Archive for August, 2014

That’s right, it’s time for another random visitation to a place of unknown metal. This week, I’m looking towards the frozen eastern lands of Estonia. Former Soviet republic. Most famous for Metsatoll, who of course I shall not be featuring but are a very good band and I recommend much of their music. I feel that Estonia is one of those countries that has one big famous band, yet I’m not really aware of anything else that’s happening there. So I went exploring and found a number of excellent bands

First on the list is Necro Strike, a nasty death metal/crust band from Viljandi. As I have little to no idea about Estonian as a language, all I can figure out is that they are unsigned and are looking for a label. Stream their track ‘Romeo Ja Jaulia’ here, and prepare to have your face removed.

Next are Tharaphita, a pagan metal band with a tasty slice of the blackened straight through the middle of them. They’ve been going since 1997, and I feel embarrassed to admit I’d never heard of them until tonight. I listened to some stuff from their newest record Ulestous, and it’s pretty badass. It doesn’t have any of that flute bollocks that other pagan metal bands have, and they have some cool, icy Gorgoroth-esque riffs in places. I recommend this very highly. Listen to a great example of their sound here.

Third are ambient black metallers Vanad Varjud, who have only released their debut album this year, ‘Apooriad’, on tape through Hexenreich Records. It is a mournful slice of depressive, hypnotic black metal, with what I can only assume is spoken word Estonian over the top. It adds to the mystery of what this band are trying to present, and I think it works well. Listen here.

Finally are thrashers Cantilena. I like these guys, their sound reminds me of early Exodus or Overkill, they definitely have a dash or two of Bay Area influence. It’s rather melodic and catchy too which is essential for thrash tracks. Listen here.

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Originally published here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/album-reviews/i/inter-arma-the-cavern-12inch-cd-dd-2014/

When I wrote this review originally, I wondered whether I’d gone a bit far while comparing ‘The Cavern’ to Mastodon’s magnum opus, ‘Leviathan’. ‘Leviathan’ was the defining metal record of the 2000s, and ‘The Cavern’ isn’t quite as good. But it possess the same spirit, the same drive for change and the same feeling of ‘specialness’ about it. On further listening, I’m even more convinced that this band will go on to be something iconic.

Inter Arma produced one of last year’s most stunning metal releases in Sky Burial. Its artful mixing of sludge and post metal aesthetics, plus the addition of quality song writing, made for one of 2013’s most forward thinking records. So when the opportunity arose to cover The Cavern, 45 minutes of music written and recorded during the touring for Sky Burial, came up I leapt at it. What intrigued me most is the idea that you’re hearing how a band’s previous work is affecting their mindset when it comes to writing new material, so soon after the last.

The Cavern opens with spacey sound effects, a precursor of this journey we are about to take. Delicate acoustics appear, intertwining melodies that conjure images of rays of light piercing through the clouds on a morning. The crescendo builds slowly, until a sledgehammer riff appears and the mood changes. If you’ll excuse the pun, this sounds cavernous. Sky Burial was great to me because of the vastness of its riffs and atmosphere. The Cavern continues this path, deftly combining the thunder of prime sludge doom with some Isis style guitar melodies.

When vocalist Mike Paparo’s vocals appear after over five minutes, the mood is complete. He sounds like he is roaring, impassioned, over the void. He combines the power of Aaron Turner with the primal rage of Matt Pike. The ferocity that clashes with the thunderous riffs around the eight minute mark is particularly effective. The Cavern picks up the mantle of a band like Isis and bring it into the post post-metal scene (post squared?). Inter Arma are doing things that bring to mind the revolution that Mastodon wrought upon metal 10 years ago with Leviathan.

The Cavern ebbs and flows like a great track should. Around the 15 minute mark you have a very Mastodonian set of melodies that bring to mind Aqua Dementia from Leviathan, but not in a derivative way. The Cavern shows why Sky Burial was such a success of last year. Inter Arma are a band that can make a 45 minute track constantly interesting, unexpected and infinitely powerful. They are this generation’s Cult of Luna, this generation’s Isis. They sacrifice none of the heft of their sludge to ensure that the music is progressive without being dense. Dazzlingly complex in parts and primitively simple and heavy in others.

There’s too many points to pick a favourite moment. Possibly at twenty minutes when the violin backing comes in and the whole thing becomes mournful and introspective before the riffs return. Like I said before, Inter Arma balance the light and the heavy perfectly, and have crafted a piece of music that would stand up against anything Neurosis, Isis or Cult of Luna could have written. And that is high praise. Hail to the heirs of Leviathan’s throne.

Since I posted yesterday’s piece on Indian metal bands, I’ve received quite a good amount of feedback from that country and some of its metallers. I was requested to listen to this track from Eyes of the Martyr, entitled ‘Incubus Breach’. A task with which I am happy to help out, as not only do I love finding new music from the furthest reaches of the planet, but I like to think I can help out bands with finding new listeners whenever possible.

‘Incubus Breach’ starts with some clean, picked guitar that is very reminiscient of ‘Wherever I May Roam’ Metallica, or some of Opeth’s more delicate work. It then kicks into some brutal, Lamb of God worship, with a hammering groove metal riff that batters its way into your skull with all the subtlety of a bulldozer. They combine some chugging deathcore riffs with some off-kilter thrashing to create an interestingly unique style. Vocalist Amir Hasmi is a dead ringer for LOG’s Randy Blythe, which suits the style well.

Eyes of the Martyr have something here. They stand out from the cookie cutter groove metal clones out there with their odd time signatures and their head caving riffing. Metal like this needs to be kept interesting over a longer period to remain relevant, and if Eyes of the Martyr can maintain this style and quality over a few more songs, I’d be very interested in hearing more. Let’s have it!

I know, I know, wrong Indians… BUT! The Indian subcontinent is producing some of the best new sounds and bands in underground metal. Only with the rise of Demonic Resurrection in the past few years, first with their staggering ‘The Return to Darkness’ record, and their latest ‘The Demon King’ has there been a really well known Indian metal band. Hopefully that will now change with some more bands finding exposure. So I decided to focus on India for this installment, and go a-scouring for the best metal that it has to offer.

First of all, I’m plugging Crypted. A progressive death metal band from Chennai, they play a brutal, propulsive style of death, punctuated with the odd jazzy break and some virtuoso guitar work. If what I’ve heard from ‘Flesh Eater‘ is anything to go by, they could be pretty big. It’s catchy as hell while losing nothing of its brutality and heaviness. Check them out.

Another great Indian band are Toxoid. Now, my friend Steve at Sixsixsix Music was the one who suggested these guys. They play a rather vicious style of black metal, paying homage to the cold white north. For a band from such a tropical area of the world, ‘Aurora Satanae‘ is an icy cold, Satanic blast of metal that could be straight from Scandinavia. It’s bloody marvellous. Download it on their Bandcamp for a paltry $4.

I’m going to mention Demonic Resurrection here, as even though they aren’t really an underground band anymore being featured in magazines across the world, it is important to acknowledge that they’ve come out representing their country with serious chops and tunes behind them. If it wasn’t for ‘The Return to Darkness’, I would never have considered India as such a fertile breeding ground for the new breed of extremity. So hail to them and simply put, buy the shit out of their stuff, because it’s devastating blackened death metal. If the rest of their new record sounds like this, it’s going to be challenging in many album of the year lists.

Back to the underground now, but possibly not to stay there considering the quality of last year’s ‘The Dawn of Consummation and Emergence’, Reptilian Death bring the heavy and the death metal with similar qualiy and ferocity as Demonic Resurrection, and it’s only a matter of time I feel until we’re mentioning them alongside their more famous countrymen as the newest hopes for death metal. Listen here.

Penultimately we come to Mumbai’s Bhayanak Maut, a band who mix elements of death metal and hardcore, but yet aren’t metalcore nor deathcore. I suppose they could just be metal eh? Your nearest comparison is someone like Lamb of God or Devildriver I guess, although they don’t quite match up with the quality in those bands. They have a couple of good songs on YouTube, and I’d definitely be interested in hearing more. Solid heavy metal for the pit.

Last, but in no way least is Inner Sanctum, death/thrashers from Bangalore. A band who have opened for both Slayer and Metallica in the past, it implies an impressive pedigree and talented guys, and Inner Sanctum do not disappointed. Their thrash is chunky, similar to Megadeth when they’re on form. It’s well paced, not hyper speed and it possesses some cracking riffs. Listen here.

This is only a brief look at some of the 145 bands listed on Encyclopedia Metallum that play metal in India. I picked the favourites of the ones I could find to listen to. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them too.

This is turning out to be a good time to be searching out new music. I’ve come across some very excellent new bands, and some others that aren’t so new but I have never been aware of them. We’re turning the spotlight onto the UK for this edition, having looked to corners far and wide of the world in recent posts.

First is Evil Blood, a Croatian speed metal band who relocated to London, and since then Scotland and have played under a number of different names (Lord of Darkness and Djinn). They’ve been round a staggering 32 years, and are still gigging around the UK. They are a thrashier Venom, a rawer Motorhead, and have some killer tunes such as ‘Kill With Napalm’ and ‘Malevolent Warrior’. Scour their Facebook profile page for live videos, and check out their full set from Brofest in Newcastle particularly.

Next are Newcastle’s Live Burial. Currently working on a new release, their 2013 demo is available for free from their Bandcamp site. It is three tracks of killer, sludgy old school death metal that reminds me of Autopsy or Coffins. Downloading this is considerably worth your time, and hopefully if they have any physical releases available I will get my hands on one.

Staying in Newcastle area is Plague Rider, whose self titled album from last October is a totally brilliant of fast paced technical death metal that brings to mind latter period Death or a rawer Atheist. The music is memorable, the riffs are great, the musicianship is impressive without being overindulgent and importantly the songs feel like seperate entities. I’m glad I caught up with this eventually, as the neck wrecking intro to their eponymous song is fucking brilliant.

Penultimately is Southampton’s Desolator, who are the kind of lurid, hyper thrash outfit that fans of Muncipal Waste or Gama Bomb will enjoy. Their debut full length ‘TOTAL ATTACK’ is a ripping, high energy thrash record with a thousand riffs and a snotty, punk attitude. Not the most intellectual of releases, but when you riff this hard, who needs it? Their message is simple: ‘Thrash or Fuck Off’.

Finally, I’m picking some quality Scottish metal, thrashers Blackened Ritual. They play a thicker, heavier style of thrash than Desolator, channeling more the spirit of latter Destruction or Warbringer. They also don’t go at it hammer and tongs all the way through, showing some cool heavier and slower dynamics. It’s ace. Download their demo here and bang your fucking head.

Inspired by my last post and my discussions with Steve from Sixsixsix Music, I’ve spent the last week on a bit of an odyssey, a journey of musical discovery.  I’ve found a few diamonds in amongst the chaff. It’s a sad state of affairs where within every 10 bands you listen to, you’re lucky if there’s more than one that you think is a bit special. One flaw with the profliferation of the internet as it pertains to heavy metal is that anyone with a guitar and a drum machine can make metal. Fortunately there are also many bands who, for lack of promotion or due to their global location, remain undiscovered gems. It is the task of people like me to find them and spread the word, so that they can make something of their efforts.

This week, I have been all over the world. From Romanian tech death to Chilean thrash, from Chinese black metal to Brazilian raw death, from Canada ambient black metal to Ukrainian blackened doom. It has turned out that ignorance is not bliss, for I am now much happier having heard these bands.Hopefully I can bring them to some people’s awareness.

I’m starting out the gate with a Romanian band called Code Red. Released last September, their ‘Dominions of Our Deceitful Beliefs’ record is a maelstrom of punishing technical death metal. They’ve got a much better approach than many tech death bands who assault with musicianship and forget the songs. Stream it here, its fucking heavy.

Second up is Chilean thrashers Armies and their demo ‘Slave of Torment‘. From what I can gather, this is only a new band, yet ‘Slave of Torment’ feels familiar. Like an old friend. A horrible, serial killing old friend. Raw, South American and black as night, this thrashing attack is laser guided directly for every major artery.

Returning to Romania is Bucovina, a band who take the slowly-getting-tired model of European folk metal, and inject some serious melody into it. Last year’s ‘Sub Stele’ is a grand prayer to the majesty of Romanian folklore and nature. It is uplifting but not overly, never falling into a parody of itself. They remind me of a more bleak Turisas. Listen and buy here.

North Black are a Russian black metal band who appear to have been around for almost a decade now, and their newest demo is available to stream via their bandcamp. It is an ominous piece of music, buzzing black metal riffing underpinned by relentless double bass and haunting atmospherics in the background. A shoe in for next winter’s essential listening.

Next is Neige et Noirceur, black metal from Canada and more specifically, Quebec. Now, Quebec has produced some fine black metal over the years, and ‘L’Abime Des Jours, L’Ecume Des Nuits‘ is nothing but. A slow, swelling intro builds the mood, before spiralling strngs appear and lead us into a thick, buzzing black metal fire. The murk is pierced by screams that sound like they’re being forced from the dead. I really like this one; it encapsulates the atmosphere and spell binding ferocity of black metal at its darkest.

I’m leaving it there just now, as I have enough to fill another post which I will hopefully have time to put together quite soon. Meanwhile, seek out and enjoy these killer bands