30 Sep 2011

Aortic Regurgitation - Aortic Regurgitation [EP] (2010, Self-released)

Thrash metal is by far one of my favourite genres. Not as versatile as other genres, it originates from hardcore punk and has had a huge influence on modern metal. Among one of the more aggressive subgenres, thrash metal is also quite popular and has been so since it was pioneered by American bands like Metallica and Slayer in the early 80's.

China is not a country usually connected with metal music, let alone thrash, and indeed this is the first Chinese metal band I've ever heard. The Hong Kongese thrash band Aortic Regurgitation released their first material, the eponymous five-track EP "Aortic Regurgitation". Thrash metal, to me, needs the following ingredients to work: Fast and ripping riffs, rapid drumming, throat-tearing vocals and gritty production. This EP has all of those things. Vocals not entirely unlike those of Morbid Saint vocalist Pat Lind and a hellishly dirty sound make up for an outstanding 22 minutes of utter destructive thrash from the fiery pits of hell.

The filthy vocals of the female singer Cynthia "Syn" Yim infect the mind of the listener with absolute brain-rupturing sonic terror combined with the thrashy riffs, reminding me mostly of the beastly thrash metal of South America. The Chinese duo succeeds in producing demonic fast-paced metal with elements of both black and death metal, creating a bastard child of clear malevolence and evil.

Relentlessness, mind-terrorizing vocals and intricate riffs altogether make up for the obvious use of computer drumming, and Aortic Regurgitation - though the name sounds like death metal - delivers straight to the point filthy thrash metal from the far east. I'm looking very much forward to hearing more from this Asian duo. After listening to this manifestation of evil I'm definitely Damned to Serve. 8/10 guitars.

1. Damned to Serve
2. Infestation
3. Dementia
4. Alien Worlds
5. Silent Night

Aortic Regurgitation - Aortic Regurgitation is available for free download HERE
Visit Aortic Regurgitation on Myspace

23 Sep 2011

Burning Caskets - To Burn a False Prophet [Full length] (2011, Self-released)

Death Metal. A genre originally very close to thrash metal, pioneered by legends like Death, Possessed, Morbid Angel and Entombed, it has changed tremendously. Being mixed with just about every other metal genre there is, death metal is one of the most versatile metal genres. Groovy, black, thrashy, doomy, brutal, or however you like your death metal, the countless bands of this genre has it all.

Burning Caskets from Canada delivers 26 minutes and 14 seconds of non-stop, brutally forceful death metal. Being part of one of the biggest metal genres ever, Burning Caskets has a lot to proove. It's hard to not sound like other death metal bands, but this groovy riff-powered band mixes elements of many well known death metal acts to great avail. With vocals akin to those of Chris Barnes - formerly of Cannibal Corpse and now of Six Feet Under - , one of the grandfathers of groove death metal, this Canadian death metal band has a bright future. This 7-track album of uncompromising mid-paced death metal has it all. Pounding drums with great variety, killer riffs, ear-tearing vocals and a sound to go with it all.

Vocals have always been my primary point of critique for death metal bands. If the vocals suck, I simply can't listen to it. Therefore I'm pleased to hear greatly varied vocals with everything from the afforementioned Chris Barnes-ish vocals to throat-shredding vocals like those of Svencho from the Belgian death metal giants ABORTED, and Burning Caskets even incorporates a few breakdowns and gangshouts into their music making it all the more diverse.
Burning Caskets is by no means your everyday death metal band. Sure, they may not be revolutionizing the genre, but they manage to mix a lot of elements that just work well together.
It seems cathy riffs and straight-to-the-point song structures are what the Canadian quintet are all about. With a recipe consisting mostly of easily memorizable riffs, gruesomely neckbreaking headbanging parts and simple structure "To Burn a False Prophet" is an album that appeals to fans of Six Feet Under, Deicide and Cannibal Corpse. Hard-hitting from start to finish, the tasty - although sometimes a bit chuggy - riffs will please most fans of mid-paced death metal.

Released only 2 years after the band started, 2011's "To Burn a False Prophet" is a generally great uncompromising album. Flowing slowly along like a river of molten lava, the tracks fit well together, but to say Burning Caskets have a way of varying their song structures would not be exactly true. I've praised the album a lot, but my main beef with this release is the lack of variation. Death metal, being such a versatile genre as I have previously stated, leaves a lot of room for mixing things up a little. But then again, Burning Caskets have found their sound and are sticking with it, and it works really great.

Having mostly praised the album, I will have to mention that I would've liked it if the album was a bit longer. The lack of variation between the songs is a bit of a let-down, but this badass bout of sepulchral Canadian death metal works magnificently.
Death Metal is Eternal. 8/10

1. Kill the Pacifist
2. Mockery
3. Covenant of Hate
4. Resurrection of Filth
5. Sexually Tortured
6. Prophecies of a Blackened Sun

21 Sep 2011

Damnum Animus - Forgotten by the Waves [Track] (2011, Self-released)

Some readers will perhaps remember the review I did recently of Damnum Animus' debut entitled "Sanity: The Lies of the Father", and I'm happy to present Damnum Animus' newest track "Forgotten by the Waves", which will be featured on the upcoming EP called "Beneath the Swells" which will be out later this year.

Damnum Animus, which received 6/10 guitars, delivered 'sombre classically-inspired black metal' with a clear atmospheric focus. I was glad to hear that this solo project has not abandoned any of the solid elements of the first release and have actually improved a little.

One of the main things I had against the release was the more or less constantly going double pedals on the drums which got really monotonous during the EP, and to see Damnum Animus having gone for some more varying drums warmed my heart while listening to this chilling track.l' with a clear atmospheric focus. I was glad to hear that this solo project has not abandoned any of the solid elements of the first release and have actually improved a little.

The American band made itself noticable with the many different layers of classical instruments and I'm pleased to hear that this is a recurring element in the material. The vocals have gotten even better, which adds to the already good atmosphere of the track. I was at first a little in doubt about Forgotten by the Waves as Damnum Animus have opted for a more epic and less dusky approach to the neoclassical branch of black metal as I came to know it on Sanity: The Lies of the Father, but with a few listens it just grew on me. It still works, and you're never in doubt that it's still the same band you're listening to.

About halfway through Forgotten by the Waves there's this little part with piano that I think feel a little fabricated and fake, which is a real shame as it doesn't do anything good for the flow. I'm not too big on the following use of clean vocals either as they feel a little out of place.

All in all Damnum Animus is an evolving project, and it's nice to see an artist not afraid to try new elements. I'd rather see a band trying new things and failing than seeing a band writing the same material ad nauseum, and Damnum Animus may yet have a bright future. I'm looking forward to the release of Beneath the Swells at any rate.

This new track receives 6/10 guitars.

Damnum Animus - Forgotten by the Waves is available for free download HERE
Visit Damnum Animus on Facebook

16 Sep 2011

Desiderium - An Image of Solitude [Demo] (2011, Self-released)

Although black metal as a genre has been around since bands like Bathory, Hellhammer and Venom defined the sound in the 80's, black metal hasn't ceased to evolve and change through the years. The later years of black metal has seen a focus on atmosphere come to the fore, which may be new to some even though the mix of black metal and ambiance has gone hand in hand almost since the beginning.

Desiderium is such a band. Instead of focusing on blasts or simplistic song structure like a great deal of other black metal bands do, this American duo consisting of Michael Rumple (the main composer) and Philip Wentworth (also of the band "Thomas Taylor") centers around complex and intricate song structures with many different elements and parts all woven magnificently together to form this 6-track full length album of impressive atmospheric black metal.
While most black metal bands lean towards a very harsh sound with furiously simplistic guitar riffs, Desiderium leans more in the opposite direction with their more intricate and melodic approach to this old genre. Their in general lengthy songs are all filled to the brim with incredible atmosphere comprising of a nice mix of instrumentation, lengthy instrumental parts and sophisticated and unusual song structures with a multitude of melodic riffs.

While the production sounds incredible and well-balanced compared to much black metal, the same cannot be said for the vocals. The vocals are good and articulate, but they have a tendensy to feel somewhat out of place among the myriad of other elements and I think some more processing of the vocals would do much for the overall audial expression of "An Image of Solitude". I have mixed feelings about the drums. Part of me says they're uninspired and bland, but another part of me says they're fitting to the music and the very nice guitar work. I'll let this speak for itself, and simply conclude, that more intricate drum-work could be both good and bad.
"An Image of Solitude" is an album that features great amounts of variation and 6 tracks that flow along like a nearly frozen river in a desolate and far away landscape. To me it is imperative that the entire album has a good flow, and this album really accomplishes this criteria. This album is best enjoyed through a pair of high quality headphones as this allows you to fully appreciate all the tiny details.

"An Image of Solitude" stands as a monument to the majesty of modern melodic and atmospheric black metal, and this album is exactly what it's title indicates: A musical picture of solitude. Many will find that it doesn't quite click with the first few listens, but this album becomes better with each listen.
With a total length of 45 minutes and 27 seconds of pure atmospheric black metal this 6-track album can proudly boast 7/10 guitars.

1. Desolation
2. Forest of Forgotten Memories
3. Pale Cloak of Dawn
4. ...And Her Cries Echoed Across the Hills
5. Waldeinsamkeit

9 Sep 2011

Benalthel - Reach Towards the Sky [Demo] (2011, Self released)

Melodic Death Metal is probably one of the most popular subgenres of metal. Prominent melodic death bands like Amon Amarth, In Flames, Dark Tranquility, Dethklok and Arch Enemy, who are all immensly popular, make it clear that it is a genre that is both commercially succesful and also a genre that many young people use as a gateway into the fiery depths of metal.

With a name like "Benalthel" and a demo titel like "Reach Towards the Sky" I didn't know what to expect. It might aswell have been atmospheric black metal or orchestral power metal. But what I got was some severely shredding instrumental melodic death metal.
Benalthel is a one man band from Sweden and as such features little more than ear raping guitars and gut pounding drums. But other than the very Dethklok-esque guitar work, and I mean that in a positive way, and the very complex drums I noticed the production. The production is incredibly boomy and muddy, rendering some of the deeper tones on the guitar almost inaudible. Fortunately most of the shreddin is audible and actually also pretty good. The first track contains some pretty solid, unusual and memorable riffs.

I'm making it sound like Reach Towards the Sky is nothing but fast paced shredding, but it is far more than that. As I mentioned above, the drums are very diverse and intricately programmed, giving the feeling that Benalthel used a lot of time on each song. A trap that many one man bands fall into is depthless songs of short length and little variation, but this debut demo has lenghty songs (the longest being 7 minutes and 13 seconds) with constantly changing song structures. The fact that the demo is instrumental can be both a pro and a con. While it can be tiresome to listen to nothing but guitar and drums all the time, vocals would also take away much of the focus from the impressive guitar and drum work. But if vocals were left out in order to create focus on the music, the production had better damn well be good enough! But the thing is, it isn't. The production is really bad and makes it hard to distinguish individual sounds and therefore makes it harder to enjoy the music.

Though production means a lot, flow means just as much, if not more. The three tracks on Reach Towards the Sky has incredible flow, both internally in each song and between the songs. All the tracks have the same feel, although they change alot in heaviness and amount of shredding.
While the demo sports a generally high level of detail and overall quality (expect production wise), the last track does have one element that feels alien. Choir. We all know it, that cheesy Casio-synthesizer choir chorus that reeks of the 80's. It can fit in in some types of music, but melodic death metal is not one of them. Another thing that seems weird. The last two song titles. "To Infinity" and "And Beyond". Does that sound familiar? That's because it's the catchphrase of Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. Really? I mean, REALLY? It doesn't fit in at all, and it sounds to me like a joke.

Overall Benalthel's "Reach Towards the Sky" debut demo has some bad elements, namely the last two song titles and the horrendous production. This three track demo has enough good things about it to pull up to a 6/10 though. The lengthy, worked through tracks with memorable riffs and forcefully pounding drums are an absolute plus and makes me want to hear more from this band in the future.

1. Reach Towards the Sky
2. To Infinity

2 Sep 2011

Thomas Taylor - Yet to be Named [EP] (2011, Self-released)

Progressive metal is a genre that, by its' sheer nature, is hard to define and classify. Progressive metal is a term usually used to describe metal that doesn't fit in under any of the other numerous subgenres or metal that features a certain level of general technicality.

Thomas Taylor is an American two-man project consisting of Philip Thomas and Aaron Taylor. The band features no vocals, and this EP - entitled (rather paradoxically) "Yet to be Named" - is as such an instrumental one. The main attraction would at first listen seem to be the dominant, proficiently executed guitar shredding, but this 3-song EP actually also sports some quite interesting and fresh drums, even if these sound very mechanical due to them being programmed drums.

What I find spectacular about this release is the amount of detail. With every listen comes more small details that you didn't notice before, and this can be said with all aspects of the EP, both the guitar and the drums. The three tracks all sound very well worked through and Thomas and Taylor's attention to the smallest detail is astounding. Many layers of guitar are worked into the music, and on the second track "Pickless" this really stands out, and while the music itself doesn't feature what I would call complex or technically difficult song structures, it really makes up for this with the level of detail and atmosphere. Some of the parts, especially on the first two tracks, could almost be characterized as ambient on some occations.

But enough about the details. Even if these are one of the elements that make this EP really good, some of the heavier parts are also a great feature. Namely the last track has some very heavy parts that just beg to be headbanged to. Other than this, the production and the guitar sound so good that I wouldn't think twice if someone told me they were recorded in the best studio around. The sound is as clean and well defined as one would expect from modern progressive metal bands. And not only does the electric guitar sound great, but the acoustic parts the EP sound equally awesome.

Even though Thomas Taylor has made this EP stand out among unsigned progressive bands, I still feel there's a lot to be accomplished for these musicians. First of all, not choosing a cheesy as hell cover would be a great start. Hiring a real drummer would also be a big step in the right direction. If not it would still be great if the shitty snare-samples were exchanged for some better ones. The intro to Pickless also sounds very very very fake and programmed, and though I feel progressive metal is a very technical and clinically clean genre, the mechanical element could be downplayed just a little. "Yet to be Named" has a lot of depth, which I hope to see more of in coming releases by Thomas Taylor, but I hope any future EPs or maybe even albums will be longer than this. Coming in at a mere 11 minutes and 16 seconds, the EP is just too short, especially in a genre marked by many tracks that are longer than 9 minutes.
The huge attention to detail brings this EP 6/10 guitars

1. Schizoid
2. Pickless