Heads for the Dead - The Great Conjuration

Review by Sandre the Giant

I’ve followed Heads for the Dead for all of their releases so far, and their horror tinged death metal assault has always been a low key favourite of mine over the years. I was particularly fond of their debut ‘Serpent’s Curse’, and their third full length ‘The Great Conjuration’ is out at the start of September through Transcending Obscurity, a label who have nurtured their skills since the start.

‘The Jewel of the Seven Stars’ originally feels very meat and potatoes death metal until the latter half, where you begin to feel the horror-tinged atmospheres begin to swell and it feels a little sermon-like, a dark ceremony for conjuring evil. That’s what Heads for the Dead do so well, just when you feel like it is going to be straight forward death metal they add something a little atmospheric or creepy in to keep you focused. It draws on their work from ‘Slash ‘N’ Roll’ a lot, adding this new atmospheric edge into a crusty death metal assault with aplomb. ‘The Covenant’ is a crunchy rager with a slower pace that allows a lot of the excellent guitar work to breathe, while the rampage of ‘The Breaking Wheel’ is a more traditional smash through classic European death metal-isms. ‘The Bloodline’ is a big, chunky Bolt Thrower-esque bruiser, while the heavy metal thunder of ‘Bloody Hammer’ is a personal highlight, a little like King Diamond as death metal.

Heads for the Dead have built their sound slowly and surely through their previous releases to culminate in this; a perfect storm of varied and brutally efficient death metal that doesn’t forget about the horror roots of their influences and keeps that eerie atmosphere rearing its sinister head when appropriate. This results in ‘The Great Conjuration’ being a triumph of death and horror, and the band reaching a peak faster than I expected!

https://www.facebook.com/headsforthedead/

https://headsforthedead.bandcamp.com/

https://tometal.com/

 

Boris - Heavy Rocks

Review by Sandre the Giant

Originally published here: https://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/boris-heavy-rocks-2022/

The simple idea that ‘Heavy Rocks’ is so true and so potent that Japanese legends BORIS (and this is the all caps version) have now got THREE records with that title. The original 2002 edition was a landmark of stoner rock, the 2011 sophomore felt like an answer to the poppier ‘New Album’ that saw release in the same year, so with BORIS starting to reach the 30th year of their existence the return of ‘Heavy Rocks’ feels like it could be a definitive statement on what the band is. It is out now through Relapse Records.

‘She is Burning’ is a blazing opener, frantic punkish energy spiralling from fuzzed out guitar tone and capturing the band’s RAWK credentials immediately. Flaming leads cascade from everywhere, while the drum battery of Atsuo is as impressive as ever, underpinning every psyche freakout and excursion into experimentalism. ‘Cramper’ kicks off with a stoner rock approach, before slowly beginning to unravel into one of said psyche freakouts, before the absolute beast of ‘My Name is Blank’ kicks that concept out of the window with the best straightforward BORIS track since ‘Statement’. But for those of us who like the lower caps version never fear, ‘boris’ are always hiding in here somewhere.

‘Blah Blah Blah’ shreds your ear with some feedback before Takeshi’s bass powers this track along into some truly memorable territory, as wailing guitar leads stretch out into cosmic jams and jazzy sax breaks puncture the firm anchor of bass. The spacey vocal melodies haunt this track, and I had to go back a number of times just to sate that appetite. ‘Question 1’ feels a bit like a crust punk track that suddenly opens up into a vast vista of squalling guitar and ambient soundscapes. This is boris at their best; taking something that feels visceral and heavy and making it so huge and ethereal at the same time. When it comes crashing back down to Earth, it feels like a revelation from God. The proper old school drone doom ‘Nosferatou’ feels like the crushing weight of existence coming down on all of us, and we get some classic Melvins worship in there as well, confirming, to me at least, that the band are really establishing their legacy here. ‘Ghostly Imagination’ might be the most brutal traditional song the band have ever written, melding the chugging, sludgy riffs with an industrial layer and some properly savage vocals, while closer ‘(not) Last Song)’ is an introspective masterpiece, where gloomy piano and a lonely vocal dissolve in and out of squalling feedback interludes. It certainly feels laced with finality, as it abruptly cuts out to close.

I could write for eons about how important this band have been for me personally, and the journeys they’ve taken me but the simplest action is to just listen. Listen to a band who still sound as vital today as they did 30 years ago. A band whose exploration and experimentation with sound has proven to be so influential and like no other. When you’ve gone and done all that, you can write as many albums with the same name as you want. ‘Heavy Rocks 2022’ is a pure expression of Boris; Wata coaxing ribbons of exhilarating guitar melodies from the ether, Atsuo smashing that drumkit like a man possessed and the propulsive, impulsive bass of Takeshi. There’s nobody like them, and there never will be.

https://www.facebook.com/borisheavyrocks

https://store.relapse.com/

https://relapserecords.bandcamp.com/

Review by Sandre the Giant

Long running Swedish crust/death/hardcore punks Wolfbrigade are back with a new three track EP, ‘Anti-Tank Dogs’, and seven albums into a long and illustrious career as one of the more influential bands in the worldwide hardcore scene, have decided to remind us of how effective their Discharge meets Dismember sound can be. It is out now through Armageddon Records and AgiPunk Records.

The title track bursts into life with a feral crusty hardcore riff that batters through you like the primest of Discharge with a touch of necropunk Darkthrone about it too. Wolfbrigade have always given you a little death metal vibe in there with their D-beat signature sound, and this guitar tone and vocal is definitely straight out of Stockholm 1993. Somehow ‘Brainruler’ feels even faster and more rabid, burning through your bones with a fierce intensity, while rabid vocals scour across blasting drums. Closer ‘Necronomicon’ is something else entirely though, a dark and gloomy stomp through a very ‘Orgasmatron’-esque slab of crusty heavy metal. “We are Wolfbrigade, and we play crust ‘n’ roll”, I could almost hear coming through the speakers in a song that I think will really stay with me for the rest of the year.

‘Anti-Tank Dogs’ is a short, sharp blast of cracking crust punk/hardcore/death metal with a surprisingly and welcome twist into more accessible territory at the end there. Wolfbrigade are still dirty and grim of course, but those kind of moments remind you that Wolfbrigade are just a cut above the rest of the pack and you can always rely on them to give you high quality stuff, even on such a short release. Top stuff.

https://www.facebook.com/lycanthropunks

https://linktr.ee/Agipunkrecords

https://linktr.ee/armageddonshop

https://armageddonlabel.bandcamp.com/album/anti-tank-dogs-ep

Morbid Evils - Supernaturals

Review by Sandre the Giant

Another day, another grand release from Transcending Obscurity, who continue to reward us all for the lives we’ve led with new and massive records. The newest is ‘Supernaturals’, by Finnish sludge/doom/death lords Morbid Evils, a follow up to 2017’s well regarded ‘Deceases’. It is out next week and looks to be a standard bearer in the label’s schedule this year.

‘Fearless’ comes trudging from the murk with massive, lurching death/doom riffs sloughed in swampy, sludgy grimness. The sound is vast; an omnipresent ambient hum lurks in the background as the vocals howl nihilistic brutality into the aether. All of a sudden this pace is shattered by a chunky, rabid death metal riff that kicks us into a Swedish death metal gear. I was not ready for that transition, but it is a glorious moment where elemental forces combine into a potent assault. The return to nihilistic death/doom leads perfectly into ‘Anxious’, a gleaming miserable ode to Jesu with its droning riffs slowly evolving into a devastating downward plunge into the darkest abyssal depths. Morbid Evils have really nailed this collaboration of genres with coherent and dynamic songwriting.

The groaning crush of ‘Tormented’ is impaled by glorious soloing at one point, a cavalcade of light spiralling through insufferable darkness. Transcending Obscurity have put out a lot of dark, slow, heavy shit over the years but ‘Supernaturals’ is up there with the best of them. Sepulcros, Eremit, Jupiterian; Morbid Evils can easily fit in this illustrious company. As the cosmic malevolence of ‘Supernatural’ closes us out with twelve minutes of truly galaxy-scale brutality, whether at glacial pace or rampaging speed, Morbid Evils have re-emerged into the scene much like the artwork that adorns this record; a spirit of darkness hanging above what tiny and inconsequential mankind is left after the destructive sweep of ‘Supernaturals’. This is magnificent.

https://www.facebook.com/MorbidEvils

https://morbidevils.bandcamp.com/

https://tometal.com/

Evil Shade - Vandals

Review by Sandre the Giant

Mexican speed metallers Evil Shade are here to bring back the spirit of early Helloween and Running Wild into 2022 with their debut release ‘Vandals’, out now through Chaos Records on cassette and Spookies Productions on CD.

The opening title track gives you a little bit of harmony and guitar melody before the speed metal kicks into high gear, complete with King Diamond-esque shriek. It has a more leisurely pace to it, and gives you an immediate taste of the band’s range. ‘Wicked Crusades’ is a rampage of classic metal riffs, killer soloing and a stellar vocal performance that rockets it up my list of ‘Absolute Bangers 2022!’ ‘Beneath the Pentagram’ feels like a punchy, singalong anthem, while ‘Shade of Evil’ has a little Mercyful Fate about it, along with a triumphant Maiden-esque gallop to it as well to make it probably the strongest track here.

Closing with a rousing rendition of Running Wild’s ‘Black Demon’, Evil Shade’s debut work is a tight, solid little EP that will set them off well for the next and hopefully full length release. Their music is fun, catchy and has a really gritty 80s style production which I think lends them an air of authenticity. ‘Vandal’s is certainly not a waste of your time, and I look forward to what comes next.

https://www.facebook.com/EvilShadeBand/

https://shadeofevil.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.chaos-records.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SpookiesProductions/

Rotheads - Slither in Slime

Review by Sandre the Giant

I covered Romanian death metallers Rotheads back in 2018 when they released their debut ‘Sewer Fiends’ record, and the band have really begun to grow into themselves over the past few years. Their newest effort, ‘Slither in Slime’, is out now through Memento Mori and looks to continue their building, fetid legacy.

‘Vampyric Inbreeding’ has a nice little creepy intro section before it all dissolves into waves of old school Swedish death riffs and guttural roars. The eerie melodic streak is still in full force, probably even more so now as it wrestles with the sludgy brutality for supremacy. ‘Lost in the Cemtery Gardens’ is a melodic powerhouse to start, before the world of nasty death metal fury swallows it up. ‘Slither in Slime’ definitely seems to be the record where Rotheads turn their fetid soup of potential into something magnificent in conception. ‘Gut Mauled’ is a mammoth undertaking of old school death/doom like Autopsy’s slower masterpieces; lumbering riffs crash against a lurking bass and subtle drums while the strange clean guitar notes at the start and appearing throughout ‘Gore Coffin’ are unsettling to say the least.

I mentioned the evident Finnish death metal influences that pervaded throughout their debut record, and Rotheads haven’t lost any of that with early Amorphis joining the more obvious Demigod worship. There’s a lot of classic Scandinavian influences (Grave on the expansive and grim ‘Spectral Visitations’), but Rotheads are carving their own name into the genre with bloodied, rusted blade. Closer ‘Dragged Through Existence’ finally reveals to me the missing puzzle of my review, when you sudden sense that the whole record has been a haunting, almost cinematic experience leading up to this coup de grace of crushing death metal.

‘Slither in Slime’ is a record that seems superficial and straightforward before you dive in, but unwraps its complexities and nuances with each track until you are left drained and bewildered. Rotheads are pushing a form of death metal that truly feels immersive, eldritch and ancient yet never relying on samples or interludes to get that across. Mournful soloing and a melancholic atmosphere lies across everything they touch, and it makes ‘Slither in Slime’ all the more special to me. Majestic.

https://www.facebook.com/rotheads/

https://rotheads.bandcamp.com/

http://www.memento-mori.es/

Review by Sandre the Giant

I could not have been happier to be back at a live concert if I’d tried, let me just start my review in that framing. It has been 8 long months since I was last at a gig, seeing Tyrannus et al in the 13th Note and boy was I ready for this. Also, what an august occasion, the 30th anniversary of one of my favourite all time death metal records that I always feel is somewhat forgotten amongst the genre classics, Malevolent Creation’s timeless ‘Retribution’. But that is to come, for first we had some serious Glaswegian death metal to deal with.

Unfortunately due to congestion issues, I didn’t make it to Ivory Blacks in time so see Edinburgh old school death metallers Tymvos which was a shame, as I have enjoyed last year’s demo and hopefully I’ll see them soon. First for me was reunited local lads Embolism whose dense, NYDM-inspired style and acidic stage banter was the perfect tonic. Tearing through tracks from their 2007 EP ‘Silence the Whore’, along with a guttural cover of Cannibal Corpse’s ‘Skull Full of Maggots’ featuring MC’s Ryan Taylor on vocals, it’s great to have Embolism back.

I reviewed Coffin Mulch’s excellent ‘Septic Funeral’ recently here on the site, and even more recently finally remembered to pick up a physical copy for my collection too. I was supposed to go see them in Edinburgh a while back but it got cancelled, so this has been in the works for a while. It’s not relevant to this review, but that cancelled gig also meant I missed the Ray Harryhausen exhibit as well, which I’ve never forgiven myself for. Anyway, speaking of monstrous realism, Coffin Mulch are fucking legit live. Their sludgy brutality impressed me immediately on record but live their songs are possessed with a manic energy that convulses and flails.  We are even treated to a new track that, by the sounds of frontman Al’s demonic growls, is going to be something real real good.

When you are set up by two killer performances, you’ve got to deliver the goods and my God did Malevolent Creation manage that. First of all, when you hear legit old school death metal, you always notice a deep and underlying Slayer influence that a lot of modern ‘old school’ bands forget. That unmistakable thrashy tone permeates a lot of the ‘Retribution’ tracks we hear tonight, and as you’d expect we hear a lot of those. Classics like ‘Slaughter of Innocence’ and ‘Coronation of Our Domain’ feel as vibrant today as they were 30 years ago, and new vocalist Ryan Taylor does the memory of Brett Hoffman proud with his execution. He also spent a lot of the gig swigging directly from a bottle of Auchentoshan whisky which I think endeared him to us immediately! We got a full range of classic cuts as well as the ‘Retribution’ tracks, from a ‘Ten Commandments’ triple header (‘Premature Burial’, ‘Remnants of Withered Decay’, ‘Multiple Stab Wounds’) through ‘Living in Fear’ and ‘Manic Demise’ to a beautifully brutal finale of ‘Blood Brothers’, dedicated to Brett Hoffman’s memory.

It’s difficult to describe how fucking fun this show was if you weren’t there, but it was an ode to the joyously ironic zest of life that death metal can give you when it is on point. I’d never seen Malevolent Creation before tonight, so the chance to see a long running legend meeting the new wave of old school death metal was very satisfying, and you would’ve struggled to get a better setlist. Violence, visceral and very very very good!

https://tymvos.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.facebook.com/EmbolismBand/

https://embolism1.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/coffinmulch

https://coffinmulch.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/MalevolentCreationOfficialBand/

https://malevolent1.bandcamp.com/

Review by Geary of War

What do you get when you cross the energy and delivery of Killswitch Engage with the spirit behind Austrian Death Machine and an undying love for ‘Kickboxer’? Bleed Like Mylee is what you get who will be dropping ‘Nuk Soo Kow’ in full on August 5th.

‘Kiss of Death’ wastes no time and gets into the high tempo that will become a signature here. Be ready to smile. The mental pace is broken but some massive slamming moments designed to test the hardiest of necks. I dare you not to air guitar for the solo here. ‘Now Kiki Even Too’ starts with a clean sung opener before the growling starts again. And then shifts right back! The clean delivery has a deeper delivery to it than what you may usually associate with this musical genre and in my opinion is all the better for it. Brace yourself for the 3 minute mark. That section will blow your hair clean back. ‘Kick the Tree’ opens as beautifully as you could hope for before you are transported to the brutal moment in that movie and the crucial message that it’s mind of matter. This song majestically captures what that scene means and to listen to this transports you right there.

After opening with a quote ‘Stone City’ dives right into the trademark blend of aggressive and clean, once again telling the story of growth and self belief that the movie aims to deliver with the Muscles from Brussels. Keep an ear out for a particularly savage section about 2:30 onwards. Shake pictures off their hooks if loud enough. Brilliant. We close out with ‘Nuk Soo Kow’ and the famous scene from the movie. I had goosebumps hearing this with the band’s music. The urge to punch sand, kick trees and dip my wrapped, glued hands in glass has not been higher since I first saw this masterpiece.

The playing goes to another level with big brutal riffs, death growls, howls from the bleakest north and more well timed quotes. There is a rousing clean section with more beautiful playing which builds in an anthemic way before gently fading out. This is not a long listen but let me tell you it’s a bloody great one. Leaping into the top records of the year I defy anyone not to enjoy this.

Viogression - 3rd Stage of Decay

Review by Sandre the Giant

Milwaukee’s Viogression has been around for a long time, since the early 90s in fact, but their third record ‘3rd State of Decay’ has been a long time coming. Thirty years in fact, since their sophomore effort ‘Passage’. Their legit old school death metal sound is out now through Satanath Records, in collaboration with Moribund Records, Murdher Records and Dark Media United.

Bands run a mighty risk after so long away from the world; will their old school credentials work for them or against them, and does that depend on whether they’re desperate for old glories or just a pure love of the game? After the grandstanding opening 90 seconds of ‘Nectar of Veins’, the brutality that ensues gives us somewhat of the answer. There’s a hefty dose of Obituary, as well as some of latter Death/Atheist in the songwriting skills, with ‘Under the Riverbed’ feeling like a lost ‘Leprosy’ b-side and the sinewy blows of ” coming down with a hammer-like intensity. Viogression have not come for the flimsy nostalgia run, they have come to compete. ‘3rd State of Decay’ runs the stylistic gambit too, from the death/doom rumble of ‘From Dust’ to the almost grindcore intensity of ‘3 Skulls’, giving us a full sweep of brutality. The band are even unafraid of some seriously monstrous song lengths, with two tracks in the back half cracking the 7:30 mark. Of these, I feel like the elegiac ‘Sisters of Iris: Taurion’ hits hardest.

Speaking as a big Obituary fan, I love this fucking record. Not because it is a copycat of the Florida legends, but it has a similar vibe and it gives me the same feeling as I get when I listen to ‘Cause of Death’. ‘3rd Stage of Decay’ is a glorious example of when old school band comebacks work sublimely, and Viogression are a hidden gem none of us knew we were missing out on. You could possibly complain that it feels a little long in places, but you’d probably be wrong. This fucking owns.

https://www.facebook.com/Viogression

https://viogressionr.bandcamp.com/

http://www.satanath.com/

Existence Dysphoria - Minus Negative

Review by Sandre the Giant

The debut full length from London’s Existence Dysphoria, ‘Minus Negative’, sees the sludge doom newcomers drawing inspiration from the crumbling edifice of Western society and its underlying effects; depression, hypocrisy, drugs and general misery. Sounds about right in this particular day and age. It is out now through Sludgelord Records.

The sinister and aptly titled ‘The Stage is Set’ begins our journey with creeping industrial touches and bleak dark ambience into the lumbering crush of ‘Sculpted into Nothing’, a mossy slab of granite riff and eldritch roar that has this insidious melody to it that has lodged it deep within my brain. Unfortunately the grim nature of its existence is probably going to poison me, but with a nihilistic fuzz like this, who cares?! ‘You’re Worse’ is a grinding, rumbling sludge odyssey of misery; absolutely subterranean riffing battles with crushing bass and pounding drums in an orgy of gloom, moments where the riffs vanish into thin air and return without warning that draw a real Godflesh feel as the collapsing society finds its voice amongst this rubble.

Closing with the righteous groove of the title track (how can music this heavy and filthy ALWAYS somehow have a killer groove to it?), as if someone drowned some classic desert rock in poisonous tar, ‘Minus Negative’ is a grand statement of intent. Existence Dysphoria shake the foundations of the British underground, baring its fetid underbelly to our waning sun and revealing our miserable depths. Stuff like this just wakes you from your heatstricken stupor and invigorates your soul. Buy this shit now!

https://www.facebook.com/Existence-Dysphoria-107340758452625

https://existencedysphoria.bandcamp.com/

https://sludgelordrecords.bandcamp.com/album/minus-negative