the underground music magazine    

issue #26 October, 2004

 


Untitled Document

Hi, Maelstrom readers,

Yay. Exactly a year ago, we set out to bring you Maelstrom Zine on every first of the month. And a year later, we’ve put out 12 issues for you to enjoy. That streak was in jeopardy this time, but we still made it (by Pacific Coast Daylight time, that is).This month we’re giving away copies of The Project Hate’s Hate, Dominate, Congregate, Eliminate and Walken’s Unstoppable. Check out our contest section for details.

Two interviews this month. One with black metal whacko Furze and the other, our third and final installment with The Forsaken. And for the fourth year in a row, we bring you a report from the Wacken Open Air, brought to us by a nearly comically crippled Jez Andrews.

This plus 48 album reviews. Enjoy!

- Roberto Martinelli

letters:

RE: Thor and Mick Hoffman’s Beastwomen from the Center of the Earth review (issue #23)

----Original Message Follows----
From: "Mike Hoffman" <hoffmanintl@mindspring.com>
Reply-To: "Mike Hoffman" <hoffmanintl@mindspring.com>
To: <giorgio75@hotmail.com>
Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 19:48:24 -0600

Hey Roberto--great review, thanks. I'd point out though that there are no
drum machines or pitch correction devices on my tracks. I did 2, 4, 6, 7 and so on, and all the instruments on them, drums included.......................... Mick

Dear Mick,

Wow. So the album WAS supposed to be an anti-triumph?

----Original Message Follows----
From: Aaron Babino <deadcradlemanson@yahoo.com>
To: Maelstrom Zine <giorgio75@hotmail.com>
Subject: Re: you won an Asunder CD from Maelstrom.nu!
Date: Sat, 4 Sep 2004 21:05:57 -0700 (PDT)

Awesome, you guys are fucking awesome!

Aaron Babino

Stay Heavy!!!

Dear Aaron,

Keep reading our zine and keep winning CDs!

----Original Message Follows----
From: "Daniel Stafford" <djsykboy@hotmail.com>
To: giorgio75@hotmail.com
Subject: RE: you won an AINA CD from Maelstrom.nu!
Date: Sun, 05 Sep 2004 12:40:43 +1000

Your webzine rocks, keep up the great work
Daniel \m/\m/

Dear Daniel,

Thanks for having such good taste.

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

We’re not making any bones about it: the following interview with Norwegian one-man black metal aneurism Furze makes no sense at all. It’s all black metal gibberish, but curiously it’s gibberish in a way that makes for a accurate microcosm of what Furze’s music is like: the equally cryptic music and lyrics are a sort of conduit; a wormhole that provides you with answers to questions you’ll never know. Oh, and finally, we were unable to substantiate the notion that “Furze” means “farts” (fürze) in German.

Maelstrom: I wish there were a glossary for all the Furze terms you've used over your two albums. Like, what's a Zaredoo? and, what's up with their knives? And, what's special about them that they endow your sight?

Kristian Knapstad: The "Zaredoo Knives Endows my Sight" lyric "sees the grave of Christianity" before it really has happened; with other words a blasphemic/majestic hymn in Black Metal form. The Furze on the time/space scale, it's gently catchy and evil. It's a track for the brave, violent upcoming BLACK Metallers not having to complain about the fact that "the old school was more evil" – the ones feeling the adrenaline NOW, worshiping now, stabbing, crushing and torturing priests and taking "everything a step further" – not against something more professional (which is the trend and which only leads to more joints/unconscious ass licking in the normal music world), but towards something more ripping violent!!!!!!!!!!!!

Maelstrom: “More joints"? Do you mean joints like marijuana cigarettes? Is smoking pot counterproductive to being evil?

Kristian Knapstad: No, I mean joint as "sticking together 'bout the same."

Black Metal as a place to worship hidden, yet effective war. Hidden cause that's the task for succeeding. War because, as you know, whatever you do, you do parallely support something /work against something all your life. You are forced to do so. If you ignore this fact you'll be led by others’ norms and wishes. If you work and focus stronger on what you hate and take even steps further – actually start planning – then fruits you can reap.

Now, seeing a point in acting – It's do or "die", you know... The now is rather short... That's why serious dedication brings fruits:
the time-sphere here on Earth, for the human generations; it's so short, so be brave and bring your hatred to life and "thou shall see Thy Destruction blossom brutal Death – here in the shadow of the masses where the Black Mass is at its peak leaded by the Disastrous Sounds of Black Metallllllllllll...!!!" Also check Vampire Magazine; a link can be found at www.furze.net.

I should conclude by saying that I talk of this war openly here in this interview from my side because I think that me as a musician should have the role of expressing true will while the fans are truly strong on a different field – the infernal actions... Because they have got possibilities musicians don't have...

A) because of having the time for it (the needed planning incl. long-time observations before doing the deeds cause too fast action can often lead to failure – the society is very protected these days as you might know...)

B) Musicians must concentrate on their inspiration - then again, fans must be inspired, of course! The true fans are strong in their way of capturing music and don't follow the messages blindly – they are already infernal since they chose BLACK METAL and know how to take the new steps!!!!! The upcoming Furze recording is dedicated to ALL THE NEW SCHOOL BLACK METALLLERS whom don't go dulling around saying everything was much better before – they keep up the new flame, by choosing now, themselves and the infernal lord...

Maelstrom: How many priests have you tortured?

Kristian Knapstad: I keep on most of the torturing while they're alive... strange, huh!? That is perhaps called torment, not torture... By the way, remember; I always refer to the nonmusicians in the scene for the torturing sessions cause they are the ones who have the time to do it under time limits which won't end up them getting caught... If I'd been a die-hard Black Metalller I'd try [to] do things which made myself pleasant (in the same way I must be stimulated about the outcome of a FURZE track, a result), it's just ain't getting nowhere if you only keep your dark style on the level of listening to music and reading about the evil other people have done in this or other times.

Maelstrom: Ahhh.... so the priest mutilations are in the hands of the fans...

Kristian Knapstad: I guess that the ones whom REALLY enjoy Furze have pretty much gone in the direction of having dreams like that from earlier on anyway. I know that churches which are being burnt will be put up again but priest being mutilated... oh'can you feel it? Think of that! Think of how much more REAL war that is rather than their "Golden walls of heaven built here on Earth" ! "We gotta Feel the Eager Comfort in desecrating and Killing Priests 'till the End Because the Only Passport to Earth is the Recirculated matches of heaven,,,"

Maelstrom: It's unusual and refreshing to hear a competent black metal musician talk about fans in a positive light. It seems that the common recourse is to belittle the majority of one's own consumers, saying that they are false and trendy.

Kristian Knapstad: It is clear that the Black Metal scene never was "one organ." It's a matter of course that a Satanic breath don't breathe in bread air (?). So, I choose to cut away the meaningless part/people which from a person's (me) view won't mean anything but rather choose to look after what I like about the situation . There's other hate objects which should be hated MORE than the ones in scene which do something different than you because they're a different generation or simply very different from you but still do their own way of doing Black Metal. I like to develop Furze. The fans like to listen to Furze. This means that there's only certain parallels between me and the fans. A lot of things with a Furze fan may be interesting/uninteresting for me personally but as long as there are some common goals I think it's great that their way of liking Furze's expression is something which can lead to common constructive/ destructive goals. Speaking of me and the fans... Black Metal shall never be "one thing,"but there's room for the common goals..

Maelstrom: What does self-mutilation do for you?

Kristian Knapstad: Spilling of the blood.

Maelstrom: What does spilling of the blood do for you?

Kristian Knapstad: Puts me in a mood I need then and there... It's honest – not force-fed.

Maelstrom: "Furze" has been used as a verb in Necromanzee Cogent. You also have an asterisk next to a lyric stating how "to furze" can be a very confusing thing. Could you please explain?

Kristian Knapstad: You mentioned this (confusing). Confusing? You mean the complexity of the primitivity? Verb? To furze is what I do what/whenever I do Furze.

Maelstrom: Is it just you on Necromanzee Cogent?

Kristian Knapstad: Yes.

Maelstrom: Who took the picture of you in the field?

Kristian Knapstad: Our great photographer, Fred Robin Heggerud. We recently had our first session together in nine years !

Maelstrom: Can you tell us about the photo of (you?) on the back of the Necromanzee Cogent album? What was the occasion and why did you choose to put this picture there?

Kristian Knapstad: That is the symbol of the humans arranging their own Armageddon by seeing their own unknown world as good and evil – that this is the reason: the game of good and evil. The game of naming this and the world beyond without having a real clue about it, just fear – bottom line fear in action rules the world... Like you see the moons around the planets, like the electrons and protons swinging around... The movement is scary, especially for humans with 37 Celsius knowing their fate (of Death) but not the future...

 

 

 

 

interview by: Roberto Martinelli

After a hiccup of a month, here’s part three of three of our conversation with The Forsaken’s drummer, Nicke Grabowski.

Maelstrom: It seemed like it took for ever for Traces of the Past to come out in the United States.

Nicke Grabowski: Yeah, tell me about it.

Maelstrom: Well, the good news for all of us is that they give us four bonus tracks... or is it five?

Nicke Grabowski: No, well, the “Blackened” song is on the European release as well. We felt that song turned out to be so cool that we wanted all fans to be a part of it.

Maelstrom: So all the covers and songs like “Project: New Breed” was already done by the time you released Traces of the Past in Europe?

Nicke Grabowski: “Project: New Breed” is the Japanese bonus track on Manifest of Hate (the first record). The Slayer song is unreleased. It was recorded during the Arts of Desolation session. “Creeping Death” was the Japanese bonus track on Arts of Desolation, and the Grave cover has only been released on the In the Eyes of Death compilation in Europe.

I mean, it’s been half a year between the European and US release. The label wants to have something attractive to justify it. Ok, a lot of people don’t like covers that much... but then, they can skip the last few songs! (Laugh)

Maelstrom: Well, if you just look at it in terms of the amount of material, you’re really getting your money’s worth. Seventy-two minutes of album!

Nicke Grabowski: It is. We enjoy recording covers, especially when you try to do something of your own with them.

Maelstrom: So, you have a new guy in the band, the bassist, Stefan Berg. Was he on the last record?

Nicke Grabowski: He did call me when we were recording Arts of Desolation. He said he had heard that we were trying out new bass players. It was weird, because we hadn’t announced it yet. I still don’t know how he got my number. It must have been from the old vocalist from Arch Enemy, who worked in a record store. Anyway, [Stefan] tried out, and he was really good, so we kept him.

Maelstrom: Here’s my perception of the Swedish scene. You have, what, eight million people in Sweden?

Nicke Grabowski: Mmm... almost nine....

Maelstrom: And you have something like 300,000 metal bands that play amazingly well?

Nicke Grabowski: (laugh)

Maelstrom: I’m not saying that these bands are amazing, but that their playing is superb. So, how many guys could have just as easily taken Stefan Berg’s place?

Nicke Grabowski: Actually, it’s kind of hard to find a bass player. We have certain standards.

Maelstrom: Couldn’t an amazing guitar player play bass for you?

Nicke Grabowski: He could... but we wanted a bass player. If you take a guitarist as a bass player, most definitely this guy will want to do more. And that’s not talking about the importance of chemistry. We hang out a lot. We meet up, play video games, drink beers, go to concerts...

But on a purely technical level, there are plenty of guys that could have played for us.

Maelstrom: Yes, the tradition for playing metal (and music) is much stronger in Sweden. You have aquite a great infrastructure as far as this is concerned, don’t you?

Nicke Grabowski: The government funds practice spaces and gives free lessons for kids who want to learn instruments.

Maelstrom: FREE courses?

Nicke Grabowski: Or very cheap... for half a year, $20-50.

Maelstrom: How many times do you meet?

Nicke Grabowski: Once a week.

Maelstrom: Wait a minute.... we talked once and you said you always wanted to take lessons... why didn’t you?

Nicke Grabowski: ... I don’t know. (Laugh) Well, I told you about the guy in the Iron Maiden cover band who taught me the basics when I was eight. But I was in one class the same year. It was like, “boink boink boink...” and nothing more. I wanted to be out with the other kids, playing war. (Laugh)

Maelstrom: You know, Poland has quite a strong base of fantastic musicians in metal.

Nicke Grabowski: I don’t understand how that is. Ok, now they’re in the European Union, and will be more funded, but they didn’t have that before. Maybe they have the same tactic as the Russians had with their hockey players, with whips and stuff... concentration camps.... “Now you have to grind your ass off!” Doc from Vader is amazing good.

Maelstrom: Back to the bass player topic. Based on your statement about wanting to get a bass player, it seems like there’s a hierarchy in the food chain in metal, and bass players are about at the bottom. Seems like a pretty shitty role. Wouldn’t that be a good explanation as to why you can’t find bass players?

Nicke Grabowski: Well, I don’t know about that. We wanted a guy who purely plays bass. It’s a totally different technique playing rhythm with the drums, than it is playing guitar. The cool thing about Stefan is that he plays with his fingers. Most bass players play with a pick, and it gives a different sound. Patrick did the bass tracks on Arts of Desolation. It was kind of hard for him, because he had to wrie all the bass lines as well. And as you know, the deadline was kind of tight for that album. He had, like, two days.

Maelstrom: That’s not good. I remember the other big fiasco with that record was the lyrics also being written at the last minute. You swore that the next time it would be different. What happened?

Nicke Grabowski: Ummm.... For this album, Anders wrote everything. I wasn’t involved at all this time. The lyrics were much better, but there were some things you could wish more for. And that’s not complaining about Anders, because it’s a big task to write all the lyrics. I’ll be more involved with the next album. I already have tons of material.

 

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Condor
 

CEPHALECTOMY - Eclipsing the Dawn - CD - Discorporate Music - 2004

review by: The Condor

Death metal has always been about density. Not just sonic density, but density of concept, lyrical density, conceptual density, dense song titles... Just density all around. And no, the multiple meanings are not lost on us, as death metal is definitely one of the most "dense" variants of metal there is: gore and misogyny, stupidly shocking and inadvertently silly, all with a buzzing musical sameness. But as death metal got faster and heavier and weirder, and more conceptually obscure, well it only follows that all of the above would get more and more dense. But dense in a good way.

So we have Cephalectomy. A fierce and furious death metal band so musically dense at times that they approach the speed and complexity of grindcore. The song titles are appropriately ridiculous and again dense: "Espousing the Lore of Ancient Mythos," "Discerning Thee Apocryphal Divinity," "Invocate the Tempests to Castigation," "Squalid Eyes of the Impending Treachery"... And the density of the lyrics live up to the absurd song titles in their ridiculous verbosity.

But there are a handful of notable elements that set Cephalectomy apart from other grind/death metal contenders. They are a two-piece to begin with, and duos (outside of Mortician) are a rarity in metal. And while musically complex like most of their death metal brethren, they are also really, really weird! Lots of sweet acoustic breakdowns, proggy dynamics, convoluted mathrock-like start-stop segments, unlikely NWOBHM melodies that occasionally surface amidst a maelstrom of swirling metallic fury, and structural complexities well above and beyond the minimal death metal requirements.

Throw in some bizarre troll like vocals and huge swaths of suffocating doom, and you've got one of the best death/grind metal records in a long while. And if you're still in doubt as to Cephalectomy's density, well look no further than the cover, where they proclaim their unique sound "True Nothern(sic) Mystigrind"! (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Alec
 

BONK - Western Soul - CD - Racing Junior - 2004

review by: Alec A. Head

The oddly named Norwegian duo Bonk play a sometimes quirky brand of punk rock, with a strong emphasis on the "rock" part of that description. The songs are short, concise, and filled with a punk attitude and a rock n' roll swagger. Occasional keyboards and drum machines are used for the sake of atmosphere, bringing to mind the Wire’s Chairs Missing on occasion. The duo is also not afraid to play with different textures and moods. In keeping with the decidedly punk rock sense of concision, the album doesn't go over the 28-minute mark, so a sense of exhaustion is never achieved and the album never overstays its welcome.

The case could be made that the music contained on this, their debut album, suffers from a considerable lack of originality, but punk rock has always been more about good song craft and attitude than that. Bonk's Western Soul is no exception. Fans of Wire and Refused should look no further than this. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Roberto
 

OCCULT - Elegy for the Weak - CD - Candlelight Records - 2004

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Occult do the thrash thing well... and by "do," we mean mimic. The sound and the fury is just right, and the production makes the music come across as well as possible. The problem is that Occult have nothing to say as far as their own style is concerned. Rehashed "Slayer meets Swedish death" riffs that in turn are rehashed within Elegy for the Weak makes this album an eminently redundant one, both historically and throughout this record’s 11-track confines. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Roberto
 

HYPNOSIS - Cyber Death - CD - Crash Music - 2004

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Hypnosis’ Cyber Death is like mish-mosh central. The French group takes death vocals, programmed death metal drums, heavy, clear productions, "cyber" electronic elements, and clean female croons, wraps it all up in a mid-paced trudge and somehow expects to pull it all off. They can’t.

It’s not so much a judgement call against Hypnosis, as it’s quite possible anyone trying to make dance club death metal will stumble. And although Hypnosis clearly put effort into arranging their songs, these same cuts are horribly samey and bland. We loathed Hypnosis’ last record (see link below), and unfortunately, we can’t say that the new one is all that much better. (4/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Evilution (issue No 14)  

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

DENY LIFE - Deny Life - CD - guillotpierre@hotmail.com - 2004

review by: Roberto Martinelli

How about another demo from Deny Life, Maelstrom’s favorite screamo/hardcore/punk/death band from France? Why, yes, thank you.

But we do have one complaint. The length of the album. This is Deny Life demo #3, and they seem to be getting shorter and shorter. This one’s 9 minutes. C’mon, guys, DIY is cool, but not forever and ever. How about a full-length? And I’m talking here to all you record labels out there as well.

But while it lasts, Deny Life delivers. Crushing, crusty hardcore death that’s as far away from the metalcore trend as it is the three-chord punk style. Rather, think of utterly godly bands like His Hero is Gone or All is Suffering, with vocals on par with the former and with emotional swells a bit like the latter.

So we’re giving this demo an 8/10, not necessarily because it itself is highly recommended, but because we highly recommend you contact this band and get their stuff. Me? I’m off to put all three demos onto one CDR, so at least I can simulate having a full album's worth of this tasty stuff. (8/10)

 

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

 

 

 
6.5/10 Roberto
 

DEMONOID - Riders of the Apocalypse - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2004

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The devil’s advocate is in. (Flips sign on front of door)

In the liner notes to Demonoid’s debut CD is the following statement: "All drums are acoustic. No fucking samples or triggers were used!" Now, this is certainly not the first instance of backlash towards the triggering of drums or the inclusion of samples in the metal music universe. Why, it’s almost become a sort of mini-trend; a kind of political self-placement: What side of the trigger fence are you on?

But where did this hatred of triggers come from? I mean, triggers are effects on drums that are triggered by a drum being hit, filtered through a computer. Sure, it’s not the real sound the drum makes. But at the same token, why aren’t Demonoid boasting that there aren’t any effects on the vocals or guitars? You can believe that in real life, the dude growling and carrying on doesn’t sound like he does on the record, and those guitars have some extra spit and polish on them that doesn’t exist in real life.

Certainly, acoustic drums require more effort to play than electronic, or even triggered ones do. And so you could say acoustic ones are harder to play. Similarly, acoustic guitars are also harder to play than electric ones, but how many times have you seen metal bands boast that their guitars are all acoustic? Yeah, dumb question. Metal is all about distorted electric guitars. So what’s the deal with the hatred towards drummers who want to have some of the fun that everyone else in the band is having? Hmm? Hmmm?

A much more impressive statement would have been: "All music is original. No fucking recycling or generic riffs were used!" And here is where we get into the meat of what Riders of the Apocalypse is about. At the onset, the album *seems* like a triumph – a breath of freshness that yet was true to the core of the done and re-done thrash genre. The first couple songs or so deliver for sure. Cool, unusual riffs, engaging harmonies, catchy arrangements, and, yeah, no triggers.

But the peppiness of the music clashes ever so slightly with the apocalyptic imagery. And, well, the very Swedishness of this record is played. From Sweden = awesome musicians guaranteed. Same thing here, but the guarantee does NOT cover originality.

But near the end of the record, you suddenly notice that you’ve been stuck in a mid-paced, chugga-chugga metal riff garbage dump for quite some time. I mean, it’s okaaaayy... But big, amazing, revolutionary, recommended, or even energizing or fun? No. For a thrash record, Riders of the Apocalypse gets bogged down in its own mid-paced-ness, and sadly ends up a being a decent record with a few pretty great tracks. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Roberto
 

HALFORD - Live Insurrection - CD - Metal-Is - 2001

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Maelstrom HQ is abuzz with the recent landings of Halford promos. We got the excellent Crucible, and we also got the Halford double live album, Live Insurrection. And we’re pumped. Although it was released after the debut Halford album, which was really crap for the overwhelming most part, Live Insurrection only contains so few songs from that record relative to all the Judas Priest songs represented here that even if you were of the small minority who seem to have hated Halford studio record #1, well, you can just overlook it, ok?

Two CDs, 24 songs and three bonus studio tracks. But most importantly, a genius live record, with phenomenal sound and the stellar, STELLAR vocal performance of Rob Halford. The songs are about his singing, and he pulls off all the various voices and angles with such aplomb that anyone, fan or not, should greatly appreciate this man’s ageless talent. As far as live records go, Live Insurrection is essential. Why, this album is such a monumental occasion, that Bruce Dickinson himself makes an appearance, if only for one song. (9/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Crucible (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
5/10 Bastiaan
 

SKINKRAWL - demo - CD - skinkrawl.com - 2004

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Music for the manipulated. Music for those who constantly deal with and think about depression, suicide and all around death-y issues. Where have we heard this before? And should I worry that Roberto sent this particular demo my way? (Roberto says: yes.)

The sound is up to par for a demo these days; everything is clear in the mix but suffers from the typical little faults; the bass drum in particular is far too clicky for it's own good. The vocals are one of the finer points of the band and gives the final result a refreshing edge, hoarse screams mixed with deeply rumbling croaks. Wonderful.

But due to the underlying message that this newbie band puts forth, namely one of death, razorblades and bleeding wrists, they come off as a nu-metal band grown up but still feeding on the same old ingredients. Anger and hate towards that which they don't understand. Angst for the unknown.

Ironically it's the song that deals about a typical teen subject the most that comes out as the best song on the disc, and if it is any indication of what the band is capable of, this may not come off entirely bad after all. Too bad the first two tracks and their attitude drag it down a fair amount but for a demo they could have done a lot worse. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Bastiaan
 

FUNEBRE - Children of the Scorn - CD - Xtreem Music - 2004

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

This is a re-master of the first (and last, for that matter) album that Finnish death metal masters Funebre did back in '91, back when the beer was flowing in abundance and leather pants were still in style. A little look back in history shows us that Funebre are one of the more profound bands out of the scene back in the 90's – and that’s with throwing around names like Abhorrence, Convulse and Cartilage – but the fact still remains that like all the other infamous Finnish death metal bands of that era, some of which amazing, Funebre is dead and rotting. Well, apart from this twitching carcass of a re-master.

What you get is 10 songs, plus eight bonus songs (consisting of their two demos) filled with really, REALLY old school death metal to make you remember that there was a time when death metal was still evil. You know the kind: very flashy solos, rampant rat-tat-tats on the drums and the occasional injections of eerie synth work.

For the purists and connoisseurs, it's a real treat to listen to. For the rest, even though the production did get a boost, it's still horribly out of date. Are you still wearing leather pants? If so, then buy this album. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Roberto
 

RING, THE - Tales from Midgard - CD - Scarlet Records - 2004

review by: Roberto Martinelli

From the cover artwork to the musical content and concept, The Ring’s Tales from Midgard comes across as an epic, sort of Tolkien-inspired album for elementary schoolers. Stylistically, there’s a pretty heavy Manowar or Viking-era Bathory comparison to be made, if mostly due to how the songs on Tales from Midgard feature singular, lumbering beats throughout their length. There’s also some Iron Maiden influence on display that surfaces in guitar solos and melodies. The vocals are somewhere between singing and shouting, and aren’t very remarkable at all, much like the entirety of this record.

Seriously, now, the whole "Ring" thing is way beyond played. Now, we can’t be sure that *this* ring is that same famous one, but even if it’s not, playing up your metal record to appeal to the Tolkien craze means that you better make just about the best album in a long time to justify it. The Ring, the band, falls well short of that. If you’re eight years old, you may be totally blown away by the concept, song titles like "Gathering Darkness," a picture of a guy the band solemnly pointing down at you, or the (totally gratuitous and superfluous) drum solo, but the rest of us won’t be. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
5.2/10 Roberto
 

FINAL DAWN - Under the Bleeding Sky - CD - Candlelight Records - 2004

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Respect to Finland’s Final Dawn for not going the tried and true route by copying the styles of its ground breaking countrymen (eg. Children of Bodom or Stratovarius), and going for something that is more their own. Unfortunately, however, Under the Bleeding Sky is a ho-hum album that invariably forces the audience into a passive listening experience. The music comes across as bland instru-metal that just happens to have death-y vocals, which are in turn quite unremarkable in both quality and prominence in the mix.

Final Dawn does have the beginnings of interesting elements, like some decent odd-time riffs; and they’ve got the talent. And while their music isn’t poor in terms of the work put into it, there is too much gray area and little to whet the appetite of the listener. (5.2/10)

 

 

 

 
9.2/10 Roberto
 

TRANSMISSION 0 - 0 - CD - Go Kart Records - 2004

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Qualifying metalcore as "crushing" kind of goes with the genre’s territory... like, if it’s *not* crushing, then you know something’s amiss. And Transmission 0's 0 certainly has the ability to flatten, but it’s rather in its unique style of compacting sonic waves that makes it a winner.

O is equally intelligent as it is bludgeoning. The harder parts could roughly fit in with the un-categorizeable category that Isis occupied with its Oceanic album, while the softer, undistorted parts have a brooding, emotive eminence to them that is entirely original. Some explore guitar and keyboard tones, while others have an industrial/electronic approach. They’re all stunning. And these parts are deliberate and fully developed, not the token one-dimensional "breathers" that pervade the majority of the recordings of extremely hard and heavy bands.

Harmony. How many bands in any ‘core-tagged gerne have it? Transmission 0's got it in droves, be it on the nearly Iron Maiden-like melodic guitar on "The Return," to the dissonant guitar drone kick-off and subsequently dissonant plodding sludge of "U-Boot," to the drifting tonal interplay of buzzing guitar and clean bass on the last track, to the noise parts that make us think we should dig up our copy of Noisegate’s The Towers are Burning. Applause is richly deserved.

With Transmission 0, the switches between these various styles and approaches are never either off or on. It all comes together as a cohesive work that transcends the genre. Any fan of creative, smart but visceral, and yet meditative music needs this one. (9.2/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Jez
 

ICED EARTH - The Blessed and the Damned - CD - Century Media Records - 2004

review by: Jez Andrews

For any seasoned Iced Earth fan, the greatest hit compilation The Blessed and the Damned requires little in the way of explanation. Having already digested the band’s Dark Genesis box set many times over and heard Something Wicked This Way Comes more than I can stand for in one lifetime, it was with a certain reluctance that I once again plowed through these critically acclaimed pieces of modern American heavy metal.

It is indeed possible to have too much of a good thing, but to take a step back from it all, I must admit that Iced Earth have still done impressive work over the years. The first of the two discs, entitled The Blessed, predictably enough kicks off with "Burning Times." Moving on into Horror Show territory with "Wolf," it's noticeable how the power of the music is stepped up a notch with the entrance of former Death drummer Richard Christy. The album is completed with choice cuts from their thirteen-year history, such as "Stormrider," "Burnt Offerings," "Watching Over Me" and "I Died For You" (the latter being practically a carbon copy for "Melancholy (Holy Martyr)").

Both The Blessed and The Damned discs provide a well-balanced insight into the band's career, but for newcomers, a listen to their latest album, The Glorious Burden (the first to include former Judas Priest frontman Tim "Ripper" Owens) would also be well recommended.(7.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Horror Show (issue No 6)  
Dark Genesis (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
9/10 Tom
 

ALGOL/SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY - Whispers from an Empty Room - CD - Paragon Records - 2004

note by: Roberto Martinelli

In keeping with our applied theme to Tom Orgad’s verbose, analytical style, here are "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" points of the following review, followed by the review itself. – Roberto

The Good:

- Algol, while using common compositions, constructs these in an atypical way that reaches the listener to his/her core.

- Shroud of Despondency employs a delicious variety of weird musical angles within the black metal framework.

- Both artists’ styles complement the other’s well.

The Bad:

- Shroud of Despondency could have used a bit more attention in the production department.

The Ugly:

- The first Shroud of Despondency album (says Roberto)

The Review:

review by: Tom Orgad

Whispers From an Empty Room, a split issued by noble US underground label Paragon Records, features Algol and Shroud of Despondency, two intriguing forces active in the gutters of the local extreme metal scene.

Although notably varying in aesthetics and character, the two bands strive at their artistic goals by applying similar mechanisms: the dualistic activation of opposing principles in order to reach the higher goal. In both cases, the result is worthy of praise and admiration.

Conceptually, Algol are obviously rooted in the grounds of basic, simple, old-school black metal of rather expected guitar riffs, anguished screams and overall familiar, conventional musical patterns vastly common in the local counterculture. However, contrary for a sadly high number of bands, Algol apply these familiar grounds only as a platform in order to reach a refined form of expression. While most artists do not go further than expected in stating their standard anguish by the well-known means of a few musical clichés, Algol implement these only as a practical portal, inviting the unfamiliar listener to step into at least a partially recognizable ground, thus establishing a primary pact with him.

Then, after the basic trust has been founded, they compel him to imbibe the true, profound nature of their expressionistic, tortured core: using original forms of expression in the shape of untypical song structures, colorful and intriguing atmospheric parts, unusual movements and structuring of feel and emotion, they now manage to permeate one's most intimate, fragile part of his absorbing mind. The more banal, known parts of the composition do not serve as the purpose, but merely avoid the alienation that might rise with artistic articulation of such deep and profound feelings, bleak and somber vibration . The outcome is a simultaneously interesting, sometimes outstanding piece of genuine art.

Unlike Algol, Shroud of Despondency, a one-man-project (performed by "Rory Heikkila and friends"), doesn't bother to establish such a firm bond with the audience. Indeed, in his case the bizarre is immediately, bluntly thrust in the face of the listener. The dual movement in this case shows itself on a different angle: the great effect of the music is achieved largely due to the synthesis between extremely unusual, rather weird music – and its placement in the form of a circular, repetitive array. The music of Shroud of Desponsdency is composed of different phrases, most bearing the common denominator of uncommonness. Be it formidable stereophonic experimentation, sluggishly picked riffs, disharmonious guitar phrases, weird, distorted samples, all sorts of growled vocals, unusual mixing (unlike the rather polished sound of Algol, Shroud of Despondency could have given some more work to the editing and noise cleaning) – all are recruited in order to confront one with an unfamiliar, estranged sonic environment.

However, a close, unmediated bond is still achieved with the listener – simply, by repeating these over and over again, submerging one in the unfamiliar waters for a long period of time (most songs are rather lengthy), a certain acquaintance is to be reached, by definition. So, without sparing the listener, Heikkila immediately drowns his audience in the threatening depths of his creative, unexpected, horridly entangled being. The result is greatly intense – the elegance and sophistication of Algol is replaced by an evoking., enrapturing experience.

So, one may notice that a third element of duality shows itself on Whispers From an Empty Room – not only both bands act that way, but also the entire album, featuring two greatly different methods of creating an effective, stunning atmosphere. On the other hand, there is yet a common element between the separate parts of the split – both are deeply submerging, captivating pieces of extreme art. Highly recommended. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Rod
 

COCK AND BALL TORTURE - Egoleech - CD - Morbid Records - 2004

review by: %%name Rod Togam%%

As we all know, all sorts of maturing and progression are more than common in the music industry. Anathema have matured to sound like Pink Floyd; pre-mid-life-crisis Metallica had their grown country episode; Agalloch, like it or not, had gone Death In June. This is just to name a few.

However, it may still be somehow hard to conceive the proclaimed maturity of porn-grind maestros, Cock and Ball Torture. Really, that genre is the lowest, most extreme case of wreaking childish, pointless, raging havoc just for the sake of it. It does make sense that the musicians will, at a certain stage, feel an urge to progress beyond teenage humor metal. However, it is difficult to understand why to do it in the same framework of the oft-explored material.

Anyway, Cock and Ball Torture's further conceptual incarnation disappointingly features a literal, rather dull interpretation of the sense of progression: the childish, pointless, raging havoc has  turned to a mildly grown up, a bit more directed, mid-weight, lenient havoc. The conversion is accurate, efficient and concise: high speed blastbeats exchanged for mid-tempo double bass; roaming low-tuned guitar riffs traded in for slower, more sluggish ones; porn song titles instead of more placid ones (sorry, no lyrics available); Some distorted vocals are replaced by standard death metal growls. Indeed, It is as uninteresting as it sounds.

Nevertheless, although the unintended parody of a musical growth and evolvement process, it should be noted that the skills of Cock and Ball Torture as masters in their chosen field of conduct are yet demonstrated, at least for a certain extent. Even if most of the compositions are rather boring and expected, the band, applying fine instrumental skills, crisp sound and thorough, professional manners of setting and fulfilling their artistic goals, manage to achieve in the album a certain sense of sweeping dynamics that renders it a bit above the utterly mediocre. Due to their finely developed skills, a listener experiencing the album is still most likely to derive a certain level of droning, circular, hypnotizing favor from it, probably much more then he would produce from listening to any arbitrary representative of the endless death metal brigades.

So, childhood has passed; gone are cheerful pointlessness and palatable wild tastelessness. Still, if you are a death enthusiast, or a dedicated fan, Egoleech may be worth a shot. (5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Where Girls Learn to Piss on Command (issue No 9)  

 

 

 
5/10 Rod
 

AGATHODAIMON - Serpent's Embrace - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2004

review by: Rod Togam

Nowadays, in our modern era of advanced technology and endless, widespread information, recording a decently commercial metal album is a quite simple task to fulfill, especially for veterans of the scene. The riffs are already there, been played thousand of times, just waiting to be picked. Slightly change them (in the better cases) and superimpose all sort of neat twists and tricks emanating from the mind of the highly proficient, well-experienced producer – these are also there, in rapidly growing numbers...

The studios and recording devices are there, just waiting to capture any initial idea of a phrase, immediately document it and use it as an establishment for yet another six-minute epos. The neat computer effects, mega-sophisticated keyboards, unnoticed triggered drums and enchanting female vocalists are there as well, present in the background, just waiting to support the well-financed rocker and help him to produce his own little piece of the market.

Think of Agathodaimon (a band which seems to have been there forever): they have always managed to produce mechanistic, formula-following bundles of black and Gothic metal clichés, making them sound creditable to a certain extent. Today, it seems that their challenge is over. Things have just become too easy.

Serpent's Embrace is a decent album. It really is. No required element is absent: the atmospheric black metal riffs, fine instrumental performance, mildly original sound environments of keyboards, growls, clean vocals and background-mixed distorted guitars, not-utterly-banal harmonic movements, and semi-creative bits of modern electronica, much thanks for the opulent production. Everything is present. Everything, that is, aside from an authentic, significant artistic statement.

Actually, Agathodaimon's latest release may be compared to the recent release of a fellow band, surprisingly distant in style, also based in Germany: if you haven't already (haven't you?), go and check out Unbreakable, the latest release by mighty Scorpions. Absorb the similar symptoms: all is smooth and polished, done accurately and correctly from start to finish – just lacking the intrinsic essential core of significance, around which, in past days of authentic art, everything was supposed to revolve. A new teutonic plague? Perhaps.

Actually, in the case of Agathodaimon (as well as the legendary Scorps), I can't really blame them. The temptation is just too strong to avoid – especially as they have never aimed much higher anyway. If one may do what he has always tried to, with growing efficiency and less effort, much thanks to the generous support of Nuclear Blast – why not, then?

So, if you were always into Agathodaimon, Nuclear Blast, or the Scorpions – perhaps checking out Serpent's Embrace may be a smart move. Otherwise – why not try to get a recording contract and make one yourself? (5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

AFTER FOREVER - Invisible Circles - CD - Transmission Records - 2004

review by: Avi Shaked

It’s clear that After Forever has gone through changes throughout their recent releases, possibly due to the departure of their previous guitar player and composer, Mark Jansen. Some of their older fans are doomed to be disappointed with this new release, as it is the case with every band that evolves. On the other hand, this is an album that should appeal to new audience, as well as old fans who can appreciate how much this band has grown.

Perhaps the most significant of the changes is the improved and revised vocals usage. First of all, Floor Jansen’s vocals on most of the album are less operatic than before. This change in style brings more passion out of her vocals. There are still operatic and choir vocals here and there, but this time they actually work and fit in the context. Second, it seems that After Forever has mastered the "Beauty and the Beast" vocals formula – like on "Between Love and Fire." And unlike on previous albums, the usage of male and female vocals actually suits the plot.

Having mentioned the plot, few other points regarding it should be mentioned as well. It is a bit like inviting a disaster to tell about a young teenage girl’s existential issues that would appeal to a narrow and very specific audience (and I doubt Mark Jansen would have allowed it to happen considering his past lyrical output), but that’s what After Forever chose to do! Quite surprisingly, it was done well, combining some older views into the concept that manage to make the whole thing quite remote from being ridiculous.

The narrative part, on the other hand, is marked with potential to be annoying from the first time it appears, and although it’s not too bad, it sort of lives up to its promise, serving as a bit of a hassle, joining up to the break between some of the songs in harming the continuity of the concept album.

The music is worthy of the title "progressive" – highly dynamic and structured – it is as if Exordium (their previous, more straight-forward release) never was (thank god!). One thing that is constantly impressive here is the rich production – sounding bombastic as well as bringing out subtle details out of the fine playing, with a strong emphasis on the compound pounding rhythm that gives a power metal drive to the entire work, as opposed to showcasing the individual players’ technical abilities, of which there is no doubt. There are some (the band) Winds-like gentle (and not too impressive) neoclassical sections, but luckily they don’t last long enough to become tiring.

The result rocks smoother and harder than After Forever ever did, with their signature sound being riper than before. This is indeed a triumphant release for After Forever, which would hopefully continue to evolve and offer new challenges. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.77/10 Avi
 

YARKONI, ROY - The Best of What Dreams Are Made of - CD - Pookh Music - 2004

review by: Avi Shaked

At first listen the loops and synthetic beats (or if you wish, the digital bits) found here are most likely to tire or intimidate any listener untrained or close-minded to electronica. But once the barricade is broken on the listener’s side, he or she should be able to appreciate the fine work Roy Yarkoni has done here, breaking musical barricades by blending authentic instruments, rock samples and structures, modified vocal lines and more than a bit of trickery into his electronica-dominated dreamscapes.

This is not to say that rock and electronica never joined forces – in fact, it can be claimed that the evolutions of progressive-rock and electronica walked hand-in-hand in their early days, but that’s a hell of a history lesson to tell. If you need evidence, though, it is highly recommended to examine the works of Arthur Brown’s Kingdome Come, Tangerine Dream, and Can. However, in this day and age, it seems that electronica and rock have each its own distinct audience, and The Best of What Dreams Are Made of is a highly welcomed bridge between them.

Unlike other modern electronica artists, Yarkoni does not over-paint his pieces – he lets them breathe and develop, proving loyalty for the minimalism of 70’s electronica pioneers such as Clause Schultz; but unlike them, Yarkoni’s work has a strong melodic basis, which is in itself an infrequent virtue to be found on electronica albums, and serves as a spine for adventurous modifications and "real life" instruments such as trumpets, classic organs and bass – all these are most likely to appeal to symphonic rock fans, while the dominant samples (some of which are taken from progressive rock archives), one-sentence vocals that repeat in various variations, and digital beats wrap things in a more user-friendly package, for the modern upbeat-electronica fan (think Moby!).

Yarkoni’s debut release marks him as a clever composer, a quality that has blossomed and manifested on his later releases with Ahvak and Thin Lips (the latter will be reviewed in the next issue), but that’s not to say this release is something to overlook, far from it – much like Yarkoni’s other releases, it remains a unique work in the ever-evolving creation of this artist. (7.77/10)

 

 

 

 
7.25/10 Avi
 

FREEDOM - Through the Years - CD - Angel Air Records - 2004

review by: Avi Shaked

It seems that it’s not only nowadays that good music is widely ignored. Founded by two ex-Procol Harum members (who have actually been in it for a very short while), this late 60’s-early 70’s outfit never won major recognition. Well, at least with the easily-accessible, demanding worldwide album market these days (with much thanks to the internet), Freedom’s albums are now resurrected, hopefully to be given the respect and attention they originally deserved.

Originally released in 1971, Through the Years is their fourth album, delving into blues-based hard rock (while their earlier releases were more psychedelic – so I read on the informative booklet that accompanies the CD), with the fundamental lineup of heavy and muddy bass that sucks you in comfortably into the groove, all-around percussions, and the acoustic, chord-based guitar playing that trades with melodic, more savage, electric lead.

With strong, convincing performances on both the instrumental and vocal front, Freedom delivers a terrific blend of two classic, and thankfully less overlooked, bands – Free and Humble Pie. It’s obvious from the first time you listen to the singing that it was both influenced and in league with those of the vocalists of these two great bands – Paul Rodgers and Steve Marriott.

The music, wonderfully re-mastered, carries downright dirty riffs and a rasp edge ala Humble Pie’s Smokin’ (1972), an album that I always wished there were more like; and since this was recorded around the same time as Smokin’ (perhaps even prior to it), this does not sound as a lame try to recreate it, but as a fresh, honest product, with songs that are focused as well as accessible, yet are still raw.

Consider it as one of the few privileges to live in the 21st Century to have the opportunity to discover the secrets that got buried in the past. Classic hard rock fans – check this one out! (7.25/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Joshua
 

SEAR BLISS - Glory and Perdition - CD - Red Stream Records - 2004

review by: Joshua

How can you not love a black metal band that has only one member that applies the ol’ corpse paint, a lone, sad clown in this otherwise pasty faced Magyar ensemble? Furthermore, how could you not respect the sheer perversity of a black metal band that distinguishes itself from the rest of the hordes not with excess brutality, unrelenting grimness or keyboard passages lifted straight from a Bach fugue, but with a trombone player as a full fledged member of the roster? That’s right, trombone.

Simple, you can’t. Welcome to Sear Bliss’ little corner of the black metal world.

Glory and Perdition is the latest entry in the band’s catalogue, much in the same vein of its predecessors. Owing as much to Dimmu Borgir as the spirit (if not sound) of Darkthrone, Sear Bliss blaze through another 10 tracks of galloping, blackened goodness. Keyboards are ever present, utilized as backdrop rather than focal point, adding a sheen that prevents the songs from straying too far into the cold and austere regions of kultdom. The album’s rapid tempos grate perfectly to the more deliberate pacing of vocalist/bassist Andras Nagy; his is a larynx perfectly suited for this sort of business, delivering deep, strangled exhortations coming from on high, a half-mad prophet on a lone mountain top appealing to the emptiness surrounding. And in the case of "Blood Serenade," which shifts the speed down considerably, his orations somberly evoke the simultaneous destruction and creation of the universe.

Really though, it’s all about the trombone. On paper this doesn’t work at all. The concept itself is near ridiculous. But in practice the results are unbelievably effective and an essential component of the Sear Bliss sound. It’s not your marching band oom-pah blurt, no. Rather, it’s a wash of long, drawn out and sustained notes; drones that weave in and out of the guitar and keyboard interplay. Depending on what aspect of the song is supported, these notes add color and texture, imbuing their respective parts with somberness, longing, menace and militaristic might. After a full run through of Glory and Perdition you’ll not only be converted to the trombone/black metal cause but left wondering why more bands haven’t hopped onboard the bandwagon. (7.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Forgotten Symphony (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
6.25/10 Avi
 

ASRAI - Touch in the Dark - CD - Transmission Records - 2004

review by: Avi Shaked

Asrai’s second album blends immediate gothic rock with pop-metal – it is as if the female vocals of Lacuna Coil met the rockier moments of Type O Negative ("My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend") and Paradise Lost ("The Last Time"), as well as a slight touch of Depeche Mode.

The rolling, thumping drumming is perhaps the most dominant ingredient here, next to the clean, high articulate vocals that understandably receive the initial attention. It is not surprising to find these two leading components to be twin sisters that complement each other well, as it is demonstrated on "Pale Light," where the vocals also seem to draw influence from Kate Bush.

The songs are mostly mid-tempo rockers, each contains several simplistic musical passages that flow flawlessly, earning their sex appeal from the accurate, rich production and from the band’s confident performance, as well as the digital effects that contribute a spacey, cosmic feel.

It seems Asrai, with some members having nearly two decades of experience in performing, has mastered the art of performing basic metal, and while the songs do not differ significantly one from the other, Asrai manages to deliver steadily throughout the entire album. If only there was more flesh to it all… (6.25/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Rod
 

MY FATE - Happiness is Fiction - CD - Crash Music - 2004

review by: Rod Togam

My Fate is a band of Finnish youngsters aiming at creating a decent nu metal product. Their music hereby features all of the required elements of a modern, updated, lightly innovative band of the followers of the movement: low-tuned repetitive riffs, an occasional dissonant harmony, an overall grinding, heavy sound (revealing reasonable instrumental play), some angry shouting and growling vocals expressing the mandatory anger towards our deteriorating world and all that, opposed by some (mediocre) melodic vocals, representing the shivering glimmers of remaining emotions, some production stunts, etc... The musical material itself is not utterly cloning any of the idols of the genre, yet predictably remains far from being intriguing or innovative.

Now, one could have blamed My Fate for choosing to play nu metal. However, when you think of it, he also could blame them for watching television in their spare time, spending countless hours in front of their Playstation or drinking Coke (trust me, they do all of the above).

Furthermore – one would be undoubtably right in levying such criticism. On the other hand, taking such an approach, he would also very soon become an extremely tired and frustrated human being. Crusades may be very valuable and significant, but often also exhausting and unrewarding.

While fighting for the establishment and welfare of your own creative and artistic agenda, or criticizing its great opposites, is greatly important – chasing every fledgling, minor follower of a shallow, fashionable movement seems rather trite and useless.

So, it sounds that My Fate do manage to fulfill their goal of producing a barely original, good-sounding creation within the realms of their genre. On which an argument would be pointless and dull, in the current context. If you manage to enjoy Fear Factory or Machine Head, you just may also gain some benefit (even if by no means a revolutionary one) from this one. Otherwise, be grateful for your current state and hold on to that merit. You are becoming fewer as the years pass by. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Joshua
 

PROJECT HATE, THE - Hate, Dominate, Congregate, Eliminate - CD - Candlelight Records - 2004

review by: Joshua

Round up one death metal vocalist, one lulling female vocalist, bountiful riffery, odd keyboards, some electronics and one serious drum machine, throw them all into a deep pit laden with a glut of sharp weapons then let them go at it for over an hour. Rising from the aftermath you’ll find The Project Hate. Hate, Dominate, Congregate, Eliminate does just that and more – by album’s end you’ll be nothing more that a ground up mound of skin and meat littering the tiles. And you’ll beg for more.

Imagine a more convoluted and expansive version of Gloomy Grim and you might skim the surface of what The Project Hate has to offer. Each track found on Hate, Dominate, Congregate, Eliminate is a virtual clinic on the melding of the abusively heavy with unexpected gentility and weirdness. Most integral to this dynamic is the vocal interplay between Jörgen Sandström and Jo Enckell. His is the prototypical death metal roar, one of Satan’s minions unleashed. Enckell is the perfect foil – her credits in the CD jacket simply state "Angels." When a decidedly female sounding vocalist is employed in the black or death realm it’s usually for accent or as a dynamic. Sandström and Enckell work so well together because their respective parts serve as direct point/counterpoint; hers is the voice of tranquility and placation to his unbridled fury. It’s a tug of war that ultimately keeps everything in balance.

Highlights are difficult to ascribe in an album that’s superlative from the time one presses the play button. However, you’d be hard pressed not be drawn in by the Middle Eastern melodies and strange keyboard flourishes of "Hate." Both "Deviate" and "Congregate" evoke nothing so much as latter day White Zombie forcibly shoved through a death metal looking glass. The opening guitar salvo of "Burn" is potent enough to raze the foundation of your building; and, at over 12 minutes, it’ll damn near take out entire city blocks if left to its own devices.

When one finally arrives at album closer "Weep," an epic ballad of sorts, it feels like the aftermath of a disaster. There’s a restlessness lurking in the background, the track never breaks out from its elegiac tone, but there’s the constant threat that it’s about to at any moment. That’s the ultimate appeal of Hate, Dominate, Congregate, Eliminate. It allows you to stroll within spitting distance of the abyss. The decision to dive in or merely traverse the edge is left in your hands. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.25/10 Avi
 

DAVIS, SPENCER GROUP, THE - Live in Manchester 2002 - CD - Angel Air Records - 2004

review by: Avi Shaked

Well, I have to admit that including a review of this album on Maelstrom is obscure to me no less than it will probably be to any reader. Still, with my burning passion towards music, there was no reason for letting this one go.

For those of you unfamiliar with the name, The Spencer Davis Group emerged in the mid-60’s to become one of Britain’s premier R&B groups, introducing the talented Stevie Winwood, at the tender age of 15, to the world. The classic lineup did not last long as Winwood soon left to form Traffic, reaching even greater peaks as a leader of that psychedelic and progressive rock outfit.

This live recording from 2002 captures the band live in excellent sound yet on a very short set, clocking at only 40 minutes and leaving out some classics.

It is Winwood’s vocal absence that is most wanting here. This is evident from the opening song, "Keep on Running," a huge hit whose remake suffers from off-key vocals and moonlighting performance. Only two original members, guitarist Spencer Davis and drummer Peter York, are on this resurrected lineup, but that’s not to say the others are insignificant. In fact, bassist Colin Hodgkinson is rightfully famed for his uniquely styled, full-chord extravagant bass playing, leading the cult band Back Door in the 70’s (he would later play briefly with Whitesnake and with another major white-blues figure – Alexis Korner); unfortunately, this collection of R&B songs isn’t a setting for Hodgkinson to truly shine, although he does have his own showcase on "San Francisco Bay" and plays adequately on the others.

Moving past the opening track, the performance improves and satisfies, including two other hits – "Gimme Some Lovin’" and "I’m A Man," delivered more accurately, as well as refined versions of the classic "House of the Rising Sun" and John Lee Hooker’s "Dimples." Thankfully, unlike Winwood’s vocals, his punchy organ work was managed to be recreated in spirit.

However, as with most of the revamped lineups of past greats, there’s nothing extraordinary to be found, though one must appreciate the experienced guys for trying and labels for releasing these efforts (I would hate to think that the wonderful Colosseum 1994 Reunion Concerts never saw the light of day).

So if you want a taste of classic British R&B, you would probably better put your hands on The Best of Spencer Davis Group featuring Stevie Winwood. If you’re a fan, you’ll probably pick this one up anyway, but it is my guess you’d better get the DVD-version, as it adds the visual dimension which is so rare and valuable on revisiting classic bands. (5.25/10)

 

 

 

 
6.8/10 Roberto
 

VADER - The Beast - CD - Metal Blade Records - 2004

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The pall surrounding the new Vader is strong enough to nearly overpower it. Doc, the drummer that launched 1,000 careers, the only drummer ever to play in Vader since it began in the late 80s, fell down some stairs and he can no longer feel some fingers in his right hand. Vader’s formula has always been simple, and many line up changes over the years has shown that as long as two constants – the singing/songwriting of Peter Wiczwarek and Doc’s drumming – remained in place, Vader would always be Vader.

The Beast is Vader’s first sans Doc. The good news is that casual fans probably won’t notice, as the fill in guy (from the group Vesania) is more than up to the task. However, you can’t duplicate the best blast beat in death metal, no matter whom you get. And the signature style... It’s like Morbid Angel without Pete Sandoval, Bolt Thrower without Andy Whale.

But anchored by the trademark vocals and riff writing, the Vader flavor is still there. Longtime fans will be sure to recognize their beloved band, and in the sense that The Beast is basically more of the same Vader, with some minor tweaking (like more melodic guitar solos) it is a success.

However, things seem to be Peter-ing out in Vader land. (We condone any and all groaning about this last comment.) Before we continue, we’d like to talk about a popular web site called Jump the Shark.com. It’s dedicated to figuring at precisely what event particular TV shows went South. It’s been such a runaway hit here in the US that the term "jump the shark" has become widely used in the cultural lexicon to apply to anything at all. It seemed that Vader, a bastion of nothing but steamrolling brutality, would jump the shark if it: a) had acoustic guitars b) lost Doc or Peter.

We know about b) already. The first event turns up on the last track, "Choices," whose title couldn’t help remind us of the famous Black Sabbath song "Changes," in which the singer laments about things not remaining the same. Life imitates art a bit on The Beast: it’s got the Vader flavor, but the energy is dragging noticeably. Furiously fast parts are to be found for sure, but the mid-paced road has finally been traveled down too far, revealing more than a few filler tracks and some big holes in the expected intensity.

But it is Vader after all. You can chalk it up as the juggernaut’s weakest full-length album yet – a depleted, disoriented, slightly limping beast – but long time fans will and should embrace it. But it won’t be the same without Doc. (6.8/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Reign Forever World (issue No 3)  
More Visions and the Voice (issue No 10)  
Revelations (issue No 10)  
Blood (issue No 16)  

 

 

 
7.5/10 Joshua
 

RWAKE - If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die - CD - At a Loss Recordings - 2004

review by: Joshua

Sometimes the world is a good place. When a band as uncompromising and visionary as Neurosis can have such a positive influence on a plethora of bands that have emerged in the last few years, one can only gaze towards one’s Valhalla of choice and transmit murmurings of gratitude in silent reverie.

Add Rwake to the list. Album opener "Dying Spiral Galaxies" is lifted from the fecund waters of Enemy of the Sun. Do not let this fact imply that this crew of social outcasts is merely content to mine from that prime material. No, it’s the scaffold from which they build their own brand of sonic chaos. With a number of well chosen samples and pervasive sense of foreboding, If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die, if anything, comes across as an updated soundtrack to "Deliverance," where inbred rednecks thrive and you walk in fear of the sudden twang of banjo snaking through the trees.

Rwake often go for the epic, even in the shorter tracks: huge chaotic riffs supported by swirling drums and anguished shouts. "Woodson Lateral" is indicative of this approach, creating an impenetrable, sludgy wall of sound. To Rwake’s credit though, they’re smart enough to know when to dial it down, thus creating even more tension as you wait for the next wave of punishment.

Melody creeps out of the mire that is "Imbedded," ultimately punctuated by a guitar solo that would do Tony Iommi proud. "Sleep and Forget Forever" places a dreamy and lethargic first half in stark opposition to the trampled-under-foot disorder of its latter half.

And when they do go for the long form epic, the results are just that. Part one of the title track is a melancholy, yet strangely uplifting acoustic piece, replete with crickets and the soothing trickle of a stream filling the background. Naturally it functions as the troubled lull before the thunder of part two, an arduous journey through every waking nightmare you’ve never been able to claw out from.

A mighty impressive debut. Perhaps a group of upstarts will be using Rwake’s first few albums as their own blueprint sometime down the line. Assuming Rwake stick around for a while, who knows? (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Matt
 

MALEBOLGIA - Requiem for the Inexorable - CD - malebolgia.com - 2004

review by: Matt Smith

Malebolgia's two-song demo shows promise for the full-length album coming this fall; "Infesdead" and "Born of the Nephilim" are richly produced in an unrelenting wall-of-sound style that leaves not a second of silence. All lines attack at once and overwhelm before they can even be absorbed. It takes a few listens to figure out this five-minute release, and its length and density don't even give it a chance to get boring or repetitive.

The lyrics also invoke some interesting images and vague, violent metaphors. From "Born of the Nephilim": "Born of the Nephilim infecting all – stagnant masses of lethargic souls. Spreading the seeds of their weakness – a gospel they perceive as lore. Transforming their wings to blacken the sky – a nimbus to human demise." "Infesdead" is a bit more straight-forward in its goriness: "Bloody infection – aborted at birth to be re-consumed. Rotting they're lifeless, sodomize them." Yikes.

Keep an eye out for Malebolgia's future releases. Their intensely thick death-metal sound mixed with wrenching screams and guttural growls will surely grab a few of you. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Matt
 

SERPENT SOUL - Beyond Humanity - CD - RiseStar - 2004

review by: Matt Smith

Pipe organ?! A cool harmony on the synthesized organ opens four-track Beyond Humanity, and I guess it threw me off. Not even in doom metal have I ever felt like gospel singers were on the way... two points for ingenuity.

Serpent Soul's self-titled song soon slips into a bouncing guitar riff and raspy screams – repetitious, conventional and unsurprising, it's a let-down after the eye-opening intro. The second song, "Beyond Humanity," picks things up a bit, but the vocal line is disappointing in its lack of versatility or punchiness. The guitars and drums aren't anything outstanding, either. Just middle-of-the-road, non-technical riffs that get stale before the song is halfway over.

"Revenge" brings in some decent melodies, but by "Doomsday" you can be sure that Serpent Soul is stuck in second gear. One tempo, one beat, one mood (outside the short introductions, that is). Beyond Humanity is, in the end, nothing more than mediocre thrash with a few shining seconds of organ. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Matt
 

MINDGRINDER - MindTech - CD - Candlelight Records - 2004

review by: Matt Smith

Dark, techy, mechanical – MindGrinder's breed of metal has a synthetic edge, but also a solid base in early death. Dark, churning guitars and thickly layered growls are the meat of each track, but they occasionally break into computer effects or more melodic sections. A near-constant drone of the drum machine's double bass adds thickness to the already heavy atmosphere.

But I never did like a drum machine, even if it stays in the background for the most part. One less thing to be impressed by, I suppose. And much of the time, MindGrinder's drums just sound like a metronome on speed. There are some good fills and intros here and there, but nothing incredible.

A general lack of variety is my main complaint on all fronts; the unvarying drum machines and the same drudging speeds and moods from the guitars give the majority of the album the same sound. "Starspawned Vision" changes things some, with faster guitars and harmonized singing, but it's not enough. MindGrinder has captured the slow groove, the dark mood. But an assortment of styles and sounds is necessary for any album, and MindTech hardly strays from the path that was laid in its first few minutes. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
1/10 Matt
 

ACROSS FIVE APRILS - Living in the Moment - CD - Indianola Records - 2004

review by: Matt Smith

This is truly hateful shit. Is it a whiny emo band or the weakest thrash group ever created? Across Five Aprils tried for both and came up with nothing but watered-down failure. The emotionally charged, shallow singing bores its way into your head with long, high notes and idiotic messages; the poppy drums are hardly noteworthy; and the bumbling guitarists can't pull off any of the quick fingerings they try for with any kind of style or mastery. When Across Five Aprils get serious, the growling and simplistic grooves come in – and you can see the changes from miles away.

Predictable and boring, Living in the Moment is amateur-sounding in every way. With no new techniques or original sounds, the album is a diluted, insipid mush that the world would be better off without. (1/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Matt
9.5/10 Bastiaan
 

MUMMIFIED - Protocol of Mummification - CD - mummified.8m.com - 2004

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Everybody loves a good ol' mummification, especially if it's done well. I'm talking red hot hooks through the nose to remove the organs, which are nicely oiled and wrapped up to gain the ultimate form of preservation-kind of mummification... kinda like the band Mummified does – very old school.

Mummified is like a more dense and eerie Mortal Decay but without all the technical wizardry. Protocol of Mummification is this band’s six-track advance demo, and it shows that Mummified is a death metal band that is totally awesome in its delivery of old-school gore with a very sinister and haunting atmosphere. The production is shady at best but is a perfect fit for what the band is trying to achieve.

I've read that some find that the vocals are too high in the mix, but none of that is true; you have the traditional gore grunting that almost soaks itself in the pounding bass drums, and the always wonderful higher shrieks, both of which are mixed in perfectly. After a little intro (surprisingly not a horror movie sample), the band kicks off with a song of epic proportions: over seven minutes of intense, giblet flinging death metal that would make every seasoned fan gurgle blood in appreciation.

Following in fast pace are five songs that would make many a Death metal band go red around the cheeks, and showcasing such a wondrous feeling for atmosphere and such creativity in the ways of brutality that it's hard not to worship this band. A stunning demo that everybody with a love for gore, giblets and exploding brains should get a hold of. I am anxiously awaiting a full length release while I spin this beast of a demo again and again. (9.5/10)

review by: Matt Smith

This group's debut effort is somewhat immature and poorly produced, but it's not all bad. Despite the muddled nature of the gory screams and chaotic drums and guitars, and partially because of it, Mummified manages to pull of a creepy, dirty death-metal feel.

Melding high and low-pitched screams and gurgles, some well-placed, sinister movie samples and overall sloppy instrumentation, Protocol of Mummification is dense, to say the least. However, besides a few interesting guitar melodies and the over-the-top vocals that set the tone, Mummified's first release doesn't have a lot going for it. The band needs some more time to practice and mature; as it stands, it's no more than a cheap carnival horror show. (3.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Bastiaan
 

ISENBURG - Erzgebirge - CD - Black Attakk Records - 2004

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

A solo project by some mysterious German guy (who is also part of the band Persecution), Isenburg plays a heavy brand of epic and at times traditional sounding heavy metal/black metal.

Erzgebirge is a region in Germany, and according to the official Erzgebirge website (www.erzgebirge.de) a very nice place to visit. Although this sounds very neat I would like to think Isenburg is not about tourists wearing silly German hats and drinking beer with bratwürst. But during some parts of the album, where the heavy metal epic level reaches a high, I am not so sure.

This album would in fact do well with some mates, beer and bratwürst... and some leather pants and big spikes; because yes, the black metal part is alive and roaring during most of this near 40-minute metal extravaganza. Frantic blast beats, the old familiar guitar buzz and the grating vocals are all present, and in full force. Also worthy of some praise is that the bass guitar is very noticeable, probably due to the fact that the main man is a bass guitarist, but it works wonders and gives this record a refreshing touch (as evident in the title track – little bass solo!)

The highlight of the album would be the instrumental "Pandemoniac," which is a refreshing guitar piece and it would have been a smart idea to have used similar parts throughout the album to give it a bit more epic appeal but instead the album launches right into black metal blast beat overdrive... oh, and warrior roars. Can't forget those.

The album has some other memorable moments, especially in the guitar riffing department, but not enough to be a true kicker. The one big fault of Erzgebirge, and Isenburg as a band, is the use of a drum computer. The album would have been so very special if it wasn't ruined by the mechanical feel of the drum parts. There is also a keyboard present, but not enough to become annoying, just to create some dense atmosphere. Imagine a German Graveland but take away the true, epic, Viking feel and replace it with beer drinking German tourists, the result being Erzgebirge; it sounds metal, but also rather silly. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.75/10 Avi
 

FRAGMENT - Out of Nowhere - CD - Pookh Music - 2004

review by: Avi Shaked

With much charm in the form of disjointed guitar and keyboard lines as melody, modest electronica, effects and programmed drumming, Out of Nowhere by the one-man band Fragment manages to create a melancholic trip that borders on being joyful. At certain moments the music relies on the guitar playing as a foundation; at other times it’s the synthesizers that lead the way, and all along there’s an almost monotonous, semi-agonized voice that whispers out and advises its audience.

Comparisons to the mellow works of Tiamat found on Wildhoney and A Deeper Kind of Slumber are certainly inevitable (Tiamat minus the metal, if you wish), though Fragment tends to keep things more minimalistic and a bit more upbeat, bringing to mind The Young Gods – yet unlike their explosive outbursts, Fragment tends to keep the flame burning low, with a cold wind constantly blowing down your neck.

Another interesting approach is taken here with the desperate vocals that lead you through the intimate trip-of-thoughts. It seems that Yoav Rosner gave up on singing and chose to read his lyrics instead. But it isn’t straight-forward reading – it’s more of a word by word dictation that leads to a hypnotic affect, one that blends well with the obscure, trippy atmosphere, but as the album advances this seems to have an almost unbearable affect, dragging more and more into frustration.

It is impressive how the fragmented, instruction-giving vocals intervene with the string-by-string / note-by-note musical lines to create a continuous "mood journey." If you’re looking for an arousing lo-fi version of Tiamat’s A Deeper Kind of Slumber, this is the place to look. However, be aware of the dragging, monotonous approach found here. (6.75/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Matt
 

INCAPACITY - 9th Order Extinct - CD - Metal Blade Records - 2004

review by: Matt Smith

These Swedish death metallers have still got old-school purity in their sound, but they've got more modern melodies and rhythms to balance it out and make 9th Order Extinct a highly satisfactory release on all fronts.

Technically flawless (though they don't dip too deeply into the insanely hard stuff) and with excellent production, fast and varied drums mound heaps of energy onto catchy, frequently changing and just plain hard guitar riffs with a tinge of thrash in them. The deeply growled vocals add to the old-school death aspects of the album, and the blend of the voices and instruments is ideal: thick and overpowering, the effect is something one might call an "aural assault."

Though Incapacity hasn't done much innovation with this release, they're still ahead of the game in their technicality and technique, lack of repetitiveness, and the ability to write songs that are varied, unique and unpredictable. 9th Order Extinct is well worth checking out. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Jez
 

BORKNAGAR - Epic - CD - Century Media Records - 2004

review by: Jez Andrews

Well, it's safe to say that Borknagar are not what they once were. Though not as boggling to the mind as Vintersorg's latest, Epic has precious little of Borknagar's old strength. Indeed, with the styling and subject matter, I couldn't even call this black metal and keep a straight face.

With bizarre avant-garde framework and somewhat jazzy composition, the only part of this album to which I genuinely took a liking was the cutting drum sound. No more harsh bite on the guitars, and vocalist Vintersorg doesn't really prove a match for the Garm-era material. As for the various complexities of the music, it only sounds like one band failing where Emperor succeeded. And a fucking painful listen it is too.

As open-minded as I have tried to be, after three spins of Epic, not a single track held my interest after the first sixty seconds. However, I do give them credit for the nicely balanced sound. (3/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Empiricism (issue No 7)  

 

 

 
10/10 Avi
 

BEGER, ALBERT'S 5 - Listening - CD - Earsay Records - 2004

review by: Avi Shaked

Saxophone player Albert Beger was exposed to rock music in his early days, but as time went by he found himself drawn into jazz, or more specifically free jazz, in which, according to him, he was able to play out his inner truth. On Listening, equipped with four other remarkably talented and supportive musicians, he blends both worlds into one entity.

On the free jazz front, the influence of Dave Holland’s Quartet’s Conference of the Birds is clear and up front, laying harmonies and melodies that are later used as terminals for improvising on and across the border of avant-garde, with atonal, sometimes out of proportion, enriching and unpredicted notes.

But despite being labeled (and marketed) as a jazz album, there are certain factors here that transfer this into being rock. The most obvious of all is probably the violent, punching rhythm section that manages to deliver an intense beat while not compromising on creativity. Then, there’s a certain scent of classic rock – not only on the title track where you have an early 70’s sounding organ work that remains in the background while affecting the atmosphere of the whole piece, but also throughout the other album’s tracks. These two boost up even the gentle moments found here, and allow them to develop into imaginative, untamed realms.

However, that’s not all, as you can learn straight from raging opening track "What a Day," which towards its end develops into a King Crimson kind of thrash, a-la "Starless and Bible Black," with a wildly stretching guitar leading the way for a chaotic celebration, and then a furious return to the main theme.

And if for a moment, "I Was Here Before" and "Albert" lead you to believe the attack is over in favor of mellower, yet still adventurous and unexpected compositions, "Karma" will definitely set you straight: this is one track which could have fitted naturally on King Crimson’s highly acclaimed and influential 1974 album Red. If there ever was an album that managed to recreate that dark, suspended and tense atmosphere of that album, Listening is it! That alone should be enough to intrigue masses of progressive rock enthusiasts out there.

Listening is a rare album that bridges jazz sensitivity and exploration with classic progressive rock aesthetics, thematic playing with developing concepts, all in a modest way while remaining passionate and truthful throughout. Brilliant! (10/10)

 

 

 

 
8.3/10 Jez
 

ESQARIAL - Inheritance - CD - Crash Music - 2004

review by: Jez Andrews

Hmm...semi-melodic death metal from Poland with a very pleasing sound. There is a vague hint of Arch Enemy, but nothing overpowering. Instead, Esqarial have made a laudable effort to strike out on their own. Rather than opting for the extremities of fellow Polish metallers Decapitated, Vader, Lost Soul and Behemoth, they have a more ponderous and mid-paced approach that serves them very well indeed. That isn't to say that these guys don't know how to blast (see "Broken Link" and "Catching the Falling Knife" for details).

The guitar tracks are fantastic, and there is a certain elegance to the clean instrumental "Flying Over Treetops." One of my favourite tracks would have to be "A Pure Formality," with its chugging riffs and overlying melodies. It has to be said that guitarists Marek Pajak and Bartek Nowak work very well together, occasionally giving a very classic feel to the music, particularly in "The Source of Constraint," another true gem.

I can imagine Esqarial appealing to quite a wide audience. The influences lie not just in death metal, but also in thrash and classic heavy metal. I would seriously recommend that a fan of any of these genres give Inheritance a try. It grew on me after the first listen. (8.3/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Joshua
 

CATARACT - With Triumph Comes Loss - CD - Metal Blade Records - 2004

review by: Joshua

Not quite metal, not quite hardcore, Cataract inhabit that netherworld betwixt the two. Yet, miraculously, they successfully skirt the metalcore tag. By combining a solid base of straight up thrash punctuated by double kicked swells and then overlaying it with a layer of chest beating hardcore pummel, this Swiss five-piece will get bodies flailing in the pit just as easily as it will induce furious headbanging in the more sedentary.

There is a secret weapon though: an uncanny devotion to Bolt Thrower. Like ‘em or not, nobody sounds like Bolt Thrower. In an isolated bit of larceny, Cataract has managed to hijack the BT sound and inject it into straight into the veins of their own little monster. Certainly no coincidence (the album’s title is exhibit A) but the band has to be respected for taking such an instantly recognizable milieu and mutating it so decisively.

Overall it’s an unrelenting affair. Nine of 11 tracks clock in at the two- to three- minute range, whizzing by like a freight train three stops behind schedule. The one speed impaired detour, the title track, is a grinding seven-minute romp through high grass where predators abound. The song moves forward with an overwhelming sense of inevitability. You can’t see your pursuers but have the intrinsic knowledge that you’re being gradually boxed in, toyed with it; the killing blow will ultimately be sweet relief from the escalating tension.

All well and good. Cataract destroys without impunity. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Joshua
 

AQUILON - Intramedia - CD - Adipocere Records - 2004

review by: Joshua

There’s no way around it. If you’re a melodic heavy metal or hard rock band with dueling male and female vocalists you’ll find the Lacuna Coil comparisons rolling your way. That’s quite a yardstick too, given the Italian ensemble’s swelling worldwide popularity. Not to mention the fact that they’re really, really good at what they do. Oops.

So how to avoid the Lacuna clone tag? In the case of Aquilon, cast yourself as the bigger, meaner cousin that the rest of the family only speaks of in hushed, nervous whispers. Aquilon distinguish themselves in two simple ways. First off, the emphasis is on Alexandre Soles, the male half of the vocal duo. His raspy, at times near death metal croak drives each song while Anne Greco is regulated more to the background supplying the refrains and bridges for contrast. Secondly, Aquilon are a decidedly heavier affair.

A few of the tracks, "Pulse" and "Univers" in particular, show a band with a serious black metal fetish, replete with icy guitar and expansive mid-song breaks. At other times, Aquilon go right for throat. The intro to the title track is copped from Zyklon’s first album of all places, whereas "Tracer Les Contours" rips page #37 out of the Carpathian Forest playbook and finds battered riffing colliding with horror movie keyboards.

Good stuff here but Aquilon may have unintentionally marginalized themselves. Those into the more extreme end of the scale will avoid this solely based on the presence of a female vocalist. The goth/ melodic/ commercial/ whatever crowd will have an equally hard time digesting the album’s heavier parts. There’s not a specific audience for this, all the more to their credit. They’ll need to create one to call their own. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Joshua
 

ATROPHIA RED SUN - Twisted Logic - CD - Adipocere Records - 2004

review by: Joshua

Great band name. Don’t know what it means; don’t care. Hell, this merry troupe of Poles could fly under the banner of Jimmy Eat Big Red Yummy Sun for Breakfast and it would matter not a lick because these boys make music that gets in your head like a fever dream.

Let’s break it down. Take a large, steaming cauldron and throw anything and everything within arm’s reach into the thing. A death base, some black, a bit of grind, electronics, skittery freakouts, essence of prog, industrial waste, ultra technical precision, higher mathematics and genuine eccentricity. Stir it all up and then spill the entire brew over a sampler and voila! Twisted Logic. Doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. But it does…

Need further prodding, do you? Alright, try and remove this image from your pointy little craniums: Red Harvest dosed by the members of Carcass then tied up and given a barium enema by Meshuggah while Mike Patton, Gary Numan and the members of Yes impatiently wait their turn with the nozzle.

This is a remarkably tight album for one that seemingly has the randomness of a Rorschach test. Why does Atrophia Red Sun throw so much into the mix? Because they can. The playing is spot on, the song structures meticulously constructed with algebraic glee. But this is never at the expense of bone pulverizing intensity. Sure, this might put off those who only take their death metal cocktail straight up. Anybody else looking to get hammered from angles you couldn’t even imagine real should line up right here. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Nikita
 

BESEECH - Drama - CD - Napalm Records - 2004

review by: Nikita

Prince meets Nina Hagen.

This band IS the Drama. Beseech is a Swedish band that organized sometime in the early 90’s and has continued on their own terms, transcending doom into Goth and beyond. This CD has an 80’s self-absorbed Flock of Seagulls feel to it. Still, it sports the chunky, fuzzy guitar parts that make it heavy and cross-cultural. The feel is the dark, scary and vampire. The unique timing of the music takes it over the edge into a dramatic genre.

Beseech’s sound is unique in the way the male voice often plays against the female in the same song. The stories are less lyrical than they are dramatic with big open space for the story to evolve – especially in your own imagination. Their sound really does lend itself to the soundtrack. I’m not the only one who saw that either, Brimstone Productions, a Canadian film company, has already found them, using three songs from their 2001 Black Emotions album for the horror movie "Alien Conspiracy."

As dramatic as Beseech is, they are kind of low energy. I can tell that Erik Molarin spends a lot of time thinking about how cool and thoughtful he is. Actually, he is pretty cool – sort of, Prince-like. His counterpart, Lotta Holglin, has a lovely voice that balances the fact that Erik, unlike Prince, doesn’t really sing. He is a moody mumbler, enacting what probably are scenes from his own (larger than) life.

You simply MUST check out www.napalmrecords.com. This is a great website and the Beseech segment is worth every second of your visit. The packaging on the Beseech CD is stellar and perfectly befitting to them and this intense, dramatic offering. Check out 4th row center on this flip-side photo. I’d offer my neck for this boyfriend! (6.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Black Emotions (issue No 1)  

 

 

 
9.5/10 Nikita
 

PLATITUDE - Nine - CD - Scarlet Records - 2004

review by: Nikita

Out of the gate this seven-piece Danish band feels like they are going to speed metal on down the lane and burn the neighborhood to the ground. That’s when the extraordinary journey begins – and what a journey it is.

Remember the baffling beauty of Yes, or the mind bending landscapes of Emerson, Lake and Palmer? The sound of Platitude moves between tight bolts of extraordinary energy – then opens wide to include beautiful wide strokes of lush transcendent synthesizers, soaring guitar parts and jaw dropping vocal arrangements.

With every cut on Nine, Platitude reveals more of an ever exciting and staggering dynamic range. The "neo-classical" metal sound is layered adeptly and artfully with complex and tight arrangements that show off their prodigious talents. There is almost a modern orchestral or operatic quality to it. The songs tell interesting stories, paint vibrant pictures, and hold the mercurial mind for the bands ambitious climbs and free falling speeds.

This is a progressive, inspiring piece of work, massively produced, beautifully recorded and mixed and guaranteed to make your socks go missing.

I must ask however, why would you ever name such a fabulous band Platitude or wrap them up in that distorted, monochromatic CD cover? Well, never mind – just listen to this! (9.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Nikita
 

SAINT VITUS - V (re-issue) - CD - Southern Lord - 2004

review by: Nikita

Saint Vitus was the premier American doom metal act in the 80’s. Saint Vitus, along with Trouble, Pentagram and The Obsessed, redefined "bleak" and put "dark" on the metal map. Scott "Wino" Weinrich (later member of: Spirit Caravan, Place of Skulls, Hidden Hand and Probot) joined Saint Vitus in ’86, and they became the embodiment of doom metal and are the critical link between the dark, languid world of Black Sabbath and the ferocious, aggressive sound of punk rock of bands like Black Flag. Saint Vitus exploded on the metal scene all over the world. After exhaustive touring and two other album releases, their career climaxed with the 1990 release of V. V has achieved "classic" status for this genre of music.

Now, Saint Vitus is BACK with this re-packaged, re-issue of the V album. Southern Lord Records is re-releasing the album on the tail of a two gig Saint Vitus resurrection in 2003. The original line-up, Dave Chandler, Wino, Mark Adams, and Armando Acosta, played in Chicago and then for the "With Full Force" 2003 Festival in Germany. This re-release also has footage of the first show with Wino on vocals in 1986. Other than it’s historical value, and his fabulous head of hair, it’s pretty uneventful. It is filmed with a single camera in what looks like someone’s well-lit garage. Yawn.

V is as raw and primitive as ever. This one should be in every metal anthology, even if sometimes you just have to turn the volume down and take a rest. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Matt
 

DRINK THE BLEACH - Drink the Bleach - CD - drinkthebleach510@yahoo.com - 2004

review by: Matt Smith

Drink the Bleach is, essentially, sludgy stoner metal with a quicker, rocky edge. Groove-based lines move through with an air of sloppiness and a slackness that perversely mimics jazzy syncopation in that it causes some tension and wonderment while somehow moves things forward by holding back the beat. Slow intros begin three out of four songs, hinting at the themes and moods to come. Eventually they build to full-out grooves with haunting but harsh singing laid over them: the type of music you'd love to vomit on somebody to if you could. They're no Isis, but they're not trying to be. A good effort, but not a really fantastic or memorable one. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.9/10 Bastiaan
 

ARCANA - The New Light - CD - Cyclic Law - 2004

review by: Bastiaan de Vries

Peter Bjärgö, the mastermind behind the lush wonder that is Arcana, has been enticing a big crowd with a steady stream of albums that made you wonder if he used to be a romantic English garden in a previous life. It sounds silly perhaps, but every fan of Arcana knows what I am talking about.

The New Light is an amazing collection of unreleased demos, alternate recordings and new material. Some songs dating back from 1994, and even one that is the first ever song recorded by Arcana. "Reminiscence," a song that for Bjärgö is closely tied with the ferry boat accident in Estonia in '94, is just one of the fine examples of songs you might have never heard before. And all of it comes with great little liner notes in the extremely well done booklet and packaging; an oversized hardboard booklet looking thing, with CD and separate booklet inside, comes in a earthy green with pretty pictures of gardens.

The highlight of the album is "Source of Light," already present on the first Arcana album, but here is the version that was sent to CMI as a demo, without female vocals. It includes two other songs that did make it on the demo but not on the album. But the sounds are so representative of what Arcana is all about that you would have to look hard to find a song not to like. A blindfold buy for the true fan because it has some amazing unreleased songs, a true recommendation for those that are not yet aware of Arcana but are in need of some romantic, sometimes sad, but always extremely beautiful music. (8.9/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Avi
 

WARNING SF - Aftermath - CD - Relentless Records - 2002

review by: Avi Shaked

With a rough and dirty production, Warning S.F., a 80’s San Francisco band that reformed to re-record their old and, to my knowledge, previously unreleased material, delivers well-written thrash metal tracks that has a lot of a classic appeal into them.

"Sounds of Armageddon" can be viewed as a microcosm of the album’s first section: it opens with a speedy riff that reminds of a famous Iron Maiden one, leading early-Metallica influenced tortured, deep-throat vocals and dirty bashing rhythm; when all of a sudden a calmer passage appears, giving the song an epic twist, while gradually returning to heavier terms. It is all taken in a dead-serious approach, dealing like the other songs on this section, with the end of life or its more general expressions. Megadeth fans should also take note that the approach here brings early the early works of that band to mind, trading accuracy for extreme rawness.

The album’s second section (its last three tracks) consists of authentic 1985 material that is more punk inspired, drawing influence from the likes of Misfits, which results in sounding less serious and even more underground, though not so far away stylistically from Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All.

One can only wonder if Warning SF can prove their potency, and perhaps even their progress, with more releases in the vein of this fine (yet short in length) release. I wish them luck as these times can be hard for re-inventing classic metal material… (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6.6/10 Roberto
 

CREMATORY - Revolution - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2004

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Ok, citing disgust with the world’s music press, retiring and then reforming a couple years later with a new album does not count as a comeback. But that’s what Crematory’s Revolution is being billed as. Oh, so be it. At least it’s a solid album.

Revolution picks up where Crematory left off. The music is rich and vibrant Goth metal in this German group’s unmistakable style. The structures tend toward harsh vox in the verses that turn into melodic choruses. But the harsh vocals are so chunky and rich that they’re almost smooth sounding. Mix in full sounding, hard hitting drums, trancey, dance clubby keyboards, palatable melodies and catchy arrangements, and you’ve got an album that goes down really easily. Now, it’s nothing especially remarkable, but you’re not hearing any complaints here. A nice bargain price pickup if you can find it. (6.6/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Roberto
 

THUNDERBOLT - Inhuman Ritual Massmurder - CD - Agonia Records - 2004

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I believe we called it when we said that Thunderbolt’s previous album, The Burning Deed of Deceit, was just a harbinger of the things to come. Well, it’s not like you needed a psychic for that one. The new album, Inhuman Ritual Massmurder, is more inhuman speed black metal that turns you inside out. This time, though, the keyboards are barely present, if at all, and the production just soars. The toms sound amazing, and every instrument is punchy and brings out the best of the material. Just as we had hoped this album would be. Only downside? The pretty, calm, undistorted tracks have got the cheesy, whooshy wind or crackly fire clip treatment. That’s third rate dark ambient stuff, boys. But keep up all the rest! (8.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Sons of the Darkness (issue No 13)  
The Burning Deed of Deceit (issue No 14)  

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

IRON MAIDEN - Somewhere in Time - CD - EMI - 1986

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Since the first albums we are aware of in a genre are the ones that matter the most, thank my lucky stars that one of the first metal albums I was ever aware of was Iron Maiden’s Somewhere in Time. And lucky again that my first recognition arguably the best heavy metal band of all time was with this particular record.

For Somewhere in Time is both *the* embodiment of metal and the highpoint of Iron Maiden’s career to me. It always seems odd to me when people talk to same way about The Number of the Beast or Killers.

Somewhere in Time is Iron Maiden at its most epic instrumentation. The extensive melodic interludes are to a note singable. They’re so expressive it’s like they’re speaking a coherent language. Every one of the eight songs is essential to the album’s whole, like the record is made up of 50+ minutes of essential notes and melodies. Basically, the importance of this album to who I am as a music lover and musician is so important that it transcends being able to write a proper review about it – it’s such a visceral, nostalgic, elemental part of my value system that being objective or analytical is nearly impossible... in fact, it would ruin the whole experience.

I discovered this album when I was 11. I listened to my tape and record of it hundreds of times, naturally learning every lyric and note. And in the 18 years since my first hearing this album, it’s still the most essential metal record I own. I suspect it always will be.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

WACKEN OPEN AIR 2004
August 5-7, 2004 - Wacken, Germany

review by: Jez Andrews

I have grown accustomed to the sad truth that I will never really have the perfect festival experience. As far as I can remember, the weather at the Wacken Open Air (or WOA) has never let me down. Neither has the festival organisation or band selection. Despite that, something MUST go wrong.

The curse of bad luck reared its ugly head the night before the festival began. The size of the ditches on the Wacken site can be particularly difficult to judge in the failing light, and it was with this in mind that I sat glumly outside my tent with my left leg in plaster. I had only myself to blame. So, before I go any further, I wish to express my deepest gratitude to the WOA first aid team, the medical staff at the Itzehoe clinic (above and beyond the call of duty), and my companions Richie and Fiona, who ran here, there and everywhere for me while I struggled around on a pair of crutches.

Given the restrictions on my movement, I was unable to walk back to the main arena for Zodiac Mindwarp, Motörhead, or Bohse Onkelz on the first night. From what I heard, all three acts got a good response, though I was a little disappointed at the lack of fireworks.

The metal market was impressive as ever, especially the black metal stall where I bagged some goodies from Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, Morrigan and Infernal War – and you can't beat those prices.

As I sat, downhearted, outside the tent the following morning, I heard the unmistakable intro from "Conan the Barbarian" that signified the entrance of Paragon on the True Metal stage. As they performed their set of reasonable quality power metal, I reluctantly left the safety of the camping ground and dragged my crippled self off to see Cathedral. The last time I had given this band a fair hearing was upon the release of The Carnival Bizzare, but seeing them live for the first time was a most invigorating experience. The doom metallers had certainly pulled a decent crowd for so early in the day, and songs such as "Congregation of Sorcerers" and "Ice Cold Man" (vocalist Lee Dorian's contribution to the Probot project) sounded superb. The impressive finale of "Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)" went some way towards sparking back my enthusiasm for the whole event, so cheers, guys.

Weinhold were a new band to my ears, but their solid set of eighties power metal was nicely entertaining, particularly with vocalist Jutta Weinhold, adopting a vaguely Blackie Lawless look. The cry of "Shut up! You are not Nightwish, you are not After Forever, so stop singing!" from a drunken Fin was ignored. I laughed, though...

As expected, Arch Enemy played to a somewhat larger crowd, and skillfully delivered the goods. I realise that many have been sceptical over the band's progress following the departure of Johan Liiva, but I'd have to say that their Wacken performance this year was more impressive than when I saw them in London five years ago. Frontwoman Angela Gossow certainly knew how to stir up the fans who had piled in to see them, and given the response to "We Will Rise," "Enemy Within" and "Ravenous," it would seem that Arch Enemy have firmly endeared themselves to the German hordes. And it was at this point that we all felt the power of the German sun.

Brainstorm did not hold a strong enough claim on my interest for me to risk further damage to my limbs, so I sat patiently beside the Black Stage and awaited the arrival of Mayhem. The crowd began to swell as the traditional pigs' heads appeared, and erupted as Maniac took the stage. Though I have never seen him looking more camp and un-black metal, his vocals were pretty damn fearsome, far better than I have ever heard them.

Opening up with "Deathcrush," and thankfully only including three songs from the last two studio albums, Mayhem had the audience in the palm of their hands. Spitting out the likes of "Freezing Moon," "Fall of Seraphs," and "Pagan Fears," accompanied by some impressive flame throwers along the stagefront, the band played a surprisingly good set, proving that they had not foresaken the scene from which they had strayed. Rounding off proceedings with "Pure Fucking Armageddon" and "Necrolust," they left the fans well satisfied. Definitely one of the best bands of the day.

Despite erm...vocal difficulties, Grave Digger were fantastic. The long-standing giants of German heavy metal gave the people exactly what they wanted, and inspired me to go delving into their back catalogue. "Rheingold" had heads banging from the word go, and "Son of Evil" and "The Grave Digger" made for two more of the day's highlights. Having to sit and only occasionally stand on the fringes of the crowd, I couldn't really enjoy it to the full, but I'm still glad to have been there.

Due to the sheer exhaustion of hobbling around on one leg, Feinstein were my final band of my day. Not withstanding the household names from which the veteran band members hailed, their material just wasn't familiar to enough people. It was only the surprise guest appearance of Manowar's Joey DeMaio on bass for one song that brought the masses closer. Not the most interesting of bands. Kind of like when Paul Dianno tries for another stab at his former glory.

As Dio were greeted by one of the largest crowds the festival offered, I was making my slow and painful way back to the tent. I was glad to hear all the classics blaring across the site, including "Long Live Rock n Roll," "Stargazer," "Gates of Babylon" and "Holy Diver." What royally pissed me off was having to miss the mighty Destruction, who played a blinding set from what I could hear.

It was approaching the midnight hour as Doro and friends appeared on the True Metal stage. As one of her special guests happened to be Blaze Bailey, they opened with an all-the-trimmings cover of Iron Maiden's "Fear of the Dark." Other Maiden to be revamped during the set were "The Trooper" and "Man on the Edge." Though the name Warlock has been familiar to me for a number of years, their material has not, so I was unable to appreciate a certain portion of the set. The butchering of Judas Priest's "Breaking the Law," with Doro sounding more like Bonnie Tyler, was utterly unforgivable. Decent orchestra, though...

The final day began with a fair protion of leg pain, as well as various albums being blasted from campsite stereos. This was a day of bands that I did NOT want to miss, not for anything. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I missed Bal-Sagoth at Bloodstock 2002, but your crippled reporter was there bright and early this time, ready for some battle metal of the bizzare kind. Though the set was only half an hour long, I heard some pretty nice tracks from Starfire Burning..., The Power Cosmic and Atlantis Ascendant, and I was cheered to hear that the long-awaited new album would see the light of day within the next few months.

Even when considering the quality of Unleashed's performance, the fact that they were replacing Deicide was a major kick in the nuts. The set was heavy, brutal and well-received, but none of their material really stands shoulder to shoulder with "Sacrificial Suicide" or "Once Upon the Cross." Respect is due to vocalist Johnny paying tribute to recently deceased Bathory frontman Quorthorn and grinding through a cover of Death's "Evil Dead" for the late Chuck Schuldiner.

From what I could tell, Anthrax were on fine form over on the True Metal stage. I heard the classics pouring out, including "Anti-Social," "Indians" and "Caught in the Mosh."

I was just struggling back from the metal market when Cannibal Corpse hit the Black Stage for some of the tightest death metal the festival had to offer. I myself was collapsed in the middle of the arena, in serious need of dowsing with ice-cold water, but hearing the large Wacken crowd delighted with "Hammer Smashed Face" and "They Deserve to Die" (a hammer in the face of German censorship) was very refreshing. The sound was flawless must have impressed all in its path as it travelled across the site. "Devoured by Vermin" rounded off the set and put a big smile on my face as I made my way back towards the main body of the crowd.

The relative tedium of Nevermore allowed me to rest my leg and congratulate myself on finding an excellent Sodom t-shirt. The beer flowed, the sun beat down relentlessly, but the atmosphere was just incredible.

You can say what you want about the commercially acceptable sound of Hypocrisy, but for me they left every band on the bill before them trailing in the dust. The songs were never especially complex and the set wasn't particularly pacey, but they had such a crushing sound and so much feeling behind the music that I dropped my crutches, steadied myself against the railings, and headbanged for all I was worth. As they opened with "Fractured Millenium," I was reminded of the greatness of the Peter Tägtgren scream. Moving on through the gems of "Eraser," "Fire in the Sky" and "Roswell 47," Hypocrisy delivered one of the best performances of the festival.

It will be a cold day in hell when Helloween fail to receive a hero's welcome on their native soil. I may have been forced to sit down for most of the show, but this particular group of German metal veterans were most entertaining nonetheless. Drawing from Keeper of the Seven Keys material for the most part, the Wacken crowd were going apeshit. I was pleased to hear "Future World," "Dr. Stein" and "If I Could Fly" chiming out of the PA, though once again I was a little disappointed at the lack of Walls of Jericho tracks. Still, job well done.

As the skies began to darken slightly, the hordes descended upon the Black Stage for Finnish wizards Children of Bodom. This included an alarming number of female fans preparing to swoon over Alexi Laiho. Doubtless there were many aspiring guitarists in the crowd ready to compare notes on the Bodom axeman, and I was certainly expecting something impressive. The fans roared, the band played, and the crowd surfers were many in number. Their reception was one of the wildest I’d ever seen...and yet, I found myself bored shitless. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood. Maybe the band themselves were having an off-day. Whatever the reason, as they tore through "Silent Night, Bodom Night," "Hatecrew Deathroll," "Needled 24/7" and other such crowd pleasers, I simply didn't feel moved in the slightest.

About 10 minutes later, none but a small few patient black metallers were left at the Black Stage. What must have been nearly fifty thousand festival goers had flocked to the True Metal Stage to watch Saxon. It was scary to think how many sewn on band patches were within that crowd. As "Denim and Leather" and "Wheels of Steel" were being pelted out for the millionth time, I was sitting in the dirt having a somewhat difficult conversation with a Frenchman about the French underground black metal scene. After the virtues of Nehemah and Belenos had been pondered, I said my goodbyes and returned to the Black Stage for the band who would round off my final night of Wacken Open Air 2004.

Satyricon had two guitarists, a bassist, a keyboard player, a drummer and a vocalist, just like many bands that had appeared over the past two days. But somehow, they managed to make this combination sound ten times heavier than any band who had preceded them. No words can describe the ballistic intensity of Satyricon's set. As this constituted predominantly of old material, the people were spellbound as a blast of the purest, truest Norwegian black metal thundered through the night sky. I wished more than ever that both my legs were working, but the pain forced me regretfully back to the tent after only six songs. This also involved missing the appearance of Darkthrone's Nocturno Culto, essentially history in the making. As I collapsed on the grass, downing the last of the water, I could still hear Satyricon loud and clear across the site. Without doubt the most powerful festival set I have ever witnessed.

As I sat in Hamburg airport the following afternoon, plastered with dirt and dripping with sweat, I not only promised that I would return next year, but admitted to myself a great personal truth. Jez, it's a bad idea to jump across large ditches in the dark, you fucking retard!

A sad, dejected, yet steadfast Jez Andrews.