18 Aug 2014

Licrest - Misery [Full length] (2014, Music for the Dead)

I've had my hands on a good portion of Armon Nicholson's material. For those not initiated in his cult and dogma, Nicholson is an American musician with quite an astounding body of work. In the last few years he's recorded and released six albums, seven EPs and an assortment of other releases under various monickers, exploring virtually every sub-genre in extreme metal, all without any significant lapse in quality. The guitar-wielding metalhead's trademark is immensely powerful compositions and top notch production, usually set to a crisp guitar groan.

Misery is the second album Nicholson has released under the name Licrest. While the first album, Devoid of Meaning from 2013, was pretty straight forward in its execution, the second album is less so, though still keeping close to the almost symbolic and iconic branches of immaculate doom that permeated the debut. Misery is a slow burner, never hurrying anywhere lest you miss the churning rhythms found within. The album in itself is constructed in just the same manner as the songs, with a few intermissions giving room and air around the lengthier main tracks, and it serves as a way of building tension for those songs.

I've found that most bands playing a mix of death and doom metal fall within one of two categories: One is laden with rot, relying heavily on death metal and Autopsy-inspired riffs set at the churning pace of doom metal. The other is the kind where almost gothic melodies and finer tunes play the leading role, with the doom parts resounding more heavily. Armon Nicholson's Licrest project falls outside this sentiment, and belongs to that minuscule quantile that is different from the rest of the bunch. It neatly balances the uncompromising nature of death metal with the sombre essence of doom metal, pertaining to the ominousity of both genres in equal amounts.

On Misery, Nicholson firmly establishes his rightful place among the big shots as an accomplished songwriter with flair for multiple genres. Other than the fact that the lyrics can sometimes come off as a bit whiny, there's really not much to complain about. And this is what makes a great album. 8/10 guitars.

1. Into the Abyss
2. Regret
3. Forever Lost
4. Like a Flood of Anger
5. A Starless Sky
6. I Want to Watch You Die
7. Misery
8. Make Up
9. Fading Away Into Nothing
10. The Heart of Winter
11. Exhale

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8 Aug 2014

Critical Insanity - Through the Infinite Darkness [Demo] (2013, Self-released)

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. In thrash we've got our fair share of Big 4 imitators, obviously with varying degrees of success and skill. But there's little imitation to be found with Critical Insanity, a band of youngsters who've been roaming the streets of Poland since 2012. Instead they've crafted their own unique sound, a feat many spend years trying to accomplish.

Mind you being unique isn't inherently a good thing. Describing Critical Insanity's music on Through the Infinite Darkness, the band's first release, seems simple at first; Gunning all engines, it's full speed ahead through the wastelands, crashing through ruins guns blazing to the sound of tightly knit, no nonsense guitars and drums beating like a diesel engine revving up. At a glance most will write it off as standard thrash metal.

If we peel off the outer layers of Critical Insanity's album length debut demo their inner workings are laid bare. The vocals are oddly creeping, like a stalker lurking outside your window, noisily masturbating as you're trying to fall asleep. This pseudo-melodic half-crooning somehow fits the slower paced songs like Goblet of Gore, but at other times seems like a fish out of water when paired with the high speeds that the band otherwise present in their assortment of compositions. And the compositions in themselves are immaculately cunning.

It is demo material at best, and requires a lot of work. The bass fulfills its thankless role in the most captivating of ways, providing volley after volley of the thrilling rumbles that metal builds upon. The riffing is brutal and fast - All the fundamental building blocks of thrash are present. However the more brain-tingling aspects gleam in their absence. There are a few tracks which adequately fill the void of boredom created by the majority of the demo, but only just so. With nine tracks coming to a total of about 35 minutes, the FUCK YEAH moments are too few and far apart. I suppose it could be excused with the fact that Through the Infinite Darkness is, after only, just a demo, but it's a dog-eat-dog world with thousands of bands more or less competing against each other, and in that regard Critical Insanity still needs an edge to be able to compete. 6/10 guitars.

1. Hopeless
2. Slavedriver
3. Harbringer of Calamity
4. Haunting the Idolators
5. Through the Infinite Darkness
6. Goblet of Gore
7. Aboriginal War
8. Proselytism Real
9. Critical Insanity

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21 Jul 2014

Malichor - The Serum [Single] (2014, Self-released)

Ah yes, here we are again. We find ourselves once more in the company of Malichor from Australia, brandishing the proud tradition of blackened thrash metal. Malichor's previous releases have left me expecting nothing but the best in ruthless metal riffing and music from lovecraftian hell. With equal measures Re-Animator and From Beyond we're being spoiled with a take on lovecraftian tales that don't involve the standard Cthulhu/Nyarlathotep schtick.

Side West kicks things off with what is arguably the bands fastest piece yet, their violent tunes rip-and-tearing their way into existence with savage ferocity. Great tempo is achieved through impeccable tremolos and brutish blast beats, a time-tested recipe perfected and distilled into a fine spirit of Malichor. Side Tillinghast dogmatically preach that humans are such easy prey, and promptly makes a reality of their threats to prey upon you. The release is a single, of that there can be little doubt, and it effectively eliminates any meandering and thoughtful lingering that might have found its way into their earlier songs, not once leering its ugly head for fear of being swiftly decapitated in true Re-Animator style.

Some aspects of songwriting come at the cost of other prime elements. On The Serum, the riffs seem to have taken somewhat of a step down from the high quality of the previous material, and in general most of the songwriting has taken a back seat in pursuit of faster speeds. The Australian band's modus operandi has always been a simple one, mixing almost elementary riffs and straight-forward drumming with absolutely exquisitely intense compositions. That method has only been made more apparent when Malichor took the step forward into faster tempos, but a rather uninteresting sound that lacks force results in only a vague interest in getting to know the material. The two tracks presented on side West and side Tillinghast are thoroughly deserving of almost the same praise Malichor's previous material has had, but at first it warrants nothing but a cursory glance. 7/10 guitars.

1. The Serum
2. Easy Prey

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11 Jul 2014

Menschheitsdämmerung - Cleaver of Skies and Tenets [EP] (2013, No Sleep Till Megiddo Records)

I lament the direction many black metal groups have taken. In an attempt to achieve atmosphere in the name of depression and deep dark forests, many have taken to ridiculous amounts of distortion in what seems almost a deliberate attempt to obscure their own inability to write compelling material. Burzum's Filosofem had crystal clear production with every instrument standing out, the compositions easily holding their own regardless of sound. Xasthur's Telepathic with the Deceased may well be the album that for many people has incited this infatuation with thick shrouds of noise and an abundance of effects on vocals as well as strings, but even this modern classic has obvious hooks and captivating songwriting.

But thankfully, a band like Menschheitsdämmerung comes along, showing us that not all one-man black metal project are bedroom DSBM wannabes. The style is so far removed from this whole ordeal, focusing largely on huge, swarming riffs in a thrilling environment of envigorating compositions, tempo changes aplenty and variation coming out the ass. Cleaver of Skies and Tenets offers us long-stretched black metal opuses in the spirit of Carpathian Forest, Immortal and other northern acts, revelling in the same groupings of blast beats overtaken by commitment and vigor. It's a veritable surfeit of great, genre-loyal tracks, gripping you right by the balls, pulling you in with sheer force rather than enticing you with long streaks of ambience and atmosphere.

Cleaver of Skies and Tenets is a half an hour of black metal, distributed equally into five tracks. Those thiry minutes are well spent, as there's almost never a dull moment in the company of Frederik, Menschheitsdämmerung's sole member. It has more or less become an artform of knowing when to stop. Slayer should've quit years ago, and the same goes for countless other bands. This release stops just short of becoming an uninspired, watered down shadow of its glorious self. There are times when the progressions come off as predictable and re-used, and the vocals could be clearer in the mix as they mostly remain far in the background to the point where they at times seem almost pointless, contrasting so vividly against the effortless riffing produced on the guitar. Do not cheat yourself out of listening to this. This is black metal with finesse and brutality in equal measures. 8/10 guitars.

1. The Pick
2. The Hunt
3. The Catch
4. The Kill
5. The Feed

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3 Jul 2014

Armagedon - Thanatology [Full length] (2013, Mystic Production)

Go digging around in Poland's heavy metal history and you'll come up with quite a few gems. Only a few Polish metal bands exist in the mind of the general populace, some of the more prominent ones being Behemoth, Vader, Dead Infection, Graveland and Kat, only a few of which have their roots in the 80's. Then there's Armagedon from Kwidzyn, Poland. Their carreer originally stretched from 1987 to 1994 where they released a few demos and the album "Invisible Circle". In 2006 the original members, the Maryniewski brothers, again picked up the mantle of Armagedon, going on to release the moderately appreciated "Death Then Nothing" album in 2009 and finally "Thanatology" in 2013.

Aside from an introductory section of the opening track, Helix, which sounds like something lifted from a Paul W.S. Anderson film, the new incarnation of the band offers brutally chiseled death metal, carved from the same material that gave us Vader, Sphere, Embrional, Empatic and Hate. The album reflects a certain respect for where death metal has come from, but also a desire to show where death metal should go. Through a presentation of highly kinetic songwriting and commendably immersive production the various fluctuations between grave melodies and simpler, more primal elements the Thanatology album achieves the fine balance between various subgenres to make the release an everflowing stream of interesting and modern angles on a genre that has already been thoroughly mapped and explored.

There is a certain duality to be found within the music of Armagedon. This schizophrenia comes mainly at the hands of the many different elements brought to use in their tracks. Where songs like Cemeteries focuses on eerie, drawn out aspects, a shorter opus like Self Destruction feels significantly more primitive and primordial in both its composition and its delivery. Slawomir's hollow growls neatly puts the finishing touches on the glorious monument to death metal created by the effective rhythms and gruesome riffs provided by the rest of the band, convincingly showing off the internal dynamics achieved between the band members. But - Because there's always a but - in the long run and the grand scheme of things Thanatology lacks hooks. The album deserves a few listenes from any death metal fanatic, but it never soars above being merely thoroughly enjoyable. The grueling song Altar of Death and Vultures both have the gist of classics in them, but common between all the tracks is that they arbitrarily shift between tremolos, chugs and various melodies set to blastbeats or double-pedal punishment at the drummer's discretion. The inaudibility of the lyrics makes it feel like the lyrical content doesn't matter at all, and when held to the incredibly high standard set by many of their peers, Armagedon just doesn't quite compare. 7/10 guitars.

1. Helix
2. Vultures
3. Cemeteries
4. Self Destruction
5. Altar of Death
6. Black Seed
7. Corridor
8. Tragic Journey

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