Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Enslaved: RIITIIR (2012)

The Sleeping Gods

Enslaved need no introduction.

Let’s get this out of the way up front: RIITIIR is BOORIING. By any standard you can use to judge a band like Enslaved, anyway. The Norwegian legends have been on a winning streak for so long that it’s easy to think they can do no wrong. Judging by some of the reviews I read before I decided to buy RIITIIR (I have yet to receive any promos from Nuclear Blast), many journalists must have seen fit to write based on that assumption, without really listening to it. I seriously doubt the band got lazy; their work ethic is as legendary as their discography. It’s more likely that after years of effusive, universal praise, they started to buy into their own legend.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Silent Leges Inter Arma: Silent Leges Inter Arma (2012)

Guest review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

Silent Leges Inter Arma are a German black metal/black'n'roll band who formed only a few years ago. They released their self-titled full-length debut October 12th.

This band, despite their Metal Archives classification as just "black metal", do not have a sound that I would describe as being at all typical of that sub-genre in its pure form. The guitar work, rather than creating a thin wall of coldly clinging notes, is much more open and full-bodied. The drumming rarely falls back on clattering blasts of speed, and instead it feels surprisingly straight-forward and rock oriented. The vocals, too, are not really standard black metal fare, as they frequently dip down into deeper reaches that at times sound more like they belong on a death metal album. The band have clear black metal roots that show through in many places and they stick to a black metal aesthetic, but they are not a straight black metal band.

Necroven: Worship of Humiliation (2012)

Worship the Occult

Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Occult death metal is a style that has remained underground out of necessity. To say that the style is extreme is a massive understatement. Though it formed from the music of Morbid Angel, Incantation, and Immolation, it has progressed beyond even those dark and sinister boundaries that those bands pushed. This is evil music.

Necroven is an occult death metal band in the vein of Drawn and Quartered, Angelcorpse, Nox, Lecherous Nocturne, and other much more underground bands. The riffs are jagged and distorted. The drumming is typically blastbeat-driven though not entirely. The production is fairly murky but not to the extent that the music can not be heard. A lot of other occult death metal bands make the mistake of having too muddy of production and it all sounds like a sloppy mess. This is not pristine, but at least everything can be heard. It is the kind of production that sounds best with this music. The vocals are incredibly deep.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ataraxy: Revelations of the Ethereal (2012)

Old School or Death

Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

I had previously pointed out that some death metal just has such an intense, filthy, otherworldly quality that makes it a ton of fun to listen to. I then pointed out a number of groups who had this unknown quality to just put out some amazing death metal. Well add Ataraxy to that list. This is the debut album for the Spanish death metal band and they truly do an amazing job on this release. Ataraxy will definitely be a band to continue watching.

I suppose the best point of reference for a sound is The Chasm along with Asphyx. The guitar tone here is incredible. It is crunchy and gives off a sinister and evil atmosphere. This is definitely an old-school death metal sounding album but at the same time, it sounds fresh. It is not stale, cookie-cutter death metal at all. Ataraxy do their best to craft their own sound, one not done thousands of times before.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Metal Briefs: Stoner Doom 2012

You Don't Have to Be High to Love It

I've mentioned it before, but I've never partaken of any illicit drugs, marijuana included. Sometimes, that means there's music I can't enjoy, or at least not the way the artist intended. Stoner doom is, nonetheless, one of my favorite genres, and there's never a shortage of new material in that strain.

S:t Erik: From Under the Tarn (2012)
(4 out of 5 stars)

S:t Erik is a Swedish band who sound like Sleep mixed with Hawkwind. Most importantly, their drummer has an impeccable sense of groove, but the rest of the band members aren't slouches either. The music is dynamic, with a wide range of tempos and volume levels. The hoarse, clean vocals give their own excellent hooks (check opener "Goddess") with, again, an excellent sense of timing and rhythm (of the utmost importance for this style of music). Finally, a synthesizer adds outer-space sounds. The writing isn't revolutionary; they use tried-and-true tactics like riff/ringing chord with vocals/riff/repeat, but they handle it well. When it's good, it is so damn good. "Your Highness" makes me think of a spaceship hurtling inexorably toward the sun. The second half of the album isn't quite as strong, but nonetheless the whole thing is entertaining.

Spora Recordz

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Haiduk: Spellbook (2012)

Damn Right, Canada is (Slightly Less) Awesome

Guest review by joanismylover, who completes the trifecta of attorneys writing for this blog. That is the first of The Signs. Tomorrow: The sun will be blotted from the sky.

Among the 200+ episodes of The Simpsons is the one where Bart and Millhouse make the Canadian Olympic basketball team. When Bart asks Homer if the family would go to Canada to support him, Homer asks the relevant question, "Why would I want to go to America, Junior?" And of course South Park's Bigger, Louder, Uncut was basically just one big joke about Canada starting with the Canadians bombing the Baldwin brothers at their Hollywood mansion from WWII era B-29 bombers.

It's easy to make fun of Canada, and, well, it's fun. But it's also easy to forget that a lot of talent hails from those northward frozen tundras. Just about every single SNL original was Canadian. Neil Young was Canadian though the southern man didn't need him around. Leonard Cohen, Shannon Tweed, and Keanu Reeves are Canadian. Though "the Canadian government has apologized for Bryan Adams on several occasions," Metalattorney rightly points out that their metal collective is unassailable. I'd add Infernal Majesty, Weapon, Bison (BC), and Exciter to his list. Canada, while fun to make fun of, kicks ass.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ysengrin: To Endotaton (2012)

A Huge Shift

A year ago, I reviewed Tragedies – Liber Hermetis, the second album from the French band Ysengrin. It was fairly unremarkable death/doom with some blackened influence, but had such excellent production that it was well worth listening anyway. Their new record doesn’t even sound like the work of the same band, despite the fact they’ve had no lineup changes.

To Endotaton is not produced nearly as well, though it’s by no means a poor job. This time, it's the production that's unremarkable. The music, on the other hand, is much more interesting. Instead of death/doom, this time around it’s mostly a dark sort of heavy/doom metal, with some very cool heavy metal riffs. The vocals are still death growls, with the occasional spoken/chanted piece (mixed a bit too loud). There are other things at play here, such as the keyboard which sounds as if it were manned partly by King Diamond and partly by John Carpenter, some bluesy guitar noodling in one part, and the black/Viking metal section at the end.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bädr Vogu: Exitium (2011)

Crusty Doomy Goodness

Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

I will be completely honest up front and say that my experiences with crust are extremely limited. As in virtually non-existent, particularly in its pure form. I have heard a few bands that combined crust with forms of metal such as Gallhammer, but that is about it. Bädr Vogu is a band that combines crust with doom metal, so I am not in completely foreign territory on this release.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Metal Briefs: Death/Doom 2012

The Best of Both Worlds

Death and doom are the chocolate and peanut butter of metal. There is no better combination. Have a few Reese's cups.

Hooded Menace: Effigies of Evil
4 out of 5 stars

How can I possibly review an album like Effigies of Evil, the third from Finland's Hooded Menace? It's such a straight-forward example of death/doom, with extended, deep death growls and slow, crushing riffs. I can't say, "This is how it's different." And it's done very well, with solid riffs, solid songwriting, great control of varying tempos, and great production. I can't say, "This is what they did wrong." And I am, sadly, not familiar enough with old zombie movies to write some kind of extended metaphor about how their music perfectly reflects their inspiration. So, all I can say is this: If you like death/doom, you'll like Effigies of Evil.

Buy Effigies of Evil

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bestial Summoning: The Dark War has Begun (1992)

Resurrected from Obscurity

Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Apparently this is a reissue of a 20 year old album from the Netherlands-based Bestial Summoning. This was originally released when black metal was just starting to make waves in Norway. It actually pre-dates many of the big-name black metal releases of the Second Wave. It is a very overlooked gem that I have actually not heard of myself.

This is tremolo riff-based black metal with some incredibly intense drumming driving things. The riffs are down-tuned giving off an evil-sounding tone. Most of the songs are broken up briefly with the occasional slower moment. This keeps things from becoming too one-dimensional. The drums are blast-beat driven and are absolutely crushing. The vocals are delivered in an Attila Csihar-esque groaning screech. They do not have the same distinct personality, but do have the other-worldly quality.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Viter: Springtime (2012)

Subway to Boredom

Guest review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

Viter are a Ukranian folk metal act with a good deal of electronic influence in their sound. The band released a series of singles over the course of this summer which were collected together last month, along with a new title track, to form their debut full-length album Springtime. My initial response to this curious synthesis of electronic tinges in folk metal was one of definite interest. I've encountered other works in this vein which I really enjoyed, so I was ready to hear more.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Book Burner v. Agnus Dei

Grindcore Showdown


To just about everybody, Pig Destroyer’s Book Burner is one of the most anticipated records of the year, and easily the most anticipated grindcore record of the year. To me, it’s number two for grind-ticipation, and The Secret’s Agnus Dei is number three.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I simply don’t have my ear tuned into the subtleties of grindcore. I assume they exist, the only evidence being that I like some grind more than other grind, and can’t always explain why. So it may be more helpful to me, and to you, if I discuss these two records comparatively.

Although grindcore usually seems extremely one-dimensional to me (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing), both of these records have much more variety than I expected. Neither of them ever goes at what could fairly be called a slow tempo, but there are many tempo changes. The rhythms can either punish or groove. The latter is surprising, because I tend to think of groove happening at mid-tempo, though either one of these bands can groove your spine into knots at breakneck speed. Both records are unrelentingly aggressive and abrasive, as you might expect.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blutvial: Curses Thorns Blood (2011)

Brit Black Metallers

Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

While black metal is definitely the genre that has seen the most evolution in recent years, my taste in it has not evolved quite as much. I am still much more of a fan of the raw and sinister black metal perfected in Norway and Sweden during the early 1990's. I still like my black metal owing a lot to thrash and death metal, the style present in the albums of Immortal, Darkthrone, and Mayhem, among others. So when a black metal band comes around that sounds like the more traditional style, I become very interested.

Blutvial is one such band. Hailing from the U.K., Blutvial's sound is unashamedly rooted in the Norwegian style with some nods to Blasphemy and other progenitors of the bestial war metal style. This is harsh and caustic black metal with thrash metal-style riffing and shrieking vocals. This is the kind of black metal I personally love. It is the kind that first captured my attention when I heard Dissection and Emperor for the first time.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Folk Briefs, Part 4

Folk It

I hope you're getting as much out of my folk explorations as I am. Or at least, that you're getting something out of them. Since my posts in this vein have gotten a positive response so far, I think you do. I recently decided to split the Americana from the rest of folk music, so this is purely outside of the 16 Horsepower realm.

Din Brad: Dor (2012)
3 out of 5 stars

Negură Bunget, without the metal parts. That's the best way to describe Din Brad, a folk project that features three members of the famous Romanian pagan metal band. The music features many traditional instruments, such as drums, flute, and some kind of lute (plus synths), as well as mostly female vocals. The drums are often tribal-sounding, and most of the music is atmospheric in nature, although album highlights like the title track and "Durere" can get much more interesting, the latter ending on a kind of war dance. The biggest drawback to Dor is the handful of a capella songs, mostly with male vocals, because they offer absolutely no interest.

Buy Dor

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stagnant Waters: Stagnant Waters (2012)

Massive Steel Asylum for Self-Aware Robots

Guest review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

Stagnant Waters are apparently of mixed French and Norwegian origin, and this month will see the release of their self-titled debut album. I'm not totally sure how to classify their style, but I think the closest label would be something like avant-garde industrial metal.

First and foremost, this band has three outstanding qualities. They are extremely creative, extremely energetic, and extremely diverse. The group employs an enormous amount of electronic sampling and distortion throughout the record, with sounds ranging from outright aural assaults of pure noise to quiet and spooky passages of mellow background sounds to squawking saxophone pieces. Sometimes this record is loud and aggressive beyond measure, other times it's remarkably soft. Throughout it all everything is very alien, impersonal, mechanical, and slightly unnerving. The vocals which crop up are heavily processed and distorted, as are the bulk of the instruments, so that when something makes it through the mix untouched by electronic interference the very organic nature of its existence is a shock to the senses, like a vine growing up through a crack in the floor of a massive steel asylum for self-aware robots.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Okkultokrati: Snakereigns (2012)


With all the buzz surrounding Kvelertak a couple years ago, many people were trying to find something similar. One of the brightest hopes was their fellow Norwegians, Okkultokrati. Or darkest hopes, as it were. I swear I had written a review of the band’s No Light for Mass back then, but if I did, I must have scrapped it before publication. Since I can’t link you to my keyboard abortion, here’s the excellent Monkey Defies Gravity review. The choice quote: “The two bands may mix punk and black metal but the results couldn’t be more different.”

Some things have certainly not changed for the band. But some things have changed, and for the better.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Mortör: Shoot 'Em Up (2012)

Damn Right, Canada is Awesome

Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Canada's metal scene is another one that is somewhat underrated, but they have churned out some amazing groups across all genres. Crytopsy, Kataklysm, Voivod, Razor, Sacrifice, and Slaughter are just a few of the death and thrash metal bands that have called Canada home. Mortör is another band to have come up out of the Great White North.

Mortör has only been active for a few years at this point, but this is already the second full-length from the Quebec natives. All of the songs are fairly short, with only a couple breaking the four minute mark. This makes for a tight, punch-filled album that is unapologetic in its take-no-prisoners approach.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Eryn Non Dae: Meliora (2012)

Improved, Against All Odds

Hydra Lernaia, the debut full-length of France’s Eryn Non Dae, made my list of the best metal albums of the last decade. A year later, I set out to write a complete review of the record, because there are so few out there, and what’s out there is usually misguided.

It’s easy to be misguided about these guys. They were clearly ahead of their time in 2009. Three years later, they’ve finally blessed us with a follow-up. Meliora is an incredibly difficult-to-define, love-it-or-hate-it experience. I will do my best to describe this music, but you should be aware that the description and list of influences do not adequately capture how they really sound. You must hear it for yourself.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Insepulto: Morbid Spawn of Resurrection (2012)

Guest review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

Insepulto are a Costa Rican death metal act who released their debut album Morbid Spawn of Resurrection last month. The members all appear to be active parts of other groups in the current Costa Rican death metal scene, but I was not familiar with them or any of their related bands prior to hearing this.

In some ways, this album could be heaped on the pile of old school death metal releases that seems to be growing wildly out of control these past few years [I know I can't keep up--FMA.]. They do certainly draw heavily on older influences, though not really from the earliest glimmers of Florida death metal or the buzzsawing Swedes. Rather, they are more in the vein of some of the slower, more bass heavy death metal acts that emerged in the early 90's. And I found them more compelling than a simple old school clone for a few reasons. For one thing, the beefy riffing comes with a welcome level of energy and is often surprisingly catchy. For another, the scattering of soaring leads are employed perfectly to accentuate and punctuate the material.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Metal Briefs: Candlelight Cult Series

OK, So It's Cult, but Is It Kvlt?

Candlelight is of course one of the best-known metal labels out there, but they don't strictly release the bigger names. The label's "cult series" celebrates lesser-known musical acts that the label apparently thinks are worth your time and money. Are they?

Khors: Wisdom of Centuries (2012)
3.5 out of 5 stars

Khors is a Ukrainian melodic black metal outfit who know how to write a memorable song that's simultaneously sad and angry. They use keyboards in such a way that they add to the atmosphere without drawing too much attention to themselves. The riffs are excellent (especially on "The Last Leaves"), the sound is great, the drums are very interesting. But there are some drawbacks to Wisdom of Centuries. Between the instrumentals and the other pensive musical passages, there's nearly as much time without distortion as there is with, and they are so much better with. Although they flirt with doom (the title track) and certainly aren't playing the same thing the whole time, the record really only has one mood that it explores. It's dynamic mostly in the sense of an on/off switch, without many layers. Still, check those riffs. Nice.

Buy Wisdom of Centuries

A Couple Notes; Call for Reviewers

Just a heads-up: You should be seeing more guest reviews on this blog. I'm trying to schedule them every other day, with my own posts on the other days.

The posts from me are more likely to be of the "metal briefs" variety. There are only so many lengthier reviews you can write of old-school death metal albums (for example) before you run out of creative ways to present the material. I totally get why Cosmo Lee began writing more of the short review lists before calling it a day. I'm not going to quit, by any means, but I get it.

This has been an amazing year for metal, but I'm already looking forward to compiling the end-of-year lists and then taking a couple weeks off to recharge.

I'm also looking for another reviewer or two. Or, maybe you just want to do a one-off. I can get you digital promos in exchange for a review, and you can re-post it elsewhere so long as you wait until after I publish. Most likely the promos will be from smaller labels or independent bands, at least at first. E-mail me (address in sidebar) if you're interested. It would be nice if you could point me to examples of reviews you've written.

If I get enough help, you might see more than one post per day around here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Midnight: Complete and Total Hell (Compilation 2012)

Drunken Debauchery Metal

Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Midnight is a band that I have been wanting to check out for quite a long time, but for some reason I never really got around to it. Midnight is pretty much the prototypical Hell's Headbangers band, besides the mighty Nunslaughter of course. They pay tribute to a lot of the early black metal bands while remaining firmly rooted in the NWOBHM and speed metal.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Menace Ruine: Alight in Ashes (2012)

Infernal Rituals

There are many bands who claim their music is a ritual, but there are precious few who make anything that sounds even remotely religious. Alight in Ashes, the fourth full-length from Montreal’s Menace Ruine, indeed sounds like some kind of occult mass.

They accomplish this with a deceptively simple, yet entirely unique approach. The arcane mechanics of their method are shrouded in mystery, given that they credit the members as playing only “instruments.” In some places it sounds like it’s your typical guitar, as in “Set Water to Flames” or “Arsenikon (faded in discord).” But the bulk of the record sounds as if it’s played on a keyboard instrument through guitar-type distortion. The effect is something like an infernal church organ.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Bonded by Blood: The Aftermath (2012)

Still in the Shadow of Exodus

Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

When a band names themselves after a famous album, you would expect that band to try to live up to the name. Bonded by Blood is named after the amazing debut album from thrash metal pioneers Exodus. It is one of the better, if not the best, thrash metal albums in history. So Bonded by Blood already has their work cut out for them to try to not be "that band named after the Exodus album" and forge their own identity.

On their prior album, Exiled to Earth, Bonded by Blood appeared as if they had discovered their own sound, stepping out of the shadow for a little while of their namesake. They had crafted a rather impressive concept album about a dystopian future. The album was well-received and appeared to set the band up for success in the future. Bonded by Blood had joined the ranks of Skeletonwitch, Vektor, and other newer thrash metal bands to truly find their own voice instead of just copying the music that had come before them.