Tuesday, August 19, 2014

CTP - 020 - L: Crypter - Cutthroats From Hell (Live MDF / Sidebar)

Maryland Deathfest XII - A bunch of shit bands are playing the main Edison lots and a block away, at a local watering hole, an associated free show at Sidebar was going on. Crypter were the second band on. They delivered a brand of fierce and raw first wave black metal in the vein of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost laced with that special brand of underground vitriol that emanates with unadulterated energy. It's captured here.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Atavisma - Where Wolves Once Dwelled

Dirtier than a crusty herpes covered pair of shit smeared lips wrapped around a dusty dildo, Where Wolves Once Dwelled, Atavisma's debut demo, will appeal to death metal die-hards that just can't find enough pleasure in the sounds of gurgling vocals and guitars as thick as quicksand. As if there wasn't enough unholy death metal demo tapes out there to pick up, add this to the list and luckily, this one is easily available and ready to be sucked dry. The trio, based in France (as is label Nihilistic Holocaust) get a lot of noise from the lack of numbers but they also capture more discerning ears when they incorporate disgusting lead melodies into their brand of sewage. In many ways, this reminds me of Mandatory's Where They Bleed with the super swampy guitar tones and powerful riffing. Still, an adept attention to songwriting is at play and should live up to the scrutiny of fans. With bands like Horrendous getting a ton of attention with their recent releases, the primordial ooze is bubbling here with the possibilities of a similar - though hopefully less polished - trajectory.

Where Wolves Once Dwelled opens with the boiling "The Savage One," slowly pummeling and writhing along. Vocalist - unnamed on the insert as are the other two members - is capable of some excellent guttural vocals and uses the talent all across this demo. They are perfect when paired with the ugliness of the material here. The remind of Undergang, Timeghoul or Iniquity on Serenadium. Atavisma's love of Swedish death metal is shown in "Forsaken" and "Nature's Warfare," the shorter of the four tracks. Grave and Entombed - to no one's surprise - are present in many riffs without being pure rip-offs. The title track is the highlight for me, opening it's length with some clean yet sinister guitar plucking before launching into a twisting doom tinted riff. The song is the ugliest, but also most complex with an extended instrumental section where once again clean guitars mimic the intro but are accompanied by tense drumming to create a dense malevolent mist.

This longer track would have been a better opening track for Where Wolves Once Dwelled but the fact it exists here is enough to give me some dirty and ugly thoughts. Even the usage of  'dwelled' instead of the proper 'dwelt' gives just that additional personality which I enjoy, even if it would make an English teacher tear at their eye sockets. As usual with Nihilistic Holocaust's releases, the tape labels are a little skimpy, and not a lot of material is present on the insert which is a little of a bummer but with my only musical gripe being how set back the percussion is in the mix, this is one of those pleasurable items that ends up in my collection and one I would recommend to others interest in quality death metal demos.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Trenchrot - Dragged Down To Hell

Philadelphia's Trench Rot, featuring Infiltrator's Steve Jansson as well as his fellow Crypt Sermon friend Brooks Wilson, set out to leave a dent on a scene which, for New Jersey and Philadelphia is small and lazy. Death Metal at this caliber is difficult to track down in the area and with the exception of some heavyweights like Funebrarum and Evoken and some more obscure, but no less impressive - and no less old school - bands like Sapremia the area is somewhat underwhelming in the category. It seems there are more black metal bands in the immediate vicinity than there are pennies in a dollar. Dragged Down To Hell is the 2013 demo that preceded this year's Necronomic Warfare. Essentially, we are given a memorable three-track blitz of Asphyx, Entombed and Grave. The overall creation sounds a whole lot like Hail Of Bullets and certainly elements of Bolt Thrower appear, especially the intro riff of second track "Trapped Under Treads." In fact, there's a lot of general death metal deja-vu here, whether intended or not.

The intro to opener "Gallery of the Dead" fondly invokes memories of Deathevokation's Chalice of Ages before running rampant in a more generic but enjoyably vicious manner. "Gallery..." is a smoothly moving track and my only gripe is the use of samples at the end which aside from being a pet-peeve of mine, are unnecessary as the song slowly drifts out of earshot. "Trapped Under Treads" continues in a similar manner but some additional make this a less generic experience. The breakdown section is excellent as it displays the killer static tinged bass tone of Steve Geptik as he slides in and out of some pummeling half-beat groove. The verses also mimic Diatribes era Napalm Death - a period of their career which goes unnoticed by the metal community at large it seems. The last track, the title track, "Dragged Down To Hell," doesn't hit me as hard, even with a tasteful middle eastern flavored solo. It's still good material but I prefer the other options here. This is a powerful and well paced Death Metal demo displaying balance and refinement - something I expect in projects involving Steve and which is displayed in both Infiltrator and Crypt Sermon. Worth attention for Death Metal gurus, as it will probably incite a need to check out the debut.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lysura - II

I couldn't think of a single thing I could give a shit about in Indianapolis. I don't like racing, I don't like football and I don't expect there to be a hockey team there any time soon. I even looked up every band in the city just to make sure I wasn't forgetting anyone. I wasn't. Other than Gates of Slumber - who to me are a bottle of Corona in a vast beer paradise of infinite other options - I didn't even recognize any other bands (a lapse in knowledge which I will be sure to close in the coming days) and so, Lysura, now promoting this second demo simply titled II with shows this summer and past spring - including one at St. Vitus in May which I think I went to but I don't remember - seem to be doing a good job at making The Circle City notable in the metal world. Their brand of black metal, doom and death metal cooked to a light crustiness rides the wave of bands combining the slow elements and sludgy overtones with black metal riffs but joins the parade near the rear of the pack, with the local cowboy club, senior citizen checkers group and police chase car.

Slower moments, especially the end of first track "Seasons In Exile" do well to contrast the different influences without sounding like a mish-mash. Tremolo picked melodies over churning plunky bass licks and screamed vocals are on display in "Tome of Surreption" as well. The second track, with brief clean guitar sections strewn about the composition, is still what I would call a faster track, and chugged accents find niches to crawl into during these areas. The two songs are equal lengths, but focus on different aspects of the band. "Seasons In Exile" provides a more temporal experience through the usage of slower riffs, melodic movement and texture whereas "Tome of Surreption" is more immediate and aggressive. Guitarist Max Otworth doubles as vocalist and in scratchy yelps akin to Carcass' Jeff Walker and Arsis' James Malone is really the harshest aspect of Lysura. Production wise, the guitars and bass are somewhat thin and gentle and drums of Eric Barnes, though well played like the rest of the instrumentation is just somewhat underwhelming in largeness.

The sixteen minute demo packs a lot of memorable moments but more material provided would give a better hint of whether the band can produce a full record capable of holding interest. It's a big problem in this style for me - songs that are too long by virtue of expectation, while extraneous sections and untimely pitter-patter arrive like a maligned coworker at your desk on what was a good day. While I like the idea here, of two songs of the same length, both different in pacing and focus, offering the band a ready-to-go 7" option should a label want to do something of the sort I don't think this is the best of what this band has. It's a little dry, lacking much atmosphere other than the feeling of being live and natural - which it definitely is. It's not particularly evil, or dark, or melancholy and it doesn't seem relaxed or sublime; II really seems to lack any real discernable emotions at all and so, unfortunately, this doesn't match up with some of my favorites in this style of the last couple years, like Velnias' majestic RuneEater or Hivelords' chilling Cavern Apothecary.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sadness - Close

I’m not making this up, but there is a depressive black metal band called “Sadness” and the project’s apish debut release, “Close,” really reminds me of that gorilla that could allegedly use sign language. (Koko is the gorilla’s name.) Here’s why the two are similar: first, let’s compare Koko’s purported reaction to learning her pet kitten had died with the titles from the tracklist on “Close.” Koko, using sign language: Bad, sad, bad, frown, cry, frown, sad. Sadness: Lonely, Useless, Sad, Life would be so beautiful…, suicide.

The most striking similarity is that Sadness and Koko both redundantly use the word sad to say that they are sad. This is revealing because in other words, the artistic complexity here is on par with the direct and awkward simplicity of interspecies communication. Here’s the problem though, Koko the gorilla never actually displayed verifiable marks of understanding language. The signs were prompted by her handler and rewarded with bananas without Koko understanding their meaning. Here, Sadness shares Koko’s shortcomings and is unable to actually articulate emotion and simply provides track titles and music prompted by the depressive suicidal black metal subgenre in a Pavlovian response to the promise of bananas, i.e. modest album sales/praise or even just the sense of completion of an album.

As you can imagine, the music is just as boring, Pavlovian, and unsophisticated as the track titles are. Strum a minor chord 12 or 16 times, then another one, all the while doing some excessively woeful and saccharine minor chord tremolo picking or arpeggio melody on top and you are off to a good start as to how this album goes. In terms of music-geography, Sadness might be palatable for people who felt that Amesoeurs were too heavy and intricate, that Hypomanie were too subtle, or that Xasthur was too ugly. It all sounds very familiar even without being able to point to which particular band’s style is being melodramatically aped.

Beyond being boring, the album is actively irritating in two major areas. First and most importantly are the very very high-pitched vocals in the all too familiar style of ghostly wails lacking any sense of melody or even hints of representing words. These vocals are really the major tie that Sadness has to black metal and they couldn’t be more out of place with the music, as their random spurts loudly distract from rather than adding to the bland chord progressions. The second major issue is how blunt and melodramatic the mood is. This gives off a terribly cliched vibe. Each of the numerous times we hear a soft, sad, acoustic guitar section, it is more like a gorilla grasping at hand motions until it gets a banana rather than a human being communicating emotion through music. Most of the riffs are immature guitar experiments with the minor scale, and poorly played as well.

As a solo project (surprise surprise), the rest of the instrumentation outside of the guitars and vocals are perfunctory. This leaves little to comment positively on. Sure the post-rock riffing and clean guitar sections aren’t abrasively awful (aside from their silverback emotional level) but the triteness so overwhelming that “Close” isn’t even close to being mediocre. All that prevents this from being completely excruciating is that the hackneyed transitions from soft or acoustic sections to generic post-depressive-whatever at least provide for some variation to break up the monotony. “Close” is still quite a grueling chore to get through, much of it is nakedly stark and bland fumbling - just as engaging as trying to listen to a gorilla communicate without the fun of having a gorilla around.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

CTP - 013 - L: Midnite Hellion - Bitchin' At Champs!

New Jersey's Midnite Hellion are a staple of the New Jersey heavy metal scene, playing shows for the past few years all over the place. This is a recording of, in my opinion, their best show. Vocalist PJ Berlinghof is outstanding on vocals and in my estimation, has been the best singer the band has had. When I heard that Midnite Hellion had parted ways with PJ, Dan Sclavi, Bill Dripps and Nick G, I was incredibly surprised.

Essentially, this recording captures Midnite Hellion pre-rebuilding.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Altars / Heaving Earth - Engulfed

Underground fanatics should be familiar with Nihilistic Holocaust. The French label specializing in all things steaming and nasty runs the gamut in extremity but owner Gabriel has a really good nose for Death Metal and Grind excellence. This slime colored four song split between Australians, Altars and Czech Republic's Heaving Earth is an enjoyable and memorable release that more than makes up for it's lack of originality with four well written songs. It represents both bands particularly well. Both are different enough to create distinction and separation but not so far off that the grouping is odd. Both are fast slightly grinding Death Metal with some abrasive atonality thrown in for kicks and screams. Altars is the more "underground" sounding of the two. Heaving Earth's more polished sound is appropriate for their slightly more technical mish-mash.

I find myself enjoying the Altars tracks more. They remind me of early 90's Death Metal stalwarts such as Immolation as well as more modern projects like Beyond and Mithras. Opening their pair of tracks, "Husk," initiates the cluttered sounding morass that is Altars' tracks. Murky and swampy guitar tones drift across the pummeling rhythm sections with occasional tremolo accents and nuances. Their second track, "Descent (Paramnesia, part I)" is an imbroglio of riffs and drum fills. The Heaving Earth side is, as foretold, cleaner but that by no means should discourage those searching for new Death Metal. The two tracks are quite good, especially "I Am Nothing," where even through tons of percussive ordinance, guitar riffs shine and verses echo the songs memorable intro and it's machine-like emphasis. The groovier parts of the track aren't good and second song "Into the Depths of Abomination" is generic. Though still twisting and wielding enough riffs to continue my interest the overall feeling isn't as strong here as we get hints of Necrophagistesque technicality. The Altars side of the split doesn't have more personality than the Heaving Earth duet but it has a personality which impresses me more.

Monday, July 14, 2014

CTP-018-L: Drugs Of Faith - Back To 2012

Drugs of Faith's "Back to 2012" live tape will be out on 7/29... that's two Tuesdays from now. Preorder starts now for this awesome grinding live assault. $3 + shipping until 7/29. Preorders will ship on 7/29. After 7/29, the price will be the normal $5 or, for those that want more for their money, pick and choose 5 live tapes for the wholesale price of $18 ppd.

As usual, email for orders. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Breath of Sorrows - Suicide Is A Form Of Art... Not Destruction

Suicide Is A Form Of Art, Not Destruction is a short two song tape from Nevada-based Breath of Sorrows out on Singularity Publishing. Why drummer Sulphur didn't decide to release it on his own label, Wraith Productions, which released the debut album Through Darkness To Battle I Ride,  is beyond me. It's rather generic depressive Black Metal, however strong melodic sensibilities and a spirited vocal performance pull it up and over the designation of redundant. Released early March 2013, the quick run time of thirteen minutes is still enough for the band - this happens to not be a one-man project - to build and present a couple good songs. Both bassist J. Eirikr and jack of all trades Belial contribute vocals. Breath of Sorrows is completed by guitarist Txivo with Sulphur offering a rather laid-back drum performance.

Between an opening track which shares a title with the release and the next (and last) track "My Distant Dreams Buries In Battle" is a section of samples and synths which is done well, even if the samples sound somewhat silly in context with the rest of the music. The demo-quality of the sample sets the section into the track enough to not force the samples to stand out in a negative way. Suicide Is A Form Of Art, Not Destruction's strengths remain in the meat of the two songs though. Both are mid-paced and moody depressive black metal similar to projects such as Benighted In Sodom or Xasthur. A somber lead highlights the title track while the second song is notable for absolutely nothing in specific but carries a (un)pleasant melody and some inspired vocal wails and screams. Breath of Sorrows is not necessary your collection of depressive metal but it's something which for a few dollars I would chastise someone for grabbing either.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Torchure - Beyond the Veil

First, let’s take a moment to stop laughing at the intro track’s classic shitty-spooky synth nonsense with bonus harpsichord silliness for that old haunted castle feeling. Once the muscles in your sides stop aching from laughter, it’s pretty clear right away that Torchure’s 1992 album is actually a decent death/doom metal album in the vein of Asphyx, with maybe slight touches of Samael’s contemporary releases in terms of the guitar tone and riffing. Torchure’s distinctive sound here comes from the thin but sharp-edged guitar tones that rely on the bass to fill the low-end, and everything has the mid-paced even tempo that is a hallmark of this particular vein of metal. While Asphyx’s flavor of death/doom wasn’t the most crowded branch of metal, the less prolific Torchure never rose to anywhere near to the same level of renown or popularity. There’s a good reason for this, “Beyond the Veil” is a passable album, but far from a forgotten gem. Overall, “Beyond the Veil” is a release to check out for people dedicated to this particular style, but otherwise not essential.

“Beyond the Veil” is one of those albums that you listen to and think “cool” but a week later you couldn’t praise a single specific thing about it. Mid-range vocals, mid-paced tempo, even pacing, all end up being more than just sub-genre markers, they are ingredients for forgetability. In this sense, Torchure can’t support the heaviness of their doom inclinations. The tempos are slow for death metal, and here this is too slow because the songs tend to languish on rather than strongly conveying any feeling. So, while overall mood and feel could be called tortured, the primary flavor is simply standard doom/death. Since death and doom metal are both pretty damn cool, and Asphyx is cool, Torchure manages to get through the unremarkable album with only a few hiccups. Even the oh so trite nod to Chopin’s Funeral March on the outro to “Resort to Mortality” is something that you can let slide with only a modest sigh or eye roll, because hey it’s not great but it’s not bad either.

Outside of the intro, two other parts of the album are not excusable. On this particular version, “Mortal at Last” and “Vortex of Thoughts” are “bonus” tracks that take a very liberal view of the word “bonus.” Both are unnecessary reprisals of the intro’s silly synth stuff in what is an obvious attempt at cheap variation and album length padding. It’s like calling a hat an “interlude vertebrae” and claiming that it makes you taller - but nothing real is beyond the veil. Just because a band member owns a keyboard it doesn’t mean that the laundry and paperwork covering it need to be removed so it can be used on the album. “Mortal at Last” at least has a clear display of how powerful vocals don’t necessarily mean screaming your lungs out of your body, but these vocals are really more enjoyable in the context of actual songs.

Despite the intro and these diversions, “Beyond the Veil” still has an overbearing sense of evenness. Although the tempo doesn’t strictly stay the same on the album, it may as well have in many places. Musical changes here are muted and fall into familiar patterns because even when things like tempo or vocals or rhythm change a tad, the overall sound never really varies. Many of the chord progressions stay well into the low range and have little variation between the kinds of chords used. The brooding atmosphere and slower tempos are fine and work in small doses, but become a drain when listening to the album as a whole because of this sameness. As a result, the album is overly long, even without the filler material that absolutely should have been cut.

Problems aside, there is plenty to like here and the moderate flavor also makes for moderate quality. The vocals in particular have really smooth transitions from the main style down to deep gutturals, even changing style within single syllables without any struggle. Some of the longer vocal notes resolve with lower growls, less distorted than the initial attack, creating a sense of power, even as the vocals are releasing the notes. This is a sign of the strength and confidence of someone well acquainted with their own voice, also made clear by the tastefully sparse amount of reverb. The drums similarly show a stripped down confidence and strength, using doublebass as an accent rather than a wall, which is entirely appropriate for the style.

The overall homogeneity leaves little reason to point out parts of the album that are high points (or low points aside from the synth nonsense), but generally the better parts are more varied structurally and rhythmically, which allows the band to let their heavier inclinations shine by using lighter contrasts. To reiterate, this album might be of interest for those into the style, or as a historical note, but Torchure’s music is the kind of stuff that would be more enjoyable as part of a playlist including several bands rather than as an album experience. “Beyond the Veil” is not bad, but it’s nothing special either.