Friday, September 27, 2013

Dismantle - Journey Through The Dark

Hot off the release of their second full-length album, Californian thrashers Dismantle are returning with a new EP in 2013. “Journey Through The Dark” boasts a 24-minute experience in unique songwriting with provides some originality to a fairly stagnant subgenre. Most importantly, however, it also delivers riffs with serious thrashing force. The opening track “Trapped In Eternal Warfare” is the best example. It begins with a slower passage filled with muted notes, but it ends up exploding a couple of times with faster catchy riffs. Several of these riffs bring back memories of Chuck Schuldiner’s style of riffing: tremolo pick some root notes and highlight other rhythmically appropriate notes. This makes these riffs instantly more memorable, as they make a clear effort to catch your attention, rather than existing just to make you headbang (though they will certainly do that as well). This song is a great example of what made thrash great in the 80’s; there is no consideration for song length, tempo, production, or anything else. While I love modern thrash almost to a fault, the scene is mostly filled with bands that conform to rehashing “Bonded by Blood” or “Pleasure to Kill”. Dismantle show that there are more moods thrash can capture than simple brutality. 

Excepting the short interlude “Days of Future Past”, the other tracks likewise follow a similar attention to songwriting. “Snowdust” opens with some darker leads that eventually morph into more Death-worshipping riffs. As the song progresses, Dismantle shows that they’re not afraid to abandon the lower three strings of their guitars and move into even more melodic moments. Perhaps the only moment of unoriginality is the intro to “Path to Revelations”, which shows homage to Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?”. Songwriting aside, the band themselves are fairly interesting. The singer has a fantastic thrash voice; he doesn’t yell or growl, he just sort of apathetically sings over top of the riffs (this sounds like a negative thing, but it’s not; it really shows the character in his voice). He is certainly the highlight of the EP for me. The other musicians show up as well, however. The bass pops out quite often, and, like the drums, has plenty of fills that are interesting. Beyond the Death-styled riffs, the guitars offer killer solos and melodic flares. The production brings all of these elements together in an old-school fashion. It isn’t excessively loud, the drums don’t overpower everything else, and “Journey Through The Dark” genuinely sounds like it could be from the late 80’s.  Ultimately, this EP was a very satisfying release, and will be of interest to anybody who enjoyed those thrash bands that were always just a little bit different.

Be sure to check out and like Dismantle on Facebook!

"Trapped In Eternal Warfare"
"Path To Revelations"

Final Rating
4.25/5 or 85%. 

Written by Scott  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Carcass - Surgical Steel

With the uprising of bands that are putting out comeback albums these days, it is almost amazing that it took Carcass this long. Alongside At The Gates, they were largely responsible for the basis of the sound that became popular in the late 90’s and early 00’s, first in melodic death metal, and then with metalcore bands ripping off melodeath. Sometimes, however, it’s best to forget all of the great new bands of recent years and go back to the original godfathers of the genre. With “Surgical Steel”, Carcass displays an absolute clinic in aggressive, riff-infested melodic death metal.

The album begins with the appropriately titled “1985”. This intro track prepares the listener for something that should be straight out of the 80’s, with its epic melodies and harmonies. It isn’t long before the first real track begins, however, and it is among the best. “Thrasher’s Abbatoir” is an example of Carcass returning to the brilliance of “Heartwork”, with crunchy riffs and plenty of aggression. Of particular note are Jeff Walker’s vocals. They’re almost identical to how they used to sound, and they are perfectly suited to the music. On the third song, “Cadaver Pouch Conveyer System”, the band really goes after the melodic aspect of melodeath. It’s certainly still an angry slab of metal, but the usage of harmonized guitars becomes far more apparent here. In addition to the use of harmonies, Bill Steer really stepped up in terms of guitar solos. They’re both frequent and impressive, and really put many other band’s attempts at shredding to shame. After the first three tracks, there is a bit of a breather in terms of the songwriting. None of the songs are bad, but it would not be until “Captive Bolt Pistol” where the true brilliance returns (though "Noncompliance to ASTM F899-12 Standard" features a mind-bendingly awesome riff). In addition to featuring all of the modern Carcass trademarks, "Captive Bolt Pistol" displays one of the most mind-blowing dual-axe attack sections I’ve heard in a long time. The precision and speed of this moment is unmatched by other bands, and is probably the highlight of the entire album to me. 

Admittedly, Carcass is not one of my favourite bands, but “Surgical Steel” shows a band that is not simply content with rehashing their past greatness. Sure, it’s similar to “Heartwork” in many ways, but the songs are still original, the riffs are completely unrestrained, and the final product is very satisfying. “Surgical Steel” is a prime example of how the originators of a sound are often the very best at it.

Be sure to check out and like Carcass on Facebook!

"Thrasher's Abbatoir"
"Cadaver Pouch Conveyer System"
"Captive Bolt Pistol"

Final Rating
4.0/5 or 80%. 

Written by Scott  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Convulse - Evil Prevails

Alongside fellow Finnish old-school death metal band Purtenance, Convulse are back in 2013 with their first full-length album in about 20 years. Convulse’s “World Without God” was easily among the highlights of the entire Finnish death metal scene, and “Evil Prevails” certainly attempts to reclaim that glory. The good news is that, for the most part, they do. Everything about this release sounds like it was pulled from 1991. Even the production isn’t really that modern. The guitars have a sludgy tone that is almost certainly the result of downtuning. They generally play any number of standard, speedy death metal riffs with all of the appropriate fanfare: galloping, tremolo picking, chugging, etc. Though they never quite reach the excesses of the Swedish scene, Convulse know when and how to slow things down with crushing breakdowns (the middle of “Unholy War” has a prime example). In addition to these types of breakdowns, the band also uses slower sections for the occasional clean guitar moments. The aforementioned “Unholy War” has a very “Seasons In The Abyss”-esque example of this sound.

In direct contrast to this mellowness, the band moves into “World Downfall”, which is an obliterating force of blastbeats and riffs. This track also displays the remarkable vocals of Rami Jämsä. Perhaps what is most amazing about his growls are that they don’t sound any different than they did over 20 years ago. They’re still quite deep, with little emphasis on clarity. It is a rugged assault of force with one primary goal: brutality. Aside from the vocals, another area of emphasis on “Evil Prevails” is the lead guitar work. Though not as prevalent in every song, some tracks like “God Is Delusion” feature lengthy solos that conjure contrasting emotions from the rest of the record. The title track likewise displays some of this excellent lead playing. In many ways, this is the one area where “Evil Prevails” differs from “World With God”. There is an overarching theme of darkness and despair, which is no better displayed than in the outro to “Days are Dark”, which gives an Insomnium-like vibe by using clean guitars to create a melancholic feeling. 

Overall, “Evil Prevails” is one inspired slab of death metal. It certainly isn’t identical to the band's opus record, but it is a true continuation of their legacy. While nothing stands out as being particularly enthralling about the album, it is highly recommended to all fans of old-school death metal because it accurately captures the atmosphere and sound of a record from the early 90’s. Likewise, it goes without saying that fans of Convulse and other Finnish bands will also really enjoy “Evil Prevails”.

Be sure to check out and like Convulse on Facebook!

"World Downfall"
"God Is Delusion"
"Days Are Dark"

Final Rating
3.6/5 or 72%. 

Written by Scott  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Vesperia - An Olden Tale

Vesperia is a 4-piece folky death metal band that hails from the Great White North. They combine crushingly heavy riffs with upbeat Celtic melodies to create a unique blend of fun death metal. “An Olden Tale” is the band’s debut album under this name (they formerly released one album under the name Bolero) and is a fantastic release from Toronto's stellar metal scene.

The major element to this album is, of course, the way the folk elements are incorporated. This includes plenty of keyboards as well as other instruments that are used to contrast the guitars. Often times these folk elements don’t necessarily compliment what is going on underneath, but this just adds another layer to the music. For example, “Bring Me Triumph” is dominated by a banjo-like twangy melody when the vocals enter, but the other elements of the song function completely separately. Other times, however, the folk elements are more subdued, like in the brilliant single, “The Swordsman”. This track is by far the best on the album, as it is led by a remarkably catchy guitar melody that is echoed by the chunky, muted rhythm guitars. Morgan Rider’s monstrous vocals also follow along with this rhythm. His vocals – both clean and harsh - are a major plus to this record. The growls put Johan Hegg (Amon Amarth) and Johnny Hedlund (Unleashed) to shame. They’re so incredibly deep that they don’t sound entirely human. The clean vocals are fairly limited in range, but this approach tends to add more atmosphere to the album. In terms of the remaining instrumentation, it tends to be what you'd expect for a death metal record. The guitars are exceptionally crunchy, and they often deliver brutal riffing when the folk elements subside. The drumming exhibits everything you'd expect (blast beats, double bass, incredible precision), and more. Drummer Cory Hofing is perhaps better known for his relentless work in Crimson Shadows; however, Vesperia offers him more of an opportunity to mix up the drumming with more unique fills and drum beats. 

Looking at the tracklisting for “An Olden Tale”, it becomes apparent that the title track is going to be something epic, and it doesn’t disappoint. While it is only about 10 minutes of actual music (in contrast to its 17-minute playtime), this song goes through many different sections and sounds not previously heard on the record. The highlight of the track is near the end when it drops some of the metal elements and allows the bass guitar to come to the forefront of the music. This song is truly an excellent culmination of the album. Ultimately, however, every song is enjoyable, and while I generally don’t listen to very much folk-influenced metal, “An Olden Tale” is a solid release.

Be sure to check out and like Vesperia  on Facebook!

"The Swordsman"
"Forsaken Shores"
"An Olden Tale"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Written by Scott  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Abominant - Onward To Annihilation

Abominant is a band that is a true testament to the enduring strength of metal. They’ve been around since 1993 and have put out 10 albums of death/black metal, and perhaps the most amazing thing about this is that I have never heard their name until this newest release, “Onward to Annihilation”. It’s unfortunate that bands can soldier on this long without much recognition, but it also shows an incredible amount of dedication towards making great music, and “Onward to Annihilation” is just that.

The most amazing thing about this release is its sheer diversity. Sometimes death and black metal bands put themselves into a hole: constant tremolo-picking, endless blastbeats, boring music. Abominant, however, combined these two subgenres in a way that accentuates the diversity of each subgenre. “Conquerors of Dust” displays epic riffing that is taken from melodic death metal. Meanwhile, it also manages to mix in sinister-sounding riffs along with demonic vocals. Other tracks, like “Onward To Annihilation” show an Immortal influence as they utilize very dissonant, cold chord patterns. Perhaps the only outlier (aside from "Hold Your Ground"; more on that later) is the Hypocrisy cover, “Left To Rot” (strangely sitting at track number 3), but they even manage to make this track their own. Another incredible aspect of “Onward to Annihilation” is the excellent pacing. There is plenty of fast stuff, but it is by no means overwhelming. The band often adds half-time feels (see “We Are Coming”), and puts in slower sections when necessary. Just when you think the band couldn’t possibly add any more unique elements to their sound, they come out with “Hold Your Ground”. This track is Motorhead on steroids. The opening riff is pure NWOBHM-goodness (played at double speed, of course). The vocals are noticeably cleaner, to the point where this song sounds like an entirely different band. This is the type of track that reminds me of why I love metal so much; it’s just pure energy and aggression. As soon as this song ends, however, they’re right back to the extreme sound they molded on the first five tracks (though “Beside The Dying Flame” actually opens with a doomier passage). This album may only be 8 tracks, but it truly feels like a journey through much of what metal has to offer.

To say Abominant’sOnward to Annihilation” stands out from the crowd is an understatement. There’s something for all fans of extreme metal on this album, and it’s hard to see anyone not liking it. If death metal these days often bores you, give a listen to Abominant to get reinvigorated on the subgenre. 

Be sure to check out and like Abominant on Facebook!

"Conquerors of Dust"
"Onward To Annihilation"
"Hold Your Ground"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Written by Scott