Monday, 27 July 2015

Dead Existence - 'Endless Misery' (Album Review)



‘This is sludge/doom at its most painful, misanthropic and unforgiving. Some would say it's a bit long as it is an epic journey of soul crushing proportions and if you're thinking that, you're missing the point of it; the title is 'Endless Misery' after all’


Album Type: Full-Length
Date Releaed: 04/04/2015
Label: Black Bow Records

‘Endless Misery’ CS//DD//LP track listing:

1). Consume
2). End Devoured by Beginning
3). ....
4), Worthless
5). Tear Apart The Veil
6). Obsidian Black
7). Delusion of Hope
8). Regretamine

Review:

Ooh this is a bit tasty! Dead Existence has been plugging away at the underground sludge/doom scene since 2004 and have made many a venue crumble to dust. 'Endless Misery' is their first full length since 2007's self titled self release and is 8 tracks of sheer misanthropic, unmitigated filth.

We start off with 'Consume' with its Celtic Frost like opening riff veering off into Crowbar territory while vocalist Jake bellows about how meaningless your existence truly is. Things get more atmospheric for 'End Devoured by Beginning' as the clean/reverbed guitars play the opening notes before the heavy, sledgehammer like riffs pummel everything in earshot and the slower closing section wears you down like the Project Mayhem initiation scenes in Fight Club. After the brief interlude of the 3rd track it's back into relentless, punishing sludge for 'Worthless' which has some great double pedal work from drummer (and former bassist) Max. It's clear Jake is angry at the world as he shouts more discouraging phrases and anti humanist slogans. Brutal, nasty stuff indeed.

Next is 'Tear Apart The Veil' and it's dissonant, hardcore style riffs that bleed away as the bass plays a slower, claustrophobic pattern before the guitars join back in for some more Crowbar worship. 'Obsidian Black' starts with some nice 3/4 beat action to get heads wind milling and is a highlight for me personally. The riffs slow down towards the end and the guitars use some different tones and effects pedals to make it all the more miserable before it fades out into noise/ambient/spoken word piece 'Delusion Of Hope'. Finally we get the dying beast of the final track, the superbly titled 'Regretamine'. This song is an epic, painful crawl through self loathing, akin to starving yourself to death. The 13 minutes have enough interesting changes to keep the listener involved but man, it's hard to listen to without wanting to off yourself!

This is sludge/doom at its most painful, misanthropic and unforgiving. Some would say it's a bit long as it is an epic journey of soul crushing proportions and if you're thinking that, you're missing the point of it; the title is 'Endless Misery' after all

Words by: Chris Bull

‘Endless Misery’ is available here

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Atheist - ‘Unquestionable Presence’ Reissue (Album Review)


‘Overall, then, this record still stands as a landmark for tech-death, metal/jazz fusion and all progression in the genre of metal. It is a classic and absolutely essential…’

Album Type: Full-Length (Reissue)
Date Released: 27/07/2015
Label: Season of Mist

‘Unquestionable Presence’ CD//DVD// Reissue track listing:

01. Mother Man
02. Unquestionable Presence
03. Your Life's Retribution
04. Enthralled in Essence
05. An Incarnation's Dream
06. The Formative Years
07. Brains
08. And the Psychic Saw

Pre-production demo:
9. Enthralled in Essence
10. The Formative Years
11. Unquestionable Presence
12. An Incarnation's Dream
13. Retribution (instrumental)
14. Brains (instrumental)

Demo 1990:
15. Enthralled in Essence

Drums & bass tracks:
16. Mother Man

Rhythm tracks:
17. And the Psychic Saw

Atheist were on this recording:

Kelly Shaefer | guitars, vocals
Tony Choy | bass
Roger Patterson | music
Steve Flynn | drums
Rand Burkey | guitars

Review:

Atheist. Florida. 1991. These three facts should be very descriptive about the content held herein this lavish reissue... However, this is nothing like Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Malevolent Creation, Obituary et al (not that those bands sound anything like each other anyway- they are only banded by sub genre). In fact, this album has more in common with the direction that Death would head in a year or two later, but is still not comparable. Perhaps Cynic would be a better comparison as this is technical death metal of the earliest and finest variety. The first couple of minutes really marks Atheist and this album out as different. These good ol' boys, way down south in redneck territory were pioneers, carving out a brain twisting path through the musical swamp.

There are a lot of fusion elements here- some of the playing is really jazzy- and yes, that is across the board; rhythm section and guitars. Sure, there are riffs aplenty (all change, all the time!), solos and the virtuoso bass performance but there is something about this record that is very much ahead of this time. If I didn't know that this record was nearly 25 years old I never would have guessed as the production is superb. Everything cuts superbly, which is no mean feat considering how much is going on. The drums are tight and punchy (no pro tools at this time and I assume a limited recording budget so these guys must really have the chops), the bass noodles expertly and the vocals are nowhere near as extreme as some other DM acts from this or any other period. I guess this is like a more cerebral or even jazz version of Death at their peak (which as very cerebral in iteself!).

It is very interesting to note that while technical means exactly that, progressive here does not mean “play aimlessly for ten minutes plus while everything goes nowhere”- all the songs are very short compared to modern standards; four minutes being a reasonable average. The likes of “Enthralled in Essence” are very weighty in places, but not all the time as there is plenty of use of dynamics and odd rhythms. The double bass drums are not continual and blasting is not a feature. Acoustic guitars feature here and there in intros (excellent) and there is a very palpable sense that the band were really trying to excel themselves on this sophomore effort; better playing, better production, better composition.

There are some very odd poly-rhythms here and there, lots of syncopation, and lots of changes. A track by track analysis is worthless here; suffice it to say that there is a lot of technical metal for your delectation. Bonus tracks are included which feature bassist Roger Patterson, who sadly died before the record proper was recorded. His bass lines survived and were re-created, so the album still stands as testimony to his incredible skills.

Overall, then, this record still stands as a landmark for tech-death, metal/jazz fusion and all progression in the genre of metal. It is a classic and absolutely essential, particularly if you ever stick on an Opeth album and think it sounds too much like AC/DC. As technical as it gets.

Words by: Richard Maw

‘Unquestionable Presence’ is available here

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Freedom Hawk - 'Into Your Mind' (Album Review)


‘Overall a very strong album that holds strong throughout; immense riffs and licks, explosive drumming, engaging vocals and solid bass playing- it doesn’t get much better.’

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 23/6/2015
Label: Small Stone Recordings

‘Into Your Mind’ CD//DD//LP Track Listing

1). Blood Red Sky
2). Journey Home
3). Lost In Space
4). On Your Knees
5). Waterfall
6). Radar
7). Beyond Our Reach
8). Into Your Mind
9). The Line
10). All Because Of You

Freedom Hawk is:

Lenny Hines | Drums
T.R. Morton | Vocals, Guitar
Mark Cave | Bass

Review:

The Virginia Beach rockers are back!

Now a trio since  the departure of Matt Cave, they bring out their 4th album and follow up to their 2011 release ‘Holding On’.  Heavy riffs, rolling grooves and soulful melodious guitar entwine to produce their immediately identifiable sound. ‘Into Your Mind’ brings another dimension to their fuzz tinged offerings with all the swagger one would have expected after their previous effort.

A twinge of Ram Jam sneaks into opener ‘Blood Red Sky’; to what proves to be a bloody amazing album, flecked with stoner vocals and Sabbath like grooves,  it oozes into the sub conscious pummelling the senses with aplomb. Definitely the most radio friendly song, a stoner rock band can write, it has the rhythmic pulse of Led Zeppelin with the charisma of Ozzy. Rather adroitly they alternate and meld the prime elements of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s classic rock, metal, psychedelic rock, grunge and even a tinge of thrash. A belting opener.

‘Lost In Space’ epitomises the Virginia Beach trio at their finest; harnessing every single element that makes them enjoyable to the listen to; sci-fi lyrics, guitar riffs and lead melodies that create momentum and splashes of colour to lift the arrangements. The passion they have for hard rock and its history is transferred directly into this song and its finely tuned style of song writing.  The lead break in ‘Journey Home’; housing more layers than a triple decker sandwich, brings the catchiness up to immensely classic levels whilst the refined drum rolls from Hines and psychedelic chord choices make ‘Waterfall’ an absolute must have for their live shows; housing a slinky funk groove before opening up to a stoner rock ballad, superb stuff.

With a nod to Southern Rock, they take a wander with ‘Beyond Our Reach’, with clean, echoing guitar rhythms that hammer into the brain and take root enabling you to hum them all day long. Putting a pin in their heavy distortive work to get their point across, and they do, so very well.  Smoothly moving into the title track ‘Into Your Mind’ with a Clutch like stomp, you’re subjected to wondrous harmonies that combine Soul, Blues, Hard Rock and Stoner Metal with style,  making this trio diverse- yes but also enticing, flowing with musical chemistry. Jim Morrison’s influence is a shining beacon on the opening vocals here. A track that can only be described as organic; it is like no other on the album but reflects the roots of the Hard Rock/Metal genres. This song reminds the listener; no matter what kind of song they write, what lies at their core- delivering energetic rock whilst worshipping at the altar of the greats. It is by this point that I have realised just how good drummer Lenny Hines is; almost Ian Paice like, his dexterity for fills and his stylistic variations are immense. Each drum part is superbly arranged and executed with intent and attention to dynamics.

‘The Line’ glides in next; instantly attention grabbing, sombre and melodic, driven with emotionally charged vocals and strong bass lines, it is wondrously morose and melodic. The guitar lines take over about half way through and lead the song to an enchanting instrumental ending. Ending on a high with ‘All Because Of You’; it is a funky, groovy number that will cause those with even the blackest of souls to have a little wiggle round the kitchen.  It is simple yet effective and with more than ample guitar wizardry, catchy drums and bass entanglement, it takes me a minute to calm down and declare that I am in no doubt this record is winning. With the focus honed on refined, hook-orientated chord progressions and the Ozzy like crooning of guitarist T.R. Morton these 10 songs remind me of everything from Sabbath to Kyuss; Clutch to retro Corrosion of Conformity.

Overall a very strong album that holds strong throughout; immense riffs and licks, explosive drumming, engaging vocals and solid bass playing- it doesn’t get much better. They have developed a fantastic writing/playing style that pings the senses and has massive potential for success within the retro/classic rock movement. They balance the vocal and instrumental parts alongside excellent attention to detail with their arrangements. Capitalising on the best of the 70’s whilst adding their own twist based around excellent song writing as opposed to stylistic retro posturing.  If you love classic rock and up tempo metal/hard rock then this will settle nicely between the ears and tickle your fancy.

Words by: Kat Hilton

‘In Your Mind’ is available here

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A Trust Unclean - ‘Reality Relinquished’ EP (Review)


‘The whole EP is so energetic, inspiration seems to bleed from every available crevice; here is a band basking in a creative flourish.’


Album Type: EP
Date Released: 07/08/2015
Label: Self Released 

‘Reality Relinquished’ EP track  listing:  

1). Enucleation”
2). “Feckless Traditions”
3). “Perverse Agenda”
4). “Insipient Catastrophe”
5). “Reality Relinquished

A Trust Unclean

Joe Corky | Vocals
Steve Hunt | Guitar
Mikey Gee | Guitar
Bobby Hembrow| Bass
Scott Horne | Drums

Review:

Music such as this is savage by design, and with a name like A Trust Unclean, you expect this band’s sonic assault to be as rough and splintering as a hangover after a four day absinthe binge. But what has surprised me with the Oxfordshire band’s ‘Reality Relinquished’ EP is just how much character lurks in their overtly guttural and uncivilised demeanour.  Never at any point do they get lost in that unquenched desire to be heavier than Satan’s bollocks and forget about the key assets in melody, structure and imagination. The songs snap every which way, like Steve Irwin – God bless his crazy, crazy soul – wrestling an unsuspecting alligator, but the way, in which these compositions are constructed, you end up sucked into its ebb and flow almost instantly. 

‘Perverse Agenda’ is underpinned by low strung grooves which are interjected by Joseph Corcoran’s hoarse vocals and fly-in-a-glass whizzing fret board runs. The whole EP is so energetic, inspiration seems to bleed from every available crevice; here is a band basking in a creative flourish.

Blast beats, when you venture down heavier roads such as this, can so often be an all-out matter of quantity outweighing quality. But here, especially on ‘Incipient Catastrophe’, Scott Horne’s footwork is deft, intricate and all over the place, tighter than a gnats arse yet so fluent. It gives the songs a chaotic undercurrent, but a chaos that is well organised and executed. It’s these stuttered rhythms, despite the crushing countenance of the overlaying guitars that give this record so much of that aforementioned character. Without it, this would just be a heavy record, another one for the pile of ‘just noise without anything going for it’ records in existence.   

On the title track it is guitarists Steve Hunt and Mikey Gee who impress the most. From the pained lead lines to the Gojira pick scrapes, bursts of tremolo picking and all-round complexity – the tab of this no doubt resembling something akin to a child let loose with a label gun – here are two guitarists with their heads firmly leading, their macro intellect and vision the way. Showmanship isn’t really an egotistical presence here, for any of the musicians. This is a collective effort and, yes, there are moments of brilliant individualism, but it is as a collective where they are strongest, no one ever takes the limelight for more than each particular section requires.

With five songs all either three or four or five minutes long, the EP flies by. It’s a wham-bam-thank-you-mam of technical and devastating death metal. The juxtaposing smile that broadens your gob while listening speaks volumes. Honestly speaking, I’m not too enamoured by this end of the metal spectrum – it’s something I dip in and out of from time to time – so for a band of this calibre to capture my imagination, to have me excited as this record does is, from a personal stand point at least, a pretty darn good achievement.

It is heavier than Satan’s bollocks, but it’s fun and very well written too.

Words: Phil Weller

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Sunday, 26 July 2015

Black Space Riders - 'Refugeeum' (Album Review)


‘All in all, “Refugeeum” is an album of quality, but it’s the addictive elements that will either make or break the listening experience. Either the addiction will hit home, bringing the listener back for another hit, or scare them away by the fourth track. The choice is yours.’


Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 24/7/2015
Label: Self Released/Cargo Records

‘Refugeeum’CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Vortex Sun (8:03)
2. Universal Bloodlines (4:27)
3. Born a Lion (Homeless) (3:46)
4. The Lure (Come with us) (4:03)
5. Run to the Plains (10:50)
6. Curtains of Death (8:21)
7. Melek's Lament (Yazidi Tears) (6:06)
8. Walking Shades (4:33)
9. Ritual of Inner Strength (9:27)

Black Space Riders is:

JE | lead vocals, guitars, organ, beats
SEB | lead vocals
C.RIP | drums, percussion
SLI | guitars
SAQ | bass guitar
HEVO | additional bass guitar

Review:

Since 2008, there has been a German quintet drifting in and out of focus of the Hubble Telescope. They fly amongst the planets under a flag that reads Black Space Riders, using a battle cry named "Refugeeum"" that is strong enough to pierce through the vacuum that is the cosmos. Led by the band’s sure-footed vocal compass, Black Space Riders push their space-rock far and wide with a clear purpose to conquer. The steady, choppy guitars played to the simple time keeping of the rhythm section combines to make affable melodies and an impressively large sound.

What’s most remarkable on “Refugeeum” is how addictive it is and this lies in the simplicity of it all. Leaving space in the songs is key for Black Space Riders, allowing for an expanded arrangement. So even though the lead melody in a song like “Born a Lion” is a mere four notes, there’s room to build upon and expand the song. These building blocks are primarily found in the vocals, be it the back and forth of “The Lure” or the bellowing found in “Curtain of Death.” Perhaps as anticipated, this leads to sing-a-longs...whether you want to or not. So yes, this coin has a flip side, and that is that the melodies aren’t spectacular and have the potential to get played out, almost to the extent of annoyance.

But don’t sell these guys short. They know what they have in tow and certainly in Germany, there are enough people out there who will eat this goth, space, stoner metal up. “Refugeeum” starts by pulling in the listener with an airy chant that slowly takes form as a strong opener. Obviously the cut that they spent a great deal of time working out is “Run to the Plains,” which serves well as the album’s centerpiece. Though the verses get dangerously close to a dance song, the band somehow makes it work. Once the chorus lands and the distortion pedals have been hit, Black Space Riders take on a whole new direction, one that comes back in the album’s two closing tracks. “Walking Shades” shows that the band can succeed at making their music a little bit more complex and closer “Ritual of Inner Strength” will speak to the Pink Floyd fans of the eighties.

All in all, “Refugeeum” is an album of quality, but it’s the addictive elements that will either make or break the listening experience. Either the addiction will hit home, bringing the listener back for another hit, or scare them away by the fourth track. The choice is yours.

Words by: Victor van Ommen

‘Refugeeum’ is available here

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Saturday, 25 July 2015

Khemmis - 'Absolution' (Album Review)


‘From the opening riff of the album you can pretty much tell ‘Absolution’ is great. Laying somewhere between Pallbearer and perhaps a downtempo Ghost, Khemmis' first full-length is one of the best albums you will hear this year, Period!!’

Album Type: Full-Length

Label: 20 Buck Spin

Date Released: 07/07/2015


Absolution’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Torn Asunder
2). Ash, Cinder, Smoke
3). Serpentine
4). Antediluvian
5). Burden Of Sin
6). The Bereaved

Review:

From the opening riff of the album you can pretty much tell ‘Absolution’ is great. Laying somewhere between Pallbearer and perhaps a downtempo Ghost, Khemmis' first full-length is one of the best albums you will hear this year, Period!! ‘Absolution’ will be one of the consensus best releases of the year, it IS that good. So far this year, depending on your preferred flavour of doom, I'd say this and Elder's ‘Lore’ are the best so far.

The second track ‘Ash, Cinder, Smoke’ is my favourite of the album, sounding Pallbearer-esque but with guitars that groove harder. The vocals here are exceptional with great lyrics and soaring clean melodies. Some great song writing as well, transitioning from open verses to subtly different feels from the initial little break between the first two verses to the bridge. Beginning with a menacing Wino style riff, the third track ‘Serpentine’ kicks some heavy 80's underground vibes as the opening verse slinks into view. Staying low and slow throughout most of its length, ‘Serpentine’ boasts a great solo with an exceptional, yet short, shred fest. When the tempo kicks into high gear for the bridge some duelling guitar leads move into a really nice rhythm guitar riff with a nice bass line moving beneath.

The fourth track ‘Antediluvian’ begins with a riff that sounds like a stuttering Karma to Burn riff. Moving through the riffs there's some really nice feel changes on the riffs where they almost feel to change tempo mid-riff and the drumming here is pretty exceptional as the drummer rolls everything nicely. The fifth track ‘Burden Of Sin’ begins with a heavy rocking chugging riff into a nice stompy note hold riff. The progression of the riffs in ‘Burden Of Sin’ is really nice as the fills at the end of Khemmis' riffs stay interesting and they keep a lot of movement on their riffs. 

The final track ‘The Bereaved’ begins with a riff that somehow manages to convey it is the last song of the album from the opening riff. Moving quickly into the most epic solo of the album with some impressive phrasing on the melodies beginning with a few soaring notes. This is my second favourite track on the album as the vocals here are very well done with a great melody and the not-quite-chorus between verses here is the best ones on the album.  The rocking middle section is epic with a very heavy rocking Sword-esque fast run.  Keeping it doomy with transitions back to slower tempos. Khemmis' transitions are absolutely seamless and almost not even noticeably even when doing huge tempo swings.   

The mix here is sublime with everything clearly audible and cutting through nicely. The guitars are crushing with nicely balanced leads, the drum kit is clearly audible and booming with a great low end on the kick and toms in particular, the bass is rumbling and room filling, while the vocals perfectly sit in the mix. A great listen, Khemmis are based in Colorado and they are currently playing shows there, definitely worth seeing as these songs should lend themselves nicely to a live environment.   
Words by: Chris Tedor

‘Absolution’ is available on CD and digitally here

  
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Friday, 24 July 2015

Mad Trapper - 'Dead Living' (Album Review)


‘The album is a slab of D Beat ferocity, similar to Disfear and Discharge in their unrelenting ferocity, their usage of brutal beats and dirty overblown riffage drags the listener over an aural hallway of broken beer bottles and rusted nails.’



Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 29/06/2015
Label: Sorrow Carrier Records

‘Dead Living’ DD//LP track listing:

1). Claws
2). Dead Living
3). Takeover
4). Ghost Meat
5). Worst Case Ontario
6). Internalized
7). Caved In
8). 1/3
9). Philosophies of the Elite Disguised as Wisdom
10). Paths
11). Rat River
12). .

Review:

Out of all the pure sonic excess to come out lately, from doom, to sludge, to ripping thrash metal, it's always fun when a band comes out with an album that just blows through on a hot rail from hell. Mad Trapper have released a barn burner of a album, entitled ‘Dead Living’, its pure punk metallic violence captured on record.

Keeping the pieces short and sweet, Mad Trapper rip your face off over a short span of 27 minutes. The album is a slab of D Beat ferocity, similar to Disfear and Discharge in their unrelenting ferocity, their usage of brutal beats and dirty overblown riffage drags the listener over an aural hallway of broken beer bottles and rusted nails.

Some highlights off this slab include "1/3", which runs at an all too short 2:16, but absolutely lays down a rusty knife edge of groove, these guys simply shred like a clerk at Enron. Another deep cut is "Worst Case Ontario", which has the weirdest groove I have ever wanted to attempt to dance to. The timing is off and the sound is akin to a band dying in a tire fire whilst playing their last note, with a singer who really fucking hates you. It's a true party anthem for the kids these days!

Sporting some nifty depressing imagery of a dead water fowl on a rocky shore, complete in the dreary B&W filter that the wannabe sad youth use on Instagram, the album is complete in its utter disdain for anything fed by the popular zeitgeist. They will grind you into dust, and then snort you before their next gig/riot. Short, sweet, and at a really good Name Your Price deal on their bandcamp page, ‘Dead Living’ by Mad Trapper is different in all the best ways.

Words by: Hunter Young

‘Dead Living’ is available here

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