Friday, September 28, 2012

Country Briefs

Shit Kickin'

I grew up in a rural area in northeast Nebraska. As such, I was exposed to a lot of what was presented as country music. In truth, it was just pop music with affectations of country. As I got older, I discovered the legend of Johnny Cash, and realized there must be more to the genre.

My country exploration has been generally timid. I've listened to some Hank Williams III, but I've found that I like the idea of Hank 3 more than the reality. Thankfully, there's more country to appeal to metalheads than just Hank and Johnny.

Bob Wayne: Outlaw Carnie (2011)
3.5 out of 5 stars

Of the records in this post, this is easily the closest to what you might think of when you think about Hank 3 or country music. In a way, it's really quite fitting that Bob Wayne's Outlaw Carnie is on Century Media. It's dumb and straight-forward, with an attitude. Like the great Cash (who gets mentioned on "Ghost Town"), it's a lot about storytelling. But the stories are worth listening to, even if (like me) you're not usually interested in lyrics.

Buy Outlaw Carnie

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Abysme: Strange Rites (2012)


Guest review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

Abysme are a Pittsburgh-based death metal act releasing their full-length debut this month. I was unfamiliar with the band, but as I had heard their vocalist's work with Funerus, I had at least an inkling of what to expect.

It's odd how rarely anybody points this out, but "old school" covers a lot of different sounds within the death metal spectrum. I mention that because what I like about Abysme is that they manage to sound old school without allowing themselves to be trapped by any one of those styles. There are times when this band sounds straight out of Sweden circa 1990, but they also make numerous forays into Autopsy-esque death/doom territory or just straight Florida-style death. This works well because, even though you don't really hear specifically new sounds, you hear familiar components stitched together in a new way.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Satanic Bloodspraying: At the Mercy of Satan (2012)

Best Name Ever

Can you possibly think of a better name than Satanic Bloodspraying? The truth is, with all the various raw black metal albums vying for our attention, that was the thing that made them stick out. It’s 99% of the reason I decided to listen to At the Mercy of Satan. But I’m glad I did.

The style of music is exactly what you’d expect from a South American band with a name like Satanic Bloodspraying, i.e., raw, ultra-aggressive and over-the-top black/thrash/ear-rape. But what is most obvious upon first listen is that they didn’t record it in the typical lo-fi style. Refreshingly, they let the filth of the music speak for itself instead of trying to artificially “improve” on it. That means you can actually hear the distorted bass! Score one for this Bolivian debut.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lord Impaler: Admire the Cosmos Black (2011)

Admire the Darkness

Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Greece has one of the more underrated black metal scenes. Most people are familiar with Rotting Christ of course, but not a lot know about Kawir, Varathron, Dodsferd, or Ravencult. Well add Lord Impaler to that list as well, because this band is just as impressive as other black metal bands from their home country such as the ones named.

Lord Impaler has actually been around for quite a long time, though this is their first full-length. They have released four demos and a split with three other Greek black metal bands in the past. Lord Impaler does not have a full-time drummer, so the position is filled with a guest each new recording.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Weapon: Embers and Revelations (2012)

Non-Aligned Death

Weapon is one of those rare death metal bands who don’t sound exactly like a more famous band, or a combination of two more famous bands. With 2010’s From the Devil’s Tomb, they had Middle Eastern inflections, yet they sounded nothing at all like Nile. Embers and Revelations finds them continuing on their own path, but with a few changes.

Most notably, the Middle Eastern aspect is toned down significantly. You can still hear it in places, but those moments tend to be fleeting and/or subtler than they were on Tomb. The other more notable change is in the production, which is much clearer this time around—they are on powerhouse Relapse now, after all—but it still manages to avoid being overpolished.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Trails of Sorrow: Languish in Oblivion (2012)


Guest review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

Trails of Sorrow are an Italian funeral doom band who released their debut Languish in Oblivion earlier this month. This two-piece just formed in 2011, so unsurprisingly this was my first encounter with their material.

Slow, sluggish guitar riffs drift slog their way through a sea of simulated instrumentation as the record gets underway. The drumming, piano, and any other occasional backing sounds are all handled electronically, which gives this record an odd feel. Rather than going for a deep, rough, organically heavy sound like many doom and funeral doom bands, these guys opt for a heavily processed, weirdly detached approach. There are places where it works. The riffing is sufficiently heavy and gloomy, and the somewhat alien atmosphere of the record can really click into place with the guitar and the guttural roars of the vocalist to create an effective experience.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Auroch: From Forgotten Worlds (2012)

Canada Is Awesome

There are hundreds of bands playing old-school death metal these days. Almost all of them can be succinctly described: This one sounds like Morbid Angel, that one is Swe-death, the other one is an Incantation clone. Very few have managed to sound old-school while being unique. Auroch is one of those few.

The Canadian three-piece have the popular Incantation-style production, murky and evil. Many would be satisfied by that alone. They’d play some equally murky and evil (yet mundane) riffs and call it “atmosphere.” That’s not enough for Auroch.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Warclouds: A Disturbing Presence (2011)

...Of Programmed Drumming

Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

South America has some of the best, and most underrated, metal scenes in the world. Some of the black and death metal that has been coming out of that continent proves that there are still some great, original bands out there. It has actually always been that way with the mighty Sarcofago, Sepultura, and Vulcano all rising out of Brazil in the 1980's.

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of fairly mundane acts from the continent. Bands that do not really bring anything new to the table, but simply rehash many of the same ideas that other bands have.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Summary Judgments, Vol. 2

The same drill as last time: Here are five releases that I began listening to, but decided that either I wouldn't enjoy listening to much more, or that I wouldn't be able to write a decent review. The number assigned (X out of X) is how many songs I got into the record.

Hero's Fate: Human Tides: Black Light Inception (2012)
(4 songs out of 12)

I sampled a little of Human Tides: Black Light Inception by Hero's Fate and heard one of those melodic metal ballads with some Amorphisms, and thought I might like it. As I got further into it, I realized that's all it was: melodic metal ballads, packaged as melodic death metal purely because of the vocals. In truth, it's a dull, slow- to mid-paced rhythm section with morose leads and growled vocals. A song or two would be OK, but a whole album of this?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Arkhamin Kirjasto: Torches Ablaze (2012)

Under the Radar

So, apparently “New Wave of Finnish Heavy Metal” (NWOFHM) is a thing, at least according to about a half-dozen Finnish bands. I’m not so sure that’s enough to qualify as a “wave” at all. Whether there’s anything to it, I don’t know, but if Arkhamin Kirjasto is any indication, a better term for what’s going on might be “Children of Children of Bodom” (COCOB).

Don’t for one second take that to mean they’re ripping off COB, because they’re not. Like the much more famous band, they take an extreme metal sensibility to an ordinarily much more melodic and accessible style of music. Where COB does a kind of death-meets-power-metal thing, AK is taking death to classic heavy metal. And it is so very, very good.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Metal Briefs: Unsigned in 2012

I often wonder why people come here. There are probably some who like to read my reviews of the better-known releases. But I think most of you are more interested in the lesser-known. This is all about that.

The Ash Eaters: Ruining You (2012)
3.5 out of 5 stars

Hot on the heels of their fantastic Ibn Ghazi EP, The Ash Eaters have hit us with Ruining You, their first full-length. All five songs are entirely instrumental exercises in Umesh Amtey's distinctive, hypnotic riffing style. When I reviewed the EP, I made a point about how the band has mastered the EP format, and made music so engaging that it doesn't need vocals. However, I'm sad to say this is the first time the band has (slightly) disappointed me. Ruining You doesn't seem as adventurous as Ibn Ghazi, lacking such weird, subtle experiments as the choral backing vocals of "These Are the Inhabitants of the Fire." The lack of vocals is also a much tougher sell at 40 minutes instead of 13. Though it's by no means unpleasant, or even dull, it's just not on the same level as The Ash Eaters' shorter releases.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Serpentine Path: Serpentine Path (2012)

Earthly Trance

The bad news: Unearthly Trance has disbanded. The good news: They’re actually still together, operating under a new name with an expanded lineup (including Tim Bagshaw of Ramesses/ex-Electric Wizard renown).

Other bands have expanded their lineups in the past, adding members and making their sound more complex, and haven’t bothered to change names. But it’s fitting that Serpentine Path has been released under a new moniker, because the music is quite different from anything Unearthly Trance has ever done. But still quite good.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Vesen: This Time It's Personal (2012)

This Time It's Impaled Nazarene

Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

What a ridiculous album title. Seriously, this is the kind of thing you would expect from some Nickelback clone or rap artist, but for a long-running blackened/thrash metal band, it comes off as juvenile and embarrassing.

The first track kind of continues with a little bit of this juvenile style. It's much more of a teaser for the album as a whole with the band building in intensity toward the very end. The vocals are presented in a layered format which gives off the impression that they are actually yelling at the listener. So subtlety appears not to be Vesen's strong suit at this point.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Winterfylleth: The Threnody of Triumph (2012)

Wolves in the English Throne Room

I first read about Winterfylleth in Terrorizer, when they were drowning the band’s sophomore album in barrels of EPA (English Praise Ale). Since they’re a British rag, it’s easy to see why they would get their knickers knackered for a band that reinterprets Wolves in the Throne Room for the English countryside.

They do a fine job of it. It’s melancholy black metal in the WITTR style, but with English folk melodies. They’re memorable and affecting. It’s broken up by a couple of short, pure folk tracks. It’s tough to say much more about it, because the market for this kind of thing is flooded, and you should know exactly what to expect. You don’t even have to leave the “W” page of the metal listings to find more (Wodensthrone immediately comes to mind).

Friday, September 07, 2012

Taak: Rist viletsuse teel (2012)

Where Is Estonia?

Taak is a doom band out of Estonia, who have apparently been laying down riffs for more than two decades under a few different names. Like most Americans, I could not point to Estonia on a map. I would kind of vaguely gesture somewhere toward eastern Europe. You might try to be helpful, and say, “It’s by Latvia.” That doesn’t really help. Hmmm. Wikipedia is showing me a location further north than I would have guessed. Practically next-door to Finland, which explains all the crazy markings they put on their letters. I guess that also explains the badass doom metal.

My stereotypical cultural ignorance aside, I could definitely point to plenty of bands that sound like the music on Taak’s third full-length, Rist viletsuse teel. It begins on some upbeat heavy/doom metal reminiscent of Grand Magus’s recent output. That vibe is repeated several times throughout the record, but you can also hear bits and pieces of Candlemass and Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath. The only thing that sets them apart from those better-known influences is the synthesizer, which usually sticks to electric organ mode but also sounds like theremin or other instruments at different times.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Dark Americana Briefs


Previously I've covered the "dark Americana" vibe mostly through the folk genre, but it goes beyond just folk (and beyond just America). The term "Americana" more generally refers to any uniquely American form of music, whether folk, country, blues, and more.

Crippled Black Phoenix: (Mankind) The Crafty Ape (2012)
4.5 out of 5 stars

Crippled Black Phoenix is a supergroup of members made famous through work with Electric Wizard, Iron Monkey, Mogwai, and others. The prog rock of (Mankind) The Crafty Ape does not strictly fall within the confines of dark Americana, but it is as much 16 Horsepower and Ennio Morricone as it is Pink Floyd. But it explores even outside that wide swath, getting extremely epic at times, introspective at others. It's hard to imagine they could cram this many ideas into anything less than a spectacular 87 minute double-album.

Buy (Mankind) the Crafty Ape

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Kvlt of Hiob: Thy Kingly Mask (2012)

Funeral Mood

Guest review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, etc.

Kvlt of Hiob are a German black metal duo who released their debut album, Thy Kingly Mask, in May of this year. It is therefore unsurprising that this was my first encounter with their material.

First off, these guys are nothing like your typical underground black metal group. The dark, evil sound is quite clearly present, but they lack the rough, utterly unpolished ferocity of many other young black metal bands. Instead, they experiment a great deal with their song structures and they place most of their emphasis on atmosphere (but not in a "let's rip off old Burzum" way). The songs tend to be fairly slow paced and spacious, with effects and audio clips that create strong images of a dark medieval dungeon. The vocals through many such stretches are essentially the echoing, unintelligible screams of some prisoner being tortured in a distant, unseen cell. The unusually clear production allows all this to be audibly distinguishable, which I personally like but which may bother more purist black metal listeners.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

All Hail the Yeti: All Hail the Yeti (2012)


A lot of you are going to hate All Hail the Yeti. I’m going to drop a few names here that don’t exactly inspire good feelings amongst extreme metal fans. This band is radio-ready. They’ve got plenty of obvious metalcore in their sound. But I like it anyway.

The L.A. band takes poppy Southern sludge a la Mastodon’s The Hunter, strips it down, and goes the extra mile toward mass appeal with a radio-metalcore template and huge helpings of Slipknot. The only part of that sentence I don’t like is the “metalcore” aspect. I’ve made it no secret I’m a fan of Slipknot. And I think Soilwork’s best, uh, work was in Stabbing the Drama and Sworn to a Great Divide. With my credibility at an all-time high, I ask you to read on.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Exhumed: Vanilla Fudge


Vanilla Fudge is often cited as an important proto-metal band. In 1967, their self-titled debut was filled with cover songs played at about half speed, anticipating Sabbath's slow-rolling crush. They infused all of the songs (originally by the Beatles, Cher, The Supremes, and others) with a thick layer of psychedelia.