Tuesday 3 January 2017

2016 ALBUMS IN BRIEF: Fleshgod Apocalypse - “King”, Despised Icon - “Beast”, Witchden - “Salt of the Earth” & Surtur - “Descendant of Time”

By Theron Moore, Richard Maw & Eric Crowe

Fleshgod Apocalypse - “King

So, the other day, I was having a conversation with Sir Aardamoor, a knight of the 3rd Order in the Court of King Gallbreath, and we were discussing the best bands to pump up the troops in the field right before storming a castle.  Fleshgod was his choice.  No surprise, no shock. 

To say that Fleshgod is epic in a cinematic way is pretty much a no brainer.  Everything they do is big starting off with “March Royale” the instrumental that opens the record and brings forth visions of massive troop movements, Trebuchets hauled in by slaves, and, well, the siege of a castle.  In Aeturnum” continues the mythical siege replete with soaring, crushing, metallic vocals and background opera as well.  Fleshgod has come to play.

I like what they do.  Fleshgod is good at pulling this off just like Manowar is right on with their chest pounding, bruh-metal.  Both bands are convincing, especially Fleshgod on this, their new record, “King.”   They’ve figured out how to make cinematic metal work, how to construct it, and more importantly, how to execute it to maximum impact.  This is “Ben-Hur,” “Clash of the Titans,” “Timeline,” and lest not we forget, “300” put to music.  Make no mistake about it, Fleshgod isn’t about power ballads or hammers being thrown ala Hammerfall or Hammerfall-lite, Hammer King.  Continuing with the movie theme, those bands would be made for TV movies.  Fleshgod is full on IMAX, 3-D, big budget, franchise stock.

This is heavy music.  Probably some of the heaviest you’ll have heard last year going into this.  This juggernaut will kill posers on sight, so beware.  So, here’s what you do.  Grab a tankard of Grog, watch “300,” and when you get groggy enough, crank up “King” by Fleshgod Apocalypse.  That’s it, that’s your evening.  You’re welcome.

Band info: facebook

Despised Icon - “Beast

Whoa.  Beast” is an apt way of describing this record.  Its ten tons of bricks fallin’ on your head, smacked in the face by a wrecking ball, with an iron pipe to the balls.  Although the band hails from Canada I’d describe their sound as US, East Coast hardcore with a slight hint of death metal thrown in for good measure. 

Despised Icon returns from the dead with “Beast” via Nuclear Blast Records, again showcasing the mighty pipes of dual vocalists Alex Erian and Steve Marois who come ‘atcha like a tsunami.  Track four, “Bad Vibes,” is testament to this.  This song’s gonna hurt people in the pit.  I like the recurring death metal break in this song reminiscent of bands like Putrified, Gorevent or Fetal Disgorge.  Nice touch.  Cranks the brutality factor up by 10.

Beast” kinda swings me over to bands like First Blood or Terror that have that street grittiness, back room, bare knuckles fighting feel.  Reunions often feel like lame money grabs without soul, tryin’ to sell you a brand but not the case with Despised Icon.  Beast” is this band firing on all cylinders, lookin’ and soundin’ refreshed, stompin’ around the stage, words getting spit out of the mic like bullets out of a gun. 

Undoubtedly what makes Despised Icon stand out is the dual vox.  That’s why songs like “The Aftermath” and “Drapeau Noir” sound as heavy and tough as they do. 

The switch up between hardcore and death metal sounds, adds that extra layer of aggressiveness that puts this band over the top and allows them to change up musically at the drop of a hat and not skip a beat.  The problem you run into with a lot of hardcore bands is the fact that they can only work within set boundaries, often fencing themselves in.  With dual vocalists in Despised Icon, and the bands killer ability to nail a thrash groove, hardcore or death metal, the music is constantly evolving and staying fresh which is exactly what you get with “Beast.”  Buy it and mosh!

Band info: facebook

Witchden - “Salt of the Earth

Minnesota, Minneapolis sludge mongers Witchden have finally returned this year with “Salt the Earth” and damn it’s a stellar follow-up from the 2012 “Consulting the Bones”. Released October 31 last year, this new album has really blown me away with well crafted songs, solid riffs and a slow mean drive. Guitars are unforgiving with amazing tone, with clarity and crunch and blend perfectly with the thick chest rumbling bass. Drums are crushing and on point the entire album and exactly what it needs.

Most of the album keeps about the same tempo, a good heavy drive, but does break into so aggressively sludgy moments that add such a weight to that album that really sticks with you. But a song like “The Old Blood” breaks away from the dark tone and has a stronger groove to it, good for night driving. “Unholy” tends to be one of my favorites; it recently appeared on Doomsayer RecordsVolume Two” compilation. It’s just got that previously mentioned slow mean drive with guttural / throaty vocals leaning toward a death metal side of things, which to me is a nice touch. Like I said before, this is a stellar release with tracks like “Negasus, “Salt The Earth, The Old Blood and “Unholy that really stand out to me for their uncompromising heaviness and being a killer album from start to finish. A must have from 2016.

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Surtur - “Descendant of Time

What do we have here? No less than the finest thrash from the intense heat of Bangladesh! With Exalter treading the boards in the same country, the Bangladeshi's are making a name for themselves in this genre; violent thrash. The band photo shows one of the guys wearing a Kreator t-shirt. It's a good reference point.

This is certainly thrash in the Teutonic vein: riotous and evil sounding. After the scene setting intro “Prologue to Chaos”, the title track kicks off with some paint stripping riffing, vocalising and soloing (in that order). Vicious stuff. “Demolisher” follows up with a slower and steadier start, but it soon accelerates to early Sepultura pace.

The EP is shamelessly influenced by the late 80's German thrash squads- and the South American greats, too. This is a more satisfying approach than many modern American bands; who are too clean sounding and too slick. This is music played for the joy of it, played for the violence of it and, despite the violence it is, indeed, fun.

“Maggot Filled Brain” is the charmingly titled closing track which shifts through the thrash gears impressively, with each band member laying down an impressive and forceful sound. Simply put, this is a sharp EP for all those who like their thrash feral and unfriendly.

Band info: bandcamp || facebook