Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Deathrow - Deception Ignored [1988]

I’m sure many who first encountered the infamous ‘’Raging Steel’’ will be in for quite a shock when they hear this, their third effort, ‘’Deception Ignored’’.  Deathrow started as a speed/thrash group, adventurous and dynamic, and keeping certain aesthetics of the early Germanic thrash metal sound, hinted in the sublime savagery, or the crude malevolence, but never has a band been through such an anomalous change. ‘’Deception Ignored’’ is not a step up from its predecessor, it’s not two steps up, not three. It’s a hundred steps ahead its previous version. Over only one year, Deathrow enlarged their arsenal to the size of a modern army, going through a most dramatic change from what used to be an army no more sophisticated than Neanderthals, sharpening their crude weapons. Don’t get me wrong, I quite enjoy ‘’Raging Steel’’ (although I can’t say the same thing about the debut album) in its ways of simplistic butchery and dissection, lashing forth primal Teutonic speed/thrash, but this is something else entirely.

The year is 1988 and there already a far more complex band on the run: Megadeth. Even though Deathrow came later than the US giants and released two records that  were easily outshined by its peers, ‘’Deception Ignored’’ is a massive ‘’Fuck You’’ in the face of Dave Mustaine, making his skill with the guitar look like a chimp toying with a harp. It’s still very early, considering that the major influences that pioneered technical metal in general rose not until the early/mid 90’s. Deathrow manage to even surpass those guitar freaks at their own game. ‘’Deception Ignored’’ is an endless, prolific gate of riffs, keeping you busy for every second that passes, with any sort of trick, technique or strategy that you can think of. I’m flabbergast each time I hear the riffs, and I’m more amazed that they’re fabricated purely out of raw material and technical prowess, no pedals, no machines whatsoever; only savvy musicianship.

The riffs that ‘’Deception Ignored’’ spews are absolutely arduous brain bogglers. Each riff, each note is static flash of super-vigorousness, progressing simultaneously and incessantly, while both torturing your brain muscles and ripping, shredding through heaps and heaps of flesh, robotically slashing and trimming its way into who knows what. As fantastic as each riff is, they’re also enveloping and totally captivating, precise and decisive, and ridiculously melodious. ‘’Deception Ignored’’ houses many thundering powerhouses of crushing, vivacious thrash, but it’s the subtle fluctuations that go on in and above the strident bolts that bedeck the compositions. Each song is an even more tiresome composition yet it’s also one that’s even more entertaining, and the songs follow each other with no breaks (expect for the one minute piano intro on ‘’Tricton’’), keeping busy with rapid incursions all the time. ‘’Deception Ignored’’ is excessively decisive and direct yet at the same time it’s exceedingly tricky and deluding.

The melodious side of ‘’Deception Ignored’’ offer both the possibly most technical side of thrash metal as well as representing complex classical music. Many of the melodies that flow with the stream of chugs are classical music notes played on guitar, and they sound especially clever with the thin, metallic surface engulfing the tone. A hint weaker, and the record might not have given off the anger properly and consistently, and a bit more distortion only meant that the notes would have all tangled and drowned amongst themselves. The vocal work on ‘’Deception Ignored’’ is just as schizophrenic as the wonderful guitar patterns that adorn it. They’re vicious but at the same time high-pitched and passionate when need be and despite appearing at seldom amongst the current of compositions, they make the best of it. With the songs following each other consistently, and each song consisting of near a thousand notes(or even more maybe), it is naturally hard to carve out the distinguished features of each track, and I still have some trouble with it, but once you get to know the songs, you’ll see each has its own character, and each one is a different excursion of the many-faced apparition that is Deception Ignored.

‘’Events In Concealment’’ introduces a mere eighth of what ‘’Deception Ignored’’ has in store for the listener, channelling between verse and bridge structures with ease while formulating riffs that both reek of Slayer, Exodus, Metallica and Deathrow’s own traits, semi-technical barrages of strident lashes. ‘’The Deathwish’’ is all about sudden strokes and lighting crashes that come and go like a tide sweeping across a try beach – only much faster. ‘’Triocton’’ is the second opus of the album along with ‘’Narcotic’’, gnawing the listener’s mind with visceral technicality and superior rays of chaotic thrash melodies, with certain angular sections that highlight the drums, and their accent giving beats. ‘’N.L.H.M’’ is relatively concise and it fits harmonious, almost sombre melodies into the stubborn thrash texture, bringing us both day and night within just three minutes, and ‘’Machinery’’ is callous incursion of dynamic, exciting thrash madness, queer and jumpy rather than completely tangled, but the brain suffers yet another exercise with ‘’Narcotic’’ as it’s dominated with rhythmic stomps, bobbing you up and down, featuring almost bluesy guitar riffs. The fun parade is concluded with ‘’Bureaucrazy’’ yet another slab of brisk zig-zags and pulls, and with it, the hardest mind exercise you ever had ends.

‘’Deception Ignored’’ is musically supreme to any of its peers, and slam in the face of any who imagine they can make it more complex. It’s the highest calibre of technical metal, and even its fellow countrymen eluded it during the time it was released, it still reigns supreme, at least for me. Despite the fact that I love it, and cherish it, it’s still one test that I don’t frequently take, due it’s particularly tiresome nature, and its sweltering spasm of riffs. ‘’Deception Ignored’’ is absolutelt brilliant, flawless, overwhelming and inaccessible for those who are not esoteric or zealous about its way. It’s peerless, but in a far more brain tangling way than you think.

''Events In Concealment''

Final Rating
Legendary [10/10]

Monday, July 30, 2012

Halloween - Vicious Demo [1990]

After releasing their well-accepted debut record "Don't Metal With Evil" in 1985, Halloween wouldn't release anything new for five years. That new release was this five-track demo entitled "Vicious Demo." The title of the demo is a little misleading because Halloween plays some catchy heavy metal, but I would never describe it as vicious. Once you get past that, though, there is some top-notch music to be found throughout this 20 minute demo from the Detroit headbangers. 

The first song on here is "I Confess" which is definitely the standout on "Vicious Demo." The riffage is solid, but the vocals and guitar solos really take this track over the top. The chorus is incredibly catchy and it's sure to be burn inside the listener's head (even if it is kind of a love song). Next up is "Vicious Lies," which actually lives up to the title as it's the most vicious song on here (it's still not very vicious). The midpaced riffs throughout are heavy and the faster moments are terrific too. "Evil Nation" is easily the weakest song on the demo, but the next track "Agony" more than makes it up for it with some fantastic vocals that soar over the top with higher pitch yells, as well as some beautiful singing done in the chorus which has some brilliant riffs. "Black Skies" is a more epic song with its cool buildup that features stellar lead work that ends with some catchy riffs and more general awesome from Halloween. The main strengths of "Vicious Demo" are absolutely the vocals and guitarwork and that's why these songs are as good as they are. Not to knock the rhythm section of the band, but the overall product wasn't taken to another plateau or made worse by them either. If you're a fan of heavy metal, then Halloween and this demo deserve your time and if you're not a fan of heavy metal, leave the hall!

"I Confess" 
"Vicious Lies"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.4/10]

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pentacle - ... Rides the Moonstorm [1998]

Fronted by Wannes Gubbels, who you may recognize as a former member of death metal legends Asphyx, Pentacle is an old-school death metal band that was formed way back in 1989 who combine the influences of early Celtic Frost, Death, Asphyx, early Pestilence and 80’s German thrash into a delicious melting pot of old-school metal.

Pentacles sound consists of razor-sharp thrashy death metal riffage with a Celtic Frosted guitar tone, mostly d-beat drumming that occasionally changes it up, Van Drunen/John Tardy-esque vocals and barely audible but solid bass work. The tempos are mostly mid-fast paced and rather thrashy with the occasional slow and heavy intro. The production is standard for mid-90’s death metal; thin and distorted guitars, not much bass and a decent but slightly dull drum sound.
Production flaws aside, and excusing the 50 minute length which tends to drag the album out a bit longer than it should, “… Rides the Moonstorm” is a killer album full of great songs such as; “Yielding to the Scepter of Flesh”, the opening title track, “Baptism in a Fiery Void” and “Raised by Nights Chaos”, to name a few. With a band motto like “Don’t forget the ancient feeling… it still rules!!!”, it’s pretty clear what Pentacle is all about and they do a good job at keeping the classic death metal spirit alive.

"Yielding to the Scepter of Flesh"
"Baptism in a Fiery Void"
"Raised by Nights Chaos"

Final Rating:

Awesome [8.5/10]

Ancient - Svartalvheim [1994]

Despite the fact that Norway is one of (if not the) most prolific countries, in terms of black metal output, I have never been very fond of a vast majority of the bands. Aside from the giants of the scene (Immortal, Mayhem, and Darkthrone), I've never been able to listen to the "grvm" stuff from that country because it bored the shit out of me. But, you've got to dig around and find some stuff, because there is some quality in that cesspool of a scene. One such album that has been a nice find is Ancient's debut full-length "Svartalvheim." While the band would later go on to turn into another shitty band, this record has some substance to it that's worth a listen. 

What really impressed me with the sound of Ancient was their ability to conjure up riffs and melodies that were entirely reminiscent of phenomenal bands such as Bathory and Dissection. After the intro is the track "Trumps of an Archangel" which is an awesome song. Plenty of Bathory worship in the riffs, with the occasional melodic moments, some nasty vocals, and plenty of vile. Seriously, this track is some great, disgusting old-school black metal and had the entire album consisted of material like this track, it would have been amazing. "Huldradans" is a cool track that's definitely more in vein of Dissection (Acoustics and all!), as there's plenty of melody in the riff throughout. "The Call of the Absu Deep" is a much more doomy track that should get anyone's headbanging. Unfortunately, the music aside from these tracks is plagued with mediocrity and terrible songwriting. 

"Det Glemte Riket" would have been a promising song, but too many random inclusions of acoustic sections kind of killed the song a bit. It would be one thing if the acoustic sections added some kind of dark sound or killer solo, but they were just randomly placed acoustic parts that didn't fit the song at all. This happens in "Paa Evig Vandring" as well, and "Ved Trolltjern" is an acoustic song throughout with some echoed vocals, nothing more. At the end of "Svartalvheim," though, the good outweighs the bad and keeps Ancient's debut from being another awful album in the Norway scene and I would definitely recommend it to fans of Bathory, Dissection, Immortal, etc. 

"Trumps of an Archangel"
"The Call of the Absu Deep"

Final Rating
Awesome [8/10]

Stormtrooper - Armies Of The Night [1985] (EP)

The early and primitive aesthetics of many metal sub-genres were reached their climax during the time where they were first born, and no matter how much you enjoy the brickwall superiority and contemplating complexity of modern power metal bands, you can’t deny that the genre was at its best during the early/mid 80’s when it was dominated by pure raw energy, and the USPM scene always mustered some of the best metal around, brisk, tight, catchy, and even bedecked with carnivorous evil at times. Iron Cross’s sequential debut album is the best example to the early, evil-tinged power metal, and their fellow countrymen Stormtrooper is an act even more obscure, yet just as deadly and vigorous.

The year is 1985, and the USPM power metal classics have just been unleashed, with many more to come, and Stormtrooper’s debut Ep, ‘’Armies Of The Night’’ proves to be an especially original (for the time) five track barrage of early thrash savagery mixed with an energized portion of USPM a la Jag Panzer, and a dose of NWOBHM, since many genres haven’t culminated at that time. The production quality is also surprisingly clean, rendering the instruments audible, but a gritty tone is naturally unavoidable.  Stormtrooper even exploit a bit of punk to add some steam and intensity to the foray of riffs, but there’s also plenty of melody, not just bland chords played in an inexorable attitude, but a fresh breath of air every time another song kicks in. Another record that definitely contributed in the main structure of ‘’Armies Of The Night’’ is undeniably, ‘’Kill ‘Em All’’, but the music here is slightly more epic shrouded in fog than the genre defining masterpiece, and you can also be sure that’s it’s not as sordid, since this is after all power metal.

The rough, croaky delivery of the vocals is perfect for the music under it, raw, evil-natured and frantic, and even raspy when he tends to shriek out, a bit like Millie in his early days. But even though it’s raw and gritty, ‘’Armies Of The Night’’ is surely not dissonant and devoid of harmony, and ridiculously catchy, at that. Unfortunately, it Stormtrooper did last long, and shortly after this, their sole, release, the band disbanded, leaving us with only eighteen minutes evil power/thrash. Perhaps the Ep may not be on par with its peers that helped shape the genre, but it’s an Ep that any resident USPM fan should be zealous about.

''Armies Of The Night''
''The Beast Within''

Final Rating
Awesome [8.3/10]

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Heathen's Rage - Heathen's Rage [1986] (EP)

Even though Heathen's Rage released a demo (though it was more like a full-length, with ten tracks at 35 minutes) before this release, I have yet to locate it, but this three song, self-titled EP that followed is a nice little collection of music for fans of '80s US power metal. This EP doesn't have any material that could really rival earlier bands' outputs, which contains a small list of masterpieces that include "Metal Church," "Battle Cry," and plenty of others, but "Heathen's Rage" is still worth a moment of your time if not for "Knights of Steel" alone. 

"Knights of Steel" is the opening track for this EP, and it's a terrific song with a near-epic clean guitar intro that serves as the backdrop to a melodic solo. Then the bass and drums come in, before this song starts to pick up. Bob Pizzauro's vocals are a pleasant surprise, because they're very clean and soothing. There's not a hint of aggression like there usually is with other power metal singers. "City of Hell" isn't really a great song, but it does show how good the group's drummer is. His opening drum fills and solo moments are top-notch, and this can be said for his entire performance on the EP. "Dark Storm" is a thrashy number that will get your head moving, but not much else. Overall, "Heathen's Rage" is a decent three song EP that power metal enthusiasts are sure to enjoy. It's unfortunate that they never released a full-length album, because based on this performance, that record would have been awesome. 

"Knights of Steel"
"Dark Storm"

Final Rating
Awesome [8/10]

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Torchure - Beyond The Veil [1992]

Torchure were actually quite a promising death metal band, alongside some of their fellow countryman Jumpin’ Jesus, Morgirion and Atrocity (who unfortunately leaned towards Goth later on), but they were also one of those short lived bands, disbanding just a few years after  their creation. Civilisations become destroyed too, but their culture and creations live on forever, which just might be the case with Torchure. This, their debut album is probably the better known and the better of the two consecutive releases they unleashed, bringing Torchure’s prime elements on the last on table; a doomy cluster of unbridled thrash and death, joining to exhale a depressive bombard of riffs, doom-laden, yet surprisingly vigorous.

The album has queer song structures, and with such as mash up of death, thrash and somewhat melodious doom, they almost fabricate their own distinct sound, one that’s different from the US and Swedish old school death metal scenes for a change.  With such ambitious textures set, the band proves to be much more dexterous and experimental than many other groups who dwelled during the same time, but their efforts also effects the way the album moves, and with the subtle doom metal worshiping done and the nearly fifty minute album length, ‘’Beyond The Veil’’ turns into a laggard of an album, cauterizing and encompassing the victim very, very slowly. And due to its length, this record is something that you definitely have to spend your time with, so that you may fully comprehend the absurd structures behind the plain, comprehensible riffs.

The sluggish approach may be irrelevant at times, but it also relieves the listener from any sort of depressing, or moody need, like a recompense for the long, drudgy moments. The guitar tone is really a nice addition, because its somewhere between chubby, gritty and thin, and once the leads of melodies jump in, the tone blankets itself in an even nicer, warm, subtle and oozy tone with a little bit of cavernous melancholy even. And like I said, Torchure are more adventurous than many other acts of their time, and they’re unafraid to insert tons of drowning melodies on top of their crunchy riffs, serving as even more captivating hooks than usual, and of course, proving that the band isn’t at all inept in musicianship.

The percussion is well done, nothing more, but the vocals are exceedingly filthy and grotesque growls and rasps, and even gurgles when the vocalist drenches himself in repugnance. But the album as a whole is not really murky and even filthy for that matter, but doomy, ponderous and mighty, laden with musical prowess.  Throughout the whopping fifty minutes of doom-oriented death/thrash, you’ll find a fairly extensive amount of variation; sometimes you’ll feel the brisk attitude of thrash leaping in, like on ‘’Abysmal Malevolence’’ or ‘’In His Grip’’, while melody freaks will profoundly love ‘’Depressions’’, but the ultra opus of the record is the eleven minute doom metal epic ‘’Resort To Mortality’’, a transcendental slab of traumatizing riffs, and don’t forget that wherever you go, keyboards are always going to follow you. ‘’Beyond The Veil’’ stands out as a peculiar and gripping release, and for people who enjoy its dragging monotony more than me, it's a delicious feast. 

''In His Grip''
''Resort To Mortality''

Final Rating
Awesome [8.5/10]

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Morpheus Descends - Ritual of Infinity [1992]

While my personal favorite year for death metal would be 1991, there were still plenty of fantastic releases after the year that saw numerous landmark releases. One such release was New York's own Morpheus Descends' debut full-length "Ritual of Infinity." There's a reason why these guys were one of the most popular bands in the New York scene (a pretty prolific scene in its own right, though not as much so as Florida) and that's because their music was fucking brutal. And, no, I don't mean brutal as in Suffocation or Cryptopsy kind of brutal, I mean in more of a relentless thrashing way much like Malevolent Creation, Solstice (US) and Sinister were doing. A simple way of putting things would be to say they were the death metal equivalent of a band like Demolition Hammer or Morbid Saint, absolutely crushing and destructive. 

The majority of the riffs on "Ritual of Infinity" gravitate towards incredibly heavy midpaced riffs which are more than capable of breaking some unwilling soul's neck, as well as some lethal tremolo bursts. There's no way you could listen to "Corpse Under Glass" and not headbang, it just doesn't happen, especially with the awesome riffs that are beyond heavy and catchy. You throw in some very heavy, yet typical death metal vocals with the amazingly-toned bass and violent drumming, and that's a recipe for absolute havoc. The opening sequence on "Enthralled to Serve" is pure devastation, and I can't recall many other simple tremolo sections being as memorable or punishing as this one. "Residual Kill" shows off the band's ability to play some slower paced music, but only for a while before it turns into a thrashing onslaught of immense proportions. Honestly, not much more could be said about "Ritual of Infinity" and Morpheus Descends' near masterpiece. All of the songs are just great mixes of aggresive riffs, abrasive vocals, and a stellar rhythm section. There's no intent on sounding evil like other death metal bands, and there's surely no intent on showing off some technical ability, this is just unbridled insanity.

"Corpse Under Glass"
"Enthralled to Serve"
"Ritual of Infinity"

Final Rating
Almost-A-Masterpiece [8.9/10]

Usurper – Threshold of the Usurper [1997]

Usurper was a relatively primitive black/thrash metal band from Chicago. They split up in 2007 and left us a respectable discography of killer old-school metal. “Threshold of the Usurper” is their first EP, which was released in 1997 following their debut album “Diabolosis”.
The first thing that you may notice upon listening to Usurper is an obvious Hellhammer influence; the bass is really thick and heavy whilst the guitars have an ugly punk-ish feel to them, thus leading to this comparison. Not to mention the vocals are very reminiscent of Tom G. Warrior at times. However, there is more to Usurper than just another Hellhammer clone!
There is plenty of variety within the 5 songs present here (4 originals and a fantastic rendition of Mercyful Fate’s “Black Funeral”). “Necrocult, Part 1 (The Metal War)” is a pretty straightforward and relentless thrashing beast of a song, “Slavehammer” sounds like a beefed up Hellhammer tune and makes me think of what could have happened if Warrior and co. showed up after the death and black metal movement had already began its momentum, “The Dead of Winter” is a slow and atmospheric song laden with acoustic guitars and a deep level of denseness and the epic 14 minute title track ranges from crushing doom to manic black metal and everything in between.
Running at over 34 minutes, they could have easily gotten away with labeling this as a full length, but; they didn’t, which proves Usurper are not the type of band to do things half arsed. If you’re looking for a good starting point to get into this band, “Threshold…” is the place to look.

The Dead of Winter
Final Rating: Awesome [8.3/10]

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Satan's Host - Metal From Hell [1986]

We'd better add yet another great album to the list of legendary albums that came out in 1986 with this record. I'm not saying that "Metal From Hell" is legendary or that is of the same caliber as say "Pleasure to Kill" or "Reign in Blood," but it's a damn fine album that deserves a mention or two anytime that unholy year is brought about. Satan's Host are one of the more peculiar power metal groups from the United States, in that they were much darker and evil than bands like Omen, Griffin, Jag Panzer, and many of the other popular US acts in the early to mid '80s. Their lyrical focus was all about Satan, hell, death, and the evil kind of stuff like that, not your normal power metal type lyrics. Another part of their music that separated them from other bands was the production on this album. It's terrible, but in a great way that adds to the atmosphere, similar to bands like Iron Cross or Heathen's Rage. 

Musically, Satan's Host knew exactly how to work their instruments to near perfection. The riffs range from derivative thrash/speed metal blitzkriegs, to complete Motorhead worship, all the way over to stellar riffs that are blended with melody much like many of the USPM bands of the day. "Black Steele" is a catchy, thrashy track sure to get your headbanging and the next song "Into the Veil" is another decent song, but once past those two tracks, "Metal From Hell" comes in and blows the preceding two completely out of the water with a punk-inspired assault and intense vocals that command the listener's attention. Leviathan's vocals are a definite highlight on this record, as he can sing cleanly and beautifully, but can also scream his fucking lungs out and capture an evil, almost maniacal sound ("King of Terror"). The track "Hell Fire" is an epic one that epitomizes power metal with its terrific intro, top-notch riffs and the incredible guitar solos that lead into a clean section where, Leviathan, once again shows off his vocal skills. 

Much like the vocals and guitars, the bassist's performance on this record is fantastic. There are plenty of nice fills, like on "Strongest of the Night" where the bass almost outshines the guitar solos. The bass parts on the intro to "Hell Fire" is another moment that should be highlighted, as it contributed to the overall brilliance of the track. The drumming isn't quite as special as the other instruments, but it's adequate and no complaints can be made. "Metal From Hell" is quite easily a gem of the USPM scene (Which was one of the best scenes around) simply because it conjured evil spirits and demons that other bands simply could not, and for that I salute Satan's Host

"Metal From Hell"
"King of Terror"
"Hell Fire"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.7/10]

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wargasm - Why Play Around? [1988]

I’m not big a thrasher as I used to be, but when I have the time to pull away from hordes of death and black metal releases, I always give one of my classics a listen. Beantown’s thrash massacre Wargasm are a legendary act for me not only because their debut album ‘’Why Play Around?’’ has been dwelling in my recollection for a long time, but also because they can properly bestir a combination of thrash metal, fast and ripping, with groovy rock n’ roll overtones. ‘’Why Play Around?’’ moves in a steady tempo around classic thrash many of you would be familiar with, but with a crisp and piercing tone, extremely memorable riffs, classy, yet simple patterns and brisk attitude, the album does characterize itself very well.

Technical may be the wrong word to describe the way of the riffs, although in some ways it still resembles their sway. Rich Spielberg, the sole guitarist of the band is the most efficient implement in the whole trio, pushing the music towards utter destruction and pure rock n’ roll driven mayhem can catchiness. In no way are his riffs bland, but they’re not utterly technical and mind blowing either, just exceedingly robust and devastating in the delivery. The riffs don’t really live of sordidness, because they can conjure up much more than just depraved riffs, but when Wargasm wants you to have a taste of evil, you can be damn sure they’ll give it. 

Despite the pummelling grooves and rhythms that rock and back and forth and splatter ears with excellent transitions for tempo switches, there’s also the ridiculously audible blast of the drums, and drummer Barry Spielberg doesn’t shy from showing off his arsenal of pulverizing beats and attacks. Well, the tempo is set, and the riffs flow with ease with crunch aplenty, so what’s left? Ah yes, the vocals. The vocals are actually not something you often hear in thrash metal, since most bands want to blast out pure extremity and relentless intensity, but here, you have vocals that very much sound, well, sort of weak, and it does feel queer to hear such a dwindling sound over a forceful storm of intensified riffs, but I’ll admit it – the vocal work fits the music well and that’s all that can be said about it.

I know many underground followers underestimate the power of thrash mainly because it’s not as frantic as the other genres, and I do think that thrash is the weakest offspring of the extreme metal genre sometimes, but the truth is, these are the records that formed up the basis of pretty much anything that came after it, and thrash has tons of old school underground classics – this being to exception. Wargasm’s sordid thrash attack is not something to be taken with a grain of salt, because when these guys bash their chords and beat their drums, it’s an absolute massacre. One of 1988’s many classics, and one record that ought to be taken much more seriously…

''Bullets And Blades''

Final Rating
Awesome [8.7/10]

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Evocation – Evoked From Demonic Depths: The Early Years [Compilation: 2012]

After taking a break from listening to Swedish death metal, due to the sheer ridiculous amount of bands that I’ve heard in this style over the last year or so, I decided to pick up Evocation’s recently released compilation a few days ago when I happened across it in a local store. This release compiles Evocation’s two demo tapes from 1992, an unreleased rehearsal recording and a previously unrecorded track from ’92 entitled “Genesis”.
Evocation definitely have always had the “Swedish sound” akin to Dismember, Grave, Entombed and so on, but, they always stood apart from the pack in the way that they incorporated melodic influences that have more in common with the Gothenburg scene than the Sunlight studios crowd, leaving us with a more unique and accessible take on the old-school Swedish death metal sound.
I’m not sure how this was managed way back in ’91, but, Evocation got a really high quality sound on “The Ancient Gate” and the “Promo 1992” demos. When combined together on a release like this (or their previously released self-titled compilation from 2004), the two demos flow really well together, and if the band hadn’t broken up not long after, I think they could have released an absolute belter of an album that would be up there with legendary releases like “Left Hand Path” and “Like an Ever Flowing Stream”. Sadly, the previously unreleased rehearsal demo sort of feels like it was just tacked on the end as a sort of afterthought, with a real raw and sloppy recording job that sounds completely different to the other two demos. However, the versions of the songs on this part still sound good in their own way and give a different insight to songs that you’ve already heard earlier on the comp. “Genesis” would fit in perfectly well with the two demos and it’s great that the band finally recorded it as a bonus track for the compilation.
All in all, this compilation is a killer package, with all of their early demo material (almost an hour worth of music) and a 32 page (!!!) booklet containing background info on the band, all lyrics, a bit of info about each song, liner notes, three live bootleg video enhancements on the CD version, information on the story behind each recording and a lot of photos, any fanatic of the old Swedish underground would be a fool to let this pass them by.

"Through the Darkened Peril"
"The Ancient Gate"
"Where the Headstones Shine"
"Veils Were Blown"

Final Rating:
Awesome 8.0/10

Grotesque - Incantation [1990] (EP)

Chances are, if you're a metalhead who knows at the very least that Sweden had/has an incredible death metal scene, then I don't need to go on about all of the bands and how there were myriads of fantastic bands that never got past the demo stage. Grotesque is one of those unfortunate casualties, as they have never released a full-length, but luckily they've left us with this terrific five-track EP "Incantation." Whether or not this EP is considered widely influential in the metal underground is beyond me, but I definitely hear a lot of the newer groups out today with plenty of Grotesque in their music (Tribulation, Zombiefication, Putrified, etc), so it's definitely within the realm of possibility, especially when considering that these Swedes didn't exactly have the same d-beat/punk influence, nor did they have the chainsaw tone (though, it was still a pretty thick and heavy tone) that their comrades had, and a lot of the music here was driven by the insane riffs and intense drumming, more akin to the American style. 

The self-titled opening track features plenty of different styles in the opening minutes, featuring some dark melodies, tremolos, and some thrashy riffs to get the listener's headbanging. The rest of the song follows suit, with an abundance of different riffs and some great vocals which are another highlight on "Incantation." I may not be the biggest fan of At the Gates (Or the subgenre that they play), but there is no denying that Tomas Lindberg (Or as he's known in Grotesque, Goatspell) can conjure some vile vocals that are absolutely perfect for fronting a band the caliber of Grotesque. What transpired on the first track is pretty much the entire story of this EP. The band did a brilliant job of structuring the music with a solid mix of thrashy riffs, death metal tremolos, melodies and an overall eerie atmosphere. "Submit to Death" and "Blood Runs from the Altar" are a couple of the more thrash-oriented tunes, but they're fronted by a death metal vocalist whose vocals could shatter glass. "Spawn of Azathoth" is an all-out blitzkrieg of intensity and if your head isn't banging, seek help. "Nocturnal Blasphemies" is probably the most "unique" song on this EP, as it features some riffs that have glimpses of technical patterns, but it's also one of, if not the darkest song here. So, the story here with "Incantation" and Grotesque isn't a new one, just one that I enjoy revisiting, because who doesn't love a little band that didn't make it as big as they should have? I know I do. 

"Spawn of Azathoth" 
"Blood Runs from the Altars"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.6/10]

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Nidhoggr - Ravens Over The Road Of The Kings [1994] (Demo)

My sheer love for the grotesqueries that come out of Finland cannot be questioned. Yes, I’m talking about the Finnish death metal scene, a plentiful pile of rot and macabre decay, putrid and abominable in every way. But besides the death metal scene in Finland to emerge in the 90’s, there’s also a cult underground black metal scene, quite extensive yes, but still dwarfed by the captivating copiousness of the death metal scene. There were a few bands that the black metal underground respected and knew, but Nidhoggr is just not one of those exulted bands. Listening to their 1994 demo ‘’Ravens Over The Road Of Kings’’ is like Burzum gnawing against your ears with stark strictness, and amongst so many false imitators, finally comes a band who knows how to worship.

Yes, a Burzum scent reeks heavily in every riff, every break, every turn and twist; in every aspect. ‘’Ravens’’ is a relatively short demo, consisting of only three songs, but once you enter its frigid cold atmosphere it’s not easy to get out as you’re always in the grip of grim, sombre winter, absolutely blood chilling and glacial. The instrumentation is sheer brilliance I tell you. Brilliance. The riffs are set on a damp, jagged texture and flow with craggy, angular turns, and the production is exceedingly raw and diminishing, so the tremolo pickings will always be reduced in vivacity and fullness, and you’ll need to crank the volume up if you want to properly hear this one. Atmospheric traits are just as favoured as the dreary elements of the music. Every riff is harsh, abrupt attack, but at the same time, it provokes an epic sense, which is always a pleasant thing to hear in your black metal.

Even the vocals, sonically intense and gelid screams and harsh rasps remind me of Burzum, and these rasps are so cold and haunting that I can say that they’re even better than Varg’s vocals performance, even though they seldom tend to appear. ‘’Thou Shalt Burn At Our Stacker’’ carves a deep hole into the listener’s ear from the start, giving of a great impact of cold, grim melancholy and other raw aspects of the demo, and ‘’From The Forest Come The Wanderer’’ begins its six minute journey with brief little melody spectrum, flashing into an crude, cavernous tremolo attack afterwards. The concluding track finalizes the demo with a queer plethora of melodies and turns cutting and splashing onto each other with cantankerous complexity and cunning. I have no doubt that any Norwegian black metal fan will find this entertaining (though in a eerie way), and Burzum fans especially will salivate over this.

''Thou Shalt Burn At Our Stacker''
''From The Forest Come The Wanderer''

Final Rating
Awesome [8.8/10] 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Protector - Golem [1988]

It's a damn shame that Protector isn't as well-known as their fellow countrymen in Kreator and Sodom, but history has proven that being well-known doesn't make your music better, because I would take "Golem" over albums like "Extreme Aggression," "Tapping the Vein," and "Release From Agony" 10 times out of 10. There's a reason why Protector is adored by many in the metal underground (especially in thrash circles) and that's because their brand of thrash was different from the bestial sounds of their Germanic comrades. This music is deadly, precise and absolutely violent, much moreso than the Bay Area bands of the '80s and plenty of other thrash bands that popped up. 

One thing that becomes immediately apparent with Protector and their music are the riffs. Instead of opting for the rape of the E-string and the insertion of some powerchords, a lot of the riffs are ridiculously fast and feature a vast amount of shifting hammer-ons and single notes that make for a lot of headbanging, but also a lot of memorable moments. The riffs on "Delirium Tremens" and "Protector of Death" are fucking maniacal and Hasse's intense drumming only adds to the blistering fury. And proving that they weren't just speed freaks, Protector did a brilliant job of structuring their music and showed some stellar songwriting skills with tracks like "Apocalyptic Revelations" and "Only the Strong Survive," as both start with some pretty epic buildups that eventually morph into an insane assault that have fallen upon many a metalhead's ears. 

Everything else on "Golem" is top-notch as well. The aforementioned drumming adds a lot of heft to the music, as well as even more speed. Belichmeier's bass performance is another highlight on this album, as it's always audible and almost seems like another instrument entirely, rather than simply following the guitar patterns. "Germanophobe" is probably the best example of the excellence of the bass on this record and is a prominent reason why it's also my favorite track. Missy's vocals are disgustingly beautiful as well. They're lower in tone than Mille Petrozza's, but not as guttural, yet they're just as diabolical and suit the music perfectly. There's really not much more to say about "Golem" and Protector. This is just a band that makes violent and masterful music that should be fellated by every metalhead. 

"Delirium Tremens"
"Only the Strong Survive"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.7/10]