Sunday, August 31, 2014

Poisoned By Life – The End

Out of all of the classic styles of metal, doom is the one that has never clicked with me. Perhaps it is because it is fundamentally opposed to my favourite style of metal (thrash), but it often lacks the energy I seek from metal. With that said, I still check out the occasional doom metal record because you never know when you’ll find something interesting. My most recent attempt at getting into doom was through Poisoned By Life’sThe End”. This is the first full-length from an American band, and it features three lengthy epics and a normal length song, alongside a short instrumental.

The End” opens with “Burning”, which is a song that gets better as it goes along. This track is everything I do appreciate in doom. The riffs are at the forefront and crush the listener with their weight. The guitars occasionally bring in some dissonance as a change of pace from the low end. The guitar solo in this song is not particularly flashy, but it fits in well with the rest of the tune. The latter half of the track is especially great; it becomes much more upbeat and the riffs are even more devastating than before. It’s fair to say that the song loses some of its doomy charm in this section, but this has always been the best way to play the style for me.

After the killer opener, the album takes a steep decline. The remaining tracks feel like they wander without a purpose, and the riffs are no longer impactful. None of the songs are particularly memorable, but they also don’t feel eventful. The relatively lackluster performances (vocals, guitars, drums) do nothing to save the songwriting. The bass playing is pretty decent, but doom has always been one of the best styles of metal for bass because there is so much room for the bass to add interesting lines beyond just following the guitars.

Without an extensive background in doom, it’s hard to say whether or not this album will appeal to most doom fans. I have no doubt that the opener will slay everything in its path and intrigue all fans of metal, but that song is barely a quarter of the album. If you prefer metal to be minimalistic and not particularly technical or modern, “The End” is going to fit the bill. Otherwise, Sabbath is more than enough to fill your doom needs.

Be sure to check out and like Poisoned By Life on Facebook!


Final Rating
3.5/5 or 70%. 

Written by Scott

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain

It seems like “Torture" was released just yesterday, but Cannibal Corpse is breaking with their recent trend of having 3 years between albums to bring us another record of gore-splattering death metal. Although the band was on a huge roll with all of their albums with Erik Rutan, “Torture” seemed like a cut above. Every track was incredibly memorable, which is a rare feat for death metal this bludgeoning. Their new album, “A Skeletal Domain”, provides 12 tracks of fantastic Cannibal Corpse tunes that do not stray from the band’s path. This album is definitely less immediate and obvious than “Torture”, but ultimately ends up being nearly as satisfying.

High Velocity Impact Spatter” kicks things off at full speed. The band rarely relents for a second over the next two tracks, both of which are incredibly brutal. “High Velocity Impact Spatter” and “Sadistic Embodiment” sound a bit technical at parts, and while I can’t be sure guitarist Pat O’Brien wrote these songs until the CD actually comes out, I’d have to imagine his influence crept in on both of these tracks. Amazingly the band manages to step things up even further for the track three. “Kill or Become” is the highlight of the album. There is nothing more satisfying in life than hearing a man named Corpsegrinder belt out the lyrics “fire up the chainsaw! Hack all their heads off!” That kind brilliant line is one only he could deliver so perfectly. Some parts of “Kill or Become” are reminiscent of “The Strangulation Chair” from the previous album, but this is the only song on the album where it feels like the band isn’t being completely original (a rare feat given how large their catalogue is at this point).

The rest of the record is not quite so straightforward. While Cannibal Corpse is not among the fastest death metal bands out there, they usually play with quite a bit of speed. By contrast, “A Skeletal Domain” feels like their most mid-paced record. Where this is really obvious is in Paul Mazurkiewicz's drumming. His playing is considerably more technical on this album than any of their others, and it is particularly noticeable in some of the slower parts where he does numerous interesting fills. With that said, there are some moments on the album where his drumming shines because of its simplicity. On the title track, for example, there is an opening section where the band isn’t playing anything particularly complicated but Paul is playing blistering fast double bass drumming. Something similar occurs later on in the album during the opening to “Funeral Cremation”, but it is something that Cannibal Corpse doesn’t do too often. It’s funny to think that a drummer steals the show on this album because Paul’s faces while playing suggests he’s about to die, and one would imagine that a drummer would be what would hold a death metal band back as they get older, but Paul’s playing is better than ever.

While Cannibal Corpse tends to stay the course with their new albums, the big change on “A Skeletal Domain” was changing producers. This is the first album with Mark Lewis at the helm. The album certainly doesn’t sound identical to the last three records with Rutan, but it also isn’t too different. Every instrument is still clear, though it feels like the drums may be a bit higher in the mix while the bass might be lower. The guitar tone is as crushing as ever; O’Brien and Rob Barrett are quite possibly the most accomplished rhythm guitarists in metal. The riffs are a never-ending test of endurance in the picking hand and finesse in the fretting hand. Their solos are chaotic with little sense but maximum carnage to them. Occasionally there is a more melodically inclined solo (such as the ones on “The Murderer’s Pact”), but they make use of plenty of dissonance. Corpsegrinder is still delivering brutal vocals. His highs seem to be a bit raspy, but they’re more than adequate. His growls are to this day unmatched in death metal in terms of both quality and enunciation. One small disappointment on “A Skeletal Domain” is Alex Webster’s performance. Make no mistake he is still crushing it in terms of his tone and his technical ability, but after the mind-blowing moment in “The Strangulation Chair” from the last record, I had hoped for something similar here. His bass playing tends to pop out whenever there are some higher tremolo-picked sections, but it doesn’t feel as unique as it did on “Torture”.

On the whole, “A Skeletal Domain” is another solid addition to the band’s discography. I don’t know that this record will be as big of a hit for the band as “Torture” was, but it’s also just not as good. At this point, all Cannibal Corpse needs to offer is 35-40 minutes of head-smashing brutality and I’ll be happy. “Torture” was a pleasant surprise, but the band is so skilled at writing death metal that they’re always going to deliver something great. The worst Cannibal Corpse record is better than 99% of death metal in existence, so anything negative that was said in this review is a reflection of the incredibly high standard I hold Cannibal Corpse to.

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

"High Velocity Impact Spatter"
"Kill or Become"
"Funeral Cremation"
"Icepick Lobotomy"

Final Rating
4.5/5 or 90%. 

Written by Scott

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hessian – Bachelor of Black Arts

Hessian is a 4-piece group occult psychedelic heavy metal group from the United States. With a wicked album title like “Bachelor of Black Arts” and a cool old-school 80’s album cover, expectations should be pretty high immediately. Unfortunately, however, the band fails to live up to the awesome image they’ve conjured. While there is the occasional moment of interest, Hessian does too many things poorly on this album. The first issue is with the vocals. The band has two singers; one male and one female. Neither is particularly great, though Salli Wason is the superior of the two vocalists. Angus McFarland, the band’s other singer, actually does a lot more of the singing though. He tends to suffer from wailing syndrome, where he wanders for notes, paying little attention to what they should be (see the opening verse of “Eyebite”). In this respect, the band very much sounds like a retro 70’s rock band. A lot of the riffs reflect this too; the guitar tone is not particularly distorted and the riffs lack aggression. Sometimes the band breaks into a long-winded jam, letting the guitars fly free, but not in a way that is particularly appealing to those who prefer succinct songs.

Bachelor of Black Arts” is certainly a competent release. There are far worse bands out there, and Hessian manages to play in time, in tune, and with some elements of songwriting. But the music just isn’t interesting. The mix isn’t particularly great; it seems like everybody is fighting for volume at the same time. There is a distinct lack of dynamics between the instruments, despite there being ample attention placed on musical dynamics in the song. For example, some songs include quiet, clean bits, while others move between louder more rocking moments and softer more chilled sections. The band is generally at their best when the guitar playing is the focus. The solos are relatively well composed, and they manage to enhance each song substantially. This is most noticeable on the last song, "Witch Road", where shredding takes over and brings the band to their greatest heights. There are several sections with harmonized guitars, though they end up sounding more like Thin Lizzy than Iron Maiden. This is much in line with the band’s sound as a whole. There might be a lot of metal elements on this album, but it feels much more like a rock and roll record. Ultimately, however, regardless of what style of music Hessian plays, it just doesn’t click with me. This will appeal to some people, but fans of more technically precise metal will not dig “Bachelor of Black Arts”.

Be sure to check out and like Hessian on Facebook!

"Witch Road"

Final Rating
3.1/5 or 62%. 

Written by Scott

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Burning Nitrum – Molotov

Before you even hear Burning Nitrum’sMolotov”, you know it’s going to be good. Thrash band from Italy? Check. Ed Repka cover art? Check. Signed to Punishment 18 Records? Check. To be fair, not every band meeting all three of these criteria is the best, but a lot of them are quite good. Burning Nitrum is definitely a band that holds the flag high for thrash metal. Their style is certainly nothing groundbreaking, but it doesn’t feel as derivative of the 80’s as a lot of other modern bands. The band is relatively talented at writing great riffs, which will always improve the quality of a record. The songwriting isn’t always the tightest, but the riffs make up for it. The tempos on this album are relatively varied, switching between heavy stomping moments to face-melting thrash sections. It would be unfair to characterize songs as one or the other, because most songs manage to deliver both sounds well. The occasional acoustic or clean guitar part works its way in, but does not disrupt the flow of the album.

Molotov” features a lot of great individual performances from the members of Burning Nitrum. One of the draws to this band is vocalist Dave Cillo. His voice actually changes throughout the record. At the start of the album, he’s a standard thrash singer, with perhaps a bit of an upper range, but as the album goes on, he’ll break out into these full on John Connelly (Nuclear Assault) worship parts. It’s pretty astounding how well he manages to emulate such a unique vocalist, to the point where you think Connelly himself is doing guest vocals. This is most noticeable in the opening lyrics of “Lying Until The End”. The other area where a member delivers a mesmerizing performance is the lead guitar work of Walter Lanotte. There is a heavy emphasis on shredding on this album, not just in the quality of the playing but also in the number of solos. Lanotte delivers some incredibly accomplished solos, which is unbelievable considering he’s only 19.

While the album starts out strong, it actually is better on the backend. The band saved some of the most assaulting tracks for last. The one-two punch of “Slave of Lust” and “Sparkling Splatter” is certainly the most enjoyable part of the album. The former song is an exercise in downpicking that would make even James Hetfield’s arm sore. These tracks are followed up with a lengthy instrumental that again shows how well the band can create riffs. The riffs are often in the Exodus vein (then again, what thrash bands aren’t playing Exodus riffs?), but it doesn’t feel like they’re borrowing riffs from anyone. 

Molotov” is an impressive effort, which shows that even though mainstream support for thrash may be dying again, the bands are not! As long as there are denim vest-wearing thrash kids from Italy, we will great music to enjoy. While Burning Nitrum will not win over anyone who isn’t a fan of thrash, the band doesn't set out to do that. This is an album that will bring out the inner Paul Baloff in everyone, so be sure to check it out if you’re a thrash fanatic!

Be sure to check out and like Burning Nitrum on Facebook!

"Slave of Lust"
"Sparkling Splatter"
"Nemesis, The Death Star"

Final Rating
4.2/5 or 84%. 

Written by Scott

Monday, August 25, 2014

Interview with Sten from Ecocide!

This interview is with guitarist and singer Sten from the death metal group Ecocide. They hail from the Netherlands and put out a wicked debut record last year! Enjoy!

SFM: Hi guys! Let’s start by talking about your debut full-length record, “Eye of Wicked Sight”. The album was initially released independently. Did you receive a lot of label interest after it was released

Sten: Yes, after the release we got a lot of interest from labels who wanted to re-release the album on vinyl or CD. The Vinyl was done by Supreme Chaos Records and the Re-issue on CD was done by Disharmonic records.

SFM: When Disharmonic Records picked up the album, there was a new cover art. The art still reflects the title but is quite a bit different. Did the label insist on new artwork? Do you guys like the new art?

Sten: Well we came up with new artwork for the vinyl release because we thought that the new art would look cooler on vinyl. When Disharmonic contacted us we thought let’s use the new art and keep the old one as a sort of 1st press artwork.

SFM: Even though there are a lot of bands playing old-school heavy metal these days (whether traditional or thrash or death metal), few of them nail the production like you guys did. “Eye of Wicked Sight” sounds like it’s straight from the early 90’s. How did you achieve this production sound? Are you guys happy with the end result?

Sten: Well we recorded with Fredde form Dirty bird studios and also known from bands like Massive Assault and Sledgehammer Nosejob. Fredde had done some great Dutch old school Death metal bands and we thought that this was the right guy for us ! We think the album turned out great !

SFM: Your lyrical approach is different from most death metal bands that go the gore or Satan route. What draws you to sci-fi oriented lyrics?

Sten: Well we are all interested in sci-fi stuff and we thought why not write some lyrics about it! It’s still gory and evil but with a different twist. I have also thought about writing some lyrics about other stuff but we will see about that in the future!

SFM: You have done a lot of gigs in the last couple of years. What are your favourite songs to play from the album? What songs are the fan favourites?

Sten: I love to play Crawling From The Crypt and Terror From Beyond because they are really fast heavy songs and the fans go crazy on those ones. I also think Planet Eater is one of the more popular songs amongst fans because it has this catchy , groovy tone to it and it’s also the first song on the record.

SFM: This year in particular, you’ve had some great support slots including opening for Gorguts and Malevolent Creation. Are you guys trying to get on a major death metal tour, or looking to play some summer festivals next year?

Sten: We would love to do a cool Death Metal tour with band’s like that and we would also love to play on festivals like Partysan, Stonehenge and Neurotic Deathfest 

SFM: Are you guys working on new material? If so, when can we expect a new Ecocide album, and will it sound similar to the debut?

Sten: Yes we are working on new stuff only it has been hard for me to come up with new things because I had some problems with my personal life and I didn’t feel that well most of this year. But we are working very hard on some new songs now and we hope to release it by the end of this year or in the beginning of 2015. I think it will be a bit similar to “Eye” but I think I will keep some of the  lyrics more down to earth this time haha!

SFM: Do you think that death metal needs to continue to evolve to be interesting, or can bands simply come up with similar sounding fans to keep fans happy?

Sten: Well I like experimental stuff and bands can always change their sound but there is nothing wrong with some good old school death metal. A lot of bands put different things in their music but it’s still old school death metal and it’s still great music.

SFM: A lot of new death metal bands really favour Incantation’s sound. You guys seem to be more rooted in Floridian death metal (Massacre, Nocturnus, Death). Do you think there are too few bands playing the Floridian style of death metal?  

Sten: Yes, But I think that’s also the reason why we are so different form other Old school Death Metal bands.  You have a few Florida style Death metal bands out there like Skeletal Remains, Morfin and Gruesome. The reason we play it is because we love bands like Death/Massacre and Obituary but we also try to involve some of our own ideas.

SFM: Any last words for the fans out there?

Sten: We Love you all! Thanks for the support and stay tuned for the new album! 

Be sure to check out and like Ecocide on Facebook!

Lacerate – Savage Devastation

Florida is known for two main contributions to metal: fantastic old-school death metal and Savatage. Aside from Nasty Savage, it seems as though few thrash bands from the 80’s came out of Florida. 25 years later, however, the band Lacerate delivers thrashing goodness to the people in the Southeast United States. “Savage Devastation” is their first demo and sole release to this point. It is a competent effort with plenty of riffs alongside a couple of really cool covers.

Before getting to the songs, it’s worth pointing out the guitar tone. Some may call it weak because it isn’t punchy or in your face, but the better term for this guitar tone is buzzsaw. This sound brings back memories of Destruction and Razor, among others, and a thrash band couldn’t ask for any higher compliment. Unfortunately the album is pretty quiet, but if you crank it loud enough, these guitars move to the forefront of things. The riffs tend to be pretty standard thrash fanfare. There aren’t many that stick out, but there certainly aren’t any that suck. Lacerate is a band that understands the art of writing riffs, and it’s not hard to imagine them creating some truly deadly riffs with a bit more practice. Over top of the buzzing of the guitars comes the voice of James Brooks. His vocals epitomize thrash. They are a standard shout, which is entirely devoid of melody. This is some attempt at avoiding being completely monotone, and Brooks generally succeeds in this regard. The band could benefit from having slightly more character in the vocals, but Brooks’ style is actually so simplistic that it manages to differ from many other thrash bands out there.

Savage Devastation” consists of five original tracks aside from the two covers, and they tend to be relatively similar. There is the occasional slower moment, or rage-causing, mosh-inducing riff, but you can mostly predict what the demo sounds like before you hear it. The songs are not particularly memorable, but certain parts will stay with you after a couple of listens. The cover of Sodom’s “Outbreak of Evil” is particularly interesting because it manages to be considerably tighter than the original and puts an impressive spin on the track. This was definitely an excellent choice for a cover, and Lacerate does the song justice. 

Lacerate is a band that shows a lot of promise. It may appear from this review that this demo is somewhat mediocre, but that’s just not the case. Unfortunately it is becoming increasingly more difficult to stand out in the metal world, particularly as a thrash band where the confines of the subgenre are so limited. With some more practice in songwriting, and a better production job, it’s easy to see how Lacerate could become a top thrash band in the near future. Since this is a demo release, I really can’t fault the band for anything, as they’ve put together a very respectable set of songs that leaves me awaiting their next output.

Be sure to check out and like Lacerate on Facebook!

All of it

Final Rating
3.8/5 or 76%. 

Written by Scott