Saturday, March 31, 2012

Anhedonist - Netherwards


The amount of new death metal bands that I've come across in just the last year has been perplexing to say the least. There are bands from every little sub-sub-genre and beyond, good and bad, terrific and horrible, and some that are just downright weird. Anhedonist would definitely find itself a comfortable position in the "good" section and definitely in the weird category as well. Based on what I had read about the band and their debut record "Netherwards," I was expecting some incredible Incantation worship and for the band to sound similar to other notable acts out today, with the bands Funebrarum and Disma being the usual comparisons for this group, only to be disappointed. Not to say that this record was disappointing, just the sound isn't what I was expecting based on everything that had been said about this band.

With Incantation being one of the most idolized bands out there for young groups, I was expecting some really low and heavy death metal that sounded like it was recorded in a cavern. And aside from the Picard-esque vocal stylings on "Netherwards" and the occasional McEntee-like tremolos, I fail to see why this four song collection is considered the best thing since "Mortal Throne of Nazarene." Again, I must reiterate that I'm not bashing Anhedonist, because they're quite good at what they do, but the praise I've seen for this band is just mind-boggling for myself. Funebrarum and Disma never released any material that progressed as much as the four tracks on "Netherwards" do. When you only have four songs on an album that clocks in at a little over 40 minutes, there had better be some progression and not just the same monotonous riffing. The opening track "Saturnine" starts with some low-end tremolos, but as the song moves on there are some doomy moments, melodic parts, and faster riffs that all seem to make their entrance in the song perfectly, making sure the listener doesn't fall asleep during the near ten minute track. 

I wish I could say that the next three tracks are radically different from the first, but they're not. Though, the song "Estrangement" is easily the best one on the record as it brings in some nice melodies that give the music a darker ambiance while the tremolo sections are masked by some agonizing vocals that are sure to send shivers down the listener's spine. The drums and bass don't do anything to make them the focal point of the music, but their job is done well enough. The main focus of the music is the dark and doomy sound created through the blending of the riffs, clean guitar parts, melodies and vocals, but this ambiance simply isn't enough to make "Netherwards" an amazing record, only one that stands out enough to be recognized as decent. 

Be sure to check out and like Anhedonist on Facebook!

Highlight
"Estrangement"

Final Rating
4.1/5 or 82%.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Air Raid - Danger Ahead



The explosion of traditional heavy metal bands and thrash bands over the past few years has unfortunately caused some mixed feelings. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t around in the 80’s, but I love these new bands. I’d rather hear something like Skull Fist than dig around for a 4th tier band from the 80’s. It doesn’t need to be original, it just has to be solid heavy metal, and that’s where Air Raid comes in. “Danger Ahead” features everything you want from a band that worships the 80’s: wicked guitar harmonies, powerful riffs, and a vocalist who isn’t afraid to scream.

This disc actually consists of two releases: the “Danger Ahead” EP, which is all new material, and the band’s first demo. The demo tracks are definitely enjoyable, and actually are more reminiscent of US power metal bands like Manilla Road than the EP was; however, it’s also very clear that the band had a lot of unrealized potential on those tracks. By contrast, “Danger Ahead” employs a much more straightforward heavy metal sound. All five tracks on this EP are fairly similar, ranging from mid-paced headbangers to faster, more upbeat tracks. The standout track for me is easily “The Metal Cult”. This song has the best lead playing on the album, and it also has a catchy melody that repeats throughout the song. Again, I have to make a reference to Skull Fist because the solos in “The Metal Cult” are very well composed. Lyrically, this song doesn’t surprise you, but the music is so fitting that it’s not a problem. Besides this track, the other extremely memorable song is “Free At Last”, which opens with the best bass playing on the album. When it comes down to it, none of these songs are bad, and I’m certain that every song here will be someone’s favourite.

The musicianship on this album is par for the course in heavy metal. The singer, Michael Rinakakis is a talented banshee, but he also has a good natural voice that you’ll hear when he isn’t wailing away. His voice is a little bit different on the demo, as he doesn't use his higher screams as much, but it actually makes the two releases quite distinct from each other. As mentioned, both guitar players are exceptional. I would say that the guitar playing is what makes this style of metal so enjoyable for me and Air Raid certainly continue that trend. The rhythm section is solid, but probably won’t surprise you. Luckily, the bass is always audible, so there are no issues with mixing here.

With “Danger Ahead”, Air Raid has created an EP that displays a ton of potential. I don’t need to preach to you anymore how the quality of this release, but what I can say is that this band should be huge in the next few years. Any future albums will definitely compete with bands like White Wizzard and Cauldron. If you are looking for heavy metal, support the band and Stormspell records by buying this EP.

Make sure to check out and like Air Raid on Facebook!

Highlights:
“The Metal Cult”
“Free At Last”

Final Rating:
4.2/5 or 84%

Written by Scott



Acephalix - Deathless Master


Last year I became familiar with the Bay Area's very own Acephalix and their album/compilation "Interminable Night" which was a titan of crusty death metal that brought a twisted smile to my face, so the wanting for more material from these guys was inevitable. Lo and behold, they gave me what I wanted with their newest full-length offering "Deathless Master" which takes off right where the band left off. The same D-beat driven death metal destruction that the band has become known for is still in tact and there isn't much deviation from that sound, completely embracing the old adage of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," only they embraced it with a severe amount of malevolence and violence, making for a record that personifies intensity and utter darkness all the same. 

Honestly, the droll powerchords that start off the record on the song "Bastard Self" seem completely overused by death metal bands old and new, but Acephalix knew that (and why wouldn't they?) so they incited a darker feeling with a quick melody before getting into the incredibly heavy, midpaced insanity. The heaviness could be compared to acts like Bolt Thrower and Autopsy who thrived off of that sound, but rather than settle for being just another act with a heavy guitar tone and some catchy midpaced riffs, Acephalix injects a very lethal dose of crust punk-like aggression and some blistering tremolo sections that all synthesize together perfectly. The title track and "The Hunger" both epitomize what this band does so damn well and if you find yourself thoroughly enjoying and appreciating the death metal excellence that the band brings with them on these songs while also headbanging like a crazed maniac, then Acephalix has clearly gotten their point across. 

Once again I must point out the influence that the hometown heroes in Autopsy must have had on the band and their music on "Deathless Master," because the vocalist definitely took that indecipherable and demented growl of Chris Reifert and threw in some John Tardy-esque howls that command the songs with an iron fist. The bassist doesn't go out of his way to make himself noticed, nor does he really need to because the music is heavy regardless. The drumming on this record isn't overly special either, but there are some notable fills that give some more substance to the music, the track "Tomb of our Fathers" in particular. If you've heard Acephalix's previous material then you will undoubtedly enjoy this album, and if you haven't heard them then clear some time in your schedule, find a wall and then begin slamming your head into it because the feeling after will be similar to one you would feel after listening to "Deathless Master."

Be sure to check out and like Acephalix on Facebook!

Highlights
"Bastard Self"
"Deathless Master"
"The Hunger"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Interview with Paul Mazurkiewicz from Cannibal Corpse Pt. 2

I hope everyone enjoyed part 1 of the interview; here's the final part. Make sure to grab to "Torture" if you still haven't picked it up!

SFM: Moving onto touring, I know you guys have a US tour coming up, and Malevolent Creation recently said they’re not going to be doing tours in the US anymore because they find the conditions aren’t as good as in Europe or South America. Are you guys finding the US to be a little bit more difficult than other countries?

Paul: I don’t believe so. I think we’ve always had great shows in the States. I can understand, to some extent, what they’re talking about. It’s just a different culture, different places you’re playing, different countries; they do things differently in certain countries. In the States, a lot of venues don’t have great backstages or showers in the venues, or things like that. It seems like almost any club in Europe are equipped for that kind of thing. As far as shows go for us, I think they’re great. We do great in the States. We sell a lot of records, we have some great shows, the fans are coming out, and we’ve always done well in the States and we do great in Europe too. For us, we love playing both places and we will continue to play the States.

SFM: Torture being your twelfth album, how are you guys planning on putting new songs into the setlist? Are you going to change things up each night or each tour?

Paul: We’ll definitely play a bunch of new stuff. We might change it more tour-wise. We like to get into the groove of a set and play the same songs, especially if they’re the new ones. I can see on this upcoming tour us doing between four and six new songs possibly, and depending on how many we decide to do, we might say “we’ll do four on this tour, and then on the next tour lets drop two and do a different two or add another two”, but we will of course be doing a bunch of new stuff, and hopefully like you said, in the beginning keep it consistent per tour of doing the same new songs, just to get the groove that way. It’s always a little different playing these new songs live for the first time and we just did it with “Demented Aggression” and “Scourge of Iron”, in Europe on this last tour, and they went over great, but what a weird feeling – it’s a great feeling – but we’ve played a song how many thousands of times on stage and you have every confidence in the world, and then all of a sudden you’re playing a song brand new, first-time ever live, and everything’s a little different. It’s not like you’re playing it in the studio or your practice facility; now you’re hearing it in a live setting and things are always a little different, so it’s always very exciting, but at the same time it’s a little nerve-wracking to finally get those songs out of the way and worked into the live set, and to have that comfort that you would with older songs like “I Cum Blood”, “Stripped, Raped, and Strangled”, and “Hammer” [Smashed Face], songs that you can play in your sleep. We’ll be doing a bunch of new ones, that’s for sure.

SFM: Speaking of the older songs, are you guys planning on bringing back any rare tracks like you did with “Scattered Remains, Splattered Brains”?

Paul: Not at this point right now. Not for this upcoming tour; we’re going to have a bunch of tours coming up for the cycle, so we’ll see what we end up bringing back or doing something we haven’t done in a while. As of right now, we don’t have anything that we’re feeling that we’re going to pull out of a hat like we did with “Scattered Remains, Splattered Brains”, so we’ve got plenty of tours to go, we’d really like to concentrate on the new album, and maybe we’ll get one or two more obscure ones in there somewhere down the line.

SFM: Speaking of those tours, you have the US tours, some European festivals, then Summer Slaughter, Heavy TO, and Heavy MTL, are there any plans to make another live CD at one of those shows?

Paul: Not right now. Things end up getting recorded here and there and maybe things can be used for other uses. We just released “Global Evisceration” DVD, which has the two live shows on there, and Centuries of Torment isn’t that old right now, so I think we might hold off for a little bit on any live recordings at this point, but like I said, things end up getting done here and there. We’re going have things at our disposal for possible bonus tracks and things like that, but as of right now there [are] no plans for any live releases.

SFM: I was just going to ask, between Centuries of Torment and Global Evisceration, doesn’t it seem like you always have a camera on you now?

Paul: A lot of times; obviously we bring our own here and there to try and film as much as we can and you can get a lot of footage documented. Of course, those two [dvd’s] specifically were done for those reasons, and of course [there was] the studio footage. It’s just the way it is nowadays, to have that kind of stuff out there; the fans enjoy it and it’s been to document the happenings of the band. With today’s technology and the way things are going, it’s not hard to do that.

SFM: Given the recent attention in the US about piracy, how do you respond to people who say that buying CDs just goes to the label and as long as you see the band on tour it’s ok?

Paul: Everyone’s going to do what they’re going to do; I’ve never been a fan of it. I grew up in the era of [when] you went and bought your albums; you tape-traded with some people. You can maybe compare it to that as well, but I still think, for the most part, metal fans are going to buy the record. I think it affects all kinds of genres and all music. I think when it comes down to it, for metal anyways, it does seem like still want to buy the product. There’s always going to be a couple sour apples; people are going to do what they’re going to do, but for the most part, a band like us, or other heavy metal bands, wouldn’t be selling as good as they would be if no one was buying the records. Look at what Lamb of God just did, that’s crazy to me. What did they sell, 53,000? Number 2? In this day and age, that’s not supposed to happen. In metal, it defies that. That’s the good thing with us; there’s always going to be some detractors, but for the most part, those people are few and far between. The true metal fans, which there are a lot of them out there, and a lot of Cannibal Corpse fans are going to go buy the product; they’re going to want to hold something in their hands, see the artwork, read the lyrics, and all that kind of stuff.              

SFM: Going back to Torture, this is definitely the most violent album cover you guys have had in a while. Were you using the slip case to get around any censorship problems you might have?

Paul: Yeah, of course, Metal Blade, they want to get the album in the stores, and if we’re going to be able to be in Best Buy, and if they’re not going to accept it with the cover it is, you got to get around it. You want the album to get out at the major outlets, and to be available to the masses. That’s the most important thing. If we can get away with that, as opposed to just having a censored cover where you get no other artwork, you got to do that if you have to. If we can do what we just did, and put a slip cover on it like that, and if [people] don’t know what it looks like already, you get a nice shocking surprise, I would think. Of course, it’s going to be done for those reasons: to be able to into the outlets and chains that will accept it, and I think it’s a good way to get around it. I think it’s ok, better than like you said, just having a censored version, where nowhere in that packaging are you going to find anything of graphic nature. The fact that we can still have it in there, and getting it into these changes, it’s ok I think.

SFM: We’re running out of time here, any last words for the fans?

Paul: We appreciate the support for Cannibal Corpse and death metal, if it wasn’t for the fans we wouldn’t be here and we’ll see everybody on tour this summer.

Undergang - Til Døden Os Skiller


It's too bad I don't understand any of the song titles or the album title for this record, because the material here is some of the best death metal I've heard all year. Undergang are definitely a special find simply because they sound like a fantastic mix of some of death metal's finest. They have the groove and midpaced excellence of Bolt Thrower, the low and dark sound of Incantation and the catchiness and excellence in execution of the Swedeath bands. If you don't enjoy any of the bands that were just mentioned, then stop reading this review and hide in a corner with razor blades in hand because Undergang is just too good of a band to pass up.

If it weren't good enough that Undergang's music is heavier than the average elephant, the production of this record completely compliments the sound on "Til Døden Os Skiller" as it allows every thump of the bass to slam the listener, every drum beat to stand out and every riff to drag the unfortunate soul of whoever hears them to a very dark and filthy place. Once the sample on the opening track "Oploste Adsler" clears and the opening tremolo sequence is finished, a monster of a riff enters the fray and immediately you will be dreading the impending damage that your neck is going to suffer because of it. The band's ability to mix in dark tremolo sections that just slither along with violent midpaced passages so perfectly cannot be ignored, and is the reason why the music on this record is so damn good, especially on the headbanging marathon that is "Stranguleret." 

A midst the Incantation-esque tremolos and Bolt Thrower-like grooves, Undergang also blesses the listener with some gloomy doom riffs that would make Autopsy proud, with "Radden Messe" and "Nar Bornene Der" being the standouts. There isn't much more that can be said about this album other than it simply should not and cannot be overlooked. Every death metal fan who keeps up with the scene today should know of Undergang, so if you're a fan of Funebrarum, Disma, Funerus, etc, then these guys need to be on your radar. 

Highlights
"Habet Er Ligblegt"
"Stranguleret"
"Nar Bernene Der"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dismemberment - Denied Salvation [EP]


Last year I had the pleasure to review this band's debut EP "The Condemned" and I was impressed to say the least. Dismemberment is now back with a new five track EP entitled "Denied Salvation" and it's pretty clear that the band has changed up their sound a bit. One of the parts that I most enjoyed about "The Condemned" was that it wasn't another boring retro-thrash release, but it brought an abrasive black/thrash assault that wasn't a very common sound in America, but more akin to Norway or Australia. Now the band has taken that black metal part of their sound and switched from the early black metal masters like Bathory and Sarcofago to a darker sound, one that was pioneered by the Norwegian bands like Mayhem or Immortal. While I prefer the raw and aggressive black/thrash over the blackened thrash sound, Dismemberment did not fail to deliver some quality music here and it could well put them in the same conversation as bands like Ketzer and Skeletonwitch. 

Once the first song "Last Rites" starts, the listener immediately can hear a resemblance to a band like Mayhem. The heavy chords along with the sinister melody and chilling basslines set up a haunting kind of atmosphere that reminds one of the legendary "Freezing Moon." After the intro clears, some more thrashy riffs come in as well as Luke Shively's vocals that sound a lot like Abbath of Immortal. A lot of the riffs on "Denied Salvation" tend to follow the same base sound of the ones found on "Last Rites." There's a nice mix of thrashier riffs to get your headbanging, some more technical riffs (though they're not overly technical like a boring prog band), and some tremolo sections used mainly to create a dark aura very much like their Norwegian influences. 

Once again, I must reiterate the strong resemblance between Dismemberment and Skeletonwitch. The riff that starts the track "Gateways to the Past" sounds incredibly like one that could be heard by Skeletonwitch, though not in a way that seems like they're plagiarizing the band or in a way that they're just a clone of the band, but in the same way that Dismemberment emulates their other influences making the comparison to Skeletonwitch by many others inevitable. The five tracks on "Denied Salvation" are all worth your time and there aren't many flaws throughout, just plenty of headbanging moments, though enough variety to admire the more melodic and dark moments of the EP, as well. If you're a fan of any of the other bands that were mentioned above, then do yourself a favor and get your hands on this EP when it comes out.

Be sure to check out and like Dismemberment on Facebook!

Highlights
"Last Rites"
"Reap What You Sow"
"System to Rise"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Witchtrap - Vengeance Is My Name


It's been six years since Colombia's underground favorites, Witchtrap have delivered onto its hordes of fans some new material. Their weapon of choice is full-length number three "Vengeance Is My Name" which features nine tracks of nostalgia conjuring thrash tunes, the likes of which could be compared to bands like Antichrist, Nekromantheon or Deathhammer. While the aforementioned bands all excel in sounding dark and evil in their renditions of thrash, Witchtrap is drenched in old-school goodness, making this record sound like it came directly from the 80's Teutonic thrash scene. 

After the intro clears and "Winds of War" starts it becomes clear instantly that Witchtrap is the farthest possible thing from a modern thrash act, though the skepticism as to whether or not the band is just another tired and lame retro-act remains in tact. The riffs later on in the song (and the whole album, actually) all sound like they've been done before, but Witchtrap manages to capture a "fresh" sound that few bands today can and the music benefits completely. Once the break comes in during "Winds of War," the need to forcibly slam your head into something becomes imminent and the chances of this band being shunned are decreased significantly. 

I usually find it unecessary to make any mention of guitar solos because they're either absent or nothing special, but that is not the case on "Vengeance Is My Name." The solos on "Damned to the Core" in particular are brilliant in the way that they shred like Darren Travis of Sadus, but also possess a melodic feel to give some depth to the solos. Most of the riffs aren't anything special, nor are many of them memorable (sans the terrific riffs in "Put to Death" and "Venomous Breath," which have a technical edge to them), but the vocalist, Burning Axe Ripper whose barks sound a lot like a cleaner Tom Angelripper is able to incorporate his talents to create some catchy moments like on "Queen of Hell," a midpaced number that places a lot of emphasis on the vocals. Aside from the horrifically cheesy lyrics, "Vengeance Is My Name" will be hard to ignore simply because it captures the band playing metal in its most unaltered and pure state, and quite well I might add. 

Be sure to check out and like Witchtrap on Facebook!

Highlights
"Winds of War"
"Put to Death"
"Venomous Breath"

Final Rating
4.25/5 or 85%. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tantara - Based On Evil


Had you told me that Norway would be unleashing a wave of great thrash records in 2012 I probably would have laughed at you and thrown on some Mayhem, however Norway is starting to become what Sweden is to death metal for the thrash scene. Add Tantara to the list of bands to release some great thrash this year, though the sound on their debut record "Based On Evil" is pretty different compared to their countrymen in Nekromantheon, Deathhammer and Aura Noir. The aforementioned bands all have a darker edge to their sound, whereas Tantara is straight up Bay Area thrash worship done right. It would be like comparing the other bands to Slayer or Sepultura while describing Tantara as Metallica, Exodus or Vio-Lence. 

One thing that might turn metalheads away from this album is the length. Every track is longer than five minutes and some are eight to nine minutes long and fans who have short attention spans may completely write Tantara off once they take a look at the length of each song. Luckily the band knows how to write their songs so the listener doesn't get bored and there are plenty of shifting dynamics in the songs to keep one's headbanging. The album starts off with the title track and it's pretty much a typical thrashing song that reminds one of Metallica on "Master of Puppets" or Vio-Lence on "Eternal Nightmare." The next song "Mass Murder" is the first of a few to incorporate a clean intro before morphing into another thrash-riddled mosher with its catchy midpaced riffs, awesome vocals that sound like the bastard child of Zetro and Hetfield, and incredible guitar solos. While on the subject of guitar solos, the lead guitarist Per Semb is one hell of a shredder and the solos on "Trapped in Bodies" in particular are phenomenal. His melodies that are interwoven throughout are also nothing short of stellar and the acoustic guitar solo on the album closer "The Killing of Mother Earth" is impeccable. 

The best part of Tantara's music is definitely their ability to create riffs that are not only memorable (which is actually difficult for newer thrash bands) but ridiculously catchy. The first set of riffs on the track "Human Mutation" is probably the best example of this as I find it near impossible to not headbang along. Now I'm sure a lot of people won't dig these guys because they sound a lot like Metallica (musically), even using the same producer in Flemming Rasmussen, but if someone took a listen to just one track off of "Based On Evil" I'm sure the band will have a new fan. This record is going to be a difficult one to top in the future, but I'm sure the band could do it. Any fan of 80's Bay Area thrash done right needs to invest some time in listening to Tantara and "Based On Evil" because it's a fun journey full of twists and turns that will leave the listener foaming at the mouth for more.

Be sure to check out and like Tantara on Facebook!

Highlights
"Negligible Souls"
"Human Mutation"
"Trapped in Bodies"

Final Rating
4.25/5 or 85%. 

Terminate - Thirst For the Obscene [EP]


To say that there has been a resurgence in the amount of material being released in the vein of the old masters from Sweden would be an incredible understatement, as there are hundreds of bands emulating Dismember, Entombed and all of the other familiars. So what makes Chicago's Terminate any better than the myriads of others around the world? If you've heard the band's debut demo from last year then you are aware that they don't stray too far away from the traditional sound, but the songwriting is great and the memorability of the three tracks is awesome. Terminate's second offering "Thirst For the Obscene" is definitely a step-up from the already terrific demo from 2011, yet there isn't much change in the sound. How can this be?

Once again, it's simply because Terminate know how to write catchy material that will be stuck in the listener's head just begging to be replayed. The EP kicks off with the title track and these guys waste no time as the song starts with some death metal tremolo riffing accompanied by John Porada's howling vocals that immediately command the listener's attention. While the rest of the track is pretty much tremolo riffing through and through, the next song "Numb" is a headbanging blitzkrieg of epic proportions. This song could easily have found a home on "War Master" with it's brilliant, groovy midpaced riffs and thunderous double bass drumming. Jim Smith's performance behind the kit on this EP is a highlight reel all on its own, whether it's his double bass massacres on "Numb," his excellent fills on "Blind Leading the Blind" or his D-Beat drumming (Only on "Blind Leading the Blind") for an old-school Swedeath nostalgia trip, the drums are just as much of a focal point for the music as the riffs and vocals.

As if Terminate's four new slabs of death metal goodness on "Thirst For the Obscene" weren't enough, they also included a cover of one of Slaughter's best songs "Incinerator," as well as a cover of the legendary Celtic Frost's "The Usurper," both fantastic renditions of the originals. To call these guys generic is just lazy and incorrect, because Terminate is easily one of the best new bands out that plays complete old-school material with such fervor and conviction that I find it impossible to not take notice of the band. If you're a fan of Bolt Thrower or old school Swedeath, then you owe it to yourself to check out this band, because as far as newer bands are concerned, it doesn't get much better than this. 

Be sure to check out and like Terminate on Facebook!

Highlights
"Numb"
"Drown in Flames"
"Blind Leading the Blind"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Drudkh - Eternal Turn of the Wheel


Drudkh, the Ukrainian masters of atmospheric black metal, have returned in 2012 to bring yet another album. "Eternal Turn of the Wheel" sees the band continuing their signature sound, with relatively little new elements. With that said, the band doesn’t really need to do anything new, because they are fairly unique and usually deliver quality albums. As you might expect, this album often switches between hyper-blasting drums with atmospheric keyboards and the slower, more melodic sections. In that sense, Drudkh have always reminded me of Burzum, which is probably why I enjoy their music more than most black metal. The third element to this album is the clean and acoustic guitar sections, which I found to actually be the best parts of the album. It’s not often that an intro is memorable, but it was surprisingly well-crafted and quite enjoyable. Likewise, there is a similar part towards the end of “When Gods Leave Their Emerald Halls”.

The songs themselves are quite a journey; with the exception of the intro, they all stretch to around 8+ minutes. The somewhat fuzzy guitar tone contributes to the less-than stellar production, though given that this is black metal, this production is actually very satisfying. The vocals on this album were a bit surprising; there weren’t really many attempts at the classic black metal raspy growl, but instead, the vocalist shouted his way through the album. It’s similar to what Tom Araya would sound like if he were a black metal singer. The best track is definitely “Farewell to Autumn's Sorrowful Birds”, which opens with several minutes of melodic riffing. None of the other songs are bad, but they aren’t particularly memorable. Unfortunately, there isn’t a song (or even a riff or melody) that is as mind-blowing as “Only the Wind Remembers My Name” from "Estrangement", for example. Despite that, the album is enjoyable while it lasts, and I have the feeling that it will grow on you with more listens. There are definitely some subtleties in the synths that are hard to catch on first listen.

Drudkh aren’t going to blow you away with this album, but they don’t need to. "Eternal Turn of the Wheel" is just another record that is a testament to their ability to create this style of black metal. If you are a newcomer to the band, it might be better to start with one of the older records, but all fans of this style should be able to like this album.

Be sure to check out and like Drudkh on Facebook!

Highlight:
“Farewell to Autumn's Sorrowful Birds”

Final Rating:
3.8/5 or 76%

Written by Scott


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Aura Noir - Out to Die


After already encountering several great releases this year that embrace the dark, evil and incredibly intense feel that Aura Noir is known for conjuring, the amount of anticipation that I had for this record didn't exactly dwindle, but it could afford to be subpar simply because there was already a slew of fantastic records out that could fill your void for some black-thrashing madness. Well, Aura Noir still delivered a quality album that any fan of the band could and should enjoy because there's no real reason why they could criticize "Out to Die," other than it isn't as amazing as "Black Thrash Attack," which is to be expected, honestly. 

The band wastes no time getting into what they're great at with the opening track "Trenches" which rips through with a speedy riff laced with some nice tremolo riffage. While this song is a fun one and certainly is capable of getting the listener's headbanging, there's just something missing that keeps it from reaching the brilliant status of songs like "Son of Hades" or "Black Thrash Attack," which sadly seems to be the story throughout this album. "Abbadon" and the title track follow a similar pattern as "Trenches" with the evil riffing spawned from the band's black metal influence and the overall fast thrashing assault. The track "The Grin From the Gallows" is a definite highlight on "Out to Die" with its unashamed Black Sabbath influence. The slow and plodding pace throughout mixed with some top-notch soloing and Aggressor's fantastic vocals make for a great song and I wouldn't mind at all seeing these guys write more material like this. 

Along with the faster songs there is of course some songs that are metalpunk through and through which makes for some nice variety on this eight-track mosher. The song "Deathwish" kicks off with a D-beat that immediately gets the listener to move their head and the rest of the music follows suit, not ever giving the listener a chance to catch their breath and the same could be said of the tracks "Withheld" and "Fed to the Flames." "Out to Die" is clearly Aura Noir's best offering since "The Merciless," and while not quite as stellar this record is no slouch and it contains a real sense of genuinity giving it a great chance to grow on the listener more and more as the year goes on and Aura Noir binds the listener under their black magic.

Be sure to check out and like Aura Noir on Facebook!

Highlights
"Trenches"
"The Grin From the Gallows"
"Out to Die"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 




Interview with Paul Mazurkiewicz from Cannibal Corpse Pt. 1

Last week I got the chance to talk to Cannibal Corpse's drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz. As I'm sure you all know, Torture was released on March 13th, so I talked to Paul about the new album, Cannibal's upcoming tours, and more. Part 1 of the interview focuses on Torture, while part 2 covers everything else.

Enjoy!
-Scott


SFM: When you guys were starting to write this album and recording it, was there anything differentthat you were trying to do differently specifically from Kill and Evisceration Plague?

Paul: I don’t know if it was specific, we’re just honing our skills and honing our songwriting over the last few years, but I think it all started with Kill. For some reason the songs just came together, they were just much more aggressive and had a great flow to it. It turned out to be a big album for us, and the fans really enjoy it. We kind of kept the wave rolling, with Evisceration Plague being the difference when we incorporated the click track into play, and I think Evisceration is a very solid album, maybe not as aggressive sounding overall as something like Kill but I think it was a good step in the precision department, like I said, just the fact that we added the click track, but looking back at both of those and looking at how we did Torture, I think Evisceration Plague had to happen, but for me, using the click that late in the game, and starting in the beginning of the songwriting process, I didn’t have time to adjust or get used to it, and it’s something that takes a lot of time and it’s an ever-going process. When I compare Evisceration to Torture, I think Evisceration is lacking a lot in the drum department. It’s good drumming, the songs are great, but I’m not doing as much and I do contribute that to the fact that it was a little difficult adjusting to playing to the click track, and as soon as we started writing the songs for Torture, obviously it’s not a new thing anymore and we’re going to go along the same lines in the way of writing using the click, things just seemed to fall into place more naturally for me. I felt I was absorbing the click a little more and it opened me up to feel like I could play around it, and I think that’s what you get on Torture. I was feeling 100% more comfortable and I did a lot of practicing, more so than I ever have and really wrapped myself around these songs, and did some subtle little changes in my own playing: using different sticks, and sitting up a little higher on the stool, using different pedals, and doing a lot of little things to get my drumming as best as it can be at this point. Using the click was huge, and like I said, it was a step in the right direction with Evisceration, we had to do that to get to this point, and when I look back at all three records, I look at Torture as being a little bit of a mix of Eviceration mixed with Kill, with a little bit of old-school thrown in there. That’s a good thing, though; we’re heading in the right direction for sure.

SFM: On this record, you wrote the lyrics for 5 songs. Are you finding at this point it’s getting easier because you have a lot of experience writing lyrics, or is it becoming difficult to come up with new ideas?

Paul: If anything, it might be getting easier. I remember when we first took over the writing duties after we got rid of [Chris] Barnes, and myself and Jack [Owen], and Alex [Webster] were writing the lyrics, Rob [Barrett] was in the band at that point, so we were writing the lyrics from then on. I remember at that point, I didn’t do it for a few years so when I think back and it seemed more difficult because it was new. I’m not in the vibe, I’m not into the swing of it. I do remember writing songs for Vile taking a lot longer and being a little bit more tedious in that way because we haven’t done it in a long time, but jump ahead now, and many albums in between, we know we’re going to be writing the lyrics, we’ve done it quite a bit now and I’ve written my fair share, so when I have to sit down and do it, I think it comes a little bit smoother now. It still takes a little bit of time, of course, but I think when you’ve got some good songs to write over, when you’re trying to come up with the patterns, and especially on this album, I noticed the ones that I wrote, they almost wrote themselves in a way. It was just kind of coming up with the subject matter, the patterns just fell into place. I think the important thing for us is we’re trying to come up with a little bit of a different title than we wrote on the last song or the last album. Obviously, we’re going to be talking about horrific gore, death, and zombies and that’s not going to change, so we’re always going to have to put a slight twist on things, and that’s key when you’re coming up with song ideas or titles, and I thought we came up with some good ones for this album that are a little bit different and you write accordingly. Overall, I thought the five that I wrote, I thought everything went fairly smooth; it took a couple of months for me to get them all together, but the fact that I’ve been doing it for quite a while and I had some great songs to write over, I thought it was a fairly smooth dealing for me.

SFM: I thought in particular on “As Deep As The Knife Will Go”, you did a great job with the vocal patterns on that. I thought it was pretty catchy.

Paul: Thanks, I appreciate that. When Pat wrote the song, like I was saying, it seemed like everything kind of wrote itself in a way. When I came up with the title for that, it just fit so perfect with the what the chorus ended up being with that riff. When I first put it together with the song, I was like “man this is going to be some heavy, brutal, catchy stuff”, and I’m glad that you feel the same way and I’m hearing some good things about that, so I’m definitely with pleased the way that one turned out.

SFM: Another moment on the record that really surprised me was Alex’s bass solo on “The Strangulation Chair”. What was your first reaction when he brought that in?

Paul: It’s cool that you mention that because he originally was doing something a little bit different when that happened. The bass break was always going to be there  in the song, but it kind of morphed over time. I think he was going to be doing more of the riff that was happening. You’d have to ask him this and he’d probably be happy to tell you, but from what I remember of when we were at practice and writing the song, it started out way different than it ended up being that’s for sure. I think it was just a work in progress kind of thing and when we were up to record the very last time we practiced that song, and then the next time I actually heard the bass part I was like “wow this is killer”. It was completely different from what I remember him doing, but you want to make it the best you can make it and do what you want to do, but I think it sounds great. Like you said, it kind of threw me [off] for a little bit because I wasn’t used to hearing that. What a great bass tone he got on this record and some great bass playing. It shines throughout the record, and he’s known as one of the best bass players out there and he really did a great job on this record.

SFM: Speaking of the bass tone, I thought guitars, bass, drums, and vocals, it’s probably the best-sounding death metal album I’ve heard. Do you think you’ll keep working with Erik Rutan in the future, or are you looking to change it up soon?

Paul: It’s hard to say. We did three great albums with Erik, and we changed it up on this one where we went to Sonic Ranch, but it’s really too hard to speculate and too early to call. We could work with him again, but by no means if we didn’t work with him would we feel like it’s the end of the world. There’s a lot of other really great producers out there as well and it would be fun to work with somebody different at this point. We’ll see what happens, we’ve got some time to think about that and to figure it out. All we know is Erik did a great job with Torture, and if he was to work with us again, of course it would be another great sounding record, how could it not [be]? You never know, we’re known to change things up. It’s healthy to mix things up in certain ways, to keep things fresh, so we’ll see what happens.