Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Morpheus Descends - Chronicles Of The Shadowed Ones [1994] (EP)

The old New York death metal scene was a glorious place during its heyday. There has been a manifestation of indulgent, cadaverous acts, the most prominent ones being Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation, which obviously influences the majority of the metal bands that resided there.  Morpheus Descends is one of the more underground bands to emerge from the filth-laden streets of New York, and their debut album ‘’Ritual Of Infinity’’ is an ever praised underground classic that churns together a bulk of brutal aesthetics and sinister rituals in one place, forming a delicious OSDM feast. The band lived on for some time, relatively longer than other acts which could not withstand the furious winds of change, but in the end they too joined the ashes and dust, only to reappear on the internet. The repute held by about band is simple; an opinion held by the almost the entire underground stating that their debut is their most golden moment. I, for one must agree that it’s a golden release, but not the uttermost golden.

Two years after the exhalation of ‘’Ritual Of Infinity’’, Morpheus Descends bestirs yet another force to unleash, one that has been shamefully overlooked. ‘’Chronicles Of The Shadowed Ones’’ is an EP, released without the aid of any label, yet in spite of being a low budget release, it stands as a better record than the lauded debut. On ‘’Chronicles…’’, Morpheus Descends undeniably leans towards a more cathartic edge, producing a bombastic death/doom mutation of shadowy brute force and despondent, subterranean intellect.  Espousing themselves deeply in a horror concept, the band’s esoteric knowledge excludes the overt brutality present on the first record and transforms it onto a mournful array of melancholic death/doom obelisks, taking on a sinister, dabbling hue to environ the listener in dark, ethereal wroth.

The cravings that Morpheus Descends gouges are still somewhat similar to the aesthetics of the debut album, but the scrofulous chthonic emission on ‘’Chronicles…’’ reeks of misanthropy everywhere it goes. The dynamic, muscular rhythm sequences have all of a sudden been turned into crushing monstrous death/doom exercises, the tremolo-laced patterns are now sweltering with dread and constant horror, and in addition, the vocals are murkier and cavernous, suiting the drudgy trudging of the riffs more. I must confide, however, that even with the additional gnawing aspects of the raw production the EP does is not as evil as some other acts with were dominant over the dark arts such as Infester, but with so much primacy running through veins of punishment, it’s only natural that the band invigorates the static, brawny elements in order to attain a dose of brutality that was highly present on the debut.

With some much ponderous grooving going on, the songs rang at a minimum of five minutes, fuelling numbing pain as the sludgy excursions ooze from their decrepit caves and emerge. The EP is rather lengthy to be an EP, ranging at thirty-two minutes, but I suppose it was never written in the cards for ‘’Chronicles…’’ to reach a higher peak. ‘’Chronicles…’’ also has a very dynamic display of drum fills, my absolute favourite performance on the whole album. Instead of plodding on at an elephant’s face alongside the riffs, the drummer often leaps for dexterous fills and jumps from one queer beat to another, and during faster sections you’ll feel it blasting vigorously. ‘’Chronicles Of The Shadowed Ones’’ is a death/doom masterpiece, a stench laden incursion of muscular spasms and monotonous blasts, its horrid ritual ending with the agonized, lycanthropic howls of the bleak nine minute ‘’Moupho Alde Ferenc Yaborov (In the Land of the Vampire Ferenczy)’’, an ghastly, inhuman hymn.  The debut is a classic death metal monstrosity, but this EP belongs up there with the masters of harrowing monotony, amongst Winter, Incantation and dISEMBOWELMENT.

''The Cruciform Hills''
''Cairn Of Dimitru''
''Sings Of Gehenna''

Final Rating:
[9.0/10] Masterpiece

Friday, August 24, 2012

Glacier - Glacier [1985] (EP)

Though Glacier weren’t late comers to the early 80’s power/heavy scene, for some reason they were buried deep in the stockpile of bands that were releasing considerably decent, retro material. The band was born in 1979, and their entire discography is adorned with only three releases, two demos, and this, their Ep. It’s quite obvious that Glacier was not intending on doing heavy, exceedingly fast or intense music, and even if they wanted to, the hindrance that is time would be blocking their way. The Ep isn’t even on par with some of the better, more sophisticated acts like Jag Panzer or Fates Warning, often preferring a light overtone to fit the classically decorated traditional heavy/power texture, with a diminishing raw production quality put on top of that, and overall it becomes obvious that Glacier built their five-track Ep upon some of the more classic sounding aesthetics of the genre.

The rawness of the production renders the music itself sharp and crisp, despite picking on riffs that aren’t so hefty. Though throughout the fire tracks that the Ep offers you’ll find an adequate measure of variation, which, mostly reflects the band’s propensity for catchy, hooking material, churning traditional speed metal qualities with power metal traits, there will be a gradual inclination towards an epic touch, most notably on the first two tracks. It’s not a grandiose feeling, but as many of the band’s proponents, the epic sense of the music culminates in the chorus sequence, flaring a soulful mood in the listener, and once triggered with some backup vocals, the combination becomes truly beguiling, if not wholly indulging the listener in burgeoning elegy.

And interesting fact about the Ep is that it consisted of three vocalists, Keith Flax doing ‘’When Heaven’s At Hand’’, Rex Macnew on ‘’Vandetta’’ and Mike Podrybaou on vocal duties on the remaining three songs. This is an interesting element to add to the music because each of the vocalists espouse somewhat of a different touch to the tracks, varying according to their styles, apparently. Keith Flax sounds totally like Ozzy, which is not something I’m complaining about, and Podrybaou is an efficient singer, as he swipes fluently through the finalizing tracks, which prove to the brisker excursions than the first two songs. I wouldn’t really call ‘’Glacier’’ a mind-boggling release, but it semi-complexity pervades and the structures still remain captivating. ‘’Glacier’’ is not essential by any means, though with its classic fluctuations, deep, minor leads thrilling about and excellent share of melody, it makes for a worthy listen.  

''When Heaven's At Hand''
''Ready For Battle''
''Speak No Evil''

Final Rating
Awesome [8.1/10]

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Demolition Hammer - Tortured Existence [1990]

Bands like Exodus and Slayer wish they had the intensity that Demolition Hammer had on this record. This band might not have been nearly as big as the aforementioned bands, but they didn't lack any of the catchiness or violent energy to be at the top of the thrash scene; they just showed up too late. Around the time "Tortured Existence" hit the metal underground, a lot of thrash bands were already fading out or completely changing their sounds to appeal to a wider mainstream audience (hopping on the groove metal train or even going nu-metal), but not Demolition Hammer. This group could have hopped on the death metal bandwagon of the early '90s, but instead released some of the most savage thrash ever, right up there with bands like Kreator, Morbid Saint, Dark Angel and Sadus. 

Listening to these 9 tracks will almost guarantee a headbanging marathon. From the insane opener ".44 Caliber Brain Surgery" to the closing monster "Cataclysm," there will be several moments throughout that will make you want to awaken your inner neanderthal and fuck everything in sight up. ".44 Caliber Brain Surgery" and "Crippling Velocity" are definitely the two most violent songs on "Tortured Existence," as they effortlessly blend ferocious thrash riffage that is beyond fast with heavy, crushing passages for maximum chaos to ensue. In addition to being speed freaks, the band also provides plenty of music that simply destroys. "Neanderthal" and "Gelid Remains" feature stomping riffs that could be rated on the richter scale. The guitarists for this album also like to duel each other when it comes to the solos. Every song has plenty of back and forth solos that range from shredders to complete whammyfests, and they add just a little more awesome to each track. 

In addition to being varied with their guitar aesthetics, Demolition Hammer is much more than just a brutal thrash act, because their music is entirely memorable. "Infectious Hospital Waste" just might be one of the catchiest thrash songs ever recorded, and the breakdown of the song sends chills down my spine every single time. There are terrific gang (riot) vocals throughout this album, and the listener can't help but shout along with them because they're that damn catchy. Vinny Daze's stellar performance behind the kit also propelled this record's music to another plateau, as the drumming pushed the riffage and tempo far and beyond at points. In addition to providing some decimating vocals, Steve Reynolds also brings some low-end heaviness with his bass playing. The bass tone is thick and monstrous, making its presence felt all the time; "Paracidal Epitaph" and "Cataclysm" both feature some great playing from the brilliant frontman. "Tortured Existence" is definitely one of the most violent thrash albums to ever be released and is a record that I can always come back to and enjoy time and time again. There aren't many thrash albums that I prefer to this one and very few top it, and surprisingly the band would top it with their next skull-fracturing release. 

".44 Caliber Brain Surgery"
"Crippling Velocity"
"Infectious Hospital Waste"

Final Rating
Legendary [10/10]

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Beherit – The Oath of Black Blood [1991]

Although Beherit’s “The Oath of Black Blood” is often confused for their first album, it is actually a compilation of their “Demonomancy” demo and “Dawn of Satan’s Millennium” EP, due to the recording money for the first actual album being pissed away on drugs and alcohol by the band. The music featured on these early works is, in a word; ugly. Sounding somewhere between early Bathory, Blasphemy, Sarc√≥fago and primitive old-school death metal, this stuff is raw, frenzied and sounds like it was recorded in a cave using a blender. Clearly, a very different approach to what they would later achieve on “Drawing down the Moon”.

The first half of this release is much more primal and violent than the second half; it is here that you notice the heavy influence Beherit took from the ancient South American extreme metal scene. Chaotic and distorted riffs, simple but effective drumming and inhuman vocals assault the listener from all angles. Those looking for melody and fancy musicianship need not listen, as they won’t find it here!

The second half focuses a bit more on the experimental and ambient sounds that they would focus more on later in their career. There’s tasteful keyboard work and whispered vocals worked in with a less is more approach. It’s a bit weird to hear this after the blistering chaos of the first half, but it fits and flows well enough with the first half, still leaving “The Oath…” feeling more like an album than a compilation.

So, while not an actual “album”, I would still say that “The Oath of Black Blood” is an essential in any black metal listener’s collection. Unless you’re a pansy.


The Oath of Black Blood

Grave Desecration

Goat Worship

Black Mass Prayer

Final Rating: Masterpiece [9.0/10]

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Absu - Barathrum: V.I.T.R.I.O.L. [1993]

Absu, a band who are now well-known for releasing consistent onslaughts of storming black thrash with a mythological and occult feel to them, were once an old-school death metal band, as evidenced on their early demo material. On their debut full length, “Barathrum: V.I.T.R.I.O.L.”, Proscriptor and co. bridged the gap between these two distinct and totally different styles…
It all begins with the very occult-sounding intro “An Involution of Thorns” setting the mood and then the first actual song “Descent to Acheron (Evolving into the Progression of Woe)” kicks things instantly into high gear with a death metally thrashing onslaught which eventually evolves into slower sections and a bit of occult weirdness thrown in for good measure then picks up again later in the song.
The whole album is actually rather varied, making this one of Absu’s most interesting releases. The influences range from Floridian death metal, old-school thrash (Texan legends Morbid Scream, in particular), early Darkthrone (Proscriptors drumming reeks of “Soulside Journey” era Fenriz worship) and a bit of early Incantation in the slower sections.
With “Barathrum”, Absu managed to put out a very unique album that has done something not many bands can pull off, which is to create a very dark and occult atmosphere whilst still retaining a certain degree of thrash metal in their sound. They slow things down a bit, use occasional ambient keyboards and showcase a meaty-as-fuck buzzsaw guitar sound but still hold on to the old-school metal spirit while drenching the music in occult darkness.
Running at only 30 minutes and 50 seconds, this is Absu’s shortest album. It is also my personal favourite among their killer catalogue.
Descent to Acheron (Evolving into the Progression of Woe)
An Equinox of Fathomless Disheartenment
The Thrice is Greatest to Ninnigal
Fantasizing to the Third of the Pagan Vision (Quoth the Sky, Nevermore Act II)
Final Rating: 9.0/10 Masterpiece

Benediction - Subconscious Terror [1990]

This is an album that has been quite hard to fully enjoy for myself. The first time I listened to it, I thought it was entirely mediocre and I’m amazed that I gave the sophomore a chance. Still, a few listens later and it didn’t really grow on me, but I did start notice subtle little parts of the music that made the whole better. “Subconscious Terror” is not my new favorite death metal album, nor is it anywhere close, but I do appreciate it more. Benediction’s approach to death metal on this record isn’t entirely groundbreaking as they resemble a good deal of the Swedish bands, though without the chainsaw tone, but they do have bits and pieces of other notable acts like Autopsy and Bolt Thrower present in their music. 

Benediction’s formula for writing songs on this record didn’t provide much variation as a majority of the riffage throughout “Subconscious Terror” consists of plodding to midpaced chord progressions, mixed with your typical tremolo passages. The title track, “Divine Ultimatum” and “Spit Forth the Dead” all follow the same precedent well enough to get the listener’s head banging, but there isn’t much accomplished as far as creating some memorable music. “Eternal Eclipse” is one of the better tracks of the bunch, simply because it reeks of Autopsy influence. The riffs and atmosphere may not be as brooding, but they definitely sound similar in structure, and the incredible drumming performance reminds one of the phenomenal Chris Reifert. 

Barney’s vocals aren’t entirely impressive on this album (he definitely would shine with his later band, though), they were just there, really. His low growls fronted the riff-driven music well enough, but he didn’t take the overall sound over the top like other vocalists of the times. The rhythm section on this album was very significant in the sound. The bass added some heaviness to the music and had a couple fills here and there, while Ian Treacy’s drumming performance was stellar to say the least. He had plenty of terrific moments (intro to “Eternal Eclipse” especially), but it was just a solid performance displayed throughout that made his drumming that good. The fills, d-beats, double-bass sections and everything else was spot on. Benediction definitely would go on to create some vastly improved death metal, but “Subconscious Terror” isn’t a terrible way to start off your career, as it has its moments. It just may take a while for it to click…

“Artefacted Irreligion”
“Eternal Eclipse”
“Experimental Stage”

Final Rating
Mediocre [7.8/10]

Angelcorpse - The Inexorable [1999]

Angelcorpse’s sophomore ‘’Exterminate’’ was by far their most efficient release, even though its predecessor ‘’Hammer Of Gods’’ held an even more savage aura, and Angelcorpse’s final offering of the 90’s proves to be logical continuation of the previous record, yet for some reason, it’s their third release, ‘’The Inexorable’’ which appealed to me most. While the third siege may seem like an almost exact copy of the previous release, there are some nuances that make up all the deviation it needs to progress and thrive even further, despite the fact that the differences in between the two records are genuinely very little. ‘’The Inexorable’’ arranges the fulsome spectrum of riffs that previous albums possessed and puts them in order, thus giving birth to even more mature structures and riffs, more consistent patterns and more balanced elusive manoeuvres. With ‘’The Inexorable’’ the music reaches its utter peek in ripeness and the aftermath of the storm is (as always) nothing but sheer destruction.

Angelcorpse’s compositions have improved, and they have positioned their black and death metal textures even more carnally this time. The death metal half of ‘’The Inexorable’’ is just as it was on the previous record, robust, tantalizing, brutal and copious, boasting savagery and culminating annihilation, but the black metal side of the coin has differed, embracing the dispersing elements even more than before and giving more room to utter complexity and brain tangling riffs – proving to be quite varying over only single songs. The choppier yet cleaner tone also deserves laud, sustaining the bridge between crushing and energetic at all times. With nearly all of its implements properly placed, ‘’The Inexorable’’ becomes an even more efficient piece of artillery, and its hooks are bound dig even further into your flesh, because the band has also gotten rid of most of the hindrances that had the potential to mar the riffs and affect their diversity, so the album ultimately packs a more boggling punch than its predecessors.

Its maturity is the only aspect that separates it from its peers, and frankly it’s the only aspect that puts off metalheads that are more into the savage and blunt edge of Angelcorpse, rather than its riper side. ‘’The Inexorable’’ does have a small negative side, though. AS it focuses too much on the fertility and fullness of the massive, crushing guitar tone, it leaves the drums and bass almost in audible. In exchange, the album does attain a more enveloping sound and aura, but also becomes nearly devoid of one of Angelcorpse’s crucial intensity attributes; the drumming. While straightforward death metal overtones may render the drums clean, the blackened bestiality is far too cavernous for the drums to sustain complete audibility, therefore, they are sometimes rendered clean and sometimes inaudible. But even though the drums are sometimes marred, it does not prevent the riffs in general from possessing efficiency. ‘’The Inexorable’’ is probably not the favourite Aneglcorpse album of many, but to me it is, with its sharp hooks and everything. ‘’Exterminate’’ is very closely behind it, but my decision is likely to change frequently. 

''The Fall Of The Idols Of Flesh''
''Stormgods Unbound''
''Smoldering In Exile''

Final Rating
Masterpiece [9/10]

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Abhorer - Upheaval of Blasphemy [1993] (EP)

A few years after releasing their demo “Rumpus of the Undead,” Abhorer would put out another release, the two-song EP “Upheaval of Blasphemy.” This new collection of material definitely showed the band’s improvement, as the two songs here are more memorable than the previous unholy tunes and they shaped the sound that the band would perfect on their full-length a few years later.  

Unlike “Rumpus of the Undead,” the production on this release is a lot better. Every riff, growl and percussion assault can be heard and distinguished perfectly on these two tracks, as the music is mixed terrifically. Abhorer also provided more variety on this EP (ironic given that there’s less material) as the riffs aren’t just non-stop tremolos. “Abandonment of Chastity” is a solid mix of the tremolo bursts and kickass midpaced riffs that are sure to thrash the listener’s neck. “Heathendom Incarnate” is a fantastic track that alternates between the two different styles of riffs, while weaving in some heavy vocals and violent drumming, creating a highly memorable song and one of the best tracks in the band’s arsenal. Overall, if you’re a fan of the previous demo, then welcoming “Upheaval of Blasphemy” into your collection should be no problem, because this is black thrashing death that is simply awesome. 

“Abandonment of Chastity”
“Heathendom Incarnate”

Final Rating
Awesome [8.5/10]

Abhorer - Rumpus of the Undead [1989] (Demo)

Before all of the bombastic song titles and before the full-length, Abhorer got started way back in 1989 with their debut demo “Rumpus of the Undead.” The most extreme music around then were bands like Autopsy, Bathory, Bolt Thrower, Morbid Angel and Celtic Frost among others, but the four songs (not counting the intro) here are quite savage themselves, much moreso than the aforementioned bands who were the giants of the time. A lot of people may have not been prepared for the raw and sloppy music that coursed through this demo, because this music is absolutely filthy. The riffs, production, vocals and everything else just reeks of old-school. 

The first thing that anyone will immediately notice after the intro track clears is the muddled production. The quality of the production on this demo is shitty to say the least, but it adds to the overall feel of the songs quite nicely. The Celtic Frost/Slaughter guitar tone is murky and it makes the opening power chords of “Repudiated Faith” sound really dark. Throw in some whammy bar madness and incomprehensible growls, and you have the vile sound that Abhorer created. The majority of the riffs on “Rumpus of the Undead” are tremolo bursts and some occasional power chords, but there isn’t much variation in the riffs. Still, tracks like the title track and “Profane Immolation” crush as they engulf the listener in a shroud of evil, while they're simultaneously being pummeled by the rapid-fire percussion and insane growls. This Singaporean quartet definitely made an impact of sorts with this demo, but they would also go on to create much better music and leave an ugly and profound mark on the metal underground in Asia, and the world for that matter. 

“Repudiated Faith”
“Rumpus of the Undead”
“Profane Immolation”

Final Rating
Awesome [8.2/10]

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Angelcorpse - Hammer Of Gods [1996]

While their later releases ‘’Exterminate’’ and ‘’The Inexorable’’ will prove to be more cunning and technically surpassing albums, Angelcorpse’s debut album ‘’Hammer Of Gods’’ is not without flaws. The third and second effort are closely related, both possessing a more lively edge and a processed portion of Angelcorpse’s savage attitude, but although ‘’Hammer of Gods’’ is just frenetic and just crazed with erupting blackened death metal fury, it’s clear that it hasn’t fully been turned into a credible substance, thus offering no more than pure demented aggression. Even so, the debut remains as the most frantically driven and it beholds a strength that could reduce any man into cinder within the blink of an eye, therefore ‘’Hammer Of Gods’’ stands as Angelcorpse’s most barbaric incursion, although so of its blows may tend to miss its target.

The overwhelming savagery has an obvious reason here. The musicianship hasn’t properly developed, and therefore we’re left with heaps of uncontrollable energy and callow riffs, enjoyable nonetheless. ‘’Hammer Of Gods’’ big flaw is the lack of prowess, but it’s also devoid of the spiking, sturdy guitar tone of ‘’Exterminate’’ (which augmented even further on ‘’The Inexorable’’), leading us to fibrous riffs, dispersing and scattering vigorously. Of course, the coarse jumble of tremolos and chords are totally gut-splattering. ‘’Hammer Of Gods’’ will punch you with its iron hammer again and again, and it will send a swirling vortex of chaos upon the remainders of your pulverized body to distort even further. Every song is just another strike of the hammer, numbing continuously, and your flesh will be all but gobs of meat when the album ends.

If you want a tantalizing demonstration of Angelcorpse’s early sound, look no further than this record. It’s accessible compared to the band’s demo material but still raw, demented and drunk with power. The drumming is simple, crude blast beats, while the vocals are throatier than ever, and the production is also a futile one, raw and decrepit. I can’t say that this is my favourite old school Angelcorpse record, but I can’t say I dislike it either, because after all, there’s still stuff here that would make your head jut up and down until snaps, and no matter how crude it is compared to its peers, I can’t help but enjoy this berserk black/death album. 

''The Scapegoat''
''Lord Of The Funeral Pyre''

Final Rating
Awesome [8.4/10]

Friday, August 3, 2012

Dissection - The Somberlain [1993]

Around the time of the release of “The Somberlain,” Sweden was experiencing a massive output of death metal. There were the giants of the genre and there were even more bands releasing demos left and right. Dissection, though, would embrace the darker sounds of black metal and help spawn a whole new wave of terrific bands from the country in Sacramentum, Arckanum, Lord Belial, Vinterland, etc. When metalheads usually discuss which of Dissection’s first two albums are better, it’s usually a pretty split crowd between this one and “Storm of the Light’s Bane,” but both records are worthy of praise for not only their influence, but for how damn good they are. 

The Somberlain” has a dark feel to the music (as do most black metal albums), but the atmosphere on this album is quite different from others. It’s cold, chilling, haunting and absolutely brilliant. A song with the title “Black Horizons” should sound evil, and it does throughout its eight minutes of life. Eight minutes of tempo changes, dark and beautiful melodies, sinister tremolos, acoustic guitars and Nodtveidt’s vicious vocals make for an insanely good song, and album for that matter, as a lot of the songs here contain a lot of the same kind of elements. Every song (not counting the instrumentals) has a fair amount of melody, whether it’s through the tremolo patterns or a soothing melodic solo that pierces through the blistering riffs, Dissection always has just the right amount of melody. 

In addition to the cold aura and the melodic tendencies of the band, every other member of the band does their part to perfection. Nodtveidt’s vocals are harsh growls that compliment the bleak backdrop very well. His vocals are also pretty understandable and not just guttural shrieks. The rhythm section on this album is also top-notch, as I was able to find a standout moment on the drumming on every song. I was also able to hear the bass quite fine, as it thumped along or even provided some great fills in the background of the tremolo frenzies. “The Somberlain” proves to be a game-changer for not only the band (who would go on to top this effort with their masterpiece “Storm of the Light’s Bane”), but for the Swedish black metal movement as well. When it comes to getting lost in a flurry of melody and darkness, there just aren’t too many bands out there that can do it better than Dissection and this full-length is usually one the first records I reach for when that time arises. 

“Black Horizons”
“The Somberlain”
“Heaven’s Damnation”

Final Rating
Awesome [8.5/10]

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chastain - The Voice of the Cult [1988]

The Voice of the Cult” is Chastain’s fourth album in four years. After releasing their third assault “The 7th of Never,” you would think that the band might want to start stepping their game up and branching out to achieve a better sound, but that didn’t happen. Instead, this album suffers the same fate that the previous one did. Chastain decided to stick with the same formula that got them where they were, and to be honest, this band just doesn’t have the ability to play the same stuff over and over and be revered as legends. Sure, this release is still awesome and I enjoy re-visiting it when in the mood for some heavy/power metal, but the potential that was found on the band’s magnum opus “Ruler of the Wasteland” was gone, and their chances for topping that album were too. 

If you’ve heard the group’s previous album, then you should have a fair idea of what “The Voice of the Cult” sounds like, as a majority of the music here treads on familiar territory, rarely ever attempting to travel down another path. There’s plenty of shredding and melodies to be found in the midst of the solid riffage and Leather Leone’s amazing vocals, which have not lost a beat at all. She’s still got the range and the power she had on the first three Chastain full-lengths and it’s a reason why she’s always being compared to the legendary Mike Howe of Metal Church fame. Like I said before, I don’t really have a problem with the band’s decision to not try and take their sound to another level and sticking with the formula, because tracks like “The Voice of the Cult,” “Live Hard,” and “Chains of Love” are all worth listening to, but it feels like they could have been on any of the other albums before. 

Of course, not all of the music here sticks to the same old, same old. There are some cool little nuances that separate the great tracks from the good ones. “Share Yourself With Me” is one of the group’s more aggressive tracks, with its galloping riffage and the performance of one of the best front women in metal definitely gives the song some more anger. “Fortune Teller” has a darker kind of vibe to it thanks to the melodies and riffs throughout, harkening back to the band’s best record “Ruler of the Wasteland,” and “Child of Evermore” features some thrashy riffage reminiscent of Dave Mustaine. “Take Me Home” is the closest thing to epic on this album, and while not quite as mindblowing as some of the band’s previous material, it’s still a quality listen. I will give Chastain credit, because they released three very good albums in a row, which is not an easy feat. “The Voice of the Cult” ranks below the last album and this also the last album the band released that I care for, but fans of old-school heavy/power metal should still have no problem trying to sing along with Leather Leone and air-guitaring to the inhuman David Chastain. 

“Share Yourself With Me”
“Fortune Teller”
“Take Me Home”

Final Rating
Awesome [8/10]

Chastain - The 7th of Never [1987]

If you want to talk about being a productive heavy metal band on the rise, look no further than Chastain. After consecutively releasing two full-length albums back to back, the band would not stop. The result of this persistence is the group’s third album “The 7th of Never.” After delivering their best effort yet with “Ruler of the Wasteland,” Chastain needed to hit their next record out of the park. There’s definitely some differences between this album and the predecessor, but the talks of which is better go back to the sophomore, as “The 7th of Never” is just a notch below. 

The overall sound of the band hasn’t changed much on their third outing, as Leather Leone is still wailing away with her impeccable vocals and David Chastain is still shredding like a maniac. Well, he’s even better than before. David’s lead guitar skills have always been one of the reasons why Chastain is so awesome, but he took his playing to another level for this record. The instrumental “827” is really the only evidence I need that this man is a regular Yngwie with the guitar. Luckily, “The 7th of Never” isn’t just a wankfest for David, as he has plenty of substance (riffs) to go with all of his flashy ability. “Paradise” and “Feel His Magic” have some of the best riffs that have made it to a song on a Chastain record. Also, the chemistry between David and Leone is outstanding on this release, especially on the title track where the riffs and vocals just mesh together perfectly, creating some very memorable moments in the process.

One noticeable change that didn’t sit to well with me, though, was the inclusion of pianos and synths. “The Wicked Are Restless” begins with a piano section, which wasn’t so bad in itself, but it added nothing to the music. The synth parts on “Forevermore” also did nothing for the overall product of the music, other than make plenty of metalheads shake their heads in disapproval. Aside from some revamped guitar abilities and a little less of that “epic” feel the band had before, “The 7th of Never” doesn’t gravitate too far from the album that came before, and it left Chastain on a plateau of sorts. This is still an awesome album, though, so any fan of the band’s previous material should have no problem loving this one. 

“The Seventh of Never”
“Feel His Magic”

Final Rating
Awesome [8.4/10]

Chastain - Mystery of Illusion [1985]

Heavy metal in 1985 was still a morphing and always changing landscape, as there were groups thrashing as hard as they could, bands that were taking evil beyond its limits (Bathory and Celtic Frost), and then there were bands like Chastain who wanted to play like their heroes in Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc. A lot of American bands who played in this vein were usually a bit faster and ended up pioneering the USPM subgenre, but Chastain played very much like the forefathers on “Mystery of Illusion,” the band’s debut full-length record. Was this band’s rendition of heavy metal as good as the legends before? No, not really, but this album serves as a terrific foundation of what was to come in this band’s future.

As many would expect, the songs on this album are dominated by midpaced riffs and a lot of melodies, which is made apparent on the first track “Black Knight,” which consists of the aforementioned riffs and a decent melodic intro. The melody that opens “I Fear No Evil” is definitely an ear-catcher and the riffs later on also follow suit. Unfortunately, Chastain wasn’t very consistent and songs like “When the Battle’s Over” and “I’ve Seen Tomorrow” tread along a mediocre path due to derivative riffs and a lack of proper execution that was seen on other memorable tracks like “Mystery of Illusion” and “The Winds of Change.” Another track that just didn’t stick well at all was “Night of the Gods,” a sludgy song that had plenty of St. Vitus and Black Sabbath influence, but this clearly isn’t the style of music that Leather Leone and the crew excel at. 

Speaking of Leather Leone, she is one of the highlights on this album with her beautiful voice that possesses an insane range. Her singing on “Endlessly” is soothing and pleasant, but she can also hit the high notes and bring a bit of aggression to her vocals as well (“I Fear No Evil”). Another bright spot on this full-length is the lead guitar work of David T. Chastain. There are of course the aforementioned melodies that show off his skill, but this man can absolutely shred and this is noted in just about every song. His solos are brilliant, there’s a perfect mix of melody and technicality in every one, adding something to remember on even the dullest of songs. “Mystery of Illusion” isn’t the greatest heavy metal album that you’ve never heard, because there are plenty out there that are better, but it’s still a quality listen from a stellar band who would later go on to unlock their real potential with their next release. 

“Mystery of Illusion”
“I Fear No Evil”
“The Winds of Change”

Final Rating
Mediocre [7.8/10]

Angelcorpse - Exterminate [1998]

US blackened death metal legends Angelcorpse were the definition of war metal. Everything the band did in the 90’s was gold, and alongside Blasphemy, Gospel Of The Horns, Conqueror, Destroyer 666, Angelcorpse were one of the bands which had a massive impact of the modern black/death scene, pretty much innovating all the bands which featured extremely aggressive riffs with loads of speed, precision and corpulence. Their music is absolutely crushing, devastating, and culminating with aggravating lyrical content of war, war, and war. To make a long story short, Angelcorpse innovated the black/death scene as we know it, and to this day, their tracks reek of nothing but war, destruction and complete devastation and abhorrence against humanity.

Their sound is defined by pummelling drum beats, shattering and scathing visceral vitriol all around, and the closest comparison would be the primal war metal bands of the 90’s with additional blasting elements snatched from the Florida death metal scene to boast the rambunctious, devastating porthole of riffs, sprayed upon the listener within an instant. Although all of Angelcorpse’s albums are robust excursions and perplexing brutality and ravaging decimation, their second offering ‘’Exterminate’’ ultimately lives up to its name, fabricating and culminating the utmost brutality that Angelcorpse ever bestirred. ‘’Exterminate’’ is such a complex warp of constantly deviating disaster that it never seems to cease in speed and the richly layered textures are always on the work, either pummelling guts of rapidly surfacing through flesh, but constantly damaging all the same.

With its intellectual approach to blackened death metal, ‘’Exterminate’’ sounds almost like a slightly technical death metal album, but the fog of seething old school black metal corruption makes sure such an event never occurs, stabilizing the album’s position as old school. Although Angelcorpse take a plentiful measure of black metal and shove them up the furious death metal content, ‘’Exterminate’’ has evolved in a way that renders the black metal influence nearly invisible, and the black metal traits have slowly blended with the death metal traits, forming a fusion that harnesses the energy of both within one wreathed chord whirlwind.

‘’Exterminate’’ will batter down the walls of your ears. It’s monstrously crushing, contemptuous, and writhing. While it can easily shatter with its terrific line of turbulences, it still tends to add some variation into these violent incursions, embellishing the outrageous chord fluctuations with diverse melodies here and there, and you’ll also see a massive breakdown at seldom, where the music channels into one smashing thrash chug all of a sudden. The vocals are raspy and to the point, exhaling words without procrastinating anything, and the drums are just as ill-tempered as the guitars, rolling in and forth between blast beats, blast beats and yet more blast beats. ‘’Exterminate’’, alongside with Angelcorpse’s early work are masterpieces of brutality, and a completely different view of war as we know it. 

''Reap The Whirlwind''
''That Which Lies Upon''
''Sons Of Vengeance''

Final Rating
Almost A Masterpiece [8.9/10]

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Immolation – Dawn of Possession [1991]

Something about Immolation’s debut album “Dawn of Possession” was just… special. Immolation have never really sounded much like other death metal bands, I mean, you can compare them to Incantation and Autopsy (the two bands their sound is closest to) all you like, but there was still something to their sound that sets “Dawn of Possession” apart from the other classic death metal albums that were released around the same time…

Perhaps it was the rhythmic experimentation present in the way that the drums and riffs worked together; with the drums following the guitar instead of the other way ‘round as per the norm, or maybe it was the way their two guitarists played off each other and created tension within the riffs, or it could have just been the well thought out song structures that set Immolation apart. Whatever it was, “Dawn of Possession” was and still is one of the most important death metal albums of the early ‘90s.

The first thing I always notice when I hit the play button when this is in my stereo is how truly sinister and evil Immolation managed to sound at the time. Utilizing insane tempo changes and subtle elements of technical prowess, the songs flow effortlessly between mid-paced thrash stomps and all out blasting death metal tempos, occasionally slowing it down to a total crawl. The drum, bass and guitar work featured on this record is some of the most well played metal you will ever hear… forget those ridiculously over the top techwank bands that pop up all over the place these days; Immolation already blew them out of the water way back in 1991. Special mention also needs to be made in regards to Ross Dolans’ vocals; this man is the reason death metal vocals sound the way they do today.

The production on “Dawn of Possession” is cavernous and crushing, yet clean enough to allow the instruments to breathe and show their worth. It is one of the most suitable mix jobs you will ever hear on an album.

Each and every song is a classic; leaving me completely unable to choose any particular favourites and I really cannot imagine listening to this album any other way than as a complete piece. Because that’s what this is: a total masterpiece of mind-blowing American death metal perfection. There are a few death metal albums that I, personally, would hold over this one in terms of greatness, but not many.

Into Everlasting Fire
Dawn of Possession
After My Prayers
Those Left Behind
Despondent Souls
Burial Ground

Final Rating 
Masterpiece [9.9/10]

Outlander - Beckoning [1990] (Demo)

By 1990 all the elements of power metal had been stabilized, and all the classics were already released, rendering the huge portion of upcoming power metal bands unoriginal and derivative. Well, gimmicks certainly didn’t stop the majority of power metal bands from bringing forth their own material, and USPM obscures Outlander were yet another group lost in the hazy vortex of time, flushed back into the pitch black bowels of shadowy obscurity. Outlander’s excursion of classic USPM metal is surely just another predictable splash in the face of a USPM veteran, but the their sole demo and release defines the old school power metal sound as we know it, elegantly engrossing the simply set, classic textures with the band’s own touch, and representing power metal in a way that could be separated both from its cumulative peers and the later-coming wave of modernized freaks that always kept their power metal at busier stance.

Outlander’s ‘’Beckoning’’ is nearly magical. It’s epic and captures the perfect soothing atmosphere within mere seconds, slathers it with some sombre overtones, and presents the ultimate eighteen minute endowment for a USPM fan. Outlander keeps the riffs fairly arduous and confusing, frequently delivering tasty rays of haunting melodies and catchy mid paced riffs. All the works go alongside each other consistently sans and exciting spice to cheer you up, constantly preserving the well-earned darkness of its nature, especially culminating in the delicate clean guitar/melody fusion, ‘’Coma’’. The demo is dynamic, though, but it simply isn’t keen on keeping the joyful and ecstatic mood of power metal, yet another reason it manages to outshine many of its peers.  The extreme ecstasy is palpable in the extra melodious segments however, and with the soaring screams of the vocalist, the atmosphere alternates into a dark, haunting aura.

Even the thrashy riffs which don’t feel like anything out of the ordinary are surprisingly furious, lively and spiking, although I must still say that the demo has no instant ruptures, only riffs that progress with a continuous manner, slowly, incessantly ascending and descending into various riffs, rather than abruptly flashing into one riff to another. The ascensions and descents are exceedingly well done, and one of the great part of the album, the slow fluctuation is formed. With all of its traits, ‘’Beckoning’’ proves to be an excellent release, and an even better demo. It surpasses its imprisoning limits and reaches to a point where it naturally enlarges. It’s a shame that it’s the only release of the band, but sad things happen, and when they do we must learn to cherish what we hold as precious. Like this demo.

''Final Day''
''The Beckoning''

Final Rating
Awesome [8.5/10]

Artillery - Terror Squad [1987]

After establishing themselves in the metal underground with their stellar debut album “Fear of Tomorrow,” Artillery definitely needed to hit their sophomore record out of the park to even match the preceding record’s success. “Terror Squad” is that second album and despite its godawful album art it accomplishes a few new things for the band, and unfortunately fails to accomplish others, which ended up making the album a notch below the debut. Luckily, this 8-song collection is still strong and saw Artillery treading some new ground and adding some more “weapons” to their musical arsenal. 

One noticeable addition to the sound that was established on “Fear of Tomorrow” was the added variety in riffs. Not a single riff on “Terror Squad” sounds alike, as the structures aren’t just a mix of fast or midpaced riffs and some very well placed power chords. Stutzer’s fingers are flying all around the fretboard for these songs and it’s noticeable on tracks like “The Challenge” and “Hunger and Greed,” both of which feature riffs that could rival acts like Forbidden and Coroner. Of course these Danes could still thrash like maniacs, most noticeably on songs like “Terror Squad” and “At War With Science,” which are violent enough to incite a riot, while the latter also showed some technicality that would later become even more significant in the band's sound. 

Another highlight on this album is the awesome performance by Flemming Ronsdorf, who once again took the entire band to the next level. His gift for hitting incredible highs, vicious growls and beautiful, clean notes is unparalleled in the thrash subgenre. Morten Stutzer also shined with his bass playing, delivering fill after fill, and even being heavier than the riffs at points. The drumming wasn’t amazing, but it was solid and the drummer got what needed to be done to make these songs thrash.  I don't see anyone who enjoyed "Fear of Tomorrow" not liking this album. Artillery definitely made an awesome sophomore record with “Terror Squad,” and while not quite good as the predecessor, it’s still very memorable in its own right.

“Terror Squad”
“At War With Science”
“Decapitation of Deviants”

Final Rating
Awesome [8.4/10]

Artillery - Fear of Tomorrow [1985]

If you take a look at the year of release for this record, then you understand that the thrash subgenre had not even yet entered its prime, so when some relatively unknown act (globally speaking) coming from Denmark hit the scene with their debut full-length “Fear of Tomorrow,” I’m sure not many people expected to hear something this terrific. Sure, this record isn’t usually referred to when people talk about their favorite Artillery album and it's never a common one thrown around in thrash circles when talking about "greatest thrash albums ever," but that does not take away just how well this album came out and how it is looked at now. This band is typically revered by fans around the world because of their masterful ability to weave in technical excellence with a thrashing energy and mentality, but on this album, it’s pretty much non-stop thrash mayhem. 

Before Artillery was making a name for themselves with the Stutzer brothers’ incredible fret work, they were smashing skulls with upbeat and fast riffs that were more akin to the bay area bands than the Germanic beasts in Europe. The opening track “Time Has Come” starts with an acoustic piece before it escalates to a track full of fury and shredding solos. “Out of the Sky” and “Fear of Tomorrow” are two of Artillery’s most thrashing onslaughts, with fast riffs that rip past the listener as well as stomping and crushing midpaced ones, battering drums, and Flemming Ronsdorf’s unique vocal delivery. Ronsdorf’s vocals are definitely reminiscent of vocalists from the USPM scene, where over the top vocals are commonplace, but unlike a majority of the power metal frontmen, Ronsdorf also possessed a real gruff edge to his voice that reminds me of Paul Baloff or Bobby “Blitz” during this time period. 

In addition to some catchy riffs and charismatic vocals, Artillery also provided a good deal of variety that other thrash acts at the time didn’t have. Germany had bestial thrashers in Kreator and Sodom, but songs like “King, Thy Name Is Slayer” and “Deeds of Darkness” provided plenty of head banging moments while also captivating listeners with top-notch solos and fantastic songwriting. One of the band’s most classic songs also makes this album a must listen, as “The Eternal War” has more than enough spectacular qualities than many a thrash band’s albums do, including some incredible riffs, bass lines and brilliant vocal passages. “Fear of Tomorrow” is an absolute classic, yet Artillery would still go on to top themselves and permanently stamp their name on the thrash genre. 

“Out of the Sky”
“The Eternal War”
“Fear of Tomorrow”

Final Rating
Awesome [8.9/10]

Bestial Warlust - Blood & Valour [1995]

After releasing one of the best extreme metal albums in Australia’s history, Bestial Warlust didn’t waste anytime sulking in their relative underground success down under. Instead they hit the studio the next year to create a follow-up to the masterpiece that was “Vengeance War Till Death.” The result was the equally diabolical sophomore record “Blood & Valour,” a record that will not disappoint fans of the band’s previous work, but will offend just about everyone else. With the departure of axe master KK Warslut and bassist Corpsemolester, it’s incredible to see how well this album came out. Less than a year later with two new members in the fold, but that is just a testament to how good Bestial Warlust is. 

Riff-wise, the songs on this album aren’t much different from those on the predecessor. There’s a lot of tremolo picking throughout, with the most notable flurries of rapid-riffage being on “…Till the End” and the insane “I, the Warrior.” “Legion of Wrath” is one hell of a headbanger, due to the awesome midpaced riffs that give the listener a breath of fresh air from the constant tremolos. The incredible instrumental “Within the Storm” features some of Bestial Warlust’s best riffs, as well as some of the best songwriting skills from this Aussie horde. “Prelude: Descention Hells Blood” is the most evil track in this band’s arsenal, right up there with “Satanic” from the debut. The song starts with a haunting clean intro and some wind sound effects, only for the serenity to cease once those heavy power chords hit and the wicked tremolos return. 

While I don’t find this record to be better than the band’s debut, there is one significant upgrade on “Blood & Valour.” The production. This music is still undeniably old-school and the production is still pretty shit compared to modern standards (then again, who would want to listen to pure savagery like this with modern production?), but all of the instruments sound so much clearer than they did back in ‘94. The drumming doesn’t take over the music, as the riffs are clearly heard despite Hellcunt’s relentless performance behind the kit. And Bloodstorm’s vocals are still in top form as he brings a violent and barbaric edge to the already brutal music. Bestial Warlust is one of the reasons why Australia’s scene is beyond amazing, and their influence is irrefutable because of classics like “Vengeance War Till Death” and “Blood & Valour.” 

“Death Rides Out”
“…Till the End”
“I, the Warrior”

Final Rating
Awesome [8.7/10]