Sunday, May 20, 2018
MASCHARAT - Self Titled
This originally came out in September of last but it's on Seance Records from Australia and whom I know I've dealt with in the past. Plus the band sent me a nice email, yeah and they're a black metal act. So I figured why not give it a few blasts. Kinda glad I did.
Musically MASCHARAT, who hail from Milan, Italy, are part of this (pardon me) new wave of BM artists who are definitely schooled in the traditional sound and style. But they add just so much more styles whether it's doom, straight up atmospheric interludes and of course a history lesson. Plus they like some mystery.
Starting with the obvious their name comes from the Italian term "maschera" or in English, mask. The band members don't disclose their names. The cover art illustrates their emphasis on anonymity. According to the band (?) their music is "inspired by the masks and the traditions of carnival." I'm sure there's a historical connection in there going back a few hundred years. Extreme metal is educational!
With that said MASCHARAT's self titled debut is an interesting release as far as black metal goes in this modern era. It's a beautiful piece of work (yes black metal can be looked upon as beautiful). The vocals are of a venomous harsh rasping also sung or spoken in Italian with one sung in French (I don't know why but hey I speak two languages as well).
Musically it's melodic black metal with touches of the more diabolical or sorrowful doom. There's some acoustic elements added. As I mentioned earlier they lay out plenty of atmospheric touches to allow the music to flow on a jagged path. Years ago some hipster music scribe told me that black metal needed to progress in order to be taken seriously. Actually the genre has done that but it was on the true black metal artist's terms and not on his promotion of hipsters doing metal. That's why you should take this release seriously.
NOMAD - Feral
I guess it's been about ten years but yeah a decade ago here in the states sludge rock turned into the laughing stock of the metal world. Basically it became littered with post college hipsters/pseudo hippies with worthless degrees who decided they liked metal. So they got into the simplest musical style, added some whacked out non-metal influences, called it progressive sludge and they all sounded pretty much the same.
Now of course the mainstream music media liked those bands. But as Diamond Dave said years ago; "The reason why music critics like Elvis Costello and not Van Halen is because they all look like Elvis Costello." Fast forward a decade later and across the sea, England on the other hand has been churning sludge metal acts who don't fuck around with the style too much and produce some enjoyable sounds. Granted it will not blow you away or grind you down to pulp but you'll be comfortable listening to it.
Case in point here's NOMAD from Manchester, a four piece act of sludgey proportions who started out in 2011. Since then they've managed to put out some short form releases and now this their debut full length. Honestly this band has a sound that takes me back to the genre's early days. I remember them well. You had kids in hardcore acts who wanted to get into metal but had know talent to play thrash or death metal. So they're smoking pot one day and can't get into fast music. One of em grabs a copy of SABBATH's Master of Reality from their parents album collection. And after one play they're like "dude we can play this, pass me that bong I think I'm Tony Iomni."
Listening to Feral I can hear the connection. They're mostly into older sludge with some stoner touches. It's totally raw headbanging stuff. Kinda like meeting up at the pub (I work at a pub by the way so I can use the word) for a few rounds with an old friend. It's comfort music while the vocalist tries his best to scream lyrics over a wall of sound. This release is definitely a winner in my book.
PARAGON COLLAPSE - The Dawning
Loud Rage Music
Imagine, if you will, NIGHTWISH were more into metal as opposed to the whole operatic thing, Tarja wasn't a prima-donna and there was some MY DYING BRIDE violin work going on with melodic doom permeating your senses. Yeah that's the basic skinny here and it works well.
PARAGON COLLAPSE hail from Romania, started out in 2011 but to put it mildly had some hurdles to overcome before putting out this, their debut full length. First off vocalist/violinist Veronica Lefter brings a sort of elegance with her operatic vocals. Her violin solos are just total melancholy and sadness.
The guts of PARAGON COLLAPSE is guitarist/composer Alexandru Lefter whose riffs while still in a melodic vein also bring about a sense of background chaos while Lefter's vocals and violin runs (also dueling in guitar solos) somehow brings about hope from the abyss.
The Dawning is the type of release that any self described doom metal fan needs to experience. I like it a lot because it's completely beyond cliche. They even devote some time to adding a little folk meets death metal on one cut. All in all I hope they keep this thing going.
SPECTRAL - Neural Correlates of Hate
Loud Rage Music
I have to admit a fact, I don't like tech death (that's technical death metal for you heshers) or at least the modern pretentious version of it. Basically I'm talking about all that stuff which revolves around the jazz inspired guitar noodling which accompanies much if not all of the sub-genre. And as far as those offshoot genres go well they make want to vomit. So the first time this came in for review, which was in March, I skipped over it simply because I read the words "progressive technical death metal. OK so a month and a half later the label sends it back.
Alright I'm giving it a chance and it has taken me quite a few listens to overcome my prejudice towards the sub-genre. Trust me it's not my thing at all but this Romanian act seems to have put a crack in my wall. First off I think the vocalist, Andrei Calmuc, is absolutely fantastic. He reminds me of someone I know well. Be that as it is he emits a growled roar at times and other instances he's like a beast trying to sing cleaner.
Obviously this vehicle is being run by guitarist (and bassist) Ciprian Martin. And the man is certainly an accomplished guitarist. On a whole I'd say half of this full length is down right awesome in an old school sound with awesome riffs plus fluid like soloing. It has an early GORGUTS influential flair that I do like. Then there are times this act flies right into a NECROPHAGIST tribute session. But hey the drummer, Romain Goulon, used to play in NECROPHAGIST so there you go.
In the end I still can't stand this but hey if you are an older tech death fan then this is something you've been craving for. The marriage of beauty and brutality flows throughout this debut release. I personally like the longer compositions where guitarist Ciprian Martin displays some major riffage as well as melodic touches to his solos which actually strengthen the cuts with atmospheric balance versus the torment of urgent note chopping.
DEIQUISITOR - Downfall of the Apostate
Dark Descent Records
There will always be something cool about cold and calculating death metal that is brutal for the sake of being that way but tosses in so much more. All hail DEIQUISITOR a three piece act from Denmark, a great Scandinavian nation that never gets it due respect as far as extreme metal goes. Here we have a band comprising of scene veterans who actually deliver something which rips heads off and suck squirting blood from your neck.
Downfall of the Apostate is DEIQUISITOR's second full length, sorry I never heard their debut. But as far as this one goes yeah the vocals are on that low, deep style which is recognized as brutal but not the whole pig squeal thing. The drumming on here is also brutal as they're used more as weapons of pounding torture. Imagine the constant barrage of artillery exploding around your position.
Of course the main things are riffs and the structure in which they're used within the songs. DEIQUISITOR does an adequate job of that with once again weaponizing the riff package with in your face intensity. Kinda reminds me of many a Polish DM outfit but I'm not namedropping here. There's a battle raging on here by scene vets who appreciate the old ways of death metal destroy and conquer actions. Of course it's great.
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
RITES TO SEDITION - Ancestral Blood
This release originally came out last year but since this band is from my state, is doing something unique and was pushed to me by some good promo people I figured why not write about it. RITES TO SEDITION are a melodic black metal act out of Charlotte, North Carolina which is a two hour drive west from where I call home in our state. The band started out in 2014 and this is their debut full length.
Now when I say what this band does is unique is really about the state's musically history as far as black metal goes. DARKMOON is are high water mark and a bunch of hipster acts are our low point. RITES TO SEDITION sound like our state's version of DISSECTION and to me that's cool as fuck. They like to do long compositions which are filled with tremolo picked melody, thrash runs as well as a tech death touch which gives it a modern feel.
There's some bloodied but unbowed throaty blackened vocals, amazing soloing and the major song structuring is top notch. Among the main tracks the band invokes some cool intro interludes lasting a minute or more. They're cool sounding invocations as opposed to time fillers. All in all this is an outstanding fuckin black metal release. Why is this not on a label?
The SHORT STACK is short reviews of releases that I wanna say something about but not too much.
OF FEATHER AND BONE - Bestial Hymns of Perversion
Profound Lore Records
On first listen this sounds like a newer hardcore band trying their hand at death metal in the formula of PORTAL, AUTOPSY and INCANTATION. Basically it's that whole death doom concept with cavernous vocals and occasional furious grind bursts. The basic influences are fine and there's plenty of acts doing it well.
Unfortunately OF FEATHER AND BONE are not one of em. Upon learning more about this Denver act it seems they are/were a powerviolence band. They do well on a few cuts but for the most part this is weak. I'll give em props on the perfect cavernous vocals but the riffs are not exciting, the drum work is horrible and the song structures are badly rehashed versions of the real thing.
MOURNFUL CONGREGATION - The Incubus of Karma
To say Australia's MOURNFUL CONGREGATION are icons of funeral doom is an understatement. I got into them with their 1999 debut full length, Tears from a Grieving Heart, a few years after it's release. Yeah I admit I was in the back of the funeral procession. I liked their second album, The Monad of Creation, which came out years later as well. After that, well I moved on but actually they moved onto a progression path which I did check out but lost a connection with.
Here we have their fifth full length and it's far more melancholy, more intricate with beauty at it's base. Yes the sadness beckons but only for people into not really a lot of crushing riffs or thorn in the paw of a lion vocals. This is more bleak whining then sobbing sadness at the grave site. If you thought 2014's Concrescence of the Sophia was great then this is a repeat in fuller bloom.
TRIBULATION - Down Below
Century Media Records
Yes I am "THAT PERSON". I believe this band's 2009 debut, The Horror, was not only a great fuckin death metal masterpiece but it ushered in the new wave of bands appreciating and performing old school sounding death metal whether the influence was Sweden or the US. Then they changed into a Halloween-esque Goth Rock band on their second album and out the door I went.
So here is their fourth full length overall, third as a Goth Rock act or is it blackened hard rock? Kinda reminds me of when SATYRICON went full on hard rock with The Age of Nero. Be that as it may I won't begrudge them for their artistic choices. Honestly they do the Goth Rock thing well and I don't know but is that Goth movement still around? Because if it is then those kids are digging this one. As for me no thanks. I'll stick with The Horror and forget this stuff exists.
JUDAS PRIEST - Firepower
OK lets get the obligatory stuff out of the way quickly. I first saw PRIEST during their Hell Bent For Leather tour. I've been a fan since then. That's the soapbox from which I'm standing and speaking from. Now in my not so humble opinion not only is this a great classic metal album but it's a damm good PRIEST album. Now I say that because unlike some detractors of this release I don't view it through 1980's glasses. I think it's foolish to expect PRIEST to be exactly the same as they were thirty to forty years ago. And I don't want them to be.
So when I listen to this I judge it in comparison to the releases this band has put out since Rob Halford rejoined the band. Therefore this is obviously way better then their last three albums. Firepower is a mixed bag of old and new. There's some cuts on here that would feel at home on Defenders of the Faith. There's also some stuff that reminds me of Rob's solo work with HALFORD. In the end I'd call this one of the best releases of 2018.