Archive for July, 2014

Sometimes, fate conspires against me. I planned this evening to settle in with a book and a few progressive death metal albums. I had Pestilence – Spheres, Atheist – Piece of Time and Cynic – Focus all queued up, the three best and strangest of the originators of properly progessive death metal. But then, lo and behold, I spy on the interwebs that Sleep have released a new song called ‘The Clarity’. So all plans are put on hold until this mighty news and music has been fully disgested.

‘The Clarity’, first off an ironic title given the level of fuzz and mind warping that Sleep tracks have been known to include in the past, is probably the band’s clearest statement of intent. Twenty years after their last original material was written, to say that the wait for new Sleep material was endless is an understatement. Thank fuck we had High on Fire and Om to sate us in the meantime. ‘The Clarity’ strips out most but not all of the fuzz that layers upon Matt Pike’s hypnotising riffs. Al Cisneros intones his lyrics languidly, inducing that stoner haze that Sleep do so well. The transcendant, soaring solo that appears about 5:25 is one of 2014’s purest moments of musical joy. It’s kaleidoscopic, triumphant and mesmerising.

Hopefully this leads into a new Sleep album sooner rather than later, but we would be fools to expect. We should only hope, with the rumbling bass of ‘The Clarity’ as our spirit guide, that something resembling a full length will emerge from the haze some day. If not, then this at least is a welcome sight. All hail the leaf, and all hail Sleep.

http://m.noisey.vice.com/blog/electric-wizard-i-am-nothing-listen

Certain bands out there make me drop EVERYTHING to hear something new by them. But few come close to the mighty Electric Wizard. Having written about 10 of my favourite metal songs ever, anything new is welcome. Especially after a four year wait since ‘Black Masses’. But it was worth it. ‘I Am Nothing’ is a grinding, psychedelic trip into the dark. It has everything you want in an Electric Wizard song; the rumbling, hypnotising groove that’s a mile wide. The crushing heavy that flattens you into your chair. Shamanic vocals preaching the message of DOOOOOM! If the rest of the album is as good as this, then Mount Salem may have finally found a rival for my album of the year…

WORSHIP THE FUCKING RIFF

Originally posted here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/album-reviews/n/nearly-dead-st-lp-dd-2014/

When we get our materials to review from The Sleeping Shaman, it’s usually a bio from the band or the label. Nearly Dead sent a simple request for someone to review their self-titled release. It’s refreshingly direct, leaving out all the hyperbole sometimes lavished upon us by bands.

Nearly Dead play grinding noise rock. Opening track Hey Nurse is an odd collection of buzzing riffs, mechanical drumming and almost spoken word vocals with screeching saxophone type noises in the background. It’s a suitably unsettling piece, with the refrain “I want to live forever” repeating in a menacingly hypnotising way. Organs has that same vibe, a Killing Joke-esque industrial stomp with a preacher of darkness over the top. The wild brass instrumentation is disconcerting, seeming at once totally out of place and yet integral to the feeling of weirdness.

Cialis is a grinding, dissonant nightmare full of howling jazz and provocative imagery. Oxycodone opens with the line “blood is dripping from my penis”. Yes, really. This is dark, twisted shit, wrapped within a jaggy, hypnotising atmosphere of distortion. It matches rather well with the disturbing imagery of the front cover. Feeding is yet more midpaced, grinding menace.

That, however, is where Nearly Dead start to fall flat. Their songs don’t really vary in structure or substance, and while it definitely creates an uncomfortable atmosphere, it starts to become a bit tedious. It takes a full 6 tracks before a change in pace arrives, Pedal Error giving it a bit more drive. The addition of the brass instruments, while certainly a unique aspect and essential in creating that unsettling feeling, starts to be more distracting than pleasurable. It starts to become more of an ordeal, and maybe that’s the idea to an extent, but it’s not for me.

Nearly Dead is an intriguing record. It is certainly uniquely weird and I have never heard anything like it. But at the same time, it could do with a little more depth in the song writing. Repetitive riffing with random bursts of brass can only work for so long without developing the idea into something a bit more rounded. The vocal styling is cool, and the imagery is dark and provocative, however for me it starts to grate a bit as it goes on. If Nearly Dead can work this concept into some better individual songs, they will definitely be an interesting prospect.

CBM (Cumbrian Black Metal) was a gift from the dark Gods last year, when I found the excellent Helvellyn and Torver as bands in my local area to support and listen to. Helvellyn’s ‘Hordes of White Light’ demo was my favourite of last year, and I’ve been lucky enough to review Skiddaw’s debut EP (due out soon on SixsixsixMusic) and the long awaited Funeral Path and Torver split in the last week or so. My latest find is Nefarious Dusk, another two man Cumbrian Black Metal band, who are looking for a label to work with. They only have one song available to listen to on their Facebook page, but it is a corker.

‘God is Dead’ starts with a delicate minor chord piano intro, which kicks into a measured, buzzing black metal riff. This is only a “rough mix” of the track, but yet it sounds clearer and crisper than a lot of black metal demos. Sometimes the search for pure, unadulterated rawness can affect the quality of the music. I’d listen to well produced black metal over a wasp-in-a-jar production anytime. ‘God is Dead’ possesses an icy clarity, and moves at a sinister pace with rasping, razorblade-gargling vocals.

If Nefarious Dusk go on to release a full demo, I’ll be all over it. This is black metal with clarity, with focus, with serious potential. I’m loving it.

I reviewed Torver’s ‘Thy Masters of Old’ track a few months back, and thoroughly enjoyed it. They’ve been looking to put out this split for a while with the equally excellent Funeral Path, and they sent me a copy to review on their behalf.

Funeral Path open the recording with a moody spoken word intro, complete with ominous organ and thunder. Breaking into first track proper, ‘Paroxysm’, you get an instantly gratifying tremelo riff, sharp and lethal as a razor. This is mid paced, atmospheric and dense black metal, replete with rasping howls and thundering drumming. It throws up walls of sound, layers of dense riffing like black cliffs, thrusting toward a moonlit sky. When it opens out, around the 3:15 mark, it takes on a whole new vast feeling. There is space for the suffocating atmosphere to smother the tortured vocals, which rasp and growl rather nicely. ‘Paroxysm’ is eight minutes of the best black metal I’ve heard this year.

Torver’s half of the split is more immediate, more primal and raw. ‘Manifestations of the Perverse’ brings to mind the vicious assault of Impaled Nazarene; it’s a relentless, primitive blast of icy black metal. ‘From Beyond the Abyss’ follows in similar style, a black tornado of scything riffing and harsh, raw vocals. ‘Torn Alive by Rats’ writhes and thrashes, tearing your ears apart with blitzkrieg force. ‘Thy Masters of Old’ I’ve reviewed favourably previously, and is a great slace of no frills, no fannying about black metal.

‘Desolate’ allows you to experience two great bands with differing styles but the same black message. Funeral Path provides the more epic scope, the denser atmosphere, while Torver go for the jugular, plain and simple. If the icy majesty of ‘Paroxysm’ isn’t for you, the dirty and dangerous ‘Torn Alive by Rats’ will scratch that itch. And by scratch, I mean gouge and rip. Let us play to Satan’s black majesty they find someone to release this properly soon, because I want it!

Albums that are the aural equivalent of herpes. That’s today’s discussion. I should clear that up actually, because it sounds a bit dodgy. Basically it’s about bands (and records particularly) that keep coming back to the top of the listening pile. They won’t go away. We’ve decided here at the Killchain that this year’s most herpes-esque albums have been Killer be Killed and new Mastodon. I know personally I start most days with a quick blast of ‘High Road’ and Wings of Feather and Wax’; they are both simply two of the best songs of the year. They are catchy but heavy as shit. Quoth the Geary:

Sounds Like Herpes.

I know what you are thinking. But no. Its not a time to reflect upon questionable choices made once upon a beer. It is in fact to think about those albums which keep giving you a little something each time you return to the well. This has been inspired by two albums released this year which has been regulars in my headphones, car and anywhere else i can play them. Firstly Killer Be Killed and then the mighty Mastodon ( both given superb reviews here) Below will be some of those albums, in addition to the above, for me. I should note that there is no time stamp here, just glorious riffage.
Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed
Mastodon – Once More’Round The Sun
Wilson – Full Blast Fuckery
Capricorns – Ruder Forms Survive
Cult Of Luna – Salvation
Down II – A Bustle in Your Hedgerow
Bolt Thrower – Those Once Loyal
Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones
Clutch- Earth Rocker
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Let Love In
This is of course in no way exhaustive, and personally I’ve got to add in Cannibal Corpse’s ‘Kill’, Nile’s ‘Annihilation of the Wicked’ and Iced Earth’s ‘Horror Show’ but Geary makes an excellent point. No matter how good an album is, if you come back to it constantly even years later (Down II is how fucking old? Really? It’s STILL brilliant) then that is the true test.

Originally published here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/album-reviews/f/filthpact-resurrected-under-condemnation-cd-dd-2014/

Filthpact are, or should I say were, a Scottish crust punk band full of grindcore and socio-political influences. They split up this year, but have released Resurrected Under Condemnation, a collection of all their tracks released between 2010 and 2014.

We’re looking at 20 tracks of nasty, crusty hardcore here. Opener Showman is particularly vicious, and gets us off to a good start. Followed by the barrelling State Dealer and the savage Blood Sport Charade, Filthpact show no restraint in grabbing you straight by the jugular and causing serious neck damage. Lyrically we’re looking at the usual suspects of alienation from modern society, the evils of modern life, and the carnage of horse racing? Yes, it’s all here, and it’s all suitably nasty and violent.

Parading As Punk is a retort to people who go to gigs to cause problems, Can’t Complain rails against wage slavery and Fit For Service bemoans issues about state handouts. Filthpact cover most socio-political issues well, smothering them in a belligerent and savage d-beat attack. The title track proudly states that they are back from hiatus (ironically) to bring pure crust violence. Not for personal gain or nostalgia, but purely to bring the noise and the attitude. This they do with aplomb.

It’s almost a shame in a way that this collection of tracks will possibly be their final release. Filthpact is an intelligent monster; the unhinged razor blade assault on the modern grind of daily life. Take Digital Division for example. It apes prime Pig Destroyer while throwing in some dirty crust riffs, all the while raging against the alienation that reliance on computers is causing in the human race.

Alba (The Chains Are On) gives the hot topic of Scottish Independence a good kicking, and hurls out some almost classic heavy metal riffs at the end. Slamming in two Motörhead covers (Ace Of Spades & Iron Fist) and a Thin Lizzy cover Emerald (seriously) that are all excellent and helps to show that Filthpact weren’t just a one trick grind pony. Emerald in particular revels in the harsher delivery, and sounds pretty awesome. The Motörhead ones sound as you’d expect, but that’s no surprise; the ‘head have always been crust punk in spirit anyway.

Resurrected Under Condemnation is a suitable final fuck you from Filthpact. Never restraining themselves and rarely coming in at anything less than the speed of sound, this is a collection of breakneck hardcore punk full of bile, spite and opinions. Just like a good crust/grind record should be.

Did you see that ‘death metal band in a box’ display that was on some art exhibition this week in London? Death metallers Unfathomable Ruination played in a soundproof, airtight box until their oxygen ran out. They could have literally been ‘death’ metal… They became a band that was on my ‘cool name, should check them out’ list to my ‘must hear asap’ list. It’s a pretty cool name, surely the music should be good too?

Their self titled EP is only three tracks long, yet contains enough heavy to bulldoze mountains. Opener ‘Echoes of Universal Futility’ is punishing, letting rip with guttural gurgles and growls while blastbeats pepper the landscape of scything riffs. It even has an epic breakdown. It’s a solid start, if slightly unimaginative. Kudos for the incredbile guitar spirals at the end though, they are fucking cool. ‘Inundation of Elemental Indifference’ continues the trend of naming songs with ‘BIG WORD BIG WORD of/in/to BIG WORD’ but is another mid paced tech death shred fest. Unfathomable Ruination clearly take their cue from the Suffocation school of death metal; layering savage guitar riffs over unremitting drum violence and low growling. They lack the song writing chops of the New York titans but they are moving in the right direction.

Final track ‘Suspended in Entropic Dissipation’ is a corker, a brutal death metal assault from all angles. Opening with a charging riff with a slightly odd time signature, it then explodes into a skin shredding nail bomb attack. The band twist and turn in every conceivable direction, and I love it.

Overall it’s a decent if slightly derivative debut recording. Their newer stuff is definitely more mature and contains better song writing, but as debut EPs go, there have been many that are MUCH worse.

If there’s one thing that really ticked all the boxes for me last year, it was my discovery of some seriously good Cumbrian black metal bands. It’s not a surprise really, the area lends itself perfectly to the style. Equal parts bleak and beautiful, harsh and unforgiving yet majestic. Helvellyn and Torver were my two favourites from last year, and I’ve recently been sent the debut EP by another CBM band, Skiddaw. Skiddaw, for those of you who don’t know, is the fourth highest fell in the Lake District and dominates every northern view you can get. It’s a vast, grey monolith, hewn from slate and stone. An implacable and iconic landmark of the Northern Fells. Helvellyn lived up to their namesake by being both frosty and majestic. Let’s see if Skiddaw can do the same.

Opening track ‘Skiddaw Forest’ is a suitably moody intro, the sound of howling wind drawing a clear, tremolo riff from the depths. It’s restrained, dissonant and evocative. It matches no cliche black metal intros, which is a positive. First track proper, ‘Skiddaw Towers’, is an altogether different beast. Eschewing traditionally thin and vicious black metal attacks, this is a thick, meaty slice of rasping black metal fury. No banshee shrieking either, vocally it’s deeper, darker and more malevolent for it. Propelled by a thunderous drumming performance, ‘Skiddaw Towers’ is excellent, mid paced horror with some soaring guitar melodies in amongst the murk.

‘Gates of Beleth’ is more relentless in pace, a battering ram of blasting drums, vicious snarls and razor sharp riffs. It’s very reminscient of Marduk in spirit, but becomes a churning maelstrom of hatred and bile in the latter half. ‘Even Titans Fall’ is another hurtling train of blackened power. This is black metal that barrels through you, merciless in execution and dense in atmosphere. This isn’t any tinny, weedy guitar riffing, plastic drum kit, made-in-my-mum’s-basement nonsense. This is thick, raw black metal with meat, with savagery, with darkness. Skiddaw match their namesake well; unforgiving and bleak. I love it