Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ketzer - Endzeit Metropolis

Germany is known for having arguably the greatest thrash scene in the world, but as far as the new wave is concerned I haven't come across many bands that have made much of a name for themselves whether it be a huge name similar to Warbringer or Toxic Holocaust, or even a respectable underground following like Antichrist or Insinnerator, but there are a couple and both are top notch black/thrash acts. Those bands are Cruel Force and Ketzer. Ketzer's first offering "Satan's Boundaries Unchained" was an injection of absolute black/thrashing madness that would have made their fellow countrymen and forefathers in Desaster proud, with incredibly catchy songs full of raging riffs and an all around awesome feel. If you were expecting the same unchained (no pun intended) assault on the band's sophomore full-length "Endzeit Metropolis," then you might be a little surprised at first listen of this record. 

Ketzer didn't completely change their sound, but there is definitely an evolution of sorts on this album. While the previous material from these guys is more influenced by bands like Desaster, Destroyer 666 and early Kreator, the music on "Endzeit Metropolis" has a clear Watain and Dissection influence due to the added melody and the resulting aura that's created. Ketzer doesn't waste anytime introducing their "matured" sound either, as the first riff on the first song (the title track) is a melodic-laced one (similar to the riff in "My Triumph" only a bit more melodic), but it's quite good and once Infernal Destroyer's vocals come in everything sounds great. Just in case some fans might be turned off by the first song, the next "A Requiem For Beauty" is devastating and is probably the best song I've heard all year of any genre. The intro riff is brilliant and instantly reminds the listener of the band's earlier material. The riffs later are also fantastic and the break of the song is just as amazing, thanks in part to the awesome drum fill that backs the riffs. 

The rest of the songs after the first two don't really stray away from the sound that was set by the beginning tracks, but they manage to stand out. "The Fever's Tide" and "Aesthetics and Ecstasy" both contain some crushing midpaced moments that surpass some that were found on "Satan's Boundaries Unchained," while "Collector of Worlds" and "Redeemed by Truth" both have plenty of tremolo sections and a decent amount of melody intertwined throughout. The instrumental "Farewell, Fade Away" has a very melancholic vibe at first but ends with some great soloing and shows off Ketzer's ability as musicians and the ending epic "He, Who Stands Behind the Rows" reiterates the band's skills. At the end of the day, "Endzeit Metropolis" isn't as intense as its predecessor, but what it lacks in unbridled aggression it makes up for in memorable songs that any Ketzer fan should enjoy. 

Be sure to check out and like Ketzer on Facebook!

"Endzeit Metropolis"
"A Requiem for Beauty"
"The Fever's Tide"

Final Rating
4.25/5 or 85%. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Warfare - Um' Mäarak

This album and the band as a whole are the reason why I despise a majority of modern metal. Terrible bands that use the same annoying breakdowns with the same awful "bree-bree" vocals need to all go die, so that bands like Mexico's Warfare can be heard. With "Um' Mäarak" being the band's debut record and not having heard of these guys at all before, I was not prepared for the black thrashing onslaught that was about to occur, but once the album had finished I was completely pleased with the results.

Firstly let's put things into perspective about the sound of Warfare because they're not like your typical black/thrash band. Yes, they have the awesome vocal stylings (although they border on punk at times) and they also have the riffs, but there's much more to these guys than just that. If you took Sadus on "Illusions" and threw a massive black/thrash influence into that record, you would get "Um' Mäarak." That intensity that Sadus had is present here, but so is that technical prowess as some of the riffs could have been written by Darren Travis himself. The Sadus-esque riffs that start off tracks like "Forgotten Cenotaph" and "Inhuman Annihilation" are truly amazing when mixed with the black/thrash brutality later on and make for some memorable moments as the vocalist devastates listeners. In between the fast tech-tinged riffs are your typical raging thrash riffs that these bands have been using for years, with very little slowing down and extremely fast-paced drumming with the occasional blasts. 

Even the two instrumental tracks "Warriors From Hell" and "Meng Amok" feature better riffs and music than a lot of thrash acts these days do. There really isn't much more to say about Warfare and their awesome spin on the subgenre, other than they sound like they had been caged for a couple of years and have now been unleashed to wreak havoc. At this point I don't even care if the new Aura Noir or Desaster albums suck, because I could easily just listen to "Um' Mäarak" to fill that void. 

"Hate Machine"
"Forgotten Cenotaph"
"Inhuman Annihilation"

Final Rating
4.5/5 or 90%. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Deathhammer - Onward to the Pits

Once again, Norway has delivered onto us a stellar thrash album and if they keep it up there might be more drunkards hanging around emptying their alcohol filled bladders on churches rather than burning them. This duo of hellbastards really know how to make some top notch music that doesn't sound or come off as a complete, generic ripoff of the gods (I'm looking at a lot of you retrofrashers) but as a semi-serious band with the intent to crush your neck with their crazy brand of Bathory-worshiping thrash while dragging you to the very pits of hell, kicking and screaming. 

"Onward to the Pits" gets right into the frenzied assault with the track "Deathrashing Sacrifice," which hits like a sledgehammer with its fast and concise riffing, as well as the heavier riffs thrown in for good measure. The best thing about this record is definitely Deathhammer's ability to mix things up a bit and bring some variety to the table (something that most bands of this sound don't really do). While the first track is a complete thrashing massacre, the next song "Voodoo Rites" is absolute Venom worship, and sounds like something that fellow Hell's Headbangers labelmates, Midnight would come up with. Songs like "Fullmoon Sorcery" and "To the Evil" feature some catchy riffs more of the speed metal type, but with Sergeant Salsten's devilish vocals at the front, there is plenty of heaviness to go around and plenty of neck-snapping as well. 

To compliment the more speed metal type material perfectly, Deathhammer also channels their inner Kerry King and conjure up some wicked riffing that could haunt the dead. The intro to "Final Black Mass" is extremely catchy, and pretty much every riff after maintains the high quality for one of the best thrash tracks I've heard in a long time. "Seduced By the Flames" is one of the longer tracks, clocking in at six minutes, but there isn't a boring moment as the song has plenty of change in dynamics to hold the listener's attention and some brilliant solos to top everything off. Apparently these guys also held a seance and contacted Quorthon for some inspiration as well, because the song "Emperor of Sin" contains that same evil vibe that Bathory created in their music, while also retaining an undeniable thrashing energy that made you want to break everything in sight. 

"Onward to the Pits" is already a strong contender to be one of the best thrash albums of the year along with fellow countrymen Nekromantheon's latest release. The amazing combination of speed, heaviness and evil that is found throughout this record is something that a lot of [thrash] bands should be tapping into more, but it's probably better left to the guys in Deathhammer. If you're a fan of Nekromantheon, Ketzer, Antichrist or Midnight, then these guys should be a top priority for you. 

Be sure to check out and like Deathhammer on Facebook!

"Voodoo Rites"
"Emperor of Sin"
"Final Black Mass"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Cannibal Corpse - Torture

"Torture" marks Cannibal Corpse’s 12th album of relentless, pounding death metal. It is also their third album with the same lineup and the third album with Hate Eternal mastermind, Erik Rutan, handling the production. In fact, before I can get to the songs, I have to mention how great this record sounds. This is easily the best production I’ve heard on any death metal record. Every instrument is clear, and I don’t think Alex Webster’s bass has ever sounded so good. The bass drums are thunderous, and the snare doesn’t overpower the rest of the band. As much as I love the work Scott Burns has done for this band, I think Erik Rutan is the better choice.

The easiest way to describe this album is that it’s a cross between the last two albums and Vile: heavy, punishing, and extremely technical. There really aren’t any major differences between the last few albums except for the increased technicality. This is most obvious in one of my favorite tracks, “The Strangulation Chair”. The first half of the song plays out like a normal Cannibal Corpse song, until Alex Webster decides to unleash one of the mightiest bass interludes in existence. After this, you can hear him noodling around for the rest of the track. Another standout is “Scourge of Iron”, which is reminiscent of Gallery of Suicide: slow and crushing, except with good production this time. “As Deep As The Knife Will Go” might just be Cannibal Corpse’s catchiest song ever and is one track I expect to be in their live set for a long time to come. Likewise, “Intestinal Crank” has an awesome chorus and is another track that shouldn’t be overlooked. The rest of the tracks range from amazing (“Rabid, “Demented Aggression”, and “Encased in Concrete”) to enjoyable but not mindblowing. This band really can’t write a bad song, and this album is yet another testament to that fact.

As you might expect with a Cannibal record, every musician does a great job. Corpsegrinder sounds as brutal as ever, although he doesn’t seem to do as many high screams as he used to. Both guitarists do a great job with handling the ridiculous galloping rhythms (see: “Rabid”) and relentless tremolo picking. I was a little let down by the lead playing because it seems a little predictable, but it doesn't really hurt the album. Alex Webster’s greatness doesn’t need to be re-iterated, but I’ll say it again anyways: he is a god, especially on this album. As for drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz, I’ve always enjoyed his drumming, and this album isn’t an exception. There isn’t a ton of blasting, but there’s an endless amount of double bass, and certainly more fills than in the past.

Ultimately, Cannibal Corpse has delivered another album worthy of purchasing. The band seems to be on a pretty good streak of albums, and "Torture" is the best of the last three. It is a bit more distinct because of its technicality, but it is another solid record.

Be sure to check out and like Cannibal Corpse on Facebook!

“As Deep As The Knife Will Go”
“The Strangulation Chair”

Final Rating:
4.6/5 or 92%

Written by Scott

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Asphyx - Deathhammer

After Autopsy delivered an awesome album last year, I had high hopes for Asphyx's "Deathhammer," simply because these guys are one of my favorite death metal bands and if Autopsy could do it, why not The Netherlands' best death metal act? Well, I may have made the mistake of having such high expectations for this record. This isn't a bad record, not at all, but I may have set the bar too high and set myself up for disappointment, as this wasn't as brilliant as I hoped it would be. 

Soundwise, "Deathhammer" sounds like you would expect Asphyx to sound. The same doom-laden and heavy assault from past records like "The Rack" and "Last One On Earth," only with 2012 production, and less substance as well. This album kicks off with the track "Into the Timewastes" and it gets right into it with the intense riffage and Van Drunen's instantly identifiable voice (which is still as amazing as it ever was) and with this song it almost seems like Asphyx were trying to do what they did on their debut album with the song "Vermin," as there isn't any fancy intro, it just gets straight into the goods. The title track and "Vespa Crobro" are similar to the opening song, as they don't even try to stray away from the heavy assault, there's just a mix of some nice death metal tremolo passages and catchy midpaced riffs. 

You won't have to wait long to hear that doomy sound that Asphyx is known for though, as the third track "Minefield" opens with a riff that is sure to give you a good nostalgia kick and reminds one of songs like "The Rack" and "Asphyx (Forgotten War)." The song "Der Landser" is also really doomy, but a bit more eerie sounding than the aforementioned "Minefield." The final colossus on "Deathhammer," "As the Magma Mammoth Rises" is downright amazing, as it opens with the shriek of the whammy bar before smoothly transitioning into some stellar riffs that just slither along. The song eventually builds up as it moves along and conveys the title perfectly, with the conclusion coming after Asphyx ventures into familiar territory with the heavy powerchords being backed by Bob Bagchus fast-paced drumming (think "Pages in Blood").

Aside from the two mediocre tracks "Reign of the Brute" and "We Doom You to Death" (Gotta love that play on words), "Deathhammer" is a very solid record that all Asphyx fans should enjoy thoroughly. It may not live up to the masterpiece that is "Last One On Earth," but this is a fine addition to the highly impressive resume of the band, and should have no problem showing these young guns how to make proper death metal in 2012. 

Be sure to check out and like Asphyx on Facebook!

"Into the Timewastes"
"Der Landser"
"As the Magma Mammoth Rises"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Prodigal Sons - On Our Last Day

Well, they're no Blasphemophagher, but Italy's Prodigal Sons is quite good in their own right, delivering their rendition of heavy metal in 2012. I wouldn't go as far as to say that "On Our Last Day" is the most amazing heavy metal album ever, or even  as far as it's in the top 10 new heavy metal albums but it is still worth lending your ear to if you dig some good ol' traditional metal that is laced with melody and riddled with riffs that completely worship Judas Priest.

A vast majority of the riffs on this record are pretty catchy in a similar way to ones on a lot of Judas Priest records are. They're somewhat melodic while retaining a slight heaviness even when the guitars are harmonizing. The track "V" would definitely be the best example of this, and Gabriele Tura's soaring vocals also add a very nice touch to the riffs. His vocals are extremely clean and don't really possess any kind of roughness or aggression at all (except on "The Sacred Land," where his vocals resemble those of J.D. Kimball a bit) sounding like a cross between Hansi Kursch and to some extent, Kai Hansen, although with less range. 

There is also a lot of melodies to be found throughout "On Our Last Day," and for the most part they suit the music well and don't sound out of place. The melodies that start off the tracks "Let Us Speak" and "Deception From Heaven" both really serve no purpose other than to start the song but they return later on in the tracks and add a nice backdrop for the vocals in the catchy choruses. The melody that comes in after the clean intro on "I Dream of Hope" is an awesome ear-catcher and sounds like it could have found a nice home on Iron Maiden's more progressive material. 

Aside from the title track(I found that to be terrible, keep your pianos out of my metal!), Prodigal Sons managed to deliver a solid debut full-length that should please fans of bands like Judas Priest, Blind Guardian and other Euro-power metal bands. There is definitely a lot of potential here and I'm hoping that Prodigal Sons can conjure up an even better record the next time around. 

Be sure to check out and like Prodigal Sons on Facebook!

"Let Us Speak"
"Deception From Heaven"
"I Dream of Hope"

Final Rating
4/5 or 80%. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Manic Scum - Better Left Undead [EP]

What is it with Grind bands and putting rotting skulls on the covers for their releases? Along with the nice ode to Repulsion, the music on Manic Scum's newest EP "Better Left Undead" also follows suit as there is definitely some Repulsion worshiping going on here, but also some clear Impetigo, Brutal Truth and Napalm Death influences thrown in for good measure. 

With seven tracks that add up to just a little over 11 minutes, there really isn't much to say about this EP. Every track is extremely ferocious and possesses that uncontrollable frenzy of energy that drives the listener batshit crazy, with some catchy midpaced riffs that are pushed to the extreme with unrelenting blast beats, the occasional death metal styled tremolo bursts and the low end vocals that top everything off. Well, the last track "Entombed for Eternity" does have some kind of melodic riff going on at the beginning that sets up the bleak atmosphere for the rest of the track, but all in all every song here fits the same mold and doesn't try to portray Manic Scum as some super original group of hipsters trying their hand at making Grindcore. Any fan of the aforementioned bands will definitely welcome "Better Left Undead" into their music collection, and personally I can't wait to hear more material from these guys. 

Be sure to check out and like Manic Scum on Facebook!

"Undead Rising"
"Entombed for Eternity"

Final Rating
4.2/5 or 84%. 

Black Breath - Sentenced to Life

Despite the rather unimpressive artwork (though that is a pretty bitchin' new logo they've got), Black Breath's sophomore effort "Sentenced to Life" is nothing short of what fans of the band should expect. Extremely hard-hitting riffs, intense vocals, crazy solos and the high chance of some violence ensuing. While this isn't much of a departure from the sound that this band has created, especially on their debut record "Heavy Breathing," it wouldn't be much of a stretch to say that Black Breath has added an extra dose of metal influence into this full-length.

The same unrelenting energy from Black Breath's previous material can be found throughout "Sentenced to Life," and I probably would be pretty accurate in saying that this record is more aggressive and angry than anything this band has produced before. The riffs are simple, yet they're played in a way that makes them memorable and highly convincing that these guys are the real deal, similar to Joel Grind and every project that he touches. There is absolutely nothing mindblowing about the intro riff to the track "Home of the Grave," but it doesn't matter because the listener will be too busy giving himself a concussion from the inevitable headbanging that is sure to occur. The title track is another song that really excels at keeping things simple, but incredibly catchy with a great mix of death metal tremolo sections and crusty riffs abound. 

These metalpunk bastards hardly tweaked their sound here, but the more emphasis on the metal influence is definitely noticeable. The intro to "Endless Corpse" creates a highly eerie atmosphere with the use of melodies and other instruments before turning into an assault of high octane death/crust goodness. The track "Mother Abyss" is a complete onslaught of the senses  as it decimates everything in its path with some very thrashy riffs and some others that absolutely reek of Repulsion on "Horrified," which is always a great thing. The dark melodies found on "Sentenced to Life" aren't really new to the band per say, but they're found in more abundance. The melodies on "The Flame" and "Obey" are a great addition to the music as they give the music a much darker feel once again and play up that metal influence.

Even with the extra emphasis on the metal aspect of this record, I wouldn't say that these guys are closer to death metal than crust, like Bastard Priest, but there is no question that Black Breath is some top-notch death/crust. To put things simply, if you are a fan of any of the band's previous material then "Sentenced to Life" will instantly become a mainstay in your collection. If you haven't had the pleasure of listening to Black Breath yet, but you like any of the bands that I name-dropped earlier on then you had best be buying this record once it comes out. 

Be sure to check out and like Black Breath on Facebook!

"Sentenced to Life"
"Home of the Grave"
"Mother Abyss"

Final Rating
4.5/5 or 90%.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Funeral Whore - Step Into Damnation

The Netherlands is no stranger to great metal acts, as some of the most respected names in the genre hail from there. Asphyx and Pestilence are probably the most notable ones along with underrated metal masters like Pyathrosis and Dead Head, but what about Funeral Whore? Do they follow in the same footsteps as those who preceded them? They definitely do and after listening to their debut record "Step into Damnation," I would definitely say they're well on their way to joining the ranks of fellow new (well, newer) death metal bastards in Hail of Bullets. 

There isn't really a specific subgenre of death metal that Funeral Whore could be pigeonholed into. There are plenty of instances when the music on "Step Into Damnation" gives off an evil kind of vibe, similar to Incantation or Immolation, but there are also several moments when the band sounds extremely similar to Entombed or Dismember, as well as glimpses of some Finndeath influence and the occasional Bolt Thrower grooving and pummeling. The first track "Eternal Genocide" definitely gravitates towards the more low-fi American death metal sound as a majority of the riffs are tremolo bursts that just ooze of early Incantation, while the very heavy vocals crush the listener in between the even heavier riffs placed occasionally through the song. The tracks "Camp Blood" and "El Salvador Death Squad" also show similiar tendencies and could be regarded as more American sounding. 

The Swedeath influence is mainly present in the melodies and solos found throughout "Step into Damnation," although the track "Obidience" is pretty much Nihilist worship through and through, with the midpaced heavy riffage and d-beat drumming. Songs like "Wasteland of Corpses" (Could this be what inspired that awesome album art?) and "Threesome" all have a very heavy doom influence and these tracks wouldn't sound out of place whatsoever on a compilation of death metal from Finland. Just listen to the melody near the end of the title track, it's completely reminiscent of bands like (early) Amorphis and Convulse as it conjures a very morbid feeling. I'm glad to see that Funeral Whore are fans of Bolt Thrower too, because the groovy riff in "Failure of the Sacrifice" is absolutely brilliant, like "War Master" kind of brilliant. 

As I said before, there really isn't any sort of mold that these guys are trying to fit and they're just playing music that runs the gamut of all kinds of great death metal and they're doing it incredibly well. Any fan of the aforementioned bands should have no problem with "Step into Damnation" and Funeral Whore in general. 

Be sure to check out and like Funeral Whore on Facebook!

"Eternal Genocide"
"The Bitch Died"
"Failure of the Sacrifice"

Final Rating
4.25/5 or 85%.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nocturnal Torment - They Come At Night

Despite "They Come At Night" being Nocturnal Torment's first full-length album, these guys aren't necessarily new to the metal scene. They were originally known as Termination, who only released a single demo before splitting up, but now they've returned and they have done so with a furor of epic proportions on this record. This isn't the thrashy material these guys were playing 20 years ago, but some wicked death metal that brings with it an extreme amount of chaos and destruction. The most accurate descriptions that I've seen/read about Nocturnal Torment would be the comparisons to Floridian death metal giants Deicide and Malevolent Creation, but that's not doing this band justice. While there are definitely similar aspects to the music, these guys are much more than some new death metal act trying to play exactly like two of the most well-known bands of the genre.

Along with the aforementioned comparisons, Nocturnal Torment is definitely a bit more savage than those bands. It would be like Deicide and Malevolent Creation had a violent and bloody orgy involving members of Nunslaughter, [Early] Morbid Angel and Sinister. The opening track "Vile Affliction" is pretty standard American death metal, but the next track "Alternative Reality" is where the band's true talents lie. These guys manage to successfully mix some bludgeoning, heavy riffs with the traditional death metal tremolo passages for some quality enjoyment, but that inner savage makes itself clear later on and the band seems to go off of their figurative tracks, so to speak. The tremolo sections later on are highly chaotic and almost reminiscent of some crazy Blasphemy or Conqueror type war metal act, but the music is still very concise and never comes off as spastic. 

Probably the best quality about "They Come At Night" is the songwriting. Nocturnal Torment isn't content with writing songs that range between 3 and 4 minutes, instead delivering some mighty fine tracks that clock in at over five to six minutes. A lot of bands (these days, especially) try to come off as mature or musically adept by writing longer material but they simply don't have the ability to keep the listener interested for that amount of time, but these gentlemen provide enough dynamics on every track to keep the listener interested. Whether it's haunting tremolo passages ("Bleeding"), incredibly heavy and catchy riffs ("Sweet Decay") or just an all around brilliant piece of music with everything you could ask for ("Alternative Reality"), Nocturnal Torment gets the job done, and they do very well. 

There isn't anything negative that I can bring myself to say about this record or the band. "They Come At Night" is great from beginning to end and chances are this album will be one that sees steady rotation throughout the year, as well as make plenty of year-end lists. Incantation clones, Dismember worshipers, and Autopsy knockoffs had better beware, because Nocturnal Torment is exactly the kind of band that could put you all on the back shelf. 

Be sure to check out and like Nocturnal Torment on Facebook!

"Alternative Reality"
"Cycle of Life"
"Sweet Decay"

Final Rating
4.5/5 or 90%.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Skinfather - Atheos [Demo]

One of the key reasons that there is somewhat of a backlash towards the massive amount of new bands out today playing metal in the vein of the old-school, is that these bands show no originality or come off as complete ripoffs of their influences. You wouldn't believe how many bands out there are guilty of this, whether they're playing retro-thrash, death metal, doom metal or any other ancient form of metal, they are generic and not worth another listen. But that isn't the case for all bands. There are some bands out there who can manage to emulate their influences in nearly every category, yet sound refreshing and great all the same. Orange County's death metal five-piece, Skinfather falls into the latter category with their Nihilist/Entombed worship. 

"Atheos" is the band's debut five-track demo and this is how death metal is meant to be played in 2012. Raw, aggressive, and angry. I must emphasize angry when mentioning Skinfather, a band that features members from the metallic hardcore group Creatures, because that hardcore feel is present mainly in the vocals. This guy's vocals sound pissed and when backed by the incredibly heavy riffage, the need to break something or someone arises. The opening track "Christ Disease" starts with a feedback-ridden sample of some shitty Beatles song (I think it's the Beatles anyway) before turning into a violent assault of good ol' fashioned Swedeath style riffs that are later followed by the already mentioned hardcore-esque vocals. Personally, hardcore has never been a genre that I've been a fan of, but the vocals here suit the relentless music perfectly and also give Skinfather some factor of "uniqueness."

Skinfather's hardcore-tinged, death metal assault doesn't let up at all. "Unburial Rites" and "Slave to Faith" hit the listener one after the other like a sledgehammer across the jaw and bring about memories of Entombed's more hectic and violent tunes while the next track "Dead Deity" opens with a cool bassline and some heavy chords before giving the listener goosebumps with the haunting melody that follows. The title track, actually has quite a bit of a Bolt Thrower influence, especially in the way that the double-bass drums have an extremely thunderous sound and the doomy riff near the end of the song. 

It's starting to look like Sweden has some competition as far as this whole Swedeath worshiping group of bands goes. Bands like Terminate, Fatalist and now Skinfather all have made their mark on the American scene and I couldn't be happier. If you're a fan of old-school death metal, then there is no reason that you won't like these guys, so stop being a hater on the new breed and give "Atheos" a listen. 

Be sure to check out and like Skinfather on Facebook!

"Christ Disease"
"Slave to Faith"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%.