the underground music magazine    

issue #53 April, 2007

 


Untitled Document

Dear Maelstrom readers,

What’s been happening in your world? Over here, it’s been travel. I took a little jaunt over to Europe, and got a really good slice of the metal scene in France, thanks to Maelstrom staffer Alisa Z. Turns out that although the metal scene IS more alive in the Old Country, especially as far as the amount of tours and festivals is concerned, shows generate about the same turnout, although the average age of the audience is much younger and more vibrant than what we’re used to seeing in California, anyway.

All this moving about meant that we had to skip the April issue. But here we are, as good/bad as ever, in May. One hundred and nineteen album reviews await you, plus one reminiscence on a classic Opeth album.

We’ve got four interviews this month: Lithuanian group Obtest, French black metallers Otargos, Polish genre-crossers Thy Disease, and one-man American black metal project Wrath of the Weak. That and some proof that there are some pretty great tours going on in France, as two show reports from Paris can attest. Then, we’ve also got a report from the Type O Negative / Celtic Frost tour in the United States.

This month, we’re giving away a few copies of the new Marduk, Rom 5:12. It’s supposed to be a gorgeous package, with a very extensive booklet (the music, I can already speak for: it’s heavy and killer, and a pretty important stylistic shift for Marduk as they are playing many more slow songs.) So we’re going to make it a little harder for you to win this one. Here goes:

Who is the member of Marduk that has had two tours with the band? What have his roles been? The people who can give the most detail (you don’t need to go overboard) with listing unique duties get the CD. You'll find the box to write your answer in our dedicated contest section.

Good luck, and see you next month!

– Roberto Martinelli

Sometimes, fans get fan mail from the objects of their fandom, as our own Mladen Škot did from “The One Reaper” of Furze (whose work we’ve written about and love) about Mladen’s review of UTD:

This review is fucking great !

Others write too much about what they can compare it to so that the reader is doomed to understand that the product actually sounds like this or that band but this is avoided here and that is the way to go when one writes an honest review I think !

Thanxx..

- Reaper

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interview by: Larissa Glasser

Ob`test´

v. t. 1. To call to witness; to invoke as a witness.
[imp. & p. p. Obtested; p. pr. & vb. n. Obtesting.]
2. To beseech; to supplicate; to beg for.

v. i. 1. To protest.
(Webster’s English Dictionary)

Lithuania’s Obtest has followed the “protest” definition since the band’s earliest inception in the early 1990s, not long after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The 2005 release of Is Kartos I Karta (From Generation to Generation) by Ledo Takas Records opened the band’s pagan metal to a new legion of Western ears.

I can only speak from experience: Just about everyone I’ve played the album for has been impressed enough to ask for more. A commonly overblown and subjective declaration, perhaps, but when the positive feedback comes from many of my NON-metal friends, the unique power of Obtest’s music merits a closer look.

Obtest’s sound is so thick and engaging — it is PURE, like old Iron Maiden, to some degree — yet wholly its own. The lyrics sung in their native Lithuanian bring further distinction. But since the ear is unique as the soul, I can only attest to so much, and so the Baltic metal sword is for YOU to unsheath.

This coming year holds much in store: Obtest’s appearance at The Heathen Crusade II Festival (mentioned as future tense in this interview—apologies all ‘round for the time delay between Massachusetts and Lithuania) was a resounding success, they were AGAIN nominated Best Metal Band by the Lithuanian Alternative Music Awards, and the new full-length, Gyvybës Medis (The Tree of Life) is slated for this autumn.

Maelstrom speaks with Obtest’s guitarist, Sadlave:

Maelstrom: How did Obtest come together?

Sadlave: Hi! Obtest became a band in the end of 1992, when me and vocalist decided to play metal, not just listen to the records. At that time I was a singer in one brutal death metal band, and after some time I realized that it’s time to gather own metal crew.

Maelstrom: Did you all share similar musical influences?

Sadlave: Not exactly. All of us are grown up on different musical favorites and influences. Despite that, we share some common metal music taste. For example, our drummer is more into prog and heavy metal, bass player more in to black and pagan stuff, me prefer more folk rock, and authentic music.

Maelstrom: Your early recordings sound so very black metal, much like Burzum and Enslaved. On Is Kartos I Karta, the style is still aggressive and fast, but much more battle metal in style. Was this a natural direction for you?

Sadlave: Every record of ours is experimental. All of our three albums we managed to record in very low-tech home studio conditions, and every recording were unpredictable and experimental. Our “black metal time” demo tapes were recorded in professional studios, but without professional engineering and producing, we had no clue to how-it-works, so the studio engineers were talking about the sound and stuff. The sound on Is Kartos I Karta album is very natural and free directional.

Maelstrom: Did the evolution of Bathory from black to Viking influence you?

Sadlave: Nope. I found Bathory when it was already Viking, so the most valuable works of mighty Quorthon I appreciate are from the Hammerheart-era.

Maelstrom: Was there any influence on your learning to play an instrument?

Sadlave: When I started to play guitar, I was into Death, Paradise Lost, Grave, Kreator, so first techniques of handling instrument came from there. I’m a self-trained musician.

Maelstrom: Was the Soviet regime repressive against metal while you were growing up?

Sadlave: It was more about society, if you had long hair, leather and stuff, you could be beaten up anywhere on the streets. When we were young it was like to be “outlaw”: black clothes, long hair were associated with something very negative.

Maelstrom: What's it like to be a metal head in Lithuania today? What's the scene like?

Sadlave: These days it’s like everywhere. This year we have some feeling of scene rebirth here, because of countless concerts and events, couple of young bands, a new stream of young musicians that are on their work, and I think that’s very fresh water in our pool.

Maelstrom: How did you hook up with Ledo Takas Records?

Sadlave: After we toured Germany in 2000, we recorded the Auka Seniems Dievams album and were looking for a label to release it. Tadas took one our song for his compilation CD and it was our first relations, which has grown into a record deal for a full album.

Maelstrom: What direction would you like to see your country go in?

Sadlave: Our country goes right direction, and I wish we never ever go back to Russians.

Maelstrom: According to a recent World Health Organization Report, Lithuania has the highest suicide rate in the world. Why do you suppose that is?

Sadlave: We have very few sunny days in the year, plus, common people are tired of this “wild west capitalism” state in which we are now. Many people are living on the edge.

Maelstrom: Does the band consider itself pagan?

Sadlave: Our band is a pagan metal band.

Maelstrom: What does the band stand for?

Sadlave: We stand for our heritage and spirit of our land. We sing about it and spread it further.

Maelstrom: Do you find the Judeo-Christian influence on public (and private) life to be oppressive?

Sadlave: Oppressive is when someone comes to you with the gun and tells you to do this and that. You can choose many things yourself, what to believe, what lifestyle to bear on, Christ or Coca Cola, McDonalds or silicon implants. Ideology works on weak mind, be careful...

Maelstrom: Much of your current lyrical content focuses on Lithuanian Mythology (God, Nature, and Inner Heroism). What influence does folklore have on your daily lives in Obtest?

Sadlave: It stands our worldview in one or another way. But we are not religious fanatics.

Maelstrom: The band is receiving a great deal of recognition from your home country (Best Lithuanian Metal band of 2005), and you've got a lot of tours and festival appearances coming up this year. Have you been writing new songs amid all of this activity?

Sadlave: It was very unexpected for us becoming best metal band over here. We made couple of concerts in homeland as well as in Germany, Latvia, Belarus, Czech, Ireland, Portugal this year (2006). New songs are always in mind, it’s easier to write them, then to rehearse and stick it up in to one album, you know. But our upcoming album is on the way.

Maelstrom: What is your writing process like? How do songs come together?

Sadlave: Songs are written by myself. I write music with or without lyrics, record the main themes, arrange them, and make complete demo songs with the entire instrumentation and some times with vocal parts. After that everyone from the band gets the demo recordings and check it, so then we gather and rehearse these tunes all together. During the rehearsal sessions some changes could occur.

Maelstrom: Can we expect a tour of America anytime soon?

Sadlave: Now we could say for sure, that Obtest will play in Heathen Crusade II festival on January 20th (2007) in St. Paul, Minnesota. We are still not sure about another concert on the west coast of yours. We’d like to tour America for sure, I think it might happen in the future, who knows.

Maelstrom: Which band(s) would you like to tour with the most? What is on the best metal tour ever created?

Sadlave: Personally I’d like to tour with Skyforger and Tyr.

Maelstrom: Are there any other Baltic Metal bands you would recommend to us?

Sadlave: I can recommend Skyforger (Latvia), Loits (Estonia), Luctus (Lithuania).

Maelstrom: Is there anything you would like to say to your growing American audience?

Sadlave: Hope to see everyone at the Heathen Crusade II festival on January 20th (2007). That would be the historical event for a metal band from Lithuania to play in America!

Maelstrom: I absolutely love the Is Kartos I Karta album. Every time I listen to it, I discover something new, and play it for everyone I know. Please keep the flame alight. Hail Obtest!

http://www.ledotakas.net
http://www.myspace.com/obtestofficial
http://www.obtest.lt

 

 

 

interview by: Alisa Z

The magnetism of Otargos manifests itself in the apt musicianship of these Frenchmen from Bordeaux, such that they remain black metal minus being wearisome. Their infernal melodies gleam with the exaltation of vigorous tunes, integrating originality and skill into all of the songs. Powerful, dark and yet demure, Otargos have released albums that ooze demonic talents without being over-the-top. Their drummer, Arkhamian, poured out his thought (and a little more) in this interview.

Maelstrom: Are you proud to be French?

Arkhamian: We aren't more proud to be living in France than to be living elsewhere. But, in a way, yes, we are proud to be where we are now; in a country that is not known to produce famous bands. Even if lots of French bands do some quality work, few arrive to be famous. There are lots of different problems. The system we evolve in isn't favorable to the emergence of extreme music, so a lot of involvement and willpower is needed in order to succeed and to be recognised. This constitutes the real strength of the people who do succeed.

Maelstrom: How do you like the extreme metal scene is France?

Arkhamian: We can divide the scene into two parts, the bands and the public. Unfortunately, the public is not so big as we'd all like it to be. But usually, it is very motivated. We are beginning to gain some fans and we are always very proud to meet them, to see them during numerous shows, wearing our bandshirts, staying in touch with us... As for the atmosphere of the concerts, it usually resembles the apocalypse, and it's a real pleasure to share our rage and to see the crowd getting frantic throughout the setlist. Concerning the bands, they are excessive and certainly of unequal quality. Some rise and some disappear. Some become friends and some get on our nerves; it's life.

Maelstrom: Do you not fear that you might be considered as a copy of what has already been done instead of being innovative?

Arkhamian: Music, like all art, is always the outcome of something that has already been done. The most important thing for us is that it is done right. Honestly, the riffs we attain from our rehearsals and turn into songs come as they come. We are all influenced by various groups and various styles, so when a riff arrives, it comes from our unconscious. It can be due to the memory of another song and anyway, that is an occasion to have a good laugh, imitating other bands. But we don't really care. The most important thing is to conserve the spirit of the riff, which returns to maintaining a cold and aggressive atmosphere, creating coherent songs which reflect our state of mind and, above all, to give all we have!

Maelstrom: What level of popularity do you hope to achieve?

Arkhamian: The level that could permit us to live off our music without having to modify our music in order to please others.

Maelstrom: How do you intend to recruit fans? I mean, you cannot just say, "Oh, our music is like that of Darkthrone, so you must like us if you like Darkthrone."

Arkhamian: No, we will just say, "Band of BASTARDZ, we're gonna come to your home and blow everything up, and if that's not enough, we will do it again as soon as possible!!!" Up until today, that's how it's been and it seems to be working.

Maelstrom: How is the BM scene in Bordeaux?

Arkhamian: Since the disappearance of Seth, we have become its most important representatives. There exist certain other BM bands, that are more or less stable and longstanding, but few of them play at a national level. Bordeaux is more of a hardcore and death metal town ( I'm thinking of Gorod, for example).

Maelstrom: What does "Otargos" mean? How did you find the name?

Arkhamian: Otargos means "goat" in ancient Greek. The name had been founded by XXX and Dagoth, a long time ago now. It isn't very original, but it doesn't sound too bad and I think that it's an original name for a BM band. Moreover, since our conceptual universe is alienated from BM clichés, this alliance seems fruitful.

Maelstrom: I know this is a banal question, but who are your musical influences?

Arkhamian: These are very diverse. In the band, we find all kinds of influences as long as they are, essentially, unrefined and genuine: death, black, heavy, thrash, grind, rock... We all have a common passion for mythical BM groups like Dissection, Immortal, Dark Funeral... That probably provides the coherence for all this shit. Otherwise, Dagoth and Astaroth see Dave Murray as a god. Personally I think that Nicko McBrain spoils everything, but that's just my opinion...

Maelstrom: And your influences from other spheres of life? Philosphers, writers, rulers, etc.?

Arkhamian: They are numerous as well as diversified. Dagoth has a passion for sstronomy and sidereal cataclysms. Personally, I feel close to it because I am a fan of science fiction and when I was younger, I was into astronomy. I began with Lovecraft, and now I have a passion for other science fiction writers (such as Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov, Sturgeon...) I regularly practice karate and I'm interested in the history of civilizations and in classical and medieval western art, which, according to me, reached a level of perfection that cannot be equaled. Then, there are studies, a bustling occupation...

Maelstrom: What materials did you use, when recording your last album?

Arkhamian: Dagoth used his Jackson Warrior, connected to a Peavey 5150. Kernun (the ex-lead guitarist) used a 7-string Steve Vai Ibanez, connected to a Laney. XXX used his amazing Warwick Vampire Bass, connected to an Ampeg. I used a Tama (I don't remember which model) with Sabian AAX cymbals.

Maelstrom: Are you satisfied with it or would you like to change something about it?

Arkhamian: We are extremely satisfied with the result. But it is true, that there are certain things that could be improved. Personally, I think the guitar sound could be more sharp and evident, and, in the larger picture, more heavy. We are particularly proud of the sound of the bass. I find Dagoth's solos (the most exuding, à la Slayer, like on "Havocalypse") perfectly amazing. His vocals are also excellent; the work on the voices is really great. I have to say that, I did not at all expect all of this on the final CD. We hope to put these remarks to good use for our next album, <Kinetic Zero>, which comes out in May of 2007. The songs are already finalized and I can say that they will hurt you, A LOT!

Maelstrom: I really liked the songs from the new album, which I had heard. Do you intend to preserve this style or will you experiment in the future, keeping in mind that you will retain this raw BM sound?

Arkhamian: The new material is in the same vein as that of "Havocalypse" and "Unaltered Negative God": straightforward and mean. We also have a mid-tempo song ("Open the Circular Infinite") of which we are very proud, which we play live systematically. As for the guitars, there are a lot more parts for two guitars, with harmonizations that are stranger and more melodic that previously, games of questions / answers that provide a spatial aspect that is perfectly adapted to the conceptual universe conveyed through the lyrics.

Maelstrom: What's the worst thing that happened to you during a concert?

Arkhamian: A pile of shit always happens during concerts, at which point it is relatively unexpected such that everything happens as if with roulettes. From the breaking of strings to the double pedal that doesn't match, or a wire that disconnects, or a drunk guy who falls on it, occasions that aren't lacking. One of the worst memories which remain is that of the haste to play at La Locomotive with Dark Funeral. Having been stuck in traffic, we arrived five minutes before we had to go on stage. We had assembled everything in quadruple the speed, all under the evil eye of Dark Funeral's manager. In spite of the fact that we were missing our corpse paint and not being able to hear ourselves on stage, it did not go too bad and we managed to wake up the Parisian crowd without massacring the songs too much. Having so closely approached a band as mythical as Dark Funeral, this will remain an unforgettable recollection...

Maelstrom: Would you say you're a pessimist or an optimist?

Arkhamian: It depends on the moment and the subject. When it comes to the group, I tend to be an optimist, and, anyway, that is the attitude that one should develop so that the group functions. Our actions and their consequences are the meticulous reflection of our state of mind. Within this context, one should have the morals of steel under all circumstances, and project oneself into the future, knowing how to profit from past errors.

Maelstrom: In your opinion, what is the meaning of life?

Arkhamian: We're all going to die some day. Virtually, we are already dead. So, we should take advantage of the moments that our short existence offers in order to have a really good time. For me, enjoyment does not mean to waste time but to construct things, to amend oneself, to let out steam and to express oneself. It is within this sphere that Otargos is good for us. Personally, playing on stage with Otargos permits me to pour out all the hatred and the rage that has accumulated in me through everyday life. You feel a sensation of power while you are on stage, that is incomparable and orgasmic. You get the impression of doing this solely with the energy that the audience returns back to you. It's really great. In this way, you can see that BM is good therapy for me.

Maelstrom: What do you think of homosexuals?

Arkhamian: They do whatever they want, these DIRTY FAGGOTS! (Private Joke) Seriously, it's the last of our worries. Okay, sorry for the gays and the fucking associations that are reading this, but when you're a guy, you cannot help but think that it is disgusting to suck dicks. I don't care about what they do at home. Concerning the guy who Jon Noidveit killed, I will say..."pas de pot" (note: “pas de pot” = “bad luck”).

Maelstrom: As you probably know, Jon from Dissection and Otto Wiklund of In Battle have recently commited suicide. What do you think of this? What is your view on suicide?

Arkhamian: Ah, look, we find ourselves with Nodveit again. Concerning Otto, I don't know the details. Concerning Nodveit, I find that the circumstances of his death are honorable, in his anti-cosmic sphere of "dying when we are at our maximum." I understand this extreme philosphy, more or less, which makes sense to me even though it is not politically correct. At the heart of this, it is the more beautiful death, having died by one's own hand in full possession of one's capacities, rather than having died old and impotent in a hospital bed. Besides, this made me think of Dimebag Darrell (R.I.P.), preceeding Jon involuntarily in this anti-cosmic track. His disappearing is a tragedy, but at the same time, it was a beautiful death, unexpected, at the summit of his art, during a moment of accomplishment.

The disadvantage, if we can say, of Jon's suicide, is that he isn't going to settle the image of BM and Satanism in the media... that which will put sticks on the road more that anything else... Jon, you dirty bastard, You couldn't have waited a bit?! In any case, it will be a shame if all the guys from all the brilliant bands start to kill themselves, one by one.

Maelstrom: How would you like to die?

Arkhamian: I don't want to die (sorry, Jon).

Maelstrom: What would you like to accomplish before dying?

Arkhamian: To understand Dagoth's lyrics.

Maelstrom: If you had a gun, whom would you kill?

Arkhamian: A bunch of people, if I could, but it is better for me and for the band if I don't mention names. But in any case, I would not kill anybody in today's world, even if I had a gun in my hands. I have too much to accomplish to waste my life doing time.

Maelstrom: Is there anything else you would like to say to BM fans?

Arkhamian: Thank you.

 

 

 

interview by: Alisa Z

When we hear the word “Poland” within the context of the metal scene, we usually think Decapitated, Behemoth or Vader. Yet, the Polish scene is more vast than that. Poland's Thy Disease are trying to pave their way through, relying on their eclectic blend of arctic electronic sounds and exploding death metal riffs. Shortly before going on stage to present their exceptional musical creation, the vocalist, Psycho, spoke to me about everything from the birth of the band to the notion of what it is to be Polish.

Maelstrom: So how did you guys come up with the idea for the band?

Psycho: Well, it all started in 1999. I used to sing in another band; let's say a less professional band than this. And our guitarist came up with the idea of starting a new band. He asked me to join the band because he heard the demo of my previous band. Then we recorded our first demo, called The Art of Decadence. We didn't have a drummer. The demo became quite popular; there were four songs and a cover. It was a Madonna cover, called "Frozen." So, after a year released another promo, there were like two songs, and then we signed a deal with Metal Mind productions. We signed it for two albums, and we already released them and now we have a deal with Bio Records.

Maelstrom: Do you get along well with the rest of the band?

Psycho: Well, you know, it's never easy because there are different characters. We're a bit temperamental, so sometimes it's hard. But I think it happens in every band, especially if you go on tour because it's like we're living together. It's not like you meet for rehearsal and go home; you have to spend a lot of time together. But I think we're okay, we like each other. We're friends, that's the most important thing.

Maelstrom: How has the metal audience been reacting to your latest album?

Psycho: The reactions have been pretty good; We've seen some reviews on the internet, and they're quite positive. I must say that recently we have played a tour in Poland and playing live gigs is very important for metal bands. It was our first tour and people were pretty okay... so I think it was quite positive.

Maestrom: Would you say that you're more popular in Poland or in other countries?

Psycho: Well, we're quite popular in Poland because we've never had any big promotion abroad. We signed a deal with some South Korean record label for our first album, but we've never went to South Korea. Our second album was released in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus... but here in Western Europe, not many people know us so I think it's a good chance for us. Well, there aren't many people coming to the concerts, we played in some small venues, but anyway... I hope some people will remember the name and some people will follow.

Maelstrom: How was the recording process for the last album? How long did it take and what kind of equipment did you use?

Psycho: Well, about the equipment, you should ask our guitarist because I came just for two weeks, from Ireland, to record the vocals. The process was quite long because we spent a lot of time on mastering; Altogether, it took about two or three months. It doesn't mean that we spent every day in the studio — we had some breaks, just to listen to the album and come back to the studio to work on the sound again. So, afterwards we were quite tired but, you know, at the end we were quite pleased with the sound we got on this album.

Maelstrom: You use a lot of cyber sounds in your music. Why? What effect are you trying to achieve?

Psycho: Well, I think the main reason is because our keyboard player is really into electronic music and we said, "Why not?" We wouldn't like to be bored with the music so generating interesting sounds and creating interesting music is what we want to do. Not to stay in one place, just to move forward. So, if we have a keyboard player who likes that kind of sound, why not use it? I think the effect we got is pretty interesting. It's not like soft keyboards or soft melodies, it's more industrial; so it makes the music even more cold.

Maelstrom: Do you plan on sticking to this electronic death metal style? Would you like to take it further and have more cyber sounds or would you like to take it backwards with less of those?

Psycho: It depends. I mean, I don't know how the new album will sound like, but we'll definitely use that kind of sound. If it's going to be more electronic or more metal, I cannot tell you. We never plan before we record; it's just a process, a moment when we're in the studio and where our inspirations are. At this moment I cannot tell you, if it's going to be a step forward or a step backward, but there will definitely be the electronic sound on the new album.

Maelstrom: Personally, what would you like to see in future material?

Psycho: Well, surprisingly, I would like it to be more metal.

Maelstrom: Which bands from back home do you look up to?

Psycho: There are many, many really tight bands. We are close friends with Decapitated, so we appreciate this band a lot. There are a lot of cool bands from our city. We played a tour with Sceptic, it's technical death metal. Our bass player is just a session musician, he's from Crionics so I like Crionics too. It's more black metal but they're pretty good so I would recommend them as well.

Maelstrom: Recently, Behemoth got some hate mail from a stupid guy in Australia who said that Polish people should have been killed either by Hitler or the Soviets, and that Slavs don't actually deserve to be in the extreme metal scene. What do you think?

Psycho: Well, what can I say? I'd rather not comment on what stupid people are saying. Just listen to this an make up your minds! It doesn't matter where you come from, it just matters what kind of music you make. The Polish scene is pretty strong, one of the strongest in Europe. So that kind of racist comment... well, maybe this guy was just jealous because his band was shit.

Maelstrom: So you basically don't agree with racism, of any form?

Psycho: I'm not a racist. I know there are some problems in Europe at this moment. There's this clash of cultures. Yeah, it's a problem. You have to resolve this problem but this racist attitude, I don't think it's right.

Maelstrom: Are you proud of being Polish?

Psycho: I'm proud of the history, but there are many things in my country that piss me off. it's difficult to say because... let's say, that the Polish soul is very divided. On one hand, you are proud and on the other hand, you're pissed off. But I think that being Polish makes you different.

Maelstrom: What do you suppose would be different if the band wasn't from Poland? Let's say, if you were from Spain or Brazil or wherever else.

Psycho: I don't think it would make any difference; It doesn't make things easier or harder for us. Well, if you are from Poland, you always have the problem of not having any money. Because, if you have a band, you have to invest a lot of cash. On the other hand, in Poland there are many bands, many musicians... you have a lot of experience, so it's easier to start a band. It would probably be different, but it's hard to say if, for me, it would be harder.

Maelstrom: Essentially, the difference is that if you had grown up in Poland, you would've been affected by all the Polish bands. Whereas, if you're from abroad, you wouldn't get the same, close connection.

Psycho: That's true, but there are metal bands from Spain or Italy. Maybe I wouldn't listen to metal if I grew up in another country, I don't know. But when it comes to our musical influences, we never looked at only Polish bands. People used to find Vader's influence. We always listened to music from all over the world, not only metal music. We don't want to look at it only from a Polish point of view.

Maelstrom: I actually compared you to Dark Tranquillity, to an extent.

Psycho: Dark Tranquillity? Okay. Well, fair enough.

Maelstrom: How would you define Polish culture?

Psycho: The most important thing about Polish culture is that we have influences from all over Europe, because of the history. And Poland is like a bridge between the East and the West, so this maybe makes the Polish mentality a little bit different from the rest of Europe. I think Polish culture is quite complex, and in this way, a little special. I would recommend for everyone to just get a little bit into it... to visit Poland. You will enjoy it!

Maelstrom: Do you have faith in humanity?

Psycho: If you read the lyrics from the last album, then you will say that no, I don't. Well, I'm losing my faith in humanity. I believe... I wish I believed... in people. But with what's going on... not just the wars, but the human spirit fading away. It becomes plastic. I'm really sad that people are becoming really materialistic and less spiritual. I think it's really bad for the human condition. So, to answer your question: yes, I still believe in humanity, but it's fading away.

Maelstrom: What do you think are the best things about the human race?

Psycho: We're... well...

Maelstrom: Nothing?

Psycho: We created many things. We are always looking forward, so I think that's a good thing. There are also the bad points of humanity. Humanity created art, music... these are the good things.

Maelstrom: If you could change the world, what would you change? Let's say you are in power and you were "The Man."

Psycho: First of all, I would like for all the people to be free and equal. It doesn't mean I'm a communist. There are many totalitarian countries and I don't agree with them. I wish people were a bit more open-minded; Religion stops many people from free-thought. I'm not an enemy of religion and everyone can believe in what's good for them. But when religion makes people more close-minded, it's not good and I wish it changed.

Maelstrom: What is your interpretation of life?

Psycho: I'm still looking for something in my life. First of all, it's for things in my life to get on with my heart. I'm the kind of person who things less logically and more emotionally. Respect your friends and respect all people. Try to move forward.

Maelstrom: Do you think you're going to write lyrics about positive things?

Psycho: Well, if I started off with a disco band...

Maelstrom: You did do a Madonna cover!

Psycho: Yeah, but we changed the lyrics a little bit so it's less positive than the original version. When you have metal music, you think about certain things. Metal music is for more sensitive people, because you see or you care about things that other people don't. Maybe I will write some positive lyrics, but I will cover them so that nobody can see that. I did that a few times in the past.

Maelstrom: So it's a commercial issue?

Psycho: Well, it's not just commercial. What would you say if we played that kind of music and then you see the band wearing pink stuff on stage. It's about the reception of the music.

Maelstrom: If you look at death metal or black metal lyrics, it's mostly about really negative things.

Psycho: I don't think people should get depressed reading those kind of lyrics. It's more about reaching the bottom. If you reach the bottom, you cannot go down any further. If you reach the bottom, you see everything very clearly and then you can take a breath and go back up. I think it's like catharsis.

Maelstrom: As for your influences outside the music scene...?

Psycho: I would never look at any leaders, because I think all of them were a bit evil. Well, I like some Polish poetry. I like literature. I like cinema. For example, David Lynch is a pretty dark and heavy guy. My favourite movie is called "Requiem for a Dream." It's a brilliant movie and the soundtrack is excellent.

Maelstrom: I think that after you watch that movie, you pretty much die.

Psycho: Yeah, that's it. I think it's the same with some metal lyrics. It just happens to you and you start to think.

Maelstrom: Writers?

Psycho: I'm pretty interested in history and social stuff. I like Orwell, for example. Recently, I read a book about the second World War and it was written by a guy called Max Hastings. It was pretty interesting... a different point of view. I think in the ‘90s, people start to talk about the Second World War in a different way. Because it was after the end of the Cold War, so it was pretty interesting for me.

Maelstrom: Any philosophers?

Psycho: I just follow my basic philosophy. I studied philosophy a little bit but... I never identified myself with any of the stuff. Maybe I will be a sceptic.

Maelstrom: If you could choose any song in the world to describe you as a person, what song would you choose?

Psycho: There are probably a few songs. There is a Depeche Mode song called "Try Walking in My Shoes." It's my favourite band right now. And the album Songs of Faith and Devotion is my favourite album.

Maelstrom: Do you have anything else to say?

Psycho: I must say that we are pretty happy that we've arrived to Paris. It was pretty tough, but we made it so I'm quite happy. Thanks for the interview and I hope that we'll give a good show tonight!

Maelstrom: Good Luck!

 

 

 

interview by: Roberto Martinelli

More often than not, the best black metal albums are the ones that say the most by initially saying the least. And this month’s issue presents us with two of the greatest examples of this theory: the second album by Germany’s The Ruins of Beverast, and the debut by one-man project Wrath of the Weak, based in Buffalo, New York. Both come in packages that are understated, to say the least. No credits, and in Wrath of the Weak's case, no lyrics or photos.

Wrath of the Weak’s self-titled album is also the first remotely black metal release on the Bastardised label, which has, up till now, specialized in noise. But the pairing isn’t that far-fetched, as Wrath of the Weak draws its power much from its swirling, feedback-damaged compositions that plunge the listener into a fog that’s as freezing as it is meditative, as it does from the more standard black metal blastbeat and thin, razor-like, bodiless vocals.

We endeavored to find out more about who is behind all this, and we were led to “j” — just “j” — who wrote to us from the frigid wastes of upstate New York.

Maelstrom: I was really taken by Wrath of the Weak. I kind of see it in some sort of tradition that Blut Aus Nord has gotten into, but frankly I see your record as out Blut Aus Nording Blut Aus Nord... at least as far as the rut I see them into with their <MoRT> album. Were you at all influenced by that French group?

j: Not really, at least for the self-titled disc. At that point, I hadn't really explored black metal beyond the “classics” (Burzum, Darkthrone, et. al.) and things that had hooked me independently of being black metal (Ildjarn, Weakling, Velvet Cacoon). I did hear MoRT shortly after it came out and was blown away, though... I really dig on atonal / chaotic things like that or Gorguts' Obscura, so you might hear that sort of vibe creep into future writing.

Maelstrom: Excellent that you discovered Weakling. That's really one of my all-time favorite albums, black metal or no.

j: Dead As Dreams was basically my introduction to black metal. For about a year or so I was a complete Fucking Champs fanboy and actively sought out any other band or label with ties to them. That led me to a *lot* of good music, namely Weakling and Spaceboy, as well as some of the comparatively mellower bands on Drag City.

Maelstrom: Do check out Blut Aus Nord's first four, and first three in particular, albums. I think they blow MoRT away. Let me know what you think.

j: I've heard The Work Which Transforms God and The Mystical Beast of Rebellion and I like them quite a bit, especially the former, but MoRT just hits me in the right spot. I'll be sure to look into the other ones as well.

Maelstrom: You mentioned Burzum. I've noticed that part of what grabs me about Wrath of the Weak is what makes Filosofem my favorite Burzum: the tracks contain many layers of noise that, although being ever-present, waft in and out of the listeners' consciousness through trance and focus shift. Now the bass part becomes apparent... then the hi-hat... but it's all been there the whole time. It's at the same time meditative and ravaging.

j: It's nice how the mix congealed into one big, heaving mass of sound... there was enough sonic movement within the parts to allow for different layers to shine through without needing to specifically highlight them. If I'm sleepy enough, it almost sounds like it's coming through my speakers in 3D.

Maelstrom: I agree. Please talk a little about what it's like listening to your own material. I know it's hard for me in a sense to tolerate recordings that I appear on, and certainly more difficult to play said recordings for others. How do you personally feel about your own art?

j: I'm really hard to please when it comes to making music and could probably spend the rest of my life tweaking a mix in pursuit of perfection if I didn't have the sense to just leave it be at some point. But on the other hand, I think that if I'm not my own biggest fan then I'm doing something wrong. So it's kind of an odd balance at times... I tend to despise my music (and often music in general) for a few weeks after I've finished recording/mixing something, but once that wears off I go back and it'll sound amazing to me. If by some chance it still sounds like shit, I just scrap it and start over again.

Maelstrom: It's kind of an unusual marriage that your project is on a noise label... until you hear Wrath of the Weak. Very noisy. However, it works as the noise elements have a definite meditative and subdued quality, which makes the album work so well as black metal. Was this sonic description your intention? How much of it turned out as planned, and how did you achieve that sound?

j: It was kind of a happy accident. My knowledge of “proper” noise is pretty slim, so there wasn't really any direct influence... I just like saturating things with loads and loads of distortion until little melodies and rhythms start to pop out of the swirling mess of harmonics and overtones. As such, the backbone of the Wrath of the Weak sound involves layering different strengths / kinds of distortion and ambience over vaguely harmonic triads until something cool results, with drums underneath that don't really “blast” so much as they “clatter.”

Maelstrom: You hooked up with Bastardised, a notable noise label. You said you weren't a noise guy. How did that come about?

j: Myspace, haha. Sandor (Finta, Bastardised’s owner) really dug the material I had up, offered to put out a CD, and the rest is history.

I figured that Wrath of the Weak would be best served on a label which wasn't myopically geared toward black metal because a) it'd likely expose the music to a wider variety of listeners and b) I wouldn't feel like I needed to play up the black metal aspect to please anybody. And Sandor came across as a quality fellow, so I was comfortable that I wasn't just forking over my work to some random guy with a CD burner and a Kinko's hookup.

Maelstrom: It's at this point that I guess I should ask you the rather obligatory, probably banal question of how you see yourself fitting into, or would like to fit into, the black metal pantheon. Feel like giving your version of the "State of Black Metal" address? Go for it.

j: It's hard to say... I don't really have any desire to fit in with a particular “scene.” Wrath of the Weak is undeniably rooted in black metal, but it's also received a lot of influence from music which isn't even remotely black metal, and it'd be silly to neglect one or the other in the interest of trying to align myself with a specific group. All the albums which are currently considered legendary have already been written, so why the hell would I write them again? I'd rather be the guy that people try to imitate down the line.

But no matter what I do, there'll be people who don't enjoy my music... it's a fact of life. I just figure as long as I can please myself and maybe a few friends with trustworthy taste then I'm doing it right.

Maelstrom: Talk a little bit about the ambient noise outro to the record. That section goes on for about half of a half-hour song. Did that part grow out of the moment?

j: Pretty much. I wanted a little bit of chaos to close out the disc, so I just started experimenting and ended up with fifteen minutes of ringing discordance. It felt like an appropriate way to end things, so I kept it. It came out of some combination of reverb and infinite delay, but the exact procedure escapes me.

Maelstrom: We support gear dorks here at Maelstrom. If you would, please tell us about what you used to record your album, and spare no detail if you like to talk shop.

j: Oh, man, I'm going to get murdered by the anti-digital and/or anti-shitty equipment brigades after talking about this.

Maelstrom: It's ok, their keyboards are all probably broken.

j: Everything was recorded direct to computer and processed from there. I used a pair of headphones for a microphone partially because I couldn't find my real mic and partially because I've grown fond of the squished, muffled tone they provide. My guitar is a reliable but barely functional Ibanez, recorded direct and run through an amp simulator. The drum sounds were taken from samples that came with a sound card I bought five years ago, since at the time I couldn't find anything that fit better. However, I'm proud to say that aside from the obvious bits (the piano at the end of "Journey of Many Days" and the Mellotron flutes in "Cuniculean Rampage") there's no synths on the album and that all the guitar parts were done with only one track. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

Maelstrom: Right on. Speaking of that, the booklet is super minimal. No lyrics, photos, content on the inner pages, or even a name/stagename or credits. Design or oversight?

How about the artwork on the album? It almost looks like a forest that's upside down no matter how hard you try to make it rightside up.

j: As seemed to happen with everything else for the album, the cover art came out of me screwing around while bereft of real ideas. I kept the overall layout minimal because I didn't really know what to do with it otherwise, and it didn't seem appropriate to fill it with all sorts of content for its own sake.

Oh, and if you flip the cover image over and invert the brightness you'll see the original picture.

Maelstrom: Know what the headphones you used are called?

j: They're just a set of Sony headphones I bought a few years ago because they were on sale.

Maelstrom: Oh! I see. you actually recorded the music through headphones that you reversed wired or something, so they'd act as a microphone? This all sounds very interesting.

j: Well, it was just the vocals which were recorded with the headphones. If you plug them (or a speaker of any kind, really) into a mic input, it'll effectively function as a microphone. Every once in a while I'll read about a band using a guitar / bass cab to mic their kick drum for some extra thump, but it's a pretty rare “technique” beyond that since I don't think it's very good at picking up detailed sound.

I'm not sure of the exact principles behind that beyond converting sound waves to electrical current and vice versa (much less able to explain them coherently), but I think a quick check on Google could give all the information you'd want, and then some.

Maelstrom: Which sim did you use?

j: Guitar Rig 2. I like it a lot because you can get blatantly ridiculous and (for example) layer five different distortion boxes, run that through a chorus and two phasers, split that signal between four different delay settings, stick on a couple more distortion boxes, and send it all through a Class A tube amp running at half-power into an 8x10 bass cab and a Leslie cabinet. I like having that ability to put different things wherever, as opposed to the usual one of each wah-distortion-modulation-ambience-amp order that it seems like most hardware and software units restrict you to. Sure, it doesn't sound quite the same as a real amplifier... but then again, I'm not looking for real amp tone so much as I'm looking for a hell of a lot of noise that sounds good.

Maelstrom: Please talk about the vocals. How many tracks are you using, and how did you achieve your results? How much of the result was a surprise, and how much was as intended? What did you have in mind before you even recorded anything?

j: Vocals were one track and effected with lots of reverb and a little bit of distortion to help them blend in with the guitar. I didn't want the usual shriek / scream thing, so I settled on sort of a choked whisper... it sounds pretty strange and inhuman if handled right, and it also hides the fact that I have a terrible voice otherwise.

Maelstrom: Now, let's talk concept. Wrath of the Weak... who's the weak, and why the wrath? Please tell us about the ideas behind the track listings and album flow; we're asking because it's rather apparent that there's something going on here beyond a collection of buzzing, humming black metal drones. You've got themes of storms, what's that about? How about "The Rosewater Diamond"? I tried to look up "cuniculean," but no dice. Please explain.

j: The name “Wrath of the Weak” came about when I was randomly brainstorming in the shower. It stuck with me, and since I couldn't think of anything better, I kept it. I'm sure you could extrapolate all sorts of meaning if you tried hard enough, but it really just boils down to me liking how it sounded... kind of menacing, fairly sonorous, and all without being a name which would completely pigeonhole the music. As far as the actual songs go, I like evocative titles. I'd much rather use something which may or may not (directly) have anything to do with the song at hand but helps define its atmosphere, instead of just using a snippet of lyrics or something.

Maelstrom: Yeah. Great ideas in the shower. Washing dishes and sitting on the throne, too. And not the throne from Darkthrone, if you catch my drift.

j: Yeah, exactly. My hygiene is near impeccable at times just because I always have a reason to bathe, be it stench or thought.

The "storm" songs were written during their respective storms and given those names first as working titles, but I kept them since I felt like the music sort of followed the theme of the titles... to me, "The Snowstorm" sounds like the aural equivalent of a really good blizzard, while "The Thunderstorm" is a little more reminiscient of the first big thunderstorm to come once Spring has settled in.

"Cuniculean" comes from "cuniculus," which I believe is the genus of your garden-variety rabbit. A few years ago there was a period when I was finding dead rabbits seemingly everywhere, and over time that sort of fermented in my head and became this bizarre tale about a race of warrior rabbits who wanted to overthrow humankind.

There's really no high concept behind the material on the s/t disc as a whole, though. If you want concept, wait until the next album... I'll have some interesting tales for that one, haha.

Maelstrom: Oh? Is there more material already in the works?

j: Yep! Coming out (hopefully) this year is a cassette EP with a couple more ambient / drone-ish tracks, as well as a split with a pretty cool band from Minnesota called Dreamless... they're sort of like a stripped-down Bardo Pond, so it'll be an interesting balance of material. I've also spent the past couple months writing material for Wrath of the Weak's second album, and I'm hoping to get that recorded sometime this summer and released who knows when.

Maelstrom: Is all this stuff to be on Bastardised?

j: The cassette should be coming out on Earth / Space Noise Research Laboratories, while I'm not sure who's going to handle the other two yet... there's been a little bit of preliminary interest in the second full-length, so that might be coming out on a “bigger” label if I play my cards right.

Maelstrom: How about you, Jordan? Who are you, where did you come from? What would you like the world to know about you?

j: Well, today I biked over to the library after class to pick up some books on tonality and temperament (and to enjoy the nice weather now that it's here), and right now I'm figuring out what to do for dinner while using a rubber chicken to fend off a very affectionate cat owned by one of my housemates. That's a pretty accurate slice of myself and my existence, I'd say.

Maelstrom: What do you study? How old are you? Did you grow up in Buffalo? I got accepted to Syracuse / Siberiacuse University and kinda sorta nearly went there until they told me that it often snowed through April. I also entertained getting a Sabres jersey that said "Satan" on the back because the coincidence was too dorkily rad (The NHL Buffalo Sabres once had a player whose last name was “Satan.” – ed). Is it too mundane to ask how your suroundings have affected your art?

j: I'm a 24-year old perpetual student who grew up in Syracuse, and currently I'm going to school in Buffalo and aiming for a BS in Geography / Urban Planning. The winters around these parts are shitty, but I don't mind three months of knee-deep snow if it means I get six months of largely sunny and warm weather, another three months of picturesque autumn, and little to no chance of ever having to deal with a major hurricane /earthquake / etc.

I've often wondered why so much American black metal seems to come from California when there's far more depressing / grim / frostbitten locales to be found up in the northeast (esp. around the Rust Belt), but it's hard to say whether that's been an influence on Wrath of the Weak or not. I suppose it could be if you count the fact that I try to leave my house as little as possible once the snow starts up, and usually fall back on music when I need to pass the time.

 

 

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Alisa
 

CLOSER - Darkness in Me - CD - Pulverised Records - 2007

review by: Alisa Z

It can become wearisome to listen to bands that are born out of thin air and bring forth music that sounds like everything else that has already been done. Yet, Sweden's Closer deserve some credit. This three-track recording demonstrates the band's potential. While there is the declaration that Closer aim to blend black, thrash and death metal, it is noticeable that black metal doesn't constitute much of the basis of the music.

This short record leans more towards songs that are overflowing with the energy that is capable of churning some ferocious moshpits. At certain instants, the songs remind one of bands such as The Haunted and Hatebreed. Fast-paced and ripe with convulsing guitar riffs, the band is sure to be popular with fans of newer death metal creations, which tend to borrow elements from hardcore and the like. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Alisa
 

CRESCENT SHIELD - The Last of My Kind - CD - Cruz Del Sur Music - 2007

review by: Alisa Z

The Last of My Kind is like a ticket to travel back in time to the ‘80s, when heavy metal was in the musical spotlight. The guitars are plentiful with energetic patterns that the drums complement with their powerful beats. As far as the vocals go, they are specific; that is saying, the vocals linger on the line between being "superb" and "awful." At times, it sounds as though it is a constant drone, yet at others, it sounds colourful, and the vocals shine through.

The most entrancing feature of this record is that it manages to sound interesting despite the fact that there is not much variety of musical style. The songs may seem a little bland at times, but there are plenty of catchy tunes throughout the compositions. Crescent Shield revive heavy metal in its primal glory, minus the pretentious quality that a lot of heavy metal groups have adapted in the recent years. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Alisa
 

KOLDBORN - The Uncanny Valley - CD - Listenable Records - 2006

review by: Alisa Z

Denmark's Koldborn have released their second full-length album, a work surging with heartless death metal that aspires to destroy the listener with its impassioned musical butchering. A blend of thrash and death metal, this Danish paragon is not only brutal but also groovy.

Beginning with a somewhat spooky intro, the slaughter is introduced through songs such as "The Uncanny Valley," which pumps with ruthless drumming and mercurial guitar-playing, and "Below A Crushing Earth," with its sadistic composition of continuous variations that are conjoined into a time span of three and a half minutes.

While the tracks are brimming with musical vehemence and outstanding talent, some might argue that Koldborn have not made a significant contribution to the rapidly evolving modern death metal scene and that the record is not worth buying. Personally, I think that this is a false assumption, because any band that shows incredible levels of energy and skills like this one does deserves to be recognized, even if it might not get onto Metal Hammer's Top 10 list. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.7/10 Alisa
 

LAETHORA - March of the Parasite - CD - The End Records - 2007

review by: Alisa Z

When a record is publicised as featuring Dark Tranquillity's Niklas Sundin and The Provenance's Joakim Rosen, one immediately acquires an idea about what kind of sound it is meant to have. "Finely rooted in the death/grind tradition" are hardly the words that can be used to form a musical desciption of Laethora.

The pursual of the first few songs seems to be the brutality that death metal can acquire. However, the fifth track, "Black Void Remembrance," is interweaved with phantom-like clean vocals and a more sombre, doom-like guitar sound. "Y.M.B.," the eighth track, contain an eccentric moment during which the vocalist screams out bits and pieces of violence. The following track, "Warbituary," returns back to the fast-paced sphere of death metal. The album ends with a dark note, with the last track containing eerie musical threads.

Perhaps one aspect of Laethora that seems to put the band under inspection is the fact that they claim to be grindcore, a proclamation that is hardly proved on this record. On the other hand, if you are a fan of the plentitude of newer musical creations that aim to be creative, then I would suggest this CD for you. (6.7/10)

 

 

 

 
6.6/10 Alisa
 

METALIUM - Nothing to Undo - Chapter Six - CD - Crash Music - 2007

review by: Alisa Z

These Germans know how to keep metal alive! This is their sixth album, and the first thing that can be noticed is the level of clarity in the production. Metalium deliver steadfast compositions that will amaze with their energy and musical equilibrium.

The intro, "Spineless Scum," implants a sense of threat, as though all hope is indeed lost, preparing the listener for the second track, "Spirits," a fast-paced song that fills the air with liveliness. Next, there is the intensity of "Mindless," a track that begins with a dynamite riff whose speed is varied throughout the five-minute slot, meanwhile providing the listener with a vociferated guitar solo.

The slower "Mental Blindess" aims at infusing the atmosphere with the notion of danger and anxiety, obliging the audience to "watch out for the two-faced beast from fences of dark disguise." The album also features a Queen cover ("The Show Must Go on"), the aptly placed last track, which is not altogether perfect but is an interesting metal perspective on the song.

I would recommend this record to fans of the German power metal scene, and of bands such as Helloween, Grave Digger and Gamma Ray. The record, if not very original in its musical style, is piled with energy. (6.6/10)

 

 

 

 
9.7/10 Alisa
 

ROTTING CHRIST - Theogonia - CD - Season of Mist - 2007

review by: Alisa Z

Greek black metallers Rotting Christ have released a stunning album (their 10th so far) that is labyrythine in its blend of their trustworthy style and atmospheric elements that serve to heighten the charming diversity of the music.

The album is bursting with powerful guitars, alongside which exist aphotic melodies that borrow from orchestrated and traditional Greek matter. The third track, "Enuma Elish," features a remarkable growth from one pattern to another, still managing to remain within the borders of the initially introduced tune. The fifth song, "Helios Hyperion," hovers between raw black metal and chunky death metal riffs, a combination that magnifies the intense vivacity of the music. The following song, "Nemecic," features traditional Greek factors, projected via a portal to antiquity and ages gone by.

The album is extraordinary not just because of the show of fantastic musicianship, but also because of its tendency to oscillate from one corner to another. Throughout every song exists the spontaneity and potency that Rotting Christ have mastered in their musical creations. (9.7/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Alisa
 

ELDRITCH - Neighbourhell - CD - Limb Music Productions - 2006

review by: Alisa Z

The most interesting feature of Neighbourhell is that it adds a fresh edge to the power metal sound that remains as the basis of all of Eldritch’s songs. Implanting a variety of vocal styles and integrating a mosaic of melodies and emotions throughout the whole album, this band has achieved a stable and coordinated sound.

The first track, "Still Screaming," integrates a substantial amount of energy and unexpectedly goes into a thrash stance. The next track, "Save Me," has rather strange vocals, seeing as there are instants during which the listener is reminded of Rage Against the Machine. "Bless Me Now" starts off with powerful guitars, but as soon as the voice appears, I felt like cringing, because the intensity of the music is juxtaposed with infantile singing. "More Than Marilyn" is a melodic composition whose lyrics reek of heartbreak, as do the lyrics of the emotional "Zero Man." (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Matt
 

NOX - Ixaxaar - CD - Earache Records - 2007

review by: Matt Smith

Nox's stripped-down, speed-focused style of death metal is refreshing to hear. Each element is straightforward, from the monotone growl to the lightning-fast drums, and the combination is put together so tightly that it is bound to impress any fan of death. The instrumentation is entirely solid as well as technical, and the songs vary in both theme and structure, making Ixaxaar a great listen from beginning to end.

Nox didn't bring any new elements to the table with this album, and experimentation is lacking. But aggression, speed and technical instrumentation are usually enough to make a CD worth listening to. More so with Ixaxaar; few bands in recent memory are as energetic and skillful (Bob Dussel's drumming in particular will have you hitting "rewind").

The most exciting aspect of Ixaxaar is that it is Nox's debut release. This band has found a winning combination early, and I'm looking forward to its next project. Any group that can play death metal like these guys is sure to find success. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Matt
 

IMPIOUS - Holy Murder Masquerade - CD - Metal Blade Records - 2007

review by: Matt Smith

Who doesn't like a good concept album? Sure, it can lead to some restrictions on style and vocal content, but everything coheres in a neat little package, and stories are allowed to get more and more elaborate with each song's revelations. Holy Murder Masquerade is one of the most cohesive albums I've heard; Impious went to great lengths to tell its deranged story of a delusional serial killer.

The accompanying booklet is the thickest I've seen since Crass's liner manifestos and contains a comic that visually escorts the listener through the story. The dialogue and descriptions in the comic also act as a lyric sheet so that none of the vocals are lost to distortion or indistinct growls.

Impious's thrashy style is an effective story-telling agent, as well. Crisp production and versatile instrumentation allow the band to take the listener through the various changes, acts and emotions that occur during the course of the story. Martin Akesson's growled vocals may not be an ideal narrative tool, but there is always the book as a reference.

All this having been said, Impious's style does get repetitive and predictable in the course of Holy Murder Masquerade. It moves at a steady pace, also appropriate for a story, but this may be an aspect of the album that was hindered by the consistency that such a project demands. More experimentation and variety would add a lot to the overall sound while potentially muddling the storyline, so I can understand why certain sacrifices had to be made. But a few virtuosic guitar solos aren't enough to carry an entire album when the grooves and verses sound repetitious and uninspired.

Although the music is good in itself, it isn't outstanding, and the album certainly won't see a lot of repeat listens from me. The comic is good-looking and must have taken a lot of time and effort, but the story is still crude and shallow — also not worth repeated reads. The combination makes this release worthy of attention, but I am afraid this gimmicky amalgamation won't have any lasting value. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
8.25/10 Matt
 

SEAR - Lamentations of Destruction - CD - Dynamic Arts Records - 2007

review by: Matt Smith

This Finnish fivesome has departed from its debut, which is always a good start. Sear has moved further into the realm of black metal than was evident in Begin the Celebrations of Sin, and added cleaner, thrashier elements to the mix. A combination of guttural growls and throat-rattling screams tell tales of demonic destruction, demonstrating that the Satan-inspired lyrical content is still alive and well. But when you've got a subject as dynamic as Lucifer, why stray?

The instrumentation is really strong in Lamentations of Destruction. Laaksonen's drums lay a thick groundwork for elaborate guitar lines. He works the blast beats to build intensity before splitting into groovier, more toned-down lines that complement the choruses. The guitars are similarly varied. During the verses, they grind out repetitive riffs that don't have a chance to get old before a new groove or fast-picked section kicks in. "Hate & Scorn, Crowned With Horns" gives a great taste of swaying, Nordic-sounding riffs that shift from ominous to brutal and back in quick turns, never settling for the repetition of a phrase when something new will fit.

The production is excellent — crisp distortion and good levels ensure that each aspect of Sear's style is audible, and a great attention to detail makes the band sound all the more powerful. Lamentations of Destruction is a step forward for Sear, though the group has yet to take metal to a new plateau. Sear has progressed as a band, and this forceful album will not disappoint. It is definitely worth adding to the collection — I know it's going to get plenty of play around my house. (8.25/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Matt
 

DEATHBOUND - We Deserve Much Worse - CD - Dynamic Arts Records - 2007

review by: Matt Smith

Deathbound's gritty style of death/grind is an energetic mix of blastbeats, fluctuating guitar riffs and grooves, and a rough, throaty growl. We Deserve Much Worse is the group's third album, and Deathbound still isn't concerned with the flourishes on which some bands thrive. Variety in vocals and instrumentation, smooth transitions between tracks and electronic elements are completely lacking, but Deathbound's aggressiveness wouldn't allow for too much experimentation or attention to detail. Pure speed and brutality are the driving forces behind We Deserve Much Worse, and brief track times (ranging from 28 seconds to just under three minutes) are Deathbound's main method for avoiding staleness.

This, however, isn't quite enough to keep the album fresh all the way through. Besides a small degree of tempo variation, Deathbound's formula remains disappointingly consistent. The monotonous tone and rhythm of the vocals get old quickly, and the guitar riffs are indistinct and are likely to sound muddled by the CD's halfway point. We Deserve Much Worse could surely use some more dissimilar grooves to keep their listeners' attention and to make the album seem like more of a journey than a rehash of the same elements. Only the ever-changing drum lines have a satisfying degree of variety through the album's end.

It is understandable that such a forceful combination of death and grind doesn't lend itself to much diversity of sound; when you're trying to keep everything sounding strong and tight at high speeds, it can take all of your concentration. But rhythmic and melodic variety are still possible even for such extreme groups, and not employing either to a reasonable degree necessarily weakens any project. I'm sure the live show is great, but We Deserve Much Worse gets sour long before its end. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Larissa G
 

ALL MY DEAD FRIENDS - Cold Meat Industry Sampler - CD - Cold Meat Industry - 2006

review by: Larissa Glasser

All My Dead Friends provides a good overview of the current Cold Meat Industry roster, and depending on the depths of your vile spirit, you can decide which practitioners to bleed over. All tracks are exclusive to this release.

Atrium Carceri (Sweden) is a fitting opener. “End Titles” crawls with sub-oceanic calm, melancholic keys float in a copper hall of sadness.

:Golgatha: (Germany)’s “Rite of Spring” uses a similar approach, but their technique is more loop-based, and contains more organic soundscapes. Definitely tribal.

ROME (Luxembourg) is instantly recognizable. He follows that latter-era Swans dirge, with natural piano set, underlying radio static imperatives, heavy reverb, and DEEEEEEEEEP vokills. “A La Faveur De La Nuit [Version One]” is ROME’s track.

Beyond Sensory Experience (Sweden) are more industrial with their track, “In the Midst of Death,” not really my cup of hemlock but they could perhaps grow on me.

Medusa's Spell (Italy) fucking rules. “Lulling” is impeccable dirge with sad strings, almost Quorthon-ic acoustic guitar, and an air of tantalizing derision.

Decadence (Greece) “Love is For Ever” is more ballad-like than the other tracks, and its soundtrackiness heralds the creation of yet another Cenobite.

Coph Nia (Sweden) is pretty frickin’ evil. “Hymn to Lucifer (Premix)” is deceptive at first, because I thought it was continuation of the Decadence track. Coph Nia sounds cinematic and background-y at first, but the sudden upfront vokills penetrate the psyche and eat through any daydreams of safety. He’s unfriendly sounding. Awesome.

Hrafn (Sweden) is more sample-based than Coph Nia. “Crawl into Dread's Labyrinth, Act 1” follows a steady industrial dirge peppered with clips most of you may recognize.

All My Faith Lost ... (Italy) “The Waves” is one of the more crisp acoustic-themed BALLADS, with female vokills and rather Elvish* manner. (*as in ELVES, not Elvis, WTF)

Stormfågel (Sweden) “Halgass” brings you back into the Monk’s torture room, a steady march of layered melancholy, again female fronted.

Pimentola (Finland) “Psychopompos” is way back into the industrial / trance scheme of things, hard for me to get into.

Tharmapsal (France) “Molecules, out!” is also industro-linear, bummer, yawn, skip.

Letum (Sweden) “Death Will be my Friend”: LETUM TO THE MOTHERLOVIN’ RESCUE (or more appropriately, my executioner has arrived). This guy is the very embodiment of dark drone, hopeless exodus, and factory ache. If Cold Meat had placed Letum last on this sampler, he would have been a fitting coup de grace.

Foundation Hope (Netherlands) “Troubled Herd Crawling” is no NIN-whine poop, either. Perpetual pitch shifting and metal clangs bring to mind the atrociousness of Sue Coe’s artwork in her book Dead Meat. Grey flesh is rotten. Don’t eat (it’s OK to poke at with a stick, though).

Finally, For Greater Good (Belgium)’s “Le Jugement Du Roi En Jaune” is Goblin-like horror soundtrack, the annoying vokills bring the overall rating down a notch.

HOWEVER, this release is highly recommended to thee, subjective listener, especially if you need a good cheering up. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Larissa G
 

FOUNDATION HOPE - The Faded Reveries - CD - Cold Meat Industry - 2006

review by: Larissa Glasser

This dark ambient project has been working since 2003. According to the artist profile, "The main idea was to make dark cinematical soundscapes with a strong focus on the harshness and cruelty of everyday life... an attempt to confront the listener with moods of isolation, despair and sorrow."

As dark ambient releases go, this project is pretty awesome. Foundation Hope uses contrast to great effect on these ten tracks: Keyboard swells combat sudden impact noises, pitch-shifted samples emerge and submerge with a life of their own. The overall comparisons could be made to interlude-mode Pink Floyd and film composer Jeff Rona ("Traffic," "The Mothman Prophesies"). The soundscapes from Foundation Hope seem to tell their own story, yet they leave the canvas open for the listener’s imagination to provide details.

This isn’t mere background music. The Faded Reveries carries aural details rich with texture, history, and even portholes into the creative process.

Highly recommended. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9.1/10 Ignacio
 

BOXCAR SATAN - No One at the Wheel - CD - DogFingers Records - 2005

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

Boxcar Satan is something like the bastard child of Robert Johnson and Primus. Without the wacky bass playing, anyway. Saying that it's catchy in the normal sense of the word wouldn't work, but I'm absolutely forced to say it IS catchy... somehow — even when structures and songs are nothing but mere excuses for Boxcar Satan to play some mean atonal,

noisy, and really dirty sounding riffs. And even when they happen to go against pretty much anything you've heard produced in the past forty years.

What's amazing is that about half the riffs aren't actually riffs but random sounding noises made with a slide. Definitely not what we're used to hearing in modern rock, where everything is coherent and sing-along. Within the first minute or two, it's hard not to notice that Boxcar Satan isn't logical, even if they sometimes try to play a normal chorus. But that's the beauty of it all.

Vocals? Well, they are like a raw version of old blues, just an octave lower. When they say they play a "gritty, noisy take on American roots music," they mean it. Works the same way for everything about it, really.

But anyway, Boxcar Satan doesn't limit itself to dirty, country-influenced rock. They can also play some Morphine-like slow rock, fun Primus-like pieces, post-rock (even if quite masked), some metal parts, and free jazz.

The DVD in particular is, even if you hate the band, a whole lot of fun. The promotional videos themselves range from very good to

awesome, pretty much all of them being either quite funny or just disgusting, in a good way. Even the songs featured here are no worse than great.

But that's not all. After the promotional videos, the disc contains a whole live show. If after watching it, you're not saying "Holy shit, that'd be a fun band to watch live," then I don't really know what's wrong with you. Even more because in studio, most of the stuff sounds added on top... yet live you see that they can play that with just three instruments much better than they can possibly do on a release.

Boxcar Satan is the definition of fun rock, while still being creepy sounding and sometimes even sadistic (those vocals sound like those of a serial killer sometimes.)

Let's just say that Boxcar Satan is hard to handle and to digest, but it's worth it. It's totally worth it. (9.1/10)

 

 

 

 
8.7/10 Ignacio
 

BRAZZAVILLE - East L.A. Breeze - CD - South China Sea Music - 2006

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

I guess it's obvious that Brazzaville sounds like a soundtrack to a trip. After all, the main guy behind Brazzaville is a traveler himself. But yes, that's how it sounds all the time, even with titles such as "Jesse James." Some songs sound like being on a train, some sound like an old bar, some like a town disco, but East L.A. Breeze doesn't really stay in the same place for long.

In some ways, Brazzaville shares some traits with flower pop, even while musically quite different. As they say themselves, they play music like if the world were a wonderful one. And that certainly translates to the music, as it is, except some segments, optimistic in a way that borders with pop sensibility. It is, however, miles ahead of normal pop, since that's actually felt by the listener. The album is, as cheesy as it may sound, something that will make you feel better, no matter what.

In fact, East L.A. Breeze sounds more like a completely mellowed out and upbeat, jazzy Morphine mixed with newer Air and a whole lot of originality than a, say, early Beach Boys album. Of course, Brazzaville shows a lot more variation technically, with just one single-sounding song.

Brazzaville has wonderful arrangements that don't need to be complex to be effective. Violins, piano and trombone dance over the calm, clean guitar + vocal backgrounds, sometimes with drums and bass, sometimes not. But for all of its running length, East L.A. Breeze churns out great vocal melody after great vocal melody like the band had some sort of machine to compose those for them. Seriously, there's not a single bad vocal delivery on the whole album.

The greatest thing, however, is the way the atmosphere changes. While holding the same instrumentation, they often change from song to song like they were changing countries. And it works really really well in context, with no cohesion lost at all and still the same great arrangements and lively vocals that are Brazzaville's specialties.

Also, with some great songs like "1983" or "Jesse James," East L.A Breeze can really grab your attention if you're up for some jazzy guitar pop. Do try it if you're open-minded enough. (8.7/10)

 

 

 

 
2.5/10 Ignacio
 

CYBERNETIC EROSION - 7th Seal - CD - Black Flame Records - 2006

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

Most of you have probably seen that one video where Mike Patton talks about Wolfmother and says something like, "what year are we in?" That's precisely the same reaction that pretty much everyone will have when listening to Cybernetic Erosion. I mean, whoever hasn't realized that this precise brand of electrogothic just doesn't work anymore unless you're really, really good should go get a reality check. Or two.

Violet Stigmata has done all this before. And much, much better. But at least you can’t say that 7th Seal is a faux goth album.

What’s amiss? First of all, the instrumentation. It’s barely enough to hold a song together, let alone an album. I mean, just one layer of computer-generated keyboards, hideously programmed drums and distorted generic gothic vocals that aren't really on key, but all around it? Sure, we're not expecting a symphony here, but at least something so the songs don't feel as empty as they do. They feel like they aren't songs but a guy improvising over gothic backgrounds while pressing random buttons on a VST instrument.

But, well, imagine that the instrumentation were lacking, but the songs themselves were good. That could work, right? Well, that's not the case here, as the songs themselves are actually six minutes of the bad kind of nonsense. Sadly, that's a common place for many gothic and batcave bands (save a select few like Violet Stigmata and Cinema Strange) and Cybernetic Erosion just goes along with the trend. Like it does with everything else.

OK, at least some originality? Somewhere? Some redeeming qualities? Nope, nothing. Even the technical aspect sounds all programmed in Fruity Loops (and I'd actually bet quite a few dollars on that) so go ahead and jump to conclusions yourself. But trust me, you won't want to listen to this unless you're a gothic purist or completionist. Most probably both. (2.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3.6/10 Ignacio
 

DEAD CHILD - Dead Child - CD - Cold Sweat - 2006

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

Dead Child just doesn't take any risks whatsoever. They play an absolutely normal kind of traditional heavy metal with a bit of Confessor in the vocals, but not too much. Not to say that all heavy metal bands are bad, but if you play that genre, you need to add something that will make you stand out, something that will make your band sound like more than a band that just abuses the (downtuned) open lowest string on the guitar.

And Dead Child didn't add that something. There's nothing whatsoever here to make you say in some months (or days...or minutes) "Yeah, that band Dead Child was badass." In fact, there's nothing to make you say that even while listening to it. It's not a matter of technicality or heaviness, it's a matter of concept. Dead Child's concept is one that just can't be told apart from the majority, no matter how hard you try.

I can really see them working as a local live band, really. The songs are intense, so they must be much better live. Most of it is quite moshable and headbangable and all that. And you know, watching the musicians live changes it all... but in the studio, you can't afford to go generic.

And even if they weren't generic, their riffs are subpar. Downtuned, one-note riffs are good for some specific situations, but not to be the core of a whole release, especially when done in a normal 4/4 with absolutely nothing innovative. And, logically, the songs aren't precisely developed either, as they are way, way too dependent on those lackluster riffs that go nowhere, which is also the destination of this entire release.

Everything else is generic as well. Production, vocals (they aren't bad, though), bass playing, drumming, lyrics and so on. Not to say it's inhumanly bad, because it's not. I mean, there's nothing horrible or too bad on Dead Child, it's just bland beyond comparison, and it ends up sounding like random, low-string bashing just way too often. And low-string bashing metal rarely ever works. (3.6/10)

 

 

 

 
9.2/10 Ignacio
 

FUNERAL - From These Wounds - CD - Candlelight Records - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

It certainly feels good to see a band find their own sound. Better late than never, they say. From These Wounds is precisely what Funeral should have released quite some years ago, instead of the subpar doom/death and goth/doom they used to play.

The surprising part is that it's as if nothing released before this ever existed. Gone are the death vocals, the female vocals and the slowest segments. What Funeral released this time is a surprisingly consistent album of melodic doom metal in the vein of Swallow the Sun, the latest My Dying Bride or even The Gault, but much more classical oriented.

And when I say classical oriented, I say it because From These Wounds has some of the best arrangements (both harmonically and melodically) on a doom metal album that the world has ever seen, and I'm not exaggerating. Every single song features at least three or four really strong melodic lines, each made by at least two guitars and keyboards (holding some similarities to classical melody lines but on modern instrumentation), while the drums and bass accentuate parts without really turning the album into an overly metal album. And even besides the whole harmonization stuff, From These Wounds' songs are all undeniably great, with some incredibly clever vocal lines (more often than not multilayered).

Actually, that's the best part about this Funeral album. It is doom metal, but it's not limited by being a doom metal album. They try other things (for example, an emotional solo on "Vagrant God", or some newer Katatonia-like phrases in the title track) and often end up developing their songs in a way most normal doom bands wouldn't try, while not really going against everything doom metal playing stands for.

Also, their atmosphere being quite classical complements the metal playing of the rhythm guitars so it sounds full (as opposed to the empty bands with just keyboards, a crappily distorted guitar, drums and some random guy growling.)

From These Wounds sounds like a professional doom metal album. That means that if you love "garage" doom bands, you'll probably find Funeral to be too polished or too crystal-clean. I mean, it does sound quite synthetic, but it's still sheer brilliance. And, for us doom nerds, From These Wounds is what we were waiting for. (9.2/10)

 

 

 

 
2.1/10 Ignacio
 

LOS KIKES - Los Kikes - CD - Sshaking Records - 2006

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

Los Kikes is probably the single most random band to ever come out of Israel (and we're talking about the country that created Abosranie Bogom, so go figure). So much that describing it all as an entity would be just talking about its production. Because, trust me, the only really remarkable thing about it is the (almost non-existent) production. That, and how Los Kikes don't happen to have a really clear concept of what they want to play.

Los Kikes isn't intrinsically bad (or at least you can't and won't want to notice, for reasons explained below), but not good either. It contains at least one segment of every single metal genre but power metal, and also goes all over punk, hardcore, drony doom/sludgecore, surf music mixed with old school hardcore. The problem is that they manage to play all of them in their own generic way. And that means shouted vocals, characterless playing and appalling production.

While I certainly relish their exclusively old school ways, Los Kikes just doesn't work as an album. It doesn't have GISM's vigor, it doesn't have black metal's atmospherical development, and it doesn't have normal punk's catchy simplicity. It stands there as a middle point with nothing to add and nothing to impress you with, like they are not even trying.

And really, even if there was something of worth down there in the mud puddle that is the mix, the production itself will make you stop caring and press skip much more than once, as it sounds like a bad bootleg most of the time. Sometimes you can't even hear the riffs, just some aggressive vocals over (unintended) Merzbow-ish white noise. Then again, I'm sure that was the whole point for Los Kikes, but it doesn't work. Not at all. Hell, they could have had the best hardcore songs and it would have been the same, as you just can't hear them, period. Frustrating, really.

So, musical masochists, you've found your new favorite band. Anyone living in the rawest and most underground ‘80s hardcore scene will love this. Everyone else, avoid like a serial rapist just out of jail. (2.1/10)

PS: I want my ears back.

 

 

 

 
Yes should be proud/10 Ignacio
 

NORLANDER, ERIK - Hommage Symphonique - CD - Progrock Records - 2006

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

More often than not, cover albums are horrible. That, coupled with the fact that it's not really easy to cover artists like King Crimson and Rick Wakeman, made me expect nothing at all from this Erik Norlander CD. The thing is, it's nothing like that. Against all odds, Hommage Symphonique is one of the best cover albums ever released (and it gets extra points for the ultra-nerd title.)

As opposed to millions of covers, the eight songs found here are played in their original genre, more or less. You won't find a samba or bossa cover of King Crimson's "Starless," for example. Instead, they are all progressive rock, done in Erik Norlander's style, that is, with more harmony than random show-off. It's obvious that the guy knows quite a bit about orchestration. Even if Norlander's a keyboardist himself, most of the instrumentation is done by real orchestral instruments, making it sound much more modern than, say, Yes' own Yessongs.

Erik Norlander doesn't really like to show off his keyboard skills, instead opting to show off his intrincate rearrangements of the originals without as many added solos as one would expect. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have those skills. While he's no Rick Wakeman (but then again, who is?) he seriously outperforms more than 90% of the whole prog rock/metal scene when it comes to neoclassical solos. And really, when he decides to show off, it makes you wish he did that a lot more.

As good as every single cover found here is, Rick Wakeman's "Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight" takes the cake. It's epic, it's complex and it's so goddamn fun. It manages to turn an amazing classic prog rock song into an amazing modern prog rock song without changing its core or its atmosphere much, but adding quite a lot of epic elements to the already massively epic original. I mean, the rest of the album is amazing too and works the same way as "Sir Lancelot" does, but this particular song is worth the whole album.

Hommage Symphonique is probably the best soundtrack for a D&D game. Ever. So, if you like progressive stuff, go ahead and get it. (Yes should be proud/10)

 

 

 

 
7.4/10 Ignacio
 

MYOPIA - Enter Insect Masterplan - CD - Selfmadegod Records - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

Myopia feels and sounds like a collaboration between Voivod, Meshuggah and Atheist, but gone far more extreme. It has the angular riffs of Voivod, the polymeters and vocals of Meshuggah, and the technical development of all three.

First and foremost, Myopia is a technical album. Sometimes just technical, sometimes insanely technical, but it's sure that Enter Insect Masterplan is not a toddler "we learned to play powerchords yesterday!" metal album. In fact, powerchords aren't used as much as they are used in normal death metal; the songs aren't really dependant on downtuning, and weird harmony is used greatly.

The best part about Myopia is that they know how to create a really particular atmosphere, mostly through completely angular and abstract melodies, unexpected chord progressions, uncommon time signatures and vocals quite similar to Meshuggah, even if sometimes sludgecore-sounding. But besides all that technical mumbojumbo, Myopia sounds good. It's not just music for musicians (unlike lots and lots of "technical" music), as they don't really abuse dissonance or craziness as much as one would think, even if they certainly aren't conservative when it comes to the composition. They really do sound like something most death metal fans could enjoy.

However, I can't say that Myopia is even close to being fully developed. For one, they should really try out some more instrumentation, as the compositions are complex enough but they are really limited by just using metal instrumentation, particularly when they don't obey metal strictly. And I don't necessarily mean an orchestra — I mean clean guitars, or even effects on the distorted guitars — as right now it often ends up sounding like a wall of sound, with no relief from all the heaviness (translation? no clean parts in the whole album, period.) It really does need something to let go of all the aggression, at least once. Jazz fusion breakdowns would have worked greatly.

But really, Enter Insect Masterplan is a really good album. Especially if you're tired of nonsensical, devoid-of-atmosphere technical albums. As in, "We can play 200 notes a second!" metal. Here you can find actual songs, even if achieved by not so common ways. And if you understand a little bit about what Myopia are doing, you'll find it to be much more interesting than most of the so-called technical death metal acts. Myopia doesn't really sound like those. (7.4/10)

 

 

 

 
Bullshit/10 Jinn
 

VOLT - Rörhät - CD - Exile on Mainstream Records - 2007

review by: Saint Jinn

If riffs and songs had I.Q.s, Rörhät would be the short bus. It's impossible to fully describe this stillborn of a release by Volt, a "noise rock" band out of Germany, but what really takes the cake is how Exile on Mainstream Records claims how this is the next big mainstream thing and about how everyone has been talking about Volt and that you should watch out for bands like Jesus Lizard, Surgery and Melvins because apparently they're going to be stealing Volt's sound.

In reality, this album is downright atrocious. Take a retarded, disharmonized riff, and have it go over and over again to a bad drumbeat and a ridiculous yelling vocalist for around three minutes and you have a Volt song. It's now easy to see about the label forewarning about Volt's sound being ripped off: it's so easy to play and takes no musical talent whatsoever! This is like screamo for retards, or for people who think screamo is too hard to play but still want to suck in a tremendous caliber.

For God's sake, please don't buy this album. I do not want there to be a fucking sophomore release from these idiots. (Bullshit/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Jinn
 

DUSTSUCKER - Jack Knife Rendezvous - CD - Limb Music Productions - 2006

review: Saint Jinn

It's hard to decide whether or not this album should be heralded as a great biker metal album or panned aside as a cheap rip off. It seems that this band would rather pretend that Motorhead doesn't exist and steal the foundation of their sound while effectively dumbing it down.

Jack Knife Rendezvous doesn't stand out on its own as anything special: the guitars are simple with chord progressions that alternate from the typical rolling to the sustained changes that are so common with biker metal. while the solos come across as overly flashy with no meat to back it up.

The rhythm section is extremely lazy, which hurts the overall energy throughout the album. The coup de grace is the lack of any musical direction? save for straight up Motorhead's arse. It's nice to see the biker metal genre thriving. It's not nice to see people clinging to one band's sound. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Jinn
 

GALAS, DAVID - The Cataclysm - CD - Vendlus - 2007

review by: Saint Jinn

Five years.

That's how long it took David Galas to complete his debut solo album, The Cataclysm. What a wait. What an amazing album. This is a masterpiece of dark rock spanning over an hour with every instrument, every mixing board, every production decision, and every mastering knob in the hands of David Galas. Each instrument works wonderfully with another, creating down tempo darkness that will seep into your senses and intoxicate every nerve.

Guitars are atmospheric but prominent, working well with the keyboard to create a world just begging for ethereal bass lines and sometimes simplistic, sometimes intricate drumming. Galas' vocals range from gothic baritones to offhanded choruses, to soothing, calming textures.

If the next David Galas album takes five more years to complete, I'm sure nobody will complain, but patiently wait, enjoy and most likely be distracted by the reformation of Galas' old band, Lycia. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Jinn
 

LONGING FOR DAWN - A Treacherous Ascension - CD - Grau - 2007

review by: Saint Jinn

In the world of funeral doom, many bands are simply composed of projects: one or two musicians working towards studio albums with very few opportunities to gig. Canadian quintet Longing for Dawn certainly is out of the ordinary in that respect, not only having a complete lineup, but the ability to play shows without the need to pay off a platoon of session musicians.

Longing For Dawn's sophomore release is a spectacular realm of atmosphere and mourning, consisting of four tracks averaging 12 minutes apiece. The same cold, unfeeling and decidedly raw guitars that have become a staple of the genre are genuinely present, spinning tales of loss in both cold distortion and warm, atmospheric cleans against a wall of keyboards while the bass looms ominously amid the sparse, conservative drums. All of this is bundled up around mournful growling full of emotion and acceptance.

Unfortunately, the songs can become boring due to their drawn out nature, which is easy to do within funeral doom. This album marks a great progression from a band that has amazing potential, although for most who don't understand the genre, it will sadly be overlooked. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Chaim
 

NIFLHEIM - Neurasthenie - CD - Sepulchral - 2006

review by: Chaim Drishner

Neurasthenie is barren and minimalist doom-paced black metal with a strong Burzum-esque affinity; a semi-clone who manifests its Burzum fetish in a rather impressive — and depressive — way.

Both the vocals — which are mostly processed — and the extremely sparse keys (and the way they are used and sound…) do bring into recollection Burzum's Filosofem album, sometimes to the verge of inconvenient feeling of plagiarism.

Neurasthenie’s tracks are highly monotonous, both in composition and drumming, in which case an adequate quality that only enhances the sorrowfulness and the tragedy-laden vibe this quality recording is crowded with.

An obscure and — yet again — minimalist packaging/artwork compliments the somber musical piece contained therein, a perfect co-relation between the sonic and the aesthetic aspects of the album.

A bleak — and to some extent, however to a lesser degree — also a unique experience in despair and depravity. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Chaim
 

SOMBRES FÔRETS - Quintessence - CD - Sepulchral - 2006

review by: Chaim Drishner

Quintessence is another offering from the same label that shares mutual aesthetical values with Niflheim's Neurasthenie. And yet again, one may find that same Burzum-worshipping qualities both in sound, style and pace, even though Quintessence does sound a tad more organic and "warm" in comparison to the aforementioned hollowness and emptiness contained within Neurasthenie (reviewed in this issue).

The drums are still synthetic sounding and almost pitifully weak; the pace is unsurprisingly completely monotonous, but that's actually a positive characteristic in that particular stylistic approach: It highlights the ambience, the hypnotic — if not the catatonic — value of the recording, a monotony that transcends the music into more "spiritual" realms.

The music tends to be sort of one-dimensional and lacks a certain depth in sound... what makes it look, or sound, in the mind's-eye like the embodiment of a shallow grave or sound like graveyard music: dry, barren, almost rotten.

If that's a good thing or bad, in the context of this album, or to what extent did the artist want to convey that sort of feeling or insight — is for each and every listener to decide. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Chaim
 

GOJIRA - From Mars to Sirius - CD - Listenable Records - 2006

review by: Chaim Drishner

Gojira belong to a family of bands who've adopted the sound of the post-metal "movement"; the new generation of musicians who try to offer novelty not in the form of new ideas, but in the guise of an alleged new sound.

Usually, I care not for those musicians who more often than not sound as if they are trying too hard to convey a brutal message that cannot be conveyed in the first place using that, well, sort of idiotic sound: An admixture of very joyous, industrial, thrashing, party-like guitars that offer nothing but mere juvenile, pointless enthusiasm. Welcome to the post-thrash era of the shiny, happy-people.

With this in mind, Gojira's From Mars to Sirius offers something different; blending post-thrash sound with an industrial tinge, they fuse the "new" sound with older death metal — almost "classic" — elements, and that blend makes that musical stew interesting and refreshing. This of course in itself is not enough, so they have added extremely tight and powerful drum work, a strong vocalist (mostly reminiscent of Devin Townsend's vocal approach on SYL and Physicist projects…) and a chunky production that empowers still the already energetic guitars.

Think of a Strapping Young Lad meets Nevermore meets melodic thrash/death metal hybrid of sorts. You know what I mean… If you are a fan of at least one of the aforementioned, get this album. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.9/10 for the music, 3/10 for the originality Chaim
 

ASUNDER - Works Will Come Undone - CD - Profound Lore Records - 2006

review by: Chaim Drishner

High expectations did this reviewer meet upon inserting the nicely packaged new Asunder into the CD player, bearing in mind the band's magnificent debut, A Clarion Call, and hoping Works Will Come Undone would be an evolution of that grand previous work, or at least up to par.

The reviewer was bitterly wrong; it is as if a whole new and completely different band has produced the sophomore album. This in itself is not a negative notion, however if it's being coupled with almost faceless music that any band — from My Dying Bride up to Anathema — in the realm of "classic" melodic doom/death with a violin or a cello, or any other string instrument for that matter (or without it) could have executed and sounded like, then there's a problem.

The problem is dual: This sort of I-wanna-be-so-much-like-My Dying Bride attitude is one major, annoying aspect of the doom sub-genre, leaving little to the imagination and yielding copycats upon copycats in abundance, each and every time. The other problem is that we're talking about Asunder here; an assembly of the most potent and articulated musical minds in the whole of the metal underground, under one roof.

Why have they decided to walk upon a path many had passed through, is a mystery. (6.9/10 for the music, 3/10 for originality and for the annoying and redundant 20 something minutes of drone in the end)

 

 

 

 
8.1/10 Ignacio
 

COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINERS, THE - Olidous Operettas - CD - Relapse Records - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

The County Medical Examiners' history is really fun to tell to friends. "Yeah, there's this band whose members are all doctors, and they are awesome." But anyway, it was probably too good to be true... and, actually, technically, it’s not. In fact, right now pretty much everyone accepts that The County Medical Examiners has at least one Exhumed member. Yes, Exhumed as in "the only truly original clone Exhumed" (or at least, as original as you can get).

Never mind all that. What we have here is a new album by the Carcass clone The County Medical Examiners! Oh, did I say clone? I meant carbon copy.

With no more introduction nonsense, I'll say it: Olidous Operettas is about as good as Carcass' own Necroticism. But right, sixteen years have passed (!) so we can't really say that this new album is groundbreaking. Or even original. And it certainly doesn't and won't have the same effect on death metal that Symphonies of Sickness had, like it or not. But for what it intends to be, Olidous Operettas sure packs a punch. As in, it has some of the best riffs heard on an old-school styled death metal album in quite a while.

Besides production (which is much, much better than it was back then for Carcass, thankfully), every single technical aspect you could ever think about has been masterfully copied for the album. Riff styles, vocals, leads, drumming. You could pretty much use any song in here as a bonus track for Necroticism and at least 50% of the listeners wouldn't notice. It is, however, compositionally sloppier and slower than their main influence, so if you're all for mad blastbeats, you won't be so happy about it.

But The County Medical Examiners hasn't really gone old or started sucking. It's seriously as good as their older releases were, if not more professional. And the better production certainly helps quite a bit.

If you're looking for something to stop your Carcass craving, go ahead. Otherwise, don't, as The County Medical Examiners is just that. (8.1/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Forensic Fugues and Medicolegal Medleys (issue No 12)  

 

 

 
4.9/10 Ignacio
 

DIAGNOSE: LEBENSGEFAHR - Transformalin - CD - Autopsy Kitchen - 2006

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

I know, I know, so called "real black metallers" (or however they want to call themselves) will call me an "emo fag" or something, but I'll be honest about it. I've always considered the Swedish Silencer an amazing band (the guys that put out Death - Pierce Me? Fuck, yeah! Count me in your emo fag club – Roberto). It doesn't have to do with the "our singer is crazy" gimmick (or not), or the fact that the vocals and lyrics are completely nonsensical. It actually had to do with the weird atmosphere that other suicidal black metal albums just can't create. That, and the fact that it was catchy, in a really particular way. But anyway, the thing about the vocalist being crazy was just an element, but it certainly made them stand out enough as to create some high expectancies for Diagnose: Lebensgefahr’s Transformalin, the new project by Nattramn, Silencer’s vocalist.

Diagnose: Lebensgefahr, sadly, doesn't really have anything in common with Silencer, except the crazy vocals. Yes, it's the single most psycho ambient album released in years, but it's just that: psycho. All the hype that was created around it proved to be nonsense, and most Silencer fans will be let down by this could-have-been-amazing album. And it's not lack of potential, as the atmosphere is definitely there if you pay attention... just that it's criminally underdeveloped.

Most of Transformalin could have worked, but as it's recorded, it's as simplistic as it gets. Most of the songs are just droning, somewhat distorted keyboards with some voices over them. And it's not often of the good kind, even if it has to be said that it works for two or three songs. Even so, the saddest part is actually the vocal work. It's unfitting and has absolutely nothing to do with what made Nattramn a (good or bad) reference point for suicidal black metal vocals. I mean, yes, they really ARE crazy, but they don't work. At all. Hell, they could have removed most of them to make Transformalin a much better album, instead of making you feel like you're listening to a bad Throbbing Gristle bootleg... or distorted recordings taken at a hospital.

Actually, there's not much to analyze (read: it's all the same), but just don't expect much more than about ten minutes of good music of it (precisely, most the first track and some other random segments) but nothing horribly bad. (4.9/10)

 

 

 

 
1.5/10 Chaim
 

AGRESSOR - Deathreat - CD - Season of Mist - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

According to Season of Mist, Deathreat marks Agressor's 20th anniversary, and the full retail version release of the album would be a CD and a DVD package that will contain a full live concert from 2002 and some bonus footage.

Other than Medieval Rites, the band's last full album, from the year 2000, there haven't been any noteworthy efforts this band should be remembered for, and that certainly includes Deathreat.

It is probably one of the most generically-sounding and generically-played album out there. Nothing here bears singularity, originality or creativity. It's all been-there-done-that approach from beginning to end; plain death/thrash metal with the most benign and boring riffs, dreadfully ridiculous and obsolete guitar solos, one dimensional semi-cookie monster vocals and brainless drum-work.

This album is indeed a death threat to anything creative and/or innovative within the metal underground. (1.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Rick
 

ARUM - Prelude to the Cataclysm - CD - Killzone Records - 2006

review by: Rick Luna

As the title depicts, this slab of darkened semi-melodic black metal ala Dissection serves as a teaser of their upcoming full length Occult Cataclysm. Being strictly limited, it’s highly recommended to those devout followers of the band. The rest should just skip this and perhaps their full length as well.

There are two tracks taken from their upcoming full length. The style’s very stale and on par to what you’d normally hear. Then again, what’s original in black metal nowadays? The Venom cover of "Cry Wolf" is slightly interesting. Also included is Arum’s debut music video, which is as boring as watching the California Raisins dance. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
2/10 Rick
 

BENEATH THE SKY - When Demons Do to Saints - CD - Victory Records - 2007

review by: Rick Luna

Victory Records seems to be on a roll here with a very one dimensional way of thinking. Hey, let’s all sign more bands doing the same goddamn thing as our current/previous roster.

Debut album or not, this is just (for a lack of better term) stupid. These current times should call for a change, musically. When Demons Do to Saints sounds dated as far as the whole metalcore trend is concerned. Commercialized hardcore-influenced metal should be kept to a bare minimum. Additional points are added for the quasi-death metal parts that makes this album cool for about 30 seconds. (2/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Rick
 

DEMONIC RESURRECTION - A Darkness Descends - CD - Demonstealer Records - 2005

review by: Rick Luna

Not good, fellas. There is little to appreciate on this little revelation that Demon Resurrection has created. India’s "Norwegian" answer to black metal would be best fitting, with little touches here and there. Heavily saturated with unadventurous synth notes/midi-keyboard madness, there’s just little room for the music to breathe.

The sparse female background vocals are a real ear splitter as well as the real singing used during various movements.

It definitely reeks of a carelessly planned effort better set on paper than actually played out. This darkness should stay well beneath the lines of the underground, better left to be found by those that would just eat anything evil up. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Rick
 

ACRID SEMBLANCE - From the Oblivion - CD - Demonstealer Records - 2006

review by: Rick Luna

Acrid Semblance is your standard fare melodic death metal loaded with fairly decent Bodom-esque melodies. "From the Oblivion" has the ideas, but better production could’ve really made this album shine.

Chocked full with good guitar licks, to the parts where the keyboards and strings just collide — it’s all there for the taking; however these melodies are easily forgettable. In addition, keys here are a really nice showcase of artistry, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

With that said, the major downfall that should’ve been greatly improved are the drastically dull vocals. They sound muffled from the rest of the scenery. "Mindwarp" parts "I" and "II" are the standout tracks and therefore the highlights of the album. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Rick
 

LOST EDEN - Cycle Repeats - CD - Candlelight Records - 2007

review by: Rick Luna

Sweden’s taste for melody has set the world ablaze and influenced countless incarnations of bands such as Soilwork, Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, and At the Gates. Most new bands have just gone to new levels and heights representing this sound, as is the case with Lost Eden. Just don’t look for anything groundbreaking.

Japan can do melodic music well, but these guys are still new and fresh with abounding ideas, techniques, and interpretations. However, they just might’ve missed their strong first strike here.

Cycle Repeats has more flare with a slightly hardcore appeal to its collage of sound, with hints of electronics to boot. The music justifies that, but doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Here’s how it goes down, Japan has its fair share of great bands such as Sorrow of Tranquillity and Holy Marsh, but when newcomers such as Lost Eden come out of nowhere, it just doesn’t topple the greats. The vocals are in a slight Speed Strid sense with some audible differences in tone while singing, however it all could use some redefining and fine tuning.

Lost Eden are the type of band that would need to try their absolute best to garner a nice fan base, and there’s the ability to do that in future releases. Cycle Repeats may have that tasteful charm, but it doesn’t really stand its ground. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Rick
 

MASTERPLAN - MKII - CD - Candlelight Records - 2007

review by: Rick Luna

How these mighty giants have fallen off their high horse. MKII features a new vocalist and drummer. Just don’t look to get your kicks on though, because this is a slight disappointment, but Masterplan still delivers reasonably well.

The music here is wonderfully constructed and is in every way fascinating and intriguing to listen to. A melodic journey from beginning to end filled with excitement. With this said, it’s the singing that has no ability to grab the music by the reins and make it deliver as a stand out metal performance.

It’s still good, though, and a few listens might just make MKII a definite grower, but don’t expect this album to reach to the top of people’s best-of-2007 lists. (6.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Masterplan (issue No 12)  

 

 

 
8.5/10 Rick
 

MENDEED - The Dead Live by Love - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2007

review by: Rick Luna

If there’s anything that you should look out for in the near future, it should be Mendeed. The Dead Live by Love is full-on-speed / balls-to-the-wall supersonic metal at its prime.

It’s got speed metal mixed with superb power and velocity with plenty of transitions within their compositions. It’s forceful enough to have brutality slap you in the face a couple of times. Blast beat rumblings and fast double pounding madness mixed with great soloing and some bright guitar wizardry can be found here. Yet, the softer singing parts could be as pleasant and complimentary as a kiss. The mix of the two just put out a great effort in the end. Their message stands out as loud, clear and palatable. A must listen! (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Rick
 

THRONE OF STONE - Where Is Your Savior Now? - CD - myspace.com/throneofstone - 2006

review by: Rick Luna

With intent to play something that would separate them from the norm, Throne of Stone is moderately successful on Where Is Your Savior Now? In a nutshell, it’s a linear, thrashed out style of death metal with a lot of atmospheric keyboards. This demo is just a taste of what can be done with a band with their minds in the right direction.

As far as this demo goes, Throne of Stone aren’t entirely different from what everyone else is playing. However, that’s all of the criticism worth really saying, as there’s quite a bit to enjoy here. I could take out inspiration from locals such as Drawn and Quartered to as other bands like Nile and Bathory. The music flows very nicely.

There’s potential here, and the intertwining of aesthetics with the overall tone of the music is a good combination, no doubt about it. It’s hard to really separate them from the rest, yet it’s still good. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Avi
 

GEISHA NO - Idle Words - CD - Earsay Records - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

Geisha No is yet another Israeli alternative rock band that aims for international recognition. This debut is a unified set of grey songs; songs that curtains waggery with a heavy, vigorous performance.

The opening "Kitchen" has a grunge flavored edge, but it is the second song, "Obvious Inc." that sets you in the heart of the ominous vortex that dominates the album further on. The band’s wall of sound is powerful yet well confined, keeping the melodies and subtleties intact.

But Geisha No is not really harmful as its sound suggests. The press release informs us that one member of the trio builds guitar effects, and some of these unusual effects, as well as an electronica vibe, can in fact be heard all over: on top of the distortion, whistling side by side with the melody or as a part of the shoegazing trance. These effects are instrumental to the band’s unique sound, adding the appropriate color to the mischievous, gloom wrapped songs.

The tension between the band’s nervousness and its playfulness (also suggested by the album’s artwork) can be a bit irritating at first, but it is also a feature that sets this indie band apart from many of its contemporaries. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Alisa
 

BERZERKER, THE - Animosity - CD - Earache Records - 2007

review by: Alisa Z

Just moments after the beginning of The Berzerker’s Animosity, you cannot help but wonder what the hell this is! The multiform, heteroclite sound is bound to stand out from the ocean of more traditional grindcore and death metal bands. The industrial sound that envelops the entire record does not debilitate the raw energy that is spun by the music, as can be the case sometimes. Instead, it reinforces and oscillates it into a remorseless pandemonium.

"Eye For an Eye" features a coil of speeds that interweave and intermingle within themselves, accompanied by a brutality that transforms into a sonic boom. What is particularly charming about the record is that just as the listener is about to sigh and say, "this is just another one of those bands," the sound rips out every notion of banality that has entered the listener's head.

"False Hope" commences with a compressed musical bomb that explodes in about 30 seconds and continues to rupture just until the end. Although programmed drums are frowned upon most of the time, one cannot imagine the sheer terrorism that is exhumed throughout Animosity. In "Retribution," there is a level of malevolent coherence between the drumming, the stinging guitars, and Luke Kenny's fierce vocals.

One of Australia's most acrid musical butchers, The Berzerker stand as pioneers within the extreme metal community. If the sound is not enough to lull you into a savage nightmare, then one look at the album artwork is surely to incite this. (7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Berzerker (issue No 1)  

 

 

 
6/10 Avi
 

AFTER THE FIRE - AT2F - CD - Angel Air Records - 2006

review by: Avi Shaked

AT2F unveils, for the first time, the 1982 recordings After the Fire did for a shelved fourth album (the band split up in 1983). Since the material has never passed the demo stage, the sound quality is a bit shaky, and the overdubbed, at times hesitative vocals are not a perfect fit.

However, pop-rock fans who will go deeper under the raw surface will find it worthwhile, as these are not under-baked demos! The accessible, mid-tempo yet energetic songs are drenched with new wave aspirations, and offer straightforward, clever lyrics, sounding like a blend of The Alan Parsons Project, Manfred Mann and Van Halen, only with the primeval rock and roll feel enhanced. The multiple, simultaneous vocal lines that are featured on nearly all of the tracks contribute to the liveliness of the songs.

The performance (other than the aforementioned vocals creaks) is tight, and the musicianship is commendable. These four guys were all talented players, and those of you who can enjoy simple rock songs will be able to appreciate the spread-out, futuristic and pivotal keyboard work, the fantastic drum fills ("Cariba," "Genz") and the robust, dominant bass (the bass line on "Who Do You Think You?" is so hot!). (6/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Avi
 

JENNIFER ECHO, THE - Be Dangerous on Rock Guitar - CD - Jumping Jupiter Records - 2006

review by: Avi Shaked

The Jennifer Echo’s Be Dangerous on Rock Guitar has a good humored artwork theme, which can be summed by quoting: "The purpose of this album is to expose the inner fiber of modern rock guitar." But the four-song debut E.P. by this Portland band is far from living up to its artwork promise, as the band’s power pop attack might confuse the casual listener with a poor perception of what’s "modern," and make the more experienced one laugh at the (possibly unintended) joke.

Modernism aside, though, The Jennifer Echo is a most standard rock band in the vein of Foo Fighters. The songs are easy and easily disposable, relying on light distortion and an upbeat tempo. The melodies, which are an important and distinguishing ingredient of the genre, are neither really impressing nor ultra catchy. (3/10)

P.S. The Jennifer Echo announced its disbandment last month. If you do insist on getting this release, check out their Myspace webpage, as the band is giving away free copies.

 

 

 

 
6.9/10 Jeremy
 

BLOOD TSUNAMI - Thrash Metal - CD - Nocturnal Art - 2007

review by: Jeremy Beals

What happens when you throw in a dash of Kreator, a pinch Destruction and a moderate dose of Testament (specifically songs like "Into the Pit" ala The New Order et al.)? After releasing two demo’s, Blood Tsunami release their first full length Thrash Metal, which contains about 40+ minutes of strong thrash with influences that obviously run across the gamut.

Influences aside though, Thrash Metal carves its own path by creating riff-tastic song structures that easily capture any metalheads attention. From the chug-a-long riffage of Infernal Final Carnage to the slow paced ten minute magnum opus that is Godbeater, one can only notice that the band definitely has potential to build upon for future releases. Many songs contain the "variation of a theme" riffing style; although this usually doesn’t work so well (and makes for a boring listening experience), Blood Tsunami pull it off successfully and with ease. The only thing to complain about with the album is the vocalist; although Pete Evil has a good voice that fits the music, it is hard to clearly make out anything he is saying.

Many may give this band attention due to the notoriety of certain band members, but don’t be fooled – the sum of the whole is far more than the individual parts. This album has some strong leads, and an addictive composition that will keep you coming back for more. And with an album cover that looks like it could have been pulled straight from Manowar, what’s not to love? (6.9/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

DYING FETUS - War of Attrition - CD - Relapse Records - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Despite War of Attrition being more of the same, when one’s talking about a death metal front-runner like Dying Fetus, it’s still smooth sailing.

You might have heard this record twice before... Destroy the Opposition and Stop at Nothing. If you want to split hairs, you could probably find that War of Attrition has Dying Fetus’ best sound production to date, although you could just as easily make a case that it might be just a little too polished.

But fear not, Dying Fetus fans, all the elements that you love about this band are still there. The trademark whinnying arpeggios, the occasional semi-melodic riffs, the tried-and-true rhythmic shifts that always maintain the brutality, and the mandatory bursts of tightly packed guitar and drum runs make this immediately recognizable as Dying Fetus. The one thing that is noticeably improved are the vocals, which in the past have more often than not been fairly comical. They’re pretty much the same style, but at least John Gallagher doesn’t sound like he’s saying "poh poh poh poh poh" all the time.

War of Attrition may not have the impact that Destroy the Opposition or Killing on Adrenaline had. The songs here either lack the unique hook that previous records’ have, or it’s the same hooks you’ve heard done a lot. Still, if you like Dying Fetus, or death metal in general, this is pretty much a lock for some money well spent. (8/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Destroy the Opposition (issue No 3)  
Stop at Nothing (issue No 14)  

 

 

 
10/10 Ryan
 

LIGHT OF SHIPWRECK - From the Idle Cylinders - CD - Gears of Sand - 2007

review by: Ryan Loostrom

One thing that music has over most forms of art is the ability to draw images with nothing tangible at all. Its versatility to accomplish that is almost unrivaled, as long as it has the right songwriter or mastermind. Light of Shipwreck are audible proof.

<From the Idle Cylinders> is beyond simple soundscapes. This one-man ambient drone project succeeds in evoking some of the wildest images that few drone bands can accomplish. Imagine Byla on a more darkened note and you've got Light of Shipwreck. The album is only three songs, but it's the travel channel of the psycho. Wailing walls of reverberating feedback layer on top of psychedelic and repetitive rhythms. You can fintly hear the thunderous roars of guitars sounding somewhere off in the distance, echoing quietly one moment, and the next, the storm is upon you. Violent flashes of feedback and deep, churning distortion bellow angrily.

Then, you hear the silence of night interrupted as the sun rises on a barren desert, the bright light painting the dunes an orange hue obscured by walls and sheets of sand blasting in no particular direction. From afar, such turbulence seems beautiful, but extremely trying and testing. Akin to monks that shut themselves off from any sort of contact for years to unlock metaphysical powers of the mind, that's what you hear --- supreme isolation forcing a pristine mentality. The dry and lonely exile that hints at a human ability to search itself rather than everything else.

That's essentially how this album operates. The droning ambience shifts and changes your mood, manipulating what your eyes see and what your mind sees. You'll soon find it hard to control which when immersed in this powerful and rich music. (10/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Brandon
 

LIGHTNING - Filthy Human Beings - CD - Xtreem Music - 2007

review by: Brandon Strader

Too bad that Lightning doesn't stand up to the material that their label mates Unreal Overflows put out recently. The experimentation just isn't there, and the band basically plays a monotonous form of death metal.

"Predatory Gaze" is a pretty basic song. The guitarists simply play a line of the same quick note on their twangy guitars. Vocalist Carlos Enriquez chunks out grunt after grunt of seemingly processed vocals that sound like they've got some kind of vague flanger-type effect on them. He basically rotates between this, and a more distant, lo-fi type of distorted effect.

The music as a whole is very unremarkable. The solo featured in almost every song is the only thing that really displays something noteworthy. The song structure throughout is pretty weak, and is like a really basic thrash with growls over it.

In songs like "Dried Eyes," Lightning attempt to branch out into some more experimental stuff, yet only briefly. Too little, too late! The rhythms are repetitious in an almost hypnotic manner. There's not much to latch onto with Filthy Human Beings. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Ryan
 

BROVOLD, BILL AND LARVAL - Alive Why? / Surviving Death - CD - Cuneiform Records - 2007

review by: Ryan Loostrom

Leave it to Cuneiform records to find a band that takes experimental music and push it so far off the map that it seems natural and somewhat scary. Bill Brovold and Larval's is music that challenges several rhythmic and melodic precedents that it often times sounds like the deformed hunchback that got all the chicks, know what I mean?

Alive Why? / Surviving Death is a dual album with a massive underlying groove that's buried in a heavy coat of avant-garde rock, bringing to mind a rockier version of Keelhaul. "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back" introduces you to Zorn-like experimentations on sax and trumpet, while the guitar mutters around before sliding into an eerie, Holdsworth-esque solo on violin. Very unsettling. After two minutes, it grows into an extremely catchy and somewhat demented groove that will set a head or two in motion, and raise many more eyebrows. Then, "Childish Delusions" gives way to a very vivacious and frolicsome groove atop an awkward violin melody.

Surviving Death is more of the same, but as the name entails, it's a little more on the darker side than Alive Why? "Scottish Blood" is representative of the group on a more sombre note. An entrancing piano melody slowly rings as a slow, Pink Floyd-esque drum groove slowly trods along. "It was a Puny Plan" has an extremely goofy sax harmony over a pulsing and funky rhythm that breaks every few notes to elaborate on a more introspective side of the group. You pretty much get the picture here; this album could double for the soundtrack to "Waking Life."

Alive Why? / Surviving Death is an experimental masterpiece. Bill Brovold and Larval aren't playing experimental to be experimental, they're playing it because it's natural to them. Although fans of anything Tzadik are going to dig this, it's definitely not for everyone. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Ryan
 

CAR BOMB - Centralia - CD - Relapse Records - 2007

review by: Ryan Loostrom

When Dillinger Escape Plan released Calculating Infinity, it sent shockwaves through the hardcore community. Jazz fusion had been done before, but there had rarely been such a successful structural integration. Naturally, as soon as that album was released, myriads of bands began to re-record Calculating Infinity. Some good, some bad, but it was pretty much the same thing over and over again. Wit is only witty when it's in moderation, y'know?

Centralia by Car Bomb is completely re-writing the book on jazz fusion. This isn't Calculating Infinity by miles, but it's still the same perplexing mathematical attack and extremely intelligent structuring that made Calculating Infinity so fantastic to begin with. Centralia is fucking heavy in the most complex way possible. There is a complete void of melody on this album. It's closer to the recording of the gears and cogs in a machine. It's chaotic and unbridled sounding, but the amount of control is insane. There is not one note out of place, no ambient guitar technique unwarranted. The jazzier elements are all trapped inside time signatures and guitar histrionics, so it's going to take a more initiated set of ears to get the fullest effect of this album.

However, aside from the extremely complex nature of this album, it's not going to take the average metalhead long to become entrapped in how unrelenting this album is. It shares moments of off-kilter, Meshuggah-style trudging riffs with insane instrumental sections that don't sound out of place on Ion Dissonance recordings.

Centralia is a fantastic album from a fledgling band with well-versed musicians, and it hints at a very bright future for Car Bomb. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
2/10 Jeremy
 

EMMURE - Goodbye to the Gallows - CD - Victory Records - 2007

review by: Jeremy Beals

Once in a while, there comes an album that is held in such high regard by the community that it is eventually considered one of the classic masterpieces of musical history; Emmure’s Goodbye to the Gallows will, fortunately, never be compared to these memorable gems.

This may be an assholish thing to say, but in an oversaturated market where labels peddle anything that can make a buck, it needs to be mentioned. Emmure’s label states that this is "the heaviest album of 2007," and I must agree, the album puts a terrible burden on the shoulders of those who have morals about lying in a review.

The first thing one will notice on this disk is that the production is thick with a little bit of noise added around the edges, which gives it a very enjoyable ambiance. Another perk is that the instrumentation is clearly audible; the dominant tools in the mix are the guitars and vocals, followed closely by the drums (sorry, bass, you’re inaudible once again).

Unfortunately, although the production values are enjoyable, the album as a whole isn’t. Almost every song is entirely composed of sections that are nothing more than extended breakdowns, usually lasting an average of three minutes… minimum. The problem with this is that the album shows no progression from the band's first track to the last track, as each song has little or no contrast to help distinguish itself from the rest of the album; needless to say, this ultimately makes for one incredibly boring listen.

Another problem deals with the vocals, as not everyone enjoys the type of style employed here. Metalcore has been very fond of the shouted hardcore-esque vocals that walk a fine line between being annoying and bellicose. Emmure carries on this tradition, but adds a slight twist to it every now and then: a raspy shout with a phlegm-like accent that ultimately highlights parts of the album by simply deviating from their normal approach to songwriting.

There are good parts to the album, and there are bad parts, but in all honesty, it would be wise for the band to take a breather (a sad thing to say for a debut album) and try to be a little more… original; maybe take a few composition classes, and a poetry class or two to get rid of the hackneyed song titles and lyrics (ex: Track 5 — "You Got a Henna Tattoo that Said ‘Forever’").

No one will find anything here that hasn’t been recycled by every other metalcore bands previous releases, so unless you’re a fan, you might as well skip this one and let the world forget it was ever recorded. (2/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Ryan
 

FORGET CASSETTES - Salt - CD - Tangled Up - 2007

review by: Ryan Loostrom

Promo sheets are either spot-on or complete bollocks. For instance, Forget Cassettes' sheet says that it's impossible to pigeon-hole or label them. Tch. Yes, you can. They sound like they belong on Neurot Recordings.

Wait.

Currently touring with ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Forget Cassettes is not only sporting a much more applicable and... short name, but the music's badass as well. Okay, it's almost beyond badass. Frontwoman Beth Cameron has crafted an album that will please not only fans of indie, but fans of Neurot Recordings material as well. Recalling a mixture of Bee and Flower or Battle of Mice with a dash of vengeance and pressing blend, Salt is an album that has a number of strengths. Not only does Beth Cameron have one of the most angelic and potentially vindictive voices in rock, but her ability to craft such emotionally powerful songs and lyrics is uncanny. Her writing can range from the somber to the intense and hateful, drawing from bands like Modest Mouse, ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, and Incubus at points.

Take track three, "The Catch," for instance. There's a hateful overtone that Cameron elaborates on: "Our house is underwater at the fault of the government. They raised the point: This city is a bad lover, too quick and inattentive. Let's sink it and build ourselves over." Of course, that doesn't mean Forget Cassettes are devoid of songs of heartbreak like "My Maraschino," which is pretty much shoegaze with a rhythmic pulse. The lyrics are hurtful, and the music is downtrodden to match.

Beth Cameron and company have created a fantastic album that should take the indie world by storm. Excellent album for fans of Modest Mouse, ...Trail of the Dead, or hell, pretty much everyone. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
1/10 Brandon
 

FREYA - Lift the Curse - CD - Victory Records - 2007

review by: Brandon Strader

In a world where metalcore reigns as the most profitable metal genre, there are many front-runners, and exponentially more half-assed projects that rightfully shouldn't be. Freya is one of those projects.

The songs are short at an average of two minutes in length. The work as a whole amounts to 29 minutes. The vocals consistent of your typical incoherent shouts, and the occasional string of lower-grunts that are actually pretty decent. The guitar work is excessively simple. They basically perform the same open-6th-string hammer-on fest that everyone else is doing these days without anything else too interesting or challenging.

Freya lacks the speed and proficiency of their more successful counterparts. They also lack charisma, and even the artwork for Lift the Curse is dull and unimaginative. Also, no guitar solos or leads. No keyboards, synths, electronics, etc... There's a very small amount of melody to be heard. Simple guitar powerchords, and shouting vocals is what you get.

This CD embodies everything that is wrong in the metalcore scene now, and the more mainstream side of metal in general. It sounds like a product that was quickly put together for a profitable cause without any originality whatsoever, and no redeeming qualities. (1/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Brandon
 

LANE, LANA - Gemini - CD - Think Tank Media - 2006

review by: Brandon Strader

Lana Lane. The name may sound familiar if you've heard Ayreon, Rocket Scientists, or stuff by Erik Nolander -- who she just happens to be married to. She's released a ton of stuff from 1995's Love Is An Illusion, to this brand new album, Gemini. Well... new?

Sort of. It's a cover album that holds a bunch of memorable songs from the '70s. Gemini is one of those albums you listen to with your children, and you talk about all those memories from the period when each of these songs came out, and your kid thinks to him/herself, "Jeez... mom is such a dork."

Yes, yes, you'll hear stuff by Cream, Heart, Foreigner, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, and The Moody Blues. Well... they may not be the most well-known songs, after all. I can only assume that the covers are true to the originals, as that was way before my time as well.

Lane's voice is often very strong and rough, and doesn't always fit in with the music. She does have very impressive pipes, and can really belt out the high notes. Actually, she belts out pretty much every note. Her performance has a lot of gusto, and her vocal presence is almost manly. The band does a pretty swell job with these older tunes, and seem like they've got a lot of experience playing older-style rock 'n' roll.

Overall, it's a pretty nice collection of covers. I'd have to say if you're a fan of the original songs, you will most likely enjoy these new reworked versions of them. Fun for the whole family, really. "White Rabbit" was always a favorite. Feed your head. (7.5/10)

 

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Project Shangri La (issue No 9)  

 

 

 
8.5/10 Ryan
 

LESBIAN - Power Hor - CD - Holy Mountain - 2007

review by: Ryan Loostrom

What a ridiculous name for a group. Lesbian? Nevermind the bollocks excuse the promo sheet gives, certain names are just too silly, and that's too bad, because the music is excellent.

Lesbian combine main elements of black metal and '70s-style stoner rock, but beyond that, Power Hor has several traits of varying styles of music in general. There are sections of the first song, "Black Forest Hamm," that sounds like Metallica, and other passages where they sound like Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Mogwai.

However, the band don't call themselves blackened doom, they call themselves the first band of the "New Wave of American Psychedelic Metal." While it may sound odd, by the time the second track begins, you can hear a sound that owes more to Neurosis and Black Sabbath than Emperor or Drudkh. A very sombre and melodic passage with an ambient backdrop plays in reverse for the first few minutes, until the band break out into a garage-y jam at which they start to manifest soundscapes of a wild variety, specifically from the aquatic to the barren. When the electric guitar actually goes electric, the song accepts a middle-eastern motif that's very well suited.

While "New Wave of American Psychedelic Metal" doesn't seem like a name to stick, it's more than likely Lesbian have found a very comfortable niche for themselves producing such an eclectic sound firmly rooted in rich songwriting savvy. It's nowhere near as evil as it is expansive, so grab your bong and be prepared to travel for miles and miles. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Ryan
 

MINSK - The Ritual Fires of Abandonment - CD - Relapse Records - 2007

review by: Ryan Loostrom

Minsk's debut, From a Center Which Is Neither Dead Nor Alive, was a fantastic debut, and immediately shed some light on a wonderful, fledgling doom group. Minsk returns with The Ritual Fires of Abandonment to prove that not only are they not a single-release wonder, but that they can evolve.

Their debut was noisy and at some points, sounded unfocused and relatively drawn-out, even for doom. Some of the themes and ideas in that album were remarkable, but lacked the development to fully take form. Now, they have the experience of having an album underneath them, as well as the backing of Relapse. Whereas the often times extremely furious rhythms would convulse back and forth, Minsk have opted to take a much more textured and psychedelic approach this time around. The tribal ambiance and drumming is ever present, but the feedback and distortion breeds way to hushed textures and layers of noise. Feverish rhythms pound whenever Minsk show their teeth, and tribal structure rhythms encompass every second they offer you to breathe. At some points, their music even wanders in shoegazing territories, such as the middle of the second track, "White Wings." A reverb is put on the vocals and guitar to produce a very downtrodden melody.

The Ritual Fires of Abandonment is much, much more pronounced than Minsk's debut, which was already one of the top albums of that year. What does that tell you? (9/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Brandon
 

MORS PRINCIPIUM EST - Liberation=Termination - CD - Listenable Records - 2007

review by: Brandon Strader

Here's some fantastic Gothenburg stuff. You know, after you've heard the likes of Dark Tranquillity, The Haunted, whatever — you may have thought you'd heard the best modern Gothenburg had to offer. Mors Principium Est does Gothenburg with immense skill and personality, and rends the genre incapacitated with their awesomeness. It may take a while for you to get into at first, but the songs are so addictive and enjoyable, it's well worth the effort.

"The Oppressed Will Rise" is a good opening track for sure, but the real power of the band starts on the third track, "The Animal Within," and lasts until about the fifth track, "Cleansing Rain." These guys have the perfect level of natural and harmonic minor scales in their songs, and are able to mix their brutal arrangements with melody so that there is always something interested to be heard. There's always a catchy melody, though it may be disguised as a fast, brutal progression hidden under the umbrella of blastbeats and double-bass that fit so well with each riff and vocal performance — it's like Satan himself pointed his grisly yellow fingernail at this album and said, "let it be done."

The arrangements are top-notch, and the guitar work took a ton of effort. The guitarists play like experts as they unfold sweeps, shreds, and hammer-ons with incredible musicianship. In short, it's worth the purchase, and also worth the damage to your ear drum. Mors Principium Est are simply incredible. (9/10)

 

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5.9/10 Jeremy
 

OMNIUM GATHERUM - Stuck Here on Snakes Way - CD - Candlelight Records - 2007

review by: Jeremy Beals

First things first, it would be foolish to say that these musicians could not handle their own instruments. The musicianship is solid, and as far as melodic death metal is concerned, these guys know how to compose a song or two. Stuck Here on Snakes Way‘s style is reminiscent of a Dark Tranquillity/Insomnium hybrid with more of a thrashy element to the guitar riffs.

Synths are strong in the mix, but are used in such a way that, instead of being dominating, they tend to mollify the guitars; this helps shift aggressive verses into clean, laid-back passages with relative ease in some songs; but other times it is rather abrupt. More often then not though, the synths occupy the background to let the rest of the instruments shine.

Overall, the album certainly has its unique aspects; unfortunately, many fans will believe that Stuck Here on Snakes Way still does not compare with Omnium Gatherum’s first and "best" release. However, what you will find here is decent melodeath that, although doesn’t break any new ground, keeps the listener occupied most of the time with decent melodies, "in your face" growled vocals, and capable guitarwork.

Hey, at least it kicks the shit out of In Flames (5.9/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Steal the Light (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
9/10 Ryan
 

ORTHODOX - Gran Poder - CD - Southern Lord - 2007

review by: Ryan Loostrom

You gotta hand it to Southern Lord records, man. Few labels not only go to such worldwide lengths to find bands, as well as nurture their creative spirit. Beyond that, there's rarely a bad release. At any rate, the newest addition to Southern Lord's heavy and droning regime is Orthodox, a group of Spaniards who'll be making a very big name for themselves in the years to come.

Gran Poder, Orthodox's debut, is an excellent and worthy release for a myriad of reasons. Heavily influenced by Pink Floyd, Earth and Sleep, this album is a very potent mixture of psychedelics, sludge and atmosphere. Their heavy and monstrous tone breeds a very fuzzed out and trippy sound that's just as expansive as it is brooding. The first track, "Geryon's Throne," opens with a very ominous and foreboding, minimalist rhythm that steadily swaggers along, giving way to a plethora of feedback and distortive chaos in the latter minutes of the song.

What sets this album and band apart from most is their ability to pull such textured and defined atmospheres out of feedback. The sparse cymbals layer waves and waves of distortion, growing ever more intense by the second until it becomes an all-out war rhythm as the layers of feedback become constricting and maddening.

Not only are Orthodox such apt mood-makers, they do it without adhering to any sort of formula, recalling to mind stoner / doom titans Yob on Gran Poder's second track, "Arrodillate Ante La Madera Y La Piedra." Starting strong with very intense and chaotic drumming, as well as a fuzzed-out bassline and ridiculously detuned guitars, the band quickly (well, about as quick as any sort of doom is) manages to create an expansive atmosphere as minimalist guitar lines hearken to such groups like Minsk for the ability to evoke such a barren feel. As the vocalist sings his lyrics of religious folklore over water effects, an off-kilter guitar harmony adds to the structure-less and chaotic feel.

Included in the American / Southern Lord release is a cover of "Genocide" by Venom. An excellent cover, but it feels out of place with the mood of the album, which in the end is going to be what sells it. Orthodox are an extremely talented band, and once fans of SunnO))), Boris, Sleep, Earth, Grief, Minsk and Neurosis get wind of this, Orthodox is going to catch ears in waves. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Brandon
 

PAGANIZE - Evilution Hour - CD - Candlelight Records - 2007

review by: Brandon Strader

Paganize is finally releasing their first album after two demo releases. The major selling point of Evilution Hour is the fact that Trym (of Emperor fame) is handling the percussive duties in the band. Geir Helge Fredheim of Winterstrain is handling the vocals, and apart from the guitar track in each channel, and the percussion and bass in the center, that is all you'll really be focusing on. There are no keyboards; this is just all balls-out, traditional heavy metal.

Fredheim has a very sharp tone to his vocal edge that sets his vibrato above the crispy presence of the guitars, and works extremely well within the music. The overall flow of the music is a bit more loose, and even feels a bit funky at times. In the song "Conscience," Paganize break into a solo progression mid-way through that leans slightly in a groovy manner while a nice blues solo is laid on top.

Although the entire concept behind the album and the presentation is very exciting, Evilution Hour has its faults. The traditional vibes are great; that's not where they fell short. The guitar riffs are too generic a lot of the time. Of course, the band has chosen a traditional style — you will have heard stuff like this many times before — but still, Paganize could have done more to create a better rhythm section.

Still, Paganize's debut is good. And for fans of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio, etc etc... you may find great joy with Evilution Hour. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Ryan
 

PROJECT CREATION - The Floating World - CD - Progrock Records - 2006

review by: Ryan Loostrom

Whenever person A hears "progressive" anything, they automatically blow a load over Dream Theater, ignoring fantastic bands like Linear Sphere, Ayreon, and now, Project Creation as well.

The Floating World is a concept album about, you guessed it, a floating world! Even though it sounds kind of strange, it's got a very twilight zone motif. The floating world is apparently a nation of free people traveling through space who happen upon a dead and deserted world with strange gardens. It turns out, this world is Earth. Damn you, Al Gore!

There's no real need to worry if the concept sounds too "Planet of the Apes"-ish, because the music is fantastic. The orchestration is extremely involved and detailed. Instruments layer and cascade over each other, producing other-worldly textures. While Hugo Flores and Carlos Mateus might not be next in line to Vai or Petrucci, their chops on guitar are more than suited to tackle the technicality needed to play this sort of music.

The music also seems to connect to the central theme, being very spacey and pristine with fantastic piano and flute sequences.

The Floating World is an album that should please most prog rock and metal fans. While it's certainly not the greatest thing to grace progressive music, it's definitely a very viable alternative to the standard stuff like Dream Theater. For fans of Inside Out records stuff, definitely. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7.2/10 Jeremy
 

STONE, THE - Magla - CD - Folter - 2007

review by: Jeremy Beals

What does the logo say? The Stgne? The Sagne? Aside from the aesthetically displeasing logo, The Stone, hailing from Serbia, offers a well crafted black metal album with Magla.

The overall experience of the music is that of a calculated arrangement that gives the visualization of a wild journey that is dark and methodical, full of chaotic overtones sounding of a people seeped in trauma, and ultimately, exhaustion.

There are some differing characteristics with this album when compared to most other black metal releases: For one, the drumming is a little atypical, as Magla does not just contain blast beats and double bass (as with most other bands in an oversaturated market). Sure, both techniques are used, but they are only used to distinguish the isochronal guitars while maintaining the overall tempo of each track.

The production quality is muffled, which fits the overall mood considerably; if you’re new to the genre, this album will take very little time to get used to as it is surprisingly accessible in terms of sound quality and band performance. First time listeners of The Stone will definitely think that they have heard this before – but don’t fret, what is presented here is original, enjoyable, and engrossing, so be sure to take a listen when the opportunity arises. (7.2/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Jeremy
 

SUPER GEEK LEAGUE - Peppermint Rainbows - CD - Indie - 2007

review by: Jeremy Beals

If Aqua Teen Hunger Force had a band, this would probably be it. Too bad Satan (who likes speed metal, FYI.) wouldn’t touch it with Eddie Munster’s three-foot dick.

Super Geek League’s Peppermint Rainbows combines rock, pop, punk, and a slew of other genres into one ungodly 50-minute CD that actually has to be experienced to be believed.

To start off, the guitar structures and drum patterns are relatively simple most of the time, although each track is diverse in its instrumentation and unique in its own right.

The vocals, on the other hand, are spastic and switch to a variety of styles at a consistent rate, the prime example being the opening track "Ray and Stan." What stands out most of all, though, are the lyrics; they are damn bizarre, so bizarre in fact that if you don’t have a lyrics sheet (or understand the band’s concept) you will become cockeyed in a matter of seconds.

The music, though, is only the half of it, and is (apparently) to be taken as an accompaniment to the ideology behind the band’s concept: an expression of your fantasies made manifest as a comic book character (yes, a comic book character) and then animated at live shows. Although odd to say the least (and a bit innovative), the band definitely gains some points for their implementation of combining their stage theatrics with lyrical concepts — but it must be mentioned, GWAR did it first, and did it best.

This was made for those who like poppy, wacky feeling albums that conceptually make little or no sense at all outside of the bigger picture. If punk, rock, indie or other genres similar to this float your boat, you might want to give this a try, as there is one good point to the album (the song "Jesus in Clown Shoes"); most though will want to steer clear of this. After all, there’s no real point in walking down a dark alley at night when you don’t have too, is there? (3/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Ryan
 

ZATOKREV - Bury the Ashes - CD - Firebox Records - 2007

review by: Ryan Loostrom

With all the popular doom and sludge metal has been garnering after bands like Yob, SunnO))), Crowbar and Neurosis have delivered it, the influx of bands receiving the influence is bound to yield some mediocre and lackluster releases.

Pity to say, that's where Zatokrev's "Bury the Ashes" is falling. The promo sheet says that their influence ranges from Neurosis to Burning Witch and My Dying Bride. While there's no doubt that you can hear the influence, the songs on this album are just not anything special at all. It's an

average disc with average songwriting and average musicianship that will pretty much in the end make you want to listen to Neurosis. Or Burning Witch. Or My Dying Bride. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Ryan
 

ZOZOBRA - Harmonic Tremors - CD - Hydrahead Records - 2007

review by: Ryan Loostrom

The work of Caleb Scofield is not under-appreciated around the cult circles of metal and hardcore. Best known for his work in Cave-In and Old Man Gloon, Zozobra is his brainchild. While, Stephen Brodsky's Octave Museum explained where the '70s style rock experimentation came from with Cave-In, Zozobra easily reveals where the metal and hardcore riffs come from.

Scofield's monster vocal work and spacey riffs have been a staple of Cave-In for years, so it's good to see him showing his teeth with his own material, and while it's definitely not Cave-In, there's still a whole hell of a lot of Cave-In in Zozobra. The riffs are heavy and brooding, complete with rhythmic stomps and slow, burning tempos a la Godflesh.

The music has the same Cave-In style of being relatively unpredictable. Whereas you can usually trace riffs and melodies with certain bands, Zozobra will leave you no hope at all. Even when the album slows down, it still manages to keep a fairly alien and obtuse sense of melody.

A must-have in the end for fans of anything Cave-In, and while nothing redefining, not an album you'll go wrong with anytime soon. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
1/10 Chaim
 

UNATURAL DESASTER - Violent Fate - CD - Hell on Earth Records - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

Unatural Desaster's Violent Fate is hideous and Neanderthal retro thrash metal that's as appealing as a dead horse. Dreadful and retarded shouted vocals that are more adequate to hardcore than to thrash metal; simplistic and repetitive song structures with the same riffs, rhythms and drumming over and over again, and unimaginative artwork that screams cliché.

There are hardly any redeeming qualities apparent on this amateurish recording other than a moment here and there. The only semi-positive aspect that can be observed is Unatural Desaster's ability to catch the sounds of old, bringing the veteran listeners amongst you straight to the `80s. (1/10)

P.S. Please someone tell me the misspellings in the band's name are intentional.

 

 

 

 
5/10 Chaim
 

INBORN SUFFERING - Wordless Hope - CD - Sound Riot Records - 2006

review by: Chaim Drishner

I'm a fool for romantically-dark, semi-melodic doom metal. When done well, the music's melancholic waves of sound draw me in and threaten to drown me within their cold waters, engulfing and metaphorically pulling my heart from my chest.

Sometimes, too much is not enough as far as these saccharine albums are concerned, as they fool you time and again, silently caressing while whispering their alluring tales to your soul. And if this is your thing, what can you do? How can you resist them?

But then interferes the intellect and tells you: enough is enough! It tells you that these elusive, gloomy musical sirens cannot hold your attention for long enough and that after awhile you become desensitized and then apathy befalls you.

This is the dreadful fate of these melodic, Gothic doom albums: They impact you for a very short while, they touch the fragile within you, the humane, but as the fleeting emotion they are — they disappear, for you aspire for more than just immediate satisfaction. You seek challenging music; ugly and corroded; you wish for sounds to mirror your pain, magnify it, and like a drug - something you would return for, again and again, and beg for more.

Wordless Hope is unfortunately anything but challenging; it is beautiful, no doubt; it is emotional and heavy, but is this Gothic-tinged melodic doom/death something one would return to, begging for more? I'm afraid not. It loses its touch pretty quickly, it summarizes itself during one listening experience; it fades. You comprehend everything Inborn Suffering wanted to say in one touch of the "play" button. (Beautiful yet unsatisfying, hence 5/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Chaim
 

RWAKE - Voices of Omens - CD - Relapse Records - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

Do you believe quality can be empirically heard? That it can be quantified, substantiated through sounds? Or is it all a "different strokes for different folks" issue?

Rwake's Voices of Omens is quality manifested through sounds, and I think that should be a consensus. Not a single redundant note; not a single mistake; not a single hole in the dense, foreboding, choking atmosphere — quality made sound.

This hour long epic is an admixture of sludgy doom metal flirting with the ferocity and sharpness of acrid black metal and the ethics of thrash metal. Take these elements, enhance them, magnify them, twist and turn them, blacken them and then aim them straight to the fucking heart. Now just hold still and watch it bleed.

With Voices of Omens, Rwake have cracked the secret of blending the harshest, most hostile aspects of music, with the quintessence of emotion. This bitter pill is then perfected by ways of delivery — directly into the temple of feelings within us.

Voices of Omens should be regarded as one of the most important albums of recent years. Its added values are immense and everyone should take at least — or benefit — something from the listening experience.

Last but not least, the whole of the album encapsulated in one, major idea:

".Right ways are the hardest; wrong ways the easiest, rule of nature - like water seeks the path with the least resistance. So you get crooked rivers. and crooked men." (Citation taken from track 2: The finality)

Rwake have gone the hardest way with this magnificent but nonetheless harsh album. They deliver the message of positivism by slapping you with an iron glove. Imagine that. (9/10 )

 

 

 

 
9/10 Chaim
 

ONSLAUGHT - Killing Peace - CD - Candlelight Records - 2007

review by: Chaim Drishner

Once a year comes an album that, immediately upon the initial listen, becomes either an instant classic of the genre, the year's best album in a certain category, or both.

2007 is still raging on, so entitling Killing Peace as the thrash metal album of the year (and probably the ONLY thrash metal release of the year) might be a tad premature. However how many extremely good and pure thrash metal albums per year do we get to begin with?

Last year the title went to Sadus' Out for Blood, and to some extent, also for Torture's Storm Alert classic re-issue, but that's it in the thrash metal department. Not very crowded, now is it?

Onslaught, version 2007 is all about abrasive, aggressive, genuine, macho thrash metal with enough balls, enthusiasm and power to slay the majority of younger generations and their joke projects.

Twenty-four years after the band's inception, it is angrier, heavier, darker, more innovative and dynamic than ever, and Killing Peace is exactly what it means: it eradicates the stagnation of thrash metal of recent years.

Thankfully gone are the days of the fun-infused thrash metal fiasco, such as Onslaught's In Search of Sanity (1989), where the darker tones of the band had been replaced by humor-laden music (an album that has become, eventually and retrospectively, their worst to date). Onslaught has returned to form; it is dark indeed, brooding, mean and violent, and it is fucking serious.

Killing Peace is a riff-fest; a no-frills classic approach to thrash metal, where the rhythm guitar is the king and the drums and bass are anything but subsidiary. Massive yet simple and effective drum-work accompany the slaying guitars; once in the rhythm sections, then in the beautiful, caustic solo parts. The whole show — even though it bears the feeling of familiarity — still sounds as fresh as ever. The melodies intertwine between straight-forward thrashing attack and mild nuances of semi-eastern harmonies a la Death.

Above all, there are the phenomenal vocals presiding, the half-high pitched and the half-throaty roars that are as unique as they are powerful and befitting the band's style like a glove. Think of Chuck Schuldiner's vocal-work on The Sound of Perseverance meets Judas Priest Painkiller's Rob Halford meets Megadeth Countdown to Extinction's Dave Mustaine (only with much larger a pair of balls). Excellent stuff. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Chaim
 

ACROSS TUNDRAS - Dark Songs of the Prairie - CD - Crucial Blast Industries - 2006

review by: Chaim Drishner

In Clive Barker's magnificent novel Everville, the hardship of Irish immigrants that had come to the new land of unknown America was described; the long journey from coast to coast to find a piece of heaven they could call their own; the disabling cruel winters; the diseases that had infected many; and the hunger and eventual, inevitable deaths.

Across Tundras’ Dark Songs of the Prairie captures these visages as their sonic equivalent and in fact, that aforementioned book was the very first recollection brought into mind upon listening to the sounds as the album had unfolded and its story told.

Dark Songs of the Prairie is all about immigrants and pioneers in the context of settling and taming the great, new — and to some extent, mysterious — America. Like Led Zeppelin’s "Immigrants' Song," only in the form of a whole album.

With little to no words at all in the vocals department, Across Tundras has assembled an album like nothing I've heard before: psychedelic and nonchalant in nature, a hazy, fuzzy and intoxicating blend of southern rock and sludgy, atmospheric doom/rock tainted by melancholy and despair but also flirting with the rays of hope: ending the suffering, catharsis.

Across Tundras' Dark Songs of the Prairie is a strange bird; it's allegedly structured plainly, using repetitive, atmosphere-inducing harmonies, making the whole album indivisible to a track-after-track entity due to the stark similarity of the mentioned tracks to one another; and yet, the music is so mesmerizing and ephemeral that it is literally non-satiating; not after one listen, not after ten.

This is not a metal album, but more of an atmospheric (almost completely instrumental) drunkard’s shoe-gazing rock, so-to-speak: music for — and about — sailors, blue-collar workers, farmers and cowboys (don't be fooled by the somewhat redneck-affiliated description your inadequate humble servant has conjured: The music is highly intelligent!); but also it is nothing that could be defined by mere technical terms.

Instead, it could be understood and regarded as an ode to the pioneers, the settlers of America, the strangers in a strange land. Whether that gesture for these settlers is justifiable may be debatable, but what's not debatable is the unique experience this album grants — a dance of two extremes: sorrow and hope; one marvelous, holistic excursion through the very essence of these two terms humans die for... and by.

Another fine and unique release by Crucial Blast Records, one of the best labels active today. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Brandon
 

HEREGE - Bang Your Heads - CD - herege.com - 2006

review by: Brandon Strader

Herege formed in 2001, released a few demos, and then finally released this new EP in 2006. The band is still a sapling and not yet experienced enough for a full-length album, though Bang Your Heads displays the occasional moment of flair that suggests these guys are not too far off.

The production sounds semi-professional. The guitars are a bit too thin, which causes the percussion to sound way too strong... especially the snare drum, which is probably the loudest thing you can hear. The music is a pretty basic (read: true) form of heavy metal, though much of the content seems to drag on way too long with the same palm-muted powerchord parts over, and over, and over.... and over.

Possibly the most noteworthy thing about this EP is vocalist Denis de Lima's performance. It's obvious he doesn't have it quite down (especially when he has two layers going at once, and the falsetto layer is horribly out of tune) yet you can see a ray of light from behind the clouds once in a while, and he really pulls out some impressive moves despite much of the vocal performance's shortcomings. In short, there are moments when Herege sound like they can really kick butt, but these moments are sparse. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Joshua
 

SNAKE TRAP, THE - At Home in a Hostile World - CD - Australian Cattle God - 2006

review by: Joshua

With their moniker, and the album title particularly, you’d be forgiven for thinking that The Snake Trap is serving up yet another helping of angst-ridden, distilled-by-way-of-Sweden metalcore on the masses. And you’ll be sorely disappointed if that’s what you came to the buffet looking for. Instead, this Austin, Texas trio serves up a fairly sumptuous feast of instrumental post-rock machinations that lays its eager little fingers into most every trope of the genre that three guys with a guitar, bass and drum kit can conjure up.

And The Snake Trap do a bang-up job of pulling off this balancing act too. Need you some angular rhythms that stop on a dime, do a quick hundred and eighty degree turn and traipse off without a care in the world? The boys have got you covered and then some; you’d swear at times that they’re mainlining Bastro straight into their femoral arteries while scribbling down the answers to Bitch Magnet’s algebraic equations while the specter of A Minor Forest threatens to come crashing though a skylight and make the scenario a whole lot nastier.

Where the band adds that extra bit of luster, though, is in their incorporation of more current influences. A track such as "W.S. Burns’s Sweater" veers headlong into Explosions in the Sky territory, sporadic incursions of burly bass the only element keeping it from floating off into lilting reverie. Likewise on "Hiroshi’s eBay Bike," lulling rhythms underscore plaintive melodies that every so often gather up enough energy to leap towards a brief, arcing crescendo a la Red Sparowes before falling back to earth with equal abruptness.

Ultimately, At Home in a Hostile World is a Jekyll and Hyde act where both sides — the gentle and thoughtful butted up against the aggressive and insistent — coexist comfortably in one another’s presence, neither side having the will or desire for dominion. It’s a genuinely beautiful beast. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

VEHEMENTER NOS - Vehementer Nos - CD - Osmose Productions - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Vehementer Nos is a band worth talking about. You might have a hard time remembering a name as uncatchy as that when you tell your buddies about your new musical discovery, though. Just tell ‘em that it’s a French kinda sorta black metal band that incorporates actual acoustic instruments, like cellos and flutes, into their dark, distorted metal pulse.

In a perfect metal world, there would be no synthesizers. Keyboardists would still have jobs, but their instruments would make keyboard-exclusive sounds. Only violins would make the sound a violin makes. Truth be told, even with all the technological advances in acoustic instrument mimicking, you can more often than not still pick out a phoney cello from a real one. Think of all the records you’ve enjoyed with "strings." Now imagine how much cooler they’d be if those instruments were the real deal.

And Vehementer Nos’ implementation of the real deal gives their self-titled debut so much of its appeal. We only wish there were a bit more of it — that the presence of the acoustics wasn’t only so prominent in track openers (as gorgeous as they are). You’ll hear the acoustics within the blasting bits, but it’s a little harder to pick out. As a side note, the German band Saruman is still the best example of constant acoustic/distorted electric integration within metal (although Saruman isn’t as tight or as Vehementer Nos or with a production as good.)

Of course, there’s a lot of the more traditionally-oriented extreme metal happening on Vehementer Nos. The blackish metal offerings often remind of Nagelfar (that’s the superior, German band) in their flavor of dark hum that goes from blurry speed to slow, yet still equally intense sections. The album’s sound is tight and coherent, yet maintains a solid feel of organic honesty, which makes the music’s dynamics all the more enjoyable.

Overall, Vehementer Nos’ debut album is a very interesting offering. On the downside, the songs (which are quite long) tend to lose steam through some of their arrangements, which results in occasional disconnection between artist and listener. Still, this French group’s musical values and vision are on an applaudable track, and there’s seemingly only better and better things to come if they keep true to their ideals. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Ryan
 

BIG BUSINESS - Here Come the Waterworks - CD - Hydrahead Records - 2007

review by: Ryan Loostrom

Big Business is a band you just have to hear to understand. I figured I should just throw that out there and get it out of the way, because that's what you have to keep in mind when wondering where the hell this band came from or who the hell their influences are or what the hell kind of music they're playing.

The entire band is two members: Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs; another thing to keep in mind whenever you hear how powerful this album is. The sound is massive, with intense drum work and riffs that sound rooted in everything from '70s fuzzed-out rock, to Fu Manchu and hardcore. The vocals are odd, but effective in the same way Yob's vocals were. Y'know, high-pitched.

Constantly building momentum, the music on Here Come the Waterworks is intense and energetic, even when it's slower-paced. Songs like "Shields" brood along like they're taken straight out of a Black Sabbath album and played on top something like Kyuss, while recording new vocal tracks.

Then, you have songs like track five, "Another Fourth of July... Ruined." A very drone-typical guitar line on top of a snare drum battlefield march while ethereal vocals and atmospheric ambiance paint extremely psychedelic textures on top of each other. Immediately afterwards is "Start Your Digging," a riotous anthem that sounds like it was taken straight from the doctrine of the Ramones.

Here Come the Waterworks is a massive success for Big Business and Hydra Head records, an album that anyone interested in stoner and noise rock is going to dig immensely. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Ryan
 

BENEA REACH - Monument Bineothan - CD - Candlelight Records - 2007

review by: Ryan Loostrom

Extol is a name the carries quit a pit of perplexity. A Christian band (from Norway, even) put out a couple of excellent albums, then somehow went down the shitter with their release awhile back, The Blueprint Dives. Well, if you wondered what happened (like me), the answer is that their former guitarist formed a new band. He apparently took all the great music with him.

The band is called Benea Reach, and the album is Monument Bineothan. From the first few seconds of the off-kilter, Meshuggah-like "Ground Slayer," you can tell there's something about this band. Their riffs are of the angular variety, but not too removed from moments of melody and stillness. As a matter of fact, there are two stiller passages that sound taken right out of Neil Young's soundtrack for the movie "Dead Man." If you haven't seen it, good movie. If you have and haven't heard this band, it'll resonate with you. Back on subject, though.

Benea Reach's structured onslaught varies with each track. Heavily drawing from Meshuggah for time modification, and post-hardcore bands like Isis, Burst, and even Pelican for atmosphere. Benea Reach's heavy and unpredictable approach makes for an incredibly interesting listen. Just when you hear an off-kilter blastbeat, Benea Reach will use a Textures-esque vocal melody. Their song catalogue ranges from the absurdly heavy, to the utterly epic, a strength that can take a band far.

Without a doubt, Benea Reach's strongest ability is that they can pick apart their influences and competently write a song that's memorable and powerful, without sounding like a direct, carbon-copy of any of them... or Extol, for that matter.

Monument Bineothan is an extremely powerful album. Fans of Meshuggah, Isis, Between the Buried and Me and Pelican should definitely give this one a try. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.9/10 Roberto
 

KEEN OF THE CROW - Hyborea - CD - Grau - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

If you read Maelstrom, you’ll know I’m the zine’s resident drum nerd. I’m stupid into drums. This is of some relevance as the aspect of Keen of the Crow’s Hyborea that jumped out first was how great the cymbals sound on the record.

If you only listened to music on records, and never went to shows, you might never realize that the things on the drum kit that are the loudest are the cymbals. But on records, cymbals are so often pushed down and their resonance curtailed to let the rest of the instruments to have more of the sonic stage.

On Hyborea, the actual effect of a massive crash that bursts and rings out is much closer to the actual experience. The rest of the cymbals come across in a similar fashion: they’re heavy, crisp and rich, and come across powerfully. This is particularly effective considering Keen of the Crow play doom metal, and as a result, their intent is rendered all the more heavy and reverberant because of this wise production value.

After noticing the cymbals, you might notice that the rest of the instruments are well-voiced, too. The drums have their own space, the guitar rocks in its weight, and the vocals roar. Nice work.

Keen of the Crow’s introduction to the metal public is by way of Morgion, the now disbanded project that two of Keen’s members used to be in. Morgion, went out with probably their best and most progressive album, Cloaked by Ages, Crowned in Earth. Now, the two members in question are the bassist and drummer, which means they may not have been involved in Morgion’s writing process. But whether they in fact contributed or not, connections will be made. And here’s ours: Keen of the Crow’s style is a far more back-to-basics one than that showcased on Crowned by Ages... — more heavy, mid-paced doom metal that is likelier to get your head nodding in time than Morgion ever did.

The irony of Hyborea is how it was released by Grau around the same time as Ireland’s Mael Mordha’s Gealtacht Mael Mordha — which is explicitly billed as a Celtic-themed album — and yet in terms of effective channeling of the doom metal variety of the Celtic charge, Southern Californian Keen of the Crow pull it off better.

Hyborea features many highlights. Very enjoyable songs whose pacing and dynamics are excellent, deeply enjoyable production that fits the style superbly, and rich, harsh vocals occasional clean vocal melodies that provide excellent memorability. With that said, the clean, spoken theme on track nine is far overused, which sadly is the most memorable thing about the album. Except maybe the cymbals. (7.9/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Avi
 

USELESS ID - Ratface’s Home Videos Presents: Useless ID - DVD - Earsay Records - 2006

review by: Avi Shaked

Being highly fond of Useless ID’s latest release (2004's Redemption, featured in Maelstrom #30) we were looking forward to reviewing the band’s new DVD release, which includes, besides the insignificant music videos, photos and behind the scenes footage, a healthy dose of live footage. Alas! The live section leaves much to be desired.

Not only are we dealing with songs filmed in different locations, the quality also varies — from poor, amateur shots to professional ones. Starting with the four, terrible audience takes filmed live in Japan, we almost gave up on this DVD: The camera is usually distant (probably because the cameraman was afraid of the brutal Japanese) and the sound is highly compressed (in other words, it feels like you’re listening to a low quality MP3 file). More amateur takes from Germany follow, but mark an improvement in quality.

A sharper twist comes in the form of a professionally, multi-camera filmed live performance in Switzerland and a TV appearance in the band’s homeland, Israel. These certainly do much more justice to the compact, polished punk rock of the band than the supposedly "underground" takes.

As if the poor quality of some of the videos is not enough, there is no continuous mode play, leaving you no other option but to play the tracks one by one, as each time a track ends the songs selection menu reappears. What a bummer!

While I hear the Japanese are in its favor, I find it hard to believe that Useless ID has a large enough fan base to justify this meant-for-the-diehards release, which holds a total of twelve live cuts (about three minutes each), seven music videos and a few extras. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

RACING CARS - 76-06, 30th Anniversary Concert/Love Blind - CD - Angel Air Records - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

This Racing Cars release marks the rock band's 30th anniversary. The double set consists of a 2006 anniversary concert on one CD, and a reissue of the band's Love Blind album on the other. Captivating songwriting is at the heart of the Racing Cars' music. You either love the songs immediately, or you’d better avoid them.

The band's 2006 live performance is commendable for being true to the original spirit of the band. This is no moonlighting performance, but rather a highly professional one that seems to be wholehearted. Racing Cars sounds like a well oiled hits machine.

Morty, the band's leader, is the key to the accomplishment. His vocal performance is energetic and captivating in its well-kept rawness.

Love Blind, the 1981 album by Morty & The Racing Cars, has a funky edge and, once again, relies on fine songcraft. The music can be described as a spin on Foreigner, with Morty's vocals being a blend of Phil Lynott, Roger Chapman and Phil Mogg (of the Chrysalis sister band UFO). A bit of reggae is poured into the highly motivating songs that also earn quite a bit from a timeless rock production. A most welcomed bonus is the sincere 2007 song that ends the CD.

It’s a shame the booklet tells the tale of Racing Cars without even mentioning the specific live recording or the Love Blind sessions that are offered on the set, also making it harder to credit and measure the contribution of the high caliber guests featured in it, such as Ray Russell, Clem Clempson and Zoot Money. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
10/10 Avi
 

YEDID, YITZHAK - Reflections Upon Six Images - CD - Between the Lines - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

Two major aspects are usually involved in the inspection of classical music: the quality of the piece and the quality of its performance. Reflections Upon Six Images, however, doesn’t require the distinction, as the music’s performance goes hand in hand with its originator, Israel’s Yitzhak Yedid. Furthermore, the work features improvised sections that are well assimilated into the composed music, making the contribution from Yedid’s collaborators — Francois Houle on clarinet, Galia Hai on viola, and Ora Boasson Horev on double bass — all the more essential to the final result.

The 2004 recording has an ethereal quality into it, with a stronger sense of freedom than Yedid's Myth of the Cave. The integration of the improvised playing with the written structures results in a more singular achievement than the aforementioned 2003 album.

The pieces are evolving and breathing. There are less unison movements this time, and more contrapuntal conversations and menacing themes that penetrate through the serenity. At times, the threats retreat as if they are restrained by harmonies; while at other times, usually in an outbreak of one instrument over the others (take, for example, the alarming clarinet screams on "Second Image"), the threats become real, breaking through the divine themes and leading to a catharsis.

Yedid, a fine pianist with a background in classical music and jazz (both he and Boasson Horev played on the imaginative and abstract 2006 release by the Julia Feldman Ensemble Words are Worlds), brings a free, earthly spirit into his classical compositions, which blend heavenly esthetics with disturbing dissonances. The percussive manner in which Yedid plays the piano, on top and aside majestic, elevated movements is an evident feature of the way the two genres contrast and consolidate into a fresh form of expression.

The multi-cultural fusion are not only those of genres, but also of geographical locations, as one can spot Arabic scales merged with the European chamber music motifs, portraying sublime, universal sceneries.

From its energized, powerful movements to reflective quasi-static ambience, Reflections Upon Six Images is a brilliant and engaging recording that exemplifies beauty and depth in music. (10/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Avi
 

WARREN, JAMES - Burning Questions (re-issue) - CD - Angel Air Records - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

In conjunction with the Stackridge remasters, Angel Air also continues re-releasing solo works by that band’s members. This time it is the debut 1986 release by James Warren, who is assisted by Nick Magnus (who earned his reputation playing aside Steve Hackett) and his Stackridge / Korgis colleague Andy Davis. The reissue adds three worthy songs to the selection.

The production is a nearly typical, fancy ‘80s work, wrapping short melodic phrases with artificial drum beats and decorative, punctuated keyboards; resulting in big and accurate songs. Still, everything here is served with good taste, sensitivity and a bit more depth than usual (which might be credited to some newly overdubbed additions), making Burning Questions colorful and emotive.

The album starts with the title track, carrying an ‘80s King Crimson like motif — some clever instrumentations and nuances such as this can be found throughout the release in different doses, and show just how much thought Warren puts into his songcraft. Warren’s soft, elevated vocals enhance the "90125 Yes meets Kate Bush" sensation.

Furthermore, while Warren testifies that his lyrics are secondary to his melodies, his writing is intelligent and honest. Combine this with a dedicated performance and catchy melodies, and you’ve got a fun yet heartfelt, long-lasting pop release (in spite of its mildly dated sound). (7/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Avi
 

SANDALINAS - Living on the Edge - CD - Nightmare Records - 2005

review by: Avi Shaked

Sandalinas’ (named after the outfit’s Spanish lead guitarist and songwriter) debut album, Living on the Edge, does not set ingenuity as its goal; instead, it relies on heavy metal in its classic form, with round songs based on distinguishable melodies, and focuses on revitalizing the formulas to results that do not scream "copycats."

Lead singer Apollo Papathanasio (ex-Time Requiem) sings lucidly and brings a certain amount of passion to the entire work. His vocals are reminiscent of Black Sabbath’s Tony Martin (late ‘80s and ‘90s); in fact, it seems like that particular Sabbath incarnation was the model according to which Sandalinas molded his material, especially when one examines songs like the title track and "All Along the Everglades," which benefit from Tony Iommi-styled, meaty guitar riffs. Sandalinas might not have the same depth as late Black Sabbath, but there are some modern touches thrown in as well: double bass drums, more dominant keyboard reliance ("The Day the Earth Died"), and, most of all, a fiery power metal derived production (by King Diamond’s Andy La Rocque). All of these make for an exciting and well-crafted album. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9.9/10 Avi
 

ASHES ARE NUTRITIOUS - Frustration+ - CD - myspace.com/ashesarenutritious - 2006

review by: Avi Shaked

A few minutes into Frustration+, the debut full length release by Ashes Are Nutritious, and it was obvious for me that I'm holding a rare promise in my hands. You really don't need much more than a few minutes to acknowledge the tremendous drive this band has — a pumping, wholehearted performance that blends influences by intricate metal bands such as Tool and At the Drive together with some Pink Floyd hallucinogenic hovering into a seamless, potent and hard-edged entity.

The vocals are tortured and psyched, yet avoid hollow melodramatic exercises. They benefit from rhythmic punctuation, but are taken even further thanks to the real melodies on top of which they are served, resulting in an impression that is both hardcore and memorable.

The masterful production (by Biohazard’s Billy Graziadei and the band) not only has crunchiness and vitality, with prominent and evolving bass and drum dynamics; but also carries the music like a continuous wave on top of ambient guitar soundscapes, emphasizing and hooking the melodic lines.

Frustration+ has progressive rock aesthetics that is almost electronic, borders on the experimental yet remains engaging and somewhat menacing throughout (even the closing "Siafu," consisting of a long ambient jam, is mesmerizing). This is the fresh and thrilling alternative to the Tool’s tiresome 10,000 Days. (9.9/10)

 

 

 

 
8.75/10 Avi
 

STACKRIDGE - The Man in the Bowler Hat (re-issue) - CD - Angel Air Records - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

Produced by George Martin (who is often regarded as the fifth member of The Beatles, and one of the men behind last year’s The Beatles release LOVE), The Man in the Bowler Hat, this third album by English sensitive weirdos Stackridge, is often regarded as their greatest achievement.

Martin, who is known for his rich orchestrations and contributes four of them here (as well as some piano playing), brought a more unified feel to the album. Whereas on previous Stackridge releases, some songs or parts of them were painted with a thorough orchestration, while some were left on a more minimalist scale, the songs on The Man in the Bowler Hat maintain a coherent level of arrangements. The nearly homogenous treatment helps in gluing the songs together and results in a better album flow. Therefore, it was a clever choice on behalf of Angel Air to leave the bonus tracks (which appeared on a previous CD pressing of this album) to the other Stackridge remasters.

Every coin has two sides though, and the songs, which are quite round this time around, feel less twisted, less epic and more like elaborated and expanded tunes enriched with a circus flavour every now and then. The closing, cosmic (in fact, almost new-age) instrumental "God Speed the Plough" does rival this statement; still, most progressive rock fans should probably begin their acquaintance with Stackridge elsewhere (the 1971 debut album, reviewed in issue #51, might be a wise choice). For those already hooked, this is a mandatory title. (8.75/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Joshua
 

DIANE AND THE SHELL - 30,000 Feet Tarantella - CD - Australian Cattle God - 2006

review by: Joshua

Let’s add another notch to the old Australian Cattle God bedpost with the debut full length from Italy’s Diane and the Shell. They offer up yet another bout of instrumental post rock for your consumption and their approach is best described as "Slinty;" it’d be a fair bet that these guys have worn out multiple copies of Spiderland and would have no reservations copping to it. They’ve got the method down pat and accompany the rhythmic angularity and slinky guitar projections with a muted coarseness that calls to mind Laddio Bolocko at their least abrasive.

They’re good at it too. Maybe a bit too good. For the most part they come across as detached and clinical; one gets the impression that there isn’t much passion lying beneath 30,000 Feet Tarantella’s surface, rendering most of the tracks a somewhat hollow exercise in instrumental dexterity. The two- and three-minute lengths of a good chunk of them are a detriment, truncating what otherwise might have been enveloping sonic travelogues.

And, thankfully, they create those wished-for journeys on the handful of tracks that deign to run past the five-minute mark, stretching out, sniffing around previously ignored nooks and crannies, adding shadings previously bypassed. The simple inclusion of piano on the third of three songs denoted only by backward slashes — \\\\\\\ — adds wistfulness to its martial drum beats and clipped guitar lines. More piano and keening violin lend understated weight to "Suite for Bancomat," recalling Mogwai at their most downtrodden and weary.

Diane and the Shell stitch it all together and create something truly special with closer "Scandinavian Landing." Drifting and vaporous, caught in eddying swirls of piano while the guitar rides on thermals in the background and bells persist and veer somewhere between simple patterns and awkward meter; it’s like watching a storm from the relative safety of a large picture window, thousands of raindrops sacrificing themselves against the glass in a complex dance. Near the end, it rises out of that languidness as rumbling bass and a repetitive drum loop emerge, driving towards an abrupt conclusion that’s direct counterpoint to the song’s gradual build. It’s a definite step in the right direction. Let’s hope Diane and the Shell follow that pathway. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Brandon
 

ART OF SIMPLICITY - Caught in this Iless Storm - CD - Burning Star Records - 2006

review by: Brandon Strader

Surprise — another fantastic progressive metal release from Greece! Art of Simplicity even shares the former violinist of the fantastic Wastefall — also a band that you should definitely check out. The music here is much more off-the-wall and, at times, almost feels like a free-form jazzy jam.

"Vigil" takes the listener by storm. George Eikosipentakis seems to be another vocalist influenced by the likes of Daniel Gildenlow (similar to the Wastefall vocalist), yet his performance is surprisingly emotive and fun to listen to. Guitarist Aris Markogiannakis really did an incredible job with this material as well, switching from heavy chord-structures for choruses, to wah-pedal jammin'!

Violinist Matthew Dakoutros also holds a grand stand within the band, as his violin is broken out almost as often for solos as Markogiannakis' guitar. The violin is used more often during verses, bridges, and even choruses, however. The music can be exciting, and branch into more mellow waters... It can be triumphant, yet just as easily transition into a saddening progression similar to the type made famous by bands like Pain of Salvation and Dark Suns, among others.

Caught in This Iless Storm, to say the very least, is an incredible debut from a band that shows a ton of promise. It's obvious that these guys fit together stupendously, and the musicianship is very impressive. Art of Simplicity sound like they've been together for a decade, but they've only just begun. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Joshua
 

TIA CARRERA - Tia Carrera - CD - Australian Cattle God - 2006

review by: Joshua

Bands almost always choose their names either by desperation or circumstance. Case and point: Tia Carrera. You just know that the trio arrived at their tag after a Saturday afternoon replete with bong hits, endless beer, bong hits, a few quaaludes, about a fifth of whiskey and, say, some bong hits — all the while glued in front of the TV in their practice space watching a "Relic Hunter" marathon with rapt attention and reverence. And if the title of opening track "Tone, Levels and THC" isn’t vindication of that theory, then hell, son, step away from the bong and get thee to some fresh air and sunshine.

But what a track it is. There’s no preamble; it’s like barging right into the middle of a Sabbath jam circa 1972: bowels-deep bass tones slithering nonchalantly around meandering caveman drum pummel while serrated-edge guitar cuts deep swaths through the smoky haze and serve as your only guide to maybe, just maybe, lead you out of the murk.

The rest of the album follows a similar template. On an initial listen or two it might seem as if the songs are more than willing to take whatever direction the prevailing winds dictate. But delve a little deeper and it’s abundantly clear that each track’s structure is far from random, each of the seven lengthy instrumental jams in possession of foresight and purpose.

In addition, the band wisely avoids monochromatic tedium by adding texture and depth; kicking up the tempo to a near run on one track, pushing through syrupy, slow-mo environs on another, laying on the flanger and flying though some meaty space rock, or simply knuckling down and getting in your face with wanton heaviness. The prominent inclusion of organ drives a couple of others, most decisively on "End Transmission," which envisions Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly smashing skulls repeatedly until the casings crack and the grey matter from each leeches into the other, creating a new, demented beast.

Stoner rock generally doesn’t have the raw-boned beefiness found with/on Tia Carrera. Roll with ‘em or get rolled over. Either way, you can’t lose. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Larissa G
 

MOTÖRHEAD - Ace of Spades - DVD - Eagle Rock Entertainment - 2006

review by: Larissa Glasser

How does one attach a rating to Motörhead, for goodness sakes. The band is so emblematic of metal’s supernatural power, no matter where you’re coming from or going to. As regards extremity, only Slayer managed to reach this level of identification. But Motörhead was the first to really champ at the goddamn bit. Their 2005 Grammy Award is an acknowledgement of that.

Although this gal has been into Motörhead even before hearing Venom, Kilmister and co. have always been a bit of a mystery. Apart from a few clips, I seldom got the story from the band directly. Here, in this TV-format feature on Ace of Spades, you get the story AND personalities.

This DVD contains about two hours worth of interviews (new and old), archival concert footage, jam sessions with the "classic" Motörhead lineup of Lemmy Kilmister, Fast Eddie Clarke, and Philthy Animal Taylor. One of the coolest features shows Lemmy and Philthy playing with the mixing board, isolating tracks from the album, trading wisecracks.

Other interviews include Mick Taylor, Dave Brock (Hawkwind), Slash, Lars Ulrich, Phil Alexander (Mojo Magazine), Gerry Bron (Bronze Records), and others. You don’t just get the story behind every track on Ace of Spades, but all the din behind Motörhead’s beginnings in London.

Highly recommended, along with the Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey DVD, which also has a nice chunky dose of Lemmy.

Born to lose, Live to Win! (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

MAEL MORDHA - Zealtacht Mael Mordha - CD - Grau - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

For my money, there’s little that can top a good ol’ Celtic charge in heavy metal. The stirring feeling of proud, wild and free barbarians, descended from the druids themselves, hurdling over rolling Gaelic hills. The feeling of triumph that this music carries with it is akin to the best the so-called Viking or Pagan metal styles have to offer. Some of the best instances ever in the metal genre come from this style — with Solstice and The Lord Weird Slough Feg being two of the best examples.

So Mael Mordha’s Zealtacht Mael Mordha seemed like a lock as ever there was one. An Irish band playing Celtic-themed, doomish metal. Fuck, yes.

But that, dear readers, is why we write the reviews, because Zealtacht Mael Mordha is about as unremarkable an album as they come. Sure, it’s got all the elements that make it seem like a success on paper: "doom metal with Gaelic music, imagery and history," played by a band with honest-to-goodness Celtic heritage.

The songs have got the heavy production, the rough, melodic vocals, the samples of waves that evoke towering, solemn Irish cliffs, the music that endeavors to instill a specific flavor of glory and ascension, the sweeping motifs that make you think that running around and swinging an axe while wearing a skirt would seem about the manliest thing ever. And the album has a fucking minotaur on the cover.

Sadly — tragically — all these elements, when put together, result in songs that are completely hollow: They sound like they SHOULD be rocking your world, but they don’t. Mael Mordha’s is as average and eminently forgettable an album as they come. If you want something more, and something doomy and Celtic-y, and you have Solstice’s New Dark Age or Slough Feg’s complete discography (no? Get them NOW), check out Keen of the Crow’s Hyborea. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
9.2/10 Roberto
 

WRATH OF THE WEAK - Wrath of the Weak - CD - Bastardised - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

What makes Filosofem the best album Burzum ever did is the way it is quintessentially deep and dynamic in spite of its inherent sonic stagnation.

Confusing? I know. But this is how it is: Filosofem’s best songs present you with a multi-layered miasma of looping, droning buzz and hum. It’s ever-present, but as you concentrate (either actively or passively) on the music, various elements come to the fore and then regress, letting other instruments and aspects take the initial ones’ place. And so it repeats, until the tracks’ end. Such eternal classics of the genre like Weakling’s Dead as Dreams, Blut Aus Nord’s more intangible recordings (such as The Mystical Beast of Rebellion) and any other deeply fucked and blurred slabs of sonic genius pull a similar trick: They lull the listener into a trance-like state as they plunge him or her into the emotional abyss.

Want the closest comparison to what you might have already heard? Go for Blut Aus Nord. Wrath of the Weak shares that sense of droning, mooing fog, but the important difference is that the project in question out Blut Aus Nord’s Blut Aus Nord, who’s been in a bit of a rut since the Work Which Transforms God album.

But enough expounding on other bands’ benchmarks. Wrath of the Weak is unlike those aforementioned bands in composition, but it pulls the same trance-inducing trick. And for that, it’s a lock for one of the best albums of the year.

Wrath of the Weak is a one-man project from Buffalo, New York. Fittingly, the guy got into black metal through Weakling. (But you can read all about that in our interview with the man in this issue.) The style is fittingly categorized as shoegazer noise black metal. Fittingly again, the album has been released by an otherwise noise-oriented label, Bastardised.

The riffs and compositions on Wrath of the Weak are simple in themselves, but the end result is not. What you’ll get are swirling collages of noisy, buzzing black metal that has the power to induce hypnotized states, particularly the louder you play the album.

But what seals the deal is how, despite the noise and general abrasiveness, Wrath of the Weak pulls off the genius trick of being simultaneously and, seemingly against all odds, a deeply meditative record. Despite the swirling abyss of constant reverberating feedback and drone, the album reaches almost a mantra-like quality in its application of repetition and chord progression. The epitome of this might be found in the last track, whose 30 minute running time is half dedicated to looping guitar feedback that heightens the sense of deathlike peace.

Let’s be clear. This is not an album that you’ll put on because you really dig a specific song. It’s an album that you’ll play to listen to in its entirety, every time. And if you dig noisy, blurry black metal, you’ll be listening to this a lot. (9.2/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Pal
 

ALIOTH - Channeling Unclean Spirits - Cassette - Starlight Temple Society - 2007

review by: Pal the Postman

Alioth is a one-man band from Illinois, USA. It’s actually a side-project of Mr. Wargoat Obscurum from Cult of Daath, also known as Whorepuncher in Superchrist.

Channeling Unclean Spirits is a really old demo from 2002 featuring three songs, two instrumentals and one intro. Obscurum says he has produced some 25-30 tapes since this first demo, and the reason that we are introduced this late to the universe of Alioth lies in the mundane banality of distribution problems and priorities with regard to the cult.

Alioth’s influences are to be found in old black and death bands like Varathron, Masters Hammer and Acheron. I am not familiar with those bands, but I do know Nachtmystium and it happens that it is that very Mr. Obscurum who has performed drumming duties with them, which tells me a lot more.

On the side, he also did some session work for Krieg, yet another household name and a great point of reference. How could I say anything bad about someone who has been in a band (Krieg) that once produced a title this very webzine may have been named after (see "Maelstrom" on "The Black Plague")? (not a chance – ed.)

But let’s look closer into the tracks on this tape now. It’s a rather short one, being just over 15 minutes long. The interesting thing here is that despite Obscurum’s playing all instruments, he has chosen to use a drum machine, as there were no facilities to play on natural drums. No harm done with that though, because the music is slow to mid-paced anyway.

Channeling Unclean Spirits is a bit tamely produced. On the other hand, the sound is excellent and Obscurum does some nice near grunt-growling and melodic vocals. Structure-wise, there is plenty enough happening. But the two short instrumentals called "Invocation" are distracting from the real songs. The subjects are somewhat mystical, dealing with things like "The Great Gods of Thaarz" and the "Ghouls of Guurd." I think that the Starlight Temple Society might be a key to understanding what that’s all about, and fellow state resident Reverend JR Preston from Tjolgtjar may dig this instantly (after all, that man composed titles like "The Gate to Vruguun" and "Nuun Raaguun Skuulkuun." Lovely!)

Channeling Unclean Spirits is an ok demo, but far from spectacular. More may be expected from the forthcoming release called Beneath the Swamp, featuring real drums. However, a full-length album will keep hovering in the Apocryphal Dimensions for a long while before it will find its way to this planet. The art of holding one’s breath... (5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.6/10 Roberto
 

DIABOLI - The Antichrist - CD - Northern Heritage - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Diaboli’s The Antichrist sounds like an instant classic. The Finnish black metal band’s latest output turns the difficult trick of being deeply rooted in an old-school mentality, but without being the umpteenth version of black metal rehash.

Sure, read a description of the music, and it’ll seem like a record that any black metal fan will have at least 15 times over. But The Antichrist is remarkable. Good songs — some really great — and a warm, heavy production that is simple yet wholly effective.

There’s the thing: Diaboli doesn’t try to do too much — not artificially necro, not too many fancypants effects to pump up the album’s atmosphere, not a million blast beats a second — just really good riffs and solid performances all around. What’s more, The Antichrist features eight songs that actually sound different from each other, rather than (again) another installment of that black metal album that has the same song played 10 times, and which wasn’t original to begin with. Definitely put this on your list if you’re into this style of music. The Antichrist ends up being a fist-pumping, head-bobbing, deeply satisfying, dynamic and heavy album, every time. (8.6/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Joshua
 

CLOWN ALLEY - Circle of Chaos - CD - Southern Lord - 2006

review by: Joshua

It hard to deduce why Southern Lord has seen fit to reissue Circus of Chaos after nearly two decades of out-of-print oblivion. Sure, it’s a decent enough slab of nascent metal/hardcore crossover, but it’s not so evocative that you’re going to be pining away for 1986 all over again. And the presence of two then-future bassists for The Melvins (Lori Black and Mark Deutrom) wouldn’t be considered a draw by any but the most obsessive of completists.

So what are the head honchos at Southern Lord banking on? Fuck if I know, but if you need a flashback to what was a truly exciting time in the evolution in heavy music, you’d be better served by running out and grabbing a copy of Corrosion of Conformity’s Animosity, to which Clown Alley’s opus owes huge debt, or any of the early albums by DRI. Or Agnostic Front. Or The Accused. Or Dr. Know. Or…You get the idea.

To be fair, the band did have a slight edge by hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area and what was arguably the world’s leading thrash scene at the time. A good chunk of the riffs, and the guitar tone(s) in particular, are liberally borrowed from Exodus, Metallica and Megadeth; hell, the main riff of "In the Cartoon" is a slightly altered version of the intro to "For Whom the Bell Tolls." It all works well enough, but the overriding familiarity of the source material quells any genuine enthusiasm.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, it’s the handful of tracks that go the opposite way that offer some nice diversion. "On the Way Up" is plodding hardcore, like The Cro-Mags trying to play after downing too much cough syrup. A simple sledgehammer riff making up the meat of "The Grey Men" is periodically picked up and dragged along with speedy, day-at-the-races rhythms that repeatedly exhaust themselves and slump back to that same limping gait. And "Theme" incorporates the tribal drumming and swirling guitar lines of early Killing Joke while at the same time anticipating the post-hardcore of Fugazi.

All and all, one honestly can’t speak ill of Circus of Chaos, but it’s a dusty artifact at best. Bringing it out of the tombs into the glare of 2007 is a sufficient enough reason why it’s sometimes wiser to leave things nestled in the rosy glow of memory. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.4/10 Roberto
 

COLDWORKER - The Contaminated Void - CD - Relapse Records - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

For anyone to have been lost in a natural disaster is tragic, but it’s particularly sad for the metal world to have lost Mieszko Talarczyk in the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia a few years back. Talarczyk’s main contribution was the highly heralded grind band Nasum, but he also helped on a great deal of the production for other high-profile grindy, crusty albums. He was also supposed to have been a really sweet guy.

So if there’s something, anything positive about his untimely demise, it’s that Coldworker might never have come about if Nasum’s career hadn’t suddenly ended. And as far as listening to albums go, this is a good thing, as The Contaminated Void destroys anything that Nasum ever did.

So what’s all this connection to Nasum, then? Coldworker’s drummer is Anders Jakobsen, who played with Nasum. And there you go.

Coldworker is definitely still very rooted in grind, but it has a heavy, rumbling intensity that Nasum never had. The sound is much thicker and beefier, from the vocals to the guitars. The riffs are far more metal, and, hey, a few guitar solos, too! It’s these elements: heaviness and groove, coupled with the perpetually aggressive, bludgeoning onslaught of the music, that makes The Contaminated Void an energizing winner. Check it out. (8.4/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

TROUBLE - Psalm 9 (re-issue) - CD - Escapi Music - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

The re-issue of this classic debut album by Trouble brings the prominent American band back into conscience. Trouble might not have produced an enormous dose of material or a large fan base, but in a way Trouble kept the fire of doom metal burning in the ‘80s, and hence was at least as crucial an evolutionary force to doom metal and stoner rock as Metallica was to thrash and Iron Maiden to power metal.

Intent is at the heart of this album, making all the creaking and inaccuracies excusable. Trouble’s music is about real life, substituting the genre’s devilish clichés with existential reflections. It is no secret then that much of the band’s power can be credited to vocalist (and lyricist) Eric Wagner, who might not have the most natural singing voice, but the dedication with which he performs is remarkable (almost unparalleled), executing the faith-charged material uncompromisingly and fiercely, as opposed to the titivating, soft, forgiving tones that are usually associated with other comparable voices of God’s believers.

Musically, Trouble clearly doesn’t have the chops of its role model Black Sabbath: The songwriting is a bit patchy, and the level of playing isn’t on par with the finessed Sabbath (especially the drums, which occasionally go off track); still, the dual guitars lineup offers fleshy guitars treated with sludgy reverb, and the conclusive production makes it sound ferociously heavy and gloomy — everything sticks and thumps as it should.

Trouble’s music might have dated a bit, yet the passion it expresses is immortal!

The bonus DVD offers a 1982 TV appearance, taken from a slightly distorted tape source, which includes a good live performance and an interview that reveals the band’s naivety. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Chaim
 

SUNN & BORIS - Altar - CD - Southern Lord - 2006

review by: Chaim Drishner

Altar may be one of the most controversial, dichotomy-permeated and oscillating albums ever.

Like a burping and menacing volcano, it offers much of its suggestive, impending sonic doom forebodingly and in an articulate fashion — as if it were a prolonged warning for the looming, violent eruption that never really comes.

This gurgling mount of molten lava and poisonous fumes never bursts, but incessantly rumbles — a roaring between which some intermissions are allowed, temporary cessations in the threatening violence to come, in the form of somber, velvety, dark-romanticism tinged songs, or tracks that are not quite songs but more of a remission from the aforementioned chaos.

Sunn and Boris has offered, with Altar, an upgraded, evolutionary — and to some extent, also revolutionized — version of their own divided paths. Altar is a synergistic joint-venture that truly transcends both bands into realms of musical excellence and profound atmosphere, usually lacking in both bands' separated efforts. The reason may lie within the notion that Altar is not a typical Sunn album, nor does it resemble anything Boris has done on albums such as Absolutego.

The reason may lie within the fact Altar has not been abused so much by the drone frenzy displayed on Flight of the Behemoth and/or the aforementioned Absolutego, and has not become the all-encompassing musical factor here, but more of an "atmosphere-enhancer," so-to-speak; only an element (albeit an important one) within the greater scheme of the more euphonious elements of the album and not as a stand-alone factor.

Boris and Sunn have both incorporated drone as the framework upon which other, more musical substances are allowed and practiced; from psychedelic doom, dark rock a la Swans, to almost progressive (post) rock, to straight drone in the form of a Didgeridoo-sounding track with some phenomenal drumming passages. Indeed, Altar offers many tastes to many tasters and the oscillating variety is overwhelming in its lush and illustrious abundance. To each their own.

Altar serves as a showdown and/or a show-off between two entities who truly deserve attention as a combined project; for they have internalized what other dimensions could be exploited in unconventional music other than atonal, endless drone without any point. In that sense, Altar is truly a rich and profound album that has many facets and layers, and should not be dismissed as a mere uber-drone project. It is really an album that should be listened to many times in a row before commencing any judgment what-so-ever and it will be a rewarding experience for most, and then some.

Highly recommended for open-minded listeners! (8/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Pal
 

GROUND OF RUIN - Visions of Obscenity - CD - groundofruin.com - 2006

review by: Pal the Postman

Ground of Ruin is a near-Dublin-based band with a new six-track E.P. entitled Visions of Obscenity. The band describes these tracks, clocking in a little below the half hour mark, as "filthy groove-soaked death thrash."

"Ever Decreasing Circles" is a typical opener, pointing where Ground of Ruin are at: short, melodic motifs held with brutal rhythms. Vocalist Dave has a good basic growl and grunt. He could sound a bit lower perhaps, but as he appears to be still rather young it may happen so in time.

"Bastard Icon" is the first song that shows another, but far more serious problem with this disc: certain riffs have a tendency for being used too often, this in contrast with the drumming, which shows some imaginative variations.

"Nerve Damage Affliction" starts with a very good, old school metal opening riff, gets closer to groove-oriented parts (sometimes even rubbing against US hardcore), and changes the pace more often. It’s a song that no doubt works best live.

The title track is unfortunately a minor setback, with riffs re-emerging in the same note range repeatedly, to such an extent that it eventually doesn’t stick out as a title track is supposed to be. It has a faster solo part, but the solo just doesn’t do it, as it is mostly and simply like an excercise in how to quickly play three descending notes at various fretpoints. Mweh.

But the last track, "Architects of Our Own Demise," starts with a nice syllable-emphasised intro (you know, with measured silence in-between the words), has a few weirder chords that retain the attention a bit more, and it offers more variation than the title track.

Though this EP is basically a decent bit of Irish death metal, and it may also — as they say — reflect the hard work and dedication that has gone towards making it, Ground of Ruin could have done a few things differently. Take the drums, for a start. They are played proficiently, but the way they are recorded drag the production down to the "demo level." The snare drum sound has that typical rehearsal room resonance, being functional, but hollow and cheap sounding at the same time. And the (single) bass drum is way too up front, while not being that crucial to deserve such a highlight.

The bass guitar, on the other hand, is hard to distinguish, and though I believe it plays merely a supportive role, it could have been made more noticeable. The guitars and vocals are both well enough represented.

The downside: Though the spirit is absolutely present, the production lacks of dynamics, and frankly, of variation as well. Being groove-based should not be a reason for being repetitive to the point where it weakens the attention span of the listener. The grooves present on this disc are generally just not sufficiently engaging or catchy.


Good grooves need an appropriate sound and the sound is not appropriate. There’s a lot of stoner rock and groovy death metal (especially in the US) that could serve as an example (in production style).

The upside: It may be pointed out that both lyrics and presentation are a plus. The lyrics are generally well-crafted. They are not about the usual hack ‘n’ slash fantasies, but somewhat intelligent, poetic bits about hearts filled with disdain and inner turmoil: "the story of our lives reveals the wounds we hold, shows the pain in which we fear and dries the tears of new and old." Nice.

Ground of Ruin show with Visions of Obscenity that they have to advance honing their sound in the studio, even though they may already have become a sort of household name on stage.

Ground of Ruin needs a better job on producing/engineering to lift up their potential (More vision! More obscenity!), and concentrate more on the grooves and melodic variation. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Matt
 

SCENT OF FLESH - Deform in Torture - CD - Firebox Records - 2007

review by: Matt Smith

This Finnish Death Metal force was formed in 2000. After seven years of adjustments in band members and labels, Scent of Flesh is on its way. The foursome's style is a deep, heavy, groove-based one. Riddled with blast beats and guttural growls, fast-picked riffs bang out from the guitars, which transform into slow grooves and back again. Scent of Flesh avoids repetitive themes and employs enough shifts in tempo and melody to keep Deform in Torture fresh through the last track.

Antti Suikkanen's drumming is the strongest aspect of the album: He masterfully pounds out a variety of lines, from down-tempo grooves to blazing-fast verses, never settling on one pattern long enough to become predictable or stale. The guitars rise to the challenge laid down by the strong backbone of the drum lines, however, and fire back with ever-evolving technical playing, sharp and tight.

The vocals fit this dark style well. Layered growls add some thickness to the already-packed mix. The production is also fitting: The bassy distortion doesn't prevent the details from being heard, and the overall effect is dark and atmospheric.

Scent of Flesh will be a great buy for big death heads. It's another throwback to the early days of straightforward, brutal metal, employing the best advances of modern metal and leaving the keyboards behind. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Pal
 

OBSCURUS ADVOCAM - Verbia Daemonicus - CD - Battle Kommand Records - 2007

review by: Pal the Postman

I knew it! Obscurus Advocam had to be from France. Verbia Daemonicus has vibes that strongly seem to echo other French greats like Deathspell Omega, which I gave a raving review last year (see Issue 42). But Obscurus Advocam are based in a southern outmost part of Paris, still 200 miles away from Mikko Aspa’s horde..

This debut has been beautifully recorded in the Hybreed studio — a place that has becomes increasingly prolific in the French metal landscape — and edited and mixed by Frederic "Guillotine" Gervais (former drummer and recording engineer of 7th Nemesis). Members of Obscurus Advocam have also been in previous bands like Glorior Belli and Temple of Baal. A first demo was done solely by vocalist Infestuus, but once with the right personnel and plenty of experience, there did not seem to be more demo doings required. Off they went!

Verbia Daemonicus counts seven tracks in a compact span of 42 minutes, the longest song being the 8½ minute "Endarkenment."

Obscurus Advocam may not be as chaotic as Deathspell Omega, but in a musical sense, Infestuus’ vocals are very similar: a deep, humid and sore-throated growl.

A strong difference is the melodic weaving pattern, which is far less diabolical and much more melancholic. This is not to say that the songs are all slow and dragging forth, au contraire, there are plenty of manic blastbeat moments along with slow and mid-paced sections, but the accompanying waving chord patterns are often highly dramatic with an undercurrent of impending doom.

Many songs, like "Endarkenment" (especially at the closing part) make me imagine a warlord purposely marching to a fatal confrontation, but surpressing the feeling of despair. Here is no despair, in fact, here it is only emptiness that can respond to things like pain or agony.

The artwork displays a blend between mechanic and organic elements. The lyrics are greatly obscured, offering only hints to what their world consists of. It’s a task like one of an archeologist, trying to decipher the heavily eroded glyphs from ancient and forgotten steles.There are some pretty ideas to be found, like about "the alchemy of the strength of mind" and about being "merely a key, no path to greater spheres." Nice poetry can be found: "I must tell the vermin / as it eats me up with kisses / that I have preserved the form / and essence divine / of my decayed bones."

What can be made of it is indeed a mass of metaphors about decay of the body that leads to release of the divine, the acceptance of pain as part of becoming detached with the mundane. By now, you might think this album is hard to get accustomed to, but fear not, it isn’t. Again, it’s far less nihilistic and more melodic than Deathspell Omega, sometimes even with hints of Swedish melodic death. A most pleasing combination.

I hail this one as a great debut and it grow(l)s on me with each listen. It is obvious that the members are not beginners as they sound mature and experienced. A new black star un-dying? (7/10)

 

 

 

 
9.9/10 Roberto
 

RUINS OF BEVERAST, THE - Rain Upon the Impure - CD - Ván - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Put this CD in and turn your stereo up.

Now, turn it up even more.

There. Now you’ll be able to actually hear what’s going on in Rain Upon the Impure. In an age where albums’ productions get louder and louder (often to the detriment of their sonic quality), Rain Upon the Impure goes the *other* way, making you dig deep, even if it may be as banal as turning up the volume knob twice as loud as any other CD released in the past few years... you have to dig for it.

We’d like to think this was a conscious, philosophical reason behind this seemingly innocuous element. Everything about Rain Upon the Impure is black metal, in its most obscure and buried form. And it starts way before ever listening to the music.

Take a look at the packaging. We had to squint extra hard to even make out the "Rain Upon the Impure" on the CD spine. It took a random search of this album to realize it was by none other than The Ruins of Beverast, a black metal band that Maelstrom holds in tremendously high regard. (Check out our review of the debut in issue #44). You’ll have to get the magnifying glass out to notice that the minuscule logo way down on the album’s lower corner somehow bears the group’s name. What’s more, you won’t find any band photos or album credits. In light of this, that this second Ruins of Beverast album features lyrics seems almost out of place.

Yes, this is the same Ruins of Beverast that is the continuation of the black metal genius that Alexander Von Meilenwald abandoned after the essential Nagelfar’s third, final, and best album... (Please, that’s the German Nagelfar. Not the relatively tepid, artistically dull Swedish Naglfar) ...the same genius that also appears on another of Maelstrom’s favorite albums of 2006, Kermania.

And in its way, Rain Upon the Impure is the embodiment of the underground.

All this would be irrelevant if the music were pedestrian. But it’s all worth mentioning considering The Ruins of Beverast’s Rain Upon the Impure is the best black metal album to pass through Maelstrom HQ in years, and is no doubt one of the all-time greatest albums of the genre. Ever.

The entirety of the sprawling album comes across as if performed within a massive, sunless valley. Everything from the incessantly droning guitar, to the massive sweeps of keyboard wash, to the occasional instances of crushing choral sections, to the few dark ambient elements like sounds of trudging through swamp-like waters and far-off, anguished mooing, echoes and lingers monolithically through the landscapes irregular, organic surfaces.

Like dark, fetid geysers, the main vocals cut moist, belching swaths of sound from the depths of the bottom-most layer of Rain Upon the Impure’s many-layered miasma. The vocals aren’t limited to that, however. In fact, you won’t find as rich and effective a variety of vocal angles, sounds and styles on any other black metal record. The drums rattle away in their necro morbidity, holding the same intensity through sections of varying tempos.

Maelstrom’s writer Chaim Drishner has a good point about black metal and doom metal sharing many stylistic characteristics. This second Ruins of Beverast is the ideal of that notion. Rain Upon the Impure is no gratuitous, mindless exercise in the monotony that so many bands who play extremely fast or slow just for the sake of it. Rain Upon the Impure is all what those bands try to accomplish — an album that takes you on an incredible journey through deliberately languid movements both distorted and undistortedly eerie, to cathartic explosions of fury. And all the while, through one unique, memorable composition after another, The Ruins of Beverast maintains an unwavering, quintessential sense of heaviness. How many black metal albums can you say are the heaviest examples in the metal pantheon? Think of Weakling. Get this album.

And like with Weakling, you’ll be thanking the forces behind this release that Rain Upon the Impure goes on forever, or at least as forever as a CD can hold — 79 minutes and 54 seconds, spread out in five 15-or so-minute songs and two interludes approximately three minutes long each. And if we’re of the same mind, it’ll be the most blissed-out, transcendental and meaningful experience the black metal medium will be able to offer you. Best black metal album of 2007, bar none, and possibly best album of the year.

Just don’t forget to turn it up. (9.9/10)

PS: Why 9.9/10? Well, there’s one sample of a woman talking about Pagan dances, which is cool enough, except she’s got a most unenchantingly plain, flat American accent that thankfully only detracts slightly from this record’s utter triumph during the brief period that the sample appears.

PPS: In case you also loved the first Ruins of Beverast, Unlock the Shrine (Reliquary of the White Abyss), you might be happy to know that the second one sounds nothing like it, but it reaches a similar end through a different path. If you were a Nagelfar fan, you’ll definitely hear a good bit of Virus West (recently re-issued by Ván, and originally reviewed by us here) in Rain Upon the Impure, but in a much more atmospheric and sprawling application.

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Brandon
5/10 Roberto
 

ECHOES OF ETERNITY - The Forgotten Goddess - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2007

review by: Brandon Strader

Founded by Brandon S. Patton from Los Angeles in 2004, Echoes of Eternity has quickly risen to the top of the food chain with a cozy little spot on the Nuclear Blast roster. Patton found members for this female-fronted Goth metal project from various nooks and crannies throughout the world from Canada to Japan.

The Forgotten Goddess is very well constructed and features plenty of high-octane — though stereotypical — sections. Even if the album was just a get-rich-quick scheme on the part of the label whereas many bands have to toil for a decade to get this kind of deal, they reveal a bright future for female-fronted Goth metal that doesn't follow in the footsteps of the likes of Nightwish.

One logical comparison comes to mind: To-Mera. Both bands feature a hefty male background with all the ugliness that it brings, yet all of the vocals are female that are angelic in nature, and very soothing. It doesn't sound right on paper, yet the mixture of brute strength and a soft, loveable voice is much more effective than it seems like it should be. The first half is mostly heavy material, yet the second half of The Forgotten Goddess begins to introduce a more acoustic side of the band amongst the heaviness.

Echoes of Eternity fail at a few very important things. For one, the vocals are mixed way too loud. You'll likely pop this in, and find a comfortably loud volume for the bitingly strong rhythm and percussion and a minute later, the vocals will enter the music at such a loud volume that it will possibly crackle your speakers and hurt your brain. Considering the vocals are extremely present with the thick reverb, they really didn't need to crank them so much higher than the music. Also, as you progress through the album, many of the heavy and acoustic riffs respectively will begin to sound way too similar to each other. There really isn't enough variation throughout.

The Forgotten Goddess is basically your general Goth metal CD over-glorified with beautiful artwork and clear, big-budget production that creates the illusion of the extraordinary when in reality, you're faced with something fairly average. (5.5/10)

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Indeed. The Forgotten Goddess is better left forgotten. Frontwoman Francine Boucher is beautiful and has a great, great rack — hey, the promo photos (and advertising campaign in general) are all about it. And spectacular breasts are a very worthwhile thing, but, like, in pornography. Unfortunately, you can’t hear a great rack on record. Wouldn't it be great if you could?

What you can hear on Echoes of Eternity’s The Forgotten Goddess is a singer, while being able to hold a tune, is in the end very solidly average. And considering, as Brandon points out, that the vocals are far too loud for their own good, drives some major nails in the coffin of this album being recommendable.

Meanwhile, the musicianship beneath is pretty deft and might be interesting in the long-term if it weren’t mostly a vehicle for the bland vocals. Although Echoes of Eternity will no doubt reap benefits from their visual appeal — and good for them if they do — don’t be fooled by a pretty face. Let your ears be the judge. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Matt
 

FINE TUNED DISASTERS - Demonstealer Records compilation - CD - Demonstealer Records - 2006

review by: Matt Smith

This compilation is well put-together: Each band gets at least two tracks, so you can actually get a feel for each of them, and the groups have sounds that are similar, but not too similar. This is a tightrope walk, but the combination of thrash and hardcore mentalities is a good fit and should appeal to the same audience.

This having been said, each of these groups is a bit primitive stylistically for much of the metal audience. Good production and a decent amount of aggression from each band doesn't compensate for the overdone riffs, constant 4/4 time signatures and simplistic-groove-based formulas.

Bhayanak Maut takes the first four tracks with its poor Swedish thrash imitation. After the third track starts, you may be checking your CD player to see if it's on "repeat." It's not. But while you're there, skipping to track five brings you to...

Skincold. From their four tracks, it can be observed that this moody band specializes in the delicate, emotional intro that breaks into blindly belligerent hardcore grooves. The vocalist speaks, whines and screams in a style reminiscent of a lesser Jonathan Davis. I thought nu metal was out, but I guess the stoopid groove isn't dead quite yet.

Scribe is a marked improvement over its predecessors, in that it at least attempts originality. Though direct, testosterone-driven and predictable, the instrumentation is tight and changes are frequent enough to keep one's interest. The drums and guitars are both strong, and the interplay between them keeps the songs moving along. Scribe's thrashy-death style is measured and slow, but actually rather enjoyable.

Bitchslap only gets two tracks, but perhaps that is enough to learn what these guys are about: crunchy guitar lines and drum builds, emotional growls and crude grooving. Please, not another solo!

Finally, Amidst the Chaos gets two tracks with which to display its Lamb of God impression. It's not a good one. Plus, Lamb of God already makes enough songs that sound the same to require any imitators.

I wouldn't spend money on any of these groups, and I advise you to follow my lead. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

STACKRIDGE - Friendliness (re-issue) - CD - Angel Air Records - 2006

review by: Avi Shaked

The second, 1972 Stackridge album captures the eccentric band in a more sterile environment than the debut. There is a sense of restraint in the orchestration, probably due to the budget problems the band had to face after spending too much on its debut; but then again, Stackridge has always tried to avoid pomposity.

The flow of the songs and instrumentals as a whole is still a bit shaky (the band’s next release marks an improvement in this criterion), and it doesn’t add many (perhaps any) renovations over the already skillfully crafted and diverse debut. Still, the music of Stackridge, which might be deemed as "lightheaded," is full of nuances and elaboration — enough to make "more of the same" feel like "different."

The opening instrumental, "Lummy Days," navigates between childish wind instrument playing and a viscous, half-menacing movement. The title track follows and introduces the almost too-sweet melodies that would surface throughout, while "Anyone for Tennis" adds the more humoristic approach that characterizes a good deal of the band’s material to the equation.

The Beatles influences are less dominant here than on the debut, and yet, the sorrowful epic "Syracuse the Elephant" combines all of the ingredients mentioned above with some raga, and hints at the Fab Four’s more elaborate pieces.

The re-issue adds four wonderful tracks, culled of the band’s adjacently released singles. The first and the third are in tune with the mellow approach of some of the original album’s songs, benefitting much from the sensitive arrangements; while the lengthy instrumental "Purple Spaceships Over Yatton" has a more disturbed, though unintended, dissonant feel. The cheery "Do the Stanley" sounds a bit like a Ringo Starr song, enhanced by a thumping brass orchestration. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
6.75/10 Avi
 

LIBERTY 'N' JUSTICE - Soundtrack of a Soul - CD - LNJ Records - 2006

review by: Avi Shaked

I have pressed the "play" button many times on this Liberty N’ Justice album during the last few months. The slightly childish introduction taken from the movie "School of Rock," some hard rock clichés and a Christian reference every here and there caught my ear at first listening and didn’t leave me expecting much; yet Soundtrack of a Soul turned out to be not only a fun hard rock listen, but also one that occasionally demonstrates a fine craftsmanship. The fact that the band is actually a project by Justin Murr and a load of guest players and vocalists (Mikkey Dee, Leif Garrett, and Phil Naro, to name a few) doesn’t detract from its cohesiveness.

The music blends inspirations from Alice Cooper, Skid Row (and Sebastian Bach even guests here), ‘80s blues-metal ("Hope & Pray" sounds like Blue Murder) as well as a bit of the new millennium’s light metal in its somewhat exaggerated performance. Murr usually doesn’t take things too seriously, and at times the material borders on the ridiculous and sounds like a more primitive version of Frameshift’s An Absence of Empathy.

There are some songs that are delivered with more honesty and intent though, such as the slightly sentimental "If the World Could Be Mine," which features a nice touch of strings and beautiful vocal work by Joe Cerisano; resulting in an overall well-balanced and entertaining album. Just make sure you avoid the banal, closing sermon. (6.75/10)

 

 

 

 
9.5/10 Mladen
 

FURZE - UTD - CD - Candlelight Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Good news first: Furze has a new, third, album out; and it is fantastic. Now, the bad news: you are not going to understand it. Don't even try, because no one can.

Only Furze can understand Furze. Ask the mastermind, going by the name The One Reaper, what might be the meaning behind a track called "Beneath the Wings of the Black Vomit Above" and the explanation will be something like "No 1 = microcosm. No 2 = ‘half-eternity’ systems (which means *ALL* ideas of ANY divine, cyber, alien, spiritual, etc etc, known and unknown) life. No 3 = The Reaper (Absolute Eternity in time and space)." Makes sense only if you don't think about it.

UTD (only The One Reaper knows what it stands for) is a CD subtitled Beneath the Odd-Edge Sounds to the Twilight Contract of the Black Fascist / The Wealth of the Penetration in the Abstract Paradigmas of Satan, and is actually a split album (Furze with Furze, of course). It takes some effort to find the exact part where Furze stops and Furze begins, though.

But when it does begin it's a blast. Remember the old days, when you were probably young and accustomed to polished sound, ear-friendly melodies and slick guitar solos? Now remember what it was like the first time you heard the opposite — harsh, misanthropic black metal — and the impact it had? You weren't ready for it, you didn't really understand what they were saying or doing, but you knew it was good and it made you ask for more. And if you're thinking that nothing can surprise you any more now, in 2007, you obviously need some Furze in your life. Just listen to UTD first, you'll understand it later.

For the time being, let's concentrate solely on the music. The guitar is thin, nervous and cruel, played with extreme competence and without any respect for subtlety. The composition is chaotic and the dissonant licks sound as if they are a product of some random note generator. At times the speed is unbelievable, but the drums don't have any problems in keeping up with the guitar, blindly following the same inverted licks wherever they go.

The bass, at first, seems to be a joke, a note plucked here and there. But once you have realized that it is used like a gong or a tribal drum, it is quite disturbing. And the vocals are the icing on the cake, murmured, moaned, whispered and screamed wherever The One Reaper thought they should be, but seldom where you'd expect them.

After the initialization, patiently wait and the day will come. The day on which you will finally understand Furze. The bad news is that it will be the day when everything goes wrong — your girlfriend has left you for another dog, your boss is giving the promotion to the guy who is sleeping with his mother, your car is pregnant and your dog has left you for another girlfriend. Play UTD then and you'll know. "A Life About my Sabbath"? Yeah, that's true. "Deep in the Pot of Fresh Antipodal Weave"? Couldn't have put it better yourself, right? In your own little shattered world, you'll be thinking that Satan is the only lord and Furze is his prophet. (9.5/10)

 

 

 

 
10/10 Larissa G
6/10 Pal
 

LEVIATHAN - Time End - Cassette - not available - 1998

review by: Larissa Glasser

editor’s note: Maelstrom has got much of its notoriety through our coverage of black metal darling Leviathan. We told our readers about this quintessential project years before the rest of the world knew about it. In the interest of completing our coverage of the out-of-print demo back catalog, and to set straight some misinformation in some other sites that chronicle Leviathan’s work, we will be filling in the gaps in our coverage, eventually writing about all of the one-man projects’ 15 demo efforts. Please note that these demos are not for sale through us or anywhere else that we know of. They may or may not be downloadable online somewhere. I for one don’t know or care. We are purely interested in telling our readers what goes where and what it sounds like. 

This, Leviathan’s second demo, is the earliest slab of the San Franciscan one-man cult black metal project I’ve managed to hear. Wrest uses his 4-track recorder as a ritualistic weapon. Anyone who has heard his work can recognize that unique riffing, inhuman vokills (from croak to screech), intense musicianship, volume and E-bow swelling, and vapor of TOTAL hatred.

Wrest’s years as a drummer in San Francisco’s instrumental prog-rock band Gift Horse work to his credit here — his songs are without mistake black metal, but the more proggy elements that keep popping up are just incapable of being boring. Time End is full of great blackened exodus, more mid-paced than his later Moribund Cult material. But as can be heard on his 2002 demo compilation, Verrater, the evil-lution of his material over the years has evinced an outstanding range of influences, everything from Celtic Frost to Siousxie and the Banshees.

Favorite cuts include "Force the Hand of Evilution," "Black Fire Serenity," and DEFINITELY "Awakened by Coldest Fire" ("here we go!" = best riff ever, belches flame at any of those classic Sabbath motifs, I shit you not). (10/10)

PS: Being an early recording, you pretty much HAVE to blast Time End to hear it.

review by: Pal the Postman

The sails are set to a sphere all its own in the landscape of black metal in a small apartment on the west coast of the United States. Hateful images are conjured of a new age where old ways of worship are overthrown with the unmasking of fairy tales for the frail of mind... "The Fairy Tales for the Righteous."

On this demo, Leviathan mastermind Wrest obviously shows a blueprint of his trademark sound and composing style, but let the seeker be warned: An overall unevenly balanced recording technique and a by now severely outdated range of e-drumkit sounds testify of the introspective backroom character of Time End. The critical listener should consider this as the shape of things to come, not as some long lost treasure crying out to be re-discovered.

There are eight tracks on the second demo, of which four1 have re-appeared officially (and in dramatically improved sound quality).

Track 2 is an early version of "Ambassador of Misanthropy" and has, like the third track, "Time End," appeared on the second disc of Verräter.

It seems that over time, some song titles have developed into others and were changed. Hence, track 7, mentioned as "Awakened by the Coldest Fire" on the 2nd demo, is identical to "Force the Hand of Evilution" on the Verräter disc, whereas track 6 is supposed to be "Force the Hand of Evilution," but it can be identified as a prototypical and longer version of "Tampered" from his seventh demo. The last song, "Time End II," actually consists of two separate parts with a slow, lengthy outro starting at the 5:11 mark, meandering it’s way to 11:16 in the style of the second half of "Time End I."

Some compositions are fascinating in structure and it is fun to hear Wrest experiment with different kinds of vocals. The familiar raspy vocals are present already, but often very distant in the mix.
It may not be a surprise that these recordings are nowhere near the monolithic menace of his later works.

Last but not least: Starting from his first recordings, Wrest adopted that slightly annoying milkbottle percussive sound that would stay prominently present uptil demo 7. It's the definite clue to tell the early demos from the later ones. (6/10)

 

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

 

 

 
9.2/10 Mladen
 

STRIBORG - Nefaria/A Tragic Journey Towards the Light - CD - Southern Lord - 2007

review by: %%name=Mladen Škot

"An insult to anyone who ever tried to play an instrument or write a song," "evilness in the shape of amateurism," "horrendous sound quality"... yeah, right, we've been reading what others have written about Striborg. Not very professional, but we couldn't resist. Well, if your idea of black metal is "you know, a band called Dimmu Borgir from somewhere in Germany," then simply walk on. There's nothing for you here.

It's nearly impossible to count all the releases by the Tasmanian workaholic Sin Nanna. The guy lives in a shack at the end of some village, communicates with the world via hand-written letters, and single-handedly records Striborg albums one after another. So, here's another two, one new and one re-released demo. If you've heard the previous release, Embittered Darkness, and liked it, initially you'll be rather disappointed with the sound on Nefaria — it is actually good in comparison. The guitar sound is fuller, you can hear the complete drum kit, and the vocals are magnificent, distorted screams.

Nefaria’s is still not as good as, say, Darkthrone's polished production (no, that wasn't a typing error) but not as thin and buzzy. Nonetheless, what you expect from Striborg is not the sound engineering virtuosity, it is the atmosphere. And Nefaria is a cult, raw, necro black metal gem right from the start. Kicking off with a blastbeat and the most unpleasant keyboard sound ever, it literally sucks the listener in. After that, nothing really matters. It can be slow or fast, simple or wild, long or short — it just is. Details like tempos and riffs are irrelevant. No other bands come to mind — correction, nothing else comes to mind, except the overall misanthropic, claustrophobic, secluded glory. The pleasure in disconnecting yourself from the trivial world above and plunging into the dark world of your cherished nightmares.

A Tragic Journey Towards the Light comes as a second part of the CD. It is a rare 1995 demo and — finally — it sounds bad. Imagine a copy of a tape recorded from an mp3, some kind of a cheap electronic drum kit — or a drum machine, a guitar recorded on an answering machine and vocals that are too loud — it sounds THAT bad. Still, it's essential. With some concentration, the songs reveal themselves as prime examples of superfast, furious black metal, and it's not hard to realize that with at least the modern Striborg production, they would be devastating. As it is, they are here as a historical artifact, a recollection of something that could have been. You'd want to hear them anyway, so think of A Tragic Journey Towards the Light as what it is, something you'd pay to get and you get it for free.

But this review is about Nefaria, and while listening to Nefaria, nothing else exists. (9.2/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Roberto
 

FORTERESSE - Métal Noir Québecois - CD - Sepulchral - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

If you’re of a similar cult, occult, wonky black metal-loving mind; a person that revels in a perceived sense of what is best in the genre equally from its idiosyncracies as from its more accepted standards, then you’re going to dig Forteresse.

Start with the cover. There’s an old-timey guy holding a violin in the same way you’d sternly wield a machine gun. That fucking rules almost as much as the opening seconds of the first track, which features an equally old-timey, jiggy number that evokes 19th Century Americana, (and that was recorded probably not long after that) — something you’d expect to hear on a Karjalan Sissit album — and how it crudely smashes into a full-speed section of what Forteresse primarily does on Métal Noir Québecois, namely super blurry and melodic black metal spurred on by an overdriven drum machine. The transition between the seemingly polarly disparate elements of the quaint and rustic with the sinister and extreme — and with both elements taken with the same level of seriousness — is a good a reason to proudly, instinctively raise the horns as any.

Octinomos is the most apt comparison to Forteresse. And while Octinomos still has done it better, there’s definite room for this newly arrived French Canadian project. There are some really emotive, powerfully melancholic melodies to be found on this album, and for those who like their black metal sweeping and somewhat lovely in spite of the freezing fog that permeates its notes, then Forteresse is a definite sell. And the instances of those traditional, sampled recordings — although appearing a bit formulaically throughout the record, whose compositions, truth be told, largely turn the same trick throughout — as well as the obvious, nationalistic gusto that the one and only member of Forteresse executes his compositions, are their own version of an energizing thrill to enjoy. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.1/10 Mladen
 

POTENTIAM - Years in the Shadows - CD - Schwarzdorn Productions - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Could it be that all the slow, sad, doom, ambient and gothic bands are wrong? Listening to Potentiam's third album, Years in the Shadows, things do get a bit confusing. It isn't slow at all. It isn't quiet, brooding and reflective. It is highly energetic, bringing loud gusts — of sadness and melancholy. And they come at such a tempo that the listener doesn't have to wait for the right mood to realize them. Instead, the black, icy melancholy is overwhelming and possessing, whether you want it or not.

Why bother with kindly presenting your dark feelings through slow music and making yourself believe that it is depressive? Potentiam have used the same depression and intensified it, giving it all the impact it needed. Almost sounding like black metal, Years in the Shadows’ riffing is ceaseless. The rhythm guitar is constantly scraping off layer upon layer of ice, just to reveal even more ice beneath. Lead guitar melodies are omnipresent, simple, persuasive and important, clashing with the rhythm, going astray and returning with a different message. Maybe reminiscent of Amorphis or Opeth, but with Potentiam’s own Icelandic style.

Though the avant-garde songwriting has more complexity than you'd notice at first glance, or maybe after dozens of listens, there isn't a contrived moment in sight. No wasted space, no weak moments apart from the weakness the music itself induces. And Eldur's vocals don't really help the things go brighter. It is a proud, strong voice but the effect it has has nothing to do with positive feelings.

Years in the Shadows is an assemblage of two remastered promos: Elysium (2003) and Chameleon (2006) — and, concerning the production, there is no significant difference between them. Everything is loud and clear, but the guitar sound is curious. Brief, palm-muted breaks sound shattering and there is just about enough ice on the reverb to make the guitar sound freezing.

If there's one objection, it would be that the whole sound picture is almost mono, with nearly everything in the middle. Not important at all, because listening to Years in the Shadows through the headphones makes even more things obvious. That is, if you are willing to submit yourself to this kind of emotional torture.

But you will be, because it is also highly addictive. Looking at Years in the Shadows like that, it is a bad album. It causes depression and makes you come back for more. Really, really bad album. (8.1/10)

 

 

 

 
7.6/10 Mladen
 

BLOOD OF THE BLACK OWL - Blood of the Black Owl - CD - Bindrune - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Let's call it "heathen meditative music" for lack of a better term. No, Blood of the Black Owl's debut isn't silent and pointless plinking on the keyboards and percussion, just the opposite. What Chet W. Scott has used are some highly unusual instruments — first and foremost, a baritone guitar. The other instruments are just as interesting — just naming them should be enough: thunder gong, brass tubular bells, organ, young ox horn, antique celestaphone and black clay ocarina.

With so many words going just into describing the Seattle-based, one-man band's arsenal of weapons, describing the music itself is fairly simple. It's slow, dark and primitive. The poor baritone guitar has gained popularity by being used in bands too bad to be mentioned here, but on Blood of the Black Owl, it proves itself as a perfect brush for painting landscapes with cloudy night skies and distant mountain tops. The sustain is tremendous, the distorted sound is unique, and there's no need for either a bass guitar or a regular guitar, whose high-pitched notes would only bring distraction.

Then, there are the drums. Obviously, with one snare beat every four seconds, it could have been funeral doom — were it not for the baritone guitar's sound and the fact that it is not even beginning to lose volume between the snare hits. The vocal intrusions are minimal and the atmosphere has nothing to do with funerals and sorrow — it's more about self-search and introspection. There are some ritualistic passages accompanied by the sounds of nature, but the way the album flows, it all merges into one unique and shamanic 70-minute experience.

If there are any objections, it would be the way the songs present themselves — not really commanding attention but rather needing full concentration. To the majority, Blood of the Black Owl will just sound like some slow riffs repeated over and over; but for the rest, it will be very personal. This writer would propose that, in spite of the Nordic song titles, the atmosphere and the riffs themselves actually bring out images of a Native American wandering through the hills in search of a vision, but with Blood of the Black Owl it is really not about the destination. It is about the journey. (7.6/10)

 

 

 

 
10/10 Mladen
 

MANOWAR - The Day the Earth Shook - The Absolute Power - DVD - Magic Circle Music - 2006

review by: Mladen Škot

Let's throw some objectivity out the window, because I love Manowar. I have grown up with them; they reached the places no other band can, and they have never disappointed. However, I have never seen them live, nor have I seen any of their DVDs. The things I've heard weren't appealing — hour long solos, pretentious macho posing and doing various things to women on and off the stage. There better be none of that on this double DVD — if The Day The Earth Shook is indeed going to be the DVD of all DVDs, as it is said to be.

The first impression is positive — the package is luxurious and massive. Once again, it's time to show everyone that I have something new by Manowar, whether they wanted to see it or not. The booklet is extensive and the pictures are perfect. Apparently, this DVD was filmed in Germany, at the Earthshaker Fest 2005, before 25.000 fans, and unleashing 250.000 watts of power upon them. There were guest appearances by all the previous band members, just for this one time. There goes the rest of the objectivity. How about I just write what I see?

Well, I see, very clearly, and from all the angles, Manowar. They look big, yes. And they look bloody-minded, determined and serious. The sound is as good as I can estimate, though I would need about 249.900 more watts to give you an honest opinion. As it is, the bass guitar is buzzing like a mad, elephant-sized wasp, the drums are huge and thunderous and the guitar is clear and sharp. The vocals are where they should be, but there's also a 200-piece choir and orchestra. And the band kicks off with "Manowar," standing in more various gunfighter poses than you'll ever see on a Judas Priest DVD. And man, they look good.

No, there is nothing remotely homoerotic about this, this is about religion. You've had about 25 years to learn it, if you came here to read about Manowar for the first time, read something else. First song ends, the rest is a blur of impressions. Some of them include:

- Eric Adams engaging the audience into a sing-along, then a scream-along. 25.000 people screaming do not make a pleasant sound, but you'll never hear it on an Iron Maiden DVD.

- After the silent bit in "Warriors of the World," all of the audience spontaneously jumping without being told to do so. Haven't seen that on a Slipknot DVD.

- David Shankle entering to play "The Glory of Achilles." Fuck, he's FAST. Left hand under the fretboard, left hand over the neck, all the time playing about 100 notes per second. Haven't seen that on a Dream Theater DVD.

- My dog entering the room while I'm grimacing along with something like "I live and I die by the swoooooooooord!!!" and escaping in fear.

- Adams can sing, yeah. But when he chooses to scream he's a beast. The end of "Black Wind, Fire and Steel" is turned into black metal and for a while this is more disturbing than anything you'll see on a Mayhem DVD.

- The show being almost over, and Joey DeMaio ripping the strings off what seems to be his $20,000 bass guitar and throwing them into the audience. Luckily, he had one more guitar for the grand finale.

- And yes, the grand finale featuring three guitarists, three drummers and everyone else playing and singing "Battle Hymn" at the same time. There was hardly a dry eye in the audience. My throat hurts, and I haven't been singing.

The show was a triumph, a monument in Manowar history and a treasure for every fan. The recording is perfect, the songs vary from the crowd pleasers to the warrior anthems (though in this case it is all the same) and if it was the only thing here it would have been enough. However, there are seven hours of footage in total. The bonuses are way too numerable to mention, but there are sound checks, chopper competitions, the whole history of the show from the initial New York rehearsals to the assembling of the PA and lighting systems, with DeMaio's comments. Just how did this man hear enough to get a doctorate in music after 25 years of playing in the loudest band on the planet is an enigma, but he's a perfectionist, sensitive to every decibel going astray.

Finally, there's a documentary about the Manowar Fan Convention, already described in The Sons of Odin review. This is "The Extended Experience," with everything in more detail, but the most interesting thing is watching the guitar clinics held by all the three guitarists. Ross The Boss is a star — playing fans' favorite riffs and they are more than happy to sing along. Karl Logan is a friend — actually giving some guitar tips. But Shankle just plays along with his solo album. Not very interesting. Just like the guy with the Croatian flag in the first row — okay, we've seen you, but too much is too much. When I'm watching Manowar I don't want to be at home. I want to be in Valhalla (yeah, you did a good job).

But, in reality those are just minor disturbances. With such an extensive amount of perfect material, it's not hard to lose hours and hours of time, and experience the Manowar reality with such an intensity that the return to this reality comes as pain. Pure escapism. But if that's not what life is all about, what is? (10/10)

 

 

 

 
5.7/10 Mladen
 

CLANDESTINE BLAZE - Church of Atrocity - CD - Northern Heritage - 2007

Mladen Škot

Mikko Aspa, the one and only member of Clandestine Blaze, is also the owner of black metal label Northern Heritage, a power-electronics label called Freak Animal, and a member of a number of metal bands and electronics/noise projects. Also, he is an owner of a porn label, editing a magazine called "Erotic Perversion" and releasing "Public Obscenities" videos. Quite an extensive CV, which would probably lead to the conclusion that he might be a very interesting character. But, one of the things that Church of Atrocity lacks is also that same thing — character.

There's nothing wrong with being a Darkthrone clone, if it is done well. And all that is necessary is here — the instruments are probably cheap, although they are very well recorded. The convincing non-linear vocals, the trademark mid-tempo blast and an occasional Hellhammer reference in the guitar work. The lyrics are as good as any, the drumming is competent and the speed-picked bass is a nice addition. But the majority of the album is made of the same barre chords moved up and down the fretboard, not exactly breathtaking rhythm changes, and zero originality.

Everything is as "true" as it can be but also bleak. If it was meant to be cold and grim, it is. But the coldness is coming from a bland lack of variation, rather than from doing whatever the hell Aspa wanted and getting away with it because of his attitude. Maybe it's the porn editor bit that did it. Where are your weapons, man?

But, if you're looking for one more true black metal CD in your collection and willing to give Church of Atrocity a couple of spins, it will withstand it. Probably even more than that, but mainly as grim background noise. (5.7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Fist of the Northern Destroyer (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
4.4/10 Mladen
 

AXEMASTER - Blessing in the Skies (re-issue) - CD - Burning Star Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Reunion alert! This time it is an Ohio-based heavy metal trio, Axemaster. They are already working on new songs and you can hear samples on their MySpace page, but this review is about their first release, Blessing in the Skies, from 1987, re-mastered and re-released with some previously unavailable songs.

So, what do we first think when the eighties heavy/rock is mentioned? Try to guess and all the answers will be correct. Mullets? Check. Moustaches? Ditto. Tight jeans and spandex? Naturally. Lyrics? Cheap horror stories and glorification of the rock lifestyle.

The music is a mixture of Judas Priest, Saxon and some old King Diamond, but even by 1987 standards it is nothing original. It's the medium-slow hard rock with, admittedly, solid musicianship and enough diversity but hopelessly outdated. Let's remind ourselves what else we have heard from 1987 — bands like Helloween, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Manowar or Sanctuary all had releases that can be taken seriously even today, so it seems that age is not an excuse.

And that is without taking Blessing in the Skies’s sound into account — drums that are too loud and guitars somewhere out there, not really connecting to each other. Christopher Michael's vocals are charming in an early thrash metal way, and the use of two bass drums adds some attack, but we heard bands doing all this five or ten years before Axemaster.

If there's anything in favor of this re-release, it is the fact that there are some collectionists out there who might think that twenty years of lying in the cellar makes an album vintage. Or, maybe there'll be a random buyer checking out just what was it that made the eighties so laughable. (4.4/10)

 

 

 

 
5.9/10 Mladen
 

SOLEFALD - Black for Death - An Icelandic Odyssey, Part II - CD - Season of Mist - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Black for Death is a sequel to the first part of Solefald’s "Icelandic Odyssey," 2005's Red for Fire. Now, it seems that everyone has something to say about Solefald, but it's just as easy not to have an opinion at all. Although they are innovative, using some rather unique elements not readily associated with black metal, such as saxophones, psychedelic keyboards, spoken passages and a very diverse use of guitar, there's something not just right.

If you haven't heard Solefald, try to imagine a combination of later-day Emperor and recent Borknagar, with an Icelandic touch. On Black for Death, there are 12 tracks, all very diverse, but after a number of listens some incoherencies begin to surface. For instance, take a track and listen to it — from almost nu-metal thrash jumping to a double bass drum attack, from seemingly hollow riffs to swathes of keyboards and melodic vocals, but the tempo never, ever changes.

In other words, if you start tapping your foot when the album begins, you will keep tapping in the same rhythm until the end. Thus, the parts that could have brought some connection to the listener — that precious adrenalin moment — remain almost unnoticed. And an odyssey should have more than just different levels of loudness.

Then, the execution — the croaks sound contrived and although probably intended to sound cold, give an impression of pretentiousness, of not really meaning it. The occasional screams are quite good; while the melodic vocals and choirs sound overproduced. They are done well, but lack credibility — where, for instance, the same thing done on Ihsahn's solo album leaves quite a different impression.

Speaking about the sound, there is not much wrong, and the violins and thin keyboards do add some uniqueness... though a bit more rawness might at least bring some attention to the music. As it is, the three tracks with speech accompanied by ambient instrumentals are the most intriguing parts of the album.

Black for Death is not all bad; not many other bands could have done something like this. It is a complex album with some challenging moments. But it sounds like Solefald are convinced that they can do no wrong. Yet, occasionally, they do. (5.9/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Pills against the Ageless Ills (issue No 7)  
In Harmonia Universali (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
8.25/10 Avi
 

MAD BLISS - Heaven Through Old Eyes - CD - Earsay Records - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

Listening to the Israeli trio Mad Bliss on its debut full-length release (which follows 2002's Karen's Molested Apple EP) feels almost like reliving the ‘90s; and even though there is a more up-to-date touch (in the production and studio effects) the album retains its core of gutsy songwriting and organic delivery.

The album conducts under a foggy production, and is embedded with references to the ‘90s rock scene. "Flight of a Dove," for instance, raises vibes of Jeff Buckley — it is an emotive song that builds on delicate guitar buried underneath the grayish curtain. "Alamo" picks up from there, slowly making way for raging, amplified tones — you can almost imagine Pearl Jam in its early days, only more complex (a Spanish flavoured middle section, for example) and with cleaner aesthetics that borrows its melodic suspension from dream rock and ambient, extreme metal at the same time.

There is something magnetizing and passionate about the way Mad Bliss blends the ingredients mentioned above, and delivers them with an autumnal atmosphere. In fact, in terms of vibe, this conglomerated, solid album resembles Agalloch’s The Mantle (minus the black metal; just compare the two albums’ opening tracks and see for yourself), which makes it rank high in my book. (8.25/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Avi
 

STACKRIDGE - Extravaganza (re-issue) - CD - Angel Air Records - 2007

review by: Avi Shaked

Giggling unfamiliar vocals, an upbeat vibe, a booming rhythm and Dixieland-flavoured horns — this is how Stackridge’s fourth album opens, making the band’s surgical lineup change all the more obvious.

Produced with the help of Tony Ashton, Extravaganza is appropriately named. In a way, the album is Stackridge’s "Sergeant Pepper." Playfulness and fantasy are at the heart of this 1975 release — this might seem all the more radical due to the change in emphasis: The dramatic and contemplative elements that made the previous albums all the more epic and thoughtful were replaced (or at least diminished to be taken over) by a seemingly more cheerful and impulsive drive.

In accordance with the new stress, the later tracks here reveal yet another renovation. "Benjamin’s Giant Onion" suggests this with its Canterbury leaning, but once the instrumental "Rufus T Firefly" kicks in it’s even harder to ignore: The orchestral arrangements, which were some of the previous albums’ crown jewels, have metamorphosed into jazz-rock ones.

The aforementioned instrumental mash of Soft Machine and Caravan leads to the wonderful song (penned by Gordon Haskell) "No One’s More Important Than The Earthworm," which does restore Stackridge some of its reflectiveness (although it could have fit stylistically on almost any ‘70s thinking man’s art rock band’s album), just before the band delves into two more jazz-rock instrumentals, this time in a more elaborated, Frank Zappa style.

Some can argue that Extravaganza misses the singular Stackridge spirit. This simply isn’t so. Stackridge might have gone a bit off track with this release, but the humoristic, idiosyncratic characteristics are still there, as colourful as ever (if not more vivid), and so are the prolific creativity and the fun, captivating execution — these have just been re-tuned to get a different effect, and redirected to explore fresh grounds. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
4/10 Roberto
 

LORDI - The Arockalypse - CD - The End Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

It's impossible to say anything about Lordi without having in mind the historical circumstances, for tearing a new asshole in the Eurosong competition certainly is a historical event.

For those of you who are outside Europe (or living under a rock... alypse) the Eurovision Song Contest is a traditional, annual contest where every country chooses one song (usually by televoting) and sends it to the finals. Then, the winner is chosen by the whole of Europe, whose population votes with their telephones and the country that wins hosts the Eurosong next year. Simple as that.

Things got a bit complicated in 2006 when the word spread — Finland was sending Lordi. As you can imagine, everyone usually sends pop stars, love songs, flowers and tits, whichever they think would make them look better. Lordi weren't looking good at all. They looked like a product of an orgy held by members of GWAR, The Berzerker, Slipknot and Rob Zombie; the song was called "Hard Rock Hallelujah" and the lyrics were about demons, angels, the day of Rockoning and the Arockalypse. Well, everyone knows Lordi. And guess what happened?

Every self-respecting fan of rock, metal or just alternative music stayed at home just for the hell of it and voted. The result? Absolute victory and the biggest score in history. And the image of a winged monster wearing a top hat in the Finnish colors will be keeping us warm just about forever.

Obviously, spreading your wings over 600 millions of viewers can't be bad for your career, can it? After that milestone, regardless of what The Arockalypse ended up sounding like, its success is guaranteed. Fortunately, the music on the disc has everything it has to have to back it up. Apart from the longer version of "Hard Rock Hallelujah," there are ten new tracks, one re-recorded and three bonuses, which amounts to forty minutes of energetic, stomping shock rock.

No, Lordi aren't serious at all — it is all clean, good fun, but of the very loud, anthemic, bombastic kind. So, instead of contemplating the meanings behind track titles like "Supermonstars" or "The Chainsaw Buffet," let yourself go — there's nothing wrong with simply enjoying. Air guitar, headbang, sing-along, it's all here. You can listen to The Arockalypse in your car, while you work out, on a party or simply to piss off your neighbors. They are loud. They don't sing about love, they growl about monsters. And they look the part.

Older listeners will probably want to know that there are guest appearances by Twisted Sister and Accept vocalists, but really, you should keep an eye on the special edition with a bonus DVD. We didn't get it with the promo disc, but if it features the "Hard Rock Hallelujah" video with the zombified cheerleaders, it's well worth the extra cash. Lordi claim that their goal is "Bringing Back the Balls to Rock." It is safe to say: mission accomplished. (music value: 8/10, historical value: 10/10)

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Having Lordi win the Eurovision Song Contest must be something like a soccer-loving nation winning the World Cup, but win it all by playing badminton. Mladen summed the improbability of it all just fine. Imagine someone who thought Chris Barnes was god entering "American Idol" and winning.

And I, like no doubt many, many metal fans the world over, was thrilled that a heavy metal band (and one that had been heralded in these pages years before) won something as pansy and wishy-washy as the Eurovision Contest.

That is, until I actually heard the music.

How long does the goddamn intro track to The Arockalypse, and its hell-of-lame, phoney-sounding radio "reports" of monsters attacking society go on for? For any other record, this would be major flirtation with commercial suicide.

Oh, hey, the actual music finally started. Dude, it’s like totally hum-drum, bonehead-simple heavy rock music with rough, gravelly vocals. Let’s take another look at Lordi, the band, again. Can anyone else say "GWAR"?

But let’s be fair to Lordi, to GWAR, and to any other band whose get-up, schtick, or stage show is clearly more important than their actual music, like The Spice Girls: It’s hard to play interesting, even-remotely complex music when you’re traipsing around stage with all that stuff on.

Lordi’s winning Eurovision was its own false reality: That the masses, the ones we (who like to label ourselves as "underground" music listeners) deride incessantly for liking music spoon-fed to them only because we think they don’t realize they have a choice, would actually vote en masse for a really good heavy metal band, say, like Hammers of Misfortune.

But that’s a pipe dream. The most likely truth is that the people who voted for Lordi would overwhelmingly NOT vote for Hammers of Misfortune, or Angra, or Nevermore, or even Stratovarius, because people in general don’t like that stuff.

What they WOULD vote for is Lordi: a bunch of dorks playing dorky music in dorky costumes... but dorks just totally whacked enough to a degree never before beheld by the mainstream world that it became like the coolest thing to be into.

And so is it a travesty, a blow to the metal world that the new flag-bearers of metal are the farthest thing from an example that any metal fan who was into the genre purely for the love and appreciation of the music would hold up for the uninitiated to see, in misguided hopes of enlightenment? Is it a fraud that Lordi isn’t even a metal band?

Fuck, no. Let the world continue to believe that whatever Lordi (or whoever else comes next, waiving the metal banner to the appeal of millions) does is metal. It’ll distract the great soul-sucking leech of mainstream appeal from grabbing on to the best actual metal has to offer and ruining it. I think it’s great Lordi won the Eurovision contest. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
8.3/10 Mladen
 

PAGAN DEAD, THE - Spondalia - CD - Stygian Realm - 2006

review by: Mladen Škot

If black metal is, by many, regarded as a joke, what about American black metal, then? They'll say that the Americans lack the attitude, the evilness, the roots, the tradition and who knows what else. Put simply, it's not for them. Not so for the Salt Lake City trio The Pagan Dead. They have shamelessly embraced the joke and thrown it right back at the world.

Yes, apparently Americans don't know what belongs where, and what they are singing about. So, The Pagan Dead have a pagan name — but the artwork of their second album, Spondalia, is adorned by Satanic and Egyptian symbols, with the goddess Kali and a 666 thrown in for good measure. The lyrics? Everything you could imagine — anti-Christian, horror, Egypt, ancient Rome, Hermetic formulas, witches, Thanathos and Charon — they all get a honorable mention.

And, uh, look at them. There's a singer playing upright bass, a blonde goth chick behind the drums and, strangely, a regular guitarist. Not a regular band by any means, and their music is an even stranger beast... but a ludicrous, irresistible beast it most definitely is.

Nothing could really prepare you for the maniacal slapping and up-and-down pumping of the acoustic, upright double bass, and the strangely matching bloody growls. The guitar is even more out of place, playing some distorted kind of blackabilly riffing. As far as drums go, Hecate could give Meg White a run for her money in the charmingly retarded drumming department.

Add all this together and what you get are 13 contagious tracks of spooky hellbilly mayhem played at just the right speed, but with over the top intensity. Now that's what American roots sound like when they are turned inside out. Preposterous, yes. But what isn't? It's not hard to imagine The Pagan Dead as an opening act to Marduk. (8.3/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
 

VINTERRIKET - ...Und Die Nacht Kam Schweren Schrittess - CD - Displeased Records - 2007

review by: Mladen Škot

Originally released in 2002, ...Und Die Nacht Kam Schweren Schrittess is now re-released through Displeased Records with a bonus track. If you have heard of Vinterriket you know what to expect — dark ambient music, keyboards and the sounds of nature. Those are just words. Not a proper tool for description, really, because there's one thing that some have and some don't, but noone can really describe: magic.

Whatever inspires Christoph Ziegler, a man living by the forest and probably playing his keyboards on the front porch, it works. Compared to his more recent releases, here we have less ambient noises and more tangible melodies. Initially, it's a hindrance, and those familiar with his more recent output might bluntly ask "But where's the wind?" Well, just like everything else concerning Vinterriket: It is in your head. Some of it is in the artwork, an exquisite collection of wintry, grey forests and mysterious clouds, some of it is in the music and some of it is left to your imagination. Vinterriket's task is to merely spark your imagination and then it's up to you.

Some will just hear another variation on the Burzum instrumentals, some will hear relaxing, meditative music, and some will be rewarded with fear and anxiety... because who knows what malevolent shapes might be hiding behind those clouds and trees?

Those of a more adventurous nature might actually want to take ...Und Die Nacht Kam Schweren Schrittess with themselves and listen to it on a night walk through the forest. If you survive, do let us know what it was like. (8.5/10)

PS: Displeased Records has also re-released Vinterriket’s Lichtschleier, which we had already reviewed here.

 

 

 

 
9/10 Roberto
 

JESU - Conqueror - CD - Hydrahead Records - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Jesu’s second full-length album seems to have been received not quite as highly by utter worshippers of the self-titled debut, at least as far as Maelstrom’s staff and well-wishers are concerned. But this writer thinks Conqueror does the one-man project’s short discography one better: it adds a much higher degree of memorable vocal melodies within a much more pop delivery, yet still retaining the underlying framework of endlessly processed and digitally layered guitars, bass, drums and vocals.

In his interview with us last year, Jesu mastermind Justin Broadrick had no qualms about revealing the tricks he uses to get his much lauded sound — tricks that many of the same Broadrick supporters would probably cry foul at. But Jesu’s output isn’t remotely to be compared to that of say, Ashlee Simpson’s, for it is the pure result of the obviously altered sound (as opposed to chicanery to make the listener believe that what is being heard is unadulterated) that matters. And in Conqueror’s case, it’s all about the artistry of sonic manipulation to pleasant effect.

The music is languid and soothing. Conqueror retains a good deal of the melancholy of Jesu’s first two releases, but doesn’t wander off as far as the debut does. Sure, it’s much less psychedelic, but the tighter arrangements and greater adherence to the core of the vocal compositions make for a much more memorable album.

The melancholy isn’t as explicit this time around, with lyrical and emotional hints of positive energy within the somber vibes. But beware, it is possible to overdose on Conqueror. But if consumed in moderation, Jesu’s second album will prove to be a unique and essential work. (9/10)

PS: If you can, do try to get the Japan-only version of Conqueror. It comes with a second CD with two tracks of about 15 minutes each. Apparently, those recordings were only available on vinyl in the United Kingdom, or something along those lines. The style is a bit more like the first Jesu album in the music’s more unrestrained ambient wanderings, but the feeling is warmer, like on Conqueror. It’s an excellent counterbalance to the main album it comes with. The packaging is also far more attractive, with a grey, fold-out, two-CD digipak housed in a clear plastic slipcase that features the album’s art.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

OPETH - Still Life - CD - Peaceville - 1999

review by: Brandon Strader

After death metal was pioneered in the late ‘80s, the movement swept through the United States and eventually into other countries. Whereas America eventually lost interest in the genre to the emotionless drone of tribal drums and pop, death metal became huge in Sweden. Death metal took off as a more raw form of thrash metal as the production held more presence, the guitars featured thicker distortion and detuning, and the music was much more chaotic.

Most things get better with time as they adapt, evolve, and become stronger than ever. The same could be said about death metal as it continues to grow and develop today by those who attempt to push the boundaries of the genre. One band that stood out where all others were trying to sound like each other was the Swedish quartet Opeth.

The band began writing and playing music when they were fairly young, though you would never be able to tell considering the maturity held within their first two albums. Not only did the band begin mixing heavy epic progressions and acoustic interludes before many others, but they also fused a medieval influence into their songwriting, which is something that is still not very common today. With their third album, My Arms, Your Hearse, Opeth dropped the medieval influences and wrote songs that were a bit easier to access, and actually wrote chorus sections that they would repeat again within the song. Due to the more song-based construction, the music lost a bit of the epic quality that was conveyed within their earlier work wherein the music was always evolving and building up to a grandiose end.

Death metal continued to grow, and musical proficiency became a solid must for anyone attempting the style. Opeth ascended beyond death metal, and adopted more progressive elements to their sound for their fourth album, Still Life. The band mixed their love for medieval music with the experience they gained from previous records to make what will undoubtedly go down in history as the best progressive death album ever written. They didn't count on overused powerchords to fill up space, they crafted chord structures for their rhythms that are so complex and ridiculously difficult to perform that nary a band has even attempted something similar since then.

Vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt's performance was more intense and spot on than he can even pull off these days. Although Still Life is incredibly intricate, it was still fairly easy for the casual enjoyer of music to comprehend and still maintains its ability to instill in one feelings ranging from immense rage to the brooding sadness of a lost loved one.

The story of Still Life is a literary tragedy that spans throughout the entire album. Vocalist Akerfeldt wrote and performed the lyrics in a first-person perspective (though the story is not about him personally) and is set in an undisclosed time period. Considering the use of certain phrases and locations described in his writing, we can assume that the story is set in medieval times.

Because of Akerfeldt's poetic writing style, it is difficult to transcribe what many of the lyrical passages actually mean, yet certain plot points stick out. According to the stylish, dark pages of the booklet included with the album, the main character returns to an unlabeled town after 15 years. It is implied that he left due to being cast out, branded a sinner, and despised by the general populous. He has no forgiveness for anyone except for Melinda, and she is the inspiration behind his return.

He stays in this town, yet does not make his arrival known and seeks out Melinda. He finds her in a nearby forest, and they remain there and romantically enjoy each other's company by candlelight. The Council of the Cross discover that he has returned, and begin searching for him in the forest. He has to turn away from Melinda, and escape from his imminent demise. The sequence of events following this is very unclear, however the story ends with the death of both Melinda and the main character. He witnesses her die from a slit throat, and he is sent to the gallows to hang. After he falls, there is a sigh of relief from the cloaked individuals.

Even after the eight years since Still Life was originally released, the album is still considered by many fans of the band to be the best album that Opeth has ever written, though some of the more recent ones have come close. Still Life was ahead of its time in that it was completely original despite the musical influences being more classic in nature. As the years passed and the band grew more and more popular, the emotions became less and less of a focal point within the band's songwriting. However, we will always have this one classic album to remind us of what the band once was, and what music is really all about.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

ABORTED/GENITAL GRINDER/DISTORTED
February 18, 2007 - Le Nouveau Casino, Paris, France

review by: Alisa Z

Aptly titled as the "Aborted Release Party," the purpose of the concert, above all, was to present the new material that this Franco-Belgian monster has recently engendered. Crammed outside the venue, the fans hustled impatiently. One of the most annoying phenomena about Parisian gigs is that the doors are normally opened just as the first band is about to play. However, it was different in this case. The doors were opened early enough, such that the majority of the people could have time to familiarize themselves and feel at ease, while letting their anticipation grow.

First on stage was Israel's Distorted, fronted by an enchanting red-haired maiden who goes by the name Miri Milman. The songs were laden with sultry female vocals, and at arbitrary moments, injected with sonorous male vocals. However spectacular the music might be, with its explosive vigour and its show of consummate skills, many found the presence of a female-fronted band as bizarre for a predominantly grindcore and vocally brutal event.

Genital Grinder's murderous set was aimed at uprooting the crowd and demolishing whatever sanity might have been left in it. To track the progress of the decimation, the question "Are you guys still alive?" was posed. Abundant with musical manslaughter, guitars that go berserk into spheres of melodic violence and vocals that shift from guttural growling to high-pitched caterwauls, the set featured songs such as "Pathological Disorder," "Zombies From Hell," and "Dreams of the Dead."

Even before Aborted emerged on stage, the population was breathing brutality. Once the transgressors stepped on stage, it was time for carnage. A killer miscellany of older and newer material, the set was bound to leave hardcore fans feeling satisfied and destroyed, including songs such as "The Saw and the Carnage Done," "Gestated Rabidity," "A Cold Logistic Slaughter," "The Chondrin Enigma," and "Avenious." The vocal butcher, Sven, demonstrated a cosy level of interaction with the crowd, as he fretfully strutted from one side of the stage to another. One cannot help but assume that Sven is tempted to punch someone while the band is in between songs. The music fuelled the crowd's energy with chunky guitars, blasting drums and oral savaery, a fusion that guaranteed to give rise to an unmistakeably insane moshpit.

 

 

 

 

NECROPHAGIST/MISERY INDEX/ORIGIN/DISKREET
March 1, 2007 - La Scene Bastille, Paris, France

review by: Alisa Z

Aside from the confusion regarding the availability of tickets (the word being that an excess of tickets was sold) the evening was brutally remarkable.

Simmering and red-blooded, the Diskreet boys delivered a show that promised to twist the entire populace of the venue into a moshpit. With sweaty internecion dripping frenziedly from their bodies, these Americans demonstrated confident levels of musicianship. As they ripped apart with their chunky guitars and overwhelming vocals, one could not help but notice the crazy levels of excitement that the music incited in a major portion of the crowd.

Not only do Origin know how to present death metal in a lively manner, they also know how to gather the horde together into a single kinetic entity. The communication between the band and the crowd was admirable, and it was particularly smile-worthy when one member of the audience hollered out "you are God!" towards the stage. Deranged and coarse, the music was gladly swallowed, processed and spat out into the atmosphere. Undoubtedly, the quantity of satisfaction that was provided was immeasurable.

Misery Index were the following musical butchery to emerge from the darkness of the backstage area. For a band of their ranks, the sound was not exactly top-notch. For too long, the guitars were not as audible, and the drums seemed to drown out significant portions of the other instruments. Yes, Misery Index may be more commonplace, but they are still able to destroy with their music.

Necrophagist is a dazzling musical spawn. Shredding guitars, technical precision and guttural vocals constitute a charming combination. Playing musical compositions that set fire to the whole crowd, the band itself projected forth a form of barrier between themselves and the rest via minimal crowd interaction and seemingly cold, glaring eyes. This may, perhaps, be explained by the fact that a lot of concentration is needed in order to play songs that are that technical. Nevertheless, the audience was extremely ecstatic to have been there.

 

 

 

 

TYPE O NEGATIVE/CELTIC FROST
April 18th, 2007 - Slim's, San Francisco, California, USA

review by: Joshua

On paper, a strange pairing. In the flesh, made perfect sense. Doubts? Witness below.

The importance of Celtic Frost can’t be under, or for that matter, overestimated. At least 90% of your black metal collection would vanish and all of the post / avant / art metal that’s risen to prominence from the underground would be nothing more than a glimmer in the imagination of some mad prophet without these Swiss progenitors of metallic experimentation and beyond.

They took the stage, corpse-painted, faces set in glower, and from the first gut-churning notes of "Procreation of the Wicked," the atmosphere shifted from excitable rock club ambience to sepulchral murk. The band triumphs because they don’t go for anything so trite as "evil." Rather, there’s a palpable menace to their sound that few bands can touch, let alone duplicate. Each song builds on the next, constructions that reek of decay but glow with the promise of rebirth; brittle fragmentations imbued with strength that reveals itself only at the precipice of destruction; unfathomable incantations woven from the fabric of the wholly knowable. Rarely as unease been so seductively hypnotic.

The set list is weighted with older material and the assembled throng eats it up with reverence. But in a bold move, they close with "Synagoga Satanae," the fifteen-minute anchor of 2006’s Monotheist album, transforming the venue’s aging hipster roadhouse milieu into a blackened temple whose roof threatens to crack open to reveal a sky full of dying stars and gods alike. Celtic Frost in 2007 is a fearsome leviathan risen after a decade-and-a-half exile from a self-imposed grave. Young ‘uns, take note and beware.

As for Type O Negative, you’d think all the years of tongue-in-cheek doom and gloom might’ve ceded to the real thing, but no, Peter Steele & Co. — the self proclaimed "four dicks from Brooklyn" — are in fine fettle. If the 35 minutes of Village People tracks blasting through the PA preceding the band’s arrival on stage wasn’t any indication, then Steele’s off-the-cuff (admonishing the cheering crowd that "This is America, speak Spanish.") and bone dry ("Goodnight San Francisco, I really like your Rice-a-Roni.") asides cemented the deal.

Where Celtic Frost manhandles their vast store of elements to summon darkness, Type O Negative weaves their own myriad influences into an altogether brighter proposition. That they kick off with an abbreviated cover of The Beatles "Magical Mystery Tour" is no random pick and definitely not a joke; in addition to the dark humour, what has always set the band apart from most everyone else is their intermingling of Sabbathy doom, woebegone goth-metal and thrashy post-hardcore blasts with their penchant for infectious harmonies and melody.

And for a band that projects such a don’t-give-a-fuck attitude, the fact that their playing is so tight and cohesive serves almost as a meta-joke. Tonight is no different: Steele’s voice is spot on and he and the rest of the band hit every note, each riff and all the transitions with an ease that boarders on afterthought. They cull material from most of their catalogue, trotting out a few numbers from the recently released Dead Again album, crowd favorites ("Black No.1," "Christian Woman," "Love You To Death"), the seldom, if ever played live "We Hate Everyone," and the not-played-in-forever "Kill You Tonight" complete with "Hey Pete" interlude.

Every song, with all of its distractions and diversions, segues perfectly from one to another; and therein lies the inherent brilliance of Type O Negative: the ability to take the inexorably heavy, negative and bleak and cloak it all under swaths of light so blindingly gorgeous that it threatens to swell your heart with the promise of hope even as your world threatens to collapse to rubble at your feet.