Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gold: Interbellum (2012)


It’s been a while since I’ve talked about retro and/or female-fronted metal, so I think I’m due. Gold is a new Dutch band featuring Thomas Sciarone, formerly of The Devil’s Blood. If TBD is your starting point for comparison, this band drops all the folk influence and faux-serious Satanism to go for a more tried-and-true classic sound. Christian Mistress and Royal Thunder are better touchstones.

The band’s debut, Interbellum, consistently hovers in that nether region between hard rock and heavy metal. The songwriting is upbeat, and if you ever complained that metal doesn’t have enough “actual songs” anymore, the hooks on this one (both vocal and instrumental) are sure to satisfy. Vocalist Milena Eva sounds a little like Blondie belting it out in Pat Benatar fashion. She isn’t an excellent singer in a music student sense, but the feeling she puts behind it is much more important anyway.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Varg: Guten Tag (2012)

Windir Meets Dark Tranquillity?

Review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

Varg are a German group who play what I would loosely call either pagan metal or black metal. They have been pretty productive recently, releasing three albums in the past three years. In October they released their fourth full-length record, Guten Tag.

This is kind of an odd record. Its Viking themes and black metal roots, combined with a fairly conservative pace, make it seem like this would be pretty easily defined and understood. But it's not. Most metal in this vein strives for a natural, rugged, ancient feel so as to evoke the windswept north and the exploits of its barbarian subjects. This, though, sounds decidedly and purposefully modern. The upbeat rhythm to the music, the clear and accessible guitar work, and the vocals that seem to drift into melodeath territory with surprising frequency all contribute to this impression. It's not melodic death metal, but it plays like it's trying to bridge the gap between Windir and Dark Tranquillity.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nails: Obscene Humanity (2012)

Short, Fast, and Furious

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

It was with a lot of trepidation that I agreed to take a listen to this release. I was not familiar with Nails before so I had to look them up. What I found concerned me even more. Nails is a hardcore band. I do not care much for hardcore music. Nails is often associated with Converge. I really do not care for Converge. And Nails is on Southern Lord Records. With the exception of Lair of the Minotaur, I have never really cared for that label. But I did agree to give this a shot, and the fact that the release is three songs from an upcoming seven inch, I figured it would not be too painful. I can probably handle ten to fifteen minutes of hardcore.

Yes I can. This is a very impressive release, which is likely made better by the fact that it is so short. I am not sure I could listen to a full album of this, but I can definitely listen to these three songs.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bell Witch: Longing (2012)

I Wait (for It to End)

I consider myself a huge fan of the slowest kinds of doom metal. I also consider myself a discerning fan. There are those fans of the funeral/drone doom varieties who are not so discerning, and will ascribe genius to just about anything that comes along. Then there are those who don’t get it at all and don’t claim to. I’m not sure what combination of those types conspired to unleash Bell Witch’s debut, Longing. For people who fall into the last camp, this is all you need to know: The record is sixty-seven minutes that are essentially divided into four songs, a six minute interlude with a movie sample, and a three minute outro. Other than the twenty minute opening track, the other three proper songs are about twelve minutes.

For those undaunted by the track lengths, there is a lot of promise to be found in any brief sampling of the music. Here and there, you’ll find melody that’s compelling, or heavy guitars with death growls, and some clean singing that betrays a crushed soul.

Friday, November 23, 2012

God Seed: I Begin (2012)

So You Do at Last

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Any discussion of God Seed will necessarily include some discussion about the band's origins. The album title here is particularly apt because of this. God Seed is made up of King ov Hell and Gaahl, formerly of black metal psychos Gorgoroth. In actuality, these two members attempted to carry forward with the name Gorgoroth after splitting from Infernus. A lengthy court battle ensued with Infernus actually being granted the rights to the name Gorgoroth. In the meantime, God Seed formed for a couple of months and then disbanded when Gaahl retired temporarily. King used the material written for God Seed for a project with Dimmu Borgir's Shagrath which was called Ov Hell. Gaahl eventually returned and God Seed was formed.

God Seed has already released a live album from Wacken and a single. This is the debut full-length however and the first exposure that a lot of people will get to the band. Expectations are certainly high as Gorgoroth has been a stalwart in the Norwegian black metal scene for a very long time.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Give Thanks for Play Count

Last year I shared my guilty pleasures for Thanksgiving. I've decided to go ahead with a similar theme and share some information that may be embarrassing. I've had my iTunes going for something like seven years now, and it saves the play counts for each and every song. This will list the ones that are highest on that list. As a caveat, you should know that some of these have been played many more times on CD or on my first iPod, which would lose all its play information when the batteries ran out (which happened often).

First up is Dream Evil's "The Book of Heavy Metal" with 43 plays. This is a recent addition, but my eldest loves it, so it gets played a lot. After that is mostly a lot of Slipknot, a band that I still love no matter what anyone says about them.

33 plays: Slipknot: "Left Behind," "The Nameless"
30 plays: "One Winged Angel" by Nobuo Uematsu. This is the music from the final boss battle of Final Fantasy VII. As I was playing it the first time (in 1997) I got to this battle and hooked up a nicer stereo to the Playstation, just listening. It's great stuff.
29 plays: "Hurt" by Johnny Cash
28 plays: Down - "Stone the Crow," Godsmack - "Greed" (great stuff you bastard), Living Sacrifice: "Threatened"
27 plays: Deftones - "Change (in the House of Flies)"
26 plays: Mudvayne - "Nothing to Gein" (essentially the sole reason I believed in these guys for so many years), Slipknot - "People=Shit" and "Wait and Bleed"
25 plays: Danzig - "Mother," Godsmack - "I Stand Alone" (which I haven't heard in nearly two years), Mercyful Fate - "Buried Alive," Metallica - "Mercyful Fate," Slipknot - "New Abortion" and "Duality," George Thorogood - "Who Do You Love?" and Tool - "Prison Sex"
24 plays: Corrosion of Conformity - "Clean My Wounds," Korn - "ADIDAS," Led Zeppelin - "Stairway to Heaven," Slipknot - "My Plague," "Everything Ends," "The Heretic Anthem," and "Purity," Black Label Society - "Stillborn," and Rob Zombie - "Iron Head"
23 plays: Johnny Cash - "Folsom Prison Blues," Led Zeppelin - "All My Love," Slipknot - "Spit It Out" and "Circle," Stone Temple Pilots - "Interstate Love Song," and Rob Zombie - "Living Dead Girl"
22 plays: Coal Chamber - "Something Told Me," Deftones - "My Own Summer (Shove It)," Mercyful Fate - "Black Funeral," Meshuggah - "Future Breed Machine," Metallica - "Die, Die My Darling," Monster Magnet - "Space Lord," Slipknot - "The Shape" and "Skin Ticket," Soulfly - "Bleed," Wayne Static - "Not Meant for Me" (from the embarrassingly ridiculous Queen of the Damned soundtrack), and Rob Zombie - "Bring Her Down (to Crippletown)"

That's all. Mock at will, and share yours if you dare.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bloodbeast: Bloodlust (2012)


Review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

Bloodbeast are a death metal band from South Africa. They just formed last year, and this spring they released their debut album Bloodlust.

I've noticed that a common problem for metal outfits from out-of-the-way countries is a tendency to stick to the clearly defined standard practices of their chosen sub-genre. I have my theories about why exactly that is, but that's a discussion best left for another time. The important thing is that it's a trait Bloodbeast shares for the most part. In this case, they've largely (though not exclusively) stuck to the Swedish variety of death metal. This is not an inherently bad thing, but it does stick them in bit of a box. There are exceptions to this normalcy (like the bizarre, halting tempos on "Merciless"), but the bulk of the record sounds pretty familiar.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dark Americana Briefs, Part 2

Acoustic Guitars Can Be Brutal

Do you want some more of that dark Americana? Of course you do.

16 Horsepower: Secret South (2000)
(5 out of 5 stars)

Good Lord, do I love 16 Horsepower. After their incredible debut record (reviewed here) they released more of the same, with only slightly less excellent results. Until Secret South, that is. The record retains everything that made the band great, the proprietary blend of dark Appalachia/country/grunge/punk/etc., but in retrospect it clearly marks a shift for David Eugene Edwards and company. Its focus is more on the sound, less on hook-oriented songs, and it jettisons the occasional upbeat moments of its predecessors. The songs themselves are still each worthy in their own right, though. As a complete experience, they never exceeded it. It's fitting, then, that it would be the band's last record of new original material, and is a perfect segue into Edwards' Wovenhand.

Look, if you're a regular reader of mine and you haven't checked them out yet, get on it right now. Check out "Strawfoot," "Cinder Alley," and the incredible rendition of "Wayfaring Stranger."

Buy Secret South

Monday, November 19, 2012

Derelict: Perpetuation (2012)

Shackled by my Derelict Indoctrination

Review by the third metal attorney, joanismylover.

Bob Dylan once said "Don't criticize what you don't understand." Adhering to Mr. Dylan's advice here will be difficult because I've been asked to "critique" this release from Derelict, a technical death metal band from, where else, Canada. And I don't really "do" technical in my music. Full disclosure, I have tried many times but do not get bands like Opeth and Dillinger Escape Plan. Everyone and their mother, including Joan, thinks these two bands are great. I don't doubt they are, I just don't get it. Opeth bore me to tears. DEP just sounds like noise.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Eis: Wetterkreuz (2012)

Teutonic Black Metal

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

My German is non-existent so the first thing I will say is that I do not understand a word these guys are saying. Ever. But luckily music is consistent across language barriers. And one thing I do understand is black metal when I hear it.

This is Eis's third full-length since a messy legal dispute forced them to change their name from Geist. They released three albums under that name prior to the change, giving them six full-length albums since 2005. Eis is apparently quite prolific. The band is currently made up of only two members. Alboin handles the vocals and all of the instruments except the drums. Marlek covers the drums.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Kuolemanlaakso: Uljas uusi maailma (2012)

Uljas uusi maailma . . . Vai onko?

Kuolemanlaakso is, if you couldn’t tell by the name, a Finnish band. Originally a one-man project, it is now a full band who set out to imitate Triptykon. That’s not my assessment; that’s what their PR says. Imitating Triptykon is as noble a pursuit as any, so I eagerly dug into their debut.

What I found isn’t exactly what was promised. “Etsin,” definitely, has that sort of ominous and eerie death/doom with plenty of string bending, as does “Kuun lapset.” Neither of them exactly captures that soul-crushing mood that Warrior and Co. can perpetrate without effort, even though Triptykon's own V. Santura is on board. But Kuolemanlaakso do an admirable job of reaching for that. On the whole, however, the record betrays a lot more influences than just the one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Finsterforst: Rastlos (Second Look)

Out of the Dark Forest

Somehow, I managed to give the same album to two different reviewers. The other review is here. This one is by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Folk metal has been one of the latest genres I have really gotten into. Finntroll was the first folk metal band I heard and I soon realized that not all folk metal sounded like that. While I still like the fun, beer-drinking music that Finntroll specializes in, I gravitate more towards darker and more serious-sounding folk metal. Finsterforst, whose name means "dark forest" in German, seemed like it would be likely to be up my alley in that respect.

Finsterforst: Rastlos (2012)

Folk Metal Album of the Year

Somehow, I managed to give the same album to two different reviewers. The other review will be posted later today. This one is by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

Finsterforst are a German folk metal band who formed in 2004. Their third full-length album, Rastlos, comes out in late November. I was excited when Kelly sent me the advance promo, because I've been looking forward to hearing this for months.

As I've begun gearing up for my end-of-year discussions about the best metal records of 2012, I've noticed one tragically big hole. All year, I've been waiting for one truly outstanding folk metal album to appear, and all year I've been consistently disappointed at the absence of such a release. I'm happy to announce that my wait is at an end.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Anaal Nathrakh: Vanitas (2012)

Consistent Chaotic

I recently hinted that the new records from Pig Destroyer and The Secret were my second and third most-anticipated grind albums of the year, but I didn’t say which was number one. Now you know, it’s Vanitas.

Anaal Nathrakh has long been one of the most chaotic, tight, and furious bands on the planet. That would be enough to assure their success in the world of extreme metal, but Vanitas goes a step further. It establishes the band as one of the most consistent entities in the genre. They have kept everything that has made their last few releases so rewarding, from the nonstop pummeling of the blackgrind music to the infectious melody of many of the vocal lines. Still, they haven’t allowed themselves to be completely predictable.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Sorrow: Misery-Escape (2012)

Oh God, the Horror

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Maybe it's time to actually look into some of the bands that I am asked to review before agreeing to it. I had no idea that there still were bands like this. I might have really liked this seven years ago or so back when I liked Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, and the like. If you have not figured it out yet, this is metalcore tinged with melodeath. Most metalcore bands by now have changed their sound somewhat, but this is definitely early 2000's metalcore sound.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Neurosis: Honor Found in Decay (2012)

Me: Suitably Chastised

I haven’t meticulously researched this--I’m not that kind of nerd--but it seems to me there are a handful of bands that have probably been mentioned in every single issue of Decibel, even if it’s just a passing reference. Black Sabbath, obviously. Metallica. Again, it’s not brain surgery to figure out why. Slayer, most likely. And Neurosis, I’d wager, is in all of them too. If you put together a list of the most influential bands in metal history, it’s easy to place the Oakland pioneers in the top ten.

Yet, most of their catalog is a notable gap in my knowledge base. (I found and explored Isis instead.) I’m familiar only with Through Silver in Blood and Given to the Rising, and even those I haven’t listened to much. Since I last heard those, I really got into the dark Americana vibe they work into their music, due in no small part to Von Till’s and Kelly’s solo material. So, understand that the following statement is based on limited knowledge, and a vastly increased appreciation for an important aspect of their sound.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Yakuza: Beyul (2012)

Horns of Metal

Guest review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

The saxophone is not a metal instrument, or so my thinking went. The first time I ever heard a saxophone at a concert was also the first time I saw a middle aged homemaker sitting down eating nachos at a concert. That was a Bruce Springsteen concert. I was totally perplexed by the nachos and unmoved by the saxophone.

So I was fully prepared to not like Yakuza, a saxophone wielding metal outfit that had been labled as "avant-garde metal" by some. I just couldn't imagine what it was going to sound like. Well, it sounds good, saxophone included.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Von: Satanic Blood (2012)

Too Bad It's Not Spraying

Guest review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

Von are a San Francisco based black metal outfit. This Halloween saw the release of their full-length debut Satanic Blood. The group actually originally formed in the late 80s, bit disbanded for nearly two decades before returning with an EP in 2010 under the leadership of bassist/vocalist Venien, who is now the band's sole constant member.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Atriarch: Ritual of Passing (2012)

In Which I Use the Word “Enema”

I was first introduced to deathrock by the Alaric/Atriarch split from earlier this year, and since then I’ve picked up a handful more in an effort to educate myself. Atriarch is just one of the bands bleeding the 30-year-old deathrock subgenre into the 40-year-old doom metal subgenre, making something that sounds fresh in the process. Why it took so long to combine doom with the punk equivalent of doom is a mystery, but the fact that it works so well is no surprise.

Ritual of Passing begins on a slow build that could be from just about any of the darker forms of metal, but when it breaks into the main riff it sounds much more like a deathrock riff played with metal-level distortion and amplification. The lyrical cadence and delivery are typical deathrock, until he twists it into a scream. At the end of the song, it turns into a black metal blast and screech. It’s a nice touch, and it suitably sets expectations for the album.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Tiamat: The Scarred People (2012)


Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

It was with great trepidation that I started listening to this album. My experiences with Tiamat have been inconsistent to put it lightly. I absolutely loved The Astral Sleep. It was a terrific album of atmospheric death metal and sounded quite unlike anything else I had heard to that point. I became aware that the band altered their sound drastically but checked out A Deeper Kind of Slumber anyway. That one bored me into a coma. So this is only the third full-length album that I have listened to by Tiamat. I guess we will see where this comes in.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Havok: Point of No Return (EP 2012)

Quick and Dirty

Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Havok is yet another retro-thrash metal band. They are often overlooked in the mountain of similar bands that have popped up over the years, but that is a little unfair. Havok has a way of showing off their influences but still making music that sounds fresh and vital. Unlike a lot of the retro thrash metal groups, Havok has not picked one particular style of thrash to try to emulate. Influences from the Bay Area, East Coast, Germany, South America, and the almighty Slayer can all be heard. As such, they are one of the more interesting retro thrash metal bands and one that I try to check out whenever they release something new.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Venom: Black Metal (1982)

30th Anniversary
Motion for Reconsideration

Venom is one of the most influential metal bands in the genre’s history, only slightly less important than Black Sabbath and Motörhead. I don’t believe that’s a controversial statement. Venom took the simplicity of both of their forebears to its logical extreme, playing music and putting out albums while barely knowing how to play their instruments. They combined Sabbath’s preoccupation with the occult and Motörhead’s speed and attitude, taking on an evil persona themselves.

The legendary Black Metal came out 30 years ago today. All of their first three records are equally important, but only Black Metal had a new genre named for it. That’s not to say it’s actually a black metal record, because it’s not. I believe that is a controversial statement, but about half of you would likely agree. The other controversial statement I’m going to make is, overall, the record isn’t that great.