Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bandcamp Picks: Replenish Records

Replenish Records, out of Washington DC, are a small label well worth supporting. Not only are they commendable for their varied mix of metal and hardcore bands, they seem to eschew any goal other than spreading good music. As they say on their Facebook page, "All of our releases will always be offered for free stream and download. We only ask that you help spread the contents of each download as far and as wide as possible and support what these bands are doing for music." To that end, they've made their releases available not just on Bandcamp but through Mediafire as well.

Like Agalloch, Alda hail from the Pacific Northwest - and indeed, they sound like a rougher, less post-rock addled Agalloch. "Hypnotic" is a word I've seen used to describe their Tahoma album, and it's a fair assessment. Expect this one to grow on you with successive listens. A welcome addition to the forest metal oeuvre. [Not sure why, but this album is also available through Pest Productions, who I did a post about not that long ago.]

Though they've only released one full-length, Mexican crusties Bio Crisis are already getting a lot of love; they've been confirmed for this year's American edition of the Obscene Extreme Festival, which means more love is on the way. D-beat hardcore in the glorious Swedish style, En Memoria Al Dolor mixes in the occasional sombre post-rock moment to create an album that's always furious but never one-dimensional.

Cleveland has long been the home of great hardcore bands like Ringworm and Integrity; but unlike their ultra-metallic brethren, Little Sister are on the fast and crusty side of the HC spectrum. Their self-titled EP speeds by like a turbo-charged, grindier Tragedy. The band have apparently split up following one last show; shame I discovered them so late, but I look forward to hearing what their members do next. The four songs on this EP are a sign of great things to come.

Rituals are from Arizona, and I dare say their Southwestern environment played no small part in developing their eerie, desolate sound. On their self-titled debut, they mix sombre, reverb-heavy (damn near surf rock) guitar licks with heaving doom, like a desert-born Cult of Luna. Crushingly heavy and psychadelic, but I don't recommend this album be used with any mind-altering substance. The trip would be brutal, and you may not make it back.

Dreams of Consciousness was voted the best metal blog of 2012 by the editors of Dreams of Consciousness metal blog. See for yourself.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Phat Beatz: in the studio with Brimstone In Fire's Mikah Azurin

My friends Brimstone In Fire have released a new video, focusing on their drummer Mikah Azurin. Check it out below, it's pretty sweet:

Three things you should know about this video:

1) It was shot and edited by my buddy Ian Fernandez Cuevas, who is the vocalist for Brimstone In Fire when he's not running his multimedia empire Demiurge Digital. You can see more of his vid skillz here.

2) In addition to being a death metal OG with Brimstone, Mikah plays drums in the live D&B band Helen.

3) The nickname "Phat Beatz" was coined by this author, when I saw Brimstone In Fire last August. The fact that it's caught on is just a taste of the awesome power I wield. LOOK ON MY WORKS YE MIGHTY AND DESPAIR!

image by Internet Gnomes

Dreams of Consciousness already has a nickname picked out for you; but you'll have to like us on Facebook to find out what.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bandcamp Picks: The Odious, Odyssey, Cortexiphan, Xanthochroid

The Odious, from Portland OR, take progressive and technical death metal down the jazz-inflected path that Cynic and Atheist hinted it would go in the mid-90's. Joint Ventures is a remarkable and accomplished album, filled with left turns and interesting digressions, in addition to stellar musicianship. I can't say I'm into the Layne Staley-ish clean vocals that start the album and appear periodically throughout, but everything else is ridiculously on point. This 11 track album (as well as their prior 5 song EP That Night a Forest Grew) is available from Bandcamp as a "name your price" download.

Spokane's Odyssey are similarly in the early Cynic/Atheist realm of progressive metal, with nods to new school kids like the Faceless and Animals as Leaders. The three-piece operate without a vocalist, and so the three songs on The Conscious Devise exist purely as instrumentals, with two of them running at over 10 minutes. The EP is available as a "name your price" download.

In a more brutal vein are Cortexiphan, a collaboration between Californian multi-instrumentalist Steven Rose and Malaysian vocalist Dixon Jong. The mix of gurgling vocals and melodic tech death makes me think that this is what Obscura jamming with Cattle Decapitation would sound like. The five songs on Anathema: The Murk. The Scorn. The Guilt. are solid and thoroughly enjoyable, lacking only a bit of individuality; the EP often sounds like it could be from any number of similarly fleet-fingered techheads. But considering Cortexiphan only formed in November of 2012, this is an impressive debut with room to grow. The EP is available as a "name your price" download.

And finally, veering away from technical death metal into technical black metal is Xanthochroid. Their debut full-length Blessed He With Boils may be the best Emperor album that Emperor never released. The production, musicianship and songwriting are all impressive; Ihsahn better watch his back. The full album is available as a digital download for $10 - heftier than the most Bandcamp downloads, but it's clear that these guys have put more work into their product than the average band. [Word is the members of Xanthochroid were also responsible for those killer surf rock versions of Immortal and Darkthrone songs that amused me so much back in May - if that's the case, these guys have talent to burn.]

Dreams of Consciousness was voted the best metal blog of 2012 by the editors of Dreams of Consciousness metal blog. See for yourself.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Industrial Metal Top 10

In my interview with eyeswithoutaface, I made it a point of saying "Mixing industrial/electronic influences into extreme metal isn't new, but the results are usually underwhelming." Usually, but not always: Here are ten albums where the combination worked, and then some.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

eyeswithoutaface Interview

Out of luck, I discovered Toronto's eyeswithoutaface at a point in 2012 when I was becoming increasingly jaded with the metal scene; during a flood of unoriginal and mostly forgettable death and thrash revivalists, EWAF's dischordant and unique brand of heavy industrial was a welcome relief. I fired off some questions over e-mail, which the band (vocalist Max Deneau, guitarist Mike Szarejko, and drummer Tuka Shahidi) took turns answering.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012: The best albums from the year the world was supposed to end


Napalm Death - Utilitarian

Look back on any of my earlier year end lists, and you'll see that two words are a fixture: "Napalm" and "Death". This may simply be because, as my buddy Jay puts it, "those are my guys," but there's no arguing that Napalm have been on a hot streak since the career (and cred) resuscitating Enemy of the Music Business over a decade ago. Utilitarian, instead of trying to top the bare-knuckled fury of previous album Time Waits for No Slave, sees Napalm indulging their experimental side. John Zorn pops up to throw some hot shrieking sax on an already wild "Everyday Pox"; elsewhere, Barney and Mitch take turns imitating Michael Gira's spooky baritone. Strange off-time riffs abound, keeping listeners on their toes; and throughout, the band that coined the term "blastbeat" show all the young'uns how it's done. A quarter century since Scum was recorded, Napalm Death are still campaigning for musical destruction. These are "my guys" for a reason.
Listen to: Errors in the Signal, The Wolf I Feed, Fall On Their Swords, Everything in Mono

Glissando - The World Without Us

Strange but true: I was looking forward to the third album by these British ambient experimentalists almost as much as any death or black metal album. Anchored by Elly May Irving's ethereal vocals, and fleshed out by an accompaniment of strings and piano, The World Without Us is at once fragile and apocalyptic. Glissando have mastered the art of building their sombre melodies to oppressive heights. In a year of hurricanes and turmoil, this was the quiet eye of the storm. Armageddon never sounded so beautiful. [Also recommended: Richard Knox, the other half of Glissando, put out an excellent ambient neoclassical album called The Rustle of Stars]
Listen to: The Long Lost, Of Silence, Still (II)

Naglfar -Teras

How now, Naglfar? Whither wander thou? Never considered a worthy successor to Dissection, and somehow overtaken in popularity by Watain, despite having a better track record than both. And yet here you are on your sixth album, carrying on with your version of Svenske Svartmetal: Hook-driven; blistering; misanthropic. It's only fitting that the nailship of Ragnarok set sail in 2012, the year the world was supposed to end.
Listen to: Bring Out Your Dead, Invoc(h)ate, The Monolith

Kreator - Phantom Antichrist

It would be easy to misinterpret my contempt of thrash revival as a dismissal of the style itself. If I'm down on these new bands, it's because they've mastered the genre's cliches without capturing its excitement. The same can't be said of Kreator; since 2001, they've made everyone else who peddles the style seem increasingly redundant - and that includes most of the Big Four. With songs as fast and razor-sharp as the band's eighties heyday, Phantom Antichrist is balanced by melodic moments that recall the mighty Dark Tranquillity. As long as Mille is around to keep the flag of hate aloft, I'll never need another thrash band.
Listen to: Phantom Antichrist, Death to the World, Victory Will Come

Narbeleth - Diabolus Incarnatus 

This cult Cubano has delivered on the promise of the excellent Dark Primitive Cult demo, and then some. A throwback to the best of black metal's second wave, this is the coldest record I heard in 2012; and it's from a country that's never seen a spot of snow. A blaze in the Havana sky. Hail! [If you're not KVLT or hip enough to find the cassette tape, fear not: Lord Dakkar has given his consent for you to download it.]
Listen to: Walk Unholy Paths, Raw Hatred

Anathema - Weather Systems

I actually worried that the huge stylistic departure Anathema made on their previous album We're Here Because We're Here would cause such an uproar from fans that it might lead to the band breaking up; instead, it's given them a second life. Weather Systems expands on the onetime gothic doom metal kings' newfound love for soaring, shamelessly pop melodies. Boosted by the mellifluous singing of Lee Helen Douglass, it's more nuanced and textured than its oft-bouncy predecessor. If it seems like it starts to sag near the end, it may be because sustaining the emotional intensity of the album's first half would be nearly impossible; but taken individually, each of Weather Systems nine tracks are perfect. Another stage in the evolution of British metal's most amorphous band.
Listen to: Untouchable Part One, Part Two, The Gathering of Clouds, The Beginning and the End

Abnormality - Contaminating The Hive Mind

Taking the best bits of Cryptopsy, Suffocation, Origin and Cannibal Corpse, Contaminating the Hive Mind is merciless in its blistering assault, whilst being mindblowingly technical. This smokes every other death metal album released this year (and that includes a few of the names mentioned earlier). Abnormality have definitely made a case for their inclusion in the genre's elite. Fast, precise, unrelenting: This is death metal the way it should be.

Sea Bastard - Self-titled

Featuring a member of drone kings Sabazius, I expected this album to be a solid exercise in floorshaking ultradoom. But as much as it delivers on that, what's truly impressive is the songwriting. Writing ten minute songs that stick with you after they're over is a hell of an achievement. Whereas most sludge/doom is monotonous and self-satisfied, Sea Bastard have the gift of The Riff, that precious element that divides great bands from the rest. Doom album of the year.

Troglodyte - Don't Go in the Woods

Origin made a science out of crossbreeding technical hooks with unrelenting blast, and it sounds like their Kansas City neighbours Troglodyte took careful notes. This sophomore album is a half hour of blasting death metal that's as catchy as it is furious. While I was slow in embracing their strange Bigfoot fixation, even a curmudgeon like me can't stop himself from wanting to headbang and throw shit around every time this comes on. Book me on the Discovery Channel: I believe in Sasquatch death metal.


Macaroni - A Gift for Corpse

Originality is often overlooked and underrated in the current metal landscape; whereas most death metal bands seem content to merely rehash Morbid Angel and Suffocation riffs, Macaroni (one of Thailand's oldest death metal bands) have embarked on their own path, full of unexpected turns and strange digressions. A unique and accomplished vision that fans of Immolation and Gorguts would be wise to seek out.
Listen to: A Gift for Corpse album preview (unfortunately, my attempts to find songs from this album online proved to be fruitless; take my word, though, it's pretty awesome).


I come old friend from hell tonight

2012 saw a flurry of new albums from many of my favourite bands, and I greeted each like the return of an old friend. Testament's Dark Roots of the Earth was an immensely enjoyable album that fell just short of being a classic. Terrorizer's Hordes of Zombies didn't impress many critics, but it fueled many a cab ride to my jiujitsu class. As an exercise in pure distilled rage, it couldn't be beat. Orange Goblin's Eulogy for the Damned would have been the soundtrack to all my nights of drinking with the brahs, if I drank or had brahs. Cannibal Corpse released Torture, a Cannibal Corpse album that made Cannibal Corpse fans happy, this one included. Cryptopsy redeemed themselves in the eyes of fans and critics with their self-titled album, whilst still maintaining their legacy as a band that strives to keep death metal fresh and original. Headhunter D.C. are as no-frills as Brazilian death metal gets; they may not make it to any best of lists, but they did write my favourite new anthem: Hail the metal of death!

Dreams of Consciousness was voted the best metal blog of 2012 by the editors of Dreams of Consciousness metal blog. See for yourself.