Thursday, May 15, 2014

Metallica - ...And Justice For All (1988)

Apparently I stepped through a warp zone into an alternate dimension where this album has become one of those "misunderstood" lost classics. I noticed that a lot of people who make these sort of comments weren't even born when the album came out, so how the fuck would they know what kind of impact it had upon its arrival way back in 1988? The other kind of retarded douche that likes to act as if this album is merely passable are the 40-something and beyond aging metalhead wannabe OG's. The ones that have to pretend not to like this album because it managed to squeeze out a (GASP)... video (One, for those of you from another dimension). A staggeringly popular and tirelessly overplayed video, I might add. Did I mention "overplayed"? Oh yeah, I did! So I guess that crushes the notion that this was some sort of "lost" and mysterious record that sort of slipped through the cracks.

Back to the dorks who have to pretend not to like anything given a fair amount of radioplay lest it tarnish their precious "underground" facade... it's funny to me that now all of a sudden these rejects make it seem as if this is some sort of pussy Metallica record that they "guess" they can a throw a bone to in regards to it being the last "ok" Metallica album before the great tidal wave of gay came out from the depths to drown everything in its wake. Yes, the Black album. No, this is not a weak Metallica album by any fucking stretch of your transparent imagination. This actually may be Metallica's most furious album to date. It is certainly their darkest... for a variety of reasons.

Album opener 'Blackened' sees the band going in a slightly more technical direction before the bottom comes out, unleashing the most agonizing and punishing doom sequence the band has yet to render. James' "-tion" rap serves only to heighten the experience. I dare you not to sing along (whether or not you get every "shun" word correct) and headbang simultaneously whilst this riff is drilling a hole into your head. The next two tracks are nice, labyrinthine crushers that pave the way for 'One', '...And Justice for All's 'Fade to Black'. It's funny how many "old school" metal-head douche-balls cry foul when discussing this track for being some sort of attempt at selling out yet are all about 'Fade to Black' and 'Welcome Home (Sanitarium)'. I'm not going to delve into the similarities of these three songs but please allow the concept to resonate.

Side two (yes, the track-list will always be in cassette form in my mind) is even more ferocious and anfractuous than the first, ranging from militant mud-stompers (Shortest Straw, The Frayed Ends of Sanity) to doom and gloom (Harvester of Sorrow, To Live is to Die) to this album's "straight for the jugular" closer and answer to Puppet's 'Damage Inc.', 'Dyer's Eve'. Trust me. Their is nothing even remotely limp-wristed about this album. If there is one complaint to be made it would be that I wouldn't have minded a couple of minutes shaved off of 'To Live is to Die'. The endless chugging can, admittedly, become a bit grating.Other than that, I have to say that Justice is by far my favorite McTallica album. 'Puppets' and 'Lightning' are equally as good but there is something about this album that has stayed with me throughout the years and will be there until the day I die. Sure, I understand that everyone has their own favorite album by the band and you're all entitled to your opinion, but I have to say that everytime some self-important dumb-fuck speaks of this album as being weak in any way, I just want to drop-kick the fuck into a trash compactor and watch his eyes bulge.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Head of the Demon - Head of the Demon (2012)

This is what happens when you give a bunch of black metal goofs from Sweden a bunch of pot and a weekend's worth of free studio time.

I've heard of many bands erroneously referred to as sounding like Black Sabbath, or being heavily inspired by Black Sabbath. This is one of those blue moon nights where the reference is spot on. Head of the Demon, I am pleased to say, are one of those rare bands who actually deliver the goods in terms of conjuring their inner-70's all the while keeping everything safely within their blackened inner sanctum.

I wouldn't say that this is as evil sounding or emits the sort of putrid gloom that their countrymen 'The Funeral Orchestra' does, but this is definitely special in its own right and actually does a better job at creating an older vibe.

If there's one gripe that I have it would be the ultra-tinny sound that, in my mind, takes away from the experience. I wish that they had "thickened" things up a bit but hey, this is still a winner in my book and an indication of greater things to come.

Emptiness - Error (2012)

Belgium's Emptiness are certainly not a band to repeat themselves from one album to the next. The stylistic shifts from their debut to what little I've heard from their upcoming fourth album are insane. Though I'm not a big fan of the style and sound of what was going on on their second album, 'Oblivion', I would have to say that their weakest album overall was their debut, 'Guilty to Exist'. The songwriting isn't so much the problem as is the production, which really makes listening to a band like this rather agonizing considering the talent and skill on display. It's like taking a classic painting and slathering it in mud. Of course there are those who actually like that sort of thing but I am certainly not among them.

Album number two is my least favorite. I'm not a fan of artsy-fartsy technical blackened "forward thinking" death metal. No thanks. I can appreciate the level of talent involved but that's it. After a quick nod of acknowledgement, I'm out. For me, Emptiness truly began to cook with the release of their third LP, 'Error'. By this time the band had finalized their grasp on the atmospheric and spiritually emotive aspect of their creative onslaught whilst pressing onward with the unique quirkiness that they had initially employed on their debut. I should also note that this album has a very "blasphemous" feel to it. Though there is almost something sort of "sci-fi" and almost even, dare I say... "laid back" about this release, I feel safe to say that it sits comfortably alongside the likes of Coffin Texts, Immolation and others of their dark ilk. The vocals also favor a slight similarity to Craig Pillard which only further darkens the festivities at hand.

This is definitely an album that gets a fair amount of replay and one that has caused me to anticipate their forthcoming LP with a great deal of enthusiasm.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Triptykon - Melana Chasmata (2014)

Not bad. Not great. Totally diet. Medium. OK. Bland. Boom. There ya go. This is basically Celtic Frost's 'Monotonous' pt. III. I'm sure everyone'll eat this up.

Vallenfyre - Splinters (2014)

Out of the many, many... many OSDM worshipping bands that have fortunately or unfortunately cropped up within the last five or so years, the ones that usually stand out for me in terms of mastery and conviction are the ones that have some sort of tie to the days of old. Vallenfyre are amongst this lot and deliver the goods by the dump-truck load.

First, and most obvious, the production is fucking stellar. The crunch of the guitar is ridiculously delicious! This is the sort of thing that I have been lusting after since treading the "Left Hand Path" so long ago. Skogsberg, eat your heart out!

The vocal onslaught of Gregor Mackintosh is really quite an astonishing thing! I mean, who would have thought that after years and years of Nick Holmes fronting Paradise Lost there was a silent beast within the ranks whose deafening roar had yet to be heard? What solidifies Mackintosh's standing as an upper tier vocalist is his flawless command of the English vocabulary and use of what is, in my mind, the most important thing a death metal vocalist should always strive to achieve... diction! Not only does one's enunciation make it possible to reach a larger audience, but it lends to the proceedings a sense of urgency and dread that you will not find in a band whose singer sounds as if he's growling through a mouthful of tuna.

The riffs are extraordinarily diverse, ranging anywhere from punk to early transitional death metal to colossal slabs of doom. Everything here is tempered to perfection. There are many slides that lead from one mindset to the next and Vallenfyre are clearly in control of the proceedings.

On one hand I can somewhat understand why someone would be quick to write this album off as we are clearly in the red-zone of a massive assault of bands marching under the banner of the early '90's, however, it is also mandatory to understand that the forces that comprise Vallenfyre are no mere novices and when you actually sit down and allow the music to formulate properly, the expertise of these battle-hardened warriors will most certainly become apparent unless you are a dolt of the most hopeless kind. I can assure you that in a show of brute force and oppressive gloom, all competitors shall be smashed and left in splinters.

Thantifaxath - Sacred White Noise (2014)

I've never been terribly fond of black metal though that is not to say that I haven't stumbled across the occasional gem here or there throughout the last 20 some odd years since its second wind. The black metal that I do enjoy is primarily more adventurous than say, your typical 'Transilvanian Hunger' clone. Bands like Emperor, Blut aus Nord and Wormlust I find to be infinitely more intriguing than those bands who opt to drone out playing an open tremolo over a monotonous skank for a duration of five minutes or more.

Thantifaxath are definitely pushing the envelope. Sure, there's plenty of ho-hum black metal bullshit going here, but if you hang on for a second, those time-worn passages will lead you to the most glorious of open spaces. All of this , of course, does not spell victory as I had mentioned above there are plenty of traditionally homosexual black metal-(j)isms flying around all over the place. Sure, if you have the patience your endurance will pay off but as I've gotten older I've realized that sitting through 3 or 4 minutes of blah just to get to the "good part" is just a waste of my time. Plain and simple. These days I want to hear something that's good from start to finish. I do not want to engage in an aural scavenger hunt in order to obtain a mere moments worth of listening pleasure. next.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Goreaphobia - Omen of Masochism (1991)

Don't let the name fool ya, this is early '90's U.S. blasphemous death metal at its finest, trills, harmonics, bends and all!

Admittedly, the band name is a bit retarded, especially considering the music is most certainly not of the goregrind variety. Instead, we have a band that easily could have stood alongside the likes of Incantation and Immolation as far as their influence is concerned as well as their flawless interpretation of the darkness of the northeastern section of the U.S., instead, they managed only to languish in obscurity for well over a decade until a brief reformation allowed them to submit a duo of lackluster full lengths.

This, my friends, is where it's at! I have many fond memories of listening to this back in the early '90's with the Winter winds blowing wildly amidst the haunted New England landscape. The first two tracks are reminiscent of the band's 'Morbidious Pathology' -ep- released by the infamous Seraphic Decay label back in 1990. They have the same thrashy quality that is not unlike 'Altars of Madness' or even early Suffocation. That sort of "transitional" style that bridged the more progressive riffing of thrash with the then new and abrasive sounds of early death metal. The third track, 'Conqueror of Thorns', is real priceless gem here and pretty much the only song like this Goreaphobia ever recorded. Laden with Immolation-esque string bends and trills, almost the entire song is smothered by a blackened aesthetic that works beyond imagining. I wish that the band had not broken up and had stayed the course following this direction as this is one of the greatest and most evil sounding songs I've experienced yet. I remember at the time a friend of mine interviewing the band for his fanzine and one of them mentioning a full length that was to be released (this would have been sometime in '92.), alas, this was to never be and by the time they had released a full length the band's style had pretty much shifted as far from the technique found on 'Conqueror...' as it could get. Bummer.

As it is, early Goreaphobia is where it's at and they have long since earned their place amidst the pantheon of evil death metal bands that haunted the northeastern landscape back in the late '80's/early '90's.

Portal - Vexovoid (2013)

Not only do I not understand the hype surrounding this band but that goes for the 9,000,000 bands plagiarising their style. I just don't fucking get it. I could almost get a sense of the "evil" that everyone raves about but all of that is washed away by the band's insistence on covering everything with a wall of static and noise and I'm sorry but that is just not cool. I don't give a fuck how "extreme" you think you are for liking this shit, the bottom line is that it sucks. If they would clear up that highly annoying issue and maybe get a drummer who doesn't sound like he's nodding out after shooting up a bag of dope maybe these guys would be onto something, musically, but for now, these koo-koo clocks are better off collecting dust at the antique shop.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Exmortem - Labyrinths of Horror (1995)

Out of all of the Scandinavian death metal scenes, Denmark harbors perhaps the most brutal. Yeah, yeah, I know... Sweden, Finland, yada, yada... See, the thing is, sure, those countries boast some of the greatest death metal bands of all time, but there's something especially bloodthirsty and violent about many of their Danish counterparts. In fact, I'm fairly convinced that Denmark is more influenced by the U.S. death metal scene than they are their European brethren.

Exmortem is one of the more frighteningly brutal bands to emerge from out of the sewers otherwise known as the mid-'90's Danish death metal scene which also boasted the likes of Iniquity, Illdisposed, Infernal Torment and Dominus, to name a few.

If I had to pick a reference point I would probably have to go with the first Bloodbath album as well as Binah's debut. We're talking some fairly low-tuned, chunky madness here. The riffs can be surprisingly "notey" at times when things aren't being ground to a pulp under the weight and ferocity of the low end. The vocals are absolutely monstrous and have a habit of overwhelming the rest of the instruments once they rear their ugly head, of which I do not mind one bit.

I know many folks will tell ya that each Exmortem album sounds the same but I thoroughly disagree. This is by far the standout album in their career. Sure, the production may have gotten better with each subsequent release, but this is by FAR where the fuck it's at, not to mention that this may be my favorite death metal album to come out of Denmark.

Dead Congregation - Promulgation of the Fall (2014)

There's something very strange about this band to me. They don't suck and they actually do a lot right where many other bands fail miserably and they play blasphemous death metal which is a style close to my heart, yet there's something about them, I don't know WHAT the fuck it is, that just doesn't totally do it for me. I'm at a loss, especially since this album is an improvement over the last, which was none too shabby itself.

Basically, Dead Congregation is Morbid Angel crashing into Incantation. Unlike many who "tire" over the glut of bands who have chosen to go down this path, I happen to look forward to the next Incantation/Immolation/Morbid Angel clone. Unfortunately, a lot of these bands manage to fumble the ball when it comes to the shadowy quirkiness that the elder masters were so fond of sprinkling throughout their musical passages. Oddly enough, this is the one thing that Dead Congregation gets right beyond a shadow of a doubt. Many trills, many bent strings and many harmonics make their way into the proceedings, and yet there is something undeniably amiss. I just can't fucking call what it is!

Anyway, as it is, I'm sure everyone will love this and rightly so. It is a solid release that manages to leave its predecessor in the dust while retaining all the familiar elements that made that album what it was. Unlike the many other bands who ape Incantation, DC tends to throw in an admirable amount of variation and manages to avoid the cavern altogether with an almost thrashier vibe and sound. Kudos also to the band for staying the path as far as their cover art goes, which boasts an overall aesthetic similar to their -ep- and full length debut.

While this is certainly a good album, I can already tell that I won't be revisiting it much beyond this point. I don't know if its age or what but my interest level for this sort of thing has been dropping down a bit as of late. Oh well... I'm sure the kiddies will eat this up.