Archive for November, 2014

Now, strangely enough I realised while researching this, that I’ve probably not heard anywhere near as many demos this year as I’d like to think. So I’m going with the ones I’ve reviewed and enjoyed. I suck at this top 10 nonsense because I invariably forget something that’s magic and remember almost straight afterwards. But here we go anyway!

1. Slaughterthrone – Wrath of An Ancient Darkness: Almost definitely my favourite discovery of 2014, these guys kick so much ass they should come with a health warning. I called them the UK’s answer to Behemoth… Hopefully I’ll turn out to be right

2. Skiddaw – Skiddaw: Some nasty raw black metal from the darkest depths of the Lake District, Skiddaw are named well, as bleak and raw as the mountain itself

3. Suppressive Fire – Hellwraith: Holy shit do I love this demo. Only heard it for the first time in the past few weeks, but man does it thrash like the work of a much more mature band. I cannot wait for more from them.

4. Chiral – Abisso: My first taste of the ethereal and haunting atmospheric black metal from this one man band from Italy. Also, the dude behind is sound as fuck. Ghostly and magnificent

5. Live Burial – Live Burial: Their debut EP this year matches last year’s demo for sheer unholy death metal. It’s horrible, primal filth, steeped in the rawest of Swedish death. Brilliant

6. Vacivus – Rehearsal Demo: A dense, savage death metal attack that is drowning in ancient murk. Immolation fucking Autopsy in a swamp while Hooded Menace watches in glee

7. Nordenglander – Treading the Water: Soaring, ghostly black metal that doesn’t let up on the savagery even when it’s clouded by atmospheric mist.

8. Unfolded – Demo (2014): Unfolded are a wondrous thing. A Swedish melodic death metal band who not only don’t suck, they do it better than a lot of their contemporaries. Keep an eye on this

9. Sentience – Beyond the Curse of Death: Pure, tasty Swedeath, chainsawing its way through all who oppose it. Simply no nonsense brilliance.

10. Nolti Nan Gana Nan Nolta – Death by the Venomhammer: Probably one of the finer things I’ve heard this year, NNGNN’s demo is just horribly essential stuff, for fans of Possessed or early Bathory

Honourable mentions go to Blackened Ritual, Torver and Eyes of the Martyr. Thank you one and all for letting me hear your shit. It has always been an honour.

Following the sad demise of Nevermore, Warrel Dane has reactivated Seattle power metal legends Sanctuary and released a new record this year. Sanctuary was probably the first place a lot of metal fans heard Dane’s staggering scream, and ‘Refuge Denied’ boasts not only the band’s best tune to date (Battle Angels) but also one of Ed Repka’s finest cover arts. I finally managed to get a proper CD of this through the post today, after only having a copy for so long.

On to the music. ‘Battle Angels’ opens with probably one of American power metal’s best tunes, a ripping slice of classic heavy metal riffs and of course Dane’s awesome vocals. I’m not entirely sure he’ll be able to do it anymore, but in 1987 he probably was behind only Halford and King Diamond in terms of pure ‘metal-ness’! ‘Refuge Denied’ switches between some galloping NWOBHM riffs to some thrashier sections. The speedy ‘Termination Force’ is particularly cool, and it delves into a couple of softer, almost progressive patches. ‘Die for My Sins’ is some seriously catchy speed metal tunes, reminscient of early Blind Guardian material, while ‘Soldiers of Steel’ showcases the variety that Sanctuary brought to the table, along with what feels like a vintage thrash solo.

On to possibly the most recognisable moment on this record, the Jefferson Airplane cover ‘White Rabbit’. It includes a guest solo from Dave Mustaine (who produced the record) and the song is, of course, pretty cool. But I wouldn’t go as far to say it’s the best moment. That honour goes to the brooding self titled track, ‘Sanctuary’, that showcases the King Diamond-esque highest parts of Dane’s range as a vocalist, as well as featuring some cool riffing patterns.

‘Refuge Denied’ is a very special record for a number of reasons. Number one, it proved that American power metal could be a force to be respected, instead of derided (Manowar….). It also introduced the world to the talent of Warrel Dane, not only as a vocalist but as a lyricist. Finally, it is a great album with well written songs that hold up to today’s material. That, at least, is somewhat hard to find these days.

Power metal is a totally guilty pleasure of mine. I guess it’s the genre that got me more into proper metal from being a nu-metal kid. Bands like Blind Guardian and Iced Earth really got my interest growing and are still two of my favourite bands. While reviewing the newest Sonata Arctica release for the Metal Legions magazine, soon to be released(!), I figured I would try and put together my top 10 power metal records that I would defend to the grave if required. Prepare your invisible oranges people, we’ve got battles to fight!

1. Blind Guardian – Nightfall in Middle Earth

2. Iced Earth – Something Wicked This Way Comes

3. Lost Horizon – Awakening the World

4. Helloween – Keeper of the Seven Keys

5. Edguy – Mandrake

6. Grave Digger – Tunes of War

7. Rhapsody – Symphony of Enchanted Lands II

8. Kiuas – The Spirit of Ukko

9. Stratovarius – Visions

10. Hammerfall – Crimson Thunder

These are probably my favourites. No doubt I’ll have missed out on something great, but there you go. Maybe I’ll go back to being grim again after this.

Goatchrist hail from Halifax, which is probably the least metal sounding place in Britain. Probably. Would you expect a hatred tornado of blackened death metal carnage to come from a place that boasts the Eureka Centre? No. But, thankfully, Goatchrist are a very promising prospect in the UK underground.

Their debut record, ‘She Who Holds the Scrying Mirror’, starts with the obligatory slow burn intro, complete with the whisper of fire and a building, chugging riff. It then ignites and explodes into a maelstrom of firebrand riffing and shrieking vocals. Pretty cool way to start off your opening track, and ‘Through Flames We Invoke Him’ is a suitably strong mission statement for the rest of the record. Sixsixsix Music is reissuing this from earlier in the year, when it was a one man project of guitarist/vocalist Dominator Xul’Ahabra, a 16 year old. Yes, this raging, rasping record of hurricane force black metal and thunderous death metal was mainly recorded and written by one 16 year old. Fuck. Me.

Whereas the atmosphere and vocal performance is definitely more black metal, the heavy low end rings true with classic old school death metal. There’s no widdly tech death carnage here, just good solid thick riffs that underpin the howling vocal. There’s some cool solos in here too, particularly in the opener. ‘Catacombs’ has a more malignant feel to it; a simmering malevolence that comes through swaying Immolation riffs and inhuman screams. There’s also a squalling ‘controlled chaos’ guitar solo in this that rips as well.

The album continues to show off a startling maturity, from the riffing majesty of ‘The Four Horsemen’ to the duelling leads of ‘Bloodletting (Part 1)’. From the scathing title track that adds some proper atmospheric black metal, reminscient of Drudkh to the proceedings to the brutal death attack of ‘Fatal Equinox’, Goatchrist have many strings to their bow, and execute them all with precision and passion. This is a late contender for one of my favourite records this year. Essential stuff.

Suppressive Fire are another outfit from Raleigh, North Carolina whose music I’ve been lucky enough to experience in the past day or two. These guys are on the thrash side of the metal fence, and have released their debut ‘Hellwraith’ in August this year. This is 26 minutes of some righteous thrash, razor sharp and catchy as hell.

‘Pyrophoric Blood’ rips out of the starting gate with some brilliant riffing that brings to mind the Teutonic majesty of latter day Kreator, while the snarling vocals mix perfectly. Pyrophoric means something that ignites in air temperature btw, which although no doubt stunningly painful, makes this title TOTALLY metal. The chuggy goodness of ‘Bayonet Penetration’ follows suit, conjuring riffs that inspire the most violent of headbanging.’Nazi Face Melter’ is probably the best metal song name of the year. Probably. Suppressive Fire have opened the Ark of the Riffvenant and brought forth speed metal chaos.

‘Thy Flesh Consumed’ is my favourite track here, from the slow epic intro that is highlighted by a wondrous solo, to the galloping thrash that plays homage to everyone from Exodus to Overkill through Destruction and Death Angel. Suppressive Fire have that energy that bands like Municipal Waste reinjected the scene with when they first appeared, but arguably have more strings to their bow than just straightforward, shredding thrash. This track shows the variety that they’re capable of. ‘The Christian Crippler’ is more breakneck thrashing, and is it just me or do the vocals on this sound kinda like Lee Dorian from Cathedral in places? Maybe I’m hearing things…

Finishing strongly with ‘Holy Masochism’ (Batman! Nah not really…), Suppressive Fire have concocted a brilliant first release here. These songs are all catchy as hell, the riffs are fantastic, the solos are melodic and memorable and the vocals are vintage thrash. If these guys don’t get a major label deal and a fucking Ed Repka cover before long, I’ll eat my hat. And by hat, I mean VIKING HELMET!

Astrum Malum are a Finnish melting pot of black metal, sludge and neoclassical industrial elements. Their debut release, ‘Nether Knot’ is only eleven minutes lng but contains enough cool ideas to last you much longer.

‘Part I’ opens with gentle synths that build into a harsh, industrial background with raw vocals and a thick, black metal atmosphere. There are eerie, tinkling melodies that lurk amongst the blackened sludge sound; the scathing vocals overlaid onto a buzzing black metal riff. The industrial elements enhance the grimy feeling coming off it, the filth and decaying sound that permeates this EP. ‘Part II’ continues with this idea, ominous chimes looming out through the thick black curtain. The atmosphere is cloying, chokingly dense. The cold, industrialised vocals work well with the harshness of the music, and malevolent spoken word sections only cultivate the uneasiness.

‘Part III’ brings the EP to a close, almost too soon, with a battering, sludge doom assault that is more dragging and ominous than the rest. There is a grace to the heavier, slower riffs that adds to their weight, and when coupled with the more ambient and tribal sections, adds a lot of variety. I’d love to see this string develop a little further, as I think Astrum Malum’s neoclassical bent could add something interesting to a crushing, sludge crawl. If they can create such an atmosphere in a mere three tracks, imagine how special a full length could be! Support here!

Necrocosm are from Raleigh, North Carolina and play melodic death metal. Now, generally when you hear that term these days, you don’t think of classic stuff like At the Gates, early In Flames or Soilwork. You feel like it’s going to be yet another cookie-cutter metal band that rip off every Gothenburg riff you can think of. Thankfully, Necrocosm don’t play that game. Necrocosm play the game of brilliant riffs, passion and energy. It’s a pleasant experience to find a band who play this kind of metal with a renewed energy.

Opening track ‘Necrocosm’ starts with a chugging riff and some good growling vocals. Melodic death without the clean vocals? Lindberg be praised! There’s more than a dash of Lamb of God in here too,, which doesn’t hinder matters at all. Some soaring melodic leads and a solid drumming performance make this a good start, and the fact that Necrocosm understand that melodeath can include BOTH melody and death metal in the same place is refreshing.

‘Hypnagogic’ is more of the thrashing vintage, a flailing savagery that is stabbed through it’s dark heart with an ace spiralling solo. ‘Disavow’ finishes the demo on a strong note, a skull rattling vocal performance and take-no-prisoner riffs. Every shite melodeath band should listen to these three tracks and understand the things that Necrocosm do. Don’t sacrifice the death for the melodic and vice versa. Combine them into one tasty whole, like these guys!

Buy here