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.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Drugs of Faith and Crypter Live Tapes!

Contaminated Tones is proud to announce two new live tapes that will be available quite soon! 

The first will be a recording of Drugs of Faith's 2012 show at Tobacco Road in NYC. Killer Grind band who recently released "Architectural Failures" EP as well as a flexi with a cover of Sacrifice's Re-Animation. This should be out before the end of July...

The second live tape will be from Massachusetts' own Crypter, a recording of their Sidebar performance from Maryland Deathfest. Crypter released their debut full length on June 24th titled "Suffer The Hands Of Filth." Basically, a modern day Hellhammer...  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mortalicum - Tears From The Grave

Some argue there is a total lack of good metal being put out and refuse to listen to anything beyond their frame of reference as to when "good metal" ended. They're undeniably wrong. How many people can you think of that refuse to listen to anything beyond 198? Luckily for me, Mortalicum, for their past two albums have been a beacon of quality in a now-saturated market of Doom Metal and Traditional Doom. While many bands barely manage a single good song on with a release, Mortalicum have been able to put out entire albums of powerful Doom and Heavy Metal without flinching. Their new album is no different. Tears From The Grave picks up at the same spot where The Endtime Prophecy left off. What is noticeable about Tears From The Grave is how Mortalicum have slowed down yet again. Much like the drop in speed between Progress Of Doom and The Endtime Prophecy, yet again the material slows down just a tad bit more. While there are a couple of faster tracks, for the majority of this albums run-time, we're moving at the speed of snail. It's not a problem though, in combination with the turndown in speed, there is a decisive jamminess and garage-rock feel to these songs. Songs like the title track move through long sessions of solos and instrumental parts like a garage band rehearsing riffs to find the perfect take. Opening the album we get a big ole "Yeah!" from guitarist / vocalist Henrik Högl.

I would put it like this: if The Endtime Prophecy were Pentagram, then Tears From The Grave would be Day of Reckoning. It's a different vibe, a more relaxed feel in sound and production. Perhaps Patrick Backlund's very noticeable bass on this record draws out that smoothness and fluidity. The clarity is excellent and the production and mixing are superbly done but Henrik's vocals can at times be pushed too far back in the mix and taking the backseat, especially in songs like "Spirits Of The Dead" and "The Passage." Even so, with the great separation between instruments, it's astounding how 'together' Mortalicum sound on this release. They fill in the record really well and something as minor and unnoticeable for most listeners won't affect the overall effect this album should have. Andreas Häggström's drums are very natural sounding, with little done their overall timbre. The kick drum is particularly massive and the cymbals are bright. The clarity is very noticeable during moments of harmony and leads. Each note can be the focus of attention.

Highlights for me are very definite, as they had been on Mortalicum's previous two albums. "The Endless Sacrifice" is a top-quality starter with a huge memorable intro riff and resounding  chorus. It's very similar as a starter on this album as "Guiding Star" was on Progress of Doom - starting us off very doomy and primes the album. "I Dream Of Dying," other than being another of those-cult-classic in the making tracks, shows Mortalicum sweeping through one of the grandest instrumental sections of their catalog yet. Both screaming leads, solos and a mellowed out Sabbathesque transitional section akin to the middle of "Damnation of the Soul" off Progress of Doom are expertly paired together like a fine wine and entrée. "I Am Sin" is also a huge track, though once again mid-tempo, moments impress a sense of urgency and energy. The verse riffs end with bluesy guitar runs. Sweeping choruses once again appear here also. In addition, the lyrics across the album are generally well written as well and worth some time. "The Passage"'s are particularly of interest to me, as we've all contemplated our own demise and the life beyond. The subject matter in the other songs is also similar but each song focuses on something a little different, the angles and perspectives shedding different light on death, dying, being dead, laying in coffins and other funerary interests. It's standard fare, yes. But it's done really well and with heart.

This is a strong album. Tears From The Grave is confident in itself and it's contents. While there are comparisons that can be made, it really doesn't need them to be enjoyable, or described and I'd expect less name-dropping of similar bands and groups from reviewers that take the time to listen deeply to this album. While The Endtime Prophecy may be a slightly better album overall, with Tears From The Grave, Mortalicum have honed their sound ever-so-slightly without losing ground with their penchant for excellently composed songs and memorable moments. It's easy to feel the weight of Mortalicum here both through the instrumental material as well as the subject matter. You can get the feeling that these are three guys from a down out in bumblefuck Sweden that live dark and morose lives but In reality, this is a band of three genuinely nice guys that can really pump out some quality heavy doom that is dark, thoughtful and engaging.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

CTP - 015 - I: Maximum Oversatan - Satanic Invasion

Classic Heavy Metal churned and burned with the power to destroy alongside Satan! Motorhead and Venom are still huge influences here but Maximum Oversatan has incorporated a tint of Hard Rock and Thrash onto this release. Above all though, Satanic Invasion is still grimy and gritty and dirtier than a neglected beard.

CTP - 015 - I: 127 Copies. $6.00. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Kings Destroy - A Time Of Hunting

I discovered Kings Destroy in the live arena. When my good friends in Clamfight had their album release party for I Vs The Glacier at Brooklyn's Union Pool on November 9th of 2012,  Kings Destroy provided a killer closing set to burn the night away. A year later, Kings Destroy once again teamed up with Clamfight for a show at St. Vitus bar and it was this time I was really impressed with their performance. They had played a handful of tracks off their then-recently released A Time Of Hunting. I bought the CD and almost immediately I lost it in my collection like I do so many other things. Only now have I come back to it and with favorable memories in tow, Kings Destroy once again destroyed me, this time however in the comfort of my own vehicle. I can't say which environ I prefer. Kings Destroy are royalty in both climates.

A Time Of Hunting, which originally was going to be titled Turul, follows closely to it's predecessor And the Rest Will Surely Perish, but is just so much stronger. Kings Destroy's sound is difficult to pinpoint but the foundation of Stoner Doom and spritzes of Sludge riffs mesh well as they almost always do. Kings Destroy pulls it a step further though. Comparisons have been made to a slew of bands but Kings Destroy's progressive edge should draw comparisons to Baltimore natives Revelation and similarities to their 1995 cult classic ...Yet So Far are in surplus. By connection the influence of Trouble is definite. Vocalist Stephen Murphy has a unique approach to his pronunciations and inflections as more often than not in verse sections he can be founding both crooning and slurring slightly while being much more discernible in chorus sections. Without a lyric sheet in the CD packaging, it can be difficult to sing along and grasp some of the lyrics, even if very often the listener will suffer from moments of deja-vu.  Later in the album's playtime during the title track as well as "Blood of Recompense" and "Shattered Pattern," I hear similarities to Alice In Chains even in Murphy's voice although with a tint of shyness compared to Layne Staley.

Integral to the Kings Destroy sound is the immaculate playing of bassist Aaron Bumpus, who happens to also have one of the bassiest of names since Geezer Butler. His playing is much in the same style, and he is a vast improvement over the less active playing of Ed Bocchino on the debut. The incorporation of perfectly felt fills and slides to fill out slower sections adds further complexity to the eight heavy tracks here. Rob Sefcik rounds out the rhythm section but in contrast usually underplays. I wouldn't say the drums on this record don't shine, but they also don't really add much, even with a big strong drum intro to opener "Stormbreak." The placement of the drums in the mix is behind most of the other instruments and guitars, forcing the listener to pay less attention to them. Consciously or unconsciously, this is one of the few qualms I have with A Time Of Hunting - this and the length of the album which might be one song too long in my opinion. This places the emphasize purely on the riffs which is a challenge which guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski are eager to undertake.

This album has riffs in big chunks and little chunks and all sorts of shaped and sized riffs in between, like an asteroid field of grooves and gruff. From the beginning "Stormbreak," one of my favorites on A Time Of Hunting, through the latter soakers like "Blood of Recompense," there is hardly a moment in which we aren't engaged with the guitar rhythms and interplay. "Casse-Tete" is also a huge favorite of mine on the album and probably the closest to what I would choose as a single. This is also one of the tracks I remember most from their live sets along with "The Mountie" off their debut. It's a mid-paced song, which doesn't have much of it's own personality on the instrumental side but the vocals add grit here, and Murphy may be at his most theatrical on this track. Instrumentally, even though it's quite simple and clean, the melodies are rich enough to support the simple premise. Even Rob Sefcik stands out with some excellent fills prior to the solo section.

Much like the rest of the album, it's Stoner Doom / Rock at it's best. Kings Destroy have a powerful album in A Time Of Hunting. Paired with a great live performance, this band will create some serious fans if they can burst out of the New York City scene and get to some other areas. There's a lot of awesome here.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dead Earth Politics - The Queen of Steel

Dead Earth Politics is a heavy hitting groove / thrash band from Texas and sounds exactly like a what you would expect a band like that to sound like. They're not far off from Volbeat really, maybe a bit rougher around the edges, foregoing some of the rock moments for Killswitch Engage styled screams and whatnot. They're not bad for the style really, and they refuse to fall into a category. Halfway through opening track to their The Queen of Steel  EP, "Redneck Dragonslayer," we get some faster thrashy riffs, some double-timed drums and energetic solos and then the track ends with a standard breakdown beat sans the generic breakdown. You could sense that modern In Flames and other melodic death metal influences are at play. I'm sure these guys all enjoy Mastadon's debut album. The other two tracks also employ some of the same techniques and ride heavily on strong hooks in the choruses.

The performance of vocalist Ven Scott is quite impressive. Throaty harsh vocals and some strong and masculine clean vocals make his portion of the performance perfect for lurkers looking for something new but not too new or too challenging to taste. It's tough to determine if there is and who might be other stand outs for the band. Bassist Will Little is content to follow the guitars mostly and pick up the rhythm of drummer Mason Evans who, if I had to make a choice for another highlight, it would be some of his drum paterns such as those in the early moments of "Madness of the Wanderer," but not his drum patterns elsewhere in the song - heavy handed and overly groovy slams. Guitarists Tim Driscoll and Aaron Canady are quite good but hardly spectacular when it comes to the rhythm section but the leads in these tracks are unique. Neoclassical influence is obvious in the leads in all the songs and also in the bridges and transition parts of above mentioned "Madness."


My gripe with the EP, which is done very well, is that while the three songs here are just enough for me, especially with the obnoxious pounding rhythms in closing track. A full album of this type of material would really do me in for a tough long nightmare but I can see where others would relish in it. There is definitely a fan base for this material but I'm not that person. What I can applaud though is how this really sounds just like a few good friends getting together, knocking back some beers and jamming out. It's not jammy or garagey but it's hardly hokum either.