Archive for January, 2015

Tomorrow night on the Killchain Hour at Live Funeral Radio, I’ve decided to do something a little different from normal. As you all know, the Killchain has always been about the riff. In search of the most headcaving riffs carved from stone and powered by the thunder of the earth. So I’ve decided to dedicate tomorrow’s show to the masters of the riff, Electric Wizard.

If ever you need a riff born of the void, capable of turning planets into dust with its crushing power, you need Jus Osborn and the Wizard in your life. I can’t think of a band that encapsulates what the Killchain is about more than this. I scoured out my eight favourite Electric Wizard songs and present them to you, the listening public, as the Killchain Hour. Prepare to be slowly crushed to death by the force of the void. May we all reside in Funeralopolis…

1. Return Trip

2. Legalise Drugs and Murder

3. Stone Magnet

4. The Nightchild

5. The Outsider

6. Dunwich

7. Funeral of Your Mind

8. Funeralopolis

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An album that I heard nothing but good things about towards the end of 2014, but one I never got round to hearing was ‘Demons’ by Bloodshot Dawn. I first became aware of them on their 2012 self titled record, which ripped a massive hole in my face the first time I heard it. I have been recently reminded of the existence of this new record by my colleague in arms, GearyofWar. I thank him from the depths of my black soul. ‘Demons’ is, then, in an unenviable position of following up to a great record. Can it at least match the fury of its predecessor?

The simple answer is yes. The opening riff of the record, the soaringly melodic ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ that then detonates into a riff breathing monster, answers any doubts almost instantly. It is a reminder that not every new metal band is copycat shite. It reminds of the feeling I thought when I first heard Revocation. That kind of, ‘this is something pretty damn fucking special’. Bloodshot Dawn feel like what you imagine when you use the term melodic death metal. They’ve redefined it here, from the bludgeoning but stunningly technical ‘Consequence Complex’ to the glorious vastness of ‘Inadequacy’ and the futuristic fury of ‘Black Hole Infinity’. This is what death metal with meldoy is supposed to be like!

The great songs keep coming, from the neck breaking chugfest of ‘Unified’ with its killer intricate fretwork competing with the battery of double bass, to the stunning solo in ‘The Image Faded’. There’s a orgy of different styles here, with tech death, djent, thrash and melodeath all fucking in the same room. The production is top notch, with every minor note coming through clear as day, and this uber shinyness actually enhances the record, allowing every technicality to shine through.

The simple fact is, I love this fucking record. It has everything I’m looking for in a modern extreme metal record, from skull caving heaviness and uber technical riffing to more balanced headbanging moments. air guitaring the shit out of life moments, and vocals that are brutal yet totally coherent. And the album art is pretty cool too. Can I go back and redo my albums of 2014? Please? What do you mean no? FUCK!! Buy this fucking record


My first blast of 2015 death metal (still catching up with some of 2014’s releases at this point!) is the hammer and bludgeon of LA death dealers Bloodscribe. Described as a mixture of death metal, slam and grind brings to mind bands like Devourment, which is not necessarily a bad thing at all.

Launching us into the tornado of slamming death metal with the short, sharp title track, then ‘Pantheon of Lies’ steamrollers an enormous chugging slam death riff into your head. The vocals, thankfully, are more understandable here than on some slam death metal records, taking the early Suffocation style route rather than the tiresome pig squeals that many bands use these days. This is good hearty death metal, armed with a surgical riff here and there and a thick, meaty production that aids the heaviness. It brings to mind the old school New York slam bands, and you can feel the early Suffocation influence running through each track.

‘Enslaved by Deceptions’ has that brutal, low end guttural growl that bands like Devourment employ, and uses it to great effect. Bloodscribe sound like the belch of Hades himself, expelling gore and savaged carcasses into the air. They will certainly never go down as the most inventive of bands, but Bloodscribe do what they do well; the songs don’t overstay their welcome, and have enough variety to tell them apart.

This isn’t your average slam death record that bores you to tears with repetitive heavy riffs and porcine squealing. This is dense, chugging death metal that doesn’t fuck around, it just aims directly for your jugular with a sledgehammer. Stand out tracks for me are the swirling massacre of ‘Burning Bridges’ and the bulldozing ‘Annihilation’. Definitely worth a listen, and that album artwork by Indonesian artist Mondo Borneo is badass as fuck


Mire are a British black metal band playing ghostly, haunting music in the style of Winterfylleth, Saor, Panopticon et al. Their EP release, ‘Throat of the Mountain’ is inspired by personal loss, and coping with the grief that follows. Loss is something that can inspire very potent, moving music. It is cathartic, in a way, to release emotions through musical endeavours, and allows the departed to live forever.

‘Throat of the Mountain’ is, then, a fittingly poignant slice of heathen black metal majesty. Mire encapsulate the soaring gloominess of atmospheric black metal’s finest parts, without falling into the oft used trap of 10+ minute songs. ‘Throat of the Mountain’ is concise in its glacial fury. Four tracks in less than fifteen minutes is positively grindcore pace for this kind of music! ‘Born Anew’ is a sombre opening, bringing to mind some of early 90s My Dying Bride atmospheres (‘For My Fallen Angel’ particularly). It is melancholy, with whispering violin notes adding to the despair. ‘River of Time’ continues this mourning atmosphere, while driving black metal riffs buzz and howl underneath. A rasping vocal takes lead, giving space to a battery of blastbeats and the soaring melodies. It’s dark, raw but yet open and plain.

There are so many bands it seems doing this kind of black metal these days, but when the quality is high, its hard to argue with how affecting it can be. Close your eyes on the title track and you could be far away, sitting under the looming height of a peak in the heather, naught but wind in your ears. The track builds from raw black metal, layering sombre violin and icy grasps of melody onto the blackness. When it leaves this mortal coil, around the 2:20 mark, its a truly special moment.

Ending with ‘Rest (Forever)’, another sombre piece, you’re left feeling slightly deflated, wanting more. That is a good thing, because you can turn it right back and start again. My only complaint is that it could do with a bit of a fuller production; a bit of an extra oomph to bring a bit more body to the songs. It’s a small complaint however, as Mire do what they do very well indeed. Here’s hoping for more sometime soon!

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Grand Magus are heavy metal. Sorry, I didn’t punctuate that correctly. Grand Magus ARE heavy metal. They are the spiritual successors to Manowar, a band so metal it was ridiculous. But, Grand Magus are much more subtle about it. They’re not over the top, there are no leather loincloths to distract you.

What Grand Magus bring are riffs. Huge riffs. Old school, heavy metal with metric fucktons of melody and heaviness. Their newest record, ‘Triumph and Power’ is a perfect example. They carve riffs from stone, melodies from the howling wind in the frozen trees. If I’m ever feeling even reasonably viking, which I generally am, I need Grand Magus on. They inspire such feelings of power, such force of will, that it is impossible not to clench fists and raise them to the sky.

They are my band of the day, and might be forcing their way into my favourite bands of all time now. For Glory or Death, HAIL VICTORY!!

Originally published at The Sleeping Shaman:

The name Thorr-Axe was what attracted me to this band. I’ll admit it, I read it and thought, ‘there’ll be some fine, sword swinging Grand Magus style doom right there with a name like that.’ I suppose it seems a bit daft after you think about it, but sometimes a good name can get you far in this world.

The grandiose build of ‘Open the Gate’ is a swelling, scene setting song. It feels like the trek to the base of the icy mountain, the start of the journey, with battles and frost to come. ‘The Seer’s Vision’ is the following moment, where the bludgeon begins. There is a grand heft to the riffs, coupled with a harsher vocal performance than expected adding a bit of rawness to it. There is a coupling here of the blood and thunder of doom and the shimmering coldness of atmospheric black metal.

The crashing directness of ‘Four Hooves’ is much more directly doom, although at a much higher tempo. There’s also even tinges of hardcore about it, a feeling that also rears its head in ‘Mountain Crusher’. It is more of the direction that Neurosis took than anyone like Sick of It All, but there’s a definite influence in there somewhere. Black Flag maybe. Thorr-Axe are definitely not your average sword and shield battle doom band, and that’s to their advantage really because no one does it better than Grand Magus anyway.

The slow, grooving swagger that powers the initial moments of ‘The Forging Ritual’ is a particular highlight for me; a lurching riff of low end blues that contorts into a sludgy gallop. Thorr-Axe aren’t a band that seem comfortable in one place, confined within one genre. They mix in elements of doom, sludge and black metal, with dashes of post metal atmospherics. They allow riffs to breathe, crank up the intensity (like the bug eyed spasms of the title track) when required, but also have some lush icy moments of vastness that are just sublime (again, see the huge ending to the title track).

The skull caving ‘Descent’ is a good example of the mixing of styles. The crush of doom, the nihilistic bent of sludge and the vocal rawness of black metal meet within five minutes of pure metal. The ghostly intermission is a moment of calm; of tranquillity before the storm of the fourteen minute plus closer ‘Awakening’. ‘Awakening’ is the piece de resistance here, a titanic slow burner that detonates in a hailstorm of sludge riffs, whilst adding dashes of vintage doom and nasty, angular hardcore thunder. When the glacial, atmospheric black metal parts appear at the end, you realise what a brilliant closer it is.

Thorr-Axe look to have put together one of 2015’s earliest watermarks for quality sludge doom with all kinds of interesting bits. ‘The Gates of Winter’ is confident in its quality, and Thorr-Axe show they aren’t afraid to tinker with their formula in order to produce results.

First of all, I was sent this request by email to review the newest record by Norwegian thrashers Tonic Breed, which of course I was happy to do. I like it when bands contact me, as it happens not as often as I’d like. Now I’ll be honest, I saw the album artwork and worried, because it isn’t PARTICULARLY stellar. But then again, I’m not entirely convinced that ‘Kill Em All’ had a good cover in all seriousness. Never judge a book by its cover they say. I’m glad I didn’t.

Opener ‘Strife’ builds with a soft keyboard line and some tinkly effects before erupting into a hail of blasting drums and some killer Bay Area thrash riffs. There’s some awesome, Forbbiden style chugging, and the vocals are reminscient of Tom Araya from Slayer, with a dash of early Hetfield in there too. You get the impression that there’s going to be a lot of 80s thrash heyday moments in here. But it isn’t all as straightforward as that.

There are progressive sections, like the jerky harmonies of ‘Fifth Estate, and the chunky title track is all fucking riff. The menacing tone of ‘Bad Company’ brings to mind moments of Metallica’s ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’, with its minor key rumble. It’s bits like this that made me take a good look at Tonic Breed. Modern thrash and modern metal bands in general don’t necessarily take heed of these kind of moments, those particular songs. ‘Blackened Mind’ shows an impressive grasp of dynamics, and there’s even elements of Burton C. Bell in some of the clean vocal sections.

Tonic Breed SOUND unique, which in this world of cookie cutter bands, is enough to get them noticed. Yeah they play thrash, and some killer thrash riffs at that. But they do so much more than just that. Their songs have many shades of grey in there, from the ghostly verses of ‘Blackened Mind’ to the galloping metal goodness (and awesome spiralling guitar wankery intro) of ‘There’s Just One Escape’, to the obviously Metallica-esque instrumental epic ‘Borregaard’.. Tonic Breed dare to do something different, and it has worked well here. Not many bands play this kind of uber melodic, almost progressive power/thrash at the moment. Maybe more should, because this is a treat.

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