Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Sunless, Cartilage, Carnal Decay, Mordbrand

A year after their demo marked them as prospects to watch, Minnesota's Sunless have delivered a debut that lives up to the hype. Urraca sees them following the convoluted path hewn by Gorguts and Ulcerate, eschewing speed for speed's sake to focus instead on atonal riffs and shifting time signatures. Great things are afoot here. [$5]

Bay Area band Cartilage make no bones as to who their influences might be. Much like Impaled (whose Doktor Ross Ewage helped with the layout), Dialect of the Dead updates the classic gory deathgrind of early Carcass with a clearer production and some impish humour. Symphonies of putrefaction, rotten to perfection. [$6.66]

My crash course in European slam continues with Zurich's Carnal Decay. You Owe You Pay keeps the circle pit going by alternating between fast sections and big catchy grooves like clockwork. The bass drops and other electronic flourishes will send anyone with a patch jacket running for the safety of their Hellhammer demos, but this should make the slam kids dance like happy prospectors. [$6.99]

Sweden's Mordbrand seems to only get better with every release. On Wilt, the prolific trio inject more hooks into the classic Stockholm death metal sound, turning in their most memorable batch of songs in the process. As the revival herd thins, those who stick around become the true kvlt. [$9]

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mixtape 35 - Masses

Here is the 35th installment of the Dreams of Consciousness podcast, featuring an interview with Tessa Tribe of Melbourne band Masses. Enjoy.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Dead Witches, Necro, Endless Floods, Body Void

After months of beating the drum for their debut, Dead Witches are upon us. With its rumbling low end and occult overtones, Ouija spells true British doom in no uncertain terms. And with Mark Greening behind the kit, Electric Wizard would be the most obvious reference point - but this is more engaging than anything the Wizard has released in over a decade. [€8]

DoC faves Necro finished up 2016 with another master class in heavy psych rock. Adiante, the Brazilian trio's third full-length, pimp walks out the gate with Lillian Lessa's confident delivery topping the band's Seventies' keyboard-inflected low-rider grooves. "Swinging" in every sense of the word. [$7]

Restraint is key to Endless Floods. On their sophomore album (cleverly titled II ) the Bordeaux trio delays gratification as long as it can, stretching out their minimalist instrumental passages like taffy. When they bring the heavy, it's with the efficacy of a forklift operator dropping slabs of concrete. Watch your heads. [€4]

Starting their EP off like repeated punches to the face is a good indication of where Body Void's heads are at. Their first release since changing their name from Devoid, Ruins is a punishing affair, alternating between feedback-laced sludge and (relatively) faster hardcore sections - like Eyehategod through a burned out sub-woofer. [$5]

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Palace of Worms/Ecferus, Samskaras, Acranius, Theory In Practice

Denver label Crown and Throne deliver a split release between two intriguing one man bands. In their first new material since last year's eclectic The Ladder, Palace of Worms' contribution sees them narrowing their focus to deliver three outstanding tracks that draw from classic death metal without getting bogged down in the tedious orthodoxy of revivalism. Indiana-based Ecferus follow that up with their extremely dissonant and withering style of black metal. They may eschew playing with other people, but one man metal bands will always have each other. [$5]

Montreal-based duo Samskaras do what Canadian death metal bands do best - namely, melody and technicality. But beyond blistering speed or finger-cramping fretwork, what makes Asunder worth repeated listens is its emphasis on catchy riffs and thoughtful arrangements. With a few singles to their name, I'd say it's time they put their considerable talents to work on a full-length. The EP is available as a "name your price" download.

What I know about "slam" could fit on a postage stamp; even so, I can say that Germany's Acranius are one of the better bands in the style that I've heard recently. Their third album Reign of Terror is a bingo card of slam tics - gurgling vocals, squealing pinch harmonics, and pit bait chord progressions - but hits them with confidence and panache. Even a sub-genre agnostic like myself has to admit that this is some fun stuff. [$6.99]

Gone for most of the last decade and a half, Sweden's Theory In Practice return without losing a step in their blistering and unmistakably European style of technical death metal. Crescendo Dezign hits with mechanical precision, breaking up the shredding with some Meshuggah-esque math interludes (thankfully without getting too djent about it). It's good to have these guys back, but a new Mutant album would be boss...  [35 SEK]

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Mamatfest 1.07.2017

Of all the places in KL that could host a gathering of heshers, Black Box - in the upscale, yuppie-catering Publika mall- is perhaps the unlikeliest. Its cavernous sound makes it a less than ideal place for metal (unless it's that heavily reverbed early back metal sound you're after); but with few other options, their hospitality is appreciated. Also, the juxtaposition of expat children on skates tearing around clusters of Heshers is an amusing way to spend the time between sets, as was the sight of affluent yuppies getting roped in to take group pics of guys in death metal shirts.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - 2016 Stocking Stuffer Edition

[All albums listed are available as name your price downloads]

Overlooked members of the British death/grind scene, Brighton's Necrosanct were ostensibly lost in the early 90's death metal glut. Which is a shame; Incarnate and Desolate (their second and third albums, originally released by Black Mark in '92 and 93, respectively) combine the chaos of peers like Bolt Thrower with the jackhammer intensity of South American death/thrash in a way that foreshadows the "war metal" to come. In many ways, a band that was both behind and ahead of the times.

DoC friends eyeswithoutaface were one of this blog's first ever Bandcamp Picks, and their phenomenal Warguts album almost single-handedly resuscitating my faith in heavy industrial music. Their last release, a split with fellow Toronto residents IRN, showcases their ability to fuse slab-heavy riffs with unsettling noise and electronica. All their releases are available on their bandcamp page as "name your price" downloads.

Similarly, Second Grave are a band I've been plugging in this space for years. Their debut album, Blacken the Sky, is unfortunately also their swansong; but showcases their knack for memorable hooks, in a way that recalls both the Obsessed and Soundgarden.

Montreal's Dopethrone have had a busy year, following up last year's Hochelaga album with a split with Fister and the three song EP 1312. One of the best up and coming sludge bands, they keep the riffs catchy even as their drug-laden subject matter gets increasingly bleak. As of this writing, everything on their bandcamp page is available as a "name your price" download.

Some of the most intriguing metal I've heard in the past few years has come out of Iceland, and arguably none more impressive than Rekjavik's Naðra. They can blast with the best of black metal's Scandinavian second wave, but pull in folk melodies, atmospheric interludes, and full-on horns-in-the-air hesherdom. As "Icelandic black metal" becomes its own descriptor, there's no better place to start exploring the scene than here.

I don't know much about Ohio's Vit, aside from the two albums they have on their Bandcamp page. Banjos and violins give their Dry Season album an atmosphere and sonic texture quite unlike most sludge releases. Their debut, recently remastered, also makes good use of traditional folk sections, though the haphazard drumming somewhat dulls the impact. Both albums are available as "name your price" downloads.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Vader, Kratornas, Escarnium, Id

It's normal for aging heshers to get nostalgic for their roots; Vader, nearing 3 decades (!) of death metal service, ease off the pedal on their 11th thus allowing more of their early influences to shine through. The Empire contains plenty of nods to Celtic Frost, Judas Priest, and early Metallica to go along with the band's usual  distillation of Slayer and Morbid Angel. An album for both tapping toes and banging heads. [$6]

Anyone with a fondness for the death/thrash hybridization that Vader pioneered could do worse than checking out Kratornas. Devoured by Damnation sees the Filipino (via Canada) duo playing black metal with grindcore relentlessness, but also putting a surprising amount of thought into their arrangements. Fans of Impiety and Deiphago will find a lot to love here. [$5]

Brazil's Escarnium made a name for themselves with a lo-fi and bludgeoning approach that set them apart from most their countrymen. Interitus is a major upgrade from their previous releases in terms of production, allowing the band's riffs to take center stage and proving that beneath the filth was a knack for hooks and atmosphere. Not what you'd expect from Brazilian death metal, but taking no prisoners while giving no fucks nonetheless. [$8]

Austin's Id sure know how to push this blog's buttons. Tiniebias, their third release overall, is equal parts technical and brutal, with the production leaving plenty of rough edges on the razor sharp performances. Blast-driven and riff-heavy, this is the perfect distillation of American death metal. [$4.44]

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Setentia, Burial in the Sky, Virvum, Mausoleum

In the wake of Ulcerate's success, more bands from New Zealand are gaining traction worldwide; witness Auckland's Setentia, who were snapped up by Blood Music Records earlier this year. Darkness Transcend is more straight-forward than anything their more famous countrmen are known for,  but shares a similar knack for tricky riffing, atmospheric interludes and dizzying drumwork. Things are definitely heating up "south of heaven". The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Can death metal be both brutal and uplifting? Pennsylvania's Burial in the Sky make a strong case that it can. Their debut full-length Persistence of Thought is as cerebral as anything to come out of the tech/death hemisphere while avoiding the djenty pitfalls that plague the genre. A thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly modern death metal album. [$6]

Zurich's Virvum play death metal as clean and precise as a Swiss watch. Illuminance divides its time between hyperspeed blasts, proggy leads, and spacey keyboards, arriving at a point that's almost "post-death". If you ever wanted a mash-up between Decrepit Birth and Explosions in the Sky, this will probably hit your sweet spot. [$9]

I haven't been able to dig up much info about Leeds band Mausoleum - except that they're one of a dozen metal bands to share that name. Which is unfortunate, because their self-titled debut EP is definitely not run of the mill,  throwing Pantera-esque grooves and keyboards into their death/thrash assault - impeccably produced and flawlessly executed. Hopefully they'll put as much thought into a name-change as they do their music. The EP is available as a "name your price" download.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Anaal Nathrakh, Deathspell Omega, Cara Neir, Veilburner

Nine albums in and Anaal Nathrakh still do what they wilt, while the rest just wilt. The Whole of the Law mixes up the band's usual distillation of face-searing death/black metal and Dave Hunt's unhinged vocals with some electronic flourishes. Few surprises, except a more obvious attempt at crafting anthems and a terrifying re-working of Maiden's "Powerslave" that ends the album in suitably mangling fashion. Slaves to the power of death. [$9.99] 

Deathspell Omega's unique take on black metal has caused tectonic shifts in the genre. But for all its quirks and idiosyncrasies, The Synarchy of Molten Bones is as uncompromising and unsettling as anything released at the onset of black metal's second wave. Even at just four songs, there's a lot of meat on these bones. [€7]

It's been a busy year for Texans Cara Neir; with their recent (and very good) split with Wildspeaker serving as an appetizer, the follow-up is a hell of a main course. On Perpetual Despair is the Human Condition, the Dallas band force black metal, dark crust and shoegaze together for an album that is just as rewarding for its abrasive speed as its solemn atmosphere. A virtual Bingo card of everything that's great about American black metal right now. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

With the conclusion of a trilogy they began with their debut, Pennsylvania duo Veilburner defy categorization. The Obscene Rite, their third album in three years, contains plenty of nods to the likes of Arcturus and Dodheimsgard, but strays from even that wide canvas with moments of bleak industrial and the occasional metal Ren Faire section. With the wealth of ideas and influences on hand, this is a band that lacks nothing except focus. [$5]

Monday, November 7, 2016

Second Grave Interview

Second Grave has popped up on this blog for years now; their debut EP was an early Bandcamp Pick, and their hook-heavy doom metal has only gotten better since then. Sadly, the band called it quits a few months ago, shortly after releasing their first full length Blacken the Sky. Nevertheless, drummer Chuck Ferreira and guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guilder were kind enough to answer my extremely tardy questions about their history and their releases.