the underground music magazine    

issue #74 Summer, 2013

 


Dear Maelstrom readers,

Before he rose to musical prominence via Sunn and other projects, Stephen O'Malley was in the journalistic thick of things during the second wave of black metal's exciting rise. When we asked him why he quit writing articles, he told us, in the interview we posted years ago, that his own music had become his focus.

Every issue of Maelstrom for the past few years has been prefaced with some apology of how we've slowed down. From every month to a few times a year to twice to now about a year since our last issue. The writing on the wall is clear.

I started Maelstrom Zine in 2001 with a friend who stuck around less than a year. Then it was my love for a long time. For years, it was a fervor. I ran it like many would run a band. Then, it became a habit -- something I did because that's what I did.

For the past year or two, though, putting out Maelstrom has become a chore, and that's not right. There are enough people on the staff that love working on the zine, and I owe it to everyone, them, me, and all of you who read, to step down. It seems everything else in my life has become more important, with my own music being the main one. Stephen O'Malley's point of view has never been truer in my own life.

So I'm stepping down. I'm leaving the zine to longtime writer Avi Shaked, who's been around since issue #8. Avi has always loved records, writing about them, and going to concerts. Marking his change is the renaming of the url to www.maelstrom-zine.com.

This is my last editor's greeting. I'll be around in the background to help with site issues and maybe contribute something here and there, but from 2013 on, Maelstrom is no longer mine. It's sad and there's sweetness in the nostalgia already, but it's a burden whose lifting outweighs that.

I've always loved being able to be aware of major life chapter changes as they were happening. Quitting Maelstrom is one of those.

Thank you for all the reads,

Roberto Martinelli

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5/10 Mladen
 

ABACINATE - Genesis - CD - Epitomite Productions - 2010

review by: Mladen Škot

And here we have probably the first death metal song about Al Bundy of Married With Children ever. As for the other interesting trivia... Sorry. That was about it. Genesis is a brutal, aggressive, technical exercise in modern metal, with parts being equally tech death, groove thrash and metalcore. Surgically precise riffs and explosive sound still can't hide the fact that the songs, for most parts, seem stitched together, and without looking, it's hard to say where one song ended and another started. Only for diehard death metal fans with a short attention span. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.9/10 Chaim
 

ABYSSPHERE - Shadows and Dreams - CD - Endless Desperation Productions - 2010

review by: Chaim Drishner

 

Reviewing Shadows and Dreams back to back with Revelation of Rain's Emanation of Hatred, we have noticed the two bands - both of which are playing melodic doom / death in essence - have gone two opposite directions; while Revelations of Rain tried and succeeded to a degree in distancing themselves from the cliché-ridden world of melodic and romantic Gothic-oriented doom / death metal, Abyssphere have done just the opposite: they have consciously rooted themselves into the soils of lightweight, sugar-coated melodic metal with just a hint of what doom / death is really all about.

 

Now, there's a difference between being a lousy musician / song writer, and being a good one yet consciously making the choice of playing a certain type of music - that which would not necessarily be to the liking of a certain reviewer. Abyssphere are the latter; they're good musicians and you cannot take that from them; their talent is undeniable, the execution of the music is top-notch and the songs - albeit not challenging for one bit - are well thought out, well written and demonstrate a high level of musical understanding, not only in terms of formal musical education but also in the more intuitive department of writing songs charged with inner beauty and emotion; songs you'll find almost inhumanely impossible to resist and remain untouched by, especially if you're the touchy type with an inclination toward the melodramatic.

 

Incorporating a myriad of instruments and an array of vocal types, Shadows and Dreams growls, screams, sings, cites, caresses, but always with a certain calculated elegance. The album is tame, it is "civilized" and probably also "polite." It does not offend in any way and does not hold in its midst any listening challenge. It is, however, a slightly interesting blend of styles, echoing the likes of Lacrimosa, Trail of Tears and the Russian melodic doom brand (and if you've got the penchant for the Russian language's unique sound and pronunciation, you are in for a kick).

 

However, for aficionados of something challenging and more brutish, this recording would probably not even scratch the surface. (6.9/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

ACID WITCH - Witchtanic Hellucinations - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2008

review by Mladen Škot

 

Great to hear someone enjoying their doom. Acid Witch evidently refuse to stand still, and even within their "genre," they go above and beyond the call of duty, making everything count. Catchy through and through, as heavy as a really heavy thing, not afraid to crush and speed up, and sounding alive and breathing, Witchtanic Hellucinations is still as doom as they come. Be it the hissed and growled vocals, or the spacey, otherworldly piercing leads on guitar or keys, there is always something happening. The songs have personality, they are never too long, and the whole experience is an insight into someone's twisted, hellish nightmare... And somehow, the protagonist manages to get out of it with a smile on his face. Or was it maybe "manages to go even deeper?" Hellucinations are rarely this much fun to listen to. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Monte
 

AELTERS - Dusk Dawn / Follow You Beloved (re-issue) - CD - Crucial Blast Industries - 2011

review by: Monte Cimino

 

Alters, now spelled "Aelters" per the artist's Discogs.com page, is one half of the Idaho gothic doom duo Wolvserpent (formally Pussygutt). Phew! Lots of name changes here... At any rate, this set compiles the first two limited edition vinyl only Aelters releases on two CDs for the first time.

 

Slow picked, stark acoustic guitars, subtle vibrato-strummed clean electric guitars, gritty, fuzzed-out electric guitars, ethereal, wordless choral-style vocals, fragmented piano segments, and drones create sound worlds that are dark, moody, and atmospheric. What makes this music stand above others in the genre is Aelter's ability to produce a song that has compositional focus and integrity. Seemingly disparate parts blend into one another, guitar lines are meticulously stacked on top of each other, drones fade in and out, conjuring images straight out of Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road, while the vocals pave a direct path to Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Do yourself a favor and check this out. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

AETERNAL SEPRIUM - AETERNAL SEPRIUM - Against Oblivion"s Shade - CD - Nadir Music - 2010

review by Mladen Škot

 

Okay, the sound is a bit inadequate, with the vocals too loud, the drums and guitars too clear, and the choirs a bit... funny? Listening to Against Oblivion's Shade, there is a feeling of standing in a rehearsal space while an Italian power metal band goes on, showcasing their music. A bit clumsy in details, like someone having problems to start properly, at first you don't know what to think about Aeternal Sprium. But, after listening to several songs, a number of great solos, proud folksy melodies, epic verses and endless drum fills and breaks, you realize you're listening to quite a band. A bit exaggerated here and there, as if showing the full potential where it's not too necessary, but nothing that some good production couldn't tame.

 

Then, naturally, you want to hear the same thing as a proper CD. But the CD feels just like the rehearsal. The epic still isn't epic, the emotional isn't emotional yet, and the exaggerated (mostly looking at the screamer) is still exaggerated.

 

Briefly, a really good album without the sound it deserves, Against Oblivion's Shade could have benefited vastly from some more compression, a less direct and more distant sound and some trimming of the unnecessary bits. If we had the time for it we'd record it on a cassette, copy it to another cassette and the result would probably be more intriguing than this studio recording. Still, if you can ignore this, Aeternal Seprium are well worthy of your attention. (7/10)

 

 

 

 

 
8.9/10 Mladen
 

AL NAMROOD - Estorat Taghoot - CD - Shaytan Productions - 2010

review by Mladen Škot

Apparently it took this CD three years to arrive from Bahrain to this writer's room, but, hell, it's a good thing that we didn't know about it anyway, as impatience could have killed us. Compared to a big part of today's black metal, Al Namrood are so fresh that it's not even funny. Real oriental melodies that the likes of Nile would die for, a totally harsh black metal sound, an excess of energy and an ability to hold the listener's attention for an hour, all serve a purpose of telling you the story of life and times of one Nebuchadnezzar.

 

As Estorat Taghoot didn't come with lyrics, all we can do is judge it by the liner notes... and suffice to say that with Al Namrood's English skills only second to Google Translate, we're really glad that the screams are in their native tongue. And, whatever they are saying, we believe them. We can only assume that they are planning to conquer the world and probably plan to make you use their language when they succeed, so it's all good. That's what black metal is supposed to be, anyway.

 

So, whether being epic, relaxed, playful or aggressive, Al Namrood pull it off and then some. Just to give you an idea of the scale Al Namrood's "pulling it off," right now I'm listening to a drum beat that, when my drummer tried it, made me say some pretty harsh words and threaten with replacing it with the sound of me hitting pots and cans. Anyway, when Al Namrood play it I like it. The whole song. Damn. What the hell just happened here? (8.9/10)

 

 

 

 
8.9/10 Avi
 

ALTROCK CHAMBER QUARTET - Sonata Islands Goes RIO - CD - Altrock - 2012

review by: Avi Shaked

Altrock Productions has sponsored many interesting releases recently, and has therefore quickly earned a reputation for being a notable home for avant rock and progressive music. This release unveils the Altrock Chamber Quartet, which performs avant rock (or Rock in Opposition, also known as RIO) compositions in classical chamber music inspired format of flute, clarinet, violin and cello. Mind you, there's nothing Brazilian about it.

The arrangements are not just simple walkthroughs or decorations of the originals - as is often the case with rock music being given the orchestral treatment - but rather genuinely insightful and fully developed, with the performances remaining overall true to the intimate (as opposed to overblown) yet forward thinking spirit of the original compositions.

The chamber quartet recasts the pieces (by Henry Cow's Fred Frith, Thinking Plague, Yugen's Francesco Zago and others) into a purely acoustic setting, and the clean take shines different elements in a new light. One such example is the rhythms, which were typically processed with an electrical treatment on the originals and are now recreated with arco playing and brass blows, and the cover of Univers Zero's "Presage" excels in this. The compositions also sound less heavy and more cheerful, much due to the playful flute and piccolo playing of Emilio Galante, and while this might deter some of the avant-rock listeners (as we were a bit, initially) it in fact serves the greater purpose.

Now, "what greater purpose?" you might ask. We find Sonata Islands Goes RIO an important release, in both its vision and its accomplishment. The recognition of the RIO movement and its derivatives (avant rock / chamber rock) as significant compositional movements is indeed sound, and the classical oriented perspective and its immaculate execution further support the aforementioned establishment. The fact that the music is kept intuitive and moving, carrying twists of modern music incorporated into the accessible, tuneful frame of earlier classical music, would hopefully help in exposing the avant-rock scene to a wider audience. We would especially love to see this release getting a proper exposure amongst classical chamber music aficionados (together with the new Aranis release, which is also featured in this issue). (8.9/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

ANGELUS, THE - On a Dark & Barren Land - CD - Gutterth Records - 2011

review by: Avi Shaked

It is on its eighth track - "For the Sake of the Night" - that this debut release by Texas' The Angelus reaches a climate: a basic melody is delivered by discretely hitting piano keys to a punctuate yet draggy rhythm, before a guitar joins in unison, followed by layers of harmonies and vocals that gradually take over, with the slow, serpentine melody resurfacing from time to time. It's neither a technically impressive maneuver nor an emotional catharsis, but it is a beautifully restrained passage that takes the listener for a stroll and eventually encircles him to make him feel as though he has been soaked into the song. This song actually sums up the spirit of this album well: a low key, reflective rock effort which may be regarded as a kind of a post-shoegazing affair.

On a Dark & Barren Land, which was co-produced by Josh T. Pearson, is characterized by a grey, autumnal, gloomy mood, and while it lacks the radical storytelling quality of Pearson's original band Lift to Experience (whose 2001 The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads is a post-rock masterpiece), it still holds a semiceremonial / religious vibe, with the songs hinting at congregational prayers and, as such, induces both intimacy and self observation. The lethargic "Let Me Be Gone," for instance, holds such a convincing prayer for redemption from this world's burdens ("Release me / my body / let me be gone") that the listener will find it hard not to be drawn into its submission. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
9.2/10 Avi
 

ARANIS - Made in Belgium - CD - homerecords.be - 2012

review by: Avi Shaked

This new Aranis release finds the Belgian group returning to a percussion-free format, giving up some of the rock temper that characterized the 2011 Roqueforte (see issue #72). Still, the immediacy and rhythmic flow of the chamber music played is not even mildly compromised, as Aranis delivers it vibrantly.

The title alludes not only to the origin of the ensemble but also to the origin of the material the album contains. This time around Aranis chose to perform selections by other Belgian composers (as opposed to playing its own music), with the exception of one piece by its pianist Ward De Vleeschhouwer. A modern music effort, this is more about pensive, explosive mood than the recent release by Altrock Chamber Quartet, which is more about celebrated movements.

On Wim Mertens' "Gentlemen of Leisure," the melodic and rhythmic lines are so captivating that they make you immerse in the repetitive minimalism, so much that you might actually miss the still, cyclic nature of the piece; while on other tracks, such as Wouter Vandenabeele's "Le Feu," the buildup is even greater, with instruments fusing into glorious, subtle movements, and irregularly contrasted by a rhythmic framework that is accentuated mostly by the piano and bass.

The flute playing of Jana Arns, in particular, emphasizes the music's liveliness as well as the innovative twist with which Aranis embraces the compositions, whereas the string (violin, viola, guitar) and keyboard instruments (piano, accordion) tend to stress their harmonic depth and at times retain their original eccentricity, as "Ersatz" (penned by Roger Trigaux and originally performed by Present) demonstrates.

It is the clear artistic vision and immaculate, thrilling execution as well as clever track sequencing (another Mertens composition is found in the beginning of the final third of the album, for example; if it was put in adjacency to the previous one it might have resulted in a loss of momentum) which binds all of the eclectic compositions together into a fluent musical experience.

The usage of comparatively bright and joyful (perhaps even optimistic) timbres allows this music to remains accessible, and as such it can be embraced by chamber music admirers who are not necessarily fans of rock music, without compromising its truth or simplifying the music. This can be heard on Aranis' version of Univers Zero's Daniel Denis' "Bulgarian Flying Spirit Dances 2," which holds an uplifting Balkan theme intertwined with a certain sense of absurd horror. (9.2/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

ARBRYNTH - Arbrynth - CD - arbrynth.net - 2011

review by Mladen Škot

 

Dreamy and forest-flavored, Arbrynth will make you sad and moody enough to remember you were listening to them, and maybe occupied enough while you are waiting for the next Agalloch album. The general feeling is similar, but still the music is distant enough to have an identity of its own -- several of them, actually. Depending on the vocals -- male growls, male clean or female -- and the part of the song, Arbrynth go through motions, parts and impressions. All gentle, quiet or loud, fast or slow, it is constantly dreamy and poignant. And even though the tracks sound a bit Finnish (read: they sound like very long song endings without too many memorable riffs) there will occasionally be a breathtaking part making waiting worth it. Not exactly music for loud urban days, at night, wherever you are, Arbrynth will glow in their fading, autumnal colors and keep you dreaming, decaying and regretting. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7.8/10 Mladen
 

ASADA MESSIAH - Grill "em All - CD - myspace.com/asadamessiah - 2009

review by Mladen Škot

 

Old school is still good school. As you have already judged by the name of this 6-track piece of mayhem, Asada Messiah probably aren't taking themselves too seriously. As a result, they probably didn't worry about whether their thrash stuff will please anyone or not, and did whatever the hell they wanted. And it's all good. You have riffs everywhere, dynamics, slow parts becoming intense parts, expectation parts and realization parts. Thrash with punk attitude and hardcore energy is what they do, and they enjoy doing it. Boredom is out of the question. (7.8/10)

 

 

 

 
9.5/10 Avi
 

AUTUMN CHORUS - The Village to the Vale - CD - Altrock - 2012

AUTUMN CHORUS - The Village To The Vale

Fading/Altrock, 2012

review by: Avi Shaked

Within a seemingly pastoral, tranquil setting, this debut by England's Autumn Chorus delivers gushing emotions. The music corresponds with Love's "Forever Changes" in its richness, and while the songs avoid the whimsical tones of Robert Wyatt they do hold some of his artistic fragrance and his languishing vocal delivery.

Furthermore, the arrangements of instruments and vocals are nuanced and well orchestrated, offering lush harmonies and hinting at classical music influences, or at least at symphonic rock ones (think Barclay James Harvest). These orchestrations act not only on a decorative level but even more as conductors of the songs, leading them carefully and safely unto natural climaxes that are marvelous in their shyness and echo long after they're gone.

The atmosphere is intense, and the music - while never exploding - ebbs and flows, keeping the listener alert; and this accomplished reservation is admirable in an era overfilled with speed, harshness and immediacy.

Probably the most enchanting release of 2012. (9.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Monte
 

AZALIA SNAIL - Celestial Respect - CD - Silber Records - 2012

review by: Monte Cimino

 

L.A. based artist Azalia Snail has been actively putting out her own records, collaborating with other artists (Beck, Black Heart Procession, Mercury Rev), doing music for film and touring since the late '80s.

 

With her latest CD, Celestial Respect, Snail presents the listener with 14 miniature whimsical art pop songs. Brian Eno's rock records are clearly an influence here and the production gives off a heavy '60s psychedelic vibe. Slow and lush child-like female vocals drenched in reverb and delay move at a snail's pace (pun intended) over DIY style song arrangements. The song arrangements are dense with instrumentation. And when listening to this CD by the once dubbed "queen of lo-fi," one can't help but think of an adolescent girl in her room with a four track and a handful of pawnshop instruments in front of her exploring her place in this world through music. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
2/10 Monte
 

BABYLON MYSTERY ORCHESTRA - Poinium Cherem - CD - babylonmysteryorchestra.com - 2012

review by: Monte Cimino

 

Sidney Allan Johnson is the sole member of the one-man band cluster fuck of a project Babylon Mystery Orchestra. He seems to be based out of Alabama. It only gets better, more bizarre, and more offensive from there. The extensive 16 page booklet is crammed with a color coded onslaught of lyrics, quotes from the Bible (King James translation, of course), quotes from various philosophers, and extended commentary by Johnson himself! Then, there is Sidney the man; his frizzy shoulder length curly hair adorned with a hat from the Confederate army accented with gold tassels and gold swords crossed into the shape of an "X." The rest of his attire takes a radical right turn. He seems to be wearing some sort of Knights Templar-encrusted uniform with welder's gloves.

 

The music goes nowhere fast. (2/10)

 

 

 

 
1/10 for the cover art Chaim
 

BLACK BLOOD STIGMATA - Demo 2012 - CD - reverbnation/com/blackbloodstigmata - 2012

review by: Chaim Drishner

 

Even if we put aside for just one moment the awful production of this demo (as hard as it may seem, given the enormity of this disaster), and excuse it for being a mere demo (even though demos so poor were even below the standard twenty odd years ago, and those were usually available on tape rather than a digital format so offering a demo so poor in quality in the year 2012 is pretty much inexcusable, underground or not) we would still be left with a pitiable sonic product, because it adds absolutely nothing to the inevitably expanding pool of metallic knowledge.

 

Ridiculously goofy dual vocal technique presides over simplistic riffs played in loops, some being extremely catchy while some don't even know what they themselves are, what they are doing or where they're headed. Totally unripe and apparently lacking self conscious, the only impression Black Blood Stigmata leave is of a band trying hard with over-enthusiasm and too few good ideas, lacking talent and the knowhow of handling their instruments. "Black metal" (oh, there's also the slash "death metal" thing) has never sounded so watered down, redundant and so conforming to the genre's clichés. Fuck conformity! (1/10 for the cover art)

 

 

 

 
7.1/10 Monte
 

BLACK PROPAGANDA - Black Propaganda - CD - Nadir Music - 2011

review by: Monte Cimino

 

Oh man, these dudes are blazin'!!! Italian born Black Propaganda smack you in the face, knock you to the ground, rub your face in the dirt, and don't ever stop to help you back to your feet. Vocalist Jacopo Battuello spits out line after line of brutal "parental advisory"-style lyrics. Sonically he sounds like Phil Anselmo's twin, while the music is a perfect mix of blast beats, hard-core punk rock, and trash metal.

 

The deciding factor though is, do the songs have hooks? And the answer is yes, Black Propaganda pull it off with flying colors. These songs have found the magic formula of brutal riffs, rhythmic pulse, hammering drums, and pissed off angry vocals. It is a CD that can never be too loud; I just want to keep turning it up and run around like a fucking maniac! Forbidden, Exodus, mid-era Slayer, Vio-Lence and Pantera would be proud of these dudes. (7.1/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
 

BEYOND MORTAL DREAMS - Dreaming Death - CD - myspace.com/beyondmortaldreamsdeathmetal - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Now, this would be eighteen minutes well spent. Raging and thundering below, reaching for the stratosphere above. All that in a compact death metal package ready to amaze you several times in a row, making it efficiently much, much longer. Sure, Beyond Mortal Dreams didn't invent or re-invent technical death metal, but that was hardly their point. But when you find yourself enjoying almost every damned second of this four-track release, it's hard to start thinking about points and issues. It works. The sound is great, the solos are in a class of their own, and an occasional keyboard here and there adds an epic touch to something that is... just re-checking - yeah, still eighteen minutes long. Live and learn, die and dream. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Mladen
 

BITTERNESS - The Final Declaration of the End - CD - G.U.C. - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Oh great, another intro with a siren and samples from TV programs. Luckily, what follows isn't half bad, namely well-played, powerful sounding thrash with speed thrown in for good measure. The approach is old-school, as German as the band members are, there's a fair share of shout-along parts and Bitterness actually show an effort in writing diverse and catchy songs. Although nothing groundbreaking or innovative, The Final Declaration of the End is a fairly entertaining listen because, even if the music is really nothing new, there is at least a feeling that you are listening to a proper, hard working band. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Mladen
 

BLASPHEMOUS CREATION - Battle of the Ancients - CD - HeadXplode - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

A concept album about ancient astronauts, Nibiru and all that stuff maybe, just maybe, shouldn't sound like a thrash band whose members just so happen to like reading books. Nothing epic, no sense of listening to a story, no atmosphere and no glory, Battle of the Ancients is just a speed thrash album. Well, at least it's an above-average thrash album with quite catchy riffs, old school but efficient sound, poisonous, but almost fully understandable vocals and enough licks and tricks to keep you listening.

 

The speed is relentless where it need be, the breaks and transitions are expertly made, the solos are short and sweet, and, at what they are doing, Blasphemous Creation are good. However, after some of quite a few sweet melodies we almost always start hoping to hear an epic battle track and it never happens. We just wish Blasphemous Creation did all that they did on Battle of the Ancients, and then... How to say it? And then some? (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

BONA HEAD - The Path - CD - wix.com/bonahead/bona-head - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Here we are, at three in the morning, listening to a pop album. And, as we have already witnessed from this same artist, it is good. It comes from its own space and time, and it evokes feelings. Right now it is winter, but The Path seems to come from summer, as the melancholy suggests a certain emotionally heavy, pensive and damp event. Or, a sum of events, a trip, if you wish. Effortlessly combining innovation and mental struggle, The Path wouldn't be out of place in an Anathema fan's collection, although the outcome for the listener would be way less suicidal. Which might be a good thing. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

BONG - Mana-Yood-Sushai - CD - Ritual Productions - 2011

review by Mladen Škot

The problem with drugged, psychedelic drone music? Well, you probably have to be on drugs to understand it. We wouldn't know. From our perspective, the first track is quite good - sparse improvisations, watery flowing lows, a dense atmosphere and a ritualistic Oriental-flavored summoning going towards a nice, simplistic yet effective melody... which repeats for some 20-something minutes while the band works its magic around it. It stays the same yet keeps sounding different and developing towards the same thing.

 

Right. You got that? Anyway, it's quite good, the first track, you know. Then there's another one, and it sounds like a 19-minute outro to the first track, so it's more like filler. We didn't like that one. We don't use any drugs, yet we are competent to talk about this anyway, because we're magicians or something. Nothing that you should know about, okay?

 

After the not-so-good second track there's... Nothing. So, that was it. Two tracks. Recorded, mixed and mastered in two days. If we (well, me) were fans of live shows we'd tell you to catch Bong on tour and watch them improvise. But we're not sure why you should spend money on something like this as you probably wouldn't listen to it too many times. Just as Bong didn't spend too much time making it. Mana-Yood-Sushai is literally half good, and with the crisis and stuff going on, maybe you should invest toward something that you would like listening to more often. It's not like you'll have trouble remembering that one melody, no matter how stoned you are. (5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Bong (issue No 14)  

 

 

 
6/10 Jerome
 

BOUND BY ENTRAILS - The Stars Bode Us Farewell - CD - Runefire Records - 2012

review by: Jerome Reuter

With a name like "Bound by Entrails" you'd think it might be some low-brow grind core, I know I did. But nothing could be farther from the truth -- this band is not only adept at weaving songs of musical complexity, but they also keep the songs interesting without being so overwrought with technicality that the listener doesn't get his head lost in a vast sea of notes his ear cannot distinguish.

The band combines the musical approach of Opeth with the driving Viking metal force of Enslaved with a lot of time changes and curious interludes that make the album interesting but not a wall of noise. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Avi
 

CARACHARODON - Roachstomper - CD - Altsphere Production - 2013

review by: Avi Shaked

Stoner metal is not exactly the most refined genre, we know. Still, we found the rawness and textures of Carcharodon stemming from poor musical judgement (and perhaps incompetence) rather than from a musical vision.

We do love the attitude of the groovy driven, heavy, stoner metal mixed with some uptempo assaults, which sounds like a hybrid between Corrosion of Conformity (which, by pure coincidence, released an EP by the name of Megalodon in late 2012) and Pantera; but the harsher, death metal-inspired vocals come off entertaining to a disturbing degree, instead of conveying horror.

The occasional musical trickery and digital effects stand in contrast to the basic, bareboned music and at times detracts from the doom-ish atmosphere. There are some nice, refreshing country guitars courtesy of the band's new recruit for this second album, but this Italian(!) group needs more polish and probably a sharper producer to get the best (or perhaps the worst parts) out of its music and turn songs like "Marylin Monrhoid" into deservingly tongue in cheek, Motorhead-inspired business rather than an ugly mess or, making the most out of the glorious, cinematic movement that closes "Burial in Whiskey Waves" (we love the title!) instead of over-experimenting with it. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Avi
 

CHEER-ACCIDENT - No ifs, ands or Dogs - CD - Cuneiform Records - 2011

review by: Avi Shaked

No ifs, ands or Dogs finds the established Cheer-Accident disappointingly regressing to its garage roots rather than immediately expanding the art rock it demonstrated on its 2009 album, Fear Draws Misfortune (which we raved about in issue #69).

The production aesthetics are spoiled with mechanical sounding drums, right from the opening track, and these become all the more disturbing once the rap derived rhythms are coupled with a thin yet distorted keyboard on the following "Trial of Error," where they eventually evoke a menacing atmosphere that has an interesting grip yet fails to develop or rise above its own sonic trap.

Luckily, "This Is the New That" picks up and offers the yearned-for elaboration, with drum rolls and oddities driving a more sinister noise-rock. Later, the ensemble once again corresponds with its art rock contemporaries, offering songs that feature interspersed horns arrangements and fancy vocals (including those of new frontperson Carmen Armillas).

As the 15-track album evolves, it turns out to be an effective song cycle reminiscent of the one found on The Soft Machine's 1968 debut (where it is not always clear when one songs ends and another one starts), and while the summits achieved on the aforementioned 2009 release are left unequalled, the songs are engaging with their playful numbness and bent, dedicated delivery, as well as with their crafty pop sensitivity (give a listen to the lovely "Cynical Girl," which sports a tribute to the early days of Cheer-Accident's world-renowned hometown's band Chicago). (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.8/10 Mladen
 

CORROSIVE CARCASS - Composition of Flesh - CD - Abyss Records - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Now this is what we call "good taste." Composition of Flesh feels like being thrown head first into the good old days of Swedish death metal, back when Dismember, Edge of Sanity and Entombed were ruling the scene. Riffs flying all over the place, a few melodies and grooves thrown in for good measure, a hurtful guitar sound, painfully hissing cymbals and the trademark meaty bass guitar sound are stitched together by a drum sound from another era.

 

Corrosive Carcass are sparing no one. Including themselves. There's some forty-two minutes of fury, and after about half of it you'll already be exhausted and wondering what the hell happened to the rest of Sweden. The standard lyrical content still isn't deprived of a few inspired touches, which could roughly be said about the music too. But when you count in the sound, the feeling and the energy, Corrosive Carcass are well above most bands of their kind. We had some hopes after having reviewed their demo but half-expected the rawness to disappear on a full-length album. Now that it is here, we are glad to report that Corrosive Carcass did the right thing. (7.8/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

DEATHHAMMER - Onwards to the Pits - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Thankfully, this old school speed thrash band also has the old school sound, with all the ferocious riffs, fills, solos and licks to go with it. Although none of the songs will make you scream "Ausgebombt!" you might find screaming "Fullmoon sorcery!" just as fun. If it were actually the '80s the occasional blastbeats would make quite a few jaws drop, and even today there are far worse cures for nostalgia than Onwards to the Pits. Live, this would be a killer. At home, it is a blast as long as you do more headbanging and less thinking. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Mladen
 

DECEASED - Supernatural Addiction (re-issue) - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

What's the name of that Iced Earth ex-present-whatever singer? Matt Barlow? Now, that's your worst vocalist in the recorded history of ever. This writer has no clue how anyone, ever, was able to make it past one or two songs with Barlow's constant, ubiquitous ending of each and every line with "...rrrggghhhh" every damned time. Now, imagine Cronos of Venom doing the same thing and you get the Deceased vocalist.

 

Any way of singing would have probably been better than this. What a shame. For the music itself, Supernatural Addiction (originally from 2000) was worth re-releasing. It's a nice collection of almost classic, atmosphere-ridden death metal songs with tasty melodies, catchy tempo changes and a storytelling feeling. It's death metal of a melodic kind -- no, not of the Swedish kind but the one that begun when death metal bands got tired of fast blasting and started slowing down and looking for more ways to express themselves. Deceased found a really nice way to do it, but the vocals completely ruined it. We can only wish they had someone like King Diamond behind the microphone, but, sadly, it wasn't the case. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

DEIPHAGO - Satan Alpha Omega - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Wow. Feels like twenty years ago. No idea if you've experienced this, but this writer has: Back in the '90s, I remember watching a "brutal" video on TV and not understanding a bit of it. All deafening noise, unintelligible vocals, and zero clarity. Fast forward a couple of years, the same video, and this time I can clearly hear the riffs, almost understand the lyrics, and, actually, I think it's not such a fast and brutal song after all. Fast forward a few decades, lots of CDs under the belt and tons of experience and... Trying to figure out what the hell Deiphago are doing. Damn!

 

Right. There's no hope in trying to understand the riffs as they are swirling all over the place, the drums are sooner here than there, the solos are furious and placed somewhere, for some reason, and the vocals are merciless. Nothing controlled, professional or polished -- it's raw, bloody ferocious and coming at you from the various corners of the vortex (yes, maybe vortexes don't have corners, but that's in your universe, not in Deiphago's).

 

One hell of a hell (Just trying to make a point here, okay?) to listen to, Satan Alpha Omega is an awesome experience. The only drawback are the annoying siren intro and outro... why interrupt the chaos? But if you skip those, you can listen to Satan Alpha Omega seriously, for fun, casually, as a part of a ritual or use it as a tool for a ritual slaughter of your hated ones. The third offering by this Filipino trio would make Satan with the collection of "best tunes" he allegedly possesses reconsider if "tunes" are really his preferred choice of expression. No tunes here. Just hell. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

DENIAL OF GOD - Death and the Beyond - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Some have it, some don't. Before listening to Death and the Beyond, this writer was having problems describing yet another mid-tempo groove thrashing band with fast melodic parts and trying to see a point in it. Then, Denial of God started playing and... these guys know the point, alright. After the intro -- which isn't half bad -- there's a mid-tempo, seven-minute song, very simplistic, not crushing or devastating, not even all that original, but, contrary to the expectations, it was not boring. Or something that you'd only listen to live. What a relief. It had emotion, too. After it, came one more "no-no" song: It has a fast melodic part, and then becomes simple and mid-tempo. It even turns into an acoustic interlude. Still not bored.

 

Triumphant yet mournful returns after quiet acoustic parts aren't exactly "boring" material either, especially if done right. Time to turn up the volume and see what the rest is like. Sweet hell, there's an even faster part after that "return" thing. See how little it takes to make a person happy?

 

As for the rest of Death and the Beyond, it's more or less what you would expect to find in a semi-classic release. You can hear it is not Denial of God's first album, and you can hear that they have the experience to know how and where to use their ideas. Partly black, partly heavy, with bits of doom, Death and the Beyond is, in the end, just one of those "safe" albums you get, you like, possibly become a fan and check the band's back catalogue (personally, never heard of them before) and you listen to it until the band releases another one. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

DENOUNCEMENT PYRE - Almighty Arcanum - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Good intentions for sure, but Almighty Arcanum is a pretty generic exercise in black metal. Not many new riffs (if any), the sound either good or adequate, depending on your preferences, and no going astray from the standard formulas. Albums like this were released by hundreds during the '90s, and most of those bands are already forgotten. Again, black metal for the sake of black metal. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9.2/10 Monte
 

DEROSA, JON - Anchored EP - CD - Silber Records - 2011

reviewed by: Monte Cimino

 

It was somewhere between King City and Salinas, on a Californian road trip, that Jon DeRosa's 2011 EP, Anchored, completely blow me away. Everything fell immediately into place on the first tune, which is also the title track. The guitar's reverbed twang leads into the beautiful baritone lyrics, "I was anchored once / by your love for me / but now those knots have broke / and I am lost at sea / or it seems to be / spent the night drinking an ocean full." Backed by brush-laden, subtle drumming and, then, then it is all brought to another emotional level when the strings wash in and blanket the listener in a sea of sorrow, regret, and just a little hope for what the future has to bring.

 

The second tune, "Snow Coffin," picks up the pace a little and is a solid chamber indie rock gem. Melodic and hypnotic, the listener drifts off in a soft world of memories and hazy black and white dreams. "Ladies in Love" really showcases DeRosa's beautiful voice as he bellows over finger-picked acoustic guitar with lush backing violins and cellos, "Ladies should never fall in love / they become stars no one can reach." So perfect! The final song, "Submarine Bells," like the previous three tunes, follows a similar formula - vocals, cello, trumpet, and vibraphone take the front seat with subtle background vocals add some dimension to his poetic and somber lyrics.

 

As I mentioned, DeRosa's voice is beautiful. But, his arrangements deserve just as much attention, if not more. He has a clear understanding of song writing and classical arrangement that are reflected in each song and its instrumentation. Violins, cellos, trumpet, flute, and clarinet all serve a specific function throughout the songs. More than just layers and texture, the additional instrumentation adds drama and emotion to these very personal tunes.

 

I can't recommend this beautiful EP enough! (9.2/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

DETHONATOR - Dethonator - CD - Ironstone Records - 2010

review by Mladen Škot

This is tricky but we'll give it a go, anyway. There should be something wrong with Dethonator. Now, the attempt to validate this claim... Imagine your favorite power metal band at the moment. Think of how they make you feel, and think of the things you can tell people about them. They have a vocalist that sounds like Kermit the frog? They look like 40-year old Germans who don't know when enough is enough? They are Italian classical buffs obsessed with dragons? They are sorta cool even though they might be Christians? They make you cry while everyone else thinks they are gay? Their vocalist is an irritating bastard but you can't help whistling their tunes in the shower?

 

Well, we can't say any of those things about Dethonator. The music is complex and extremely well played, the sound is correctly powerful, the solos and twin guitar combos are delicious, and all that. But that's about it. Nothing else to talk about, not much to hold on to, or object, complain, mock. The intangible factor that would make you love this band even though you shouldn't is absent. What you're left with is just music, and although very good and evidently played with love, it's still just music. But not a story, an escape or a fantasy. Nothing went wrong here. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

DRAUGURINN - Moduhardindin - CD - Le Crepuscule du Soir - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Whereas the previous Draugurinn album, Daudada, was more of an experience, Moduhardindin is more of a soundtrack. Slow, almost glacial soundscapes moving and getting interrupted by breaths of ancient history, with hidden sounds coming through and beckoning, evoking and becoming a ritual, a pact or a struggle between man and Nature, make Moduhardindin quite a believable ambient album. Yet, somehow, and maybe it is just personal, but there is not enough vibrancy to make it a self-sufficient experience. We can imagine the visuals to go with it, but we are not certain whether they are genuine pre-history or something that is attempting to re-create it in a modern movie recorded in HDR. Balancing between these two, the listener is kept wondering, and the outcome probably mostly depends on the listening circumstances. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

ECLECTIKA - Lure of Ephemeral Beauty - CD - Asylum Ruins - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Nice intro and interludes, hinting at something epic. Also, the lyrics show a lot of thought, and since one man's pretentious is another man's wise we won't dwell too much on that. However, the main content of Lure of Ephemeral Beauty is not too interesting.

 

It's all mid-tempo black metal with a few good riffs, more than a few others that are filler, and vocals exchanging between black metal rasps and female, soprano-high, but quite unspectacular ones. If urban black metal with hints of "post" isn't your kind of thing -- and this writer is far from being a fan -- not much to see here but, well, at least we can say that we have heard worse than Eclectika. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Avi
 

ENDNAME - Anthropomachy - CD - endname.bandcamp.com/album/anthropomachy - 2011

review by: Avi Shaked

This release by the russian band EndName is one of the most surprising releases we've listened to in a while. More furious than the 2009 "Dreams of a Cyclops," as well as better produced, the all instrumental Anthropomachy introduces a math metal twist to doom metal by taking the best features of both genres and delivering them dexterously throughout the album's 73 minutes, and this is no mean feat!

The compositions are epic, hinting at something alarmingly sinister, and yet they are heavy and raw, and as such are exempt of any unnecessary embellishments.

Devastating rhythm guitars hold the structure in place, often functioning as a wall of sound to which lead guitars offer fat riffs and memorable yet alarming hooks. The technical, dry drumming is coupled to the guitar rhythms, totally nailing the ominous atmosphere and makes it all the more intense and hardcore.

These guys never seem to get out of ideas, as each piece progresses firmly by constantly introducing more and more infectious riffs as well as engaging rhythmic manipulation into the music, and nearly none overstays its welcome.

Furthermore, while these guys are obviously technically adapt, Anthropomachy is far from being technical metal, in the sense that it is founded on actual tunes and firmly grasps the listener into its vortex rather than dazzling him to a blinding effect.

Much to our surprise, this is a self-released album, which makes us doubt the entire record industry out there. As far as we're concerned, every metal label that respects itself should sign these guys immediately, as only marketing stands between EndName and being the next thing in metal. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
 

ET MORIEMUR - Cupio Dissolvi - CD - paratmagazine.com - 2011

review by Mladen Škot

Now that's an unpleasant album cover. Dolls... something. Not comfortable, sorry. Even if they had all their limbs. Anyway...

Actually, this, or any way, the music is unpleasant as well. But only until you've realized where you are, what you are listening to, and where Et Moriemur want you to go. It's quite seductive, really, a blend of uneasy, clean verses and distorted mid-tempo choruses...

 

...okay, this doesn't seem right. We're not talking Rammstein here or anything similar. But if Rammstein, Tiamat, Empyrium and Death in June somehow met and did an album together, added screams, growls, double bass drums, an epic, European, poetic, obscure yet clear lyrical style and more atmosphere than three "neo folk" bands combined, you'd maybe get Et Moriemur. Maybe.

 

Music for the clever metalhead gentleman. Not one of those bands you can't talk about because it's all the same, but one where you don't know exactly what to say. Something that will try to awake a clandestine part of you, and, mostly, will succeed. Quite an exquisite thing, this, then. Not perfect, but perfectly aged even if thoroughly new. Et Moriemur know exactly what they are doing, take their time to elaborate on it with grim precision, and it's up to you to try and figure it out. While the dolls are watching. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Jerome
 

FESTER - Winter of Sin (re-issue) - CD - Abyss Records - 2010

review by: Jerome Reuter

Like many other black metal bands of the early '90s, Fester has acquired somewhat of a cult following. Fester disbanded in 1993, and reunited in 2010. WInter of Sin is their 1992 album, re-issued.

On the whole, this a fairly decent album, Stripped down, raw and primal like most black metal should be. But there are several instances where songs fall short, and things feel unfinished and put together rather hastily. For the most part, the general pace of the album marches at mid tempo, with lots of slow, evil riffs, and screams that convey an overall atmosphere of desolation and agony.

However, some of the time changes seem forced, almost as if the riffs were thrown together and not arranged properly. While shades of Bethlehem are welcomingly apparent, I can't shake the feeling there's something missing on most of these songs. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

FIR BOLG - Paganism - CD - Schwarzdorn Productions - 2010

review by Mladen Škot

A nicely remastered demo from this French one-man band shows promise. The sound is not perfect -- and for this style of music it could be a tad better, the compositions do have glitches, but the feeling is there. It's as pagan as the title suggests, but without being "folk" -- just the good old real thought and real inspiration. So, you do get a slightly underproduced and slightly under-epic release, but judging by the amount of unashamedly aggressive riffs and passages, intertwined with acoustic interludes, Fir Bolg could be onto something -over- epic. And we'd really be interested in hearing it. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Mladen
 

FOREVERS FALLEN GRACE - Firebound Manifesto - CD - Aggressive Music - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

After the weird feeling of clicking the "play" button and hearing an intro sounding almost exactly like the timeless classic of Ophidian Forest's "Fear Bloody Wings" (Okay, Roberto, you knew I was gonna do this) the rest of FFG's new album is okay. A lot of bands would be proud of it. But... We liked the Herald of Twilight album more, as it had more straightforward songs, coherence and atmosphere.

 

On Firebound Manifesto, the sound is much cleaner, there are no more keys and Forevers' Fallen Grace had a massive lineup change. Basically only the singer and one of the guitarists remained. And the new guys, as it sometimes happens, are overdoing it, as if trying to prove their worth. Too many unnecessary drum fills and guitar melodies are good for the musicians, but in this case not too good for the songs.

 

Epic songs surely deserve epic moments with distractions only at key moments. But, stuffed like this, with all the shining moments Forevers' Fallen Grace are capable of buried too deep, it's hard to get carried away by the songs. And we really miss the keys.

 

Firebound Manifesto is not a bad album, but compared to Herald of Twilight it is something like what Don't Break the Oath was to Melissa -- more playing and more clarity resulting in less soul. While we're at the subject of everyone's favorite King, the cover of "Come to the Sabbath" is great, though not too far from the original. Going back to Forevers' Fallen Grace, we really wish we liked this one more. Since they appear to have a lot to say, there's a chance that the next one will have the band saying it properly. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

GEIST - Der Ungeist - CD - Total Rust - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Der Ungeist is harsh and energetic, but if you have heard a few hundred black metal albums too many (unless you need one more, but from Israel), it's nothing that will make a lasting impact. Situations like these occur when someone is so obsessed with black metal that he seldom looks outside, and that is a problem. See, real art has to connect with everything and be a part of a worldview, take inspiration from known and unknown places, make the outside influences your own, twist them into your own reality if need be. Not simply taking it as something self-sufficient and belonging into a narrow space. Of course, some of the best art does come from isolation, but then you have artists who have so much in their heads that it causes a reaction, inspiration, anything but the will to do what was already done before and thinking it makes a statement. So, basically, Geist is doing nothing wrong, nothing right, but Geist is definitely thinking too much about whether he is doing either of the two or not. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

GRAND ALCHEMIST - Disgusting Hedonism - CD - Lydfella - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Trying too hard, maybe? Disgusting Hedonism is quite an exercise in modern, avant-garde complexity with drums, rhythms and sympho orchestrations chopped to bits and pieces, all the while following the same tedious medium tempo.

 

Sounds good; it's also played well and growled well, but mostly it will fly over your head leaving very few memories. Some ideas are quite good, but then Grand Alchemist will go on and do the usual guitar chugging and drum complications just to make it all more progressive, and in the process the little emotion they had will be made pointless. One track alone would make sense, but nine of them are quite a task to endure, and not much of a rewarding one at that. (4.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Intervening Coma Celebration (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

GRENOUER - The Odour O" Folly/Gravehead - CD - Casket Records - 2009

review by Mladen Škot

Maybe not as refined as Grenour's output a decade later, these two albums, re-released on one disc, are still a good preview of what was to come. Even back in, respectively, 2001 and 1999, Grenouer knew how to make groovy, mid-tempo thrash energetic, interested and varied -- which most bands can't do even today.

 

Be it an occasional blastbeat, an inspired break, a tasteful inclusion of keys or an intriguing composition, Grenouer knew how to make each of the tracks count as a separate and finished entity.

 

At times feeling like black or death with a few parts that Rotting Christ wouldn't be ashamed of, Grenouer still remained generally focused, making both albums, as a whole, a bit rough, but a coherent journey nonetheless.

 

We're just a little surprised to see the earlier album, Gravehead, on the second half of the disc, while The Odour O' Folly, released later, is at the beginning. We understand that Grenouer maybe wanted to have the later, better-sounding album as an opener, but compared to relatively simplistic The Odour O' Folly, Gravehead was way more inventive. Anyway, since both are pretty damn good in their own rights we can live with it. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

HAIKU FUNERAL - Nightmare Painting - CD - Aesthetic Death - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Okay, we see that Nightmare Painting is "avant-garde" for black metal, but then, we also know that a lot of bands are considered "progressive" just because they sound like Dream Theater. In other words, Haiku Funeral is trippy, snarling and hissing, at times noisy, well produced and so on. It consists of mostly electronic beats and noises with spoken vocals, and the feeling is somewhat hellish. Just as Haiku Funeral intended to be.

 

But, although at times scary, at most other times it is not. It's just... Expected? Neither better nor worse that other "avant-garde" albums, Nightmare Painting sounds as if done by the numbers and there's not much that would grab you by the throat, make you feel uneasy or make a lasting impact. Almost as if watching a horror movie instead being in a real nightmare. And then, when you see the press material describing it as "post-everything avant-garde," it better be some of that, but to most of you it will not be much more than just well-produced. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Chaim
 

HARVESTMAN/MINSK/US CHRISTMAS - Hawkwind Triad - CD - Neurot Recordings - 2010

review by: Chaim Drishner

 

Hawkwind Triad is unique and as far as we know a one of a kind effort, being a tribute to one of modern history's most influential bands, namely British legendary super group Hawkwind. Hawkwind Triad is both a split album, featuring three different musical entities, as well as a joint effort, a co-operation with no artificial seams or partitions. The outcome is a breathtaking, bizarre little album that pays homage to the already bizarre and enigmatic forefathers of all that is spacey, psychedelic and epic, but with a more metallic flair.

 

One does not necessarily need to be familiar through and through with Hawkwind's original songs in order to enjoy the covers performed so well on this album. Not knowing Hawkwind's material even serves as an advantage in the sense it does not spoil the fun of listening with the burden of the inevitable comparative criticism and such: Which song is better, the original or the cover? Did the covering bands go far enough and had they given the originals their own singular, personal interpretation or did they become lazy bastards and just copied/pasted the same old songs, maybe just dusting them off a tad and applying some make-up in the form of an updated sound? Such questions are spared from the uninitiated listener.

 

All three musical groups - US Christmas with their folk-oriented grand sound, Minsk with their ritualistic shamanistic metallic vastness and Harvestman, with their brutish hardcore panache - have chosen to cover songs that mirror Hawkwind's breadth of musical aesthetics, from space rock to acoustic folk, from proto-punk to flat-out psychedelica, to proto-heavy metal and beyond. Some of the tracks on this almost hour and twenty minutes worth of music are of course more highlighted than others, but nothing here is redundant or a waste of time. Some tracks are multi-layered, loud and crowded, while other are very basic, stripped down and discreet, but everything - and we mean everything - on this recording is done with good taste and class, both in the choice of tracks to be covered and the decision what band covered which song.

 

Hawkwind Triad is a truly marvelous recording that opens a window to the sonic creation and vision of a musical prodigy and a pioneering band named Hawkwind, and a good introduction to the abilities of Minsk, Harvestman and US Christmas.

 

Music created in the '60s and '70s sounding so fresh, poignant, spiteful and challenging even by today's standards is not to be taken for granted, and should be explored, studied and acknowledged. So whether or not you were just intending to check out Hawkwind's massive discography and have been procrastinating, don't worry! We have the solution for you: put your hands on a copy of Hawkwind Triad as soon as possible and be satisfied listening to some of the greatest tunes ever written by man. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
1/10 Jerome
 

HARBINGERS OF THE APOCALYPSE - Warlords of Hell - CD - diewhenyoudie666@yahoo.com - 2011

review by: Jerome Reuter

 

Warlords of Hell's cover reminded me of "Army of Darkness" (if seen through the eyes of a third grader): skeletal warriors wielding medieval weapons with the backdrop of a blood-red sky. But can one judge a book by its cover? In this case, yes.

 

First let me state for the record that I'm quite finicky on the whole stoner / sludge / doom genre -- I don't want to hear something that I've heard on EVERY Black Sabbath album I've ever owned, and I don't want idiotic references to nostalgia, which this album has plenty of. The opening track "Abra Cadaver" starts off with a sample from a "Tales From the Crypt" episode of the same name. That's exactly where this album belongs -- buried in a Mausoleum somewhere in the postmortem reject pile. At first we hear heavy, groove-laden riffs that drive the song in a very Sabbth-esque momentum.

 

When the vocals kick in is when things go from not too shabby to... what the fuck? The vocals are a dull rasp that don't even come close to matching the musical style of the band. Also, it sounds like the singer's singing inside of a trash can. The words "here I lay / on this slab / dead as fuck" is proof that if you're looking for a band with lyrical depth, then your first step is to throw this album in the trash. I think it's a shame that Satan's Massacre had better lyrics than this band, as a matter of fact, there's lyrics from high school bands that look like Longfellow and Keats next to this.

 

Did I Mention there is a sample on almost every song.? And it's not like Christ the Album by Crass, where they're politically relevant to protest the state of the government. Harbingers of the Apocalypse's are inane and pointless... and yet somehow offer the most entertainment on the album.

 

At some points they make a very half-assed attempt to be melodic, but simply fall flat on their face like a drunk teenager stumbling through the front door on a Saturday night. To the album's credit, when the riffs get heavy they do succeed, but it helps that every other band in the genre has already researched and developed them. Recycled riffs, repetitive cliches, a (1/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

HELLVETRON - Death Scroll of Seven Hells and Its Infernal Majesties - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Very simple, old-school slow death / doom metal compositions with occasional backing choirs still don't have a feeling of uninspired simplicity. Not in this case. More like simplicity with a cause, and the cause for this down-tuned, spacious, murky, distant noise is the Qliphotic tree of death, with each of the songs having a different demonic name. So, the inspiration and the sound being determined, the only thing missing on Hellvetron's debut would be the inspiration to make the songs somewhat discernible and memorable. With just seven tracks and 25 minutes we still had too many problems noticing any progression but no problems in hearing too much of the same. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Mladen
 

HYPERBOREAN - The Spirit of Warfare - CD - Abyss Records - 2011

review by Mladen Škot

Upon seeing the colossal history-themed lyrics and striking artwork we really expected more than straightforward, one-dimensional speed metal with awful vocals, zero emotion and maybe two epic moments to rub together. Playing fast and playing well will not make you a part of history, and most people would consider The Spirit of Warfare "history" after about half of it. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

HYPNOSIA - Horror Infernal - CD - I Hate Records - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

A small retrospective consisting of two demos (from 1996 and 1997) and the 1999 mini album called Violent Intensity shows Hypnosia's progress from pretty average speed metal all the way to... we guess, average speed metal again.

 

The demos are fairly forgettable, with songs consisting of the usual speed picking and up-tempo drums, then the standard mid-tempo thrashing and back to full speed with a solo or two thrown in. Nothing you haven't heard before, and especially nothing that would make a Slayer fan pay attention. As for the mini album, it has a fair share more of ideas and the riffs aren't too terribly generic, but, again, if you've heard the early Kreator albums you will consider Hypnosia as just a nice, fast band with somewhat interesting ideas. But not a band you'd consider your heroes or a band you could feel connected to for any real reason. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Chaim
 

ICON OF PHOBOS - Icon of Phobos - CD - Baneful Genesis - 2011

review by: Chaim Drishner

 

Icon of Phobos is a relatively new and interesting assembly comprising Bestial Incarnation and Spiculum Iratus members, sharing the same label with these aforementioned couple of bands. However, Icon of Phobos is much superior an entity to the two groups from whence it has sprung, hence a notion of surprise has been registered here, in the Middle-Eastern branch of Maelstrom International, as we haven't even heard of the existence of such a fine band.

 

One could draw parallel lines between the band's self titled debut album and Negative Plane's Stained Glass Revelations, in that both albums offer a very unorthodox sound and both do incorporate vocalists owning anything but the distinctive black metallic high-pitched hysterical screeches. In addition, Icon of Phobos focus mostly on playing slow to mid-paced velocities, using the weapon of blast beats where it's absolutely a necessity, and while being busy executing their array of dark and emotional riffs, they cultivate and garner a dense, macabre, other-worldly atmosphere that's inescapable.

 

The guitar lines are so dense and seamless, they create an illusion, cheating one's ears by mistakenly thinking keyboards have been incorporated into the thick collage of dark, unfathomable matter created by the endless waves of harmonies; so opaque, so flawless is the art offered by these West-coast American black metal musicians, a perfection that nullifies the infinitesimal void between a guitar stroke to the next, between one strumming gesture and its successive one, between a chord to the following chord.

 

Icon of Phobos' music seems like a thick, dark cloth that falls from the heavens like a sinning angel and covers everything in a uniform endless night. The distant and cold vocals stand in stark contrast to the emotive, hypnotic, repetitive and at times warm harmonies, riff after riff, drum beat after drum beat.

 

Wailing guitars that sound more like dirge lullabies and songs of decay than the habitual heaviness of maximum distorted razor-sharp frequencies are both the album's backdrop and its essence. The solid, basic drum work and weird, cold and distant vocals only accompany these funeral songs, like the carriers of a coffin in a funeral procession.

 

The desolate black ambience created thus is perfect; intimidating, volatile, esoteric and reflective, these songs will haunt you for days to come. Icon of Phobos are probably the best kept secret of the underground, and the band's debut is an unheralded black diamond that's both rare and absolutely worthy of your time and money. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Monte
 

ILLNESS, THE - A Monument to Our Gilded Age - CD - SpreadTheIllness.net - 2011

reviewed by: Monte Cimino

 

San Francisco locals (to this writer at least) The Illness are a hard-hitting quintet formed in 2008. This band is made up of talented musicians, as the twelve tunes on their sophomore outing twist and turn, bob and weave through syncopated, churning prog style hard rock / metal. Fans of the Tool, A Perfect Circle, The Mars Volta, and Coheed and Cambria should really dig this. Vocally, the singer seems more connected to '90s grunge than anything else.

 

I was taken back to the Bay Area music scene in the late '80s-early 90's with some of the song writing on this disc... vivid memories of seeing local thrash and funk metal bands play at the Berkeley Square, the Omni, or the Stone. Not a bad memory to conjure up at all. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

IMBER LUMINIS - Life as Burden - CD - Le Crepuscule du Soir - 2011

review by Mladen Škot

Fear not. If the mere mention of "depressive suicidal something something" makes you twitch, Imber Luminis will not need more than a few opening chords for you to ascertain you that you are not listening to yet another of those. And the feeling will continue until the monumental closing.

 

As minimal as it is, Life as Burden still has an identity of its own, be it the strangely vivid, crushing sound, well blended and natural sounding shrieks, or the all-around atmosphere of epic resignation. Though you might have heard some of this before, Imber Luminis uses a balanced array of supplements to keep things going. The choirs, clean guitar overlays and piano might be the obvious examples, while some others will remain hidden until you start looking for them, and, finally, some might simply have happened on their own.

 

Inspiration comes in all shapes and forms, and when you are witnessing something rather simple and repetitive, yet you keep on expecting and getting surprised, touched and moved, you know you've found a keeper. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
2/10 Jerome
 

INQUISITOR - The Quantum Theory of Id - CD - Forgotten Path - 2009

review by: Jerome Reuter

 

So, what happens when you get a band with very well written lyrics about esoteric knowledge, but music that encompasses everything loathsome about post-symphonic black metal? You get Inquisitor from Lithuania, not one of the better things to emerge from eastern Europe since the fall of the Iron Curtain. As a matter of fact, one of the worst.

 

Is The Quantum Theory of Id musically complex? Sure, but musical complexity is not synonymous with good. Rather, the album is shit. Every time someone plays me a symphonic black metal album all I can think is, "Who the hell invited Adam Ant to Helvete, and why?" Like I said in another review this issue, when Emperor integrated keyboards on albums like "In the Nightside Eclipse," it was done well and it didn't take away from the power of the songs. The same cannot be said for Inquisitor though -- these songs had no power to begin with. As with the general lot of the bands in the symphonic black sub-genre, there is a lot of musical prowess that gets overused and wasted over the course of 7- to 10-minute compositions that go over better as sedatives.

 

If you hate Galder-era Dimmu Borgir, you'll feel the same for Inquisitor. Then again, the opposite might also hold true. (2/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Roberto
 

INSIDIOUS OMEN - Anointed With the Blood of Chaos - CD - Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions - 2010

review by: Roberto Martinelli

 

You don't need to read my farewell sendoff two times. If you care to listen to my life story, you're welcome to that in my final editor's greeting, in this issue.

 

There is one bit in the greeting, the bit about how Maelstrom started sliding when labels all went to digital promo, and pretty much all physical product we get are from exposure-hungry unsigned bands that are generally unsigned for a reason.

 

If we got physical promos from more labels like Ahdistuksen Aihio, things might be different.

 

Ahdistuksen Aihio is a little like the Finnish version of The Ajna Offensive, or Norma Evangelium Diaboli. The Finnish label is getting to be as consistent and defined as countrymates Northern Heritage, except where Northern Heritage purveys a certain flavor of old-school black metal, Ahdistuksen Aihio's output can have a more modern, progressive bent

 

It can still be filthy and occult, though. Take Insidious Omen's 3-song EP Anointed with the Blood of Chaos as a good example. The music's droning walls of underlying guitars, barrages of drumming, creepily effective intro of dissonant choral layers, and dirty, earthy sound in general give it that most important quality of sounding legit: Insidious Omen is a legitimate black metal band whose music legitimately sounds like it walks the walk.

 

This counts the most towards Anointed With the Blood of Chaos' appeal, as the distinction between each of the (only) three songs' composition is negligible. We listened to the album three times. What punctuated it was the aforementioned choral intro and the spoken clip in the closing moments that reminded us of some of the clips in the ultra-essential Rain Upon the Impure by The Ruins of Beverast. In between was some satisfying yet still sadly unmemorable material. So, again, in this case, it's the sound and vibe that counts. And it counts for a lot. But it could have counted for more if the songs had any hooks at all.

 

Our one other gripe is that the main, harsh vocals, while fine performance-wise, sit in with the music a little awkwardly. Basically, the music and its sound conveys a convincing feel of an insidious, chthonic black metal band. The vocals exist kind of on top of that, kind of apart from that. It's like the band is in a rad occult place, and the vocals hover around that place. So things could have been conceivably better if only the vocalist had sounded like he was buried as deep as the rest of the band.

 

Despite these shortcomings, Anointed With the Blood of Chaos is pretty great, particularly when taken into context of the whole of Ahdistuksen Aihio's output, which includes such essential albums as the full-lengths by Jumalhamara and W.A.I.L. Please carry on! (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

INVADER - Invader - CD - Innervenus Music Collective - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Did The Haunted just re-unite? Probably not, but, instead, you can have this band here, Invader, who seem to have picked up where The Haunted left off. Thrash through and through, with a fair amount of catchy riffs, even more galloping ones, thoughtful lyrics, endless punk groove and hardcore energy, Invader seems to have all bases covered. Technical where needed, less technical where headbanging is more appropriate, Invader are versatile enough to bring surprises throughout the length of this album. Just a few amazing riffs and breathtaking songs short of a classic, Invader are still practically a must-have in every thrash fanatic's collection. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

INVERTICRUX - Virgin Reaper - CD - isitmybody@hotmail.com - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Virgins? In this day and age? This band probably knows something we don't. Anyway, if your idea of fun is mid-tempo, groovy, grinding heavy metal with someone called Raypissed growling, singing and more often than not doing a King Diamond falsetto, Inverticrux aren't half bad. They know how to pen a tune, play a solo and write proper songs. It's just that this writer doesn't hear any dignity in all this, and it's really been a bad day so a bit of cheering up would have been welcome. Virgin Reaper couldn't do it. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

JEHOVAH IN PAIN - Demos 2009-11 - CD - jehovahinpain.bandcamp.com - 2011

review by Mladen Škot

Come on, metal! There's got to be better names than this (seconded -- ed)! Who the hell came up with this band name? Oh, well. Let's see the song titles then... "Downward, Christian Soldier," "Re-animate the Christian Corpses (So We Can Slay Them All Again)," "I Hate Christians" and "Reject the Christian Lies" - yeah, okay, this is metal alright. All is forgiven.

 

As for the music, it is not perfect, but it keeps you interested. No idea what Jehovah in Pain used for distortion, but the sound feels like the speaker cones have been strategically decorated with a razor blade.

 

Even if you're not a fan of down-tuned guitars, this one will make you pay attention. Starting with straight, simplistic mid-tempo death / thrash, Jehovah in Pain often delve into quirky off-beat or industrial sections and they make you wonder. Were they deliberate, or random accidents that happened somewhere between the recording and mixing parts? Weird without trying too hard, nasty while using simple means and corrosive as an accident, or was all that some other way round -- we don't know. Let us get back to you on that after we listen to these four tracks a few more times. OK, we won't actually write an appendix, but we needed an excuse to play this again. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Jerome
 

KAIRI - My Light. My Flesh - CD - Endless Desperation Productions - 2009

review by: Jerome Reuter

The first three songs on Kairi's My Light. My Flesh have an almost movie soundtrack feel to them, like they were composed by Riz Ortolani ("Cannibal Holocaust" Score). They're captivating piano pieces that are haunting, and unlike symphonic metal synth-heavy songs, they stand by themselves.

 

On the fourth track is when things take a slight change as the album turns from a haunting piano-laden soundtrack to a funeral doom track reminiscent of Thorr's Hammer. The sudden change in atmosphere, while different than the previous three songs, keeps the relative mood of the album the same: dark, dreary and abysmal.

 

However, on the final two tracks of My Light. My Flesh, the feel descends into generic melodic dribble.The album stops being dark and moody and just becomes generic. Despite the drop off in quality, My Light. My Flesh is definitely worth at least one listen. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Roberto
 

KALI YUGA - Wrath of Durga - CD - G.U.C. - 2013

review by: Roberto Martinelli

 

Kali Yuga sounds like knuckle-dragging groove metal mixed with Amon Amarth. The production and performances are run-of-the-mill perfect, neat and nigh robotic, the material is nothing original, and none of the songs stand out. It's an uninspired, me-too record whose only real offense is that it is instantly forgettable. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
0/10 Jerome
 

KALKI AVATARA - Mantra for the End of Times - CD - Shaytan Productions - 2007

review by: Jerome Reuter

 

Kalki Avatara's 2007 release is nothing more than a jumbled concoction of classical guitar medleys and piano flourishes that have no direction or distinction. While some of the guitar playing is impressive, it could not save this album.

 

Also, in the liner notes, this: "NO FUCKING TRIGGERS WERE USED ON THIS RECORD." This happens to be a case when triggers could have helped, but instead we get an album worse than an after school special. 

As far as the lyrical content on this album is concerned, they are well written...because Hell-10-Kabbalus (not making that up) didn't write any of them, he adapted a lot of them from Hollow Men by T.S. Elliot. Way to go bastardizing one the greatest literary legends of all time. 

 

This album makes better use as a coaster or paperweight. (0/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

KANTO ARBORETUM - City of Grass - CD - kantoarboretum.fi - 2012

review by: Roberto Martinelli

 

Kanto Arboretum is a project that would not exist if it were not for Burzum. The almost shimmering quality the distorted guitars can take on City of Grass, and the approach to riff writing and rhythmic application to those compositions are entirely in homage to Norway's most infamous band. But seeing as how Burzum's post-prison work has been superfluous at best and execrable at worst, if there is room for me-too bands, now is as good a time as ever.

 

Questionable originality aside, City of Grass is a pretty enjoyable four-song release. The guitar tone is satisfying, with its necro distortion providing grit and harshness that also has that black metal knack of being meditative. The natural sounding drum machine tones work well in context of the songs. You likely won't notice the drums were not physically played unless you pay particular attention to the way the cymbals crash exactly the same way every time. But that doesn't matter, as the drums' simplicity and supportive role make the way they are implemented a success. The vocals are also well done, with their blend of distortion and reverb providing some of the album's most satisfying elements.

 

There's some engaging material to be found on City of Grass, particularly during the album's first two tracks. Unfortunately, the material can get on a bit on the album's second pair of songs, where the music loses some feeling and enters into more of a mode of remedial Burzum auto-pilot. In spite of this, the best stuff on City of Grass is as good as the best material on the last three full-length records Vikernes put out, and Kanto Arboretum's worst moments are probably better than those three Burzum albums' worst. For sure the vocals are way better, and so are the drums. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Mladen
 

KAOS AEON - Tyranny: The Hysteria Manifesto - CD - kaosaeon.com - 2011

review by Mladen Škot

Although a look at the cover and a megaton of lyrics inside might hint at something pretentious, Tyranny: The Hysteria Manifesto is mostly an old school death metal album going from point A to point B without too many surprises, once you get accustomed to an occasional ambient overlay or a tasty guitar lead. Those can be quite original, but still not too surprising.

Fairly complex and well executed, Tyranny is quite an achievement. But still it feels like one of the experimental death or black albums released in the '90s where you would admire the concept, the effort and the ideas, show it to your friends to let them know you're a researcher and not just a consumer, but probably wouldn't listen to it too often. If you missed most of those, you might want to get a Kaos Aeon CD anyway and save it for the days when you feel particularly inquisitive. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Jerome
 

KHARIOT - Disymposium - CD - khariot.com - 2010

review by: Jerome Reuter 

 

From Perth, Australia, the birthplace of Bon Scott, comes Khariot. After listening to this album, all I wanted to do was listen to Let There be Rock by AC/DC, and remind myself that there are much better bands from the continent that started out as a place for England's worst criminal offenders. 

 

To be fair, there are a lot of souped-up technical riffs, and more time changes than a Swiss watch, but that is the extent of what is aesthetically pleasing about this release. A lot of times, there is so much going on that I almost fell asleep; this is when music ceases to be music and becomes science -- there's nothing that grabs me, nothing really memorable, just a never ending penis contest of "Look how technical I can play!" 

 

When I sat down and read the lyrics, I was intrigued by how well they were written, nothing here low-brow or cliché at all. I was also intrigued of the different sections of Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" they used for the inner album art work. While Khariot has good taste in Renaissance painters, their material is not memorable.

 

There was one song on this album that I found  intriguing, "Shade." The melody found on the beginning of the song immediately sets the listener up in an atmosphere of hopelessness and futility. But less than two minutes in, Khariot's need to be more virtuosic than thou comes forth, and the song falls short as just another excuse to show off. If you like super technical death metal, you might feel differently. (3/10) 

 

 

 

 
7/10 Chaim
 

KORPERSCHWACHE - Evil Walks - CD - Crucial Blast Industries - 2011

review by: Chaim Drishner

 

Droning guitars, mechanical beats and a croaky voice are the backbone of the music of Korperschwache, an enigmatic Texas-based outfit that has formerly been a noise project, but with Evil Walks they offer a coherent, even mildly melodic and fairly accessible vision that isn't too removed from the electronic morbid concoction offered by Global Genocide Forget Heaven (GGFH).

 

Quasi-metallic in essence, the music flirts with post-punk's Gothic aura but it also incorporates dissonant, atmospheric guitar layers whose droning, reverberating wall of sound sometimes does remind the more experimental facet of black metal (think of Blut Aus Nord's sound on their later recording, for instance).

 

But wait, there's more! Due to the strong percussive essence of the tracks and the weird, processed vocals, the music also sounds industrial but of the lesser hostile kind; almost danceable even. And in spite of that, or maybe even because of that, the synergistic effect of everything aforementioned - the industrially inclined vibe, the Gothic innuendos, the metallic flair, the processed vocals - yields a dark universe of desolation and macabre monuments; a world of shadows and rot; a lunatic's afterthoughts; the mirages of a sick mind.

 

The crumbling, peeling, antique-brown wallpaper-like world of Korperschwache, so finely depicted on Evil Walks, is darkened still by the somber piano piece on track 4 and the girl who's screaming her lungs out in sheer panicking hysteria.

 

Besides, there are occasionally girls screaming throughout the recording, their obvious innocence blends with the depravity this album so strongly emanates, the collision of extremes - life loving youthful innocence and death worship - is mindboggling and unsettling to a degree.

 

Flaked with citations and random spoken phrases captured on tape, being voiced either by lunatics, criminals, drug addicts, or all of the aforementioned, doesn't make the surreal sonic scene seem any less intimidating. Not the brightest, happiest or the most optimistic recording out there, Evil Walks will surely satisfy those who want to listen to something different yet rather accessible; those who like their music varied and comprised of many musical styles and a myriad of aesthetical attitudes, or those who like their electronic music punchy, dark and abrasive, a la Skinny Puppy, Foetus or the above mentioned, infamous GGFH.

 

The absolute bottom line is Evil Walks is among the more accessible, straight-forward and enjoyable recordings Crucial Blast has recently released, straying off from the chaos and noise governing most of the label's output; its varied nature and original musical content makes it a worthy purchase. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

LEBEN OHNE LICHT KOLLEKTIV / IMMEMORIAL - Quantum of Abstract Physics - CD - Cold Dark Matter Records - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

As vague as it is deliberate, this split is an exquisite match of ritualistic, monastic chants combined with an organic tapestry of sinister sounds and equally uneasy but more tangible funeral doom. Old, awakened forces rising up and showing their inquisitive faces in a modern surrounding, proving that what once was can't be dismissed today, no matter how much the technology might make us think otherwise. At least this is one person's experience, but what exactly these two bands had in mind might be better left unsaid. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
 

LOUDNESS - RockShocks - CD - Crash Music - 2004

review by Mladen Škot

What we have here is an old album where a really old band covers their own equally old songs, making them slightly less o... Oh, hell. Compared to all the other rock albums in this issue, this one is a revelation. Real riffs, real vocals with personality, epic guitar solo breaks, lyrical silliness in a "who the hell cares anyway" manner, and a band refusing to stop kicking ass.

 

As old as the band members may be, RockShocks feels like listening to a young and hungry band with everything to prove and nothing to lose. Hey, I'm old too, and I remember reading about Akira Takasaki back in 1990 or something, and apparently he's still out there shredding. And probably wiping the floor with bands who shouldn't even be called "rock" compared to this. Here's to the next 20 years! (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

MARTYR LUCIFER - Farewell to Graveland - CD - Live Tribe Music - 2011

review by Mladen Škot

A shiny, well produced, well played collection of songs made by Martyr Lucifer and an all-star international "Graveland Ensemble," this album is still not much more than a Gothic pop album. And it's not a very memorable or engaging one, really. While people by the names of Adrian Erlandsson, Vrolok, Bless, Grom, Arke and Leit are doing their best to show they deserve being on Farewell to Graveland, showcasing their talents and abilities, the sad fact is that the songs in themselves are not too good. Well made, sure, but in reality just plain pop song structures with a few tasty arrangements -- but very few really catchy, emotional or memorable parts. Or vocal lines. Or choruses. A diehard Goth might enjoy listening to Martyr Lucifer for a while, but we'd guess that very few of them would talk about it tomorrow. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
0.5/10 half a point for the intro and the cover art Chaim
7/10 Roberto
 

MASTERY - Barbaric Usurpation of the Hypereonic Black Metal Throne - CD - tUMULt - 2011

review by: Chaim Drishner

 

Mastery's 2011 compilation has the most aesthetically appealing cover art, what with a black and red motif upon which the silhouettes of a pack of wolves are captured. In addition, the double album opens with an intriguingly sounding short synthesizer piece that's undoubtedly the only good thing contained within this recording, music-wise. There you have it: a Mastery review concluded; because by Odin's beard (or the facial hair of any other fictional deity, cartoon figure or science fiction hero, for that matter), this collection of demos by the San Francisco-based one man "band" is the single worst recording this reviewer has ever, ever encountered.

 

Non musical blathering where chaotic, senseless sonic diarrhea, lacking any musical pattern reigns supreme; where cacophonous gibbering verging virtually on white noise is punishing the audience with an earsplitting, headache-inducing, rumbling sonic defecation of the lowest order.

 

The sole member of what only appears to be a joke band, namely Ephemeral Domignostika, is showcasing his absolute lack of talent and vision, allowing his shortcomings to run rampant, resulting in a cacophonous maelstrom of fuzz and buzz, and some watered down, badly tuned, thin-sounding sawing guitars and misplaced drumming with no sense of rhythm. Outrageously enough, this aural turd was granted the honor of being released as a double album by the acclaimed tUMULt record label. Go fucking figure. Avoid this "black metal" joke at all costs.

(0.5/10 half a point for the intro and the cover art)

 

review by: Roberto Martinelli

 

The biggest obstacle Mastery has to overcome on this 2CD demo compilation release is that the material is difficult listening and that there's a lot of it to get through. Yes, it blurs all together. And yes, sometimes the mad scientist feel the music has can raise questions about whether the music was in fact thoughtfully composed. But what holds true throughout is that although there's something familiar about Mastery's jagged, brutal black metal, there's also something original about it. Its short attention-span, blurred, damaged guitar shredder intensity, with black metal croaking and (mostly) drum machine that's as punishingly bleak as the alienating riffing, coupled with its seemingly endless barrage of these elements, make for an experience that blurs the line between music and some kind of antithesis thereof.

 

If there's one thing we've come to know and trust about tUMULt, is that even if we don't necessarily like it, it's a really interesting record -- one that is well-done for the kind of record that it is. Mastery's Barbaric Usurpation of the Hypereonic Black Metal Throne is no exception. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Avi
 

METALLIC TASTE OF BLOOD - Metallic Taste of Blood - CD - RareNise Records - 2012

review by: Avi Shaked

Judging by RareNoise Records' sampler, the label's catalog is very cohesive in its sound, offering ballsy, alternative electric-electronic music, and this debut by Metallic Taste of Blood is a fitting recording, or even more so - a flagship.

A multinational collaboration between Eraldo Bernocchi (guitars), Balazs Pandi (drums), Jamie Saft (piano and keyboards) and Colin Edwin (bass), Metallic Taste of Blood can be described as a techno fusion outfit.

A psychedelic, trance-inducing nature (that is not unlike that of Edwin's primary band, Porcupine Tree, in its earlier days) hovers in a menacing fashion and combined with modern jazz and heavy metal through the skilled naughtiness of Saft (who has been on John Zorn's Tzadik label, amongst others), while the accented rhythms result in a dub-like vibe, keeping things constantly pulsating. In fact, this music is ideal for night clubs, where it will surely be a gushing, body moving highlight.

The production here is mesmerizing, in the sense that it will appeal to techno addicts in its fat, monstrous bottom end and hallucinative effect, and yet it retains the creative spirit of these fine, versatile musicians with all the nuances of their authentic musical instrument playing (as opposed to sampled and fully digital music which is the popular custom of the genre).

This is a mind-blowing listen that brave fans of techno, metal and electronic jazz are encouraged to pick up, if only to see how genre boundaries are melted. Those who are open minded about their music will surely enjoy this beating, lush and sensual music. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Mladen
 

MHONOS - Humiliati - CD - Le Crepuscule du Soir - 2011

review by Mladen Škot

Aggressive ritualistic music of this type might not be everyone's thing of choice, especially not on every day, but sometimes it makes sense. We are talking about a CD with 67 minutes of music and just three songs, one of them being eight minutes long. One Necropiss on vocals and seven "Fraters" doing low frequencies, percussion, bass, incantations, pulses, ultrasounds and whatnot, are not quite something you would want to go near. And for the better part of the album, Mhönos don't even bother inviting you. They simply leave you standing there, listening and wondering what the hell these people are up to.

 

You might have the patience to endure the whole ritual. You might not. The first track, with its slow percussion and chants endlessly going on, is either the longest intro ever or a complete experience. Hard to tell because the other two tracks are different.

 

By the end, you will hear something resembling regular, distorted music, all the while having no idea whether these people are coming or going. The artwork, with lyrics in Latin and sparse symbolism, isn't of much help either. However, on a really bad day, Mhönos might make you get into a fetal position and cry something like "Satan, My Satan, why have you left me?" so if you really want to do this to yourself, give Mhönos a try. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

MIDNIGHT - Complete and Total Hell - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

No less than 21 tracks of early Midnight material and yeah, they are all fun. Complete and Total Hell is a collection of songs Midnight recorded before Satanic Royalty, and basically includes all of them. If anyone was looking. And if you were not looking just because no one told you to, here you go.

 

Nice, dirty, primitive rocking blackness, at times totally simple and all the more contagious, then completed with catchy breaks and filthy solos, Complete and Total Hell shows that Midnight have a sense of what goes and what does not. Even if the riffs are something you've heard way before, you won't mind hearing them again. And if you're missing the early days of Venom, Midnight will seem like a distant but genetically equal relative. You can't really miss the fact that Midnight are totally honest in what they do, so, be thankful to their satanic royalties for being generous enough to give you, mere peasants, a glimpse into their unholy pleasures. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

MINIMUM WAGE ASSASSINS - Corrosive Audio - CD - Get Pissed Stay Pissed - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Hmmm, how about just reading the band name, album title and label name? They all fit this release like a glove. Straightforward hysterical grind, no regard for political correctness whatsoever, short tracks, endless blasts, even more adrenalin and, throughout it all, nice riffs and recognizable songs. Usually a band of this kind would be better suited for live shows than listening at home, but Minimum Wage Assassins got the sound and the feeling right, so it doesn't make much of a difference. It's a real band with real anger and no matter what the medium is, you will have to feel it. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Monte
 

MELENCOLIA ESTATICA - Hel - CD - Temple of Torturous - 2013

review by: Monte Cimino

 

Hel is Italian-born Melencolia Estatica's third full-length to date. Hel's structure reminds me of the ocean. Transitions don't necessarily happen in a defined way, but rather one part ends and another part, like the tide, washes up over the listener. Blast beats break like a wave with no concept of the damage it can inflict on those who step into its wake.

 

Melencolia Estatica also do a great job constructing haunting ambience throughout Hel's 41-minute running time. Layered dissonance that borders on the serene, peppered with ghostly female (wordless) vocals make these passages actual compositions / songs that stand on their own and are not mere "filler;" as is the case too many times in black metal. This is a solid third effort and worth checking out. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

MODEST MIDGET - The Great Prophecy of a Small Man - CD - Multi-Polar Music - 2010

review by: Avi Shaked

Putting aside the slightly amateurish production, this self-released debut by Modest Midget is quite the fascinating release. The band's name suggests a paraphrase on Gentle Giant, and the two do have some things in common: slightly quirky, multi-instrument arrangements serve immediate songs, which rely on both melody and harmony.

Modest Midget incorporates diverse musical influences: classical music, cabaret, jazz and mostly rock of different flavors. The music is accomplished, featuring colorful keyboards and guitars as well as tight yet rich arrangements ("Baby," for example benefits from a string arrangement while quite a few of the songs employ a skilled mash of saxophones that is simply uplifting).

The first song on the album, "Contemporary Ache," features competent guitar work and beautifully criticizes popular music by briefly examining its evolution through the ages. "Jorge Knows How Difficult a Musician's Life Can Be, but..." is a lively, Zappa meets Gentle Giant progressive rock instrumental, featuring mischievous harmonies and unisons with a touch of jazz-rock in its viola solo (and we can swear it quotes Gentle Giant at some point), and while "The Last Straw" features keyboards inspired by pompous prog-rock acts, these are actually harnessed to serve the song. "Buy Me!," as opposed to most others, is a swift song, serving its title in its simplicity and alternative rock leaning while still retaining a certain '60s psychedelic edge (appropriate organ sounds included).

The compact songs are inspiring in their accessibility and naivety (which we can ascribe to Israeli music influence, exposing the origin of the band's leader), filled with humor, grace, melody and humanity (check out "Home Seek" for the latter).

We feel that this band has what it takes to become a commercial success, and we wish that it earns this well deserved success, if only for the egoistic hope of listening to a second album. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

MONGREL'S CROSS - The Sins of Aquarius - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

If you have already heard a few hundred death metal albums, The Sins of Aquarius won't bring anything new. It will be good while it lasts but you won't remember much afterwards - metal for the sake of being metal will only take you so far.

 

Mongrel's Cross do their best to write proper riffs and assemble them into, mostly, downtempo marching songs with an occasional blastbeat section, but most of those are of only tepid interest. It's as if The Sins of Aquarius is divided between interesting bits with solos and harmonies and groovy mid-tempo thrash, where one makes you interested only to realize that after it you usually get the other, boring one. The album is not spectacular, catchy or breathtaking, more like filler, just something you might headbang to when seeing Mongrel's Cross play live, but not too suitable for home use. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

MORTOR - Shoot 'em Up - CD - mortor.net - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Groove, groove and more groove. Mostly the dreaded mid-tempo, slamming thrash, Shoot 'em Up doesn't have much to attract the average Maelstrom reader. We do realize that many people discovered metal through bands like these, though, or even nu-metal, so if you're using metal as an excuse to do whatever they do in pits and get drunk, Mortor are as good a band as any. Not much on an entertainment level, even less on an artistic level, Shoot 'em Up nonetheless possesses a few catchy melodies and solos. But, to these ears, most of it sounds like generic music that wouldn't sound out of place on an MTV or Kerrang! "metal" show a decade ago. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
0.1/10 for the album design and artwork Chaim
 

MUSTERION - The Wondrous Journey Through the Catacombs of Life - CD - Horus CyclicDaemon - 2009

review by: Chaim Drishner

 

This album is literally a waste of time; since there's so much "nothing" happening before there's anything substantial one can take a bite at, musically speaking, two thirds of the recording are already behind you. Even that, even those musically merciful, infinitesimal moments are disjointed and unclear.

 

The Wondrous Journey Through the Catacombs of Life is a concept album concerning the perilous journey and ordeals one has endured via various means of mind control, a human string puppet trying to free himself from the suffocating and confining enslavement by his puppet master, or something along those lines. Albeit the fact the booklet is full with texts, there's not much singing, or any other sort of human voice articulating these texts; rather, the sole artist behind this project offers a strange concoction of cinematic dark ambient "composition" that somehow is aimed at representing each stage of the hero's evolution in his struggle towards the ultimate freedom.

 

The tracks are mostly empty, disjointed and are loaded with the false promise of something unfolding - something that never comes. Strange sounds, some short piano passages, a distant female voice speaking something incoherent in Russian, some dreamy chanting and lullabies, all presented in a mishmash of incoherent inner logic that only the artist grasps.

 

And the audience? They repeatedly ask, throughout the recording, where's the music? Where's the fucking music?!

 

The Wondrous Journey Through the Catacombs of Life is an abstract collage of effects, spoken voices, field recordings and samplings that never reaches the minimal level of musicianship. Circus tunes played backwards and some string instruments appearing for a short time do not qualify as music; one needs more than that, and that extra something is not a sample of a screeching door opening or splashing water and the like, sonic gimmicks that abound on this mindless, stream-of-consciousness recording.

 

A lot of effort has been invested in producing this handsome digipak, the booklet it contains, the texts and artwork, making it one of the most aesthetically attractive album casings to be found - but with such a non-cohesive musical void contained therein, the effort gives the notion of time wasting newer and crueler meaning. Avoid this garbage at all costs!

(0.1/10 for the album design and artwork)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

NECRO DEATHMORT - Necro Deathmort - CD - Distraction Records - 2011

review by Mladen Škot

Ambient electronic that will leave you neither hot nor cold, Necro Deathmort is varied, professional sounding, yet not too surprising. It's dark, it has a promising slow, powerful start, and a properly crushing downtuned guitar sound. What follows is fine if you are doing something else while listening, but something that is trying to be gloomy and deadly simply turns into familiar trancey techno, and the various electronic effects sound... still electronic, we suppose. Something you'd expect to hear but nothing that would grab you by the throat. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Mladen
 

NUNSLAUGHTER - Hell's Unholy Fire - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

If you've been avoiding Nunslaughter because of the silly band name, there is no reason why you should start paying attention now. Hell's Unholy Fire is apparently a re-release of their debut, but in thirty minutes and eighteen songs you'd be hard pressed to find anything original or non-generic.

 

We do "get" the Hellhammer, Possessed or Venom comparisons, but Nunslaughter are simply not in that league. Or any other league, considering the lack of inspiration on evidence here. You need to go through at least five songs to hear one riff you haven't heard before (and that's taking into account albums made before Hell's Unholy Fire was originally released) as a filler riff on some better band's album. The material is proper very short songs, for what it's worth, and the vocals aren't bad. That's about it. The rest sounds like it was written by someone who listened to a couple of death metal albums and nothing else, and thought that whatever they did would be enough for a proper death metal album, as long as band name and song titles are somehow extreme and blasphemous. It's just that it wasn't enough. Compare Nunslaughter to early Rotting Christ to see how it is supposed to be done. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
6.6/10 Roberto
 

OLD WAINDS - Where the Snows Are Never Gone - CD - Negative Existence - 2011

review: Roberto Martinelli

 

Getting the bad out of the way first: there isn't a whole lot of depth of songwriting on this re-issued Old Wainds demo, or at least the existing composition is greatly muted by the bitterly harsh sound. In its near-entirety, Where the Snows Are Never Gone is the same blast beat, at the same tempo, played with a mean, buzzing guitar and bass, with necro Russian-style black metal vocals on the same level of single-minded uncompromise as everything else of the record.

 

But what songwriting you do get hits you right in the cvlt black metal stomach. The mean, biting, thin guitar tone and rattling drums achieve the primordial grim feel, and for a while, the unvarying, near-interchangeable material can feel like a secondary factor. However, after 5-6 songs of that, even an excellent vibe can't overcome the notion that it seems like you've been listening to the same song over and over. Predictably, the respite from monotony doesn't come until the last track, which is a slow number, where the writing is finally given a chance to breathe, providing some compositional dynamics to the album as a whole. Too little, too late, though, and done in a cliched manner. Taken in doses of a song or two, the vibe of Where the Snows Are Never Gone is pretty rad. (6.6/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

PRIMAL - Deathzone - CD - The End of Time - 2011

review by Mladen Škot

Deathzone delivers the good old feeling of listening to something apparently played backwards and not knowing what to do with it. Primal displays an obvious talent in not making things obvious, as just when you start getting the feel of it, thinking you know where Deathzone is going, something will become obvious for a brief moment and then get buried back into nastiness. We could go amateur and say that Deathzone is nasty, oppressive, twisted and perverted. As if someone listening to black metal for the first time. And, well, we wouldn't be far from the truth.

 

Primal aren't doing anything too spectacular but it is done in such a way that you will find yourself trying to get closer to it, only to be rejected time and time again. Sometimes it will sound slightly disconnected, and yet the dismal guitar leads will sound as if they know exactly where to connect and why. If you can find a better description, be our guest, we're a bit at a loss for words. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

PSEUDOGOD - Deathwomb Catechesis - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Since WordWeb is free if you don't fly too often, and Maelstrom is a non-commercial site, the explanations we were looking for are copy-pasted from there: 1. "Tediously repetitious or lacking in variety." This would pretty much explain Pseudogod. With the velocity the blastbeats can reach they are not exactly dull, and the sound has great roominess, with all elements feeling like they were recorded in a large hall, which even gave the guitars some sweet overtones as a (probably accidental) result.

 

The music mostly consists of fast and slow parts (well, duh) with a few nice transitions here and there, but the song structures offer very few surprises. But the way the riffs are written, we'll be damned if we can tell if the same riff was already used two songs earlier. They are that similar (and this is from someone who feels bad because he wrote two similar riffs two albums apart). Which leads us to 2. "Sounded or spoken in a tone unvarying in pitch." - Yes, something like that. Pseudogod are really trying hard to spice things up, the speed is furious, the sound is nasty, but we can't but think it's all just monotonous. Which is the word we were talking about, by the way. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.8/10 Mladen
 

REALMBUILDER - Fortifications of the Pale Architect - CD - I Hate Records - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

We quite liked the first Realm Builder, and their approach to doing things. Apparent lack of emphasis on sound coupled with excellent songwriting made our minds fill in the blanks, fantasize and enjoy. Less was more.

 

This time around, Realm Builder are still doing it, but the blanks are more evident. The sound is a bit more powerful, but still there is quite enough space between individual instruments. And the Realm Builder's way of doing things has started showing some flaws.

 

It's awesome if you can base your songs on songwriting alone without relying on crushing sound. But if some of the parts sound as if you made the riffs just to have something to play along with the story you are telling, things don't look so shiny. Fortifications of the Pale Architect is still a good album, make no mistake, but with less magic than Summon the Stone Throwers has. It sounds like some maturity and progress brought along a slight lack of enthusiasm. (6.8/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

REINO ERMITANO - Veneracion del Fuego - CD - I Hate Records - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

The female vocals are as persuasive, desperate and suggestive as they were the last time we heard Reino Ermitano. The musicianship also improved, and yes, you can notice it even when you are listening to doom metal in the finest Black Sabbath tradition. However, we're not exactly convinced that the whole package is worth investigating for anyone who is not into exactly this type of music, and this type of a band. And there are quite a few out there. Simply, Veneracion del Fuego is not much of a challenge and it is simply satisfied being what it is. But, for real fire, maybe you should look elsewhere. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Avi
 

REMORA - Scars Bring Hope - CD - Silber Records - 2011

review by: Avi Shaked

Remora is the moniker of Brian John Mitchell, who is responsible for almost everything in this album of post-psychedelic, post-punk underground pop (as my "My Brothers Guns & Knives" demonstrates). Mitchell is assisted only by Brian Lea McKenzie of Electric Bird Noise, who gives a hand with a few instruments as well as some technical aspects of the recording.

The vocals are unremarkable for the most part, but they do manage to convey a certain truth and even enchant on tracks such as the hypnotic, repetitive "Does the Music" ("...make you feel close enough to god to wanna fuck me," its chorus continues, in case you were wondering).

The music, while often drone based and static in its compact nature, does manage to flourish by alternatingly utilizing various instruments (guitar, bass, piano, organ, trombone, glockenspiel, mandolin, banjo and percussions) to create interesting sounds and eventually give each track a surprising shade of its own. We prefer the tracks on which a tuneful dimension is added to the basic line, such as "The Future of Man," which celebrates decay in a festive fashion (with a calm flugelhorn-like feature and an unfolding arrangement) and reminded us of the music of Thee More Shallows due to its apocalyptic dream rock.

Still, and despite the differences in approach, we do believe Cheer-Accident's "No ifs, ands or Dogs" (also covered in this issue) might be a better selection for providing one's alternative, psych pop desires, unless one has a clear preference towards lo-fi music. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7..4/10 Chaim
 

REVELATIONS OF RAIN - Emanation of Hatred - CD - Solitude Productions - 2010

review by: Chaim Drishner

 

Re-visiting our 2008 review of Revelations of Rain's debut album, namely Marble Shades of Despair, from 2007, we are thus concluding this Russian band has gone through a lot of change (for the absolute better) since its inception and the birthing of the band's beneath-mediocre maiden recording. A major improvement has been registered not only (but most importantly) in the song writing department, but also where production values matter, engineering music delivery from the recording studio, through the media (or medium) to the ears of the audience; even the cover art has totally been improved, featuring a blur image of a winged angel of death on an oxidized red background.

 

Although we're not familiar with the band's sophomore album, we can safely say Emanation of Hatred is a quantum leap from where the band stood three years earlier. The hallmark of the band's massive improvement are the engaging songs; a roller coaster of mammoth sentimental waves, that even if cliché-ridden at times, their impact is hard hitting due to the robust production that gives momentum to the songs in such a manner that even in their weakest point still sound punchy, full-bodied and impressive, to say the least.

 

Emanation of Hatred sees a more mature band, exploring more profoundly the somber yet romantic facet of doom/death metal, and although sounding pretty much like the majority of Russian bands offering the same musical etiquette, Revelations of Rain play with an undeniable conviction and displaying artistic creativity here and there throughout the album's almost 50 minutes. The rare faster moments (like the brief blast beat frenzy on track one) own a striking resemblance to Septic Flesh's trademark of mixing atmospheric doom-ish death metal with blasts and keyboards. Other curiosities are the monstrous growling versus the soft masculine Russian spoken verses, or the band's use of post-rock gestures here and there in measured quantities, or the coupling of black metal-oriented rasps and faster drumming that seldom pop up only to give a short lived performance and disappear.

 

Traditional yet a tad progressive and eclectic, this album is an experiment in fusing several approaches together done right; it has got its fair share of beautiful moments alongside the usual genre banalities. Not the purest doom / death metal album out there, nor the most original of the lot, but definitely one that's intriguing and powerful enough and a huge step forward for the band. This album is a keeper. (7.4/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Avi
 

RISE AND SHINE - Empty Hand - CD - I Hate Records - 2011

review by: Avi Shaked

Sweden's Rise and Shine offer standard hard rock. The thing that seems to be the most unique about it is the castrated singing, which is akin to Asaf Avidan's metrosexual wails, though definitely more hard rocking.

The opening, self-titled song generates a good impact due to its fervent guitars and the surprising vocals, but this impact soon wears off as the vocals become tiring in their constantly over the top showcase, and the music, while aiming to offer melodic sparks, remains unimaginative. Even when slower, quieter numbers appear, they lack a sensual drive to stick, as there's actually not much songwriting here, and the connection between the raw music and the vocals is quite sporadic. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Mladen
 

ROYAL ARCH BLASPHEME, THE - II - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

What to say about an album which is simply "good enough?" Downtuned grind, standard riffs, standard vocals, enough changes to make the songs proper songs and some talent in assembling the twin guitar harmonies. This is something you get if you really, really like the sound and don't care too much if the music is original or not, or even simply memorable (yes, we use that word a lot). This kind of music was interesting for a few years when it first appeared. Today, it just sounds tired and we're not sure who would live, breathe, cry or bleed for this. Or because of it. (3.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.7/10 Chaim
 

RUDRA - Brahmavidya: Immortal I - CD - Sonic Blast Media - 2011

review by: Chaim Drishner

 

Have you noticed how closely related Middle Eastern music is to that which originates from East or Southeast Asia? Rudra is your case in point for that notion; despite hailing from Singapore, Brahmavidya: Immortal I sounds like something that might have easily been recorded by Melechesh and the like. And indeed, many parallels may be drawn between these two musical entities; both lightning fast, both adhere to the black metal etiquette drenched in death metal riffing and both sound traditional yet far from orthodox in the same breath. Both have a potent, high-pitched black metal screeching vocalist, both adore blast beats and both have a dazzling array of traditional endemic folk elements incorporated into their conceptual music that could either be Oriental, Mid-Eastern, Southeast Asian or Indian. Take your pick.

Competent and robust, Rudra's music flows effortlessly like fine scotch down one's throat; it's dynamic and wild, yet calculated and by no means chaotic. Swirling guitars make sure the music is pushed forward with ferocious force but also with a healthy dose of finesse, as Rudra is all about the small details.

 

You see, metal is a modest art form that requires very little in order to flourish and prosper. There's a fine line sometimes between an OK album and a great one. The difference lies in the minute details: an arabesque here, an oriental vibe there, some shredding, a couple of hooks and decent song writing skill. Not much is required to enjoy a good metal album, really, or for that matter, to record one. One does not need to re-invent the wheel.

 

And that's exactly what Rudra do. They play decent, well-crafted, vigorous black metal, adding the right amount of vitriol, some speed where necessary and those miniscule oriental touches, and there you have it - a good, melodic and highly enjoyable album. If you're into Hinduism, dig Melechesh or are just into good old black metal, you will not be disappointed - not by a long shot. (7.7/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Roberto
 

RUINS - Chambers of Perversion - CD - Negative Existence - 2010

review by: Roberto Martinelli

 

This 8-song EP offers precious little respite from mid-tempo thrash beating to the same remedial riffs and vocal patterns, over and over. The feel to this recording is like true old-school Neanderthal black/thrash metal: Its vibe may be dead on in the vein of the kind of raw, noisy sound that gave early Nifelheim its success, but that's about it, as the people in Ruins don't give a fuck that they not only aren't writing anything original, but that the material of of one song isn't even original from the next, as the songs are all basically the same -- they start thrashing... and then they stop. One song has a slower part. Otherwise it's the same level of jagged tedium, all the time. Ironically, for all its raw sound and intent, Chambers of Perversion lacks in energy and conviction.

 

We may hate it, but obviously there's an important market for this kind of material, mainly seeing how this issue of Chambers of Perversion is the only CD version of what was an LP-only release. Maybe, just maybe, if you like what the Nuclear War Now! label releases in general, you'll like this. As far as we're concerned, this recording is like a lazy walk in the park relative to the fiendish hellscapes of feral intensity that a band like Blodfest can unleash. Don't settle for mediocrity. (3.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Mladen
 

SATANIC BLOODSPRAYING - At the Mercy of Satan - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by Mladen Škot

Well, first you are going to have to get Impaled Nazarene's 1993 classic, Ugra Karma. If you really like it, with its great sound, all of its downstrokes, direct drums and an evil Satanic way of turning a few chords into a nasty chorus, you might wonder what a disc full of B-sides and outtakes might be like. Since Impaled Nazarene haven't made one, this Bolivian band did. The sound, the vocals, the drums and songwriting style are all done right and not much on At the Mercy of Satan will really surprise you. Satanic Bloodspraying might be a carbon copy, but they are admittedly dedicated and furious, and, well, at least it's not another copy of Transilvanian Hunger. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
5.8/10 Mladen
 

SEPTORY - Seductive Art Profane - CD - Coyote Records - 2011

review by Mladen Škot

Can't exactly place it, as it seems to be changing places and appearances, but there is something missing on Seductive Art Profane. Okay, with just three band members, maybe you can't make your sound both clear and powerful, keeping in mind the number of playing styles used -- it must be hard to find a "one for all" sound. It's as if Septory wanted "clear" at all costs, but, in turn, at all volumes it's just "too clear." The instruments, separately, do have good sounds, but, together, there is a bit too much space between them.

 

Then, the more important thing, the music. Mostly mid-tempo technical death metal, the Russian trio is well-trained, accurate to a millisecond and evidently versatile, but there's, somehow, too much space left unfulfilled by the music as well as by the sound. Probably very effective when playing live, Septory doesn't seem to be one of those death metal bands you'd spend too much time listening to at home. Add a bit of transcendence and yes, sure, but right now Septory aren't quite there. Yet? (5.8/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Jerome
 

SEXUAL ATROCITIES - Planet of the Rapes - CD - Sevared Records - 2011

review by: Jerome Reuter

 

This is Everything you would expect from a grind core album: It moves along at a a pace so fast, if you stop listening for just a moment, you'll miss some of the album's most memorable tracks. You wont hear ballads or melody or clean vocals... or anything clean for that matter.

 

Planet of the Rapes features 22 songs that are pounding-fast, with song titles that are guaranteed to raise a smile. It reminded me of listening to some of the old Anal Cunt albums. Song titles like "Poop Smeared PapSmir," "Milk My Man Tits," "Raped in a Clown Car" and "Feed Us Fetus Fajitas" make the album intriguing, shocking and offensive to anyone who doesn't have a sense of humor.

 

The highlight of the album is Sexual Atrocities' impressive cover of "Maggots in Your Coffin" by genre pioneers Repulsion -- no frills, surprises or twists here, you're getting exactly what you think you're getting, perverted grind core and blistering songs that could easily replace your morning coffee as the ritual of how to get your adrenaline flowing on a cold morning.

Sexual Atrocities has an edge over the endless amount of grind core out there today, they have a uniqueness to them that sets them apart, and they don't run into the problem of riff recycle. This band certainly pulls no punches and leaves nothing to the imagination.

 

If you are easily offended, lock yourself in a rubber room and hope you never hear this album; if not, get it, particularly if you like Exhumed, Gorelord or Mortician. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

SILCHARDE - De martyrs a bourreaux - CD - Le Crepuscule du Soir - 2011

review by Mladen Škot

Self-proclaimed "degenerate sadonoise," De martyrs a bourreaux is not just another ambient album. Partly the sound you hear while blacking out, partly the sound of nasty, smelly nightmares, it is sure to hold your attention. Nothing overly sterile although clearly mostly programmed, natural sounding in most parts and with cleverly inserted moments of terror, it has its highs and lows... or maybe lows and even lower lows, if the moment is right. Obviously a sonic journey of a demented mind, De martyrs a bourreauxreview is probably best suited for equally demented people looking for their match. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Avi
 

SON OF A BITCH - Victim You (re-issue) - CD - Angel Air Records - 2012

review by: Avi Shaked

Not long after issuing the brand new release by Oliver Dawson Saxon, Angel Air Records has reissued this 1996 release by Oliver Dawson Saxon's previous moniker (along with a bonus track), and we found it to be a much worthier release, and certainly one that is truer to the roots of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

"Son of a Bitch" is hardly original. As evidence, we can point out the AC/DC vibe (in tempos, singing and riffage) found in quite a few of the songs (check out "Drivin' Sideways" with its semi-spoken vocals and treading, midtempo chords), and go even further and indicate that Dio "Don't Talk To Strangers" riff ripoff found in "Past The Point."

Originality aside though, Victim You is as good as metal driven hard rock (/radio friendly NWOBHM) gets!: The songs are catchy, gripping and overtaking with both power and purpose. The playing is masculine, featuring an assertive, hard hitting rhythm section as well as sharp guitar work, loaded with tasty and tasteful leads.

Furthermore, Son of a Bitch benefits from a charismatic frontman (Ted Bullet) who delivers the songs with a firm, confident yet tuneful aggression and an effective bellow. We actually feel this guy is more capable than AC/DC's Brian Johnson, as "Old School" and - once again - "Drivin' Sideways" demonstrate (and although it is more metal flavored, we encourage this album as an alternative to just about any album AC/DC put out with Johnson).

A few power ballads help in making the entire output - which is already consistently rocking - all the more emotive and diverse. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.3/10 Monte
 

SONS OF ALPHA CENTAURI/A DEATH CINEMATIC - split - CD - Simple Box Construction - 2009

review by: Monte Cimino

 

Sons of Alpha Centauri starts things off with a 26-minute opus entitled "Ambient Visions." Broken into four sections, (per the linear notes) this piece is a collage of interlude material from various live performances between 2004 and 2007. The song starts with sci-fi sounding analog synths over a subtle organ drone in the background. Along the way the tune morphs to minimal tribal sounding percussion in the vein of Crash Worship, wrapped in warm synth patches along the way. Around the 12-minute mark the song lurches into a slow tempo groove that is definitely the highlight of the song. The drums are high in the mix while in the background the bass and a distant drone, drenched in reverb set an ominous tone. Subtle variations of this main theme occur sonically and compositionally over the next eight minutes before dropping out and leaving the listener with bizarre samples of sirens, distant dialogue and a combination of moody, dark ambience.

 

Whether it is intentional or not, the collage format / composition style makes some of the transitions during "Ambient Visions" jagged. That being said, overall this is a good tune that even after repeated listens kept my interest. It does make me want to hear some of their studio albums...

 

The remaining two tracks belong to Simple Box Construction label head and recording artist, A Death Cinematic; described as a "one man noise guitar drone melody maker." Unfortunately, both songs lack any sort of focus or direction. Whatever mood is trying to be established is overshadowed by remedial production, novice recording techniques, and amateur playing. (6.3/10)

 

 

 

 
7.25/10 Avi
 

STAR FK RADIUM - Solitude Rotation - CD - Star FK Radium - 2012

review by: Avi Shaked

Solitude Rotation, the new album by the Washington based trio Star FK Radium, is not as original as its predecessor (reviewed in issue #70). That is simply because originality is not repeatable, and Star FK Radium, in the same violin / acoustic guitar / drums format, does stick to playing tuneful, song-like acoustic compositions like those introduced on the debut for this second release. Still, we're not complaining.

While you are unlikely to spot any surprises on this one (if so, you are definitely more equipped than us), the compositions are more fluent this time around. In fact, the entire album -- even though it misses some of the twists of the previous one -- is more cohesive and consistent, with no real standout tracks but also none that take away from the overall listening experience.

The level of execution is also improved, as the trio sounds more accurate than before, reinforcing the clean yet motivated aesthetics of the tunes, and eventually making this a plausible instrumental, acoustic rock release. (7.25/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

STENCH - In Putrescence - CD - Agonia Records - 2010

review by: Mladen Škot

In Putrescence is quite straightforward death metal probably more fun for the musicians themselves than for the actual listeners. There's an obvious effort in trying to diversify what the guitars in the left and right speaker are doing, and the bass lines can be decently interesting, but, as for the compositions themselves, they aren't based on too many formulas. One is an up-tempo thrash beat, another a blastbeat, and, well, there's a few more, but they pretty much amount to the same thing. Just a tad over half an hour long, In Putrescence struggles to hold the listener's attention past the first few tracks (and yes, we listened to all eight). And, as much as we enjoyed the screams, even those seem to be using the same patterns all over the album. Maybe if Stench didn't insist so much in breaking what shouldn't be broken, saying a lot instead of saying something, and tried doing something more developing in any direction we'd have more to say. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

SUJO - Terran - CD - Inam Records - 2012

review by: Mladen Škot

A tectonic movement more than music, the 27 minutes of Terran bring forth an attempt to make the loudest, slowest, most compressed gust of sound. As an atmosphere, it works, though there's a feeling that even with tiny details mixed in, there's not much to hold on to. And, since it is all distorted and digital sounding, there is not much of an organic, "terran" feeling present. Admittedly it is more interesting than quite a few post rock albums, but maybe that's simply because it is shorter. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
2/10 Mladen
 

SUPERCHRIST - Holy Shit - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by: Mladen Škot

A watered-down version of Motorhead, anyone? With the worst drummer ever, generic riffs and absolutely dumb lyrics, Superchrist are so inoffensive and bland that the only use for a band like this would be playing at trailer trash high school reunions, some twenty years from now. (2/10)

 

 

 

 
7.25/10 Avi
 

SURTR - Pulvis et Umbra - CD - Altsphere Production - 2013

review by: Avi Shaked

French trio Surtr delivers proficient doom metal numbers on Pulvis et Umbra, its second full length release.

The tempos are of the right proportions of being sluggish and of being driving, creating a heavy scenery that is also packed with incidents. There's hardly a dull moment here, as the songs are compound, evolving from one mammoth riff to the next, with the appropriate rhythmic twists to support the transition.

The dark, abandoned abbey motifs of Candlemass are successfully resurrected (church bell like cymbal chimes and all), and singer Jeff Maurer more than hints at Messiah Marcolin in his attitude and tones. While Maurer's vocals are not as impressive as Marcolin's, they are functional, ranging from clear, pathos filled singing (the main form they take), to occasional shrieks and even growls.

The nearly eight-minute closing piece, "Fred Karno's Army," is remarkable in its catastrophic buildup, and take notice of the bass playing here, which also boosts some of the other tracks with creative, little moves.

Pulvis et Umbra is unlikely to convert new followers to doom metal, but those who are already adherents of the genre will surely get their fix here. (7.25/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

TERRA AUSTRALIS - Invocations of the Infernal - CD - a.d.massacre666@hotmail.com - 2012

review by: Roberto Martinelli

 

That particular rough-and-tumble aspect to Australian culture and its black metal is alive and well on Terra Australis' Invocation of the Infernal. Think the rough riding vibe from the likes of Destroyer 666, Bestial Warlust, Sadistik Execution... in a band whose worship is a bit more in the Scandinavian direction.

 

I just presumed Invocations of the Infernal was a demo. It's on a CDR, the sound and packaging is of demo-quality, and the flow of the line-up of songs make it sound like Terra Australis was in the stage of being really pumped at their latest material, but still had some stuff to iron out. And so the recording has that demo charm. But it seems this is a purported full-length album, which, in that light, makes the 8-song recording seem a little too haphazard for its own good. Maybe.

 

This comes out least favorably in how a good amount of the songs sound like a good amount of the other songs on the album. On the other hand, it comes out well with that exuberance. Also, if you're getting more and more sick of bands with misguidedly perfectly sterile, plastic production, that will be worth the price alone of admission to Terra Australis, who does have some songs that rise out of the plain of more-of-the-same on the album (the last song in particular does well in rising to that occasion).

 

In short, it's solid, intense stuff. The distorted vocals in particular are blown out in a satisfying way. With that said, it's still a little rough around the edges, gives the impression of not yet being fully baked, and, most importantly, is merely following in genre pioneers' footsteps. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
10/10 Jerome
 

TERRORAMA - Genocide - CD - To the Death Records - 2012

review by: Jerome Reuter

 

Thrash! The marriage of heavy metal and punk rock, this genre in recent years has been utterly bastardized by the emergence of "pizza" thrash, bands like Municipal Waste writing songs about partying and celebrating white high top sneakers... and of course we still have to suffer from the fact that tripe like Overkill are still around. This genre seemed like it was doomed to be represented by a slew of cheap imitation bands who had completely forgotten the lessons of Sodom, Kreator, Destruction, Slayer, Whiplash and Demolition Hammer. 

 

But all was not lost; Enter Sweden's Terrorrama, and their new album Genocide, and I'm not exaggerating, it's one of the best thrash albums ever. From start to finish it is unrelenting, undaunted  and gives the listener the same rush of adrenaline that they would get from hearing Show No Mercy or Outbreak of Evil for the first time. 

 

But for a history buff like me, the icing is the lyrical content on this album. Every song deals with some of the darkest and most infamous chapters in history, from The Holocaust, to the great purges of Stalinist-era Soviet Union, to the Regime of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. 

  

The title track illustrates the infamous Wansee conference of 1942, the invasion of Soviet Russia, and the horrors of concentration camps such as  Belzec and Sobibor. "Traitors of the Motherland" deals with the infamous "Gulag" system in the Soviet Union in the early 1930s. It's exciting to see a band tackle subject matter that many other bands would either exploit or shy away from. 

 

Don't misunderstand and think that this band is advocating mass genocide. Rather, they're doing something new and brave: They're using their music to educate a whole new group of people who might not be fully aware of such events, as unlike many thrash bands of the current scene, Terrorama have lyrical depth and have something more important than how white their high tops are to sing about. 

 

This album combines the ferocity of Kreator with the dark edge of Sodom, as well as the political awareness of Sacred Reich... and it's done remarkably well. 

 

If you're a fan of old thrash and want nothing more than to take a fist to the face of cheap imitation pizza thrash, do yourself a favor and buy this album. I guarantee you will not regret it. (10/10) 

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Chaim
 

TERZIJ DE HORDE - A Rage of Rapture Against the Dying of Light - CD - terzijdehorde.bandcamp.com/ - 2010

review by: Chaim Drishner

 

These hipsters sure know how to play fast, aggressive, ballsy, robust and melodic black metal. Yes, black metal, not anything post; for us this album sounds like almost pure black metal that's part atmospheric, part punkish and part violent, executed with class and an undeniable charm. At times reminiscent of Liturgy's Renihilation, Terzij de Horde sure do love to combine tremolos and blast beats, yet on the other hand, the very opposite is occurring as well, what makes this recording somewhat of a curiosity: slower, plodding parts with a good measure of experimentation with sound, rhythm and changing ambiances.

 

Terzij de Horde's music is black metal par excellence; blackened metal per definition. It holds in its midst all the genre's aesthetic pillars, but also offers the intelligent lyrical, conceptual and sonic vision that is absent (to say the least) in many a black metal band.

 

Fans of the Cascadian black metal style or the aforementioned Liturgy, would cream their pants listening to A Rage of Rapture Against the Dying of Light; creative, passionate and melodic, this album showcases the beauty of violence...

 

...And there's also a banjo incorporated into one of the tracks; a banjo, in a black metal album composed and played by a Dutch band of nerdy looking hipsters. Imagine that! (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Jerome
 

T.O.M.B. - UAG - CD - terzijdehorde.bandcamp.com/ - 2009

review by: Jerome Reuter

T.O.M.B.'s UAG stands on its own, clearly apart from the overwhelming tide of bands trying to pull off dark ambient noise. UAG stands among the ranks of Abruptum, Pendrecki, Jarboe, Brighter Death Now, and even Swans, as a masterwork of bleak, horrifying noise that one cannot help but be intrigued and mystified by.

 

This isn't something for casual listening, or anything casual for that matter. This is music for ritual, for the listener who is wallowing inside a deep chasm of despair, and its music is to be played with the lights out and at extremely high volume, With every song you can feel your heart swell and pulsate with a feeling that even chills your spine.

 

"Mausoleum Witchcraft," the best track off of this release, seems to have a life all its own: Just a few minutes in and you feel as if you're descending into madness, something that only a few groups can pull off, if it all.

 

Give this album an hour of your time, and let your mind wander to a place it has never been before. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Avi
 

UNDERGRAVE EXPERIENCE, THE - Macabre Il Richiamo Delle Ombre (An Italian Horror Tragedy) - CD - Solitude Productions - 2011

review by: Avi Shaked

The debut by the Italian The Undergrave Experience offer funeral doom metal that is full of ambience. While the vocals are sparse and unimpressive, and the music develops extremely slow (as appropriate in the genre), there is a strong ambience of a cinematic nature to it.

The 24-minute opening track can get a bit monotonous, but it does evolve on a macroscopic level and has sparks of grandiosity in its heavily treading darkness (the sporadic cymbal bashes do a good job in lashing). The guitars are mostly there to offer a wall of distortion, while the keyboards -- in a piano dress -- take a certain melodic front.

The following "Graveyard Zombie Horizon" is enforced by the dominant synthesizer, which incorporates piano sounds as well as more splendorous electronic tones, and this is especially evident on the grand finale (the last 5 minutes or so) which seem to correspond with Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" in some sort of a suspended way. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Avi
 

VIRUS - The Black Flux - CD - Season of Mist - 2008

review by: Avi Shaked

We accidently did not cover this release when it got out a few years ago. In the meantime, Virus has already put out another album, and based on this one we plan to examine it very soon.

While Virus rose out of the ashes of the avant-garde metal band Ved Buens Ende, its music can be categorized as post rock, not totally unlike the works of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, only that this music has less of the ambient tendencies and instead of unfolding slowly it constantly bashes you with new occurrences. Apparently, leader Czral (also of the black metal outfit Aura Noir) enjoys a reputation of having a drumming style which avoids repetitions, and here he projects it unto complete composing.

The noise-rock, semi-spoken singing and dark timbres reminded us of Californian rockers Enablers (check out our reviews in issue #23 and #45), even though this is more extreme, and unquestionably dark - possibly as dark as black metal can get but without being deterring and unapproachable for the casual rock fan. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.8/10 Chaim
 

VOID PARADIGM - Void Paradigm - CD - Total Rust - 2012

review by: Chaim Drishner

 

French band Void Paradigm have released their self titled debut on Israeli label TotalRust, refreshing a tad the label's roster of mostly doom metal-oriented offerings. Their album also has dusted off, if not refreshed, black metal's distinctive standards, its conception of riffing and its general etiquette.

 

Void Paradigm play a mixture of black metal and post-hardcore along the lines of French group Celeste. Less vehement and usually slower than the aforementioned, Void Paradigm's vitriol is found in the dense and slightly sludgy atmosphere and the dark emotions the riffs breathe forth. Initially, one can be put off by the vocals, being mostly hardcore-ish in nature and alien to the accompanying black metal distinctive strumming, however the further the music pushes, the two estranged qualities begin to reconcile, up to the point where they fuse seamlessly and walk hand in hand towards the sunset.

 

The extraordinary elements introduced into the music (clear guitar strumming a la Virus with a Ved Buens Ende touch; the many mood and rhythm changes), but mostly the production that's muddy, crisp yet clear, along with the aspiration for progressiveness, indeed distance this album from the habitual black metal offerings flooding the scene, bringing it closer to the proliferating French post / atmospheric hardcore scene, which is among the best throughout the underground.

 

Die-hard black metal purists should be cautious with this one; however those with an affinity and curiosity toward hybridization of styles and different musical aesthetics should definitely check out this above average recording.(6.8/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Mladen
 

VOMITOR - The Escalation - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by: Mladen Škot

The Escalation largely features Pretty generic speed metal riffs on top of death metal blastbeats and about 100 guitar solos per track. The Escalation might have been interesting a decade or two ago, as a simplified version of something like Malevolent Creation, but nowadays even the barbaric rawness can't save it from being simply outdated. For some other forms of metal, "outdated" is not necessarily a bad thing, but, here, there's very little reason to pay attention. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

VULTURE - Oblivious to Ruin - CD - Innervenus Music Collective - 2011

review by: Mladen Škot

No-nonsense sludgy, powerful doom with deliberate riffs, charming raw sound and well executed compositions, Oblivious to Ruin wouldn't be out of place even in the collections of people, ahem, oblivious, to this kind of music. There's plenty to enjoy inside, be it the crushing downstrokes, sweet bass lines, engaging drumming or "well understandable, not at all as irritating as we've heard from other bands, yet desperate nonetheless" vocals. Each of the seven tracks has its own identity and, as opposed to what you might have been used to hearing in this genre, you can tell them apart. Even if none of them exactly falls into "totally memorable, life-changing" category, the groove, the energy and the diversity will take care of filling in the blanks. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

WITCH CROSS - Fit for Fight (re-issue) - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by: Mladen Škot

1984 or not, this re-release can give most retro bands a run for their money. Of course the lyrics are silly, the singer is shameless in that he actually likes to sing and doesn't give a damn, and the "old" sound is, yes, old, but let's see a modern band recreate it. This Danish crew knew what a real melody was, and at times they were even surpassing Judas Priest at what Judas Priest did back then. Just goes to show that there is no easy way out if you want to be old school, because "hard," "heavy," and "metal" bands nowadays can't match the feeling present on Fit For Fight. Completely elaborated in overblown cheesiness, with all the guitar hero and crazy drummer stuff you can think of, it's as close to the epitome of '80s metal as it can get. If you're missing those times, don't miss this album. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

WITCHTRAP - Vengeance Is My Name - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2012

review by: Mladen Škot

It's been a while since we've seen people with permed hair, white sneakers and those tight denim trousers. But, if you're one of them and think that nothing important happened since the first few Sodom or Destruction albums, here's one for you. Old school speed thrash with a rocking vibe, crisp sound and one of those neither singing nor screaming vocals. If Vengeance is My Name appeared somewhere in the '80s it would have been... charming? Nowadays it is hopelessly outdated and even somewhat generic, but it is not downright stupid or embarrassing. Is that a good thing? (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.2/10 Avi
 

YUGEN - Mirrors - CD - Altrock - 2012

review by: Avi Shaked

Yugen, an ensemble led by guitarist Francesco Zago, features a colorful use of keyboard instruments, reeds, vibes, bass and drums. The group mixes avant-garde music with progressive rock in pieces that range from suspended ambience through luscious, harmonious movements to distorted, fervid, and sometimes even noisy attacks, as "Cloudscape," which is one of the best and most developed offerings here, demonstrates.

The leads, voiced by either electronic or acoustic instruments, are stated clear and bright in this live, 2011 recording, but we feel that the rhythms are somewhat smeared and stain the musical performance with vagueness instead of emphasizing its articulation when they appear.

Traces of '70s Italian progressive rock are to be found, mostly through the use of keyboards in a symphonic fashion, and when these blend with the avant-garde manifest and spurs of up to date rock racket they can be quite powerful and moody (check out the closing "Corale Metallurgico"), and even more importantly, result in a genuine and distinctive character.

The selections, though infrequently still echoing a theoretical exercise in modern composing (check out our impressions of the group's previous, studio release in issue #71), benefit from the live setting and come off more engaging than before, portraying Yugen as a brave, stirring modern music ensemble. (8.2/10)

 

 

 

 
9.2/10 Avi
 

ZAUSS - Notturno Leise im Wind - CD - Fazzul Music - 2012

review by: Avi Shaked

The duo of Markus Stauss (Spaltklang) and Francesco Zago (Yugen) has met once again for another improvisation session, and what a session that was!

Notturno Leise im Wind, the third album by the guitar-sax duo, is Zauss' most diverse recording to date. The music ranges from disturbing, mosquito hums and brass screeches to ethereal ambience, sometimes within the scope of a single track, as the opening "Ein Riesenwusel" demonstrates. In fact, it seems like the duo has given more emphasis to exploring and elaborating the ambient passages, and these are here aplenty, always rich with details and occasionally intersect with more violent occurrences.

The serene "Morgenrote," in particular, reminded us of another guitar-sax duo - Travis and Fripp (Theo and Robert, of course), in its atmosphere induced by electronically suspended and piled up sounds (mostly, we suspect Fripp's trademark, guitar layering was an influence, and we are delighted to listen to it put to use so proficiently and passionately by someone else); whereas "Vibrationen" perhaps best portrays the creative process of Zauss, as the guitar and sax notes are applied like strokes of color to create a dynamic painting.

The most unexpected and surprising move, however, happens on "Make a Zauss Noise Here," which (much like its title) presents what seems to be a brave, exhilarating modern music paraphrase on bebop jazz, and is followed by a sort of a decayed march on the next track, "Tribal Music." Diverse, we did say; and consistently brilliant! (9.2/10)

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

PROGSTAGE FESTIVAL
October 4-6, 2012 - Sea of Galilee, Israel

review by: %%name=Avi Shaked%%

Progstage 2012 was a first shot of making a large scale festival of progressive rock/metal music in Israel. The festival was held in a water park at the shores of the Kinneret - an attractive site in terms of both its northern location and comfortable weather and the fact that one could have enjoyed the water park's facilities. Furthermore, we can't remember any other Israeli festival that promised no less than four international-level bands on the bill (actually five, if you count Israel's own Orphaned Land), and fulfilled that promise!

 

The first day of the festival should have climaxed with performances by the aforementioned Orphaned Land (arguably Israel's most successful metal export), and by Swedish prog rockers The Flower Kings; with the two acts representing the musical spectrum of the festival: all modern bands ranging from those relying on '70s prog rock music (The Flower Kings) to those utilizing progressive rock motifs in metal flavored attacks (Orphaned Land). 

 

However, due to unfortunate circumstances, the order of appearances changed without notice or explanation (and absurdly, there was no mention of it on the festival website and Facebook page, which were otherwise quite busy with updates), and we arrived just prior to Orphaned Land's favorable closing number "Norra El Norra," missing out most of the performance, which was a shame as we were expecting to see how the live milage the band has gained during the last few years (since the 2005 performance we covered) affected it, as well as hoped to get a new insight to the songs off the band's latest release (which did not quite work for us).

 

The Flower Kings was indeed the highlight of the first evening. The guys played for almost an hour and a half, and we couldn't help but feeling that they would have played a longer set if it wasn't for the drummer being forced to leave the country the same evening (which was probably the reason for the aforementioned changes). In fact, at one point the band conferred to decide whether they should perform the epic "Stardust We Are" (originally clocking at about 25 minutes), but it seemed time was against it so the band went for the much shorter "Rising the Imperial" (off its recent release "Banks of Eden," which had already been represented in the set with its own 25 minute opus "Numbers"). The Flower Kings played excellently, in its trademark, colorful and dynamic way, and only the attempts to recreate the vocal harmonies on few of the songs left something to be desired.

 

Next up was the upcoming Israeli band Oceanic. Aside from the singing, which demands further improvement, the group played well - with tight stop-starts, thrashy rhythms and some nu metal influence (think System of a Down). The drumming was very technical yet rewarding and we look forward to hear more of this band in the near future. This, however, cannot be said about Reign of the Architect (abbreviated ROTA) which followed.

 

ROTA is a pretentious multinational project, led by Amaseffer guitarist Yuval Karmer, which was (at the time of the festival) about to embark a tour as an opener for Dark Tranquillity. We saw the band opening for Symphony X a few months earlier, and felt that it had potential, attributing the messy performance to the sound at that specific venue. However, it seems like we were wrong. The performance was still messy even here, where most other bands sounded remarkably good (hats off to the festival production!). There were simply too many voices (four!) performing too many words and too negligible melodies, and the instrumental backing had nothing engaging in itself. We're curious to hear if this music holds any sense on the band's debut recording, which is reportedly in advanced stages.

 

The second day was the busiest day of the festival, in terms of both music and audience (an attendance of about a thousand people was reported, leaving the outdoor venue rather spacious).

The acts came and went at a steady pace. The Camel inspired band, Sanhedrin, played well, and sounded more forceful than on record (see review in issue #72). Stormy Atmosphere played generic metal that unfortunately corresponded with kitsch, blending shaky female vocals with too much of rap-styled male chanting (what were they thinking?!). Another local band called Bubble Bath delivered colorful cover versions of '70s progressive rock classics for a dancing crowd (coincidence or not, Genesis' "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight" was also one of the tracks covered).

 

Distorted Harmony, which released its Dream Theater-derived debut last year (as a free download via bandcamp) sounded like a speedy, metal version of Radiohead and were quite hyperactive, offering quite the animated performance (these guys should calm down a bit, if you ask us), whereas Solstice Coil, on its way to tour India and work on a third album, didn't quite manage to deliver its crafty songs with the articulation needed, and hence sounded less convincing (being familiar with the band's output we were fulfilled, though we doubt the set earned the band any new followers).

Key of the Moment (led by an ex-Orphaned Land keyboardist) served generic, female led gothic metal over power chords, but soon joined forces with Project RnL (which gained interest due to its online videos) resulting in a funkier affair.

 

Poland's Osada Vida boosted the international front of the day, playing its jazz rock-infused technical metal with sensitivity, especially in the guitar and keyboards departments, and while the guys ended their set with "Childmare," it came off surprisingly positive rather than morbid, which was quite refreshing.

Unfortunately, Sweden's Andromeda were less impressive on stage, perhaps the result of the guitarist's set-long battle with technical issues. We were actually expecting to hear hymnal numbers like those found on 2011's "Manifest Tyranny" (which we loved) yet there was not enough of them to save the set, which got a bit draggy (some might say pretentious - but then again, it was a progressive rock festival).

 

People were pleasant, and even harmonious, as an unforgettable, spontaneous crowd performance of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" that took place before the headlining set demonstrated.

 

The headliner of the second day, Pain of Salvation, was the crown jewel of the festival. We were afraid that the overly melodramatic nature of the band's latest release ("Road Salt Two") would stain its live performance, but we were soon reassured: leader Daniel Gildenlow delivered songs from most of the band's discography with deserving authenticity. There was passion in the performance, and that passion transcended pure, musical analytics. It was a performance rare in the sense that it made you want to re-explore (or further investigate) the band's music, rather than leaving you exhausted.

 

Due to personal reasons, we had to abstain from the festival's third day, which was (and this is indeed an original move) all about master's classes of both the local and foreign performers. We can only imagine the intimacy of such classes (we bet a poolside get together with Daniel Gildenlow can get some people wet [gross! -- Roberto]), and hope that it will continue to be part of the festival's tradition in its upcoming years. While we do advise to incorporate a classic, progressive rock artist or an avant rock band on the bill next time, in an attempt to create a more diverse, hence more attractive festival; for those who care about this music Progstage Festival (should it continue annually as planned) is a worthy, cozy and friendly alternative for other, crowded European festivals.