Monday, April 30, 2012

Metal Church - Metal Church [1984]

How fucking sweet is that album cover? It's almost as epic and amazing as the music on the record, which should alone tell you how brilliant "Metal Church" is. In 1984, there was a trifecta of power metal albums, with the two others being Omen's "Battle Cry" and Jag Panzer's "Ample Destruction" (Though, there were several other fantastic records of the US power metal genre), but Metal Church's debut record makes those two legendary records seem nearly obsolete. This album is that damn great. Every single aspect of what makes an album awesome is present here, from the vocals, the riffs, drumming, aura, and everything in between, there isn't a single complaint that could be made about these power metallers (They weren't a thrash band, despite the popular belief, which dictates that they are) and the flawless record that they created. 

The riffs are insane, whether they're the thrashing ones on "Battalions" and the greatest instrumental ever composed, "Merciless Onslaught," or the simple midpaced ones that are prominent on the title track. There's simply no way to deny the catchiness of each riff, but you've got to give credit Kirk Arrington on drums, because his drumming is equally terrific. The fills that can be found on the intro to "Hitman," as well as the intense and thunderous rhythms on "Merciless Onslaught" make all of the riffs that much better. David Wayne's vocals are another fantastic compliment to the music as they bring a different feeling on just about every track. His clean singing on "Gods of Wrath" is top-notch and can be compared to some of the genre's best pure singers, while his fast-paced vocals on "Hitman" and "(My Favorite) Nightmare" are more like those of an early thrash band. 

In addition to the thrashier songs and catchy, simple power metal tunes, there are some much more epic tracks that blow away songs by the much more epic-styled European power metal bands. The album opener "Beyond the Black" begins with a stellar clean guitar introduction that serves as the backdrop to the sample vocals, before turning into a midpaced riff that is guaranteed to get your headbanging, as well as some incredible solos (Which is a common theme on this album, as every song has awesome solos). "Gods of Wrath" also switches effortlessly between clean passages and beautiful vocals, and heavy riffage that balances out perfectly. The description of Metal Church's debut album is nearly pointless, because the only thing that really needs to be said is that it is perfect and if you don't realize this, then you need to be burned and died immediately. 

The whole fucking album, but if I could only recommend three...
"Beyond the Black"
"Merciless Onslaught"

Final Rating
A Merciless Onslaught [10/10]

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hetsheads - We Hail The Possessed... [1994]

First off, let me make this lucid. This album, is not an album by any means. It's a demo compilation featuring the bands 1991 demo ''Remonstrating The Preserver'' and a few additional songs. And as far as the bands discography goes, it would be correct to say that it's genuinely short, as it consists of that demo and this compilation. However, one shouldn't be fooled by a band's short lifespan because Hetsheads can conjure the perfect old school Swedeath sound in the simplest way, with no technical nonsense, no other influences whatsoever, just plain, thrashy, chainsaw ripping Swedeath of the most primal kind. Their style is probably nothing that an average death metaller has never heard of, but the sheer brilliance of the dark, cryptic and embalming atmosphere, diversely consuming and engulfing the crushing riffs is one treat no death metal fan should do without.

Their sound is very akin the most primitive kind of Swedish death metal, a sound that resembles early Entombed/Nihilist, Dismember, Grave and other usual suspects, although it would be wrong to say they copy the exact sound. There's plenty of filthy grooving and hardcore-tinged moments of pure death/thrashing mayhem, and also some murky death/doom sequences where you'll find the atmosphere to reach its uttermost peak, and you'll feel the massive oppressive ponderousness thumping against your skullcap. The distorted, crunchy chainsaw guitar tone is there as it has always been, and the band excels in using it to drive the furious chord-driven riffs towards a malicious edge. ''Paganization'' is one good example of the band's murky, horror-laden sound, churning together distorted tremolo bursts with simple Bolt Thrower-esque grooves and doomy grinders. There are some nice acoustic interludes included in some of the more mellow tracks like ''For His Sake'' or the horrific intro instrumental, but sections like that are limited as the album mainly focuses on brutal, unpolished death metal.

I can't really say much more about Hetsheads' stylings, because its pretty limited, though the single, focused beam of precise old school brilliance is enough persuade any old schooler into listening to this. I was so obsessed with the current Swedish death metal trends that I instantly forgot about what was laid right in front of me; the archaic ancestors of all these bands, the real originators, who excelled in creating the grotesque and the macabre. Hetsheads is by no means an originator or a band which which put a milestone for death metal, but they did take that muddy, filthy sound and display it almost perfectly, without straying from that pure path. Simply put it this way; if you're starting to get into old school Swedeath, ''We Hail The Possessed'' demo compilation is just as good of a place to start as those fiendish masterpieces everyone seems to be so eager to worship.

Dissolution By Catatonia
Remonstrating The Preserver
When The Time Has Come

Final Rating
Awesome [8.4/10]

Friday, April 13, 2012

122 Stab Wounds - The Deity Of Perversion [1996]

Note from the start that 122 Stab Wounds is not your average black metal bands just because they're from Norway and because their music is laden with black metal traits. Norway mustered some mighty fine black metal bands but surely, Norway isn't the first country to have joined black and death metal. I know because at the time, the blasphemous Canadians and Australians were engaging with Satan at rapid pace, releasing records like ''Fallen Angel Of Doom'' or ''Vengeance War till Death''. But just because Norway didn't have any remarkable death metal acts to present, doesen't mean that they still can't deliver some dominant black/death metal, very well played and composed all around.

122 Stab Wounds deals with some of the less common attributes and elements involved in black/death. War metallers like grind up their captives ruthlessly with their raw incursions of primal, savage black metal with a death metal influence showing good prevalence. However, this band leans more on the death metal side and even adds some thrash crunchiness on top of it to spice things up. 122 Stab Wounds includes members of Forlorn and Gehenna, which are both quite convincing black/death acts. The riffs spastically incorprate furious death metal tremolo picking and crushing thrash metal stomping into them, and all of that raw power perfectly blends in with the bestial black metal atmosphere that roams over all the riffs. Tremolo picking has never sounded so serious, as the guitar tone is crisp and clean and the razor sharp tremolo bursts constantly sink into the listener's flesh, like raws of serrated sharp teeth clenching a prey by its neck. Despite all the dark atmosphere that it succesfully attains and the horrific landscape that it manages to produce, ''The Deity Of Perversion'' has a lot in stock in the energy department. All the riffs are played in forlorn sense, yet their bitterly sharp taste enables energy to spawn out of its veins.

As if all that wasn't sufficient, the music comes with more than just chainsaw ripping tremolos and vigorous bursts. Three songs on the album are weird ambients of some sort, so that leaves us with only seven proper songs. Fortunately, the number is quite adaquate considering that all the songs are quality ones, with little exception. Of course the guitars don't make up the whole anatomy of the album, and the album comes with an abundance of decorations to compliment the riffs well. The drumming is precise yet never that intense, and always keep a steady pace no matter how fast the riffs get. Some may find that intimidating or irritative but actually considering the album emphasizes on dark atmopsheres and mellow feelings as sort of a side attribute, it is actually quite the opposite. The riffs are quite melodious - the tremolos all played on the lower sections of the frets and the depressing feeling always on top of everthing. That's when the efficiency of the vocals kick in. The vocals are treuly perfect for this type of black metal, eerie rasps and incedibly low tones. I love the vocalist's shreiks and high-pitched growls on ''Holocaust Breed'', displaying both epicness and depression.

122 Stab Wounds are so obscure and no wonder. Over the years they have been crushed and stumbled upon numerous times, all thanks to the abnormal fame that the Norwegian black metal masters have. This album is a stellar burried treasure that I myself found out totally by luck, and I'm even luckier that the internet provides all sorts of information, and hopefully bands like this and many were more that were lost in time will be discovered once more. Though before you start your search, I would like to warn you as the band changed into the name The Deviant, shortly after their annihilation.

''Divided Thoughts''
''Hunting Humans''
''The Torture Art''

Final Rating
Almost a Masterpiece [8.9/10]

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bestial Summoning - The Dark War Has Begun [1992]

I have never been an expert on the black metal genre, but I do know that Norway, Canada and Australia boast bands that just aren't to be fucked with. Bestial Summoning, on the other hand, is a band that hails from the Netherlands, a country better known for death metal acts like Asphyx and Pestilence, as well as thrash bands like Dead Head and Occult/Legion of the Damned, so my expectations honestly weren't that high upon my first listen of "The Dark War Has Begun." Whether or not having set the bar lower for this record had any effect on my perception of it, I don't know, but I do know that these guys aren't to be taken lightly, sounding like they couldn't decide whether or not to embrace the atmospheric tendencies of the Norwegians or the sheer brutality of the Canadian blasphemers. 

If I were to sit here and describe one song for you, the same could be said for the rest of the tracks. All of the songs feature some fast black metal styled tremolos backed by incredibly ferocious drumming. And just about every track has a doomy break or features some chords that awaken a sense of dread, courtesy of the amazing guitar tone which invokes a dark feeling that the Norwegians excelled at. The blending of the two different archetypes for the black metal genre worked out brilliantly on "The Dark War Has Begun," because despite the constant repetition throughout the record, the listener can be treated to the raging fury of the Blasphemy-like madness, as well as the more sinister material that shares more common interest with bands like Mayhem and early Immortal. 

The most standout part of Bestial Summoning's music would definitely have to be The Unsane's vocals. This dude sounds pissed, almost like he had been caged by some religious group, only for him to eventually become unhinged and release his anger as well as his love for the unholy (Listen to "Give Me Your Orders" and "Enjoy Your Death for Satan") to the very unwilling masses. I wouldn't say that this album is the best black metal album to ever cross my path, but it is definitely a fun one that comes with all of the evil, the darkness, and the hilarious band names that I have become accustomed to and serves as one that any black metal fan should check out. 

"Exorcism Fails"
"Give Me Your Orders"
"Enjoy Your Death for Satan"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.5/10]

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Assorted Heap - Mindwaves [1992]

Let's say that you liked the debut. I cannot promise whether you will like ''Mindwaves'' or not, but I can say that this album is almost nothing like its predecessor. I was quite shocked by the deliverance of the music and how it changed in a mere year, how a brutalized death/thrash crusher like Assorted Heap all of a sudden turned into something different. Surely, during the early nineties, new sounds were rapidly developing. Primal cavemen were all of a sudden transforming into technically proficient virtuosoes. I might have expected such a precipitous morph into technicality from Assorted Heap, but their mutation here is something else entirely.

Whereas ''The Experience Of Horror'' is stubborn, frenzied and monstrous, ''Mindwaves'', turns down the savagery and archaic sound, and increases the atmosphere. The sound is thrash, under everything else, but above the music it gets intense and atmopsheric, even gothic at times. The production on this album leads to a gate which just brings up more ambiance, it's darker and more torturing than the debut. You cannot find a single trace of the savage, primal riffage that was highly prevalent on the debut, as they've been replaced by ultimately crushing stompers. They're extremely simple but feel like an iron mace shattering a skull. With such heft and density focusing on the riffs, the album becomes beyond heavy, leaving shattered bones. The immense ''What I Confess'' is the absolute climax of the album, featuring both stampeding thrash genius and a number of gothic acoustic guitar medleys and ambients, all cased in one eight minute bag.

Well, the sophomore still attains some of its predecessor's primal savagery, as seen on the title track, though still executed in a controlled way. The vocals have also changed from the traditional Max Calavera-esque death/thrash madness, to a more comphrensible style, principally still guttural, but darker. The sophomore has so much difference than the debut that I'd bet if you wouldn't have known that the album were from the same band, you would have never guessed that they were. Synthesizers, ambients, acoustics and atmosphere are only the general aspects that differ. Comparatively, I like ''Mindwaves'' more, because it has the groove and dark, almost atmospheric authenticity that the debut never came even close to having.

''Dealing With Dilemma''
''What I Confess''

Final Rating
Awesome [8.7/10]

Monday, April 9, 2012

Assorted Heap - The Experience of Horror [1991]

Around the year 1991, two of the three Teutonic thrash kings (Kreator and Destruction) were no longer a force to be reckoned with. Kreator would release the abomination known as the "Renewal" demo and Destruction had already began to fade away after releasing some mediocre material, thus a new thrash powerhouse needed to step up. Whether or not Assorted Heap was that band is all a matter of opinion, but their debut album "The Experience of Horror" definitely made a great case for the Teutonic tech-thrashers with its blend of aggressive thrash that Germany is known for, and technical prowess. 

This record is often referred to as one of the death/thrash subgenre which I still don't understand. Sure, the vocals are akin to Max Cavalera (Sepultura is another one of those bands that gets incorrectly tossed into the death/thrash category), but the riffage is far from the riffs of bands like Merciless, Ripping Corpse, Massacra, and the other familiars. The opening track "Unexpiated Bloodshed" features a solid mix of riffs that make for an above average track, with some riffs that have a technical edge to them, ripping thrash riffs and midpaced headbangers that all weave in and out of the song for its four minute entirety smoothly. The title track follows a similar pattern though it has a bit more technical riffing as well as some stellar bass interludes. 

Assorted Heap also made the decision to include acoustic guitars on "The Experience of Horror." The track "In Vain" is a minute long instrumental that consists of a relaxing acoustic passage that transitions into the next song "Sold Out Souls" nicely. I must also comment on the bassist's performance on this album because he does a tremendous job of providing some awesome fills that could be compared to the great Roger Patterson (though, not quite that great). The bass pattern on "Trick to Your Mind" is terrific and serves as the main focus of the song for that point, rather than a guitar riff or melody. There isn't much more to be said for this six song record, other than it is clearly superior to anything that Kreator or Destruction released around the same time. 

"Unexpiated Bloodshed"
"The Experience of Horror"
"Sold Out Souls"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.5/10] 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Attacker - Battle at Helm's Deep [1985]

Aside from the fact that the image depicted on the album cover looks nothing like a battle at the famed Helm's Deep, Attacker did everything right with this record. "Battle at Helm's Deep" is considered a classic of the genre for the simple reason that it kicks copious amounts of asses in the way that cheesy, over the top US power metal is supposed to. These guys weren't worried about being taken seriously like all of those other wankers who name their band "Lord of the Nazgul" or any other Tolkien creation, they just wrote some catchy music that has stood the test of time, 27 years to be exact. Along with bands like Omen, Griffin, Jag Panzer and the like, the United States power metal scene was one to be recognized as a premier one. 

A lot of the riffage on this record would be considered bland and generic by today's standards, but I shit on today's standards which is why the music on "Battle at Helm's Deep" is that damn good. The opening riffs on "Downfall" are complete and unashamed Judas Priest worship while the riffs on the title track could have been transplanted from "Killers." "The Hermit" and "(Call On) The Attacker" both feature relatively thrashy riffs that aren't too special, but with Bob Mitchell's eccentric vocals and the unbridled energy that is present, there is still plenty of substance, making these tracks that much more memorable. I'd also be a terrible liar if I said that I didn't headbang myself into near brain damage while listening to "Kick Your Face," which features riffs that convey the title perfectly. 

Like a lot of US power metal bands, the vocals here are high-pitched and at times quirky. Mitchell's Halford-like screams aren't as pleasant as the legendary frontman, but they do the trick thanks to a little bit of that energy and fervor that people like Balloff and Blitz had. Another highlight on this album is definitely the soloing. Every solo is fantastic with it's miraculous blend of shredding and melody and they could easily get the listener to whip out their air guitar and solo manically on their imaginary axes. Attacker's real strength is the way in that they play their music with such conviction and menacing precision that they're easily revered by fans, despite their music not possessing the memorability of their counterparts in Omen, or the epic feel of Sanctuary. Still, this is a band that should not be passed up and "Battle at Helm's Deep" is an incredibly fun listen that will have you coming back time and time again. 

"Batlle At Helm's Deep"
"Kick Your Face"
"Dance of the Crazies"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.7/10]

Friday, April 6, 2012

Dissection - Storm of the Light's Bane [1995]

Melody has always been a difficult beast to handle in the metal world simply because if you use too much of it, you're likely to be placed in a group of horrific bands that you would never want to be in such company with. If you don't use any melody, then you had better have the riffs and everything else to impress. But if you're like Dissection and you know how to incorporate the perfect amount of melody with stunning riffs and a bleak and chilling atmosphere, then there should be no worries. "Storm of the Light's Bane" is infinitely better than the debut from these Swedes and it is praised the world over for its magnificence in conjuring the perfect aura for the band's black metal stylings. 

The opening song of the record, "At the Fathomless Depths" sets the tone for the rest on the songs with a very haunting and looming feel of dread, while also possessing an almost classical sense to the music. The next song "Night's Blood" opens with a decent thrash riff, only to morph into a blistering melodic tremolo section followed by some brilliant midpaced riffage. While on the subject of riffs, there aren't many on this album, well in the traditional sense. The majority of the rhythms on "Storm of the Light's Bane" are your typical black metal tremolo patterns and the occasional thrashy riff, but for the most part the bulk of this record centers around the melodies that are so perfectly intertwined with the frenzied drumming and Nodtveit's tremendous vocals. "Soulreaper" is probably the best example of what Dissection sounds like when storming through at full force rather than focusing on melodies and atmosphere, settling for a blistering sound that could shatter bones. 

Dissection also loved their acoustic guitars, making for some memorable moments on "Night's Blood" and "Thorns of Crimson Death," as they find their place in the songs as more of an interlude that raises the hair on one's neck rather than a showcase of technical proficiency. The intro to "Where Dead Angels Lie" is also one of the most memorable acoustic intros in recent memory as it makes way for the impeccable melodies that follow it. "Storm of the Light's Bane" isn't a record that should be written off as some boring Gothenburg melodeath album, but one that should be listened to on repeat for its sound is the equivalent of a raging ice storm that would bury a small village. If that doesn't sound appealing to you, then I would hope you find yourself caught in said blizzard. 

"Night's Blood"
"Where Dead Angels Lie"
"Retribution - Storm of the Light's Bane"

Final Rating
Masterpiece [9.1/10]

Rippikoulu-Musta Sermonia (Demo) [1993]

Rippikoulu was such an obscure group that they couldn't even be considered as one of the second/third tier Finnish DM bands like Funebre or Purtenance. For those who have witnessed the repugnancy of the demo, "Musta Sermonia," Rippikoulu remains as a true hidden underground gem, burried deep within years of mainstream culture and modern varieties of Finnish metal. The Fins always had love for the doomy, brooding melodies that they used in their death metal and frankly death/doom is what these guys excel in. If you like the filthy death metal sound of Finland, and if you are used to hearing it, then you'll know damn well what this demo sounds like.

The extremely thick and fuzzy tone applied on the guitars is oppressing enough and when the sluggish, deppresive melodies and atmosphere are added to the already dense combination, the heft of the album becomes unbearably heavy. The riffs are mostly lo-paced death/doom monsters, twisted grotesqueries that stumble and crush everything in their path with incredible heft. Paces vary at times, and become quite entertaining when they all of a sudden turn into vicious blast beats and ultimately enjoyable, headbang-friendly tremolo assaults, though sequences like these are terribly outnumbered by the doomy dirges that enshadow the whole demo. Fortunately, anyone who has already came for sluggish death/doom from this record will just take the lack of tempo variation with a grain of salt. The only thing that stops the demo from reaching absolute perfection, is the lack of originality. If I were listening to a vigorously catchy record with dynamic riffage, I wouldn't mind this flaw at all, but when we're talking about heavy, dark and depressive death/doom, the situation gets abrasive simply because no matter how many times you search the demo you can't find a collosal deviation from the same pervasive sounds, widespread around the demo.

When it comes to flaws, that's the only flaw I can think of. Other than that ''Musta Sermonia'' is absolutely disgusting death metal, unpolished and blunt as a rock. It contains extra striking features such as doomy, brooding melodies, monstrous vocals and an engulfing atmosphere that helps the demo out a lot for the most part, always keeping the listener at the edge of his/her seat no matter how depressing the riffs are. The Finnish death metal masters always have a haunted, repugnant feel to them, but only few can execute it in the way Rippikoulu did, and fewer can be as depressingly ominous.

''Kadonneet Jumalat''
''Anteeksiannon Synkkä Varjo''

Final Rating
Masterpiece [9.0/10]

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sacrilege - Behind the Realms of Madness [1985]

I can't think of any two metal subgenres that embrace aggression or personify intensity as much as thrash or crust do. Sure, there's the abrasiveness of war metal and the horrifyingly awful repetitiveness of brutal death metal, but neither boast the memorability or catchiness of some good ol' metalpunk or thrash (There are a few exceptions to this, though). So when encountering an album like "Behind the Realms of Madness," a record universally known as a prototype for the crust punk sound and one that possesses plenty of thrashing recklessness, there's of course going to be a solid amount of excitement and anticipation upon the first listen. Well, don't set your expectations too high unless you enjoy letting yourself down.

Sacrilege's debut full-length is far from terrible, but it wanders aimlessly between tolerable and brilliant throughout its six song duration, just enough for it to hover on the higher part of the proverbial scale. The record gets off to a decent start with "Life Line," as it bombards the listener with passable thrashy riffs, crust oriented passages, wicked solos and over the top vocals, that have a lot of Grimmett-like tendencies, but with a lot more anger and attitude. Sacrilege seemingly appears as an elite band once the next track "Shadow From Mordor" comes on with its dirge-like intro riffs and terrific solos. But that's the last we see of the greatness. 

The next four tracks on "Behind the Realms of Madness" are nothing more than visions of what could have been. "At Death's Door" features mediocre riffage until the break where the listener is treated to a catchy headbanger of a riff, only for it to drag on and go absolutely nowhere. "A Violation of Something Sacred" and "Out of Sight Out of Mind" both offer flashes of glory with Venom-esque riffs and moments of thrashy goodness, but neither ever ascend past the plateau made at the beginning of the record. It's too bad that Sacrilege didn't live up to the hype, and instead chose to tease the listener, making "Behind the Realms of Madness" a good album that could have been stellar.

"Shadow From Mordor"
"A Violation of Something Sacred"

Final Rating
Barely Awesome [8.0/10]