30 Dec 2011

Moloch - Illusionen Eines Verlorenen Lebens [Full length] (2011, Glorious North Productions)

Many black metal bands utilize elements of dark ambient in their music, either as intros, by making entire dark ambient songs among black metal ones or by direct incorporation of ambience into the music to create an atmosphere. While black metal by its sheer nature already have lots of atmospheric tendencies, this feel can be emphasized by the use of ambient elements.

The Ukranian one-man black metal band Moloch sets the tone from the first track, which serves as an intro and mindsetter for the rest of the album. "Illusionen Eines Verlorenen Lebens" is in excess of 50 minutes of depressive black metal with a slew of apathy-ridden tracks of atmospheric nature. The tortured vocal efforts of Pr. Sergiy Fjordsson goes hand in hand with the ambient characteristics and the drony and heavily distorted guitars.

The 8-track album emanates a definite aura of cold desolation and is more or less the soundtrack to how I imagine a cold winter in Ukraine. As with most bands in the genre Moloch presents itself with repetitive songwriting, and while this may sound like a bad thing I've always seen it as a means to create the desired feeling with the listener.
There is one thing that bothers me with Illusionen Eines Verlorenen Lebens and many modern black metal bands in general - The drums. It's a damn shame that so many one-man black metal bands use drummachines or heavily sampled drums. It takes away a lot of the atmosphere and feeling, which I feel are essential to music that seeks to invoke those kinds of feelings with the listener.

All in all I'd say Moloch, who is incredibly productive by the way, having recorded more than 70 releases since its creation in 2002, is a fine example of depressive black metal with a boatload of dark ambient elements. Fans of Paysage d'Hiver and Wedard must check out this band. Afterall the drumsound shouldn't have that much of a say on the overall score of the album, but it is something that slightly lessens my oppinion of it. 8/10 guitars.

1. Illusion des Winters
2. Ein düsterer Winter kommt I
3. Ein düsterer Winter kommt II
4. Dissonanz Tropfen eines glühenden Schmerzes
5. Weg von dieser Welt voller Traurigkeit
6. Unsichtbarer Faden des Lebens
7. Illusionen eines verlorenen Lebens
8. Abgrund meines Wesens

MOLOCH official website
Glorious North Productions official website

27 Dec 2011

2011 - The Top 10 Best and Worst Releases

That's right, another top 10 in the end- and depthless sea of top whatevers. Here's my take:
2011 has been a fine year for metal. I don't know if it's just me, but it seems like 2011 has seen more releases by well-known metal bands than other recent years. Many of these releases have been great, some have been alright, and some have been bad. That's how it has always been. Here are the albums that I thought were the best and those that disappointed me the most.

The Top 10 Best Releases of 2011:
1. Symphony X - Iconoclast
Where to start with this one. Symphony X have a fairly large back catalogue of varying style and quality. When looking at their discography it should be obvious to most people that their music has become more and more progressive aswell as heavier and heavier. Iconoclast follows up on this tendency and is by far their heaviest and most progressive piece to date. While Paradise Lost is a monumental album I honestly feel that Iconoclast is stronger and is now my favourite album by the American powerheads. Offering tons of very very very enjoyable progressive power metal with greatly immersive tracks Russel Allen, Michael Romeo and Co. have, in my book, made 2011's greatest album.

2. Oranssi Pazuzu - Kosmonument
Having released only one album prior to Kosmonument these Finnish psychedelic black metallers still got it. In 2009 they made themselves known for their avant-garde approach to black metal by incorporating massive spacey and psychedelic elements into traditional Finnish black metal, and Kosmonument is definitely as great as 2009's Muukalainen Puhuu. The new album is as weird, spacey, psychedelic and eldritch as the debut and I still haven't had enough of those very elements.

3. Vektor - Outer Isolation
After the great success of 2009's Black Future it left the sci-fi themed progressive thrash band Vektor with a tremendous pressure on their shoulders to create something as technically awesome as the previous album. I believe the American four-piece has succeeded in just that and have created what could very well be their master thesis. Shredding riffs and chaotic structures are what Vektor offer on their sophomore album. Featuring some remakes of songs from their 2006 demo "Demolition" Outer Isolation is an instant classic.

4. Ash Borer - Ash Borer
With just three tracks this American avant-garde black metal quartet proves their mettle. Though some might say three tracks is too little for an album I firmly believe that the close to 40 minutes of this self-titled debut are more than enough to show Ash Borer's skills in songwriting aswell as progressive thinking. Ash Borer is unlike most black metal out there. Not being psychedelic like Oranssi Pazuzu but more queerly just standing out with three strong songs that can probably best be described as "thinking outside the box" I think Ash Borer has a bright future.

5. Antichrist - Forbidden World
Only a few weeks before the release of the debut album Forbidden World did I get acquainted with the band Antichrist. Hailing from the unholy grounds of Sweden they play vicious, gritty thrash metal with lyrics about the occult. Their previous releases consist of two demos appropriately named Crushing Metal Tape and Put to Death and while Forbidden World has a far better sound it's very consistent with their previous material, which is absolutely evil and fast thrash metal.

6. Alestorm - Back Through Time
The Scottish metal pirates are back with another album of swashbuckle-themed folk/power metal, and what an album! Back Through Time offers what we're all used to from Alestorm: Uplifting, extremely melodic and incredibly catchy metal about pirates. And yet this third album has something extra. It's heavier, it's faster and I could swear there's some thrash in the mix too. Back Through Time is a great third effort and Alestorm certainly aren't losing steam.

7. Toxic Holocaust - Conjure and Command
Toxic Holocaust has become increasingly polished and clean more or less since Hell on Earth came out in 2005. Joel Grind, the main guy in Toxic Holocaust, started out the band in 1999 as a one-man band and has previously only had session musicians, but on Conjure and Command the well-known thrash band has the first thing that could probably be called a steady lineup. The new album, though not nearly as rough around the edges as, say, An Overdose of Death, features great simplistic riffs and structures which make up the formula that Joel Grind is best known for: A catchy as fuck mix of punk and thrash metal.

8. Cruel Force - Under the Sign of the Moon
Part of new wave of German black/thrash this sophomore album of Cruel Force is by no means a let-down. It's generally much like their previous album The Rise of Satanic Might, but just a wee bit slower and more menacing and evil than it's predecessor. Cruel Force still presents catchy black/thrash leaden with great riffs and raw vocals and Under the Sign of the Moon is truely a worthy follow-up to Rise of Satanic Might.

9. Deicide - To Hell with God
Thankfully Glen Benton's "Deicide isn't gonna do 'fuck God' stuff anymore" idea didn't last very long. While I had no problem with the previous album, it's fucking great to see these death metal titans return to their faster, more brutal and far more malevolent selves. To Hell with God is a magnificent death metal effort and rivals even Deicide classics such as Serpents of the Light. It's fast as fuck and heavy as hell. It's DEICIDE.

10. Autopsy - Macabre Eternal
2011 saw the return of another of the old death metal heavyweights - AUTOPSY! Macabre Eternal, like Deicide's To Hell with God, saw the band return to their decrepit and rotting roots. Autopsy hasn't release anything for a good while, and returning to the scene with such an opus Chris Reifert and Company show that they are by no means outdated or tired. Macabre Eternal has only few problems and none of them are even worth mentioning. The doom-laden death metal monsters are back.

Honorable Mentions:
White Wizzard - Flying Tigers
White Wizzard's previous album "Over the Top" was a generally catchy juggernaut of modern heavy/speed metal but struggled with having a lot of boring songs. Flying Tigers suffers a bit from the same problem, but the overall quality of the songs are better. Unfortunately Flying Tigers doesn't have the same epic and insanely memorable few tracks as, say, 40 Deuces and the title track from "Over the Top".

Carnifex - Until I Feel Nothing
Yes I know it's deathcore. Gimme a break. I was immensely surprised by Until I Feel Nothing, mostly because Hell Chose Me was a complete atrocity, even by deathcore standards. This newest Carnifex album doesn't by any means revolutionize the genre, but it's significantly heavier and rawer than its predecessor. Carnifex are definitely back with a vengeance, and armed with more varied vocals, better production, less cheesy songwriting and better riffs the new album is a definite improvement.

Suicide Silence - The Black Crown
It seems like the newest wave of deathcore releases are a lot better than the previous one. Last time both Suicide Silence, Carnifex, Whitechapel and Job for a Cowboy released albums during the same year only the Whitechapel one was worth anything. As such The Black Crown is also a great step forward from the previous album No Time to Bleed which was completely uninteresting. Like Carnifex's new album The Black Crown isn't a total newsflash. But it is significantly better than the previous release. I'd even say the colab with Korn's Jonathan Davis was a fun feature.

Trap Them - Darker Handcraft
This nifty band from 2001 really made themselves visible with their third effort entitled "Darker Handcraft". Playing a crusty, grindy, hardcorey variation of metal it's something pretty new, at least to me. Darker Handcraft is nonstop aggressive pounding to the face. It's highly interesting and different. It's just... greatness on a disc.

Artillery - My Blood
Ever since Artillery got Søren Adamsen on vocals instead of Flemming Rönsdorf after B.A.C.K. in 1999 the Danish thrash gems started playing thrash with more obvious power metal influences. The first release after their "rebirth", When Death Comes, was brilliant and had awesome songwriting aswell as great riffs and vocal performances. This second one, My Blood, is still a good album but not nearly as memorable as the previous one.

The Top 10 Disappointments of 2011:
1. Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus
Wow was this horrible. Even if Morbid Angel haven't released anything worthwhile for a number of years Illud Divinum Insanus is still a huge disappointment. Gateways to Annihilation from 2000 was pretty good, but Heretic from 2003 was rather boring. I had hoped the band would come back now 8 years later with something fucking tasty, but instead they release this steaming pile of shit. Boring riffs, horrible songwriting and lyrics. This album's got it all.

2. Metallica & Lou Reed - Lulu
Calling this album a disappointment isn't really fitting. Metallica hasn't released anything worth listening to since the 80's and apparently they want to make it stay that way. Lulu is beyond horrendous. I can't even begin to describe how monumentally horrible this load of crap is. Everything from the repetitive songstructures and boring riffs to the utter blizzards of shit that are the vocals and lyrics just reek of complete abandon.

3. Debauchery - Germany's Next Death Metal
Debauchery have a pretty solid catalogue of groovy death metal with lots of rock n roll influences. They have, however, become progressively more and more death n rollish, and with Germany's Next Death Metal they hit an all time low with a long series of tracks that are cheesy as fuck to say the least. Nowadays they sound like a heavier AC/DC with vocals that sound like Chris Barnes. Sooo they sound like the AC/DC covers that Six Feet Under did.

4. Anthrax - Worship Music
I can't say I've ever given a real shit about Anthrax's post-80's material, but I had a faint hope that Worship Music would be some sort of come back for Anthrax. Unfortunately the album is a weak attempt at power/groove thrash metal with few redeeming qualities, and it seems more like the band just made the album out of necessity rather than because they had anything worthwhile to release.

5. Megadeth - TH1RT3EN
After the juggernaut of speed Endgame from 2009 I would've expected something alot better than TH1RT3EN. Apparently the band just met up and wrote and recorded all the songs in a matter of weeks, and it really shows. Most songs are incredibly boring and weak, though a few of the tracks are close to presentable. It would also seem that writing everything in a week was too time consuming, so they also just rerecorded a few bonus tracks from Youthanasia. Apparently thirteen IS an unlucky number.

6. Moonsorrow - Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa
Now this one I wouldn't call a bad album. It's just pretty uninteresting and unmemorable. I tried giving it a few listens, because afterall many of Moonsorrow's albums take a little getting used to, but Varjoina (I'm not writing the whole thing) just doesn't do it for me. It's not that it's badly written or shitty, but it just doesn't compare to their earlier material.

7. Týr - The Lay of Thrym
Pretty much the same as with Moonsorrow's new album. After By the Light of the Northern star I had come to expect some solid as fuck progressive viking metal, but The Lay of Thrym to me just doesn't cut it. Compared to it's predecessor The Lay of Thrym doesn't have the same catchy melodies and progressive songwriting as Týr's older material. Again, the album isn't bad, just a tad bland and uninteresting.

8. Panzerchrist - Regiment Ragnarok
After having split up a number of years ago Panzerchrist finally got back together and started touring with a new vocalist: The talented Magnus Jørgensen of Crocell fame. Unfortunately Magnus' vocals don't fit Panzerchrist's style very well, and I'd say that Regiment Ragnarok is rather weak compared to the band's earlier efforts. It's low on the list because it's not a complete failure. There are some songs that are pretty good and it still sounds like Panzerchrist.

9. Fleshgod Apocalypse - Agony
I'm not sure if Agony counts as a disappointment or not. I'm not normally much into Fleshgod Apocalypse, so I'm not actually disappointed. But when people told me that they had finally started truly incorporating the classical elements into the music rather than just sampling it as intros I thought I would finally get into them. Unfortunately Agony is little more than constant blast beats from start to finish with some classical parts aswell as completely dreadful clean vocals on some songs. The only tracks I could somewhat enjoy were the ones without the clean vocals.

10. Burzum - Fallen
I've had a tough time giving a shit about Burzum since Varg Vikernes got out of jail. While I think Fallen is a fine example of a good and solid black metal album I also think that it isn't Burzum. What made Burzum "Burzum" was is more or less gone. Nowadays it's just standard black metal with a more modern production and less Varg-ish vocals, which all adds to the lessened atmosphere that I so dearly miss on Burzum's new material.

Stuff I'm looking out for in 2012:
Orange Goblin - A Eulogy for the Damned
After the monstrously awesome 2007 album Healing Through Fire I can't see A Eulogy for the Damned be anything but awesome. Orange Goblin's incapability to release bad albums will hopefully be continued, and I hope that the bluesy elements of Healing Through Fire sticks.

Aborted - Global Flatline
Aborted, the world's most popular brutal death metal band, are finally releasing a follow-up to the pretty much horrible Strychnine.213 from 2008. From what I've heard from Global Flatline it sounds like the Belgians are returning to the sound of Slaughter & Apparatus rather than continuing the boring tendencies of Strychnine.213.

Terrorizer - Hordes of Zombies
The legendary minds behind World Downfall, a true grindcore classic, are back 6 years after releasing the mistake of an album "Darker Days Ahead". I'm hoping that Sandoval and Co. won't continue in the same style as on the previous album but instead return to their roots. Hopefully there aren't darker days ahead.

23 Dec 2011

Amputation Spree - Three / Inferno [EP] (2011, Self-released)

Being a relatively new genre slamming brutal death metal has yet to see much innovation and change. Most slam has a very modern sound and a few elements in common with the loathed deathcore genre and Amputation Spree, the "thinking man's slam", is no exception.

The American one-man band with lyrics centred around the abstract and esoterical offers low-to-mid paced slam with little going on other than ultimate brutality. The vocals are gurglingly guttural, the riffs are good and the drums are... Well, inhuman. The guitars have a tendency to be surprisingly melodic at times, and while the vocals, although heavily processed, are good most of the times. There are few moments on this three-track EP that seem rather cheesy, especially in the first track where there are parts with clean singing. Stuff like that really bothers me because it contradicts the straight-forwardness that otherwise marks "Inferno".

This third EP by Amputation Spree generally has a heavy feel to it, which is really emphasized by the pounding drummachine. The last track seems a bit out of place on this short release, mainly because it sounds mostly like one of those cyber-deathcore-technogrind bands that seem to be so in nowadays. It sort-of goes against the flow of the EP and were it not for that particular track I'd say this project of Spencer van Dyk is very much like Shawn Whitaker's Incidious Decrepancy. Overall you could say that Amputation Spree is an alternate take on slamming death metal with a crispy guitar sound and tasty melodies, but with little depth and few layers. 6/10 guitars.

1. The Whore of Babylon
2. Messiah
3. The Age of Reason

Visit Amputation Spree on Bandcamp

16 Dec 2011

Otis Reaper - Otis Reaper [Demo] (2011, Inherent Records)

From the aggressive pits of hardcore came... Sludge. Otherwise categorized as a semi-solid residual mass, the term sludge (or sludge metal) is mostly used to describe a mix of hardcore punk, doom metal and various rock styles like southern rock aswell as having some stoner influences now and then.

Tennessee-sludgebangers Otis Reaper play prime-example sludge metal with all the classic elements of the genre. Throaty vocals, punked up sound, heavy distortion and groovy riffs are all part of the grimy concoction. If you're unfamiliar with the genre trust me when I say that this is what sludge is supposed to sound like. Maintaining a certain drive and saturated with catchy guitars the American newcomers know what it's all about. Fans of Black Sabbath will notice certain Iommi-inspired riffs incorporated neatly into the heavy and ultra dirty sounds of the self-titled demo.

The five tracks that together form the demo from earlier this year offer great variation in terms of tempo and feel, but they all have the same flow and general atmosphere. Otis Reaper doesn't exactly revolutionize the genre, but they play it like it's supposed to be played. They have some minor issues with production as their sound tends to be a little too treble and not bassy enough, and hopefully this wish will be fulfilled on their next release. If you're a fan of Bongzilla and Weedeater you must check out the American quartet Otis Reaper. 7/10 guitars.

1. Traversing the Orbs of Time
2. Optimator
3. Footprints in Dead Earth
4. Graveyard Sorcery
5. Unspeakable Acts of Intoxication

Visit Otis Reaper on Facebook and Bandcamp

9 Dec 2011

At Dusk - At Dusk [Demo] (2011, Self-released)

Fronted by bands such as Shining (Swe), Xasthur and Nyktalgia depressive black metal is a somewhat new genre focussed mostly on droning rhythms and a cold atmosphere. While depressive black metal is mainly about the lyrics - which are more often than not about nihilism, apathy and depressed moods - you often see it go hand in hand with the above description also featuring simplistic guitars, gritty production and acoustic elements.

The bands within the genre are greatly varied. An example of textbook depressive/atmospheric black metal would be At Dusk, who's sole member "Korihor" hails from the sunny state California in the USA. Having released only one split before this self-titled piece you could say that At Dusk is still a young band, though the time in this realm has been spent effectively: This 13-track demo tape is over one hour in length. Even for depressive black metal, where many bands are known for making songs of great length, this is much.

The At Dusk demo tape is exactly what depressive black metal needs to be. Gritty, dark, cold, desolate and devoid of all life. If I was told that Korihor had walked among intergalactic horrors and stared directly into chaos I would be inclined to believe it. The impressive 13 tracks offer many minutes of emotive compositions and simplistic structures fitting to this particular style of metal. Among the traditional elements of the genre you will on this demonstration of skill you'll find certain foreign parts; weird melodies that at times can sound almost psychedelically horrific or cosmic, which only further contributes to the unearthly depressed atmosphere.

If you are into highly atmospheric depressive black metal in the vain of Xasthur and very early Burzum this self-titled demo is definitely something for you. At Dusk is the total package of low to mid-paced depressive black metal. This release should come with a warning: If you turn up At Dusk really loud it will at times sound like eldritch horrors scratching and clawing at the walls of your mind. 8/10 guitars.

1. Invocation of Ancient Power
2. Colder than the Merciless Snow
3. End of Being
4. My Flesh, a Pittance
5. The Profaned Temple
6. Forsaken, Betrayed
7. Suffer in Solitude
8. Limbless, Man's Fall
9. Will This Ever End?
10. Boundless Fathoms (of Pain)
11. I Have No Mouth
12. Haunting Echoes
13. Within this Hallowed Place

For more At Dusk check out the official homepage HERE

2 Dec 2011

Sabretung - Conquest [Full length] (2011, Self-released)

Making straight up GOOD thrash metal can be hard to do. Fast guitars, shredding riffs, speedy drumming and ripping vocals aren't all you need. It's been done since the early 80's. It needs something... Extra. It either needs to be something out of the ordinary or just be plain well carried out.

Sabretung - A band relatively well known in the metal underground in no small part due to their relentless marketing - is one of the newer thrash bands Australia has to offer for the still growing movement of 80's thrash revivalists. Having released nothing but an EP 5 years ago entitled The Price is Pain, 2011's CONQUEST is the Australian thrash quartet's debut album.
At first listen I wasn't impressed, but with each listen my interest for this album grew. I find the vocals somewhat loud in the mix and while the vocals themselves are generally poor, unvaried and have a tendency to sound overproduced the choruses are where it's at. Most of the 9 tracks feature catchy and memorable choruses of varying character, even sometimes incorporating gang shouts of differing quality.
Mostly mid-tempoed this album is a fairly standard thrash album made like it's meant to be made. It's just catchy metal like they made in the 80's.

Conquest overall offers classic thrash metal structures with a minuscule modern twist saturated with wholesomely great guitar riffs and drums that sound absolutely incredible. Featuring elements from most of the schools of thrash Sabretung has produced an all in all enjoyable album and a fun listening experience. For a debut album Conquest certainly isn't shabby, and if you're a fan of especially Lich King and Exodus I'd recommend giving Sabretung a listen.
As I said earlier, if you make straight up thrash metal you better make it fucking awesome or it WILL be boring, and while I hugely dislike the vocals Sabretung's Conquest is a load of highly enjoyable although standard thrash. The Australian quartet brings absolutely nothing new to the tabel but utilizes tried out elements in this potent concoction. 7/10 guitars.

1. Suicide Terror
2. Total Conquest
3. The Thing
4. Army of Dead
5. Chainsaws
6. Barbarian
7. Bloodlust
8. For the Term of his Natural Life
9. Eliminate the Weak

Sabretung - Conquest is available for free download HERE
Visit Sabretung on Facebook