Category: Album Reviews Written by: George Washburn
Nile – At the Gate of Sethu
Nile has returned with their seventh album, “At the Gate of Sethu.” I have been a fan of Nile since their first album “Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka”, but there have been a number of changes over the years and some albums have been better than others. An early complaint of mine was that the vocals tended to be mixed too low. The music was great, but the vocals were nearly unintelligible. I think it was around “Annihilation of the Wicked” that they seemed to fix that issue. For me, the pinnacle of Nile’s Egyptian-themed career was their last album, “Those Whom the Gods Detest.” Will “At the Gate of Sethu” be able to live up to, or exceed, the greatness of that album? Unfortunately I do not think so.
The playing, as always, is stellar, but they seem to have gone 180 degrees from where they started production-wise. In the early days the songs were too muddy and you could not hear things well. “At the Gate of Sethu” sounds way too thin now. There hardly seems to be any low-end. While I love the fact that I can hear all the different parts really well, and they are brilliant as always, the album sounds so thin that it drives me to distraction. Maybe this will not bother most people. From a strictly songwriting aspect I can fully get behind this album, but from a production standpoint I am feeling a little let down. If they were to go back and inject some clean low-end, this album would crush.
Chaos Inception – The Abrogation
Chaos Inception hail from Huntsville, Alabama and “The Abrogation” is their second album. I would never have guessed these guys were from Alabama; this sounds like a very European style of death metal. Where to begin? How about we start with the things I like.
I think the album art is pretty awesome. I would totally buy this album in the store based on the artwork. I like the fast and tight style of death metal they play; it features a lot of acrobatic note-picking guitar work rather than relying on walls of distorted chords. They manage to sound brutal and technical at the same time which makes for a very cool sound.
Now for the bad. My only real complaint, which seems to be a theme today, is the sound quality. There is a slightly muffled and distant quality to the sound that makes me feel like I am listening to the album playing from someone else’s computer across the room instead of my own. If this were clearer and closer sounding…look out. It would be pretty great.
Check out the track “Lunatic Necromancy.”
Dethonator – Dethonator
Argh. Today is just not the day for production quality. And the shit thing about it is that all these albums have great music on them, but are brought low by awful production. Here we have UK metal band Dethonator and their self-titled first album.
The production on “Dethonator” is such that I have to turn the volume way up to hear it at a normal listening level, and even then it sounds rather muddy. I sure hope these guys find a way to make some better recordings, because I like what they are doing.
Since the music is mostly quiet and muddy I cannot say much about it, but it sounds like it could be good. The vocals are the only thing that really cut through, and they sound like dude has a great voice. I think Dethonator has got the talent to do something with their music, but they are going to either have to attract a label with their live show or pony up the cash to get some better recordings.
Here is the track “Harbinger.”
Last Updated on July 03, 2012
Category: Album Reviews Written by: George Washburn
Witchsorrow – God Curse Us
Mountains…Statue of Liberty…gravity…Witchsorrow…*buzzzz*…yes, Contestant number 666? Yes, Alex, the question is “What things are really heavy?”
Holy crap, “God Curse Us” is heavy. This should not really come as a surprise, as Witchsorrow’s second album is in fact doom metal. What really makes this album stand out as heavy is the perfect production quality of the recordings. The songs are slow and heavy, but this is so much more pronounced by the fact that all the parts are clear and bright with lots of separation. Rather than a densely packed wall of fuzz, these songs sound very spacious, which provides atmosphere as well as the ability to hear every nuance of each instrument. And the whole mix is very up-in-your-face.
The guitar tone is nicely fuzzy yet tight enough to maintain a cohesive ominous sound. The vocals straddle the line between a croaking clean and mildly harsh which makes them sound wickedly dark and evil. I do not think I have heard a doom album quite like this one; sure the elements are nothing new, but the presentation is everything in this case.
“God Curse Us” has made a fan out of me. It is now on the short-list of my favorite doom albums. Check out the title track below.
Forefather – Last of the Line
“Last of the Line” is the sixth album from the UK’s self-proclaimed “Anglo-Saxon Metal” band, Forefather. What is Anglo Saxon Metal? Well, it is apparently not black metal. It does sound reminiscent of Viking metal. It has an epic, majestic feel and it sure makes me want to pick up a sword and wave it about until the pointy end sticks in someone else (preferably not someone I like.)
Take one part Amon Amarth and one part Falconer, mash it together and make it British. I say this because “Last of the Line” mixes harsh vocals (Amon Amarth) with clean, bard-like vocals (Falconer) for an enjoyable mix of both styles. I can make references to other bands, but really I have not heard an album quite like “Last of the Line” before. It has a sound decidedly its own, which is good, because that means I could hear it on the radio and know who it was without looking.
I am always going to pick on production sound that I think could be better, and there is definitely room for improvement here. It does not bother me very much, though, because I am enchanted by the songs to such a level that I do not pay attention to the production.
Check these guys out. Here is “Doomsday Dawns.”
Last Updated on July 02, 2012
Category: Album Reviews Written by: George Washburn
Stalwart – Manifest of Refusal
Stalwart are a Russian death/thrash band and “Manifest of Refusal” is their fourth full-length album. Having not heard the band before, I was unsure as to what to expect from this album. Normally, an unknown death metal band makes me wary, particularly if they have really bad album art. Stalwart, however, do not have bad album art; in fact, it looks pretty damn slick. So I had high hopes going in that Stalwart would prove to be a significant find. Well, sometimes judging an album by its cover works out, because I am mighty impressed by the songs on “Manifest of Refusal.”
Stalwart churn out high quality death metal the likes of which I rarely hear. The only band that comes to mind that is this heavy, technical and creative with death metal, who also has stellar production sound, is Decapitated. Seriously, I am blown away by this album. For a band to come at me from out of nowhere and lay this kind of material on me, I can only be amazed. Hella good job on this, guys.
I am going to cut to the chase and post the listening material. If you check out one new band today, make sure it is Stalwart. Here is “Rise of the Ninth Wave.”
Shturm – Karmaruna
Sticking with the Russian theme, we have Shturm and their third album, “Karmaruna.” These guys are also labeled death metal, but they are pretty different from Stalwart’s version of death metal. Looking at their page on Encyclopaedia Metallum, it says their music is inspired by Tibetan mythology and Buddhism.
The music on “Karmaruna” is both heavy in the death metal sense, and melodic in a more traditional metal sense. I do not want to give the impression these guys sound like Cynic, they do not, but they sound different from other bands in the way that Cynic sounds different from other death metal bands. The music is fast and heavy (duh) but also very melodic. Not that tired Swedish melodic death metal sound though. The vocals are mostly harsh, but at times they almost become clean. It is kind of interesting; I am always hearing music where a person singing clean will slip into a harsher edged vocal, but not so much someone that sings harsh and almost slips into clean, but then goes harsh again.
I admit the band name and rather plain album cover left my expectations low, but Shturm has managed to impress me. For some good death metal with a slightly different angle, check out Shturm. Here is the track “Solitude Beside.”
Power Theory – An Axe to Grind
Pennsylvania’s Power Theory is a traditional metal band and “An Axe to Grind” is their second album. The style of music (and style of production too) brings to mind the 80s traditional metal heyday. For some that means the music sounds old, but for me that means it sounds familiar lol. There is this certain sound quality that transports my mind back to a time when I was young and metal (for me) was new and exciting. Hearing something that takes me there again is always welcome; it helps me forget that I have heard it all before and am now a cynical music critic lol.
Aside from the nostalgia value, Power Theory do a pretty good job of entertaining the average listener too. The band lay down a solid music base over which Dave Santini sings his gruff, yet melodic, vocals. Dave reminds me of a mix of Rolf from Running Wild and Udo from Accept.
“An Axe to Grind” does not leave me beside myself like today’s first two bands, but it does leave me with a good feeling. I enjoy this album for what it is. Check out the track “Pure Steel.”
Last Updated on June 27, 2012
Category: Album Reviews Written by: George Washburn
Spineshank – Anger, Denial and Acceptance
It has been nine years since the last Spineshank album, “Self-Destructive Pattern.” In 2004, singer Jonny Santos left the band, but then returned again in 2008. I guess they have been four years in planning their return. In a way I suppose this release is a big deal, because Spineshank was pretty popular back in the day. Hell, even I thought they were pretty good.
But the musical landscape has changed some since then and while “Anger, Denial and Acceptance” does sound pretty good, it kind of grates on me a little. Honestly, I do not think this the fault of Spineshank, though. Back in the day Spineshank were cool because they were pretty heavy, and they combined heavy music and harsh vocals with clean, melodic vocals. It was a novel idea back then, but now all the metalcore bands do that and it is annoying as hell. So, the slew of half-assed imitators has rather tainted the style for me, which makes it hard to enjoy Spineshank now. At least Jonny does not sing his clean vocals all Emo; he has that over the metalcore bands at least.
Focusing just on Spineshank, “Anger, Denial and Acceptance” is a good album that I think does a solid job of picking up where they left off. I can listen to this album and enjoy it, but I am just not sure how relevant their sound is in the current metal scene. What’s next, a Stabbing Westward reunion?
Coffin Texts – The Tomb of Infinite Ritual
Coffin Texts are from Los Angeles, California and “The Tomb of Infinite Ritual” is their second album. The first thing I notice about these guys is that they subscribe to the Nile school of Egyptian-themed metal; that is always a nice change of pace. Egypt has some really cool mythology and yet, with the exception of Nile, it is largely passed over for metal lyrical themes.
Thematic similarities aside, Coffin Texts does not sound particularly like Nile. The songs on “The Tomb of Infinite Ritual” are pretty fast; they are almost early Slayer-like in their speedy rifftastic-ness (that’s right, I made my own word there.) They occasionally take time out to slow down for some mummy-stomping chunky dirges, but then it is back to the races.
I like that “The Tomb of Infinite Ritual” is not just another typical death metal album. It has character and chops and is a pretty good listen. Check out the track “Final Transformation.”
Dehuman – Black Throne of All Creation
Dehuman are from Belgium and “Black Throne of All Creation” is their first album of old school-styled death metal. For a first album this is pretty good. It definitely shows potential. The music is the most old school aspect of the album; it is heavy and chunky but also has a lot of intricate and melodic guitar playing. I am not sure how to describe it, but it just sounds like 90s style death, but not in a Swedish melodic death sort of way. The vocals are harsh and at times wander into Obituary territory.
The Achilles heel of “Black Throne of All Creation” is the production quality. The sound on the album sounds slightly muffled (overly bass-y perhaps) and somewhat distant, like they are playing from the back of the hall rather than right up in my face. If they were to clean up the mix so it is crisper and push the whole thing so that it sounds punchy and in-your-face, I think they might have something here. Still, it is worth a listen. Here is “Cast of Assassination.”
Mnemic – Mnemesis
Hmmmm. Not what I was expecting. I think Mnemic have been evolving. Or I just have not been paying close enough attention. Either way, I was expecting something a bit more death metal, but with some industrial elements. I guess those things still exist on “Mnemesis”, but there is also a lot of progressive sounding material and even a little bit of groove.
The production on “Mnemesis” is very nice. I like how clear and punchy the songs sound (can you guys lend Coffin Texts your engineer?) There are a lot of things about “Mnemesis” that I enjoy, but I feel like they are trying to stuff in too many different things into too small a package. It is great that they can do this, that, the other and the kitchen sink too, but trying to include it all makes my head spin a little. It is like attention deficit disorder metal (which I would think I could easily follow) or perhaps multiple personality metal lol. I kid.
I suppose, if like a Roman emperor, I must pronounce judgment on these metal gladiators, I will give them the thumbs up (though technically, the emperor used closed fist for death and open fist for life.) Check out the track “Transcend.”
Last Updated on June 26, 2012
Category: Album Reviews Written by: George Washburn
Borgne – Royaume de Ombres
“Royaume de Ombres” is the fifth full-length album from Swiss black metal band Borgne. In the studio, the band consists of one member (Bornyhake if you believe the bio sheet, yet listed as Ormenos everywhere else I have looked) and expands out to a five-piece for live shows. “Royaume de Ombres” seems a mix of atmospheric black metal and funeral doom with a few industrial flourishes.
For me, this release is timely, as up until a few weeks ago I was not much of a fan of funeral doom. Then I reviewed “The Giant”, the latest Ahab album, and something clicked with me. I suddenly found that I now “get” funeral doom. With all the varying and extreme types of heavy metal music available, it can sometimes be difficult to appreciate all the different styles. I find, though, that given the right listening situation, the right set of circumstances, a connection can be made that helps the listener to understand what an artist is trying to relate. To someone who casually hears an extreme metal song, it might sound like noise, but to someone who listens with the intent to understand, beauty can be found in the eye of the storm.
When I first came upon bands like Death and Possessed back in the 80s, I had no idea what to make of them and thought they sucked hard. It took a few years before I started to “get” death and black metal. Funeral Doom seemed so long and plodding (despite my love of epic doom) and with vocals akin to the slow grinding movements of glaciers, it just did not spark my interest. Now, fast forward to this past weekend, where I spent a considerable amount of my free time hunting down and purchasing intriguing sounding Funeral Doom albums; it is funny how our perception can change.
Anyway, the reason I bring this up, is that while “Royaume de Ombres” is probably more black metal than funeral, the long songs and extremely atmospheric mood certainly give a nod to the latter genre. Given my recent epiphany, I am probably more open-minded to this album than I would have been a few weeks ago, and I certainly better understand how to approach listening to the songs.
“Royaume de Ombres” contains six songs of utter despair and desolation. Listening to this album, I picture a lone black-clad figure standing upon bleak, gray plains as the wind swirls the dust of an extinct civilization. An album like this is all about setting a particular mood, and Borgne pulls that off magnificently. The sound quality is a little raw, but this is one of those cases where it makes perfect sense. This is a fantastic listening experience; I recommend giving Borgne a listen. Here is “Suffer As I Paid My Grave.”
The Reticent - Le Temps Detruit Tout
In some ways, The Reticent is nothing like the previous band, Borgne; this Charlotte, North Carolina band is certainly not black or funeral doom metal. However, the one thing they do have in common is an ability to set a great mood and tone. The Reticent is also one man in the studio (Chris Hathcock) and a four-piece when playing live.
The album starts much more quietly than I expected; I started thinking this was going to be like Opeth’s “Damnation” but by the third track the music is heavier. This music is progressive, so when I say heavier I do not mean death metal heavy, I mean the guitars get some distortion. The bio lists Tool as a comparison, which I did not really understand until the fourth track. Then the Tool-ness of the music pretty well slapped me in the face. After “Enemy” it is hard not to think of Tool, but this is certainly not a Tool clone band. Mostly dude just kind of sounds like Maynard when he is singing.
Ultimately, I find “Le Temps Detruit Tout” to be a very good album. I tend to think of progressive music as all Dream Theater and wanking, but The Reticent shatters that mold and provides a very interesting album’s worth of music. Do give it a listen. I was unable to find any whole songs on YouTube, but I did figure out how to embed a track from Reverbnation, so here is “Enemy.”
Lykaion – Nothin’ But Death
Well, with an album title like that, I was expecting Italy’s Lykaion to come raging out the gate with bone-crushing death metal…nope. Clean guitars open the album, but then it suddenly kicks into heavier gear and the singer throws out a heavy, Sentenced-sounding “Yeah yeahhhhhh.” That does not last though; while the music remains metal, this is not death metal.
“Nothin’ But Death” is an interesting album. The singer does an eerily accurate immitation of Ville Laihiala, which I think is pretty cool. Lykaion’s songs are a little brighter and happier sounding than anything Sentenced ever released, but comparisons are inevitable. Well, I look at it this way – Sentenced are not around anymore, so if someone else is going to do a good job in that style, more power to them.
The more I listen to the album, the more like Sentenced they sound. Ok, so out of curiosity I just Googled other reviews of the album and every one of them I looked at also compared them to Sentenced. The Sentenced is strong with this one. But so fucking what? They do a great job with these songs. If this was just some weak attempt to play off the Sentenced sound by a no-talent hack band, I would call them out, but this is more like a well-crafted homage to the Northernmost Killers.
I am digging this album quite a lot. What do you think? Here is the title track.
Silent Descent – Mind Games
Ugh. Need I say more? I was both pulled in and repelled by the mostly naked girl on the cover of “Mind Games.” It certainly drew my attention because she is pretty hot, but in the back of my mind I knew, this is not the 80s anymore, hot babes do not grace the covers of good metal albums unless they are either the singer or part of some dark, demonic painting. If you have to use sex to draw attention to your “metal” album, there is likely something wrong under the hood.
The biggest problem I have with this album is that it simply is not my style. They come across like an electro Slipknot with Emo tendencies. Combining the screech of metalcore, the harsh vocals of death metal and the clean whiny melodic vocals of Emo rock, this is just not my thing. This is obviously geared toward high school kids that want to be dark and heavy but cannot wrap their head around truly extreme music. For that crowd, I am sure this works. The album is certainly well produced and does a fine job of achieving what it sets out to do. But for hardcore metal fans this is not. Too pretty, too flashy, too Emo.
Tombthroat – Eden Apocalypse
Now this is more like it. My apologies to Tombthroat, this should have posted a good month ago, but I somehow missed the email request and just happened across it yesterday while looking back through old email. Tombthroat are a German brutal death metal band and “Eden Apocalypse” is their fourth album.
Talk about a palette cleanser. This is just what I needed to get rid of the funky taste of Emo vocals. Tombthroat are appropriately named as this dude’s voice sounds just like a tomb door scraping open. The music on “Eden Apocalypse” is straight-forward brutal death metal with extremely harsh vocals. The production is pretty good; I can appreciate a brutal death metal album that mixes all the elements well. No idea what the dude is singing about, the vocals are too harsh, but they do a great job of inspiring a manic frenzy.
Nothing new or original sounding here, but what they do, they do well. Here is the track “Breed of Depravity.”
Last Updated on June 25, 2012