27 Jul 2012

Outliar - Provoked to Anger [Full length] (2012, Self-released)

Let's get things straight. Outliar, a four-man band from North Carolina, play groove metal with an emphasis on GROOVE. When the subject falls on groove metal you can't go without the grand old bands of the genre like Pantera, Anthrax, Sepultura, Exhorder and the like. Groove metal, though it didn't really come around until the early 90's, is still massively popular today with bands such as Lamb of God, Machine Head, Soulfly and DevilDriver being some of the most popular bands of the genre, and Outliar takes a little bit from every aspect of the genre.

Groove metal is more or less thrash metal played at a slower pace, making it very listener-friendly and easy to go nuts to, and this American band make it very easy to enjoy their groovy tunes. However it feels like they've listened a bit too much to the classics, meaning that they pretty much follow the trends of modern groove metal. While this has a tendency to make Provoked to Anger a rather predictable album it also means that it's very easy to enjoy listening to because they follow the trends so well. The debut album features all the givens of the genre, which means everything from semi-progressive heavy riffs that pump you up, to almost power ballad-ish tracks like Another Surrender.

Like I mentioned earlier they borrow elements from more or less every well-known band of the genre, but some times one small part shines through; Like in A Loss of Sincerity where the vocals once in a while take on the aspects of Randy Blythe from Lamb of God, especially when vocalist Jason Ford lets out a groaning "You'll have to walk alone". At other times Low-era Testament comes to mind in terms of structure and riffing, but facts are that Outliar do their thing with convincing power. Provoked to Anger will satiate the listeners thirst for both brutal thrash riffs like the one in Faceless Enemy and crushing songwriting like Rod of the Shepherd, while yet leaving room to more melodic pieces. 8/10 guitars.

1. The Procession
2. It's Time to Bleed
3. Faceless Enemy
4. Coffin Text
5. Another Surrender
6. A Loss of Sincerity
7. Rod of the Shepherd
8. Dozer
9. Vendetta

OUTLIAR official site

18 Jul 2012

Seeds of Iblis - Jihad Against Islam [EP] (2011, Legion of Death Productions)

The Iraqi (yes, you heard me, IRAQI) black metal band Seeds of Iblis is one of very few bands around the world who dares critisize Islam in their lyrics. Considering how much shit many NSBM bands got, and in the light of the controversy surrounding Taake's lyric about "killing the Mohammedans" and the Muhammad-case from Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper I find it quite remarkable that a band such as Seeds of Iblis are dealing with that very subject in their lyrics.
Black metal has always been about Satan and other personifications of evil, but black metal has almost exclusively dealt with Christianity and only rarely in the case of some NSBM bands have they made an exception and dealt with Judaism or Islam. I guess a band like Seeds of Iblis can get around much of the controversy because they are FROM an Islamic country and was likely raised with it as their religion.

Seeds of Iblis isn't just an anti-Islamic band. Well, actually they are. With highly blasphemic song titles like Inverted Hilal, No Islam and especially Sex with Muhammad's Corpse they really aren't about anything else. But in regards to their music, the quintet offers some incredibly gritty black metal with surprizingly precise drumming. Among the more interesting tracks are In the Name of Iblis, which features near-constant blast beats, drowned-out guitars and most of all a vocal-track that alternates between roaring black metal vocals and what I assume is some sort of muslim prayer. It works surprizingly well in the same manner as depressive and atmospheric black metal with the grim soundscapes and atmospheres.

I would be lying if I said Seeds of Iblis would interest me if it wasn't for their theme. Well, one thing is their choice of theme, another thing is that two of the four band members are FEMALE! Women aren't exactly the predominant sex in metal as it is, but I don't think I can recall a single black metal band with even one female member.
Seeds of Iblis, while their main strongpoints are the fact that they deal with unusual subjects in their lyrics, also delivers in terms of black metal. They may not have outstanding riffs like Satyricon or Darkthrone, they may not have the artillery-like drums of Marduk and 1349, they may not have the characteristic vocals of Legion, Varg Vikernes or Gaahl, but with what little they have they make it work as minimalistic black metal tunes enjoyable to fans of depressive black metal. 7/10 guitars.

1. Inverted Hilal
2. No Islam
3. Sex with Muhammad's Corpse
4. In the Name of Iblis

11 Jul 2012

The Blame - Born [Full length] (2011, Raven Records)

The Blame is a Turkish metal band formed in 2006. For a band that has only previously released a demo, I'm going to have to say that I'm severely impressed. "Born" from 2011 is a heavy, groove-ridden album with just a teeny tiny bit of power metal in the mix, and everything just comes together in one big explosion of nicely varied and powerful metal.

Coming out of nowhere it's not often you see a band's first effort be completely breathtaking. While the vocals struggle a little with the higher notes and the music in general lacks a bit of memorability, the album certainly isn't lacklustre and with the amount of variation The Blame put forth "Born" just didn't get boring.
I sensed a lot of Pantera and Machine Head in their songwriting and especially in the drumming, but it isn't overdone or even very noticable. The Blame's lead singer Enver Yilmaz has some pretty cool Phil Anselmo and Joey Belladonna-ish things going on with his vocals, and in general the album could probably best be described as a mix between early Anthrax and Pantera with some tendencies towards more high notes and epic melodies in the vocals, only a few times peppered by raw growley vocals. Obviously I'm over-simplifying things, but in order to just boil it down a bit that is generally the feel I get from listening to The Blame.

Reading about the band online I saw them described as progressive thrash metal once or twice, but in all honesty I can't quite put my finger on in what way The Blame is progressive. They certainly aren't your typical garden-variety thrash band (probably because they aren't trying to be Slayer), but bands like Artillery, Kreator and Megadeth are proof that modern thrash has moved in a more melodic direction with a wholesome and heavy production rather than the gritty, lo-fi production of the early 80's.

The Blame's debut album features both the close-to-mandatory soulful songs and highly melodic but great groove and energetic playing and drumming. There's something, however, about Born that I can't quite put my finger on. Sometimes the vocals are just a bit over the top, and the music lacks hooks. While Born is a great album to listen to while doing other stuff, it's not something that I would sit down and listen to closely, at least not very often. 7/10 guitars.

1. Another Stolen Life
2. Beyond the Wind
3. Deserted Nation
4. Exile
5. Fading Day
6. Guiding Light
7. Lost in a Rabbit-Hole
8. Made of Stone
9. Sacred Souls
10. The Scarab
11. Valley of Trade

THE BLAME official site
Raven Records official site

5 Jul 2012

Sick Fest 2012 Battle Report

Some time in late June I went to one of Denmark's few metal festivals. Sick Fest 2012 is the first year of this brand spanking new death metal and grind festival set up by Club Sick in Odense, Denmark's third biggest city.
My first immediate concern with a festival like Sick Fest was whether or not it would even be possible to attract enough people to a three-day show of what is essentially a niche genre. My second concern was if it would be well enough organized to succeed. To the last of my concerns I was surprised to find that it was very well organized and felt very professional in most aspects. They kept a ruthless schedule and didn't fall behind even once, but unfortunately the amount of bands resulted in very short sets for some of the bigger bands. That said, in the world of death metal most sets need to be short in order to not become boring.

Sick Fest, according to the promoters, is a death metal and grind festival. When it comes to metal, death metal is probably one of the genres with most sub-genres, so I was rather surprised to find that most of the bands were either brutal death metal bands or slam bands. I had hoped that they had hired bands of greater diversity, as many sub-genres were represented by only one or two bands. As an example, Panacea was the only melodic death metal band, and the two headliners Rompeprop and Cliteater were both gore/porngrind while VxPxOxAxAxWxAxMxC was the only "true" grindcore band. Most of the other bands were brutal death metal bands, which in every nature of the genre gets incredibly boring when you listen to 10 bands each day where 7 of them sound pretty much alike.

I would like to talk a bit about some of the bands that I felt stood out, not necessarily by genre, but by general effort.
The first day DPOS!! and RazorRape, two bands consisting of roughly the same members, stood out as bands that had great contact with the audience. With a lead singer that understood how to talk to a bunch of shitfaced metalheads, both bands got through two great sets peppered by a Cock and Ball Torture cover of Kamikaze Incest.
Amagortis, the weed-lovin' Swiss death metal band, was also among one of the highlights of Friday. Their great energy and presence resulted in a pumped audience, and Amagortis were probably one of the most well-visited shows of the day.
The band that, to me, delivered the best show was one of the biggest bands on the festival. It was obvious that Condemned from San Diego was one of the bands that people had been looking forward to, and they were met with an engaged audience in spite of their short setlist.
On Saturday the first band to play, the Danish melodic death metal act Panacea, had a limited audience, probably because of severe hangovers. In spite of the lack of attendence Panacea delivered a great show with catchy tunes and lots of energy. Sick Fest's softest band was also among one of the better ones.
The third band of Saturday was one that I had looked forward to as they have been featured before on my blog. Back in April 2012 I reviewed their first demo EP "Dehiscent Abdominal Viscera", and getting to see them live was very interesting. Having two lead singers made the show stand out and they showed Sick Fest why slam is great live music.
It goes without saying that both Cliteater and Rompeprop were out of this world. I won't even begin describing their shows. But that said I feel that the best band of Sick Fest 2012 was the German band CYTOTOXIN. I had never heard of them before, but their ultra-fast brand of technical brutal death metal was so well-performed and well-executed that they receive my vote as the best band. The imposing and threatening attitude and demeanor of their lead singer, who looked most of all like a German Frankenstein, took us over the edge and when he would once in a while get off the stage to stomp around in the pit it made the show perfect.

Summing up Sick Fest 2012: The festival was well organized and had great stands like a  horror stand supplied by Phantasmo DVD and some wicked distro stands by Ancient Darkness Productions and others. With around 30 bands I wish they would've gone for a more varied approach as Sick Fest featured little more than a slew of brutal death metal bands in the vain of the old Mountains of Death lineups. I could also have wished for a larger turnout as one quickly grew familiar with most people on the festival, and most of the bands only got around half of the audience inside. I was hoping for some serious headbanging and moshing, but apparently in the world of slam every pit must be degraded into 3-5 drunk germans walking in circles at a steady pace whilst waving at the band. Occassionally when things got wild this would escalate into 6-7 people stomping angrily around and mimicking taking their hats off and throwing it to the ground in sheer fury repeatedly. It's great that most death metal bands and fans don't take themselves or the genre super seriously, but it was hard taking the festival, the shows, the bands and the "fans" serious when they were strutting around like displeased chickens.

1 Jul 2012

Dark Entropy - 2011 Demo [Demo] (2011, Self-released)

In genres such as thrash it's hard not to compare every new and modern band you listen to with the fathers of the genre back in the 80's. For example it's obvious that Suicidal Angels have taken a lot of inspiration from Slayer, while Trench Hell take a lot from Celtic Frost and the like. But with Dark Entropy there aren't any obvious inspirations from the 80's bands, and they're one of the few newer thrash bands that aren't revivalists. In short Dark Entropy, who formed in Chicago in 2008, is a modern thrash band with some minor groove influences.

But this does not speak for itself. A band obviously isn't good just because they don't sound exactly like one of the big four. Their hitherto only release, the 2011 Demo, offers some fairly low-tempo thrash metal with a few mildly enjoyable, but ultimately mediocre, Testament-ish riffs. They basically took the Thrash 101 and followed it to precision, making for some very predictable groove-infused thrash metal with simple verse/chorus/verse structure.

Alas, I cannot push back this subject any further. I have to talk about the vocals. When I started listening to the demo, FEAR comes on with its ponderously chugging guitar leads and I thought this was gonna be "just another thrash band". Instead I got "just another thrash band, but with terrible vocals". Not only are they poorly done in general, the singer is completely out of tune and, to me, sounds tonedeaf. I don't think he hit a single note right in the first song.
Whenever the vocals just follow a simple roaring pattern in just a single tone the vocals aren't half bad, but when he tries out some melodies and stuff like that it just falls through completely and ruins any enjoyability the track might have had.
Lyrically Dark Entropy have a long way to go. The lyrics are just so completely dull and typical that I would've preferred unintelligible, mindless groaning and screaming. The 13 year old me would probably have thought stuff like "Marching side by side, no where can you hide" was witty and intelligent, but nowadays material like that just doesn't cut it for me.

Dark Entropy is a 5-man band, but to be honest it doesn't really show on the demo. Only once or twice could I tell that there were two guitarists, and I feel that if you're gonna have two in a band you might aswell utilize it better. The quintet just don't reach the full potential of having two guitarists - They could've had a lot more variety by playing harmonics or other stuff I won't even begin to talk about, but instead it's completely indiscernable and unnecesarry.
Instrumentally Dark Entropy have their moments with some fairly powerful parts in tracks like Sins of our Fathers, but listening to their 2011 demo won't feel like the first time you listen to Sepultura or Metallica, and it certainly won't recreate the same feel of empowering invigoration. 4/10 guitars for unoriginal boredom.

2. Broken Night
3. Enlisted in Suicide
4. Sins of our Fathers

DARK ENTROPY official site