Archive for February, 2017

Australian death/doom lords Illimitable Dolor have risen from the reamaining members of  legendary icons The Slow Death, paying tribute to their deceased former vocalist Gregg WIlliamson with this self titled record, full of heart wrenching death/doom songs. It is due to be released in March by Transcending Obscurity, and raises a miserable glass to the memory of their lost friend.

Opener ‘Rail of Moon, a Stone’ is monolithic, painful and haunting. Vast riffs crush melancholic melodies, while a powerful roar intones ragged emotion. Illimitable Dolor show the strength brought by very real grief and pain, and how it can lead to music of fragile beauty. It seems strange to call these kind of massive, weatherbeaten monsters of songs fragile, but the feeling of loss is palpable. ‘Comet Shines or Dies’ leads with weeping guitars and ghostly keys that brings to mind early My Dying Bride, or Mournful Congregation.

The dark majesty of ‘Salt of Brazen Seas’ is enhanced by potent organ melodies at the start, and the mourning growls mix well. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve heard organ used this well since Asva’s ‘What You Don’t Know is Frontier’. That’s one of my favourite funeral doom/drone records ever so that’s a huge compliment. ‘Illimitable Dolor’ is frontrunner now as my favourite doom record this year; a heady mix of the heaviest of riffs and the most fragile of emotions coming together to form a majestic whole. Just listen to the sobbing ‘Abandoned Cuts of River’ and try not to be totally absorbed. I dare you.

London based metallers Craven Idol have taken a very old school vibe for their second record, ‘The Shackles of Mammon’, where their blackened thrash sound meets the like of Bathory, Mercyful Fate and Venom in a cacophony of catchy as hell savagery. It is out in April through Dark Descent Records.

Opener ‘Pyromancer’ howls with maddening laughter and rapid fire soloing, while a resolutely old school thrash vibe propels us forward towards armageddon. Shrieking and growling in equal, gleeful abandon, vocalist  channels Cronos and the King. The gloomy grandeur of ‘A Ripping Strike’ builds with eastern melodies and percussive double kicks, before kicking in with more rapid fire riffing. What I really enjoy about Craven Idol is they don’t just feel like another copycat black/thrasher, but a proper NWOBHM band that filters their riffs through a grimy, tetanus laced filter.

That metaphor explains why their grim credentials are not lost when suddenly you feel totally absorbed in the melody and catchiness of ‘Hunger’, or the fierce gallop of ‘Dashed to Death’. This is a heavy metal band that happens to dabble in the extreme. A modern day Venom, except with better musicians and less originality. Craven Idol steal the crown of old school extremity, and their castle is built with the bones of the 80s. ‘The Shackles of Mammon’ is simply an excellent record full of damn good riffs and infectious songs, and we can all get involved with that.

Demoncy - Within the Sylvan Realms of Frost

The rerelease of lost cult classic records seems to be the new vogue these days, but when the label is Nuclear War Now and the album is US black metallers Demoncy’s vintage sophomore effort, ‘Within the Sylvan Realms of Frost’, then any idea of jumping on bandwagons can be very quickly forgotten! Released this February, this is a reinvigoration of a black metal classic.

Opener ‘Nighthood of the Moonlit Realm’ has lost nothing of its menacing, frozen buzz and, coated in a miasmic gloom, leads the charge of traditional second wave intensity. Although this is a bit of a change from their debut, the bleak cold that surrounds this record creates a purity of genre emotion. The icy blizzard of ‘Abysmal Shores of the Dark Lands Beyond the Sun’ is a relentless, skin freezing assault, while the harsh tremolo riffing of ‘Winter’s Ancient Slumber’ feels like it has been drawn from dark Scandinavian forests. Melancholic keyboards work within the riffs to really ramp up the atmosphere of abandonment and loss.

How people have ever doubted the ‘trveness’ of the American black metal scene when albums like this have lurked in the shadows I’ll never know. Conjuring up wintry riffs and howling vocals that sound like eerie voices on a frozen wind, ‘Within the Sylvan Realms of Frost’ is a record that will appeal to everyone who has ever liked black metal. Bleak, cold and utterly lonely in its chilling delivery, Demoncy are a revelation once more.

 photo Death Worship cover_zpsxeakzgha.jpg

Made up of current and former members of Revenge, Conqueror and Blasphemy, Death Worship are a terrifying proposition. Their ‘Extermination Mass’ EP is coming out on Nuclear War Now and looks to be probably one of the most savage releases of 2017.

The dust cloud rage of opener ‘Abomination Storm’ is oppressively dense, with brutally fast drumming and savage riffing layered with vomitous vocals, interspersed with a soulless, machine like thud. The waspish thrust of ‘Evocation Chamber’ and the groaning madness of ‘Holocaust Altar’ are new levels of darkness brought to life by this bestial, black metal horde. A relentless, all consuming aura of primal anger consumes each track; frenetic and violent is the path trod here.

Death Worship’s blackened rituals at the altars of chaos have conjured some excellent tunes here, from the brutal ‘Superion Rising’ to the hellacious maelstrom of ‘Desolation Summoning’. Without subjecting us to a tuneless wall of sound, Death Worship manage to squeeze the odd glimpse of melody into the carnage, and it really works. I look forward to more of this; submit to the chaos!

From the Latin for ‘war cry’, Ululatum Tollunt come from various areas of the US to wreak havoc upon our audial nerves with their debut release, ‘Quantum Noose of Usurpation’. Invictus Records have deemed us worthy to listen to this 20 minute maelstrom of uneasy, whirling death metal of carnage and chaos. We should be honoured, because it feels like something not of this earth…

‘Order of the Morningstars’ feels immediately uncomfortable, a sinister riff dragging relentlessly onward while frantic drumming changes pace and an inhuman vocal swaps from eldritch growl to rabid scream. Not as obscure and downright weird as say Portal or Mitochondrion but almost like their primitive ancestor. ‘Serpentine Despoilers’ smashes through tears in space and time with gut wrenching heaviness while ‘Lupine Aggressors’ is frankly terrifyingly intense. The less that is said and more that is listened to of the swaying, monstrous closer ‘Triumph Continuum’ the better.

Sometimes a band comes along that just makes you sit up and take notice. Ululatum Tollunt do that here, coming across as both densely esoteric and cripplingly heavy without disappearing completely into a black hole of oblivion. There’s just enough accessibility to the music to make ‘Quantum Noose of Usurpation’ appealing to all death metal fans. But I can imagine there are only more unimaginable horrors to come, and I cannot wait. BUY THIS!

Image result for ymir's blood self titled

Finland is probably my favourite country for metal at the moment, and especially when you’re looking towards some monstrous doom. Ymir’s Blood are the reincarnation of vintage Cirith Ungol and latter period Bathory, and their new self titled record is being given life by Archaic Sound. We must all be thankful for this, for the riffs within are huge and awesome.

Opener ‘Unleasher – Beerbarian’ seems to encompass the fantastic battle of the album art, with huge swinging riffs crashing down like sword on steel and a grandiose sweep of vast ancient lands. A swollen, lumbering giant of a track, wielding classic Candlemass like a hammer of doom (see what I did there….?). The Viking metal-esque ‘1589’ feels very Quorthon, while Gorephelia’s Henu does some guest vocals on the brutal death/doom of ‘Origin of Iron’. My own personal highlight however is the doom-laden take on Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’, which just works perfectly.

‘Ymir’s Blood’ will probably not cause much of a splash this year, but if you’re a doom fan this is going to be an essential hidden gem. A potent and remarkably assured record that wields its granite hewn riffing like a mighty battleaxe, while sharp melodies hone the edge of the blade. Ymir’s Blood are a band to watch, and hopefully this record will break them through to the wider conscience.

Primal Attack - Heartless Oppressor

Portuguese groove/thrashers Primal Attack are a pretty hefty proposition. Their second full length ‘Heartless Oppressor’ throws a vast number of chunky thrash riffs at you, leaving you a bit battered and bruised. It is out now on Rastilho Records, and looks to be a mosh pit wet dream for 2017.

This is a potent follow up to 2013’s ‘Humans’, with a sound that draws from the finest points of Unearth and Machine Head, while slamming in great swathes of off kilter breakdowns, almost like a more straightforward Meshuggah. Opener ‘Red Silence’ is a great example of that, with the waspish ‘Halfborn’ following.  Taking cues from the likes of The Haunted and Dew-Scented, and the aforementioned Unearth seem to be a big influence, tracks like ‘Strike Back’ hit with considerable force, but the soloing and fluid melodies take this above the more meatheaded approach that you tend to find in this subgenre. Take ‘Truth and Consequence’ for example, that kicks off with an almost Melechesh-esque approach; all shimmering esoteric black metally riffing before descending back to the more straightforward.

If fat, modern thrash riffs is your bag, then Primal Attack is for you. The band wield some massive groove, and their songs are surprisingly memorable for a genre that can become stale very quickly when not done right. Primal Attack sidestep those issues by channelling their energies into something vibrant and engaging, with plenty of stylistic departures to keep things interesting. ‘Heartless Oppressor’ is here to crush with big riffing and big melodies, and succeed with that it certainly shall.

Evil Force - Banging on the Pentagram

Well, I think this is the first band from Paraguay that I’ve ever reviewed, but I feel like I know how this is going to. South American? Named Evil Force? Album title is ‘Banging on the Pentagram’? The only thing missing from South American thrash stereotype 101 is the black and white cover art. Witches Brew dropped this thrash gem on Christmas Eve last year, and what a hidden gem it is!

Opening strongly with the title track, all galloping Teutonic riffs and punkish energy. There’s dashes of vintage speed metal in there too, and it feels like someone injected early Slayer with a bt more melody. The infectious ‘Command of Pain’ worms its way under your skin like some malignant disease and refuses to leave, inspiring rabid headbanging with its razor sharp riffing. The good thing about Evil Force is they are considerable less raw than some of the Sarcofago worshipping stuff to come from South America, and therefore have uniqueness points immediately.

The thudding groove of ‘Devastation Time’ and the manic ‘Nocturnal Witchery’ are two personal highlights, but you’ll struggle to find a poor song on ‘Banging on the Pentagram’. Full of infectious, old school speedy thrash anthems, Evil Force rock like it’s 1983, and there’s no such thing as ‘Fade to Black’ yet. The garden of riffs is full and ripe, and Evil Force have plucked many classics for this piece of thrash beauty!

Now this is Swedish fucking death metal. Well, Swedish death metal meets crust but seriously, this is the most Swedish thing I’ve heard since the glory days of the early 90s. Henry Kane have their new record ‘Den Förstörda Människans Rike’, coming out on Monday through Transcending Obscurity, and it is positioned to be a highlight of 2017.

‘En själ till salu’ opens with a painfully raw riff, severing limbs and caving skulls instanteously. Rabid vocals howl from the speakers, while savage riffs hide the subtlest of melodies within them. A cacophony of Scandinavian black magic laces each poisonous riff, like venom on a snake’s fang. Each track flails with hopeless abandon, like the arm on the cover, grasping futilely for help, for salvation. Punishing blasting drags you back into the fold, during the hellish ‘Skuld och begär’ and the furious title track, which has more than a dash of melancholy about it in parts.

A relentless record that barely lifts the foot off the accelerator, but when it does there are some hidden moments of melody and subtlety that you would never expect coming from a crusty, grinding death metal monster like this. Henry Kane are special because of precisely this, and ‘Den Förstörda Människans Rike’ is the kind of album you’ll hear different things on each listen. Twisting, grinding, savage death metal that thunders at breakneck place and leaves those too weak to follow broken, battered and dead. Awesome stuff!

Finnish stoner death metal? Sign me up. Finland has a long and beautiful history of heavy metal, in all genres, and particularly in the realms of death and doom. So when Altar of Betelgeuze come crashing from the land of a thousand lakes, dragging their ‘Among the Ruins’ album with them, it is a cause for morbid celebration. It’s going to be out in April from Transcending Obscurity Records, and could be a strong contender for best record the label release this year.

Altar of Betelgeuze take the meandering melodics of stoner doom, and crush it with the dynamic heaviosity of death metal. You’re met with smooth, almost desert rock blues oozing from ‘Sledge of Stones’, coupling the ferocity of death/doom into certain parts to add some depth. The fearsome ‘No Return’ swells with a vintage doom riff, while snarling roars bellow like monsters in the fog. The clean vocals are really effective though, with dashes of Chris Cornell about them in parts.

I love some of the tones in the gloomy shimmer of ‘Absence of Light’, which underpin that titan roar perfectly. Altar of Betelgeuze manage to balance a delicate touch with the innate weight of hefty doom riffs. Death metal growls capture a desperation, a power, that balanaces the fragile melancholy of some of the cleaner guitar moments. ‘Among the Ruins’ strikes me as a lonely record; an album that grows as it progresses from a mere stoner/death crossover into a nuanced and vast piece of work. Expansive and different, there’s nothing quite like it.