Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Terrorizer - World Downfall [1989]

The thrash genre can only get so heavy or so brutal before it completely evolved into something entirely different. The German bands were pushing the limits with their spastic approach to the genre, and then there are the proto-death metal bands, but there were also those crazy bunch of punks in the UK who really loved their hardcore punk, but much like the thrash acts, they needed something more extreme. Terrorizer, took the early grindcore sounds from across the ocean and injected a dose of thrash intensity, as well as some minor death metal attributes which resulted in one of the most influential grind albums ever in "World Downfall."

To make an entirely accurate comparison of this album, I would call this record the grind equivalent of "Reign in Blood." Clocking in at just a little over 36 minutes with 16 tracks, this album is a shot, no make that a few shots of adrenaline to the listener. "World Downfall" doesn't let up whatsoever, and it's because of that this album retains such a great replay value. Despite every song sounding rather similar with the same pattern of midpaced riffs that could break even George "Corpsegrinder's" tree-trunk of a neck and some highly thrashy riffs pushed to the limit by Sandoval's intense and relentless drumming, every song is memorable and manages to stand out. It doesn't matter if they're songs like "Storm of Stress" or "Injustice" that last just a little more than a minute, they're just as effective as tracks like "After World Obliteration" or "Dead Shall Rise" that make it past the three minute mark. 

Garcia's vocals on this record are great and they mesh perfectly with the music, even when the songs are reaching tempos beyond comprehension thanks to Sandoval, whose drumming is another highlight of "World Downfall." His blasts are very tight and precise, but his double bass work during more midpaced moments is also top notch. Bassist David Vincent is no slouch either, and the bassline for the intro of "Fear of Napalm" is one of the catchiest I've ever heard, although it helps that the song is one of the greatest tracks ever recorded. 

I find it impossible to criticize this album, as it doesn't ever get old or overstay it's welcome. "World Downfall" is the perfect album for those that are new to, or want to give grindcore a chance as it is definitely the pinnacle of the entire genre and can only be rivaled by Repulsion's masterpiece "Horrified," but that discussion is for another day. 

"Fear of Napalm"
"Corporation Pull-In"
"Dead Shall Rise"

Final Rating
Ripped to Shreds... [10/10]

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pyathrosis - Fields of Unceasing Death (Demo) [1991]

Coming straight out of the Netherlands is a very underrated and overlooked death metal band by the name of Pyathrosis. Their "Fields of Unceasing Death" demo is absolutely brilliant in every sense of the word. It came out in 1991 which was a pinnacle year for the entire death metal genre and as far as the Netherlands went, all eyes were on Aspyhx's debut record "The Rack" and Pestilence's "Testimony of the Ancients," but this five track demo is really the hidden gem of the time. 

The first two songs on this record are a one-two punch of groovy, heavy and dirty death metal at it's absolute finest, crushing the listener with an onslaught of catchy midpaced riffs with the same intensity and fervor of those that could be found on Bolt Thrower's "Realm of Chaos" record. The title track clocks in at a just a little over seven minutes, but every second of this song is amazing and those seven minutes just fly by while the listener's neck writhes in utter pain at the pleasure of having headbanged like a wild animal for seven minutes straight. 

After the first two songs are through, Pyathrosis speeds things up a bit with the song "Drowning Soul" that features the first glimpses of the band's use of the traditional death metal tremolos as opposed to the groovy perfection earlier on. The very low growls of the singer are also a highlight on this song as they are a bit more focused with the heavy powerchords backing them, making for a downright savage song. The final song on this demo, "Eradicated Evil" is the slowest song on this album and features some almost doomy chords that mix in perfectly with the continued midpaced mayhem that was seen at the beginning of the "Fields of Unceasing Death" demo. 

This demo is the definition of a hidden gem and it's a shame that this band never released a full-length because it would have been phenomenal to see these guys play alongside their fellow countrymen in the legendary Asphyx. Oh well, at least this 24 minute demo exists and I can play over and over until my black heart is content. 

"Slithery Flesh"
"Fields of Unceasing Death"
"Wrecked Sacrament"

Final Rating
Masterpiece [9.0/10]

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mangled Torsos - Drawings of the Dead [1994]

Let me just start off this review by stating that this record is some weird death metal. No, that's probably an understatement, seriously this is some abstract music, yet I like it. It's not weird in an overly technical kind of way, though these Germans definitely know how to play their instruments, but in just the way they structure their music, as well as random little nuances that appear throughout. The general weird atmosphere on "Drawings of the Dead" is probably a good selling point for these guys, as they are unique, but it also serves as a hindrance on this record (More on that later). 

First off, the vocals on here are something that immediately jump out at the listener. On the first track of this record, "Unsuspecting Sacrifice," the listener is treated with some dark melodies that loom over some heavy chords, but you can't help notice the growls that are also being spewed out of the singer's mouth as they don't really add anything to the already bleak intro, they're just there. The twin vocal assault on this album is ever so present, as one of them (I'm not sure which) sounds a lot like Chris Barnes. The growls are plenty heavy, but at the same time they're rather coherent and understandable, while the other singer sounds more like his fellow countrymen who use their guttural vocals more so for thrash, but the same effect is present here and it sounds great. 

The riffs on this album mainly gravitate towards the midpaced side of things and they're usually pretty doomy as well. The doomy riff that kicks off the title track is quite good and transitions into the fantastic riff right after flawlessly. The songs "Dereanged Body Love" and "Malignant Tumor" also have some stellar riffs that should have no problem in getting your headbanging in the midst of the doomy interludes and dark atmosphere. One reason for this atmosphere is because of the melodies that can be found throughout "Drawings of the Dead." The track "Dissemble" does a fine job of raising the hair on the back of your neck with its chilling melodies that slither along underneath the ridiculously heavy vocals. 

Now remember the beginning of this review when I said that this album is, for lack of a better word, weird? Yeah, it is. It isn't just the switch between the Barnes like vocals and the guttural attack from the other vocalist, that isn't really uncommon, but it's mainly from the odd structures among other things. Other things like the use of acoustic guitars in the middle of the songs. This alone isn't weird, just not very ordinary for death metal bands but Mangled Torsos manages to mix their softer side particularly well to add to the overall feel of the music, especially on the song "Lost Emotions." While the acoustic guitar isn't completely alone, it's backed by the heavy chords and fronted by the heavier vocals, but it works out. However, it didn't really work on the title track. After being treated with some top notch riffs, the song turns into a showcase for the acoustic guitar as it plays on its own for quite a while and dominates the song for the most part. Luckily, it returns to the high level it was at earlier, but one has to wonder just how great this song would have been if the acoustic section was shortened or even taken out completely. Another odd moment on "Drawings of the Dead" was the track "Morphea." It starts off with a great riff and just when you think it's going to pick up, the riff is still there and the vocalist is growling like a rabid wolf. The same riff carries on for two minutes and nothing changes, which is sad because the riff is damned good. 

In the end, Mangled Torsos delivered an album that not only stands out, but manages to retain a sense of ingenuity that ensures "Drawings of the Dead" is the kind of album that strikes you as abnormal at first and one that could have been better, but also shows promise that it will grow on you and become a record that often appears in your rotation. 

"Drawings of the Dead"
"Deranged Body Love"
"Malignant Tumor"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.2/10] 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Energetic Krusher - Path to Oblivion [1989]

When it comes to thrash and the UK, there are always the same names that are mentioned first. Onslaught and Sabbat. Both of these bands are great and more than worthy of the praise, but there is another band from the UK who should be mentioned in the same breath as these two bands. That band is Energetic Krusher. While Onslaught was writing their brand of awesome thrash and Sabbat was taking a more progressive route, Energetic Krusher was brewing up some intense, brutal and extremely catchy music. "Path to Oblivion" is another album of many to go unheard of, which is too bad because this record could easily compete with much more known thrash albums out there.

So what can you expect from "Path to Oblivion?" You can expect to be destroyed by the vicious and crushing riffs that are accompanied by some Slayer-esque solos, stellar bass work, fast and precise drumming, and vocals that sound like a harsher Max Cavalera. The riffs on this record are phenomenal in every way. The faster ones will smack the listener across the jaw with the force of a sledgehammer. Both tracks, "Battle Cry" and "Yukk" clock in at under two minutes, but both songs hit with a serious impact. One second you've got your headbanging to a nice mid-paced riff, but then in an instant, the drums fire off like a machine gun and that riff increases it's speed tenfold. Another reason why the riffs on "Path to Oblivion" are amazing is because even the mid-paced riffs are unbelievably catchy. It will be impossible to not headbang when listening to tracks like "War Path" and "The Blades." The combination of the lethal vocals and mosh-inducing riffs is too much for any metalhead to resist. 

Despite Energetic Krusher's focus on undeniable brutality, they manage to accomplish one of the most essential things needed in their music. And that is having the ability to structure their songs in a way that each track stands out and grabs the listener's attention and keeps it throughout. "Lord of Darkness" starts off with a slow, heavy intro but then it turns into a steady gallop, and then a raging thrash riff enters the fray, sending the listener into a frenzy flying fists and merciless headbanging. "War Path" is another track that does this perfectly. The intro kicks the track off with a sinister clean intro accompanied by some nice bass lines but the the track becomes an instant mosher and never looks back from there.

So if you're in the mood to check out something that is guaranteed to get your headbanging and satisfy your needs for brutality, then check out "Path to Oblivion." 

"Lord of Darkness"
"The Blast"
"War Path"

Final Rating
Masterpiece [9.1/10]

Mystik - The Plot Sickens [1992]

"The Plot Sickens" is the best power-thrash album that you may have never heard of. What is there not to like about this album? The vocals are coherent and command the music very nicely. The riffs are fast, catchy and will get your headbanging and the leads are spectacular, from the shredding solos to the great melodies and harmonies found throughout the record.

The best part about this record is definitely it's undeniable catchiness that is created by the excellent combination of the riffs and the vocals. "Reflection of the Dying" has extremely catchy and memorable verses due to the great riffs and the vocals that appear to be a part of the riff itself. Don't be surprised if you find yourself singing along while banging your fist like a maniac. "Red Rum" is another track that is guaranteed to send the listener into an uncontrollable state of singing along, while simultaneously stamping their feet mercilessly along with the riffs and pummeling drums. 

Along with the riffs and vocals, Mystik was able to create some beautiful melodies and harmonies, stunning solos and chilling, yet brilliant clean guitar sections. "Commandment" switches between the heavy and fast distortion guitars and the acoustic/clean passages throughout, while maintaining all of the catchy material that makes this album so fantastic. All of the solos are magnificent, and add another layer to the already great music. "Death to All (Peace at Last!)" and "Commandment" both feature terrific solos that are capable of getting any listener to shred on their air guitar. 

There isn't much more to be said about this album, other than it is too good to be overlooked. This album is just another victim of many, amazing albums to be undiscovered, so this album receives the highest recommendation. Download it or track down the actual CD copy, but get your hands on this album, you will not regret it. 

"Reflection of the Dying"
"Red Rum"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.9/10]

Massacra - Final Holocaust [1990]

Coming from France, Massacra started off with a few demos before they finally released "Final Holocaust" in 1990. As the bigger thrash bands of the '80s began to go for a much less thrash sound, Massacra did the exact opposite. They wrote some of the most intense and vicious thrash to date. With insanely fast riffs, brutal drumming and crushing vocals, Massacra was ready to create a huge name for themselves in the metal underground. 

The best parts of the music on "Final Holocaust" are definitely the riffs. The blazing fast riffs aren't only amazing because of their speed, but they are extremely catchy. The first riff after the intro sound bite on "Apocalyptic Warriors" is impossible to not headbang to, but the riff after the verse of the song is even catchier. There are also some great death metal style riffs to be found as well. The main riff of "Trained to Kill," features the fast tremolo picking utilized by death metal bands since the dawn of the genre. You mix that death metal style riff with some great thrash riffs, and you have a recipe for greatness. Massacra also shows off their ability to create some great mid-paced monsters like on "The Day of Massacra." There's plenty of everything. Speed, aggression, and heaviness. What more could you want?

The fast paced drumming is also a plus on the album. Some of the riffs are more mid-paced, but when layered with the tight and swift drum section, the music seems faster and heavier, while the listener headbangs along until the whiplash sets in. Along with the drums, there are the vocals, capable of destroying small animals, they are so powerful. "Researchers of Tortures," has some of the catchiest verses and choruses on the album, due to the perfect sound made when Jorgensen's vocals synchronize with the brutal music behind them.

Overall, there are no complaints that can be made about this masterpiece. Massacra blends the best of death metal and thrash on "Final Holocaust" flawlessly, and it shows. So, if you have not yet experienced the brilliance of France's finest, Massacra, then you need to remedy that ASAP. After you have listened to this, it will eventually become a constant staple of your regular listening, and eventually will be talked about with albums such as "The Awakening" or "Dreaming With the Dead."

"Apocalyptic Warriors"
"The Day of Massacra"
"Researchers of Tortures"

Final Rating
Masterpiece [9.4/10]

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sanctuary - Refuge Denied [1987]

First off, fuck Nevermore. I've never been a fan of that band and probably won't be anytime soon, especially when I can just listen to "Refuge Denied" whenever. The relationship between Nevermore and Sanctuary is basically the same as the one between Machine Head and Vio-Lence. Both Sanctuary and Vio-Lence are bands that are highly respected in the underground while bands made up of former members go on to shit on the bands they once played in by making very lackluster music that panders to the mainstream. It's ok though, because "Refuge Denied" and "Eternal Nightmare" are always there to listen to endlessly. 

Anyway, back to Sanctuary. These guys played some great power metal that really took influence from Judas Priest (A very heavy influence I might add) and the early thrash bands of the eighties. Quite a few of the riffs have K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton written all over them, with the catchy melodies intertwined, most notably on the songs "Ascension to Destiny" and "Die For My Sins." Some of the riffs were a lot faster and could have fit well on a speed metal record. Tracks like "The Third War" and "Battle Angels" in particular, as both songs have an almost anthem-like feel to them, making them perfect songs to charge into war to. 

While the aforementioned songs are all terrific, Sanctuary was really at their best when they were successfully blending those elements with clean and acoustic sections. The intros to "Sanctuary" and "Veil of Disguiseadd an epic atmosphere to the overall product, especially when the vocals come in. The combination of the chilling clean/acoustic interludes and Warrel Dane's "Marcolin-esque" vocals are damned good, and even better once some heavier riffs come in and Dane's vocals start to resemble Rob Halford. The song "Termination Force" is another great track from "Refuge Denied" that features the clean guitar passages, but throughout the song and not just the intro. 

It's definitely a shame that Sanctuary never got the attention that they deserved, but that's all part of being an underground legend I guess. It's clear that the work the band did on this record was influential as it can clearly be heard on albums by bigger bands such as Iced Earth on their "Night of the Stormrider" album. "Refuge Denied" is a must-have if you're a fan of great music and if not, then enjoy listening to your Nevermore. 

"Die For My Sins"
"Veil of Disguise"

Final Rating
Masterpiece [9.1/10]

Paul Chain - Life and Death [1989]

When I think of Italy, I mostly think of all the great food and doom metal to come from there. Paul Chain is no exception when it comes to absolutely amazing, eccentric doom metal. Paul Chain is an extremely experimental musician who tends to take aspects of the spacey progressive rock (similar to that of the band Goblin, as you'd here in the intro for the album, "Steel Breath") and blend it in with traditional and epic doom metal that isn't as heavy as a band like Candlemass unfortunately, but it's still excellent.

What the music lacks in heaviness, it makes up for it in brilliant progression and just overall great doom metal. Songs like "Antichrist" and "Kill Me" bleed absolute true doom while other songs like "Ancient Caravan" and "My Hills" sound like folk music blended with Black Sabbath. There is a very strong Black Sabbath influence all over this album in the music that meshes together with Paul Chain's melancholic moans and cries to make the epitome of sorrow. The best way to describe the sound on this album would be "traditional epic progressive heavy/doom metal." What a mouthful, eh ladies? The riffs are all pretty slow but they gallop along with the album in a way that keeps you hooked while the vocals are often sung in a way that sounds similar to Messiah Marcolin's epic cries of doom. However, they tend to have some moments where it's quite close to a rough kind of lower vocals that I am not sure what to compare it to.

The experimentation on the album has it all over the place within the genre of doom but it flows together nicely, as contradictory as that sounds. There's influences from traditional doom, epic doom, Black Sabbath and that spacey progressive rock. Paul Chain, is a musical mastermind and is extremely underrated. For shame, world. For shame.

"My Hills"
"Kill Me"

Final Rating 
Awesome [8.9/10]

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pungent Stench - For God Your Soul... For Me Your Flesh [1990]

1990 was a year where death metal really started to blossom around the world. Bands like Entombed and Carnage released their debut full-lengths (which would later go on to be some of the most respected albums of the entire genre) and soon to be giants of the genre Deicide and Cannibal Corpse would also release their first albums. But what about little ol' Pungent Stench from Austria? Their debut "For God Your Soul... For Me Your Flesh" is a really fun mix of death metal and early grindcore, basically sounding like a cross between Obituary and Terrorizer. 

The vocals are almost identical to John Tardy's, but that's not the only reason this band could be compared to Obituary. Some of the more thrash-oriented riffs, as well as the doomy chords reek of "Slowly We Rot" influence, the title track in particular. The opening chords are heavy and have that doomy feel, the midpaced riffs masked by the incoherent growls of the vocalist and the whammy fest all sound like they could find a home on an Obituary record. The Terrorizer influence comes from the very catchy midpaced riffs that are made to wreck your neck. In place of a typical death metal tremolo section, amazing midpaced riffs are to be found instead like on the track "Just Let Me Rot" as well as the awesome riffs in the song "Pungent Stench." Seriously, if you can't hear the resemblance between some of those riffs and the midpaced monsters from "World Downfall," then you need to seek psychiatric help. 

One thing about Pungent Stench that is really intriguing is the lack of any kind of melody or technical proficiency. This album is just raw and aggressive, but at the same time highly memorable. The simplicity of songs like "A Small Lunch" and "Blood, Pus and Gastric Juice" are perfect reminders as to why primitive, early death metal is indeed the best way to make this kind of music. Both songs feature a great mix of the slower and near sludge sounding chords and riffs with some brilliant heavy riffs, while also giving the bassist a chance to show off his skills and add some serious low end heaviness. 

While "For God Your Soul... For Me Your Flesh" may not be the greatest death metal album ever, or even the year that it was released, it is still a quality listen that any fan of filthy music could enjoy. 

"Just Let Me Rot"
"Pungent Stench" 
"A Small Lunch"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.6/10]

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Machinery - Divide and Conquer (Demo) [1988]

This nice little demo is a piece of top notch power metal. I know what you're thinking, but no, it's not your typical power metal that's full of melodies and dragons and tales of mythical beasts, this is more along the speed metal style, something that the American power metal bands perfected. 

Machinery's debut demo "Divide and Conquer" is absolutely brilliant. It's got plenty of variety in the riffs and overall structure of the music. There are some really catchy midpaced riffs that can easily cause some headbanging, especially on the track "Fools Paradise" and the opening riffs of the title track. The song "Bite the Hand" features an awesome chorus that reeks of Judas Priest influence, with the over the top vocals and a riff that wouldn't sound out of place whatsoever on an album like "Painkiller." While there aren't many melodies present on this demo, the solos do have some slight melodic tendencies at points, but for the most part the solos are more shred oriented and they fit the music perfectly. 

The bass doesn't really have any standout moments, but it is perfectly audible and when it does move along its own path rather than following the guitar the whole time, it is crystal clear and sounds fantastic. The drumming isn't anything spectacular, but it is consistent throughout and keeps Machinery in line. The vocals have a pretty good range, with parts that are clean and other moments where the vocalist decides to channel his inner Rob Halford, especially on the track "Wolves," just listen for the falsettos throughout. 

Overall, "Divide and Conquer" makes for a very fun listen and the material is pretty memorable. After you're done with the demo, the catchy choruses will be stuck in your head and the urge to put it on repeat will be inevitable. 

"Fools Paradise"
"Bite the Hand"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.8/10]