Monday, August 29, 2011

Balaclava - Just Short of Terrific

Despite the weird and rather unique band name, Balaclava isn't exactly a very unique sounding band. There are plenty of crust bands out there that make music that is similar to the songs found on "Crimes of Faith," but that doesn't take away from the quality of the material to be found here. Aggressive and fast crusty riffs come in abundance here, as well as some nice melodies, great drumming and doom-laden interludes. 

The best part about this record is definitely the way that the all of the instruments and vocals mesh so well together. The vocals are just as heavy as the riffs, which are all backed by some great drumming. Songs like "A Prophet" and "Throne of Grace" are perfect examples of this. The tracks are heavy and can easily get your headbanging, while successfully mixing in melodic riffs and solos similar to those found on Wolfpack's "A New Dawn Fades." The nine minute long "This City" features some catchy riffs as well as some clean guitar parts and doom inspired breaks to deliver another nice song.

But this album is not perfect and can definitely be improved. The main flaw is definitely Balaclava's tendency to drag out songs a lot longer than they need to be. The two near ten minute tracks, "This City" and "A Prophecy" are both victims of this. Both feature some great riffs as well as some nice melodies and breaks, but they are being dragged out for far too long. The doomy interludes could have been shorter and the intros could have also been a lot shorter, making for two much improved tracks. 

Overall, "Crimes of Faith" is a decent seven track crust album, but it could have been better with a few tweaks here and there. It should be no surprise that the best tracks on the record were the shorter, straightforward tracks that hit the listener right across the jaw. Those two tracks are "Throne of Grace" and "A Prophet." If Balaclava can fix these few issues that they had on this record, than they're next can prove to be a fantastic record in the crust realm. 

Be sure to check out Balaclava on Facebook and like their page!

Final Rating - 4.25/5 or 85%

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Skeletonwitch Interview!

In anticipation of Skeletonwitch's upcoming fourth full-length album, I got in touch with them to talk a little bit about it, as well as touring and everything else Skeletonwitch. Enjoy!

SFM - You guys are scheduled to release your fourth full-length record "Forever Abomination" this year in October. Can you give us any information on this record, like overall themes? Differences between this and the previous ones? Anything you've never done before?

Evan - We're all really excited about this record and the work we put into it. It's obviously different from any other material the band has done, but it's still a Skeletonwitch record. I think that the minute people hear it they will know it's us. It has a little bit more of a Rock 'n' Roll and  more of a Black Metal vibe than the previous one. I think Nate, our main riff dude, really opened up some parts and put a lot more "feeling" type parts in this time. Parts that are about the feeling of the riff not how many notes you can jam into it.

SFM - That sounds great! In addition to releasing a new album, you're also going to be touring alongside Arch Enemy later this year, but do you have any plans for some headlining tours in support of the new album?

Evan - Yes. We will be announcing some headlining dates very soon. The rest of our year is booked so we will be announcing new dates as we're able to do so. 

SFM - Who are the biggest influences for Skeletonwitch when it comes to writing?

Evan - We're all fans as much as we are musicians. We all like quite a mix of stuff in the Metal genre and I think that shows up in the music and even people's individual performances on the records. Chance, for example, loves old death metal and I think his vocal performances, rhythm etc. represent that. Nate and the rest of us are really into melodic black metal and I think there are a lot of riffs that show that. I've always liked 70's rock a ton and there's a lot of bass parts on the last two records that have a hint of that. It's certainly safe to say we have a lot of influences.  

SFM - What has been your biggest/most proud achievement in Skeletonwitch?

Evan - Before I joined Skeletonwitch in 2008, I was a fan and good friends with the other guys. Being asked to join a great band with great dudes was a big thing and proud moment for me. Even since I've joined I have watched the band grow every year. Skeletonwitch is not a "flash-in-the-pan" band that will ever have over night success but slowly and surely we have attained a loyal group of fans that gets bigger every year and have had some great opportunities. While other bands are getting hyped in magazines and getting popular over night off that hype, we're out there on the road playing bars and clubs doing what we love to do. Even that in it self makes me proud to be in Skeletonwitch. We work hard and party hard; there is no hype. What you see is what you get with us. What you get is the product of our love for the music we play.

SFM - Who are some of your favorite newer bands?

Evan - Lately I have been listening to Lantlos a lot. They came out with a new album last year and the previous record is also amazing. Its great kinda post-rock black metal. I also like the newest Sargeist album "Let the Devil in". Its what black metal should be. Its evil, dirty and violent sounding but melodic at the same time. The new Graveyard album that came out this year "Hisingen Blues" hasn't left my rotation either. Its rock and roll as hell. I got a chance to see them at Summer Breeze this year.

SFM - If you could open up for any band who would it be?

Evan - Hard question. I guess if you asked every member of the band I bet at least three out of the five answers would be Immortal. We all fucking love Immortal.  

SFM - Great choice! So, what are the funnest Skeletonwitch songs to play live? Which usually go over the best with the crowd?

Evan - I think there are a number of songs I hear kids yell out a lot for us to play. People seem to want to hear the really old stuff probably cause we hardly ever play it. A few months back we released three 7 inches with re-recordings of some material off of the At One with the Shadows record. Its really hard to find that album and lots of kids want to hear some of those songs live. Occasionally we will throw one of them in the set. My favorite to play right now are the new songs from our upcoming album. Right now we are playing three of them live but will try to work in a few more to the set.   

SFM - Do you have any funny tour stories you could share?

Evan - Tour itself is just funny. You have to have a sense of humor about everything if you're going to get through a long tour. We have so many inside jokes at the end of tour plus all the ones from the previous tours that I wonder if people who hear our conversations even understand any of what we are saying.  

SFM - I'd like to thank you for your time, do you have any words for your fans?

Evan - Just "Thanks!" We are all really fortunate to be able to do this and we can do this because our fans support us by coming out to our shows. We can't wait to be back on the road playing and hanging out with you all! 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Interview with Jose Barrales of Wormhole/ Ex- Bonded By Blood!

Maybe you've heard, maybe you haven't, but the ex-Bonded By Blood singer, Jose Barrales, has a new project that he's starting to work on called Wormhole. To get some more information about this band, I got in touch with him and here is what went down!

SFM - What was the reasoning behind the end of your Human Abortion project?

Jose - Well, I was having a really hard time finding members that were around my age to commit to it. A lot of members I found were already committed to a band and were not ready to go full force with me. The ones that were ready either lived too far or did not like the idea of Human Abortion and what it was going to be about. I was stuck, so I did what was best and ended before it was even born.

SFM - That's too bad, but at least you have a new project to work on! How did creating Wormhole come about?

Jose - At about the same time I was having my troubles, I got info that Jerry was ready to leave Bonded By Blood. I contacted Jerry and we touched base on certain things. I brought up the idea of him either joining Human Abortion or us making a completely new band. It seemed like he really didn't want to join Human Abortion but was open to the idea of starting a whole new band. All these conversations we had eventually led to him meeting a guitarist I was previously working with, his name is Andrew Bennett. He really dug Andrew's style of play and we decided then and there that we will proceed with this new project. In order to do so we would need a very good drummer that would not only be solid but expand our style of creativity. I, personally, have always had trouble finding solid drummers around my area. Luckily, Eric (Guitarist of Witchaven) sent me Stephen Ramirez' way. Stephen is by far the best drummer I have ever had the pleasure to play with and he was also the missing piece in what became known as Wormhole.

SFM - What style of music will you be playing in Wormhole?

Jose - Honestly, I cant really break it down into a certain sub genre of Metal. It will be a bunch of guys jammin' out and fusing all their influences into this project. I do know its going to be Heavy!

SFM - I can't wait to hear it. When can we expect to hear a demo from you guys?

Jose - We really don't have a certain date, yet. Its all up in the air at the moment. We are really concentrating on writing to the best of our abilities. Once all that is done we will update everyone with a date.
SFM - If you wouldn't mind answering this, what was the reason for your departure from Bonded By Blood?

Jose - I don't mind answering at all. There was just too many problems around the time I left. Problems at home and problems with band members. In all honesty, I didn't have a friendship with the rest of the band members anymore. It was as if I was traveling the world in a van or bus with a bunch of strangers. It just didn't feel right.

SFM - Do you often get asked by fans to rejoin Bonded By Blood?

Jose - I've gotten asked that question a good amount of times. It's just fans being fans.

SFM - What was your biggest accomplishment as a member of Bonded By Blood?

Jose - I have many, to choose just one is very hard. I learned and accomplished so much in the 5 years I was in BBB. From creating a band to touring the world and opening up for some legendary bands. If I had to choose one it would be being able to write music I like and having tons of people actually liking your music as well. 

SFM - that must have been an amazing experience, that few are lucky to have. What is your opinion on the metal scene today? Do you have any favorite bands in particular?

Jose - I really haven't paid much attention to anything new coming out. Lately, all I've been listening to is Zeppelin, Hendrix and Primus which is nothing new. Some bands I love are Exmortus, Vektor and Witchaven, they are pretty damn good. If you haven't listened to them yet, you should definitely give them a spin.  

SFM - Thank you for your time Jose. Any words for your fans?

Jose - Thanks for all the support. Keep updated on Wormhole on Facebook. We will be updating there as frequently as we can. 

The link to Wormhole's Facebook page can be found here! Check it out to stay updated! 

Orgy of Destruction Weekly Series #4 - Cemetary - An Evil Shade of Grey

Cemetary hails from the land of the best death metal on Earth. Sweden. There are so many amazing death metal bands from Sweden, it's almost impossible to keep up. Of course there are the bigger bands that most metal fans are aware of like Dismember, Entombed, Carnage, Grave, Unleashed, and Edge of Sanity, but one band that gets the cold shoulder more than it should be is Cemetary. The main reason for that being their transition to a much different gothic metal sound, but their debut "An Evil Shade of Grey" is 100% death metal.

This album has the signature traits of a Swedeath album, such as the chainsaw guitar tone, monster riffs, dark melodies, and aggressive vocals. But it also has some other elements that separate this from other Swedeath releases. One noticeable sound is the added keyboard passages that are tastefully used to add a more epic and dark atmosphere. The title track features some great atmospheric sections have great riffs layered with the keyboard parts for maximum appeal.

Another noticeable difference from the traditional Swedeath sound is the inclusion of acoustic sections. The song "Nightmare Lake" features some acoustic riffage behind Mathias Lodmalm's devastating vocals, making for a brilliant combination.

Aside from those changes, "An Evil Shade of Grey" possesses some great riffs and fantastic structuring just like other Swedeath masterpieces "Like An Ever Flowing Stream" and "Left Hand Path." The title track and "Sidereal Passing" are perfect examples of this, as they captivate the listener with heavy mid-paced riffs and then suddenly slam you with some blast beats and raging riffs, only to be sent back into another doomy section. 

So if you're looking for some awesome death metal or metal that will get your headbanging, you need to check out Cemetary's "An Evil Shade of Grey." The best tracks here are easily "Where the Rivers of Madness Stream" and "Scars." 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Interview with Condition Critical!

After being completely blown away by Condition Critical's debut demo, I had to get in touch with these guys and learn more about them. Here's the interview, enjoy!

SFM - Could you give us some background information for the readers who have not heard you guys? Releases? Style? Members, etc?

Condition Critical - My name is Alonso Maguino and I play guitar and do vocals, Ryan Donato on drums, Dave Hewson on guitar, and Mike Dreher on bass. We're Condition Critical, a thrash band based off NJ and we currently have a 3 song demo out that's ready to kick your ass!

SFM - Who would you say are the biggest influences for your guys' sound?

Condition Critical - It's hard to really pick a few selected bands because we're influenced by so many. But if we had to choose a couple they would be Slayer, Demolition Hammer, Megadeth, Exhorder, Vio-lence, Exodus, and Testament. I mean the list goes on and on but those bands influences us the most.

SFM - Huge props to that Demolition Hammer influence! Do you have any shows planned for 2011? If so, where and with who?
Condition Critical - Yeah. We're playing a show this Friday, August 26th in Howell, NJ. We'll be playing with Bitchslicer, Helcaraxe, Centralia, and a couple other local bands. We're also playing a show on September 22nd in Kearny, NJ with Midnite Hellion and a few other local bands. We only have those 2 shows lined up so far but we're looking to book some more for the following months.

SFM - Awesome! Now that you've released your debut demo, are there any tentative plans to record an EP or possibly a full length.

Condition Critical - The plan right now is to spread this demo like wild fire really. A far as the future goes, we're hoping to go back to the studio to record a full length by early next year.

SFM - I'm definitely anxious to hear some new material from you guys. What is the scene like where you're all from? What kind of bands play over there?

Condition Critical - Well, we're all from different parts of Jersey. Ryan and Mike are from New Brunswick, Dave is from Tom's River, and I'm from Atlantic City area. the scenes in all these different places are very different. I mean you that doom metal and emo stuff going in South Jersey; but once you start heading up north, it becomes a different story. Central jersey is not too bad, I mean there are a few metal bands here and there but North Jersey is where the scene seems to be right now. We've become good friends with a bunch of bands from around the area. Bands like Cerebral Decay, Bomb Scare, Zamboni, Gnarly Vomit, just to name a few.

SFM - Sounds like you've got a good scene going on. Now, I've noticed that you guys are Demolition Hammer fans, and are often a band that you are compared to. Would you ever consider covering a Demolition Hammer song for your live set?

Condition Critical - You know, being compared to Demolition Hammer is such an amazing compliment because those guys wrote some of the most intense, fast and brutal stuff. It feels pretty cool being compared to them but sometimes it's hard keeping up with that compliment haha. And yes, one of our covers is actually a Demolition Hammer song. It's the song ".44 Caliber Brain Surgery." We actually played it at our last show.

SFM - Well, I'd like to thank you for your time. Any words for your fans?

Condition Critical - Check us out on facebook You can check any upcoming shows there and also download the demo for free. We encourage you to download it, make copies, and give it to EVERYONE. If you get a chance to come out to one of our shows, we promise we won't disappoint you! THRASH TILL' DEATH!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Condition Critical - Fracturing One Skull At A Time

The east coast is once again thriving with great bands that are keeping metal alive and strong. Bands like Lich King, Hellcannon, Mantic Ritual, Seplophile and others are constantly tearing it up, but now there is another band who is ready to take over the scene. That band is Condition Critical. Condition Critical have just released their debut demo with four skull fracturing tracks, guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping and your head banging.

One reason why this band is so good is because their sound is heavily influenced by one of the greatest bands to come from the east coast, Demolition Hammer. Condition Critical has the same intensity, the same brutality and are extremely catchy as well. The riffs are absolutely crushing, the solos are all well done and the vocals are nothing short of spectacular.

The demo kicks off with a short instrumental track that features some very heavy riffage and sets up the rest of the demo perfectly. (Just as Orgy of Destruction serves as the perfect set up to Epidemic of Violence). The intro isn't the only track to feature some heavy riffs because they come in abundance throughout the demo. Condition Critical can cause some serious damage to your neck with their brilliant structuring of the songs. "Self Mutilation Ritual" is a nice mid-paced mosher for the most part, but the the drums take it up a notch and a ripping thrash riff comes shortly after to maximize the headbanging.

Not only are the riffs great, but everything else seems to mesh nicely as well. The bass lines are audible and have a crushing tone, while the drums are used to up the intensity and maintain the overall heaviness of the music. The vocals are just about as brutal as the riffs that they command. Condition Critical also manages to utilize gang vocals really well, which is rare with most of today's bands. "Bred to Kill" features some very well executed gang vocals during the break of the song before being catapulted into a series of cool solos. 

This demo is just the beginning for Condition Critical, and if they continue to put out music as great as this, then they should have no problem in today's metal scene. The best track here is definitely "Bred to Kill." It features everything that this band excels at. Heavy riffs, blistering solos and neck snapping brutality. 

Be sure to like Condition Critical on Facebook and download the free demo!

Final Rating - 4.6/5 or 92%.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Evile - "Five Serpent's Teeth Nears A Perfect Five Stars"

Five Serpent’s Teeth” is one of the most anticipated thrash releases of the year and for good reason. Shortly after Evile released their critically acclaimed sophomore effort, “Infected Nations,” tragedy stuck the band. Their bassist, Mike Alexander passed away due to illness, but Evile did not give up. They continued to hammer on and the result of this persistence is this record.
In a recent interview, Matt Drake said that “Five Serpent’s Teeth” resembled both “Enter the Grave” and “Infected Nations,” but he also said that it resembles neither. After listening to this album a few times, Matt Drake’s analysis was correct. “Five Serpent’s Teeth” possesses the speed, aggression, and intensity of “Enter the Grave,” the progressive elements found on “Infected Nations” and it also has vast improvements all around. From the vocals, to the riffs, to the solos and everything in between. “Five Serpent’s Teeth” is just plain better.
Not only have the riffs improved, but they’re much more varied than on previous releases. There is a great mix of slow, heavy riffs and raging fast ones. The first single released, “Eternal Empire,” starts with a slower riff, but it transitions into one of Evile’s fastest riffs to date, only to be topped by an even faster riff near the end of the song. They also managed to show off some more technical prowess when it came to the riffs. Evile managed to mix minor technical aspects with speed, for one of the best riffs of 2011, on the track “In Dreams of Terror.” It’s extremely catchy and impossible to not headbang crazily along with.
The lead guitar work is another highlight of this album. Ol’ Drake continues to prove why he is one of the best (if not the best) lead players among today’s thrash bands. His solos on this album are all stellar, with each standing out from the others, but it’s also the melodies that he’s crafted, where he shines the most. Each melody is placed perfectly in the songs, especially on the tribute to Mike Alexander, “In Memoriam.” The song was written in memory of Evile’s fallen friend and comrade and because of the beautiful melodies and the way that they blend with the other parts of the music flawlessly, you can feel the emotion that was put into the song, similar to Metallica’s “Fade to Black.”
The other area that Evile has improved in by leaps and bounds, in the vocal department. The most commonly heard criticism of Evile’s “Infected Nations” was the monotonous vocals, but that is no longer the case. Matt Drake’s voice now flows with the music smoothly, without feeling forced. His vocals have also become more versatile, from the clean and melodic singing found on “In Memoriam” to the fast rapid vocals on “Eternal Empire.” Drake has found his comfort zone and to put things simply and figuratively, his vocals are the icing on an already delicious cake.
For such a young band, Evile has gone through a lot and have matured quite a bit, which is reflected by “Five Serpent’s Teeth.” They have gone from making simplistic songs about Rambo and thrashing (still great songs by the way) to writing their best material to date. The best songs on this record are “In Dreams of Terror,” “Eternal Empire,” and “In Memoriam.”
At the rate that Evile’s been progressing and improving, it would be no surprise to see them headlining Wacken in the future. The competition for album of the year was already intense, but Evile has thrown a jackknife into the mix with this album, and they can very well take off with the top spot.
Final Rating - 4.5/5 or 90%.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Orgy of Destruction Weekly Series #3 - Massacra - Final Holocaust

Last week's Orgy of Destruction entry saw Devastation's "Idolatry" being featured. One of the main topics of the review was how underrated that album was in the death/thrash scene. Well, the same goes for this beast. 

Coming from France, Massacra started off with a few demos before they finally released "Final Holocaust" in 1990. As the bigger thrash bands of the '80s began to go for a much less thrash sound, Massacra did the exact opposite. They wrote some of the most intense and vicious thrash to date. With insanely fast riffs, brutal drumming and crushing vocals, Massacra was ready to create a huge name for themselves in the metal underground. 

The best parts of the music on "Final Holocaust" are definitely the riffs. The blazing fast riffs aren't only amazing because of their speed, but they are extremely catchy. The first riff after the intro sound bite on "Apocalyptic Warriors" is impossible to not headbang to, but the riff after the verse of the song is even catchier. There are also some great death metal style riffs to be found as well. The main riff of "Trained to Kill," features the fast tremolo picking utilized by death metal bands since the dawn of the genre. You mix that death metal style riff with some great thrash riffs, and you have a recipe for greatness. Massacra also shows off their ability to create some great mid-paced monsters like on "The Day of Massacra." There's plenty of everything. Speed, aggression, and heaviness. What more could you want?

The fast paced drumming is also a plus on the album. Some of the riffs are more mid-paced, but when layered with the tight and swift drum section, the music seems faster and heavier, while the listener headbangs along until the whiplash sets in. Along with the drums, there are the vocals, capable of destroying small animals, they are so powerful. "Researchers of Tortures," has some of the catchiest verses and choruses on the album, due to the perfect sound made when Jorgensen's vocals synchronize with the brutal music behind them.

Overall, there are no complaints that can be made about this masterpiece. Massacra blends the best of death metal and thrash on "Final Holocaust" flawlessly, and it shows. There are absolutely no skip-able tracks here, but the best of the best would have to be "Apocalyptic Warriors," "The Day of Massacra," and "Researchers of Tortures." So, if you have not yet experienced the brilliance of France's finest, Massacra, then you need to remedy that ASAP. After you have listened to this, it will eventually become a constant staple of your regular listening, and eventually will be talked about with albums such as "The Awakening" or "Dreaming With the Dead."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Destruction - A Savage Symphony Review - "Savage Indeed"

Over the years, Destruction has become a household name amongst thrashers everywhere. You can't be a true metalhead without owning one of their releases and they must be seen live. Destruction's DVD "A Savage Symphony," is a great concert experience for those that have not or can't go to one of their shows. Now they can witness it over and over again. It is also a great way for newcomers to the band to learn the entire history of these German legends.

The concert features their Wacken 2007 performance in honor of the band's 25th anniversary, complete with pyro, a great set list and multiple appearances from Destruction's infamous mascot "The Mad Butcher." Favorites such as "Curse the Gods," "Nailed to the Cross," "Reject Emotions," and "Total Desaster," are played flawlessly by Schmier and company, guaranteed to pull you out of your seat and start headbanging. 

A great moment in the show is the appearance of every former Destruction member over the years coming onstage for a performance. It showcases the band as compassionate people who can let bygones be bygones for the sake of the fans and the music. This includes a drum jam and several drummer's going at once during "Thrash Till Death."

Another spectacular display of showmanship is during "The Alliance of Hellhoundz" song. Destruction gathers nearly every person who made an appearance on the track when it was recorded. It not only displays the kind of people Destruction are, but who everyone else is and how much the festival and music matters.

As if the show itself wasn't enough of a reason to go out and buy this DVD, there is a documentary on the history of the band included with this release as well. Highlights include the origins of Destruction, reasons for the departure of Schmier, the Neo-Destruction era, Schmier's comeback and many, many more moments of greatness.

Bonus features include several music videos, a short clip of highlights from their US tour in 2009 entitled "Nailed to the Road" and the collection of arguably the biggest Destruction fan ever known as "Fans Till Death."

This DVD is a great showcase of Destruction's love for their fans as well as their incredible performance abilities. This is the perfect way to thank everyone for keeping the Teutonic Thrash Titans active for all these years. A great show, a great documentary that chronicles the history of the band, and a good amount of bonus features is more than enough reasons to pick up this great release.

Written by Chris Butera

Under the Spell and Loving It

Heavy Artillery's Spellcaster is a band that pulls no punches and plays their music like it's 1986 all over again, showing complete disregard for the modern metal sound by dishing out ripping riffs reminiscent of Metallica on "Kill Em All." If you're looking for innovation in your metal, then you need to steer clear of this album. You won't find it. These guys show no intentions of changing the classic '80s metal sound; they know how to play it so well. The matter of being generic or unoriginal isn't the problem. So if you're looking for some '80s heavy metal worship done right, you need to stick around. "Under the Spell" will definitely fulfill your needs and then some.

Everything here is a blast from the past. The vocals resemble Paul Dianno on "Killers," but also have the range of Rob Halford on "Painkiller." The melodies and harmonies also sound familiar to those that KK Downing and Glenn Tipton magically produced on every album. The riffs tend to take their sound from the '80s bay area thrash bands like Exodus and Testament.

Spellcaster's true strength though, lies within their ability to absorb all of their influences and execute a great mix of them. Tracks such as "Power Rising" feature the thrashy riffs, the beautiful harmonies and melodies and the soaring vocals, making for a fantastic song. Spellcaster also shows off their ability to write a terrific instrumental track with the song "Spellbound," which features clean and acoustic guitar playing, that transition perfectly into the melodies that recall Judas Priest on "The Hellion."

Despite those positives, "Under the Spell" isn't a perfect album and has its flaws. The biggest flaw is found on some of the riffs. Some of the riffs sound recycled or just lack inspiration whatsoever. The main riff of "Molten Steel" sounds extremely similar to Metallica's "Trapped Under Ice" as well as Helloween's "Ride the Sky." "Nite of the Hell Beast" is another bland and definitely skip-able track due to its simple and mediocre riffs that just about any garage band could have written. Had these tracks been better or not on the album at all, this record could have went from great to brilliant.

Spellcaster have shown some true potential on this album and if they continue to progress at this rate, they have a bright future ahead of them. The best racks to be found on this album are "Power Rising" and "Sands of Fear." Both of these tracks showcase Spellcaster's best offerings. Melodies, riffs and catchy vocals. 

Spellcaster is on the verge of something great, so the best advice would be to keep your eyes on them. They might just cast a spell on you, permanently. 

Final Rating - 4.1/5 or 82%.

Check out Spellcaster on Facebook and like their page!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Flames of the End - And a New Beginning

In 1996, legendary Gothenburg death metal act, At the Gates split up with no warning. In 2008 they reformed and got the farewell they deserved. Since then they reunited for sporadic appearances. They are still one of the best bands in the history of metal. The "Flames of the End" DVD is a fantastic celebration of their legacy.

The "Flames of the End" DVD is an amazing box set commemorating the rise, fall and return of one of the most celebrated bands in the history of the genre. They helped pioneer the infamous "Gothenburg" sound so many bands are after. The three disc box set features the complete history of At the Gates, their return performance at Wacken 2008 and live material thorughout the years, complete with footage from the 2008 world tour and all of the music videos the band released. There is nothing short of perfection on this set. The live performance is one for the ages, as favorites such as "Nausea," "Slaughter of the Soul," "Blinded By Fear," and "Kingdom Gone" are executed with absolute synchronicity. For a band that broke up 12 years before the concert took place, they seem like they had remained active. This is At the Gates at their finest. This is their golden ticket. The absolute best performance they have ever given in their entire career.

The history of At the Gates is a remarkable documentary. You can see the pain and joy that the band experienced over the years and which phases of their career really stood out to them. It doesn't just speak for the music, but it seems like the music is another person in the room as well. This chronicles everything from the "Gardens of Grief" demo to their infamous breakup in 1996. This has everything.

The "Flames of the End" box set is a kick ass package that gives the ultimate At the Gates fan everything they could have ever wanted to know about this group. It is as accurate as having Thomas Lindburg in your room telling you the story of the history of his band. It shows the fan the true hardships of being in a touring band so far away from home. Gallons of blood, sweat, and tears went into the making of this DVD. It's a wonderful way of At the Gates telling their fans "Thank you" from the bottom of their hearts. In short, there is no reason not to own this piece of metal history.

Written by Chris Butera

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Excruciator is Devouring the Competion

In the year 2011, it almost seems like there are more new thrash bands than there are people. Some are lucky enough to make it, while the majority flounder in obscurity. Excruciator is a band that should be spoken of in the same breath as bands like Warbringer, Evile, Toxic Holocaust, and Municipal Waste, but they are not. Does Excruciator have the most unique sound of the bunch? No, not really. Do they play some intense and extremely catchy music? You bet your ass they do, and they do it better than most.

The music on "Devouring" is very tight and concise. The riffs mesh well with the rhythm section, as Chris Birkle vocals pulverize the listener. Birkle sounds like a great mix of Darren Travis (Sadus) and Zetro of Exodus fame. His vocals are a definite highlight on "Devouring." They command the music with an insanely high level of viciousness that can be felt with every word uttered, but they also up the intensity all around, making for a very pleasing overall sound.

The riffs here are just as impressive as the vocal performance. They range from fast thrashers that remind the listener of Dark Angel on "Darkness Descends," to more technical riffs similar to Sadus. "Eviscerator" has the catchiest riffs of any song on the album, and is guaranteed to get your adrenaline flowing. For the most part, the riffs tend to follow the more technical pattern on this track, until that chorus kicks in, then Excruciator take  off while your head begins to bang uncontrollably. 

There weren't many flaws on the album that held it back, but there is definitely some room for improvement. When playing the style of thrash that Excruciator plays today, it's difficult to avoid using a riff that seems unispired or bland, and this occurs on a couple of occasions, but it's nothing serious enough to avoid this album.

Excruciator managed to deliver an exciting and fun thrash release with "Devouring," and their fanbase continues to grow as they anxiously await a follow up to this beast. The best tracks to be found here are "Disciples of Mencace," "Hunter Killer," and the absolute best track "Eviscerator." If Excuciator's next offering is able to surpass this album, they they just may devour their competition completely.

Be sure to check out Excruciator on Facebook and like their page!

Final Rating - 4.25/5 or 85%.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Interview with Christopher "Atomic Thrasher" of Insinnerator!

For the latest interview here on Skull Fracturing Metal, I was lucky enough to talk with Christopher "Atomic Thrasher" of the mighty Insinnerator! If you've kept up with the blog, you'll know that I am a huge fan of Insinnerator's debut album, "Stalagmite of Ice." Enough of the small talk, here's the interview, enjoy! 

SFM - Your debut album, "Stalagmite of Ice," has been out for a while now. How has the reception to it been so far?

Christopher - Honestly, it's been better than I ever could have imagined! I was nervous in releasing the album. Not in the sense that I didn't think the songs were good, just that I wanted people to enjoy it. And I am pleasantly surprised with how well it has been received! I haven't seen a bad review of it yet, which makes us very happy! Thanks to all who have given us kind words, and who have supported us and "Stalagmite of Ice."

SFM - The album is definitely deserving of all the praise it's received, it's great! Now, looking back at the album, are there any changes that you would make to it?

Christopher - Minute things. I sometimes hear where I could have put another whammy bar thing, or I have a new idea for a solo, but that's only natural. Juan Speed's drumming was perfect on the album and I loved "Brutal" Ben's playing. The songs and riffs, I think, flow very well. It really is just small things that I notice.

SFM - What are some common praises/criticisms of the album?

Christopher - The best praises that we've seen from the album is that our playing is very fast, tight, and precise. That's the main thing I wanted. I wanted us to not only have some great speed, but to be able to keep it tight. I think we achieved that with "Stalagmite of Ice." The criticisms we've faced are primarily with the vocals. It seems like we are similar to Vio-lence: either you love the vocals, or hate them. But honestly, if that's the only complaint, I think we can live with that. We have a lot to be happy about with this album, and we need to learn from the criticisms rather than dwell on them.

SFM - I'm glad that you're taking the criticisms well. You recently toured with fellow Texan thrashers, Terrorist, over on the east coast. how was that tour? Do you have any more 2011 tour plans? 

Christopher - The tour was great! Being able to tour with terrorist, it just felt right. I was always telling Juan "Speed," if there's any band I want to tour with, I want it to be with Terrorist. And to have the opportunity was a dream come true. Terrorist are the most down to Earth guys in the world, and getting to see them and hang with them every day was a treat. The tour had some ups and downs, but I ry my hardest to forget the rougher times and just see the good in it. I mean, we got to play Canada with Lich King, Razormaze, and Skull Hammer! How many bands can say that, let alone one all the way from Texas! The best thing about touring is playing music, and to do that almost every day for 3 weeks in front of new faces, I just can't describe that feeling as a musician. As for new tour plans, we do have something in the works, but it's in the EARLY, EARLY stages. Our sights are on the West, and we're hoping that not only Terrorist, but maybe another band from L.A. can join us as well.

SFM - I can't wait for you guys to hit Los Angeles! I've been following your posts on Facebook, and you have said that you have already got some riffs and songs worked out for Insinnerator album #2. Are there any major differences between these and the ones on "Stalagmite of Ice?"

Christopher - The second album is becoming even more intense than "Stalagmite of Ice!" These songs are hitting hard! Really fast, and really intense. Juan "Speed" and I have a really tight partnership when it comes to writing music. He really is my partner in thrash crime. We have two styles that work really well, even though they are a bit different. "Brutal" Ben contributes, but it was more towards structuring, like on "Children of the Cult" and "Face the Insinnerator." This time, he's contributed two songs. I think the main differences between "Stalagmite of Ice" and the second album is that there are two planned instrumentals. One Ben wrote, and one that I'm writing. Ben's is more typical of a thrash metal album, whereas mine is a bit... different. Mine is more of a set up to another song, but I'm hoping it works well! There are some interesting aspect of melody, but that was also on "Stalagmite of Ice." Trust me though, it's not like "The Devil You Know" by Anthrax. We WILL never do that!! They are more for effect, like the end of "Stalagmite of Ice" and the beginning of "Nightmare Theatre."

SFM - I recently found out that the lyrics to "Evil Spirit from Beyond" are about the video game "Zelda." How did you decide to write about that game, and do you have any other lyrics to songs about video games?

Christopher - I love "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time." Every time I play that game, the scenery, the mysticism, it all strikes me so hard. So I was playing through it, and when I got to the Forest Temple, I was really struck for the first time about how powerful Phantom Ganon is. The image of him on the horse, hurling magic, and further creating clones of himself is just awesome. And the title of "Evil Spirit of Beyond" just had to be used. It's so powerful. While the lyrics are not about a video game, "Stalagmite of Ice" was inspired by a fatality that Sub-Zero used in Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Luckily, ice has become our thing, and it's taken on a life of it's own. For the second album, SO many of the lyrics that I'm taking care of have to do with video games, by both ways listed above. I think some people will be happy when they read the lyrics!

SFM - That's awesome, because I too, love "Ocarina of Time." Now, what kind of gear do you use?

Christopher - I personally use Jackson and Charvel guitars! The Charvel that I use as my back up guitar was purchased directly from Alex Skolnick, my biggest influence and idol. I use a B-52 AT 212 tube amp. I don't have many pedals, except a Digitech Whammy pedal, which I only use for the chorus settings on solos and clean tones.

SFM -  Are you a fan of any newer bands out today? if so which would they be?

Christopher - I love the NWOTM. I think I can speak for all of Insinnerator when I say there are so many new bands that we love. Lich King, Razormaze, Fueled By Fire, Merciless Death, skull Hammer, Amoricide, Terrorist, Hexlust, Bludvera, Witchaven, Exmortus, Vektor, Hatchet, Execution, Sakrificer, Head on Collision, Fatal, Vindicator, Fatality, Violentada, Bacalou, Testimony, Savagery, Descendent, Quarantine, Acid Speech, Dismantle, Warbringer, Toxic Holocaust, Manic Repressive, Bonded By Blood, I mean, the list goes on! I'm so happy that this music is doing really well right now. It seems L.A. has slowed down a little, but a lot of other places are beginning to pick up! I'm proud that we are all a part of this, and are watching it as it happens!

SFM - What is your favorite Insinnerator song to play live?

Christopher - I love playing so many of them, but some of my favorites are "Stalagmite of Ice," "Rites of Execution," and "Face the Insinnerator." The middle part of "Face the Insinnerator" can create a BAD ASS pit, so it's always fun to see people going crazy and thrashing out to that part!

SFM - Well Chris, thank you for your time, and last but not least, do you have any words for your fans?

Christopher - Thank you all for the support you have given Insinnerator. It means the world to us, and we have the best fans ever! I promise you, all of you, we will never stop playing thrash metal. Ever. It's what we love to do, and what we want to deliver to you! You all are the best. Thanks for this interview, man! Keep Thrashing!

Be sure to check out Insinnerator on Facebook!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Orgy of Destruction Weekly Series #2 - Devastation - Idolatry

When people think of thrash from Texas, the most common names that get mentioned are bands like Rigor Mortis or Gammacide. When people think of death/thrash, they usually think of bands like Ripping Corpse or Possessed. Devastation is a band that should be one of the first thought of when discussing either the Texas scene or the death/thrash subgenre, yet they're left out for the most part, which is a shame. It's also the reason that "Idolatry" is the featured album in the 2nd edition of the weekly, Orgy of Destruction series.

"Idolatry" is an absolute monster of an album, yet it remains unknown to many. Why? There isn't an exact reason, but it's most likely because of when it came out. "Idolatry" came out in 1991, and as many of you know, the '90s weren't so generous to the thrash scene. Many bands started to completely change their styles to keep up with the times, by playing groove or going for a more radio friendly sound (a la Metallica).

Devastation managed to conjure up a fairly unique sound, separating them from many other death/thrash bands at the time. The vocals didn't sound like they should be fronting a death metal band like most death/thrash bands, but more along the lines of an '80s thrash band. The true death/thrash sound comes from the riffs and the overall atmosphere of the album. You could feel the intensity and anger that cling to these riffs as each one strikes the listener like a bolt of lightning. These riffs aren't all one-dimensional either. There are riffs that are so fast, they almost have an impression of being shot out of a cannon from only a foot away, while there are others that are crushing and heavy, like a jackhammer smashing bricks into dust. 

Along with the riffs are the melodies that are found on a few of the tracks, that send shivers down the listener's spine with their sinister feel. "Forsaken Hatred" and "Legacy of Faith" both have the ripping fast riffs, the brutal mid-paced riffs and the melodies. It should come as no surprise that these are also two of the best tracks on the record.

The structuring and placement of the different musical pieces is also an essential part of the overall Devastation sound. Some of the riffs seem even faster, because they are cleverly placed right after a slow melody or a heavier mid-paced riff. "Deliver the Suffering" starts with a minute of a piano and some synth effects, but then that riff comes in, and it sends your neck into a thrashing frenzy like no other. Devastation also manages to utilize acoustic guitars to create an eerie aura at times. The title track starts off with an acoustic guitar that sets the chilling tone, only to be sent into another evil riff.

"Idolatry" is a perfect example that there was still quality thrash in the early '90s (though it could never hope to top Epidemic of Violence). The best tracks to be found here are definitely "Forsaken Hatred" and "Legacy of Faith" due to their perfect blend of brutality, technicality and most importantly, the catchiness.

So the next time you're making a list of your favorite death/thrash albums you might want to put this record in there, because it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as albums like "The Awakening" and "A Shedding of Skin." And the next time you're talking about thrash from Texas, don't forget to mention this album, because it's the best thrash album that state has ever produced. "Idolatry" is the true definition of a hidden gem.

Signs of the Jackal and a Future

Here is the newest review done by Skull Fracturing Metal's newest contributing writer, Chris Butera. The band is Sign of the Jackal, and the EP is entitled The Beyond. Be sure to check these guys out on Facebook!

In recent years, another trend in metal is slowly rising- the revival of traditional Heavy Metal. Bands from all over the world are popping up with that old school sound, combined with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Sign of the Jackal is one of these bands that has influences of Saxon, 70's Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Helloween and a little bit of Accept thrown in for good measure. They recently released their EP "The Beyond" via Heavy Artillery records and it is turning some heads.

The EP features five sweet tracks that take you back to the early days of metal when it was first spreading its demonic wings. Kicking off with the anthem "Hellhounds," the Italian stallions have you throwing up the horns from the get-go. The solo section is very bright and full of great harmony and a thumping rhythm section. Laura's vocals are very strong, making this a great opener.

The next song "Head Over Heels," sounds like an early Judas Priest song. You can picture Rob Halford grooving along to this in his bunny slippers on a rainy day.

"Heavy Metal Demons" is another speedy number that pulls you back in time again. A great vocal presence again and more impressive guitar work. The drums have great timing and will keep you fixated on banging your head to the beat. The bass playing is also very tight with the drums and thumps along quite nicely in this tune.

"Paganini Horror" is just that as it is a rockin' tune that makes good use of the famous scale. A chilling intro that puts you into the makings of a cool tune that reminds metal heads of Iron Maiden's "Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter."

The EP closes with "Night of the Undead." Another great song with a fantastic Judas Priest touch. Laura's vocals deliver hard and heavy once again with a dab of Lita Ford being shown here. This one has a great chorus that everyone can sing along to. Destined to be a live classic.

Sign of the Jackal is an excellent new band from Italy that is worth checking out. Their roots are planted firmly in Heavy Metal and if they continue to deliver there's no telling where they can go. Sign of the Jackal shows great promise and can really make waves if they set their sights on it.

Be sure to check out Sign of the Jackal on Facebook!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

White Wizzard Soars Over the Top with Flying Tigers

White Wizzard have returned and they do so in grand style with their newest release, "Flying Tigers." If you have been a fan of any of White Wizzard's previous material, then it's almost guaranteed that you will fully enjoy this new record. The first half of this beast has the classic sound that was established on "Over the Top," while the second half takes the band to new heights. The musicianship has improved tenfold, but all of the catchiness remains intact and makes this record a must-listen.

This album has just about everything you could want in a heavy metal album in 2011. It has the metal anthems that every White Wizzard fan is familiar with, but is also filled with more progressive elements and epic arrangements. Songs like "Fight to the Death" and "Night Train to Tokyo" are damn-near impossible to sing along with, due to Wyatt Anderson's great vocal performance along with the ear-friendly melodies that seem to endlessly pour out of the guitars. The album's first single "Starchild" shows off the band's ability to write a brilliant ballad while the title track oozes of Iron Maiden influence as it gallops ahead.

However, the true strength of this album comes from the six-song concept that closes the album. Jon Leon shows off some fantastic musical ability with these songs, whether it was because of the catchy, yet technical riffs that resemble Coroner at their best, or just the all around epic aura that's produced by the lengthy and fluid arrangements of the songs. The tracks "Fall of Atlantis" and "War of the Worlds" showcase some of White Wizzard's best riffs and melodies to date. The main riff in "Fall of Atlantis" will definitely get your headbanging and almost resembles Megadeth on "Rust in Peace." "Dark Alien Overture" is the product of great musicianship, as every instrument here delivers for this terrific instrumental, featuring almost jazz-like bass lines that work beautifully with the lead guitar. "Demons and Diamonds," which clocks in at just a little over nine minutes, takes the listener on a journey full of twists and turn that leaves them wanting more.

Overall, this album is a huge step-up from White Wizzard's previous work and is more than capable of silencing their critics. For those who loved "Over the Top," due to its old school heavy metal worshipping, they are sure to enjoy this record. For those that criticized White Wizzard for being too "cheesy" or "generic," well you're going to have an extremely difficult time trying to make that argument after hearing this album.

White Wizzard has completely stepped up their game with "Flying Tigers" and deliver an album that destroys any competition they may have had. The experimentation that was done on this album was surprising to say the least, but it worked out perfectly and have given them their own sound. Many people have criticized them as some cheap Iron Maiden knockoff.

That's just not possible anymore.

This is a must buy record and is easily a contender for one of the best metal albums of 2011.

Final Rating - 4.5/5 or 90%
White Wizzard Facebook -