched their career with their version of Michael Jacksonís "Annie." Hopefully someone will listen and give Skid Row the break they so deserve. (8.9/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Roberto
 

SODOM - One Night in Bangkok - CD - SPV - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Ahhh... I remember my one night in Bangkok. There were these two chicks, see? And... Oh. Weíre talking about *Sodom*ís latest album. Sorry.

And itís been a great year for live albums by German thrash legends. First we got the excellent double Kreator live record, and now, not to be outdone, Sodom releases its own double record. And itís giving Kreator a run for its money in terms of winning our coveted live album of the year award.

In his interview with Maelstrom (issue #7) Tom Angelripper was all excited about Sodomís then recent tour of Southeast Asia. And, well, you can figure out the rest by the albumís title.

Two CDs featuring 24 ripping Sodom tracks, including one "hidden" Ė in this case, mistakenly omitted Ė track between #s 10 and 11 on disk one. Thatís a lot of songs to go through for any thrash metal set, and based on the superbly written description that I hope comes with the commercial version of the record, the concert was played in truly hellish conditions. The mixing board was humidity-damaged, the mics electrocuted people, the drums were donated from here and there. Anyway, it must have been hilarious. And if youíve ever spent time in Thailand, you couldnít imagine it any other way.

So itís truly remarkable considering how well this album turned out. Sodom fans couldnít ask for a better live sound. One Night in Bangkok is suitably raw, powerful and clear. And youíve got to thank the bandís longtime producer Harris Johns and the boxing corner man-like job done by roadie Collin Alltree, as much as giving credit to the furious energy of the trio on stage playing the songs.

Anyway, enough of this long-winded review. Thailand rules, Sodom rules, and this album rules. Go get it. (8.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
M-16 (issue No 7)  

 

 

 
8/10 Bastiaan
 

SOLA TRANSATIO - Ad Infinitum - CD - Eibon Records - 2001

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Now this is an ambient disc that works, and it sounds natural all the way through. Exactly the way I like it: sounds of splashing water and lush movements of warm sonic blankets. This release pretty much has everything it needs to create a comfortable yet interesting atmosphere that flows freely out of the speakers.

More often than not music in this genre is mostly electronic and cold. Not so with Sola Translatio, together they combine lovely organic percussion work with the sounds of mother nature and create a soundscape that is rich with movement and texture.

This release is a wonderful collaboration between two ambient masterminds. I say get it. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Jez
 

SONATA ARCTICA - Winterheart's Guild - CD - Century Media Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

This rates as one of my favourite albums of the year. Sonata Arctica play the kind of metal that is almost guaranteed to cheer me up, and this is without question their strongest album thus far.

Not only does it have that feel good factor, but the band have thrown themselves far more aggressively into the music than before. The cheesy love songs are still there to a certain extent, but crafted more carefully and arranged in a more professional manner. The strongest virtue of <Winterheart's Guild> is the adrenaline-fueled race of "The Cage" and the exquisite "Victoria's Secret."

Tony Kakko's vocals are refreshingly unique, and the vocal melodies themselves are magnificent. Even the slow serenades that can often grate on the nerves are most effective when handled by Sonata.

This album isn't the kind of thing commonly found on my CD player, but even the more spangly element of the power metal genre offers one or two bands that make me sit up and listen. The performance by guitarist Jani Liitmatainen is phenominal, with a vaguely Children of Bodom-esque method of trading solos with keyboard maestro Henrik Klingenberg. I would honestly make this my recommendation for this month to any power metal fan, or for that matter, anyone who needs cheering up. Fuck Stratovarius, this is the real article. (8.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Silence (issue No 6)  

 

 

 
9/10 Roberto
 

SOUL DEVOURED - Eleven Deadly Sins - CD - http://www.souldevoured.com - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Youíll see that a lot of zines out there split up their review sections into two: regular and demo/unsigned. We at Maelstrom think thatís pretty silly. Is this segregation there to make us believe that demos are somehow inferior to label releases?

Ok, a lot of the time, they are. But sometimes, theyíre not. Take Austrian trio Soul Devoured as a perfect example. This album is self-produced and on CDR, yes, but it blows away a whole lot of the promotional material weíve been getting lately from well known labels, particularly the German thrash thatís coming out lately and touted as being so great. Well, the new Destruction and Dew-Scented canít hold a candle to this.

This deathy thrash bandís secret lies in having a forty minute treasure trove of tasty riffs. They just keep coming. And itís not only the riffs themselves, but the excellent transitions between them that work so well. Soul Devoured arrange their songs very tastefully, and the few intermissions from thrashing rhythm guitar are seamless.

Stylistically, you can hear a lot of Kreator influence in the vocals and in the general riffing. But thereís also a level of technicality that youíd expect to hear in a Dying Fetus record. Above all, the lead work on Eleven Deadly Sins is highly original. It is especially here that this album shines. Leads, however well they are played on most of the metal bandsí albums you can find in your local shop, start to sound very similar. But Soul Devoured has got leads that instantly jump out at you as something unique.

And being a self-released album, Eleven Deadly Sins has its share of wackiness, like some sort of female, spoken clip that sounds like an irate gnome beneath the music on "Forces of Heresy." But there arenít any shoddy parts or screw ups to be found. The music is very clear and precise, and the drum machine is superbly programmed. Sure, we all want a human drummer in this sort of music, but in this case, it matters little. Get this demo. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Nikita
 

SPOKEN - A Moment of Imperfect Clarity - CD - Tooth and Nail Records - 2003

review by: Nikita

Although Spoken has a classically heavy metal sound they show signs of transcending the medium into a more pop realm. You can almost feel them sprouting another more humanistic head and peeling away some of the heavy metal drudgery. Their driving musical approach and rich, well-developed guitar and vocal arrangements helps steer them clear of pop clichť. They are well on the road to coming into their own.

This band of Arkansas natives has been touring for the last few years with bands like Living Sacrifice, Zao, and Pax 217. Spokenís aptly named debut album has an honest, expansive appeal to it. The lyrics are wrought with emotion Ė often bittersweet and questioning of purpose. At times is feels a little disjointed, but you can literally hear them busting through with a new skin. Itís pretty exciting.

Matt Baird, the singer, has a unique moody vocal style punctuated by his ability to really unbridle a scream. There is a wholesome, checkered shirt kind of quality to this band, a powerful structure and little melancholy canopy of sensitivity and longing.

I see them staying home for awhile now ? hooking up with the girls they missed while being on the road and continuing to flex their creative muscle. The CD cover is beautifully designed and fitting of the mood and the message. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Condor
 

STARCH - Fuck Like a Priest - CD - Bitchslap Records - 2003

review by: The Condor

I could tell right away that this record was gonna suck. They're called Starch. The record is called Fuck Like a Priest. There's some wacky Mad Magazine style drawings of "goofy" priests on the cover. It's on Bitchslap records. Ugh.

So I was kind of surprised by the wall of thick, crunchy metal that started things off. However, the surprise lasted all of five seconds before the goofy, screechy, atonal, Primus-y vocals sent things straight into the shitter. That said, the music is pretty beefy and brutal, some decent chugging thrash metal, but the songs are really dumb and the vocals are totally cringeworthy. One weird thing is that the record is dedicated to four of their friends/bandmates, all of whom died in the last few years, all 24 years old or younger. Weird. But still bad. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Bastiaan
 

STATIC MOVEMENT - Visionary Landscapes - CD - Eibon Records - 1999

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

This is basically the same release as Frozen Autumn (reviewed in this issue) except it has a different name and this time only electronics are used in order to create a more complex sound.

And itís just as generic.

It might be too much trouble than its worth to scroll up and read Frozen Autumnís review, but the tedium of that undertaking pales in comparison to buying and then having to LISTEN to this album. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 for Stratovarius fans, 1/10 for everyone else Roberto
 

STRATOVARIUS - Elements Part 2 - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

A once-great metal institution has stumbled and fallen. Where once the quality of the work was regarded as the finest in its field, now it is a pathetic shadow of its former self.

Weíre of course talking about Derek Riggs, the artist who has designed Stratovariusí last few album covers, beginning with the infamous dolphins. Oh, yeah, and heís also designed a few Iron Maiden covers.

What the fuck has happened to Derek Riggs? Has he lost his mind? He must have been kidnapped and replaced by a clone. Thatís the only way to explain why he would ignore his talent, quit drawing, and only use really shitty looking computer graphics.

Look at the evidence. Riggs goes from *hand* drawing and coloring the greatest, most intricate covers in metal EVER Ė (Somewhere in Time, Powerslave, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, etc...), covers with detail and depth; Covers that smacked of *effort*, *thought* and *artistic value* Ė to doing covers like Timo Kotipeltoís debut album cover (with the crappy Egyptian dude). And now this. To paraphrase William H. Macy, the cover to Elements, Part 2 looks like the artist vomited, and then that vomit designed the artwork.

But letís get a professional opinion. Our roommate, who happens to be a professional 2D and 3D animator, and a good one, too, says it sucks. No, seriously, he said that it probably took a lot of time, but that (a bunch of technical terms) are really poorly done. And it sucks.

And if we are to believe what skater zines print as truth, then Derek Riggs is also a total poser. Riggs was interviewed in a skater mag a few years ago (unfortunately, we canít remember the name). One of the questions was "what do you think of Iron Maidenís music?" The answer was one word: "yuck!"

Treason.

But, hey, this is supposed to be a review of the new Stratovarius record, right? Well, letís sum it up by saying that the cover is aptly chosen for the musical content.

The album should have been called Elements, Part 2: The B-Sides. Elements, Part 1 had a lot of good and some inevitable bad. But mostly good. This new record sounds like all the garbage that didnít make it onto the first record. Like all the most generic parts of every Stratovarius song ever written, diluted some more, and then mushed together to make a totally useless nine-song album. Itís the worst album theyíve done with their defining lineup since Destiny. To give you an idea, that Intermission this-n-that album may actually be better.

The only bright spot on Elements, Part 2 is the song "I Walk to My Own Song," which has some originality and interest in the Stratovarius framework. The rest consists of songs that are each more uninteresting and rehashed than the one before it. The Ronnie James Dio rip-off "Awaken the Giant," the Amityville Horror on a MIDI player "Season of Faithís Perception." Yes, the big production and clarity is still there, which makes the unprecedentedly horrible keyboard sounds even more baffling. Stratovarius has always been childrenís metal, but this is way out of hand.

Is this a case that Stratovarius has finally exhausted its formula of recycling riffs and ideas? Probably not. Perhaps itís time for a change, though. And this is coming from a big Stratovarius fan. (4/10 for Stratovarius fans, 1/10 for everyone else)

 

Related reviews:
 
Intermission (issue No 7)  
Eagleheart (issue No 12)  
Elements Pt. I (issue No 12)  

 

 

 
6.9/10 Roberto
 

SVARTSYN - Destruction of Man - CD - Sound Riot Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

If anyone is carrying on the legacy of Immortalís Pure Holocaust, itís Svartsyn. This was especially the case with the bandís last album, The True Legend, which is clearly the one to go to should Immortalís classic album call in sick.

Svartsynís latest work, Destruction of Man, is unsurprisingly much like its predecessor, but it actually feels like a step backwards in the bandís progression. Much of The True Legendís unusual little elements, from the atypical rhythmic variations to tasty melodies, elements that made each song stand out more, have been replaced by songs that uniformly blast and hum in that tried and true black metal way.

Destruction of Man is certainly a worthy record (if a little uneventful), and fans of this band will want to check it out. New listeners should check out The True Legend first. After hearing that, true black metal fans will undoubtedly have to have all things Svartsyn. (6.9/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Bastiaan
 

TERROR ORGAN - The Stalag Symphony - CD - Dragon Flight Records - 2003

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Terror Organ is one of the most interesting bands in the industrial/noise genre these days. Combining harsh electronics with epic basswork and black metal shrieking, The Stalag Symphony is a release that cannot be passed over.

The main reason why this band stands out are the wonderful vocals, itís surprising that they work so well with minimal noise or lush ambient backgrounds. Black metal vocals are rare in albums such as these, and to hear them done and done well (by Pete Helmkamp, who made his biggest mark in the defunct Angel Corpse) is a big plus. There is no definite highlight on this album. All the songs are equally enticing and stay interesting because they donít suffer from extreme lengthy proportions. Everything about this release is top-notch, from the lovely packaging to the sound production. This is quality music, people. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Bastiaan
 

THEE MALDOROR KOLLECTIVE - New Era Viral Order - CD - Code 666 - 2001

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Itís often quite interesting to hear in which ways a band can evolve over the years if they let themselves; sometimes the results are stunning (Manes for example) and sometimes what ends up isnít that impressive at all. This album lingers somewhere in between. Thee Maldoror Collective let go of their experimental black metal musical style and went electronic. Think Samael, but with a more profound philosophy, a more edgy approach to the music and a slightly less impressive vocalist.

The album itself is a conceptual work, featuring thoughts on the fundamental Liber Al vel Legis. I havenít been able to do much research about it yet but it seems that itís a book of rules. (To those who actually know what it is, feel free to email me as it sounds interesting and I would like to know more.) But of course, an album is nothing without good music, fancy philosophy or not; New Era Viral Order is more than decent, itís black metal guitar-work mixed up with interesting electronic tid-bits. Itís presented in such a way that it stays interesting throughout the songs. Iím especially fond of the last track, a remix by the ever interesting MZ.412. (7/10)

Roberto Martinelli adds: Thee Maldoror Collective is roughly in the style that Aborym do so well. New Era Viral Order may not be nearly as good as the fantastic records Aborym has put out, but itís certainly not too bad, either.

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Nikita
 

THESSALONIAN DOPE GODS, THE - high Idol Pulsation - CD - Sin Klub - 2003

review by: Nikita

Thessalonian Dope Gods is "a totally unique caldron of analytical psychology, seething compulsions and perverse desires." This is a visit to the junk yard of the collective unconscious. What I like about it is that it is strangely tongue in cheek and way off-color funny.

Itís a little Nine Inch Nails meets early Red Hot Chilli Peppers. MAYBE. It is largely unclassifiable.

RK Wilson and ES3, both multi-talented art students started with this industrial nu-metal 10 years before the genre even had a pulse. Itís crazy inventive programming crowned with dark but extremely entertaining lyrics.

Yup, there were times when this CD gave me full on agida but, you know what, I rather like it for its fearless exploration of some freaky, churned-up, inner landscapes.

The CD cover has got to be one of the most compelling totem poles Iíve ever seen. You want to look at it but you want to look away at the same time. Itís industrial, cartoonish, middle-ages, Bosh-like, pornographic, Renaissance, free-wheeling weirdness Ė suitable for framing. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Condor
 

THESYRE - Thesyre - CD - Ascent Records - 2003

review by: The Condor

Everything about this record made me think this was gonna rule. Super spare artwork: very military, sort of Der Blutharsch looking. No information whatsoever, in the booklet or on the website. Stark black and white.

So the first listen was a bit disappointing. Plodding midtempo sort-of black metal, but more punk. The *sound* was perfect, super grim and necro and fuzzed out, inhuman vocals VERY reminiscent of Burzum, but the songs were just sort of boring, midtempo punk rock.

But later, somehow, it sounded different. Better. Supposedly their influences are Motorhead and Impaled Nazarene (who are basically a sped up Motorhead anyway) but this time around I was hearing more Burzum and more Satyricon and LOTS of Celtic Frost. On repeated listens, the whole record seemed to get more and more cold and evil and hypnotic. The drummer is also with Canadian black metal grimgods Frozen Shadows. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Larissa P.
 

THIS EMPTY FLOW - Nowafter - CD - Eibon Records - 2001

review by: Larissa Parson

Thereís something about those Scandinavians. Music just seems to keep coming from places like Norway and Finland and keeps telling me to listen to it repeatedly. While The Empty Flow no longer exist, they put out this album of unreleased tracks and rarities back in 2001, before Sigur Růs was the most-dropped Scandinavian name on the indie-kid circuit. While Iím not about to compare the two (Sigur Růs wins, hands down), there are many striking similarities in the sound of the two bands Ė lush soundscapes, extended meditations on the noise a guitar makes when something is done to it beyond strumming, haunting vocals.

Though This Empty Flow is promoted as a "dark" music band, and while the sounds do veer into minor keys more often than not, itís more like something you would expect to hear from Radiohead or even Pink Floyd. On first listening to the album, I could go song by song, naming the band, and sometimes even the track title I could hear echoed in This Empty Flowís music. The second time through, I had the same problem.

That is not meant to detract in any way from the beauty of the album. This Empty Flow manages to meld electronic and almost danceable tracks with the sort of arty noise-pop that makes most sense if you just let it wash over you.

And then there are the funky parts: "And Also the Drops" is music for mackiní, complete with horns, Bowie-esque vocals, a chorus of "aaaahs" and even a xylophone. No, definitely not dark music. The drumming is consistently jazzy over the whole album, with plenty of brush and ease. And while the guitars get loud, they also get twangy. The one thing this album doesnít do is get fast and angry. In fact, whenever the tempo speeds up, as on "Drops," the music moves into almost-pop territory, at least if you consider the Cure pop.

"One Song About Solitude" is possibly the most gothy track on the album, owing to a heavy bass line and organ atmosphere, combined with brooding vocals and suitably dreary lyrics, an excursus into the demise of a relationship that never happened, or never turned out the way it should have; vocalist Jori Sj^roos coasts off into Cure-like plaintiveness, and the overall effect is tinged with nostalgia for me.

And thatís the effect of the album as a whole: I like listening to it, and although I can hear a rack of other bands instead of a unique voice, theyíre all good bands. How interesting to hear them all combined into one phenomenon. Definitely worth repeated listenings, with some tracks mix-cd worthy for sure. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Larissa P.
 

THOMAS, ROSIE - Only With Laughter Can You Win - CD - Sub Pop Records - 2003

review by: Larissa Parson

Rosie Thomasís sophomore release makes for good listening, although if you have never in your life wanted to listen to Sarah McLachlan or Joni Mitchell, stay away.

That caveat out of the way, letís get to the music: straight up folk-rock, full of pretty harmonies (including one with her mother on the album opener, "Let Myself Fall"), earnest lyrics about her life as it stood during the recording of the album. Sam Beam, otherwise known as Iron &Wine, puts in an appearance as a backing vocalist on the albumís third track, "Red Rover," although it is hard to discern his distinctive voice, it is so hushed.

While Thomasís songwriting is exactly on spot for her genre, at times it can be treacly. For example, from "You and Me": "You and me/ Me and you/ there is so much that weíve been throughÖ" And it goes on. The lyrics however do not detract from the general pleasantness of the album. If you like down-tempo, heartfelt, folk-rock,this album is for you. I enjoyed it because I have also enjoyed listening to Sarah McLachlan. Shhh, itís a secret.

And the coolest thing about Rosie Thomas? Sheís got an alter-ego, Sheila, who does nerdy-girl standup. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
Thorwald: 4.5/10
Pulmonary Fibrosis: 7/10
Abhi
 

THORWALD/ PULMONARY FIBROSIS - split - CD - wurma@post.sk - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Thorwald are a Slovakian band who have a definite liking for dirty, downtuned grind akin to Morticianís, and are sufficiently sloppy enough (without being too shoddy) to satisfy fans of the above mentioned band.

They satisfied me too, but only for the first half of their side. The entire second half was marred by a disastrous cover of "Genital Grinder" by Carcass. I hope for their sake that they fucked up the timing on purpose or Iíll have to hand the guitarist a big You-Should-Die-Of-Shame Award. On second thought, I might hand them that award anyway for messing about with such a great song.

Pulmonary Fibrosis hail from France and they chose to start their side of the split with a three-minute long, creepy crawly intro, and then let loose a torrent of extremely downtuned goregrind. These guys score way more than Thorwald on the coolness-meter.

Blazing fast blast beats batter you into senselessness, and epilepsy causing grooves serve as the perfect counterpart to the speed assault. Those frog croaks that I last heard on the Alienation Mental have been used here too, though very sparingly. For the most part the vocals consist of deep growls mixed with some pitchshifted sickness alike to Last Days of Humanity. I didnít really figure out why those two 20 second cover songs were put in at the end (Malignant Tumour and Regurgitate), as the original compositions are much better than the selected covers. "Hacked the Human Flesh" is one of the biggest standouts from their side. (Thorwald: 4.5/10 Pulmonary Fibrosis: 7/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Nikita
 

THRIVING IVORY - Thriving Ivory - CD - http://www.thrivingivory.com - 2003

review by: Nikita

Having seen these guys live prompted me to buy this CD. They were an excellent live act Ė compelling in both look and ability to give the audience Ė especially the girls Ė a thrill. The lead singer is like a young Roger Daltry or Mick Jagger or something. Heís got a great voice and creates a very relaxed, intuitive and sincere rapport with the audience while he strikes these really sexy, quirky poses.

The guys in the band were extremely complementary to each other on stage. Everyone fits in their space, does their job and doesnít try to compete with other members. The songs were catchy and clever, just bent enough to be memorable.

Alas, this CD doesnít do them justice.

You have to be careful what you leave behind for people to remember you by. The songs and the recording arenít half bad Ė but man, they have got to upgrade the quality of the cover art. It looks like something some groupie in art school who thinks they actually have talent put together. Not appropriate, not interesting and NOT fitting for the likes of these guys.

They have some pretty aggressive management and are booking live every week around town. Go see Ďem live. This band is definitely a girl magnet.

Take my advice however and wait on the CD. I'm sure something better is coming soon. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
2.5/10 Matt
 

TRANSPORT LEAGUE - Grand Amputation - CD - Crash Music - 2003

review by: Matt Smith

Everything about this album screams, "Nu Metal!" From the trying-to-be-creepy cyber packaging to the simplistic, way-too-marketable sounds that come out of these people, thereís not much good to be said about Transport League.

The vocals are bordering on rap-metal, and the guitars and drums donít do anything worth listening to. They get all quiet and repetitive when the vocals come in so the listener can take in all the angry stuff Transport League has to say.

I wouldnít recommend this album to anyone over the age of 12. Except maybe to the senile. They like boring, unoriginal pop, too, right? The only good thing about Grand Amputation is how soon itís over (about 20 minutes). (2.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4.9/10 Bastiaan
 

TRIVIUM - Ember to Inferno - CD - Lifeforce Records - 2003

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Donít you just hate it when an album seems great at first? And you get all excited but after a listen or two the album deflates and leaves you annoyed and a considerable amount of cash lighter? Trivium has succeeded in making such an album.

All in all this album works out quite well on a few occasions, mainly the ones where the vocalist stops screaming and decides to use his clean vocals. The moment that happens the whole band forms a tight package where everything works; the clean vocals, the rugged sounding guitars and the steady drums. However, half of this album is wasted because of the awful screeching that Mr. Heafy provides. Such a pity as the remaining half is quite good and could make for an interesting listen.

So Ember to Inferno is an album thatís clearly a hit-and-miss situation, sporting a dull and flat production sound thatís clearly noticeable once you turn the volume up high enough, a vocalist that needs to stop screaming, and some decent songs. However, this band is quite promising so if you find this album in the cheap-o-bin, pick it up. (4.9/10)

 

 

 

 
9.2/10 Bastiaan
 

ULVER - A Quick Fix of Melancholy EP - CD - Jester - 2003

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Stepping further and further away from.. well, from everything common and riddled with guidelines, Ulver safely propelled themselves into a complete genre of their own. And even though Garm and his merry band of musical brothers have been releasing a steady stream of high-quality recordings the past few years, it never seems enough. With every release the bar is pushed a little higher and the fans left a little hungrier. The title of this EP holds true to its meaning: a quick fix, not nearly enough to satisfy the hunger for the intoxicating effect the CD leaves not long after listening to it.

This release works in its entirety; the package becomes a lovely part of the experience with the lyrics to the first song printed in the gatefold and the lyrics to the third song (Vowels by Christian Bok) printed on the CD itself. Only four songs this time, the aforementioned two songs with lyrics, one instrumental and a remix that eloped from the First Decade in the Machines release (Ulverís 10 year tribute) to further strengthen this quick fix. However, these four songs together last roughly 23 minutes and thatís good enough for an EP. An absolute highlight.

So bravo, Ulver, you have done it again; may you come again quickly to inject us with another fix of divine music but make sure to up the dosage and put our addiction to rest a little longer next time. (9.2/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Perdition City (issue No 4)  
Lykantropen Themes (issue No 12)  
1st Decade in the Machines (issue No 16)  

 

 

 
6/10 (on a lenient, amateurish demo scale) Tom
 

UNDER EDEN - Songs from the Savage Circle - CD - http://www.under-eden.net - 2003

review by: Tom Orgad

The art of Under Eden seems to deal with profound philosophical matters. There is some conceptual theme reflected by the depth and subtlety of their lyrics. However, as promising as this approach may sound, the band lacks maturity and guidance, which is noticeable on a few aspects of their music, and quite abrasively visible on both compositional and aesthetical facets of the final product.

As stated by the Minneapolis-based band's title, the main recurring lyrical theme is the symbolic banishment from the Garden of Eden and its horrific consequences. Being cast away from the loving bosom of its eternal father, man is left morally and physically disoriented, wandering under the canopy of bleak, cold, indifferent skies.

Intangible and ambiguous notions such as the aforementioned ones demand a fittingly complex, multi-layered reflection. Under Eden simply doesn't manage to do it. Each of the pieces is made up of thrashy death metal riffing. Even as the presented phrases are usually rather original and somehow innovative, not utterly following predefined standard formulas, the resulting feeling is quite clear: harsh and sharp, however not a sensational or overwhelming one, but rather a trite atmosphere of tumultuous, apocalyptic events inevitably leading to deterioration.

The music is shaped by hectic, dominant drumming, chromatic, bassy phrases and all forms and brands of entertaining vocal grunts, screams and moans. Also present are melodic guitar solos, most likely integrated in the overall construction in order to represent the desperate suffering individual. Nonetheless, they usually sound superfluous and impertinent. Again, had their modest aim been to deliver such a mundane feel, they should have definitely been considered successful. Nevertheless, their lyrics evidently tell otherwise.

Regardless of the conceptual matters, an additional obvious deficiency is notable in the instrumental performance and sound production. While the drummer constantly proves his impressive technical abilities, the rhythm guitar playing never exceeds the mediocre. And the leads are usually worse than that. In fact, the lead guitars do not only show problematic craftsmanship and bad tone, but also bear a more important fault: it seems that some of them are there for no apparent reason other than to placate the egotistic needs of the guitarist. Some of them sound absolutely irrelevant and unconnected to their preceding and successive parts, requiring nothing else than merciless eradication.

Throughout the recording one may easily notice many disturbing noises, caused by bad mastering, mixing and editing. While recording under the burden of bad financial conditions or limited instrumental performance is respectable and forgivable, Under Edenís flaws are a result of nothing but neglect. Such demonstration of contempt to the listener is simply unacceptable, even on a mere demo recording. Moreover, when the music deals with such exalted, dignified matters, an kind of raw atmosphere sounds awfully out of place, effectively ruining the inspirational, thematic aura.

In conclusion, Under Eden bear a fine, praiseworthy core of ideas, currently still obscured and abstracted by quite a few notions. There is much room for improvement and reform, yet also for hope. (6/10 (on a graceful, lenient amateurish demo scale))

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Roberto
 

UNMOORED - Indefinite Soul-Extension - CD - Code 666 - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

In our reviews, we at Maelstrom sometimes refer to albums as being good "driving music." Thereís a connotation that the tag means the album is somehow inferior: that being in a car, with all its various stimuli to distract one from the lack of such from the album, is the only way to enjoy the music. Not so.

Personally, I know I tend to enjoy music most when Iím in transit. Some of the most meaningful listening experiences I have are consistently when Iím walking around outside with my favorite headphones or Iím driving with a CD on. So when I say Unmooredís Indefinite Soul-Extension is great driving music, thatís something to take note of.

This praise is especially true when you consider that the Unmoored is great music to have on when driving the majestic Pacific Coast Highway, which runs along the coast of California. The stretch of highway from San Luis Obispo to Half Moon Bay is hundreds of miles of thrilling, windy roads and spectacular, unspoiled vistas of ocean and cliffs. Roll the windows down while you shift gears through the serpentine road; and when you come around a corner or the lip of a hill and all you can see is a creamy blue sky, it feels like youíre flying.

Unmooredís Swedish brand of death metal speed was a great album to have on for the experience. As far as the seemingly endless, quality melodic death metal records that Sweden puts out every year, Unmoored is in the higher echelon. The music sounds hungrier and fuller, and they avoid a lot of the rehashed trappings of the Swedish sound.

But what really makes the record are the clean vocals. A lot like Opethís clean stuff over that bandís last three albums or so, but less feminine and sensitive and more soaring and powerful, while still retaining the pretty feel. The vocals are sung about 1/4 of the time, and are always inserted tastefully and generally for choruses. But you get plenty of brutality with blast beats, spirited riffs and heavy metal soloing.

So did the surroundings of the California Coast affect the impression of Unmoored? Probably, but the opposite was also true. And listens to Indefinite Soul-Extension while waiting for our mom in the parking lot of the grocery store also proved Unmooredís latest record to be a pretty great one. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.3/10 Roberto
 

UNPERSONS - III - CD - At a Loss Recordings - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Unpersons fits very securely in the school of music that features Dazzling Killmen: technical, very noisy and aggressive. Honest to goodness screaming. Real sounding production. But comparisons to Dazzling Killmen taken into consideration, Unpersons stands strongly on its own merit.

The music is more mathy, and when paired with the highly distorted walls of undulating guitars, itís like the whole world around you sways and buckles. But there are welcome doses of straight ahead raging, making the non-distorted parts, like warbly guitar, all the more tasty.

Taking a look at the lyrics reveals a tasteful, deep vocabulary applied to depict images of ever present apocalyptic doom Ė but with some thought behind it all. III is a deep, passionate, crushing and creative record, and certainly not one to relax to. (8.3/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Matt
 

VAMPIRE MOOSE - Vampire Moose - CD - Rotten Records - 2003

review by: Matt Smith

This is my favorite album of the month. I liked Vampire Moose at Milwaukee Metalfest, and I like this release, as well. Their live show is crazy and energetic. Their music kept the crowd going, Ryan Pulliam (vocals) jumped around in his Dead Kennedys shirt, and the band kept the heavy grooves coming.

Their sound is deep and heavy. The production of the album adds a lot, too Ė some atmospheric synth sounds as well as heavy bass kicks blend well with the instrumentation and enhance the feel of the CD. The album starts with Meshuggah-like technicality on their song "Spiderman vs. Venom," but they put their own spin on the grinding starts and stops.

The Mooseís sound is a bit dirtier than Meshuggahís, but not in a bad way. The instrumentation is tight, but the roughness around the edges only adds to the bandís heavy sound. Eric Baudendistelís drums often remind me of Sepulturaís tribal-sounding grooves. Chuck Sevick and Al Carson, on guitars and bass, respectively, stay crunchy and deep as they pound out riffs that are impossible not to nod along with. Pulliamís vocals are almost impossible to understand most of the time, but he has a deep and scratchy growl that compliments everything else quite well.

Vampire Moose has perfected an energetic blend of death, grind, hardcore and (a little) thrash that doesnít slow for a second. There are even some hip-hop elements in the vocals and rhythms. The liner notes are well-designed and fun to look at, too. Iíve also heard talk that Pulliam is facing some charges for inciting riots, though Iím not sure what the situation is, exactly. But with the crazed audiences they must bring in, itís no surprise. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5 spawns of Satanís curse / 10 Abhi
6.8/10 Roberto
 

VERMINOUS - Impious Sacrilege - CD - Xtreem Music - 2003

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Verminous start off on the right foot with the intense yet immediately hummable "Spawn of Satanís Curse," and continue their manic riffing throughout the length of the album.

The thrash feel in their songs is supported by the addition of some old school death metal elements that are apparent in the solos and the drumming. Altars of Madness-era Morbid Angel comes to mind more than once, and though Verminous are not THAT fast, they have managed to write nine songs without a single weak link in any of them, and each of them being equally eligible for being called death metal anthems.

The vocalist does not overdo his part and spews forth his blasphemic utterances in a powerful, snarling voice. I think they have used distortion on the bass guitar, as can be heard properly in the last song, "Verminous Fluids," and that adds a lot of punch to the sound. Verminous and Reek of Shits may be worlds apart musically, but thereís one thing common about them. Once this CD goes into your player, it will take a hell of a lot of time to vacate. This gets elected as my Pick of The Issue #2. (8.5 spawns of Satanís curse / 10)

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The death metal of speed crazed Verminous is nothing you havenít heard a whole bunch of times before. In fact, by the time you get through the nine proper death metal songs on this half hour record, youíll have heard nearly the exact same thing eight more times.

But delivery and conviction save the day. Sure, itís all the same, but the rabid, hungry energy these Swedes put across ups the heart rate. Seems that you CAN have some faith in death metal records whose covers were drawn in crayon by one of the drunken band members. (6.8/10)

 

 

 

 
9.5/10 Nikita
 

WATASHI WA - The Love of Life - CD - Tooth and Nail Records - 2003

review by: Nikita

Watashi Wa is somehow reminiscent of bands like the Rembrants,  maybe a shot of the Cure and another shot of early Police. This music makes me feel so Goooood I want to give it a 10. Still, I feel a little guilty about giving a collection of textbook pop such a high score. So Iíll give it a 9.5

Where some pop songs are lucky to get one good hook, Watashi Wa is about multiple hooks. Listening to Love of Life goes something like this:

Oh yeah, that part feels good. Uh huh Uh huh mmmmm. ohhh here we go? ohhh, my god is that another one coming? Eeeeeee. Wow, that feels nice there too.

These hooks effortlessly emerge to charge the listener with elated feelings of love and bliss. You death metal lovers can take a lesson in what heaven would sound like if you were going. This is rock that makes you want to go out and buy a puppy and feed it caviar. The hooks barely let you go before another one tempts you into earnestly liking these guys.

The lead singer, Sean Roberts has got a conscious, gentle, thoughtful wisdom in his lyrics. He is charmingly untouched by this otherwise ugly world. You want to hear romantic? You must check out these lyrics. Here is a guy who invites his girl to "tell me, whatís your dream? Just talk and Iíll listen."

If that puppy doesnít seal the deal, a line like that definitely will!

Although this band feels a little cheese ball, they obviously have the talent and the funds/influence to do it right. The recording is flawless and is the artwork for the CD sleeve and enclosure is really quite stunning. The presentation has a Japanese feeling of simple beauty. It downright puts you in the mood to hear the music and spread the love of Watshi Wa. Big kiss. (9.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Condor
 

WITH ALL SINCERITY - The Age Where Nothing Fits - CD - Pluto Records - 2003

review by: The Condor

Been eyeing this record at the store for a while with its wickedly cool horseshoe cover art. But we have been fooled a lot lately by wicked cover art. Thankfully this time, we will not be disappointed. Blazing metalcore, with some serious death metal crunch, squirrely harmony leads, growling, guttural metal grunts, and some really demented sounding vocalizations that you just have to hear. Mix in some hyper complex math-metal breakdowns, angular slippery guitars and stuttering, obtuse rhythms and you've got some serious chaotic brutality. Great stuff. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Roberto
 

WOLFCRY - Nightbreed - CD - Black Lotus Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Chalk up another frustrating power metal session with a band that can walk the walk but canít talk the talk. Or sing the song, in this case.

While Nightbreed starts off well with meaty playing and production, the singerís lack of talent becomes all too clear all too quickly - even quicker than the realization of how generic the riffing and songs are.

Michael Kiske could have saved Nightbreed. Until someone of his caliber joins, Wolfcry will remain as yet another power metal band missing the most important element of the genre. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
7.6/10 Roberto
 

ZERO HOUR - Metamorphosis - CD - Sensory/Lasers Edge - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

It must be frustrating being a prog metal fan. I mean, it seems as if just about *every* band out there in the genre sounds like Dream Theater. And if per chance it doesnít, then the band sounds like Fates Warning. So it must be frustrating. But then again, objectively speaking, not any more so than being a power metal fan.

So prog metal fools will be pumped to get Zero Hour. Excellent playing and vocals, memorable songs, and it *doesnít* sound like Dream Theater OR Fates Warning!

With that said, Zero Hour, being prog metal, canít avoid the wanky trappings that turn off the non-converted, including smarmy, righteous monologues about the destruction of the environment and our inner child, or something. But prog metal people know who they are, and theyíll dig this record. (7.6/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

ZYKLON - Aeon - CD - Candlelight Records - 2003

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The new Zyklon has got all the ingredients that would make it an extreme metal hit. Blazing leads, shredding rhythm guitar, thundering drums. Itís got all that.

And yet itís so boring.

The fast parts are uninteresting, and when a slow song hits you find yourself longing for the fast parts. And thatís really the problem that Zyklon has had since its beginning. The band can play their instruments well, but whereís the song writing? I mean, you still *do* have to write good songs, even in a genre that before all else values athletic musicianship and one-upping all that came before it, no?

For you Zyklon fans out there: the alien, irritated sound of the debut record has been replaced by a more earthy, heavy feel. But the material is just as hollow, and imagining having to see a song like the slow and tedious "Two Thousand Years" live makes you just want to stay home and rent a DVD. It seems that thereís more Morbid Angel signature to be found this time as well, but Zyklon is clinical and cold, like a death metal band playing at top speed in a hospital hallway.

And so that explains the solidly average score weíre giving Aeon: It rips, but you wonít care. But after the obligatory electronica/ industrial outro to the penultimate song, comes "An Eclectic Manner," which is by far the best track on the disk. Totally unlike the rest of the songs in style, the blurry layers of fuzzy guitars give it depth and memorability that the rest of the album lacks. But itís certainly too little too late.

Our advice to Zyklon members Samoth and Trym: Get Ihsahn in the band. Or better yet, cut this shit out and go back to making Emperor records. Samoth and Ihsahn need each other, and their albums made without the participation of the other will suck.

Our advice to you, our readers: Just listen to your Morbid Angel records. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

HACKETT, STEVE - Please Don't Touch - other - Charisma Records - 1978

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Even though I have only been just short of 20 years on this planet, and only consciously listening to music for a handful of years, I can remember hearing the sweet and playful melodies of Genesis while I was still running around in diapers. Perhaps because I have been exposed to it from a early age, I developed a particular fondness of almost everything Genesis created, at least, until Steve Hackett left the band. Albums like Selling England by the Pound and Trick of a Tail, and even the pre-Hackett/Collins adventure Trespass are the ultimate display of power in musical creation.

Sadly, when Peter Gabriel left the band after the highly criticized Lamb Lies Down tour, and Hackett leaving after the abysmal Wind and Wuthering the lovely Genesis turned into a fast-food type of band, dishing out mindless, poppy love songs. However, Hackett, who had already completed a solo effort (the wonderful Voyage of the Acolyte), had no trouble continuing on his own, and Please Don't Touch is the proof.

The aforementioned Voyage of the Acolyte was Hackett's first stab at going solo (he was still in Genesis at the time), however, that album runs on the same fuel Genesis used and is often said to be an album that Genesis never made: A rich, playful way of approaching that which is a riddle. And although the genius of Hackett's song writing and guitar playing shone through the songs, he was somehow held back by something. Perhaps it was the fact that both Collins and Rutherford played part in the creation of the album. But after having tasted what could be created outside of Genesis, he was asked to make a choice between the two. The choice was made and "Please Don't Touch" was the result.

That's why I picked the album for this issue's From the Vault. It may not be his best album (personally I think his best material is found scattered through out his entire discography) but I do believe it's his most important one.

Gone are all influences from Genesis. Hackett created something that was ultimately his, and his alone. Please don't Touch offeris a wide array of styles ranging from rock to acoustic to pretty much hands-down R&B. The songs are all like little statements, however not all are equally clear to hear. Even if youíre not into the bluesy-side that Hackett shows on the album, it is still highly enjoyable. He also managed to write his best song ever Ė the title track of the album Ė a playful but highly sinister song that revels in the dark, rumbly undertones of the musical spectrum.

So even though this album is a bit shady at times, it still stands as a proud statement of Hackettís talent. Since then he has grown to be a guitarist extraordinaire, doing his own thing with each and every album, right up to his latest creation, To Watch the Storms, an album filled with tiny gems of musical emotion. Please Don't Touch is a wonderful and rich experience that lets you hear where it all started.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

WACKEN OPEN AIR 2003
July 31st - August 2nd, 2003 - Wacken, Germany

review by: Jez Andrews

It seemed like a simple yet brilliant plan. My two fellow travelers and I were to fly across to Amsterdam, hire a car, stay over in a hotel, and drive the five and a half hours to Itzehoe in the morning for the greatest metal festival in the world. That was the theory.

We were brought sharply down off cloud nine by the fact that we were unable to charge the car rental to my credit card, my friend Andy being the only licensed driver among us. After nearly three hours of heated negotiations at Schiphol Airport, we finally admitted defeat and made our way, a little broken in spirit, to the hotel. Once a few delights of the picturesque Amsterdam had been sampled, we returned to the hotel and slept off the effects of an exhausting day.

Having weighed the options, we decided that train travel would be the best policy. Stressful as it was, the very thought of seeing Vader, Ancient Rites, Dark Funeral and Testament on one bill would have allowed me to tolerate far worse circumstances. It had already been decided that despite certain setbacks, we would be in attendance for Wacken 2003, come hell or high water.

The weather looked stable enough to ensure that a flood was not on the agenda, and the increasing numbers of black-clad metallers appearing on the way to Hamburg was an assurance that we would not be staggering around Itzehoe like headless chickens (unless the whole pack of them were clueless).

Day 1

The night before the official opening of the festival was full of drunken comradary and celebration, as well as death metal karaoke from various tents and the occasional Rob Halford impression.

I am pleased to report that this year's Wacken was a real scorcher. The repeated blaring of Rage Against the Latrine hits across the campsite did bring down the mood slightly, and it seemed an age to wait in the heat for the opening act, but it was VERY well worth the wait.

At this point, I feel I should mention something about the festival pass system. It's a perfectly reasonable assumption that a 'PRESS/VIP' pass would allow your reporter access to the photographers pit to get some quality shots of the metal motherfuckers up on stage. Ah, if it were so simple...

In reality (from my observation), only the creme de la creme of the world's rock/metal press, equipped with an armful of wristbands and a specially allocated red vest were allowed such a privilege. The fact that a certain weekly magazine in the UK was among these, without really giving a shit about true metal anymore, just makes my fucking blood boil. On the upside, I had access to the backstage area. Well, there's my rant....

Circle II Circle proved to be quite a lively opener, delighting the expectant crowd with their solid, no-nonsense approach to power metal. There seemed to be no sound problems and the band were putting on quite a decent show, including old Savatage material (courtesy of vocalist Zach Stevens) and a worthy cover of Metallica's "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" to round off the set.

Next up were legendary thrashers Annihilator. I must admit that I had been eagerly anticipating this, as they had been forced to cancel their Wacken appearance two years previously when I first had a proper listen to "Criteria for a Black Widow." Both band and crowd were full of energy as the songs came pounding through the speakers like a sharp wake up call to the heat-dazed inhabitants of the main arena, much to the enjoyment of guitarist Jeff Waters. Tracks such as "Never Never Land," "Set the World on Fire" and "Alison Hell" were all very well received, and the old ribcage rattling effect of the festival bass speakers returned.

Having absolutely no interest in Victory's bland style of hard rock, I wandered around Wacken's extensive selection of market stalls. CD's, t-shirts, posters, patches, jewelery, ornaments, leather, spikes, bullet belts, they had it all. Cursing my financial restrictions that had been due to the aforementioned changes in traveling plans, I slowly wandered back to the True Metal Stage.

I do remember Zach Stevens mumbling something about Saxon, but imagine my surprise when the British metal veterans actually made an unscheduled appearance. It may have only lasted for three songs, but a good ninety percent of the arena flocked forward for the occasion, and short though it was, Saxon drove the crowd wild (Biff Byford still flamboyant as ever). Okay, so a big part of this was to promote their new live DVD, but where's the harm in that if youíre giving thousands of people a little extra justification for the ticket price?

Tonight, however, was not about the denim and leather, but more about the rum and cutlasses. If I had a pound for every Running Wild t-shirt and patch at this particular festival, I would have simplified the task of getting from A to B by chartering a lear jet. Over the course of twenty plus years, Running Wild have been elevated to the status of gods within the German metal scene. Tonight, only a small number of people had their heads turned away from the the headliners.

Whether clad in power metal t-shirts or that of obscure black metal bands, the masses were riveted. As the band themselves took the stage and broke into song, every gap in the crowd was filled, many of them obviously familiar with the entire back catalogue. I can't deny that the smooth yet gruff quality to Rock'n'Ralf's voice is pretty original, as is his profoundly embarrassing hairstyle. I won't pretend to be a devoted fan of their recorded work (enjoyable as it is), but every song sounded quite simply fantastic in a live setting. The likes of "Riding the Storm" and "Branded and Exiled" sent the crowd into a frenzy and with the dialogue from Treasure Island, out comes Ralf's Long John Silver headgear and a more frequent change of pirate attire. The only real downside to the set was the 'aren't I damn sexy?' attitude of drummer Matthias Liebetruth, especially during his spotlight solo. I must admit that having never seen Running Wild live before, I was hoping that 'Black Hand Inn' was a live favourite, but alas, it was not to be. I was impressed with the heaviness of "Victory," and as the set came to a close with "Under Jolly Roger" and a storming encore, the sky erupted with enough fireworks to rival Venom. I made my way slowly back to the campsite, ready to drop. All in all, the the first night had been pretty damn good.

Day 2

I was very much looking forward to the first full day of bands. The heat was really getting to me and the drinks were over-priced (makes sense), but I couldn't argue with the choice of music. Unfortunately, someone decided that 11am would be a good time to place Dew-Scented on the Black Stage, right when I was desperately trying to immerse my head in cold water. I admit that it's a great sales ploy in hot weather to only sell carbonated drinks in the main arena, it pissed me off having to queue fro something as basic as still water. Anyway, the fresh faced German thrashers played a fairly decent set from what I could hear, drawing mostly on material from their last album, Inwards. New album, Impact, reviewed in this issue, folks.

The first band I saw properly were Extreme Noise Terror, a band who could have easily competed for most brutal band on the bill. I wasn't familiar with the songs themselves, but what of that when they were so fucking heavy and tightly executed? The band have got themselves quite a reputation and at that moment, I felt proud to be British.

The Crown were equally impressive, now appearing with original vocalist Johan Lindstrand. The mix of material was nicely spread, and it all sounded glorious. Opening with "Crowned in Terror," the Swedish death metallers rolled their way through a set of uncompromising power. The moshpit was at full charge by the second song and continued throughout. Songs like "Under the Whip" and "Blitzkrieg Witchcraft" have jaws being picked up off the floor in any circumstances, but when played live, they were waking the dead.

My one regret of the afternoon was missing out on Dismember. It's always special to see a death metal band who have been part of the scene (in one shape or another) since day one, and the cancellation of Sinister hadn't helped matters. Anyone who has heard Like An Everflowing Stream can testify to the virtues of the Swedish veterans but unfortunately, the heat got the better of me and I spent a while flaked out in the shade - and yes, shame on me.

Considering Freedom Call have often been considered to be Gamma Ray's little brother, they have progressed remarkably within the power metal genre. Mile wide grins worn proudly, the Germans played a great show, featuring "Heart of the Rainbow" and "Metal Invasion," and rallying the crowd with closing number "Freedom Call." However, there will always be a certain cruelty inherent in a power metal vocalist exploring the upper range of their voice in between songs and then requesting that the crowd sing it back to them. Bastard!

As the evening gently crept in, I grabbed my camera and headed once again to the main arena to witness what I can only describe as a dream come true. In my opinion, Testament have remained to this day the kings of American Thrash and after listening to their Live At The Fillmore album, I honestly can't imagine any metaller not aching to see the live show. Just seeing Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson up there was almost worth the whole journey on its own. Their appearance was greatly appreciated by the German crowd (four separate moshpits in the first few rows alone) and I couldn't have wished for a better setlist. A large portion of it was early material, with "D.N.R" thrown in for additional quality. "Into the Pit," "Alone in the Dark" and "Low" were greeted with relish by the ecstatic hordes. As "Disciples of the Watch" brought the set to a crushing finish, my only complaint was that the band had only been allowed a forty five minute slot.

Through no fault of their own, Gamma Ray went down like a lead balloon. The sound was great; they had drawn a large crowd who were loving every minute of it; but to my mind, they sucked balls for one simple reason. They had to follow Testament. All of a sudden, every riff seemed re-cycled, every lyric a clichť, and every moment for me a wish that they would just play "Ride the Sky" to liven things up a bit. Freedom Call have far surpassed them in terms of an interesting live act, and speaking for myself, there are some of Gamma Rayís hits that have invaded my ears too many times. I have not often said this about any accomplished metal band, but Gamma Ray would do well to change direction for a while. Maybe a bit more classical, or go the other way a thrashier crunch. A bad place on the bill can do the world of harm to a band, and in this case, I'd say it was fatal.

Maybe it was the negative influence of touring with Slipknot, but the stage presence of In Flames had a certain nu-metal flavour to it. The music was great, but there was something dodgy about Anders Friden's dreadlocks and skater-type movements. Well, putting personal presentation aside, In Flames delivered quite an impressive set, effortlessly driving the masses wild. The material, particularly from Clayman had a nice thunderous impact and there's something to be said (be it good or bad) for a band described as 'melodic death metal' to get six or seven thousand people simultaneously bouncing up and down like it was a Terrorvision gig. And for any In Flames fans among you, yes, I'm referring to "Only for the Weak." Not my first choice for listening, but I'm very impressed at how far they've come in the past three years.

Well, while the Swedish feelgood factor was being enjoyed on the Black Stage, I was tirelessly reserving my space at the front of the adjacent True Metal Stage. And there I was, legs aching, for over an hour, doing nothing but watch stage technicians and taking in whatever view I had of In Flames. But the cause was just. The wait was worthwhile.

In Germany, the name Dee Snider has been uttered with deep respect. In Germany, the name Twisted Sister has been uttered with hallowed reverence. And on a hot summer night at Wacken festival, I would finally understand why. Though my loyalties lie mainly with extreme metal, I have a lot of time for those who preceded it, and indeed any band who have done a good job of upholding heavy metal tradition. But to put it bluntly, Twisted Sister were by far the best live act of the festival. After a few strings had been pulled and the lines of communication mended, the original line-up were back together to play a small number of American and European dates, and it was a real honor to see them.

"The Kids are Back" opened the set to a deafening crowd response and from then on, my eyes barely left the stage. The material from the Come out and Play and Stay Hungry albums was what I was really familiar with, and the setlist was fucking perfect. It wasn't too long before "The Fire Still Burns" reared its head, as did "I Believe in Rock n Roll." One crowning moment was the crowd of at least thirty odd thousand raucously singing along to "We're Not Gonna Take It," followed by the truly soul-stirring words of guitarist Jay Jay on how metal fans have stayed true to bands for so many bands while so many trends have been and gone.

"Burn in Hell" was magnificent, bringing out the full power of Dee Snider's soaring vocals. Their very presence on stage was something to be marveled at, and I was staring open-mouthed at A.J Pero's machine gun drum solo. "I Wanna Rock" was an experience not soon to be forgotten.

"On the word 'Rock', I want all you sick motherfuckers to punch your fists in the air and jump at the same time."

Not the kind of thing you'd do if you thought anyone else was watching, right? Well it just showed the respect that Snider commanded as a frontman when all but a tiny few actually did. In unison. The set drew to a close with "Come out and Play" and the obligatory "S.M.F." What can I say? I was left astounded, knowing that Slayer would have their work cut out for them the following night.

After a quick wander around for snackage, I headed off to the Party Stage for the last band of the night. Lordi are a bit of a mixed bag, owing much to tonight's headliners, as well as Kiss, Gwar, Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper. But it's all done with style, there's no doubt about that. Each and every song on their Get Heavy album is infectious as hell, and the stage set was fantastic. The visual aspects of the show were all handled very professionally, considering that it could have turned out worse than the special effects in "The Dead Next Door." The only downside was that the band had started their third song by the time the sound had been put right. The most amusing part of the set was undoubtedly frontman Lordi's devastatingly accurate Udo Dirkschneider vocals on their cover of Accept's "Monsterman" (at least I THINK that's the Accept cover they did. Someone let me know if it wasn't). Dead on my feet, I staggered back to the tent, satisfied that history had been made.

Day 3

There is a mistake that was commonly made at Wacken. You go to sleep in a tent, but you wake up in an oven. The fact that it was hotter inside the tent than out in the burning sun had to be cause for concern, and all of a sudden I had become envious of those who had come from tropical climates to the relative cool of northern Germany.

Finally dragging myself from the patch of inviting shade at the edge of the camping ground, I strolled off to the True Metal Stage for a nice dose of Viking savagery. Thyrfing were a live act that had a particular claim on my interest, being that I had never yet seen a quality band of their genre. I still had Ancient Rites to look forward to, but would they have blood and mud all over them? I think not. Thyrfing frontman Thomas Vššnšnen was really looking the part and the songs sounded great (luckily the sound had been well sorted out). I'm quite ready to admit that the only tracks I could identify were "Draugs Harg" and "DigerdŲden" from new album Vansinnesvisor, but from what I could hear, the material was well spread over their back catalogue. At the question "You guys thirsty?" before the last song, I quite naturally thought, "okay, here comes the beer." In actuality, it was a case of "here comes the pig's blood." No, I'm serious. Cups of real pig's blood thrown into the crowd. Here's hoping Kampfar or Bathory pull a live act together for next year.

Malevolent Creation were another bunch of death metal veterans I'd been looking forward to seeing, and yet again fate decided to thwart me. Just as they took the Black Stage, I realized i'd run out of camera film. Tearing out of the main arena as fast as I could, I headed all the way back to the tent. Heat exhaustion once again took over, and I knew there was no way I could run all the way back. I had a long slump in the shade, all the while hoping that I would hear the abrasive riffing of "Thou Shalt Kill."

After a suitable rest, Carpathian Forest were next on the agenda. Never quite sure how seriously to take them as a black metal band, I was nonetheless curious about how their tales of bondage and blasphemy would turn out on stage. I have often found them to be a little too mid-paced, but the likes of "Black Shining Leather" and "He's Turning Blue" sounded pretty good. The haunting interlude of "The Good Old Enema Treatment, Part II" was used to cover a few technical difficulties as vocalist Nattefrost explained, "just waiting for the homosexual members of the band to do their thing." Despite a good few shouts for "I Am the Black Wizards" (bassist Tchort being ex-Emperor), their set was nicely appreciated.

After shopping for an Ancient Rites t-shirt, they were there in person. The Wet Stage is Wacken's marquee venue, and as such, heats up like a fucker. Gunther Theys and company put on a blinding show to make up for the suffocating heat, and made my day by blasting out "Victory or Valhalla" before I even had a chance to shout for it. Without a doubt the most headbanging I did in all three days. Very impressive. They will all have reservations in the hall up high.

I can only describe the next performance on my list as a tragic state of affairs. Quite frankly, Dark Funeral should have taken the sound engineer out back and shot him in the head. A fantastic band playing fantastic songs, but everything should have been twice as loud and I would have preferred to hear a proper snare sound, as opposed to someone tapping the lid of a tin can. What made the experience worthwhile was the damn near perfect setlist. I couldn't really complain too much when such beasts as "Arrival of Satan's Empire," "Open the Gates," "Secrets of the Black Arts" and "My Dark Desires" were on the menu.

Then it was off to the Jack Daniels tent for a quick breather and a shot of Tennessee's finest. From there, my companions and I went our separate ways for an hour or so while I sought after some decent pics in the backstage bar.

Re-grouping in time to see Nile, the sky had bruised by the time we had made our way through the expectant hordes. An odd realization came to me as arguably America's finest death metal export were a couple of songs through their set. The songs, the sound. the vibe - it had all worked so much better in the smaller, more intimate atmosphere of a club, or at least an indoor marquee. This thought stuck in my head like an itch I couldn't scratch. They still put on a fantastic performance (I mean come on, this is NILE we're talking about), but I couldn't help thinking of their crushing live show at Trillians Rockbar a couple of years back. I was a little surprised at how much of the set was made up of the more slow-paced material, though "Chapter for Transforming into a Snake" and "The Blessed Dead" stirred up one hell of a moshpit, as did the devastating finale of "Black Seeds of Vengeance."

The price to be paid for seeing Nile in action was to have not a snowball in hell's chance of getting a decent place for the headliners. Let me start by stating for the record that I have great respect for the part that Slayer have played in the field of heavy metal, extreme or otherwise. That said, while I would have fought tooth and nail to be at the front for Judas Priest or Bathory (please let me dream...), I was not prepared in that condition to battle my way through a crowd more tightly packed that the throats of the festival sanitation staff, just to see them live. Blasphemy to many, I know, but I stand by what I say. I seem to remember their performance at Ozzfest '98 being a very worthy display, but give me Beneath the Remains or Arise over Reign in Blood any day.

Taking the stage some twenty minutes late, and rolling into a trendy showcase of God Hates Us All material, their start was none too impressive. After about four songs, the rage of the old school stepped into the spotlight at last. "Hell Awaits" and "War Ensemble" were very well received, but not nearly as much so as their violent storming through the entire Reign in Blood album, interrupted only by "Dead Skin Mask." This being Germany, there were countless members of the crowd would have followed Slayer to the ends of the earth. And of course, there were those so drunk that they could barely spell "Slayer," including one who took off his boot and tried to convince me it was a phone. Ah, the colourful locals....

What happened next is something I can't easily explain. My idea was to run between Vader and Sonata Arctica, getting some decent photos, and managing to catch most of Vader's set. After all, Vader rank as one of the most intense live acts the death metal genre has to offer, and definitely one of my favourites. I therefore feel the need to apologise to them for my actions. After only two songs, I made my way across to the Party Stage for a glimpse of Finnish power metallers Sonata Arctica. Having got a decent place in the crowd, I simply found myself rooted to the spot. The truth was that I was absolutely shattered and aching all over. What I needed at that moment was a dose of melodic metal, and I knew that if I had returned to Vader, I would have started headbanging maniacally, thus negating physical movement the following morning. To rub salt into the wound, I was told by my companions that Poland's finest played a blinding set, immense heaviness enjoyed by all.

I can quite confidently say that Sonata Arctica have dramatically improved over the past couple of years. With new album Winterhearts Guild under their belts, the set had a lot more impact and variation than in times gone by. Bursting into "Victoria's Secret" just as I arrived, the performance was faultless (with the exception of the fuck-awful "Replica"). The amusingly camp attitude of singer Tony Kakko was a spectacle on its own. "The Cage" sounded fantastic, and it was obvious that the band had been doing something right when the entire crowd was roaring out the chorus to "Fullmoon." Yup, i'd say it was just what I needed. Looking back, I would have chosen Vader if I hadn't been so tired, but the organisers couldn't really cater for everyone when arranging the timetable.

I couldn't help but feel sorry for Tom Angelripper as I witnessed a second mass walk-out when his Onkel Tom band took the stage to finish off the night. It had happened at Wacken 2000, and I would've thought that someone could have been charitable enough to at least give the guy an earlier time slot. If he was playing there with Sodom, I would have pumped myself full of caffeine and steroids, and charged to the front, but it was not to be.

And so came the end of another Wacken festival. Great bands, good food, sweltering heat, and a guy with a cardboard sign saying "Will fuck for beer." What can I say? There are other festivals, but none quite like Wacken.

 

 

 

 

DEFILED/ GESEWA/ WOUNDEEP/ DISCONFORMITY/ REST IN GORE
August 22, 2003 - Hot Shot, Tokyo, Japan

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The line up got a little muddled down the stairs and through the two doors and past a round woman in a cramped space taking way too much money by western standards for tickets. No one seemed to know who went on first or what. What can be said is that the first two bands were very poor (we missed the first one). It was the usual suspects: super loud and distorted so all you could hear was ambient muddiness and drum beats. Jumping around on stage to who knows what. And one band had the biggest dork in recorded death metal history on guitar. He got all gangster-ed up, and he seemed to care even more about what eye his bandana was covering than what the fuck he and his band were doing on stage.

But things got a lot more interesting with Gesawa, which made a strong point for the "less is more" approach. Gesawa had one guitar player, one bass drum, and their songs were the standard grindcore one minute or less. But on this night anyway, Gesawa was like Pig Destroyerís Japanese understudy. The singer *freaked* out on every song, and the drummer and his relatively small kit beat up the previous bandsí attempts at brutality. After the show, the Gesawa screamer was selling his bandís CD demo for a buck. A deal in Japan. Who would have thought?

Normally, the idea of seeing Defiled would have been less than thrilling. Defiled *could* make a great record, what with the skills they have, Ďcept they canít write a good or memorable song, much less one riff, to save their lives. But Defiled looked and sounded like showstoppers in this night. It might have been a combination of the showís poor first half and Defiledís unquestionable skill, but the music came across clearly and effectively.

Defiledís front man is always the man to watch, with his long, long hair and maniac looks. Getting up front to see the man was worth taking the chance of being knocked over by the juvenile, retarded audience members who insisted on moshing in a closet style club. One dude has his 15 minutes of fame by moshing by himself by lying on the floor and spinning around violently. We wished heíd crack his skull open. Unfortunately, he did not.

 

 

 

 

HELLOWEEN/ JAG PANZER/ BEYOND THE EMBRACE/ RESISTANCE
October 4, 2003 - Key Club, Los Angeles, California, USA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Here we are in Los Angeles, California, to cover Helloween. Apparently, this is Helloweenís first time ever to this major city, and the bandís first time in the US in I canít remember how many years. And a lot of people turned out for the show Ė well, a lot of people by North American standards. A few hundred here is the equivalent of the thousands that the likes of Helloween are used to getting wherever else they go.

It seems that Century Media Records OWNS this town. We werenít on the Jag Panzer list, mainly because there wasnít one. But a simple mention of Century Media caused the guard to perk up and tell us to go right in. Yeah, weíve got the hookup.

We got in right in time to see Resistance, who was a spirited band. Not the absolute best songs, though, but they gave it their all, including a cover of Iron Maidenís ďThe Trooper,Ē which unsurprisingly got the most crowd response by far.

In terms of American venues that feature metal shows, The Key Club is in the higher echelon. The place can hold perhaps 400-450 people on two levels, the top one being an area with seating and table service. Thereís also cushioned bench seating along the side walls, which was a good thing to take advantage of during Beyond the Embraceís set.

Beyond the Embrace might have been good. It was hard to tell what exactly was going on over the output of the sound system. My hunch is that it was rough, generic metal.

And Jag Panzer proved that blaming the sound system wasnít really a viable excuse. Jag Panzer was clear and metal, playing a few songs from their newly re-recorded early, early material, as well as some contemporary favorites like ďTake to the Sky.Ē But as fresh and competent this long-running band is, thereís an undeniable comic/tragic element to them. Well, itís mostly the singer, Harry Conklin (left). A good voice for sure, but a combination of his age (even though he looks good), his leather and studs get up with the body language to match that one must inevitably feel from inside, and the fact that heís the only guy wearing this kind of stuff makes him look a little silly. But thatís part of the Jag Panzer live shtick, so take it or leave it.

But seeing Helloween made the first three bands seem like a distant memory. The seminal German came on and played for two hours straight, performing no less than 16 songs. However, it was a disappointing surprise that ďJust a Little Sign,Ē the opening, super energized and anthemic track of their new record, was not amongst these tunes.

However, far too many tunes from their most mediocre albums, Time of the Oath and Master of the Rings, were included. Again, only one song each from the new record and the seemingly obligatory songs from Better than Raw ("Hey, Lord," although they might have played ďRevelationĒ Ė but how could you not play ďPushĒ?)

But with the extensive back catalog this band has, itís hard to please everyone. Helloween did play a healthy amount of tunes from the ďKeeperĒ series: ďFutureworld,Ē ďEagle Fly Free,Ē ďDr. Stein,Ē and ďKeeper of the Seven Keys, ď the 18-minute opus, in its entirety. And naturally, the band closed with their favorite track from their very first record, ďNo More Tears.Ē

Helloween did itís best to cover itís back catalog, of course totally ignoring the two last albums featuring Michael Kiske as a singer (which is baffling, considering how many great songs are on Pink Bubbles Go Ape). But again, the most recent albums got the least play. (From The Dark Ride only ďIf I could FlyĒ was played.)

One thing that has to go for sure is the whole ďmime what youíre singingĒ style of vocals. ďI got that fever (puts hand on forehead)...No tear to shed (does shitty motion simulating tear falling from eye)...Burns like a fire (mimics fire burning)Ē etc... Frontman Andi Deris is about the worst youíll ever see. This is totally shitty and must stop. Either that, or you go all the way and mimic absolutely everything: ďIn the sky, a mighty eagle, doesnít care Ďbout whatís illegal (pulls out handcuffs).Ē

 

But Helloween is a fun band that has fun on stage. So you can expect tons of goofing off amongst the members, like the periodic running back toward the drummer and exchanging a big grin with him; Deris doing flowery, flowing hand motions to the corresponding melodic riffs, or standing behind guitarists and doing jerk off air guitar to the solos. Thereís also tons of almost simultaneous guitar waving amongst the two guitarists and bass player. Oh, and we canít forget the obligatory part in which the audience is made to sing along. This time, Deris separated the room into two, competetive halves, much like he did on the <High Live> album, and then directed the audience sing various parts of the song. It worked remarkably well. Another nice interlude occured before Helloween played its three song encore. New guitarist Sascha Gerstner and original member Michael Weikath sat down on stools and played a pretty, silly number.

Deris and co. did their best to seem totally awed by playing in Los Angeles. It wasnít really believable, try as they might. Regardless, it was very cool for us Californians to finally have a chance to see this great German insitution, Michael Kiske or no Michael Kiske.

 

 

 

 

MILWAUKEE METALFEST 2003
July, 2003 - U.S. Cellular Arena, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

review by: Matt Smith

Not sure what to expect from Milwaukee Metalfest this year. I hadnít heard of most of the bands on the roster, but I was looking forward to seeing Suffocation, Macabre, Dying Fetus and Misery Index, as well as a few others. The bands I went to see did not disappoint, but, alas, they were swimming in a sea of mediocrity. Not that there werenít some new, unexpected discoveries, but they were few and far between.

I arrived in Milwaukee on Friday in the early evening, found a parking spot and wandered around the U.S. Cellular Arena until I found the right door. Once inside, I realized what a terrible choice the venue was. The main stage and vendors (including a tattoo and piercing trailer Ė I thought I got lost and went to Ozzfest by mistake) were in the huge cement arena area. Well, I should say "the main stageS," because the setup was such that two rooms housed four stages. Bands took a tag team approach, which allowed for minimal gaps in between sets, but each band only had 20 minutes or so to play. In some cases the brevity was a blessing, but when a good band finally did make an appearance, it was over before you knew it.

The secondary "room" was really just a space carved out backstage. During band changes, much of the crowd would ooze from one room to the other. Arena shows have always lacked character, but this one took it to a new level. But I wasnít there to admire the plastic seats and concrete floors, so Iíll move on.

I got to Metalfest just in time to see Macabre go on an hour later than they were scheduled, which I was happy about. They began with "Zodiac," and moved on to do some stuff from the Dahmer album. "Dog Guts" comes to mind. They werenít as tight as they could have been, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I missed them when I went to the Fest with Roberto a couple of years ago, and I heard from a number of people that they put on a good show. At any rate, Metalfest was off to a good start.

Because there were so many, Iím not going to go into the shitty bands that played the Fest. I didnít get to see every band that played, of course, and I unfortunately missed Dying Fetus when they played early Saturday afternoon. Iíll just give the highlights from the two days, as I saw them:

Dyscrasia is a good Wisconsin act. Their shaggy, bass-playing lead singer let out some deep growls as the band pumped out the hard grooves. They changed the tempo up, too, and could handle the sludgy stuff as well as the frantic and energetic.

Vampire Moose was another of my favorites from the show, and they have also mastered the art of the heavy groove. Theyíre from St. Louis, but Iíd never had a chance to see them play. Watching their lead singer jump around in his Dead Kennedys T-shirt and make crazy faces was more than enjoyable. Talking to him after the set, he seemed like an interesting guy who listens to a lot of different stuff, and the bandís varied influences made for a unique sound. (see the CD review elsewhere in this issue.)

Dysrhythmia was another good one. Their drummer was insane, and they kept the energy level high with their interesting brand of music. The End was another original-sounding group. For some reason, watching them reminded me of seeing Pig Destroyer. I think it was the normal-looking lead singer going into screaming convulsions on stage. His flailing about certainly added to his stage presence.

Misery Index was a band I was looking forward to seeing. The former members of Dying Fetus put on an excellent show. Matt Byers wasnít at his best, and the drums felt a little sloppy at points, but for the most part I was happy with what I saw. They were certainly a hard act to follow.

One band I saw that was noteworthy but not all that enjoyable was Method of Destruction (M.O.D.). They took the stage, and front man Billy Milano thought himself quite interesting. Heíd break for minutes at a time between songs to yell such eloquent statements as, "Fuck the Middle East!" Basically, it was a bunch of rambling about how he hates foreigners, Tom Morello and System of a Down. Hearing the crowd rejoice over his story about beating up a "turban-wearing motherfucker" on September 11 was disheartening, indeed.

Well, on to the end of Metalfest:

Vital Remains was the next-to-last band to play, and they were insanely fast. Deicideís Glen Benton growled away as triggered blast beats and deep guitars pounded out some great, classic-sounding death.

Suffocation was the last band to play, and they had the most elaborate stage set-up. No one else really bothered with decoration, but Suffocation was the headliner, and therefore obligated. Thereís no other way to have ended Metalfest than with a solid performance by a great band like Suffocation. However, for some reason Suffocationís volume was way lower than any of the other performersí. Maybe the ringing in my ears was just louder than it had been beforeÖ

 

 

 

 

MOGWAI/ ISIS
September 21st, 2003 - The Fillmore, San Francisco, California, USA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

High hopes and less than high returns is what the motto of the evening was for the two band bill of Isis and Mogwai. Perhaps itís our own fault. We might have been expecting something entirely unrealistic.

The truth is, we LOVE both these bands on CD. Theyíre great. Live told a slightly different story.

And Isisí was good. They built up a slow, heavy head of steam throughout their songs that had the element of apocalyptic groove and ambient atmosphere. Isisí music is very deliberate, from the plodding, heavy-handed drumming to the slabs of sound to the rough vocals. The music would grow more and more intense over the course of ten or so minutes, reaching a sort of rumbling chaos, and then break. Then it was time for the next song.

The problem is that this was the bandís entire formula. Each song did the same thing. For all practical purposes, it was the same thing five times repeated. Funny, too, how memory seemed to indicate that Isisí material on CD is a lot more varied. So while the bandís Sgnl> 05 and Oceanic records are highly recommended, seeing them live is less so.

Isis isnít exactly the most personable band on stage. They were professional, but not friendly with the audience. We had no idea what the songs were called or what album they were from.

But as unengaging as the Isis crew was, Mogwai was like six different guys jamming by themselves in their own private space. Most of the dudes shoe gazed. None addressed the audience. Ever. Some of the pieces had some vocals, but these came from the keyboard player, who hid as well as he could in plain sight, off to the left of the stage. And Mogwaiís music reflected their stage presence.

What this band desperately needed was a SONG. But we didn't get one. 

Watching Mogwai was exactly like sitting in on a practice of a band made up of six nondescript dudes. On CD? Absolutely amazing. When Matt Smith and I attended Metalfest 2001, and had to drive nearly two hours each way for two consecutive days, Mogwaiís Rock Action got played more than anything else. Live? Not really worth it. As Liam and I made our way out, one enraptured fan mewed, "you guys roooooock...." Makes you wonder what that term means, anyway.