Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sonne Adam - Doctrines of Dark Devotion (2012)

Supremely mighty and covered in cobwebs!

Sonne Adam stands atop the lifeless bodies of Incantation clones piled high unto the heavens, readying their assault upon the hated race.

I wasn't terribly fond of the band's debut full length, 'Transformation' but for some reason decided to check this out anyways and I consider myself lucky that I had. This is ancient and rotting death metal at its absolute finest! Seriously evil stuff that more than reminds me of Embrace of Thorns stellar sophomore LP, 'Atonement Ritual'.

The vocals here are nice and hateful. The kind that I do not hear enough in this type of death metal. They're either the ultra-faggy black metal type or the low, whisper-ishness employed by many a Craig Pillard clone. This guy is more along the lines of first album Deicide or even Covenant era David Vincent. Nice hateful bellows. Not too low and definitely not the homo rasp preferred by the "blackened" crowd.

The riffs themselves lean towards the ancient, doomy side of the fence. Kind of like a cross between old Celtic Frost and Golgotha era Incantation. Though they give off a funeral vibe they never quite dive off into the abyss of doom metal. I know when death metal sounds this evil all of the black metal fags try and claim it as their own. Nope. This is straight up evil fucking death metal to the fullest! No homosexual black metal faggotry here folks.

As long as the band stays along this course I will remain on board and thus far cannot wait to hear what comes next.

Best to Worst: Electric Wizard

Dopethrone (2000)

The pinnacle, without a doubt. Dopethrone is the Wizard at their fuzziest best. EW took everything that Sabbath and Sleep had previously done, covered it in dirt and resurrected it beneath a neon twilight shrouded in dope-smoke.

Each song here has its own identity. Nothing ever gets monotonous, even when plodding along at a zombie's pace. This was the band at the height of their powers.

We Live (2004)

Even though the original trio of Greening, Oborn and Bagshaw had by this time disbanded, We Live, in my own humble opinion, is just about as mighty as the band's penultimate expression, Dopethrone. If anything, the songs here are actually HEAVIER! Opener 'Eko Eko Azarak' is drenched in evil and hypnotic psychedelia and is the perfect opener to this behemoth of an album. Easily the band's "doomiest".

Supercoven (1998)

The song Supercoven is easily among the greatest tracks written by the Wizard. If it weren't for the fact that this is only an 'ep', Supercoven may have been higher on the list. Nevertheless, this was the perfect lead-in for the band's superior Dopethrone LP.

Time to Die (2014)

After some thought I decided to give this a higher ranking than Come My Fanatics which, while being a thoroughly enjoyable album, can get on the monotonous side of things at times. Time to Die, however, is stylistically divvied up enough to keep one's interest straight through. It's also has a bit of a "greatest hits" feel to it as it seems to compile all eras of the Wizard's career. Most importantly, it brings back the fuzzy warmth of the band's late '90's material along with a healthy dose of morbid psychedelia. Future classic, I'm sure.

Come My Fanatics (1997)

As good as this album is I also can't shake the notion that it is merely a primer for what's to come (Dopethrone). Don't get me wrong, now, there are some straight classic tracks here (Doomantia, Ivixor B/Phase Inducer, Wizard in Black, etc..) yet I do not feel that the band had quite mastered their sound as there are many times here where the fuzz seems to overtake the riffage and things begin to get a bit blurry. Despite its flaws, however, this is without a doubt one of the band's best.

Let Us Prey (2002)

Perhaps the band were simply taxed and had exhausted their creative juices by the time the writing process for this album came 'round as the majority of it sounds a bit tired. Master of Alchemy, however, is alone worth the price of admission and without question one of the band's best songs. Mother of Serpents (found on the digi re-release) is also one of my favorite Wizard tracks with its nod to early, pre-Darkside era Floyd.

Not a terrible album but for the Wizard's standards you can tell they were slippin' a bit.

Witchcult Today (2007)

Though We Live was the first album to come out after the split of the initial trio of musicians that brought us Come My Fanatics and Dopethrone, this is the album, in my opinion, where the real change in sound began to take form. Although I dig a few of the tracks here, particularly Torquemada '71, I can't say that I'm terribly fond of this album, either.

Witchcult saw the band going in a more, dare I say "polished" direction what with a clearer sound and almost painfully catchier songs. The band was shedding much of the fuzz and grime of old and even though nobody really seemed to notice I could tell right away that something was amiss.

Black Masses (2010)

Black Masses is the crustier sibling of Witchcult Today. The simpler more "mainstream" sounding tracks are still there though this time they all seem to be covered in shit. I mean that in the best way possible!

There are actually a few more tracks on here that I like in comparison to Witchcult even though I somehow prefer that album over this. Don't ask.

Black Masses also continues the tradition of rehashing riffs that began on Witchcult.

Electric Wizard (1995)

Easily the most "traditional" sounding doom album put out by the Wizard. I'm not a big fan of the guitar sound as I've always preferred the band's fuzzier tone. For me, Mountains of Mars is the standout track here with its morbid psychedelia getting into my head and filling it with images of decades past, desert tapestries and the smell of dopesmoke.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Electric Wizard - Time to Die (2014)

All right, so it's that time again, finally, and the question is... have they lived up to the hype? I'm gonna have to say yes. The most important thing here is that the band has returned to the sound of old. Let me be clear here... the 'sound' is a return. NOT the riffs themselves. Many (not all) of the riffs here are reminiscent of the past few Wizard outings but drenched in the familiar fuzz of the band's seminal duo, Come my Fanatics and Dopethrone. There's a lot of echo going on , vocally, which is an old trick as well that had sort of dwindled a bit through the years.

Even though I had mentioned previously that the riffing is closer to the 'Witchcult/Black Masses' side of the fence there are more than a few songs here that see the band actually moving forward for a change. Obviously Electric Wizard isn't incorporating the song structures of Yes into the equation. I mean, we are talking about doom metal here, but the riffing style is definitely moving on from the stylistic slump the band had been in for a bit, and thank goodness for that. I would've been highly disappointed if this had turned out to be yet another 'Witchcult' retread such as Black Masses essentially was.

Aside from a couple of tracks the songs here are not as heavy as you would think. No, they're not bad, by any stretch but it's obvious the band were going for something else. Almost like a '60's pop/doom hybrid. Don't fret though, this is still very much the Wizard starring as the Wizard and everything is in order as one would hope.

Though I'm not terribly jazzed about the cover art (which I really haven't been since 'We Live' except for the LP version of Black Masses) I will say that it is extremely similar to the original cover for 'Come my Fanatics' which ultimately serves to bring everything going on here full circle.

I for one was a bit on the fence with Witchcult Today and I had all but written the band off after Black Masses which, to me, is easily the weakest Electric Wizard album to date. I am happy to say that 'Time to Die' has finally broken the pattern of sterility. To sum it all up, if someone were to tell me that this was the missing album that was supposed to have been released after 'Let Us Prey' I would have believed them without hesitation. It's still early in the game and I'm sure the songs will only further grow on me in time but for now I am thoroughly content.

Therion - Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas (1993)

I'll never forget hearing this album for the first time. I was on my way back from Phoenix Records in Waturbury, CT (R.I.P.) and I had just picked this up along with Mortician's 'Mortal Massacre' and Cannibal Corpse's 'The Bleeding' which had just come out. It took me about one whole minute to realize that something was terribly wrong. The Therion I had known and loved had officially undergone a sex-change operation and busted out of the closet clad in pink boas and wielding purple dildos. I was mortified.

The greatest offense committed here by FAR are the vocals. Prior to this release Cristofer Johnsson was easily one of my favorite growlers. His Celtic Frost inspired "ooh's" are perhaps even greater and more powerful than the master himself, Tom Warrior. Seriously! On this album, however, I don't know WHAT the fuck happened. Apparently the bottom gave out because these are just fucking weak, and it's not like my Man was all of a sudden channeling Thom Yorke or something, I mean these are still death metal vocals but they sound like they were delivered by someone who dropped by the studio after a full week of being throatfucked by nigger savages. I was shocked.

Musically, this sounds like the next logical step downward from the band's last album 'Beyond Sanctorum'. I wouldn't say that it's a straight up nosedive but it certainly aint no improvement either. Crissy'fur and company had basically strapped on their tights and were venturing further into that chasm otherwise known as the butthole of metal -aka- symphonic metal. The catch being that they weren't terribly good at it during this time so anything that may otherwise have been salvageable just sounds downright awkward or bland. This trait would reach a fever pitch on the band's next two albums (Lepaca Klifoth and Theli) before they reached the black belt level of symphonic faggery.

One thing I cannot take away from this album is the stellar artwork from iconic go-to Swede, Kristian (Necrolord) Whalin.

Jokes aside, I actually do not mind this album all that much. Therion was such a huge favorite of mine early in their career that, for many years, I did my best to brush aside any notion that I may have had that they had utterly "lost it". Even though their next album would see them spiralling further on down the rabbit-hole, I do consider that to be their very last "decent" release.

Cannibal Corpse - Skeletal Domain (2014)

Somewhere along the way Cannibal Corpse got stuck in the rut of releasing albums that all sound the same, one after another. Sure, not each note is the same, yada yada, but basically since 'Vile', shit, basically since The Neck took over the mic CC's stuck with the same formula and aside from their mounting technical prowess nothing's really changed all that much since 1996.

After reading a couple of interview snippets where certain members of the band had indicated that this would be a more "evil" sounding record, I was fairly psyched. Could Cannibal Corpse truly be venturing fourth into uncharted territory? Not quite. When I hear the phrase 'evil death metal' I tend to think of bands like Incantation and Immolation. Coffin Texts, etc. I'm not sure what part of this album the band considered "evil sounding" but I assure you that this is yet another run o' the mill Cannibal Corpse offering. If you're really that into what the band is doing then by all means, knock yourself out. I promise that Cannibal will not let you down this time 'round and in all likelihood, EVER, but for those of you who were hoping that they perhaps added a few new instruments to their arsenal of torture, well, you might want to keep it movin'.

Honestly, Cannibal Corpse did sound evil once upon a time in their career and that was way back in the early '90's during a time when they were more prone to write tremolo laden odes to shredded cunts and maggot filled assholes. Even though they could never have been accused of being a satanic themed band, their older material (Butchered at Birth, Tomb of the Mutilated) had a pretty good grasp on the evil vibe that bands like Immolation and Incantation based their careers around. Somewhere along the way, though, CC began to advance, technically, and that's when all of the weirdo-isms of their sound got kicked to the curb and forgotten, not to mention that Corpsegrinder honestly doesn't do a whole lot for me, vocally. Sure, his diction is among the best but there's always been something "diet" to me about the sound of his voice. It never sounded monstrous enough for a band called Cannibal Corpse. On Skeletal Domain it's yet another case of business as usual. Nothing different. More of the same. Again, if you're into the same album being cloned 30 times, then boom, there you go, but for those of you hoping for a change, fuhgetabahtit. Even the album cover, which at first glance seems to be a bit of a change is really just another plain old rendering from trusty ol' Vince Locke. Same ol', same ol'.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Therion - Beyond Sanctorum (1992)

This is one of those albums that sounded SO much better when I first heard it over twenty years ago. Now mind you, I don't think that it sucks by any means and back when Therion were a bona-fide death metal band they were easily one of my favorites but looking back I can pin-point with a fair amount of accuracy all of the signs that reveal a band that was waiting to come crashing, full bore, out of the closet.

It's weird because even though this is their sophomore album there are plenty of moments that feel as though this would have came out first. Moments that feel are somewhat regressed. Also, many of the symphonic elements (that were just beginning to barely emerge here) just sound downright inept. Laughably so. I mean, you'd have thought that Cristofer Johnsson had employed the talents of some brain-damaged amputee who had in their possession a Casiotone 501 with a remedial understanding of the instrument to boot.

On the positive side, this is the last album to feature Johnsson at his bestial best in terms of vocal delivery. Sure, the next few albums feature what one may consider to be death metal vocals but they are horrendously regressed and inept sounding. Like a tired muppet after a solid week of homosexual gang-rape.

For the most part the riffs here are akin to those found on 'Of Darkness', though hardly anything here possesses the catchiness and memorability of that album. Suffice to say, even though there;s nothing rampantly technical about this album, there is no shortage of directionless meandering.

Again, by no means do I think this album sucks or anything even close to that, but hearing this album many years after the fact, flaws can be easily traced and it is without a doubt the very last "straight up" death metal album the band would write and release.

Ulcerate - Vermis (2013)

This is that art-fag "post" death metal bullshit that makes all of the pretentious closet case metal-heads feel safe to listen to.

Listening to Ulcerate is the equivalent of those stories you hear of someone being anally excavated whilst in the midst of some incredibly drunken stupor. Once the fog begins to clear and before the realization fully sets in, there's that hazy moment of faint recollection that the victim hangs onto, telling themselves that perhaps this was all just a bad dream. That moment of hope that maybe they didn't just endure some sordid experience of monstrous homosexuality.

The only difference between this album and the last three is that you can tell the band are finally nearing the point of actually being able to write a song instead of cramming a bunch of non-sensical dissonant riffing together and calling it such. As a rule, non-psychedelic rhythmic meandering = pseudo-intellectual pretentiousness. Sure, they're getting close, but they're not quite there yet. I'm getting too old to have to listen to something 900 fucking times for it to begin to slightly gel together.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Aevangelist - Omen Ex Simulacra (2013)

I wrote a "semi" review of the band's second full length, 'Omen Ex Simulacra' last year and had mentioned in it
something along the lines of the riffs not being worth a damn once you take away all of the background noise, yada, yada. I take that back. The riffs are actually not bad at all. In fact, there are some really cool and dismal sounding riffs on this album that are unfortunately marred by the idiot who didn't know when to stop the fucking intro! With all of the proclamations of "genius", etc. I was quite stunned at the stupidity of slathering several different rhythmic fluctuations with the same droning intro and began to question the integrity of those who were making these claims. I wouldn't exactly say that playing a guitar riff over or alongside a prerecorded ambient track is an endeavor unheard of. A step towards the "genius" moniker would be to know exactly when to shut that shit down. This just sounds like the end-result of the fumbling hands of a juvenile mind at the threshold of becoming an amateur. Again, there truly are some nice and creepy riffs scattered throughout but they are unfortunately rendered unbearable to endure by not only what's going on in the background but by the ineptitude of the drum programming as well.

If this album were to be re-released sans the infernal fluff, we might actually have a contender. As it is, though, this shall be cast upon the growing pile of neo-dissonant/post-'90's Incantation/Immolation clones and set ablaze.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Last Sacrament - Enantiodromia (2013)

Surprisingly good modern death metal! The vocals here are nice, low and monstrous and the guitars are also low and thick with distortion. You can tell that these guys obviously know their way around the fret board yet there's never a moment where I'm rolling my eyes at the stupidity of how much lame guitar "hero-isms" are flailing about. The guys are focused more on creating gargantuan, death metal riffs beneath an ancient and rotting arch that symbolizes the filth and decay of the true essence of death metal. If only more skilled players grasped this concept. Of course, having shitty guitar nerds out there ejaculating over the newest jazz/prog/technical-death jerkery is part of what makes the world go 'round. Unfortunate yet it is what it is.

I'm curious to see where these guys go from here, whether they delve deeper into prog-metal faggery like most skilled musicians seem to do after a fashion, or, will they continue to traverse the haunted soundscapes of old? Being that their sophomore album will be released next month, we shall see soon enough.

Descend - Demonstration Cassette 1995

Tasty and long forgotten slab of rotten, old skull death metal from Ohio fairly close in sound to renowned Fin's Demilich and early Disgrace while not getting overly technical and "noodly" like the former.

I'm actually surprised that I haven't seen these guys getting all types of posthumous praise among the 'OSDM' crowd like I usually do with these types of "forgotten" demos. Believe me, this one is worth every bit of worship one can bestow upon it. This has it all. Grimy, low tuned guitars, barfy, dual Carcass-style vocals and an ancient Finnish death metal feel overall. Hell, even the production is surprisingly well done. It's a demo that was released on cassette so don't expect Morrisound and you'll be just fine.

Death - Scream Bloody Gore (1987)

When I was younger and Death had only released their initial trio of albums I think I may have preferred this album to the other two. Through the years, though, I've come to the conclusion that, aside from the novelty that this was about as intense of an album as you could get during the time of it's release (with the exception of Napalm Death's 'Scum'), I found it to be rather boring and despite what certain pseudo-intellectual bloggers might tell ya, I'll take Deicide's debut over this any day of the week.

The identity of the songs on display here vary a bit more than on 'Leprosy' but they're all still painfully straightforward and after about 1/2-way through the first track I'm already planning my exit-strategy.

Sure, this sounded groundbreaking and pretty damn cool when it came out but it didn't take long for me to outgrow it and unlike most fanatics out there, I actually prefer the 3rd and 4th albums over the first two. Oddly enough, I'm not a fan of Symbolic whatsoever and the small amount I've heard off of the last album (The Sound of Perseverance) did little to nothing for me as well. I feel that Death pretty much peaked right smack dab in the middle of their (Chuck's) career with Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy being stepping stones toward bigger and better things. Innovative? Perhaps in terms of intensity but again, for me the novelty of being a death metal band so early in the game wore off once I heard what else was out there such as Carcass, Pestilence and Entombed. Those were band's that were creating material that catered to my imagination in a way that Death never could.

Death - Leprosy (1988)

Cool and iconic album cover aside, for the life of me I just cannot get into this album. Granted, Death were an important stepping stone in my life when it came to early death metal, but there were always better things out there lying in wait.

First off, the songs are just fucking boring. Sure, there's a moment or two where things get fairly interesting, such as the beginning of 'Left to Die', but it doesn't take long before the 'womp womp' kicks back in. Yeah, yeah, yeah... I know, I know... Chuck's this "awesome" lead guitar player, yada-fucking-yada. Oh well. Guess what? Never gave a fuck about leads, so 'blam'... once you take that out of the equation what have you got left? The drums? Ha! An amputated midget could've come up with more interesting fills and beats and holy-fucking-shitballs... what the FUCK is up with that annoying god-damned snare? This guy's barely past the Lars Ulrich stage. I mean, dude, c'mon... skank beat after skank beat. And they're not even like the Slayer-style skanks filled with anxiety and aggression. These just sound like the drummer is bored out of his fucking mind and can't wait to go sit in traffic for an hour.

The actual riffs/songs themselves are not much better. I swear, even for an older, "catchier" album the tracks on 'Leprosy' have a tendency to bleed into one another and I begin to think I'm listening to some epic song of unparalleled and rage-inducing boredom until I realize that three tracks have already skated on by. Believe me, as a fan of funeral doom I am no stranger to redundant droning and the like, but this...

About the only thing of worth here, to me, are the vocals, which were quite the tasty morsel in their day and still sound very convincing even now. Unfortunately, they do very little to make the rest of this album interesting to me. To be honest, I've always been on the fence with Death, even back when I first heard them in the late '80's, which is saying something as death metal as a genre was still in the cradle sucking on a pacifier. For me, the band didn't truly begin to "cook" until their 3rd LP, 'Spiritual Healing', which even then carried many of the same lackluster traits that made it so hard for me to get into their first two albums. Sure, the nostalgia factor is not lost on me and I respect the band's historical standing but again, I have never been able to transcend the notion that in the beginning, despite the novelty of being THE pioneering death metal band, Death was on the losing side of a battle with tepid mediocrity and it wouldn't be until the homos from Cynic hopped on board that Death truly came into their own. As far as the early sounds of death metal are concerned and the long-standing debate of the beginnings of the genre, I'll take Possessed any day of the week.