27 May 2013

Dying Inside - Dystopia [Full length] (2012, Estelí en Llamas Records)

There aren't many metal bands from Nicaragua. It's often the case with bands from a country that has a low export of metal that the band will be immensely awesome or suck beyond belief, but with Dying Inside none of those two scenarios are the case.
Dying Inside's first studio album "Dystopia" is melodic death metal with more of an emphasis on melodic than death. They follow certain Swedish traditions but aren't as such a band directly inspired by the Gothenburg scene.

A fair use of powerful drums makes for some equally powerful metal, and there are times when the headbanging factor reaches critical mass, in no small part thanks to heavy and simple processions of guitars, bass and drums. These headbang-friendly parts are by no means rare on Dystopia, but at the same time aren't used to their full potential. It's like they are building up a mood and hinting at a coming climax, but the climax is just never truly achieved.

This is a running theme on Dying Inside's debut. They've got the groovy parts down for sure, but it feels as though the band aren't able to properly feed on the energy of these parts to make an immersive track.
Dystopia is a rather long effort. 11 tracks coming to a total of just above 50 minutes isn't incredibly much, but it comes off as bland. There are some issues with the drumming, meaning that when things do get a bit fast they come off as mechanical. This is especially the case with the blast beatin El Ritual.

It's not that I have something inherently against melodic death metal. There are a few fairly good melodeath bands out there (none of which are from Sweden), and Dying Inside does have some easy-to-follow grooves and riffs, but often the songs on Dystopia are taken down a notch by unnecessary synths and a lack of feel for flow. The whole thing is a bit lacking in "wow!" factor and lacks variation. They keep to their speed-wise comfortzone throughout the album, and their fear of reaching higher (or even lower) BPMs makes for an unvaried journey into the heart of Nicaraguan metal. After listening to Dystopia I found that I, too, was dying inside. 5/10 guitars.

1. Dystopia
2. Cancer
3. El Ritual
4. Arcano XV
5. Mascara de Barro
6. Nacido Muerto
7. Historia Ordinaria
8. Muriendo por Dentro
9. Reflexion de Invierno
10. A Memento Mori
11. Apoteosis

DYING INSIDE official Facebook

22 May 2013

Beyond Mortal Dreams - Dreaming Death [EP] (2012, Lavadome Productions)

Beyond Mortal Dreams may sound like a gay gothic metal band, but in reality they are the crème de la crème of what Australia has to offer death metal-wise. They've been around since the early 90's as "Suffering" but changed their name to Beyond Mortal Dreams in '95 only to go on a break from '99 to '03 before finally releasing a demo in 2004. Dreaming Death is only the fourth release from the band as Beyond Mortal Dreams.

Variations in speed, heaviness and intensity are what keep things interesting on the Dreaming Death EP. They have the filthily heavy, gut-churning guitar sound and base for their riffs as Mitochondrion, Portal and Antediluvian, and yet they have a sound that is entirely their own. Their compositions aren't completely straight forward, but at the same time they don't sound that technical or progressive, and the drums and guitars work in perfect unison to create that intense and imposing atmosphere that many Australian death bands are known for.

Beyond Mortal Dreams are neither high, mid or low tempo death metal. Part of the destructive beauty of Dreaming Death is the fact that the band play whatever the hell they damn well please as long as it fits in the song in question. The drums form a fearsom foundation for the veritable meat-grinder that is the guitar tracks, which in turn are spiced up with the gurgling roars of the lead singer.
Often this type of metal has a severe lack of hooks which makes the music bland in the long run, but stuff like the pumping guitars and drums in the second half of The Filth of Their God and the sinister guitar solo in Dreaming Death are more than enough to make this EP memorable.

Dreaming Death is a phenomenal EP and a carnal show of ferocity and aggression, but with the EP being only 4 tracks long the otherwise well-executed Beherit cover song feels a bit unnecessary. The track in question, Beast of Damnation, does fit their overall theme well and has been adapted nicely to Beyond Mortal Dreams' style, but... I'm grasping at straws really, this EP is awesome. 9/10 guitars.

1. Feast of Carrion
2. The Filth of Their God
3. Dreaming Death
4. Beast of Damnation (Beherit Cover)

BEYOND MORTAL DREAMS official Facebook
Lavadome Productions official website

18 May 2013

Morgue of Saints - Sleep/Death [Full length] (2012, Drowning)

From the vast nature of Canada comes Morgue of Saints, a band created by Elliot C as an output for his own droning, ambient doom tendencies. The album in question here is Sleep/Death, a three track conceptual piece that can potentially bear a rather large number of tags. Other written mediums aswell as Elliot C himself have referred to Morgue of Saints as both minimalistic funeral doom, drone doom, cinematic ambient, experimental noise and avant-garde.

In the strictest sense of the term "avant-garde" it doesn't fit Morgue of Saints. As it says in the liner notes some of the music is heavy influenced by early Earth, and I detect several other inspirations from other drone, funeral and ambient groups. Whatever you want to call it, Morgue of Saints primarily consists of droning guitars and ambient moods. The album contains the tracks "Death" and the two-part epic "Sleep". The two parts of Sleep are split by the lengthy drone track "Death" which is made up of nothing by a single guitar track. The bleak existance in the track so aptly named is underlined well by that sole, desolate guitar, but ultimately the track feels a bit too minimalistic and uneventful to justify being almost 24 minutes in length, and while drone has never been about grandios songwriting I feel at the same time that other bands have done this better in the sense that they still manage to create a feeling or atmosphere that the simplicity of the track emphasizes. One of the key elements in this type of music is depth, and the track "Death" simply isn't deep enough. The single guitar track and lack of any background ambience doesn't build up any tention, feeling, atmosphere or otherwise.
The track "Sleep" was split into two tracks - Sleep I and II - and is by far the most interesting track of the Sleep/Death album. The way the two parts contrast each other and at the same time feel so alike is astounding. Listening to the first part I can see where this "cinematic ambient" term comes from - The desolate mood part I sets for the album is very fitting and could well be featured on a soundtrack for a fitting movie. In the second part Morgue of Saints moves more into traditional funeral doom territory, and Elliot C does this rather well. His compositions on this track has a somewhat abyssal depth that fits so well together with the void-like intro to the album, Sleep I.

I mentioned that Death feels rather shallow. Sleep I and II are more or less the exact opposite in regard to atmosphere, and perharps this is the point of putting Death in between the two parts of Sleep. Starting the album out with the film-like epicness of Sleep I only to disrupt that mood with the simple drones of Death, and then finally returning to the mood set by Sleep I with Sleep II, only in a far more abrassive form. It's a bit far-fetched to be honest, and if this is the case I think the point will be lost to some. When judging the album as a whole I dislike that the middle track disrupts the otherwise great flow and atmosphere the other two tracks create, and I would much rather just listen to those two songs in continuation of each other and cut out Death entirely. 6/10 guitars.

1. Sleep I
2. Death
3. Sleep II

MORGUE OF SAINTS on Bandcamp - Free download available!
Download also available here

12 May 2013

Manifestor - Old Monster [Demo] (2012, Self-released)

A death/thrash band from Gothenburg, Sweden... "Oh boy, here's another wannabe old-school Swedish death metal band" was my immediate thought regarding Manifestor when their newest demo "Old Monster" arrived in the mail. "A two-man band? Yeah, this is gonna be great" I thought sarcastically to myself. I could just imagine sloppy, fuzzed out guitars, the trashy bass sound, bland vocals and programmed drums. I was in for a surprise.

Hatetriot and Asbest, the two minds behind Manifestor, released their first demo in 2010 and followed up with Old Monster in 2012. 2 years to write and record 3 tracks may seem like a long time, but what the long period has resulted in speaks for itself. Manifestor may not be innovative in the traditional sense, but it goes against most current trends regarding death and thrash metal. Sure, they could have taken the obvious route and paid tribute to their legendary countrymen, or they could've jumped on the 80's thrash revival band wagon. But what they've chosen to write is death/thrash with heavy hints of early 80's grindcore. Sound familiar? One might connect this description with other acts like Frightmare, Ghoul, Macabre or Blood Freak, but in reality Manifestor is quite different from these groups. Manifestor's focus lies on a thick atmosphere of old school death metal with the rioting guitar riffs of thrashier bands like Morbid Saint which makes the demo both heavy, hard hitting and fast. But the main attraction for me is when they throw in some good old grindcore for good measure. The grindier parts of Old Monster bring to mind classics like Brutal Truth, Terrorizer, Repulsion, Extreme Noise Terror and especially early Carcass, and it's this kind of variation that makes Manifestor stand out.

The way they handle their instruments isn't exactly virtuosic, but it is completely ruthless and adds that certain element of aggression that many bands lose in their quest for a clean production. There's something honest about the way Manifestor mix the three genres and show blatant disregard for current trends. I feared that Manifestor's music would be ruined by programmed drums, but with Asbest playing drums Old Monster has the necessary amount of authenticity to be good. I love how the band never linger too long on one part of a song, and the dual vocal efforts from the band's two members grants the demo great variation. Their mix of grind, death and thrash is a fun mix indeed and stands out as a focussed effort. My only complaint is that the demo is too short and sometimes sounds a bit too chaotic for my tastes. They don't mess around lingering with the same two or three riffs in every song, but listening to the demo I sometimes wish they would've cared a bit more for the flow of the individual tracks and perhaps a greater concern for the delivery of each part of the songs. 8/10 guitars.

1. Black Sabbath (Note: Not a cover of Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath)
2. Old Monster
3. Manifestor


6 May 2013

Narrow House - A Key to Panngrieb [Full length] (2012, Solitude Productions)

Hailing from Ukraine I can only imagine what bleak and desolate place spawned Narrow House into existance. 4 man and 1 woman strong the band's lot in life is creating godforsaken funeral doom metal focussing on atmosphere, and in 2012 the world would hear the first eldritch groaning that the band has to offer.

Like the strange creaking and moaning of a long-abandoned house the 4-track album slowly blunders into life with the opening track. The mental images created by Narrow House at this early point are those of complete desolation, abandonment and horrid lonesomeness - As it turns out these themes of eerie atmospheres and tenebrous matters are frequent on the album, and definitely one of the band's strongpoints. Their incorporation of classical instruments such as the cello fits the style of funeral doom metal perfectly and gives the music a destinct feel of authenticity and hints toward the filmic, making it almost sound like the soundtrack to some long forgotten black and white silent horror movie.

Narrow House have put the funeral in funeral doom metal with A Key to Panngrieb. Though I don't understand a word of their lyrics or song titles the music speaks its own language. A language of death, ragnarok and darkness. To some the music of the Ukranian band may seem uneventful or bland, but to me it seems to have great depth and particularly well thought through. Add to this that the production is as clear as it needs to be with this type of music. It leaves every aspect audible and yet making it possible for the band to have certain suggestive themes that make their music excel in creating atmospheres.

I like how the funerary procession guitars aren't actually the main focus of the band. The droning chords of guitar and bass go perfectly in unison and are crucial to the music, but without the vibrant cello-work the album would be incredibly boring. The tracks are generally speaking very lengthy, and this serves both as the main attraction and annoyance of A Key to Panngrieb. As most funeralesque graveyard bands the length of the tracks can make it hard to stay interesting, especially when there's so little going on. But again, this is both the thing that makes this type of music work and the thing that makes it tiresome to listen to for prolonged periods of time. But all in all A Key to Panngrieb is a prime example of great funeral doom metal, even if it isn't the heaviest of sorts. 8/10 guitars.

1. Poslednee Pristanishe
2. Psevdoriatunok
3. Steklianniy Bog
4. Pod Maskoy Etoy

NARROW HOUSE official site
NARROW HOUSE official Facebook
Solitude Productions official site

1 May 2013

Only a Shadow Remains - The Grinding Stone [EP] (2013, Self-released)

With today's level of technology and the accessibility of it one-man projects are far from rare. Where one once had to rely on session musicians or having to play everything by one self, you can nowadays get machines that can do most things for you. What machines still can't do for you is write your material, and the lack of varied input and feedback means that some, if not most, one-man bands suck uncontrollably. I was surprised to find that Only a Shadow Remains is a band that not only has a good sound for a solo-project but also has a relatively solid and varied output.

I was originally supposed to review Only a Shadow Remains' second EP, Premediated, but I ended up reviewing The Grinding Stone, the band's newest EP, instead. Now, I did listen to Premediated before listening to The Grinding Stone, and honestly not much has changed in the time between the two EPs were released. It's not necessarily bad that the band has a steady and consistent output, but the only real surprise I got with The Grinding Stone was that this release consists of 21 tracks of relative short length. Only a Shadow Remains centers around gory vocals, growled vocals and heavy but melodic guitar riffs, and this is definitely still the case with The Grinding Stone, even if the riffs have gotten much heavier than previously, but naturally I thought, given the title and the length of the songs and the sheer amount of tracks on the EP, that the band had adopted a more grindcore-inspired aspect. However, I found that this simply wasn't the case, even if the band has gotten heavier. Premediated featured songwriting that bore a heavy nod towards the old classics of death metal, but on the Grinding Stone EP the band has switched to a much more modern and brutal focus.
On The Grinding Stone EP Only a Shadow Remains leaves a little less room for melodic riffs and hooks, but the vocals have become more varied, varying from traditional growls to hoarse screams. The riffing was what attracted me to the earlier material from the band, and because this new incarnation of Only a Shadow Remains focus less on those aspects, it is far less personal and sinister than the previous EP.

The EP is well executed, but it is at the same time pretty generic. The songs are generally too short, meaning that only rarely does a song achieve any momentum, and I found that most songs seemed to end rather abruptly. Armon Nicholson has previously proven that he is no novice songwriter, but his talents aren't properly showcased on The Grinding Stone as they were on Premediated. As such I think the longer songs on this EP are by far the best, and all in all the songs fit well together. But ultimately The Grinding Stone feels unfinished, and the amount of short songs makes it feel like the EP consists of mostly unfinished ideas for songs. It shows potential, but the overall picture needs work. The songs don't show enough individuality to justify having so many short tracks on one release. I would much rather have had an EP where the songwriting is condensed into 4-6 songs rather 21 like on The Grinding Stone, such as it was on Premediated. 7/10 guitars.

1. Broken Glass in Your Eyes
2. A New Mask
3. Autocannibalism
4. I Despise Humanity
5. Burned
6. Corpsemeat
7. Pee Hole Torture
8. Asphyxiating on Feces
9. Extirpation of Necessary Organs
10. Filth
11. Fornicated Stab Wounds
12. Sewn Together
13. Infanticidal Urges
14. Carved Open
15. Vomit, Consumed
16. Punched in the Prolapsed Rectum
17. Skinned and Salted
18. Testicular Mutilation
19. Swimming in Used Needles
20. Orgy of Decomposition
21. The Meat Grinder

The Grinding Stone is available for pay-what-you-want on Bandcamp HERE