- Published on Thursday, 28 February 2013 11:22
- Written by George Washburn
- Hits: 337
Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance
I’m sure Darkthrone is a band that needs no introduction. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto, pioneers of the Norwegian black metal scene, have returned with their fifteenth album, “The Underground Resistance.”
Those that haven’t been paying attention to Darkthrone lately may listen to “The Underground Resistance” and be taken aback by how little the album resembles “A Blaze in the Northern Sky.” Well what did you expect? That they would just sit around making the same raw black metal for another thirteen albums? If there is one thing you can count on with Darkthrone it is that you cannot predict what they will do next. A large part of my respect for these guys comes from the fact that they write the songs that they feel like writing regardless of what everyone else is doing. That is the true essence of metal – do what feels right for you and fuck anyone that doesn’t like it.
I read somewhere where one reviewer commented that Darkthrone were now including power metal in their repertoire based on some of the songs on this album. I do not agree with that assessment. Yes, Darkthrone is including clean vocals now, and some of those clean vocals reach high notes, but come on, this is not power metal. I feel the second track, “Valkyrie”, reminds me a lot more of “Hammerheart”-era Bathory than anything power metal.
When it comes to the production on a Darkthrone album there is a limited predictability that comes into play. Some albums sound better than others, but none have a slick and polished sound that one might come to expect from a band releasing their fifteenth album. The production on “The Underground Resistance” does not suck. Neither is it perfect. These songs sound competently recorded and do a more than adequate job of representing the songs. What this doesn’t sound like is an album where engineers spent hours perfecting mic placement or setting up drum triggers to get that perfect bass drum thunder. This sounds like two Norwegian metalheads that set up their gear in a room and hit the record button. Can anything truly get more metal than that?
One more thing before I sign off on this album. The gemstone in the crown of “The Underground Resistance” is the epic final track, “Leave No Cross Unturned.” The song clocks in at 13 minutes 49 seconds and runs the gamut of all the varying styles showcased on the album. Clean vocals, high piercing vocals and harsh vocals all make an appearance. This has got to be my favorite track on the album.
You probably aren’t worthy, but here is a taste of “Valkyrie.”
Ulcer – Grant Us Death
Ulcer is a death metal band from Poland and “Grant Us Death” is their second album.
Poland has a history of giving the world some great metal bands: Behemoth, Vader and Decapitated to name a few. Now, I’m not knocking on Ulcer, but the first thing to pop into my mind when I started listening to “Grant Us Death” was a Swedish band; more specifically Entombed. It’s probably the vocals, and to a lesser extent some of the guitar work, but this really reminded me of early Entombed.
Similarities to Entombed aside, this is still a pretty serviceable death metal album. The production sounds a little muddy most of the time, and sometimes the lead guitar work overpowers the vocals, but on the whole I dig this album. The style and production both give this more of an old school feel rather than the cleaner, tighter sound of more contemporary death metal bands.
When I reach for Polish death metal, I’ll probably grab that latest Decapitated album, but this is pretty good too. Check out the track “Devilspeed.”
Logic of Denial – Atonement
Logic of Denial is an Italian death metal band and “Atonement” is their second album.
These guys play death metal that kind of borders on brutal. I think musically it is probably a hair shy of being balls out brutal death metal. The vocals certainly hang out in what I would call the brutal range. The guitars do lots of those little squeals. I used to think those were cool, but after hearing a million other bands utilize the guitar squeal in this way it has started to grind on me and just feels like a crutch.
This album doesn’t really excite me. It sounds pretty decent from a technical standpoint, but musically I got bored pretty fast. I’m just not into this style of death metal right now.
I love the title of this track below. “Reek of Perpetual Infamy.” I can just see a guy hanging out with his buds and one guy turns to him and is like “Dude, what is up with you, you always reek of infamy; I can hardly stand to be seen with you.” Hahahahahaha. I know, I’m an idiot, but that is some of the weird shit I think of when I see goofy song titles.
Cold Steel – American Idle
Cold Steel is a thrash band from Long Island, New York that started out in the 80s, released one album in 1992 and then broke up in 1993. In 2012 the band reformed and now here they are with a five-track EP called “American Idle.”
I see a fair number of bands like this that started out in the 80s or 90s that died off fairly quickly and are now either re-releasing their old material or getting back together to give it another go. A lot of what I hear from bands in these situations sounds pretty bad. Cold Steel sure isn’t one of those bands. I wasn’t expecting much when I threw the EP on, but damn, they got my attention real quick.
The production is really clean and punchy so that impressed me right away. The songs are strong and the vocals are powerful, so ok, no complaints there. I suppose one could complain that their style of thrash is a little dated, but that one wouldn’t be me. I’m from that era myself so I’m always up for old school thrash, especially when the production sounds better than anything that actually was released in that period.
Well now I’m really curious to hear their 1992 album, “Freakboy.” I’ll have to see if I can dig up a copy. Anyway, if you like thrash I think you will really like these guys; I know I do. Check out the title track, “American Idle.”
- Published on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 11:49
- Written by George Washburn
- Hits: 401
At Night I Fly – September Kills
At Night I Fly is a Hungarian heavy progressive band that sounds to me like they’ve got a little bit of groove mixed in for good measure. “September Kills” is their debut four-track EP.
I was immediately caught up in this EP because it doesn’t immediately lend itself to comparison with anything that I am personally familiar with. There are certainly some Dream Theater-esque prog elements about these songs, but no one would ever confuse these guys for that band. Plus these songs are mostly heavier than the few songs I know from Dream Theater.
One of my biggest complaints with prog-style bands is that they tend to skimp on the heavy in favor of more melodic and dreamy material, but At Night I Fly doesn’t fall prey to that pitfall. Sure, the songs have a catchy melodic element, but I can bang my head to these tracks too.
Another contributing factor to my enjoyment of these songs is the quality production. Sure, the sound is really clean as you would expect from a prog album, but they also pay attention to the low-end, which gives these songs some serious thump.
I was impressed by these four tracks. I’ll be looking for a full-length album from these guys in the future. Alas, I could not find any real video content with full songs on YouTube, but if you’d like to hear the band you can head over to their CDBaby page and stream samples from each of the songs.
Go here to hear samples from the four tracks on this EP
D8 Dimension – Octocrura
D8 Dimension is an Italian band that dubs themselves Industrial Metal and “Octocrura” is their debut 7-track EP. I say they “dub themselves” because when I listen to these songs I don’t really get a strong sense of industrial. To me they kind of sound like a heavier prog groove thing like the previous band, At Night I Fly. I can hear some elements that could be considered industrial, but they are not overt enough to call this full-on industrial.
These songs are fairly heavy and the vocals are clean with a bit of an edge. The production is pretty clean and everything sounds recorded and mixed well.
I’m having a hard time with these guys. I think these songs are well written and recorded. I think they are pretty catchy and they get my head bobbing. But something about them is preventing me from fully embracing the band. Maybe it’s that something about them makes me think this belongs in the mid-to-late 90s. Could just be that this really isn’t a style that I’m into at the moment. I don’t know, but my hesitation is certainly not from a lack of quality on the part of D8 Dimension.
I think these guys have done a good job at what they are working to achieve, but this isn’t really for me. You may feel differently, so why not listen to the track “Vrock” and see what you think?
Vex – Memorious
Vex is a death-thrash band from Texas and “Memorious” is their second album.
Death-thrash really does sound like an apt label for Vex. My guess, with a name like Vex, was black metal. But the music on ”Memorious” certainly does have a thrash root, while the vocals are rough with a slight harshness that does imply death metal.
The sound quality is a little thin, but not enough so to hamper my enjoyment of the songs. These tracks would definitely clean up nicely with a thicker and crisp production sound. Some added punch would make a much stronger impression.
I like how they will go from intricate speedy thrash riffs and then drop into a nice heavy, rhythmic groove. All the while the vocals rage over top of the music. I like the vocals a lot and wish they sounded a little brighter too.
Listening to “Memorious” I enjoy where the band is now, but I hear in my head where they could be two years from now, and I hope that vision might be realized. Check out the track “Terra Soar.”
Korotory – Chapter III: The Conquering
Korotory is a thrash/death/groove metal band from Long Island, New York and “Chapter III: The Conquering” as you might have guessed is their third album.
Like I mentioned above the music comes across as a mix between thrash and groove. The vocals are pretty much barked in a style that I would actually think of more as hardcore, though he does occasionally get growly in a death fashion.
The production is a little muffled and the drums sound a little clunky. I don’t feel like a lot of energy from the songs is coming through; it feels slightly lethargic at times. I’m sure the energy comes through better in a live situation, but on here not so much.
The energy in the vocals is the one thing that keeps me hanging on with this album. I think the songs are pretty good, and I like the songwriting. If everything was riding on a thumbs up or a thumb down I would give this the thumb up.
Here is the track “Dehumanization.”
Quor – We are going to be Awesome
Quor is a band that I can’t quite nail down a genre for and “We are going to be Awesome” is what I believe is their debut four-track EP.
This trio of musicians plays music which is on the more accessible side, but it still has some nice heaviness to it. The first band that popped into my head during the opening track was Alice in Chains, but that is a very thin connection based on a couple vocal lines. Then I picked up a little Tool. The band lists a diverse parade of influences that includes everything from Metallica, Lamb of God, and Slayer, to more commercial acts like Foo Fighters, Linkin Park and Three Days Grace. They even list Willie Nelson. So you must forgive me if I can’t exactly pin them down.
Whatever you want to call them I like what they are doing. These songs are heavy enough to satisfy my metal requirement, and while they are pretty accessible they don’t come across as intentionally sucking up to the corporate rock machine. So I can get behind these guys and recommend them.
The only music I could find to include is live and doesn’t do the songs nearly as much justice as the studio recording. This is the track “Watching You.”
- Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013 11:22
- Written by George Washburn
- Hits: 188
Mourning Beloveth – Formless
Mourning Beloveth is a death-doom band from Ireland and “Formless” is their fifth album.
This album almost slipped by me thanks to the complete ineptitude of the people who stock iTunes. I give them credit for having a Metal section and even updating it once in a while, but their New Releases section leaves a lot to be desired. Some weeks they completely fail to acknowledge any new metal releases at all, even big name metal releases. Most of the time they add a couple names and ignore 90% of the rest of the new releases, which would be ok I suppose if they didn’t stock those albums. The fucked up part is that they do stock most of these albums; they had Mourning Beloveth.
I’ve never before seen a place that wanted you to spend your money but intentionally made it difficult for you to do so. Why doesn’t the New Releases section cover all releases during a time period? Other sites don’t have any problem doing this. As a programmer I can tell you it isn’t that hard to write a query that includes everything. It’s probably a lot simpler than whatever they are currently using.
This passive aggressive dismissal of serving their customers extends to other means of discovery as well; in their seemingly benevolent wisdom iTunes provides links to see artists in different metal genres. Click on their link for Doom Metal and you will be provided a list of a few dozen doom albums, mostly classics that everyone already has, and that is it. What the fuck? They obviously label all their albums by genre so they can be sorted, how fucking hard is it to sort alphabetically and throw in some next buttons so we can browse through all the bands in that style? I’m sorry for ranting but this has bothered me to no end for a long time. Apple, get your shit together.
I now return you to your regularly scheduled review.
So after discovering there was a new Mourning Beloveth album I quickly acquired it (through Amazon MP3 thank you very much) and began listening. These guys are billed as death-doom, but man, these tracks are so slow most of the time that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear them called funeral doom. Plus, the songs are long as shit. Of the six tracks there is only one that finishes in less than fourteen minutes.
As I make my way through the long and winding trails of “Formless” it begins to dawn on me that this will likely be among my favorites of this year (yep, already thinking about this years best-of list.) There is so much going on here in these songs, yet the rather sparse music might lead the casual listener to think the opposite. There are slow parts, and there are slower parts, there are sections which are heavy as hell and sections which are quiet, clean and beautiful. There are harsh vocals and clean vocals. What’s not to love about this album?
iTunes may not give a fuck if you can find quality new metal, but I live for spreading the word, so I am here to tell you to give “Formless” a listen. This is epic. Check out the track “Theories of Old Bones.”
Derdian – Limbo
I sure hope you are wearing your seat belt because we are speed shifting through a few gear speeds jumping into this next album. This is Italian power metal Derdian and their fourth album, “Limbo.”
When I hear Italian power metal in this style my first impression always jumps to Rhapsody. Derdian plays in a similar style to Rhapsody but otherwise there isn’t that much similarity between these two bands. Rhapsody really pioneered this style so it’s only natural I make that connection.
The production on “Limbo” serves this style of metal well. Once in a while I hear a band trying to play like this and the music will be good but the production will be muddy or distant, and that just doesn’t work. You can get away with that in black metal or death metal, but symphonic power metal needs to be bright and powerful and in your face, and Derdian seem to pull it off effortlessly.
If I’m being honest, and I do my best to be so, I also tend to compare symphonic power metal singers to Fabio Lione. It would be silly to try to decide if they are as good as Fabio, because let’s face it, Fabio is the man, but rather he is my ideal and I want to see how people sound in comparison to him. Ivan Giannini from Derdian can stand next to Fabio any day. I’ve heard plenty of guys that go too high and get whiny sounding, but Ivan sounds pretty great.
Mighty hails to Derdian for creating a killer sounding symphonic power metal album. Give these guys a listen. Here is the band’s official album teaser.
The Way of Purity – Equate
The Way of Purity is an international act that seemingly has no home base. They wear masks and hide their names and faces (with the exception of singer Marja Panic, I saw a picture of her.) It sounds like they may or may not have a political agenda revolving around animals, but I don’t care about causes much anymore so I’ll just stick to the music.
The first thing I notice is the production. The songs are well recorded and have a nice punch to them. I like the drumming, and the guitar playing is pretty cool a lot of the time. Through the first two tracks the vocals are harsh and bland. The vocals were so monotone-sounding that the first two songs came across my headphones like white noise.
When the third track started playing I was surprised to hear Marja bust out the clean vocals. She can sing, so this was a definite improvement. I was starting to form an impression of what I expected from The Way of Purity but this song shattered that and now I need to start over.
I stopped counting, but my guess is roughly half the songs on “Equate” feature some kind of clean vocals. This does a nice job of keeping things fresh. If this was just the harsh vocals all the way through I would get bored in a hurry. I think the harsh vocals could be better if she had more range at that intensity. She can obviously sing, but when she goes harsh it really kind of stays in one place. Otherwise, this is a pretty good album. Check out the track “Eleven.”
The Beyond – Frostbitepanzerfuck
The Beyond hail from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and “Frostbitepanzerfuck” is their first album.
I see these guys listed as black metal but as I listen to the album’s first track I can’t help thinking this is the bastard offspring of G.G. Allin and the Dwarves come of age and unleashed upon the world. I should note I thought this before noticing that the third track is a G.G. Allin cover. Well that makes sense.
The second track does start to head in more of a black metal direction, but before long it too begins exhibiting punk tendencies. It is becoming all too obvious that the unholy union that spawned this band was a three-way that also included Marduk.
There was a time when I enjoyed songs like these for the shock and filth, but over the last 30 years of listening to metal and punk music I’ve become desensitized to things that might shock the average rosy-cheeked citizen. Be as evil or gorey or perverse as you want, you are unlikely to shock me.
That being the case it takes more than shock tactics to impress me. The songs on “Frostbitepanzerfuck” are raw (in more ways than one) which is cool, but they are lacking in any real substance that might impress upon me the need to hear this again. I’m not asking for Shakespeare here, but give me something to chew on.
Here is the track “Goat Sodomizer.”
Steve Bello Band – Go Berzerk!
Steve Bello Band is an instrumental progressive metal band from New Jersey and “Go Berserk!” is their fifth album.
I want to be up front with you here. When I was in high school and I played guitar myself I was very much into instrumental music from the likes of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Gary Hoey and so on. Once it became apparent I was never going to play like these guys my attentions drifted elsewhere and I have never really been a big fan of instrumental music since.
So I’m not going to bullshit you and tell you how much I love “Go Berzerk!” I’m not including it here because I like the music; I’m including it because I respect it. During the course of my day to day existence I don’t find myself wishing I could listen to some fantastic musicians play intricate and monumentally impressive instrumental songs. No. However, when I do happen across something like this I will sit back, hold on to my ass, and marvel at the abilities of others who obviously had way more dedication towards their instrument than I did.
This stuff is impressive, and so I do my part to pass it along to the rest of you in case this IS just what you were looking for.
I couldn’t find a studio track to include, but here is a live cut for you to check out.
- Published on Monday, 25 February 2013 11:16
- Written by George Washburn
- Hits: 239
Feared – Furor Incarnatus
Feared is a Swedish death-thrash-groove band and “Furor Incarnatus” is their fourth album.
This may be their fourth album, but it is the first I have heard of the band. This was yet another one of my purchases I made after searching around on iTunes. I hadn’t heard of the band, so I listened to some clips and liked what I heard. Ola Englund, the band’s guitar player, also currently plays with Six Feet Under and another band that I reviewed a few weeks ago, Sorcerer.
What got me to throw down my hard-earned money for “Furos Incarnatus” was that while the vocals are deep and harsh and very well-suited for death metal, the music was not typical of the style you normally hear with these kinds of vocals. Musically, Feared is probably closer to Pantera than Cannibal Corpse. So combining the thrash/groove music with harsh vocals that are also quite understandable was a winning combination to my ears.
The production was the third element that cemented my decision to purchase Feared. The production quality of the album is very nice; the drums and guitars are thick and heavy and clear which makes for punishing wall of sound. The vocals are really pretty deep and thick too, and they carve out their own special place in the mix that makes them sound perfect.
I am surprised I haven’t heard of these guys before now. You can be sure I’ll be paying attention to them from here on out. Definitely check these guys out. Here is the track “Breathing Failure.”
Paganland – Wind of Freedom
Paganland is a Ukrainian pagan/folk black metal band and “Wind of Freedom” is their first album.
I have to admit that the name Paganland coupled with the album’s cover art made me excited to listen to these guys. I love it when that excitement becomes affirmed by the music on the album.
Being that the band is Ukrainian, I am assuming the lyrics are in Ukrainian as well. All I can say for certain is they aren’t in English.
The production is not perfectly pristine, but it is better than I hear from a lot of bands in this style and is more than adequate. The music has that early-to-mid-Borknagar black metal sound mixed with some folk elements. The vocals range from a harsh black metal screech to a clean and deep vocal that for me brings to mind Moonspell.
It is unfortunate that I do not speak the tongue they use on “Wind of Freedom.” Even without knowing what he is singing about I really like this album. The music and vocal style inspire me to make up my own stories in my head while I am listening; in my mind they are talking about some pretty epic shit. If these guys were to go English on their next album I am willing to bet they would get a lot of consistent play with me.
I like these guys. Give a listen to the track “Chornohora.”
Lifeless – Godconstruct
Lifeless is a traditional death metal band from Germany and “Godconstruct” is their second album.
“Godconstruct” kicks off with an intro track and then moves into the album’s title track. The band may consider themselves traditional death metal, but the sound on “Godconstruct” is anything but typical for death metal. The production quality is the key to the monster-sized sound of this album. This is a wall of metal sound that is not just a mountain of fuzz. The only thing I’ll ding them on is the vocals. These are pretty typical death metal vocals, which is fine, but they could use another click or two in the volume department. The music sounds so great that it kind of gets out front of the vocals a little. I wouldn’t call the vocals buried, but this would so much more powerful with the vocals a little more out front.
I have no complaints about the songwriting or playing. They get the job done and I like what I hear. If you are looking for some quality death metal that doesn’t focus so much on blood and gore (at least not the extent of bands like Cannibal Corpse) then this might be your cup of tea.
Lifeless should probably see about getting a presence on YouTube. I couldn’t find anything from them there, so I’m including the track “Moribund” from their Revebnation page. Check it out.
Inverticrux – Virgin Reaper
Inverticrux is a black/thrash/death/doom band from New Hampshire and “Virgin Reaper” is their first album. Apparently they have another release under their previous name, Vintage Flesh.
It seems that someone might have forgotten to take their anti-psychotic medication. Thorazine anyone? Seriously, these songs make me think this is what it might sound like to be extremely schizophrenic. The voices are many and varied and come at the listener from all angles of the stereo spectrum. I’m almost positive they conjured up King Diamond (all the way from Texas) because from time to time it sounds like he is hovering in the air above the band flying back and forth.
The music often sounds lo-fi in production quality. There are moments of clarity, but most of the time the music is a dull roar in the background. Just when I think I might start digging some raw metal moments in the music, the vocals come in and do something stupid sounding and the mood is broken.
I’m not trying to be insulting here, but at times I do wonder whether this is a serious attempt at metal music or whether it is a tongue-in-cheek jape done for shits and giggles.
Here is the track “Hurt Whores.” It is actually one of the more straight-forward songs on the album. It’s actually not too bad.
- Published on Saturday, 23 February 2013 09:07
- Written by Chris Pharis
- Hits: 221
Soilwork – The Living Infinite
Right at the outset of this review I should state for the record that this is my first exposure to Soilwork. So an informed, nuanced discussion of the growth of the band over the span of their 18-year career is off the table. I’ll be limited to comments on their newest release, which hardly seems fair to a group with such a history behind it. By now anybody who has read any of my other reviews may be starting to ask, “Who is this metal reviewer that consistently doesn’t seem to know his metal?” Hey, I get it. I’m starting to feel more than a little embarrassed about my limited exposure to the genre I claim to love so much. My only defense is that there is so much metal and so little time and money to listen to it all.
For those you out there who, like me, had never heard of this group before: Soilwork is a melodic death metal band from Sweden. To my ear they lean more melodic than they do toward death metal these days, but from what little research I’ve done into their history I get the impression that their sound has morphed over the years. They started out harder and heavier and over time have added more melody, lightened their sound a bit, and incorporated more singing.
I can’t really remember ever wistfully thinking “if only” there was more melody in my metal. I’ve always been perfectly happy with the simple pleasures of my favorite hard-driven, straight-ahead thrash metal bands. I’m old enough that my tastes pre-date the current trend toward harsh junkyard dog vocals, so a lot of my favorite music from back in the day featured vocalists who could sing. It wasn’t always especially pretty singing, but it wasn’t barking either. So I’m not against melody in my metal music. But if a band leans too far in that direction while ignoring the heavy stuff that attracted me to the music in the first place they’ll risk losing my interest. It’s all a balancing act really, and speaking in generalizations ends up being meaningless because if a band has a compelling sound, personality, and strong material then it doesn’t really matter what genre of music it is. I can get into it.
Soilwork isn’t what I would typically choose to listen to, but it is obvious that this band is made up of serious musicians who have a solid vision and follow through on it. This is a double album with twenty songs and all of it is strong material and well played. The production values are solid as well, as you might expect from a bunch of career musicians with nearly two decades of experience building music together. I’m guessing that fans of Soilwork’s previous output will be thrilled with this new material. Like with any genre band whose sound changes over time I am sure there are folks who think Soilwork just keeps getting better and better with each new release, and then there are probably those who didn’t care for the shifting musical direction and lost interest. Not knowing the strength of their previous output I can’t really speak to any of that.
But I can tell you that this is twenty songs worth of well-crafted, solidly written and performed material. It may not skew exactly to your personal tastes but I can’t really see anybody debating the quality of this music. For me, as usual, the harder stuff was what kept me tuned into these songs to see where they would go next. The tight coiling guitar hooks that launch ‘Realm of the Wasted’ married to the hard-driving percussive work of Dirk Verbeuren on drums represent the sort stuff I could listen to all day. When the band shifts gears toward the melodic they do so effortlessly and the quality is never diluted. I find the softer melodic stuff a little less enthralling, but there isn’t long to wait before they shift gears again and dive headlong back into the harder material. Other standout tracks for me were ‘Rise Above the Sentiment’ and ‘Owls Predict Oracles Stand Guard’.
With a lot of new music, it sometimes takes a few listens for me to fully appreciate a band. I can already tell Soilwork is growing on me. If you absolutely cannot tolerate melodic metal then you may not like this band, but if you enjoy music of all kinds, regardless of strict subgenre delineations, then I highly recommend you to check out Soilwork – The Living Infinite.
Here is their quirky video for ‘Rise Above the Sentiment’ to give you some small inkling of what they sound like:
Mortillery – Origin of Extinction
Metallic band name combining “mortal” and “artillery”? Check. Band name logo with aggressive pointy serifs stabbing out from the first and last letters? Check. Band members clad in metal-studded leather and denim? Check. Balls-out thrash metal with equal doses chunky riffs, scorching guitar solos, and screaming banshee vocals? Check. All systems are go.
Mortillery is a Canadian thrash metal act and Origin of Extinction marks their second full-length release. This band’s overtly stated mission is the revival of the classic thrash metal sound made famous by the Bay Area scene in the 1980s, and they cite a who’s-who of influences from the golden age of thrash metal music. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then there must be a bunch of classic old school metal acts out there blushing with pride.
And the thing is, Mortillery do an excellent job. On first listen I wasn’t sure whether they might be clinging so tightly to the template as to be a tad too derivative. But about half way through this ten songs worth of material they had me converted. They are doing more than parroting their favorite retro sounds. The band manages to sound incredibly familiar while at the same time crafting an identity of their own and sounding original and fresh while doing it. A second, third, and fourth listen confirmed for me that this band traffics in a highly distilled and potent mixture of well crafted, original thrash.
It’s all here. The speeding, driven riffs. The pounding percussion. The blistering guitar solos. The raging vocals. All of it is delivered with technical excellence, plenty of hooks, and tons of energy and attitude.
Cara McCutchen does some very nice full-throated singing on this album, at times sharing vocal duties with rhythm guitarist Alex Gutierrez’s raspier voice. The combined effect will actively remind you at times of Rob Halford and others like him. It is becoming less and less unusual to hear female vocalists in metal these days, but it is still incredibly refreshing to see a woman like Cara so ably fill the position and do it with a tough, strong delivery rather than being expected to soften the sound with femininity. Filling out the low end of the sound with Gutierrez are Kevin Gaudet on drums and Miranda Gladeau on bass, while screeching and tweaking above it all with some crazed guitar work is Alex Scott. It all comes off as a seamless piece.
Some of my favorite tracks from the album include ’No Way out’, ‘F.O.A.D.’, ‘Battle March’, ‘Seen in Death’, and the amazing song ‘The Hunter’s Lair’, but pretty much the entire thing is great from start to finish. If, like me, you are a fan of the classic bay area thrash metal sound then you won’t want to miss out on this one.
The band’s single-minded purpose being so focused on paying tribute to their thrash metal gods, this entire exercise could have easily faltered if at any time any of them proved themselves not quite up to the task. But that never happens and instead they deliver song after song with confidence and total control.
This album sounds as if it might be something from the vaults, lost since the 80s, and now rediscovered. The various bands they sound like will amaze and amuse you, and yet when they wear their influences and intent so cheerfully on their sleeve it is pretty hard to fault them for any of it. If anything congratulations are in order. Mission accomplished. This music would probably have risen to the top of the heap had it come out in the golden age of thrash, and it is still great today. Metal being something of a niche genre I am always pleased musicians take the time and effort to record and tour. It isn’t for the money. It is out of love for the music.
I wanted to find ‘The Hunter’s Lair’ on video, but struck out (although there is a video of them doing it live with passable sound quality if you are interested). In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any studio version of anything from Origin of Extinction on video yet. The best I could find was this video with partial previews of all of the songs.
Edge of Attack – Edge of Attack
Edge of Attack’s self-titled album is the first full-length release from this Alberta, Canada power-thrash outfit.
The album has very clean sounding production, and solid songs that merge an old school pre-thrash metal sound somewhat reminiscent of Iron Maiden’s earlier output, but with some of the speed and frenetic percussion more associated with latter-day thrash metal. Add to that mix vocalist Roxanne Gordey’s quasi-operatic singing and you have a solid first effort from these metalheads from the Great White North.
Here let me state for the record, I learned it is Roxanne Gordey singing based on a visit to their Facebook page. From some of their photos it looks like the band started out being all dudes to begin with. Previous to visiting their profile online I had assumed it was a guy singing. Now that I know otherwise it makes more sense. In addition to Roxanne the band also boasts female bassist Denver Whipple. (That makes two Canadian bands with female vocalists and bass players in the same set of reviews – see Mortillery’s review as well).
I most enjoyed some of the crunchier, thrash-infused moments of this material. The old school power metal I found slightly less satisfying. But that is more a matter of personal taste than anything else. It should not be taken as any sort of dig at the group’s musical abilities, as everything here comes off as flawlessly executed and well thought out. These guys are obviously talented musicians.
For me personally, the incredibly clean sound on display here was actually a little distracting at first. Maybe it comes from listening to so much low-end noise, rumble, and distortion over the years. But here the tones are all very sharp and distinct. I was grateful for the addition of the chugging thrash elements to add a bit of grind to the otherwise streak-free gleam and polish of these songs. Likewise, Gordey’s singing is mostly done in a retro singing style where she actually carries a tune rather than barking and growling like she needs a rabies shot. After commenting in review after review how everybody in metal now seems to “sing” like Cookie Monster with a bad case of constipation you would think I would welcome the change, but I was somehow still taken aback by these vocals. The style harkens back to the pre-thrash days of metal with the soaring operatic high notes made famous by folks like Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson.
Some of this didn’t really work for me. The opening track ‘In Hell’ started promisingly with a nice hard thumping, chugging stomp but suddenly morphed into a vaguely leprechaun-themed double bass drum exhibition. Some of the soaring guitar and vocal work was a little bit too old school for my taste. I like a little grittier sound. But when the band decides to dig into the harder stuff they prove themselves more than up to the task. I really like the title track.
All these minor quibbles I am making about their sound represent nit picking more than any real fault to be found in this band’s music. Overall this is about as solid a first effort as you are likely to come across from a new band on the scene. Fans of power and thrash metal will find much to enjoy in these tracks. Edge of Attack obviously has what it takes to climb to the top of whatever heap of metal they decide to dominate.
Check out the video for ‘In Hell’ and see if you can guess when the manic dancing leprechauns started moshing around inside my brain:
Riverside – Shrine of New Generation Slaves
Riverside is from Poland and ‘Shrine of New Generation Slaves’ is their fifth studio album. They’ve been around since 2001. I grow ever more embarrassed with each new review I write about a band I’ve never heard of with years of history and numerous albums behind them. Apparently they started out creating dark metal in their early days, and have since expanded their sound into their current arena of prog metal.
If I didn’t have their bio to clue me into the sub-genre I would be lost here. I wouldn’t really think to call this metal, which goes to show how much I know. It isn’t that the music is not hard and heavy in places, because portions of it definitely skew heavy. But the sounds you probably most readily associate with metal are mixed in with a lot of other influences. Metal is but one tool in this band’s tool belt and they use it when the job calls for it. There is a lot going on here: I detected flashes of blues, funk, hard rock, pop, jazz and electronic music influences effortlessly sewn into the mix alongside the occasional bits of recognizable metal. Whereas with more traditional metal acts, the hard stuff is the whole point of the exercise, here it is just one of many musical textures deployed by the band in the service of their larger sound. At times I heard echoes of artists as diverse as Pink Floyd, The Doors, and (please forgive me) bands like New Order.
This album is pretty far removed from what I typically choose to listen to these days, but from the opening moments of the first song ‘New Generation Slave’ the band managed to capture and hold my attention. Fans of the harder, more brutal end of the metal spectrum may not be able to stomach the total lack of brutality here. If you are heavily attached to a very strict definition of what your metal should sound like you might not be able to tolerate this wide-ranging musical gumbo. There are groovy and electronic keyboard passages, pianos, horn solos, and Mariusz Duda’s emotional and (I’ll say it) pretty singing throughout. You probably won’t be running into these guys playing a double bill with Slayer anytime soon.
But there is nothing wrong with that. I started out as a kid listening to hard rock, transitioned into heavy metal, then punk, and then somehow found myself listening to a lot of 60s soul music, James Brown, assorted funk and older ska. For a time in there I got kind of burned out on metal and that is when I started discovering a lot of other music I never knew existed. The harder stuff is still my first love and I keep coming back to it over and over, but I long ago learned to appreciate a wide variety of sounds.
I can wholeheartedly recommend you give Riverside a listen. I found the material on ‘Shrine of New Generation Slaves’ compelling listening throughout. If you ever find yourself feeling strung out after the thousandth hearing of your usual favorite death metal band, like you’ve burned out your pituitary gland after a bad binge of bathtub meth, then you just may find the soothing tones of Riverside will take the edge off those brutally jangled nerves. You also may want to consider cutting down on the bathtub meth. That stuff is bad news.
Check out their video for ‘Celebrity Touch’ and see what you think: