25 Nov 2013

Stone Magnum - From Time... To Eternity [Full length] (2013, R.I.P. Records)

The state of Indiana has a reputation of being mostly devoid of any metal in regards to large touring circuits, and in terms of internationally known metal acts the state doesn't fare much better. I had previously heard of Stone Magnum from Michigan City last year when they released their first album more or less out of nowhere. Only one and a half year later they've released their sophomore album effort, From Time... To Eternity.

Though I never got around to listening to the band's eponymous debut, upon listening to the follow up I find it safe to say that Stone Magnum bring to the table doom metal of the highest calibre. It stands as a solid display of musical craftsmanship with heavy, melodic guitar riffs with a thick backdrop of thrumming bass lines creating a bridge between the gruff but epic vocals and the deliberate pace of the drums. The riff-smiths of Stone Magnum have done a great job creating amazing doom-hooks for just about every track on the album - a feat that is only further emphasized by the uncommon delivery of the vocals.

Stone Magnum is most definitely a product of several decades of doom metal evolution. Sticking to the roots, the band's style is best described as a mix of all the great old ones within the genre, mixing together elements from both the American, British and Scandinavian scene, and it's nice to hear a modern doom metal band that isn't a complete Black Sabbath ripoff. The vocals themselves sound like Tom G. Warrior punching Messiah Marcolin in the face, and every riff - not just the main riffs, mind you!! - are well thought-out audile delicacies. I've been listening to From Time... To Eternity since it came out in June, often finding myself returning to their epic melodies for another dose of doom, and I can safely say that the album holds up in the long run. A problem that many newer bands within the genre face is a lack of variation, often mucking about with their noses in the same riff for minutes on end. From Time... To Eternity is almost 50 minutes of doom metal which may seem like a lot, but there is incredible amounts of variation in structure, temperament and speed while holding an iron grip on their gloomy atmosphere.

It seems futile to go into details with every great aspect of the album because the good far outnumber the bad. The fuzzy, warm feeling of the production suits the style of Stone Magnum magnificently, but some of the riffs and the drums in particular could stand to gain a little punch to really accentuate the power and dynamics of Stone Magnum's formidable songwriting. Together with Devil's follow up album to the modern classic Time to Repent, "Gather the Sinners", these make up the back bone of the best doom metal albums of 2013. Stone Magnum stands as a monument to the fact that good new music doesn't have to come from a bunch of adolescents. Doom metal in particular just sounds better coming from seasoned old dudes. 9/10 guitars.

1. From Time... To Eternity
2. Lonely God
3. In Tongues They Whisper
4. The Gallows of Ohrdruf
5. By An Omen I Went
6. Uncontained
7. In the Garden of Beasts

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19 Nov 2013

Mind Affliction - Pathetic Humanity [Full length] (2013, Metal Scrap Records)

Poland is the home of several well-known, and even more less known, metal acts, and if there's anything I've learned from previous reviews it is that new bands from Poland show a remarkably high level of musicianship and production values. Mind Affliction hail from Cracow, one of Poland's oldest cities, and originally emerged in 2009, before releasing their first demo "Mental Disorder" in 2011. In early 2013 they released their first album "Pathetic Humanity" through Metal Scrap Records, with the tracks Mental and Vishe returning in some form from the demo.

It seems like there are enough blackened death metal bands from Poland to form up a full fledged wave, a New Wave of Polish Black Death Metal if you will, or at the very least this is a strong tendency among the good people of Poland. Like many of the bands I have previously had the pleasure of reviewing, including Sphere, Ragehammer, Embrional and Stillborn, Mind Affliction delivers about 40 minutes of death metal behind a thick veil of black metal, neatly intertwining the two genres. With a few ups and downs in terms of tempo, it's still safe to say that what makes up the majority of the music on Pathetic Humanity is deathly guitar riffs with dual vocals on top of a layer high speed drumming with little to no bullshit going on.

It's a time tested recipe, but it leaves little room for surprise, and on more than one occation we find the band delving into the same riff for prolonged periods of time, which really breaks up the otherwise good flow of the album. Especially in Mental and Human Centipede, two of the earliest tracks on the debut, do they drag out the progress of the songs with one simple riff. All of the tracks apart from the intro are in excess of 5 minutes in length, so it's not even like they need to drag things out to this point.

Pathetic Humanity has a nice, thick production with drum sound that packs a LOT of punch, but for the riffs to truly come to their right they could benefit from a more crispy production. There's lots of brutality in the simplicity of riffs, and everything works well as a whole, even if the end result isn't one that is particularly memorable. The Polish band shows a flair for variety with tracks like the groovy and melodic piece Druga Strona Umyslu and the sinister track Vishe II, which still leaves room for fresh melodies. But in the end it's the fact that there are barely any hooks or anything to distinguish Pathetic Humanity by that steers it towards a 6/10 rating.

1. Intro
2. Human Centipede
3. Mental
4. Vishe I
5. Druga Strona Umyslu
6. Vishe II
7. Lithium

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Visit Metal Scrap Records

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10 Nov 2013

The Infernal Sea - The Crypt Sessions [EP] (2013, Self-released)

Some may argue that black metal has never had much of a hold in the UK, apart from a few well-known black metal influenced bands like Cradle of Filth, Bal-Sagoth and Anaal Nathrakh. In recent years though, a large number of worthwhile acts within the genre have emerged from the British scene, a few of which I have previously reviewed. Bands like Winterfylleth, Wodensthrone and Fen have garnered many a positive review, and the tendency in the scene leans heavily on the atmospheric and pagan kind.

Though The Infernal Sea belong to this new wave of british black metal their style is far removed from the folky, celtic or pagan tendencies and atmospheric moods of their brethren, relying more heavily on a crusty, chaotic and gritty mode of musical expression. Their second release, "The Crypt Sessions" EP from 2013, takes - like their music - a rather unorthodox approach to the structure of a release, with every actual track being preceeded by a sort of introduction track. The way British quartet breaks with the norms of how to build up an EP makes it a more interesting listening experience, being thoroughly underlined by the pulsating abrasive nature of their riffs and the hoarse screams of the lead singer.

The crustier elements brings to mind some recent efforts by Darkthrone - barring The Underground Resistance - but it is far from the same prevailing quality as it was with those Darkthrone albums. On The Crypt Sessions it's a much more subtle influence, accentuating the indigenous coarse aspects of black metal.

There is something cathartic about the psychosis-like rambling structures of the blasting, chaotic parts of The Infernal Sea's music. At times they can go from completely unhinged anarchic torrents to pieces of a more composed disposition. These variations serves as means to release the tensiouns created by the British group, and mostly it works. But at times these shifts in temperament can be a bit flow-breaking and anti beneficial to the wholesomeness of the release, and I feel that it is only in Skinwalker that these changes work ideally.

The Crypt Sessions seems at the same time both highly experimental and like a tribute to the traditions of the genre. It is this ambiguosity that, along with the unusual flow, makes it tempting to start it all over when the EP is done playing. 7/10 guitars.

1. Stumpp
2. Skinwalker
3. The Scourging
4. The Circle Closes
5. Desolation
6. Into the Unknown

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3 Nov 2013

Distress of Ruin - Predators Among Us [EP] (2013, Self-released)

From Joensuu, Finland, comes Distress of Ruin - A bastard child of melodic death metal origin, fused together with copious amounts of metalcore tendencies. Five man strong the Finnish band makes use of a classic lineup of two guitars, a lead vocalist and backing vocals provided by guitarist Simo, and a strong rhythm section courtesy of drummer and bassist Sami and Riku.

Distress of Ruin's first published EP "Predators Among Us" features 6 tracks of varying disposition, but the gist of their music, should you choose to lump it all together, is a mix of Scandinavian melodic death metal evident in the overly melodic guitar tunes with the added thrashy elements over a groovy rhythm section borrowed from the metalcore scene. The EP has a very distinct melancholic temperament, which is highly evident right from the start with the despondent intro "The Ocean of Perdition". We quickly change pace to a lurching groove with They Play Dead. Or rather, we don't, because the entire EP only rarely ventures beyond the mid-tempo grooves put down by the drums and the deliberate guitar.

The overall sound is highly polished and as such doesn't leave much to the imagination, which is not entirely surprising in this type of music. What I mean by this is that every aspect of Distress of Ruin is just sort of... Out there. The production is entirely immaculate, and this means that you most likely won't be making new discoveries while listening to Predators Among Us. It is something that sort of numbs down the listening experience, and it doesn't invite further delving into the details of the band's music.

Predators Among Us makes good use of the dual guitars provided by Harri and Simo, and the band as a whole work well as an ensemble - albeit in a very clinically over-polished way. But what Predators Among Us is missing is for Distress of Ruin to move beyond their gray comfort zone once in a while. The way the EP is written and put together makes it seem like the same clich├ęs over and over again. There are a few welcomed changes of scenery with the backbreaking breakdown in Deadly Nightshade, or the thrashy attitude of the closing track Harbinger of Ravage, but it is not enough to create a sufficiently varied experience. Bystander Effect has a spark of this with its faster parts which then give way to the EP's heaviest and slowest part, but it feels as though Distress of Ruin were so uncomfortable with these alternate paces that they change it back to their ordinary mood too quickly.

Distress of Ruin's first EP is a grower. At first it seems way too melodic, and the clean vocals that are continuously used in the choruses get old really quick. It might be Stockholm Syndrome, but somehow you learn to mildly appreciate the easy-to-follow structures put forth by the Finnish band. You come to expect nothing surprising from the band, and this is exactly what they deliver. But then again this isn't enough for you to put away your In Flames and Whitechapel CDs in order to listen to Distress of Ruin instead. 6/10 guitars.

1. The Ocean of Perdition
2. They Play Dead
3. Deadly Nightshade
4. Bystander Effect
5. Terminal Alteration
6. Harbinger of Ravage

Check out Distress of Ruin at Bandcamp and Facebook
Also be sure to check out Distress of Ruin's official website for a free download of their EP

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