Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Humiliation - Turbulence From The Deep

Don’t be fooled by the silly name; Humiliation is not a crossover band. Rather, these Malaysian metallers play death metal. “Turbulence From The Deep” is their 4th record in just 4 years, and is my introduction to the band. If the cover art didn’t give it away, this band is primarily obsessed with war and the chaos that it brings, not unlike UK death metal gods, Bolt Thrower. The comparisons to Bolt Thrower go well beyond the lyrics. Musically, “Turbulence From The Deep” is an ode to the barbaric, militaristic and pounding style of death metal that Bolt Thrower plays. The songs are generally mid-tempo, featuring crushing riffs. The drums almost exclusively play double-bass patterns with a simple rock beat over top. Plenty of the tracks feature those spacey melodic leads over top of down-tuned, immense power chords. There is such an undeniably powerful groove to this sound that makes for an excellent contrast to the punishing rhythms that surround it.The vocalist has done a surprisingly decent job of imitating Karl Willetts. Humiliation’s singer is definitely a bit rougher in his delivery though.

Unlike most worship bands, Humiliation is able to combine their main influences with some other popular sounds. For example, the opening riff to “Total War” has a “Born Dead” (Death) feel to it, with a bouncing, energetic drumbeat behind it. Other times, there is a distinct doom influence from bands like Asphyx or even Autopsy. The instruments are down-tuned so much that they can simply chug away at simplistic rhythms and still get your head banging (see the end of “Operation Obeo One” for a prime example). Additionally, there are a few moments where the band plays more like a typical death metal band: parts of “Phosphorous Shell” see the band using a more intense drum-beat before returning to their bludgeoning mid-tempo sound. With that said, there aren’t any blast beats on this album, nor is it overly complex or technical.

For those people who wish Bolt Thrower were still making albums (hint: everyone), you should give Humiliation a shot. Though there are some differences here and there, this is still the most authentic sounding Bolt Thrower-inspired record I have come across. “Turbulence From The Deep” is simply too crushing to miss out on.

"Phosphorous Shell"
"Sea Denial"
"Total War"

Final Rating
3.9/5 or 78%. 

Written by Scott 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Interview With Jill Janus of Huntress

Having recently reviewed "Starbound Beast", I wanted to follow up with the band about their new album and their upcoming trek on Mayhem Festival! Read below to find out what Jill Janus had to say about this exciting time for Huntress!

SFM: Let’s start with the new record. “Starbound Beast” is awesome! What makes this album different from “Spell Eater”?

Jill Janus: Thank you! We are evolving, and this record is more thoughtful and melodic than Spell Eater. After touring relentlessly together last year, we all have a new telepathic unity. It's part of the plan, I wanted to give Napalm Records three records within three years that represent the Maiden, Mother and Crone. Starbound Beast is the Mother phase. Beware the Crone. She's horny, old and vicious - she's up next.
SFM: The song “I Want To Fuck You To Death” is already well known for being co-written by Lemmy. What was it like working with Lemmy, and how have Motorhead influenced Huntress’ sound (if at all)?

JJ: Man, Lemmy is a God. I'm still in awe over this. I asked him to write a song for the new Huntress record and he did. We're buddies and meet up at the Rainbow whenever we're both in town. When he handed me the lyrics to I Want To Fuck You To Death, my first reaction was "This is the most romantic thing a boy has ever done for me." Who wouldn't want to die that way? Lem wrote the lyrics, Huntress wrote the music. I wanted the chorus to be melodic, not trashy or riot girl crap. To me, this is a love song. 

SFM: What can you tell us about the music video for “Zenith” that will be released soon?  

JJ: Get ready to be tripped the fuck out. Seriously. Get your bong packed, motherfuckers.
SFM: You’ve launched an Indiegogo campaign to help out with bus costs for Mayhem Festival. You’ve raised just over half of the money needed at this point. Is this a better or worse response than you expected?

JJ: The response has be amazing. What has been most rewarding for me is truly getting to connect our fans. They are much more than fans. They are the future. I’ve found a new respect for the power of the music enthusiast. There is a stigma that goes along with crowd funding, we were very careful in the presentation -- we kept our humility. We aren’t pretending to be more than we are, we’ve had some amazing opportunities handed to us. But Huntress is still in the infant stages of this business and we can’t afford to fly around the world or be part of a monstrous production like Mayhem Fest without additional funding. The fans are lifting us to the next level. Napalm Records has been tremendous for Huntress, but they are an indie label and I can’t bleed them dry. The fans are my blood, there’s no end to the life they supply. I adore them. I live for them.
SFM: What is the best perk left that fans can still buy?

JJ: The Heshin' Perk -- it's $500 and gets you two tickets to any Mayhem show, hang out with the band including a song dedication on stage, Donky Kong Jr tournament on our bus, a water balloon fight at after the show, and signed Starbound Beast CD DigiPak, Starbound Beast Vinyl and limited edition Huntress poster, plus unlimited High Fives. We've sold a few already. Still my favorite perk!

SFM: It seems like more and more bands are going the route of Indiegogo or Kickstarter for album releases and touring. Do you think that this method will continue to increase in popularity?

JJ: Metal fans are the future for Huntress. They are the true music enthusiasts and they are much more important than numbers. I respect my fans more than ever, this crowd funding campaign has opened my eyes to a new world. It's much greater than we can comprehend right now.

SFM: Going back to Mayhem Festival: you guys have done some big North America tours before, but never on a summer festival tour. How do you think this North American festival will compare to the ones you’ve played in Europe (Sweden Rock)?

JJ: We did tour with Metalfest last summer in Europe. So we do have a grasp of summer touring productions, but nothing at the level of Mayhem in America. Most of all, we are looking at Mayhem like summer school. We will be stoned most of the time, but hope to learn a lot and score high!

SFM: After Mayhem Festival, the band is playing a string of dates on the way to Heavy MTL. What’s next for Huntress after these shows? 

JJ: I desperately want to tell you, but I can't! There's some mega tour action planned for Huntress after Mayhem but I can't talk about it yet. One thing I have learned is don't fuck up. I never deliver the goods until I see the green light, and I never give up too much mystery. Wait for it. And keep your goals away from trolls.

Thanks to Jill Janus for the interview! Check out their Indiegogo Campaign, and their Facebook Page!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Evile - Skull

It was not until 2011’s “Five Serpents’ Teeth” that Evile really found their sound. You can certainly hear elements of their current incarnation on the first two albums, but “Enter The Grave” was an all-out Slayer-inspired speed assault. “Infected Nations” went the opposite direction with a progressive, drawn-out Metallica influenced. Luckily, the band managed to strike a great balance between the two sounds on the prior record, and that sound has largely been continued on their fourth album, “Skull”.

Opening track “Underworld” is a fast-paced rager that carries all of the Evile trademarks: mosh-inducing riffs, a fantastic solo from Ol Drake, and Matt Drake’s best James Hetfield impression. Once again, the band makes heavy use of gang vocals. For the most part, this describes the entire record. The songs are nowhere near as progressive as they have been in the past, though some of the riffs still have an element of technicality to them. There are some less common time signatures throughout “Skull”, particularly on the title track. In general, the songwriting is weaker than on the previous record. I can remember some riffs and choruses here and there on this record, but I’ve spun through it multiple times, and still can’t pinpoint something from every track.

Despite the above criticism, it needs to be emphasized how killer the riffs are. Sure, they aren’t memorable the same way that “The Four Horsemen” may have been, but the thrash riff well has been wrung dry for so long that any riff causing this much headbanging is worth hearing. “The Naked Sun” is an all-out speed fest at points, reliving the glory of classic Evile tracks like “Thrasher”. On the other end of the spectrum is the semi-ballad “Tomb”. This is something the band experimented with (successfully, I might add) on the prior album, and while including a ballad is clearly a Metallica homage, the band has the chops to execute it. Of particular note is how good Matt Drake’s vocals are. They are not the most original thing, but he’s become a singer, as opposed to someone who just relies on a thrash bark (though he has a great throaty yell too). 

One track I have to give special mention to is "Words of the Dead". This track is the ultimate rhythmic exercise, particularly in the verses. Much like on "Harvester of Sorrow" and "The Shortest Straw", the guitar patterns exhibit some fantastically used start-stop riffing. Unlike those two songs, however, "Words of the Dead" evolves into a furiously fast burst of energy. This is a definite highlight.

It’s hard not to like Evile, mainly because nobody else can sound like Metallica as well as they do. They have their own unique qualities as well, and this helps them stand out among the crowd of re-thrash bands. If you liked the direction the band took on the prior record, “Skull” is certain to be satisfying.   

Be sure to check out and like Evile on Facebook!

"Words of the Dead"

Final Rating
4.0/5 or 80%. 

Written by Scott 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Zealotry Interview

I was recently introduced to a great death metal band named Zealotry. I was so intrigued by the band's sound and imagery that I just had to get an interview with a member of the band. Founding member R. Temin was kind enough to do the interview for us!

Zealotry's debut album, "The Charnel Expanse" is currently available on bandcamp, and will be released on CD in the fall by Memento Mori Records. Give it a listen as you read the interview! 

SFM:  Zealotry has been around since 2005, but only released their first demo in 2009. Can you give us a bit of background on the early history of the band?

R. Temin: Well, the 2005 thing is a little bit of a misnomer. 2005 really refers to when the first little scraps of material that ended up being incorporated into Zealotry songs were composed. At that point I was just writing stuff for fun that was more like video game soundtracks, or something. I didn't decide to really turn it into a metal project until maybe '07 or '08, when I figured I should probably pick up a real instrument. I went for bass, but it turned out that unless you're Steve Harris or Joey DeMaio or someone like that, you're not going to make much headway starting a project off as a bassist. So I switched to guitar. But by that point several songs were already written in earnest, so I asked some of my online acquaintances to help out by recording the guitar parts while I got myself up to speed on that instrument, which led to Rino Manarin being the guitarist on the Radix Malorum demo. I don't really care much for that demo anymore for a number of reasons (the drum machine sounded miserable, the arrangements weren't very good, my vocals sat really poorly in the mix, etc) but at least it was a stepping stone. 

I went back to the drawing board to try to find more of an identity for Zealotry and also learn from the mistakes I made with that demo. It took a couple of years until I had a collection of songs I was really happy with, so in late 2011 or early 2012
I enlisted Phil to help out on guitar for the Blighted/Decaying Echoes EP. I was really quite pleased with the way that one came out so I asked Phil to join up as a permanent member (which I'm extremely happy I did, because he's brought so much to this band with his lead work and really his understanding of music in general - he's really one of the best musicians in this genre). A couple more songs were written with his input, and by mid-2012 Jason had agreed to join on bass and we were ready to track The Charnel Expanse.

SFM: On June 13, you guys unleashed the debut record, “The Charnel Expanse”. How has the reception been so far?

RT: Really quite positive. It's been a pretty small sample size so far, but people seem really bullish on this thing. I won't say I'm surprised because I had great confidence in the material and wouldn't have bothered putting it on record otherwise, but you can obviously never be completely sure how people outside your little inner circle will respond to something you do. But yeah, the reviews have been strong and we got the attention of Memento Mori pretty much immediately (I think barely a few hours after we uploaded the thing) which was a really pleasant surprise, since they're a label with a great reputation in the underground. There are things we'd like to improve in the future, of course, but that sort of goes without saying.

SFM: Musically, I hear a lot of influence from bands like Immolation and Incantation. Can you talk a bit about what bands or albums inspired this record and how it all came together to create your unique sound?

RT: Well, speaking for myself, I'm the kind of guy who's pretty much influenced in one way or another by everything he hears, and that includes stuff I don't necessarily like. Anything that catches my attention as being novel or otherwise compelling, I sort of internalize the most interesting aspects of it and try to draw on them when I'm writing if they feel appropriate. But as for this record in particular, every song really had its own set of inspirations. "Dysgenicists" is basically a tribute to the east coast North American death metal of the early 90s, so you can hear Atheist, Suffocation, Monstrosity, early Gorguts, Brutality, etc. "The Charnel Expanse" has a main riff that draws from Ved Buens Ende and then when it kicks into high gear, it's all Immolation, Ripping Corpse and early Morbid Angel. "Blighted" has a blasting section that's Demilich/Timeghoul inspired. "Avatars" is really pretty much written like something from Fates Warning's Awaken the Guardian album, but in a death metal way. "The Unmaking" is essentially equal parts Emperor, early At the Gates and Ulcerate. Then the instrumental "Codex Mysterium" was written to resemble less a death metal song than something from the avant-prog genre, like Univers Zero or Shub-Niggurath. 

Of course there are the handful of influences that pervade the entire thing - Immolation (as you said), Gorguts, The Chasm, Adramelech, Voivod, Anata, Iniquity, etc. But we try not to constrain ourselves to that. Phil's leads, in fact, are partly inspired by this Quebecois composer named Michel Cusson, who arranged a lot of stuff for saxophone and other instruments, so there's a lot of non-metal concepts being included as well. The three of us (and Lille, as a matter of fact) agree that you can't advance a genre if you're always looking to the same dozen (or however many) bands for ideas. It's great to remember the giants on whose shoulders we stand, of course, and it's important to keep that core death metal aesthetic in mind at all times, but our goal is to really take those central elements to places they haven't been before and we won't be satisfied until we're accomplishing it with every single song.

SFM: The drums on “The Charnel Expanse” were played by Defeated Sanity’s Lille Gruber. How did this collaboration come about?

RT: We actually originally had Conny Pettersson of Anata signed on to do the drum sessions but he had to back out because of some family and scheduling concerns. Lille and I had been corresponding over facebook for a year or two and we'd met a couple of times when DS came here on their last two U.S. tours. I didn't intend to ask him initially after Conny dropped out because I, to be honest, wasn't sure he'd be a good fit (his ability wasn't to be questioned, but he'd always played in bands that were very different from ours). But we quickly ran out of other options and turned to him with no real expectations that he'd be willing to do it. But he agreed and... really, the work he did was just incredible, even if you don't take circumstances into account. He had barely 2 weeks to acclimate himself with the material before the studio date, but he not only mastered it but also incorporated ideas that were so vastly superior to the parts I'd sequenced when we were demoing out these songs. I really can't say enough good things about him. Just a total professional and has a better understanding of music than pretty much anyone I've ever met, and I think a lot of that is credited to his father Wolfgang (RIP). Defeated Sanity nominally exists in a genre that doesn't get a lot of respect, even in metal circles, because it's so harsh and animalistic, but talking to Lille really gave me a lot of insight into it that I wouldn't have had otherwise. And if nothing else, Passages Into Deformity is an album that anyone skeptical of brutal death metal should listen to because perhaps it'll grant them some of that same insight.

SFM: The brilliant cover art was created by Turkka Rantanen. What made you decide to choose him as the artist for this record?

RT: It was a strategic choice first and foremost. We wanted to get someone who had name recognition within the dm world (for his work with Demilich, Adramelech, Depravity, Demigod, etc.) but couldn't afford a guy like Dan Seagrave, for instance. We also felt that with the concept we had in mind, stylistically Turkka was a natural fit. He really dug the ideas which I presented to him and I think gave the cover a vibe that was both surrealistic and used classic death metal imagery. He's also a really good guy - very easy to talk to and bounce ideas off, and really easy to work with.

SFM: There’s a lot of mystique around the lyrics and imagery on “The Charnel Expanse”. How would you describe what the lyrics are about?

RT: "Mystique", huh? Not the term I'd have used, but I'll roll with it. :)

I really wanted to steer clear of any sort of Satanic/occult/gore-oriented death metal cliches. At the same time, it's still a death metal album, and death metal harnesses negativity for its creative energy, so I still wanted to have that dark and destructive vibe present. In general, most of the lyrics are about oppression, failure and extinction in one way or another. "Avatars" is basically about the collapse of society and the doom of mankind as a species. "Dysgenicists" was inspired primarily by the movie Idiocracy - it's basically about how we're being dumbed down and our lives are being trivialized (I know that in places those lyrics might seem like they venture into conspiracy theory, but I'm not into that at all, it's really just an observation on how mankind is losing its intellectual and creative prowess). "Blighted" is about how impermanent dominance is and how history is just one long pattern of one group conquering another and then themselves being conquered - unending cycle of conquest and upheaval, like the lyrics say. "Decaying Echoes" was inspired by a section of The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, in fact some of the lyrics are lifted directly from it - I think it's pretty self-explanatory. The title track was inspired by The Road by Cormac McCarthy (a book I think everyone should read). "Apex Predator" was originally meant to be about Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, with all the gore included and everything, but later I decided to make it more about an archetypal plutocrat who views himself as invincible but ultimately gets brought down by his own hubris. And "The Unmaking", in case people don't recognize the samples, is about the Reapers from the Mass Effect games, which I know is nerdy as hell, but they're just such perfect villains to write a death metal song about - a race of sentient biomechanical starships that comes around every 50,000 years to wipe out all galactic civilization, and has been doing this for at least a billion years. What's more death metal than that? It's like Lovecraft meets The Terminator, and we've all heard songs written about those two - shitloads of them.

SFM:  Now that the album is out, what is next for Zealotry?

RT: Well, the first order of business is finding a permanent drummer and playing out at least a few times. We've been looking, but with drummers, you need them to be three things: available, capable and interested. The ones we've run into so far have typically been 1 or 2 out of those three. It's been frustrating as hell, but we're not gonna give up. As for future material, there are already 5 songs written for the next album and we hope to start doing pre-prods on them in the next couple of months. The creative process is more collaborative this time around (as I mentioned, Phil and Jason joined up quite late in the process for TCE), and the music reflects that. It's going to be more advanced than anything you hear on the first record and more unique. I've been describing it as "Danny Elfman + Univers Zero +Erosion-era Gorguts" sort of as a joke, but the truth isn't far off. 

SFM:  Any last words for the fans out there? 

RT: Thank you for all the support and all the kind words! We're going to repay them with bigger and better things in the future. 

We're not satisfied putting out merely a 'good' album. The whole purpose of Zealotry is to put out the most next-level death metal we possibly can, so we're not going to sit back and just absorb the positive response from TCE. We'll work our asses off to build something that'll dwarf it.

Thanks to vocalist and guitarist R. Temin for the interview! Check out Zealotry's record on bandcamp and be sure to like the band on Facebook!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mammoth Grinder - Underworlds

I have to admit that I’m new to Mammoth Grinder. Though the band seems to have built up a decent following, I’d honestly never heard of them until recently. From what I gather, the band’s sound has changed a bit over the years, but on the band’s third record, “Underworlds”, it is firmly planted in death metal. The first thing you’ll notice about this record is that it’s short. Mammoth Grinder doesn’t mess around, as the second the record kicks off, you are thrust into a vortex of riffs. Most of the riffs vary between being a typical fast tremolo-picked pattern, or a more mid-paced power chord strumming section. The guitars have an unbelievably heavy, sludgy sound to them. Seriously, the guitar tone on this record is beyond crushing. Much to my surprise, “Underworlds” is filled with guitar solos. The solos, while not overly technical, provide a short burst of energy, not unlike the purpose of the songs themselves. This is a huge plus in my book as it prevents the record from being devoid of any notes played on the top 3 strings.  

The vocals are another pleasant surprise. They are a fantastic combination between the expected guttural death metal vocals, and a more thrash-like shout. It is not so much the quality of the vocals that makes them great, but how they perfectly compliment the ominously heavy guitars. Aside from the instrumentation, this record is really one that is more about the journey than the songs themselves. Nothing stands out as particularly memorable; however, it’s not really an issue on “Underworlds”. When an album is as succinct as this is, it’s really easy to throw on and enjoy rather than waiting for those two or three songs that better than the rest. Overall, this is a very satisfying album. Though it might not be my preferred favourite style of music, there is no doubt that “Underworlds” is a well-written record for the sound it is going after.

Be sure to check out and like Mammoth Grinder on Facebook!

All of it

Final Rating
3.7/5 or 74%. 

Written by Scott 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Stormwrath - Swords of Armageddon

When people look back on the thrash revival in 20 years, I imagine it will be similar to how we look upon thrash in the 80’s now. There are always those compelling bands out there that, for some reason or another, never really lasted that long, despite making music better than some of their peers. This is why its crazy to think we are reaching that point in the current thrash revival. Stormwrath formed only four years ago, released one album, and has already broken up! Contrary to what this might imply, the band does a bit more than rip-off Exodus, Slayer, and Kreator like most other bands do. These guys rip-off Sodom!

Perhaps rip-off is an unfair term. The second you hear Jose Kurtz’ vocals, it will become clear that his style is based on Tom Angelripper’s. He does take a harsher approach though, not unlike what Angelripper did on “Tapping The Vein”. Despite being from Spain, Kurtz has a very similar tone to Angelripper, and his voice is so harsh that it approaches the guttural sound of death metal. Musically, Stormwrath follow a standard death/thrash assault. Blisteringly fast guitars complimented by equally brutal drumming give way to a plethora of riffs. While few of these riffs are truly remarkable, the sheer number of them is likely to get you banging your head more than a few times on this concise, 37-minute journey. There are only a few suprises on this record, but they all appear at the end. “Beyond Trinity” opens with a slower section and a nice lead melody. Towards the end of the song, the band goes into full Iron Maiden mode, with a warm driving bass line and pulsing drums. This section would not have been out of place on the “Piece of Mind” record (in fact, it sounds like that is directly where the band got the influence from). Some more upbeat riffs follow this, and while out of place for Stormwrath, they are a nice change from the monotony of the rest of the record. The following track, “Throw The Hammer”, is a short, punky affair, not unlike Sodom’s “Ausgebombt” or “Bombenhagel”. Though Kurtz still uses his standard vocal approach rather than something lighter, this track is a very stark contrast to the other songs. Finally, the closing song, “Ride The Scythe” introduces some keyboards to create a more evil, brooding atmosphere. Once again, this is not so much outstanding as it is something different. Ultimately, however, it is worth reiterating that most of this record is driven by fast, brutal death/thrash riffing.

Swords of Armageddon” isn’t likely to be the most compelling thrash release, but I have no doubt that once more people hear about it, it will be well remembered. Unfortunately a lot of Spanish thrash hasn’t quite gotten enough exposure yet, but this is one band I have to recommend simply for its similarities to Sodom.

"Ascend To Hell"
"Beyond Trinity"
"Throw The Hammer"

Final Rating
3.8/5 or 76%. 

Written by Scott