Tuesday, August 28, 2007

So I Did It Again...



Here's a review of "Spiritual Warfare" by Bewitched. A review for this appeared at L4M some months ago, but I wrote a review for it, anyway.

Bewitched- Spiritual Warfare

(Regain Records)

Sweden’s Regain Records has been making a major push of late to establish itself as a giant in, mostly, black metal. Having huge acts such as Marduk and so forth on their roster, as well as care given to the current crop of re-releases of their artists, I look forward to each release by the label. Bewitched has been kicking around now for five full-lengths and with various members that have rotated in and out of Sweden’s better known bands, mostly Naglfar. Even so, I was unfamiliar with the band prior to the release of “Spiritual Warfare”, their second with Regain.

Past releases were apparently of the raw black metal variety and received mixed reviews. That said, however, “Spiritual Warfare” is basically blackened thrash with a huge nod to Venom’s first three full-lengths. The vocals in particular, courtesy of Naglfar guitarist Marcus “Vargher” Norman, are some of the best impersonations of Cronos’ trademark snarl that I’ve yet heard. The band’s blackened thrash sounds straight out of some the second tier acts of the 80s with simple, yet catchy, riffs, a galloping pace for about half of the album while the other half slows down considerably, and a guitar driven production evocative of that era yet being clear and prominent in the modern sense, as well.

The current interest in retro 80s thrash should make “Spiritual Warfare” a priority, but, frankly, I found this album to be a bit on the boring side. The faster paced songs are certainly well done as is some tongue-firmly-in-cheek humor with purposefully cheeseball lyrics, but the slower songs tend to meander around aimlessly for far too long. These tracks definitely could’ve benefitted from a trimming or, better yet, the injection of some variety in pacing and/ or riffs.

Overall, my impression of “Spiritual Warfare” is mixed. The blackened thrash is certainly timely and will, no doubt, garner Bewitched some attention, but the second tier impersonations and homage will undoubtedly pigeon hole the band in just that, the second tier.

Bewitched

Regain Records

Sorry, song removed after a week or two.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Gathering of the Bestial Legion III Review...



Gathering of the Bestial Legion III

Venue: The Knitting Factory, Hollywood, California

Date: August 19th, 2007

I arrived at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood at 8pm with a game plan in mind for the Gathering of the Bestial Legion III festival of death metal on a sweltering August evening. Here’s the band lineup and schedule:

Alterknit Lounge
3:15 - 3:45 - Life in Exile
4:15 - 4:45 - Nuclear Desecration
5:15 - 5:45 - Arctic Winds
6:15 - 5:45 - Witchaven
7:15 - 7:45 - Satriarch
8:15 - 8:45 - Violator
9:00 - 9:45 - Manslaughter

Front Stage
4:30 - 5:00 - Infamy
5:30 - 6:00 - Nausea
6:30 - 7:00 - Fueled By Fire
7:30 - 8:00 - Willow Wisp
8:30 - 9:00 - Diabolic
9:35 -10:05 - Mortem
10:35 -11:05 - Noctuary
11:35 - - Resurrection

Main Stage
3:00 - 3:30 - Damnation
4:00 - 4:30 - Grave Desecration
5:00 - 5:30 - Mind Furnace
6:00 - 6:30 - Unsanctified
7:00 -7:30 - Nuclear Winter
8:00 - 8:35 - Rise
9:00 - 9:35 - Acheron
10:00 - 10:40 - The Chasm
11:00 -11:40 - Malevolent Creation
12:00 – Possessed

Of course, taking note of the last two bands, you would suppose that the entire goal of attendance at this show was to see Malevolent Creation and Possessed. That certainly was my stated goal, but I arrived at the Knitting Factory with the game plan’s intent to first see Diabolic. I decided to skip Violator, a retro thrash band that’s been getting a lot of notice lately, as they ended up conflicting with Diabolic and were playing in the Alterknit lounge, which has a capacity of literally about 10 people or so. Diabolic, a horribly underrated Tampa death metal band with multiple albums under their collective belts and the mighty Aantar Coates on drums was scheduled to play in the front stage area, which has a capacity of maybe 50 people or so with a bar off to the side. I managed to squeeze right up to the small stage as Diabolic started up a bit early and ripped through a good set featuring songs from, primarily, “Supreme Evil” and “Vengeance Ascending”. The small crowd showed their definite appreciation with a pit that was present throughout the set. Excellent.

I sprinted for the main stage area to, once again, squeeze towards the front for Acheron, who started about 5 minutes or so after Diabolic ended. Acheron’s first visit to Hollywood was enthusiastically greeted as Vincent Crowley, with absolutely huge stage presence and a thunderous bass, and crew blew through a solid set of old school, crunch oriented blackened death metal. Besides Crowley’s obvious talents as a front man, Acheron also features Kyle Severn on drums, whose skills were also prominently displayed. Once again, an excellent set and the show was just getting warmed up.

Quickly, I ran back to the front stage area in time to catch most of Mortem’s absolutely killer set. Mortem, a vicious death metal band with great vocals from Peru, just raged with the front bar area packed with a huge pit. Absolutely monstrous and their enthusiasm was more than apparent. Huge applause was given to the band at their conclusion.

My sprinting continued to catch the beginning of The Chasm at the main stage. Frankly, although they were given a warm welcome from the California crowd, this band failed to impress me as their sound was muted and they lacked stage presence and power. Unfortunately, I was less than enthused by The Chasm pretty quickly and I ended up wandering back to the front stage area to catch a song or two from Noctuary, who also failed to impress. Becoming a bit bored, I finally went to the merchandise tables to pick up Malevolent Creation and Possessed t-shirts, which were finally going on sale. I bought my Possessed t-shirt from Emilio Marquez himself...

Possessed T-shirt design...



As soon as The Chasm ended, I halted my beer intake, went to the bathroom one last time, and camped out right up against the stage for Malevolent Creation and Possessed. I wouldn’t move from my spot for the rest of the show. I’ve been listening to Malevolent Creation since “The Ten Commandments”, but had never caught them live. They certainly did not disappoint with a killer set covering the span of their ten album discography. Some great highlights included “Multiple Stab Wounds”, “The Will To Kill”, and “Coronation Of Our Domain”. The finisher was “Malevolent Creation” and I would definitely want to see Malevolent Creation hit L.A. again in the near future as headliners. Great, enthusiastic stage presence, a powerful roar from Brett Hoffman, and tight musicianship exemplified their performance and the packed main stage area went nuts.

It’s now well after midnight and everyone is awaiting Possessed. If you ask anyone which bands are responsible for the inception of death metal as an art form, Possessed is always mentioned as their entirely too short career has been enormously influential. Now, the classic lineup of Becerra, Torrao, Lalonde, and Sus was not to be found this evening. Instead, local death metal legends (and also horribly underrated) Sadistic Intent (Emilio Marquez is the drummer, as well as the drummer for Asesino) played as Possessed with the wheelchair-confined Jeff Becerra on vocals. Now, was this really Possessed? Well, everyone, including me, sure thought so as Becerra was given a huge, warm greeting from the crowd when he peeked around the curtain before the show began. People rushed up to shake his hand and get a picture taken, so much so that club personnel finally had to remind Becerra that a show was still to be put on. Finally, Possessed take the stage and the crowd goes absolutely apeshit. I haven’t seen so many bouncers work furiously to keep people off the stage as much as this set. In addition, the entire venue was moving as I was nearly crushed up against the stage. If you happen to view the crap video that I shot during the set, you’ll see that my phone is waving around wildly as I’m flowing with the crowd.

Throughout the set, which included highlights such as “My Belief”, “Burning In Hell”, and, of course, “Death Metal” amongst many others, Jeff had an enormous grin on his face and actually seemed somewhat emotionally overwhelmed by the crowd’s support and enthusiasm. His vocal performance wasn’t exceptionally powerful, but who cares? That wasn’t really the point of this show, anyway. Finally, it’s all over about 2 AM.

I didn’t have a photo pass for this show, so I was only able to use my camera phone. Here are the usual crap pictures and video.

Diabolic



Acheron



Malevolent Creation



Malevolent Creation



Possessed



Possessed



Here are some clips...

Acheron



Malevolent Creation



Possessed



Next up on September 10th...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hatesphere Review...



So, since I wasn't paying attention, I wrote this review for L4M without realizing that a review had already been posted. At any rate, here's the review of the excellent new album from Hatesphere...

Hatesphere- Serpent Smiles And Killer Eyes

(SPV)

Hatesphere is one of those bands playing on the border between death and thrash metal that simply release one solid album after another, yet aren’t quite able to break into the forefront of metal’s collective consciousness. That could all change with the release of the band’s fifth full-length, all since 2001, called “Serpent Smiles And Killer Eyes” on German giant SPV.

Hatesphere is obviously a hard-working band and it shows on “Serpent Smiles and Killer Eyes”. The band has honed their sound to a razor sharp, spot on, example of Bay Area inspired thrash with just a hint of death metal that brings forth fond memories of Testament’s latter output, namely “Demonic” and “The Gathering”. Compared to previous full-lengths, “Serpent Smiles And Killer Eyes” generally takes the frenetic speed down a notch, adds huge amounts of groove and meat-and-potatoes filled riffs, backs it all up with a bottom heavy, powerful production, and adds some variations in the vocal delivery of Jacob Predahl to present a near perfect example of the genre. Huge amounts of crunch typify the guitars with plenty of fast riffing cut with grooves galore. A fast gallop typical of latter era thrash metal is interspersed with the slower moments. In addition, just the right amounts of melody are added with some impressive guitar work, and a few moments of clean vocals make an appearance amongst the shouts of Predahl. Predahl also manages a few moments of death metal growls similar to that of Chuck Billy on “Demonic”.

Unlike Carnal Forge, Hatesphere avoids the pitfalls of a slight change in sound by strictly avoiding any hints of the well worn path of melodic death metal. Instead, Hatesphere’s focus is taking their choice of genre and essentially perfecting their sound within that genre. That may not be entirely an original approach, but it pays off in this case with a focused, precise album in “Serpent Smiles And Killer Eyes”. Highly recommended.

Now, what about that U.S. tour?

SPV

Hatesphere

Song removed after a few weeks. Sorry.

Some other items, for some reason, I'm seeing more and more Cthulhu political references...



Striking a Nixon pose...



He's got my vote!

Also, if you happen to notice non-metal references on my album quilt or song list on the sidebar, this is due to my wife taking over the computer...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A "renaissance" continues...

So, in the early 2000s, my buying spree continues. California has a few decent record stores it turns out. First, there's the giant "independent" (actually there's three of them) Amoeba Music in West Hollywood...



The others are in Berkeley and San Francisco. Then, there's Streetlight Records in Santa Cruz (there's a few in the Bay Area, as well), which has a great black metal selection. So good, in fact, that the metal bins are marked with inverted crosses...



In El Cajon, near San Diego, there's a weird store called Blue Meannie. Their metal selection is good, but it's entirely mixed in with every other genre, so you really have to dig. They have a rather strange motto: "From The King To The King" with Elvis Presley and King Diamond juxtaposed...



Close to home, there's Dark Realm Records in Downey (unofficial home of Sadistic Intent), complete with in-store appearances, their own label, etc. Good store with a good selection, not to mention ambience, if you will. One step away from "Helvete"?



Lastly, the next town over from me, Redondo Beach, had a great little store called Off Beat Records, which is now, sadly, out of business. This was a great little shop that had a small, but varied, metal selection. I even picked this one up there...



Here's a recent rip from Defloration. Very catchy, Suffocation style DM with great vocals...



Sorry, song removed after a week or so...

Apparently, this is a town in Austria...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Guest Reviewer!! And more reach in, rip it, and briefly review it!

This is a flyer for the show, but note the old band lineup for Nile...



First up is an enthusiastic review of the Nile show at The Pearl Room in Mokena, Illinois on August 7th from none other than...Skull!!

Bands: Nile, Chthonic, Daath, Dirge

Location: The Pearl Room, Mokena, Illinois

Date: August 7th, 2007

In May of 2005, I went to see Nile at HOB in Chicago for their “Annihilation Of The Wicked” tour. Knowing that I was about to have my first experience with the supreme gods of brutal death metal, my expectations were high (maybe too high) and I left the show feeling a bit let down. There were soundboard issues for most of the show, and it affected the band’s concentration and attitude. The volume level was also way too low to get a full Nile rumble in your gut. By the time the soundboard issues were ironed out, true to HOB form, the show ended early.
I was actually on the fence about buying a ticket to the show on August 7th, at The Pearl Room in Mokena, Illinois. After thinking about it, I realized that Nile was touring with Ozzfest, and they might enjoy playing to the smaller and more intimate crowds. I hopped down off the fence and bought my ticket.
I met up with my friend Steve after work and we hit rush hour traffic and headed south towards Mokena cranking Akercocke, Chthonic (one of the supporting bands for Nile), and a little Mercyful Fate for good measure. Upon arrival, we stopped for a bite and headed into The Pearl Room. It’s a small bar in a strip mall, very unassuming, and almost hidden away. We entered among a crowd of about 100 or so metalheads. Being the old farts that we are, we may have looked out of place (or even like cops). We headed straight for the merchandise booth, and I picked up a couple of shirts (Nile, of course). We found a column to lean against and waited for Dirge, the first band of the night to start up.

Dirge fired up about 20 minutes late. I admit I was completely unfamiliar with them until then. They’re Chicago boys, which makes it all the harder for me to bash their set. It was very plain, though high-energy, jock metal that involved a lot of fist pumping and chanting which I just can’t get into. They gave it their all, but I was ready to move on mid way through their first song. The crowd felt the same, and the one-finger salute was flying everywhere.

After a relatively quick changeover, Daath from Atlanta, Georgia kicked into their set by calling us all a bunch of pussies. Okay, I can admire that. Daath was another band I am unfamiliar with, and I tried to research them beforehand at Encyclopaedia Metallum, but they don’t exist there. I was hoping they might be a morphed version of Wargoat Obscurum’s Cult Of Daath before the set began, but that was not the case. Man, was I disappointed. They were pretty much just run-of-the-mill death metal. They were nothing special to me, although they did get a good reaction from the crowd. They did play a very high energy set with their own version of fist banging and chanting that rubs me the wrong way. Next!

Okay, now here comes Chthonic, a melodic black metal band from, of all places, Taiwan. I caught up to speed with them quickly in the week or so before the show and found them to have many musical similarities to Dimmu Borgir. I was very interested to see how they would translate over to a live set, being the “student of culture” that I am, and I was very curious as to how the crowd would receive them. They seemed to have had quite a following of Chinese (Taiwanese) fans from kids to aged adults probably in their 60s. The band did their own sound check in full costumes (for lack of a better word) and corpse paint. The drummer, Dani, had a half mask of spikes over his face that completely covered his mouth. It was hysterical. Chthonic really did look like clowns, and I like black metal corpse paint and attire. When the sound check was over, they disappeared for a few minutes until the lights went down and they were ready to begin their set.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, these kids from Taiwan then proceeded to tear up the house with an assault of Taiwanese melodic black metal with sights and sounds that just blew me away! The crowd was completely taken and pits erupted intermittently to the delight of Freddy, the vocalist. He yelled encouragement to the crowd in broken English to thrash, show horns, and get pits rolling. The violin player, Su-Nung, stood like an uninterested, inanimate, even lifeless figure staring down at the stage until hearing his cue and then ripping into that bowed instrument like he was fucking it, making it squeal in rapture! There were times were these guys even got into Finntroll (yes, Finntroll) type grooves. That’s the only way I can describe it. The bass player, the, oh so lovely, Doris mesmerized me more than once with the sway of her body while hammering on her bass. They tore the place up and I feel lucky that I had the chance to see them while they were here.

After their set, I grabbed another bottle of water to replace all the sweat that had just poured out of me and to replenish myself for Nile. We then moved up closer to the stage.

Anticipation was running high and the crowd, now of about 300 dirtbags like Steve and I, was foaming at the mouth and packing in close to the stage. Dallas, Karl, George, and Chris all made appearances during the sound check, and that just increased the tension.

Finally, the lights went down and the band appeared in their more glorious fashion and waited for their entrance/intro music to complete. They then erupted into "What May Be Safely Written". In those few moments, all my reservations and memories of the show in ’05 melted away. This was the Nile I had come to see and these were the true gods of “Ithyphallic” metal that I have idolized for so long!!!! There were no soundboard or volume problems this night! They continued with a barrage of bone-crushing tunes, mainly from their last three releases. Some standouts (aren’t they all?) were “The Blessed Dead”, “Cast Down The Heretic”, “Sarcophagus”, “The Essential Salts”, “Lashed To The Slave Stick” (fuck yeah!), “Annihilation Of The Wicked”, and a rousing rendition of “Eat Of The Dead”. Nile was firing on all cylinders and obviously enjoying playing to the smaller and more intimate crowd instead of the massive uninterested masses they’ve become accustomed to with Ozzfest. Pits broke out constantly, thrashing was rampant, and the horns were flying. I was in fucking Hell!!!!! Dallas addressed the crowd in between just about every song and repeatedly told us how much they appreciate us, and it actually sounded sincere! They did play one song from “Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka”, but I will not reveal which song. They closed with, what else, “Black Seeds Of Vengeance”! When they had finished, Karl stayed out on stage and greeted fans until he actually fell (jumped) off the stage and into the crowd.

I was drenched with sweat, practically hyperventilating, with a broken neck. I hadn’t felt that great since seeing Slayer in their hey-day. This was a show I will long remember and hope to repeat soon. Hail Nile!!!!!!

The Pearl Room...



Interior...



Note: I missed this one when it went through L.A. due to being on a backpacking trip to Yosemite. Oh, well...



Here's a recently ripped CD from Norwegian band Perished (now defunct) called "Seid"...




Pretty good, straightforward black metal in the vein of mid-period Satyricon. Here's a track chosen at random...

Sorry, song removed after a week or so...