29 Aug 2014

0 The Experiment - Simplifying A Demon [Full length] (2013, Self-released)

Whenever I see a band or project labeled as drone my warning bells start ringing. Much too often drone has been used as a cloak for lazy songwriting, blaspheming against great acts like Boris or Sunn O))).
Supposedly the idea behind 0 The Experient is seeing how far you can take music with just a bass. Apparently the answer to that conundrum is "not very far", because most of what Simplifying a Demon presents is a mimic of what you might as well do with a guitar in much the same manner. Disguised in a veil of treble distortion, sometimes accompanied by pseudo-jazzy bass fiddling, the bulk of the work presented might as well have been a regular bedroom black metal band. Add to that the weak nature of the vocals, and you've got yourself a long, boring album.

0 The Experiment affiliates itself with tags such as drone, black metal, minimalistic and experimental. Indeed, there are tracks that are veritable feasts of reverb and distortion delivered in an appropriate wall-of-noise manner. And black metal too has an obvious presence among the seven tracks the project's first album. It's all presented in a very minimalistic and simple manner. What I don't see is the experimental part - Experimental for the practitioner perhaps. But there's hardly anything progressive, avant-garde or otherwise experimental in nature about a guy rubbing out some mostly mediocre basslines to unengaging lyrics and unending wads of boring drone. Simplifying a Demon is really basic stuff, and "The Experiment" simply lacks the ritualistic ambience that makes black metal and drone great, without adding anything else to take its place.

Looks like the ol' warning bells were right. But then, in the midst of all this mediocrity comes the two last tracks, Demon and Ritual to Nothingness. The latter portrays a great entrancing feel of cosmic psychedelia while still maintaining an odious core of something a bit more sinister hidden away among the meldoes, while the former feels like a downright study in the bass' capabilities as a more analog counterpart to the synthesizer, bringing to mind some of Burzum's finer works in black metal and ambience in spirit. I don't particularly care for the lifeless black metal aspect of Demon, but there is still a bounty of quality to be found therein. And while the two works show great promise and showcase the diversity of the bass as a versatile instrument, the same cannot be said for the rest of the album. It baffles me that the rest of the album is such a mess of coma-inducing boredom.

Those two tracks that I have praised seem like they should be the main core of 0. With or without the help of computerized effects, the modern electric bass can provide astounding amounts of diversity... Something that is for the most part poorly expressed on Simplifying a Demon. 4/10 guitars.

1. Prophet In Blood
2. Black Elf
3. D.I.E. (Death Is Eclectic)
4. I, The River
5. Waiting for Something to Die to Eat
6. Demon
7. Ritual to Nothingness

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24 Aug 2014

Deathlord - Maximum Perversion [Demo] (2013, Self-released)

When you get down to business and back to basics with death metal what you're left with is indisputable. Stomache churning vocals, gut wrenching instrumentals, loathsome melodies and ass kicking drums. It's been like that since day one. There's absolutely nothing abstruse or profoundly intelligent about it, and neither does there need to be. That is indeed the modus operandi of the Dutch band of death metal motherfuckers Deathlord. Even the name in itself seems to be giving the middle finger to overly thought out, image-based hipster metal.

The warm gusts of burly attacks can seem downright primitive, so much so that tracks like the immense opener "War" and "Into the Depths" have incredible impact just from the sheer brutal rhythm that underlines the entire demo. The vocals are nothing if not honest - It's basically just a guy screaming his guts out, spewing all kinds of filth about death, gore and even more obscure subjects. Lastly of course, the demo is garnished with a cover of Nunslaughter's "Burning Away". At this point it seems almost obvious, like we'd all seen it coming miles away. And that's what Maximum Perversion is all about; Deathlord pervert the very notion that you have to be smart about your music and not just play what sounds fucking awesome. Combine Morbid Angel's ominous melodies and Asphyx's sturdy rhythms, add dual vocals, and there you have it. The bastard child is Deathlord.

The unceremonious arrangements found on Maximum Perversion viciously deals with any pretention. Herein lies both the strength and the weakness of Deathlord. For were it not for their twist with two very different vocal styles spewed forth by the lead singer and the bassist - who both remain unnamed - their style in itself would be rather anonymous. The rough screams put forth as vocals serve as a great identifier for the band, but is as Maximum Perversion is presented one of the only elements that set Deathlord apart from similar bands - Their churning rhythms and steady war-machine beats aren't quite enough. The guitar work is quite astounding on tracks like "Cursed to Live", and I only wish that this element would be used to greater effect on the release as a whole.

In the end Deathlord's mix of short and longer songs mix things up at regular intervals, always ready to assault with something new. Be it slow-burning, steady grinders, gloomy doom-laden bursts or explosions of violent death, Maximum Persersion has anything a good death metal album needs. 7/10 guitars.

1. War
2. Maximum Perversion
3. Altars in Flames
4. Lord of Death
5. Into the Depths
6. Cursed to Live
7. Kill is the Command
8. Burning Away (Nunslaughter Cover)

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18 Aug 2014

Licrest - Misery [Full length] (2014, Music for the Dead)

I've had my hands on a good portion of Armon Nicholson's material. For those not initiated in his cult and dogma, Nicholson is an American musician with quite an astounding body of work. In the last few years he's recorded and released six albums, seven EPs and an assortment of other releases under various monickers, exploring virtually every sub-genre in extreme metal, all without any significant lapse in quality. The guitar-wielding metalhead's trademark is immensely powerful compositions and top notch production, usually set to a crisp guitar groan.

Misery is the second album Nicholson has released under the name Licrest. While the first album, Devoid of Meaning from 2013, was pretty straight forward in its execution, the second album is less so, though still keeping close to the almost symbolic and iconic branches of immaculate doom that permeated the debut. Misery is a slow burner, never hurrying anywhere lest you miss the churning rhythms found within. The album in itself is constructed in just the same manner as the songs, with a few intermissions giving room and air around the lengthier main tracks, and it serves as a way of building tension for those songs.

I've found that most bands playing a mix of death and doom metal fall within one of two categories: One is laden with rot, relying heavily on death metal and Autopsy-inspired riffs set at the churning pace of doom metal. The other is the kind where almost gothic melodies and finer tunes play the leading role, with the doom parts resounding more heavily. Armon Nicholson's Licrest project falls outside this sentiment, and belongs to that minuscule quantile that is different from the rest of the bunch. It neatly balances the uncompromising nature of death metal with the sombre essence of doom metal, pertaining to the ominousity of both genres in equal amounts.

On Misery, Nicholson firmly establishes his rightful place among the big shots as an accomplished songwriter with flair for multiple genres. Other than the fact that the lyrics can sometimes come off as a bit whiny, there's really not much to complain about. And this is what makes a great album. 8/10 guitars.

1. Into the Abyss
2. Regret
3. Forever Lost
4. Like a Flood of Anger
5. A Starless Sky
6. I Want to Watch You Die
7. Misery
8. Make Up
9. Fading Away Into Nothing
10. The Heart of Winter
11. Exhale

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8 Aug 2014

Critical Insanity - Through the Infinite Darkness [Demo] (2013, Self-released)

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. In thrash we've got our fair share of Big 4 imitators, obviously with varying degrees of success and skill. But there's little imitation to be found with Critical Insanity, a band of youngsters who've been roaming the streets of Poland since 2012. Instead they've crafted their own unique sound, a feat many spend years trying to accomplish.

Mind you being unique isn't inherently a good thing. Describing Critical Insanity's music on Through the Infinite Darkness, the band's first release, seems simple at first; Gunning all engines, it's full speed ahead through the wastelands, crashing through ruins guns blazing to the sound of tightly knit, no nonsense guitars and drums beating like a diesel engine revving up. At a glance most will write it off as standard thrash metal.

If we peel off the outer layers of Critical Insanity's album length debut demo their inner workings are laid bare. The vocals are oddly creeping, like a stalker lurking outside your window, noisily masturbating as you're trying to fall asleep. This pseudo-melodic half-crooning somehow fits the slower paced songs like Goblet of Gore, but at other times seems like a fish out of water when paired with the high speeds that the band otherwise present in their assortment of compositions. And the compositions in themselves are immaculately cunning.

It is demo material at best, and requires a lot of work. The bass fulfills its thankless role in the most captivating of ways, providing volley after volley of the thrilling rumbles that metal builds upon. The riffing is brutal and fast - All the fundamental building blocks of thrash are present. However the more brain-tingling aspects gleam in their absence. There are a few tracks which adequately fill the void of boredom created by the majority of the demo, but only just so. With nine tracks coming to a total of about 35 minutes, the FUCK YEAH moments are too few and far apart. I suppose it could be excused with the fact that Through the Infinite Darkness is, after only, just a demo, but it's a dog-eat-dog world with thousands of bands more or less competing against each other, and in that regard Critical Insanity still needs an edge to be able to compete. 6/10 guitars.

1. Hopeless
2. Slavedriver
3. Harbringer of Calamity
4. Haunting the Idolators
5. Through the Infinite Darkness
6. Goblet of Gore
7. Aboriginal War
8. Proselytism Real
9. Critical Insanity

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