Sunday, January 25, 2009

Brief Blast... Dimension Zero "He Who Shall Not Bleed"...

Here's a brief blast consisting of the latest from melodic death/ thrash side project Dimension Zero with their latest full-length from Candlelight Records USA entitled "He Who Shall Not Bleed".



If you're not familiar with this Swedish act, Dimension Zero are basically a side project of some of the guitarists currently involved with In Flames and Soilwork, but also features ex- Marduk vocalist Jocke Gothberg. I must say that I tend to stay away from the very melodic In Flames, Soilwork, and Omnium Gatherum, but I do pay attention to some of the harsher acts of melodic death metal such as Arch Enemy, and the like. Fortunately, Dimension Zero tend more towards the heavier side of the Gothenburg- influenced genre, with guitar driven death/ thrash, albeit with a melodic touch.

The melodic touches present on "He Who Shall Not Bleed" (the fourth full-length from this project) are emphasized by stellar guitar work rather than keyboards, which are thankfully absent. Probably a good band for comparison are Carnal Forge, but with much better songwriting and a tendency to avoid the trends that Carnal Forge seem to fall for, at least on that band's last two full-lengths. Unlike Carnal Forge, Dimension Zero are much more firmly placed within the thrash genre and, every so often on "He Who Shall Not Bleed", just absolutely tear it up with blistering guitar work and all out speed.

"He Who Shall Not Bleed" is a rather short affair, clocking in at just over a half hour with two bonus tracks attached to the end. Notably, one of those tracks is an absolutely rip roaring cover of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive"! Check out Sam Thomas' review of the album at Live 4 Metal. "He Who Shall Not Bleed" is recommended.

Dimension Zero (Official)

Candlelight Records USA

Next up...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ayat... Review and Interview...



An honorable mention from 2008 is the debut full-length from Ayat, entitled "Six Years of Dormant Hatred", on Moribund Cult Records. Ayat, a duo from Beirut, Lebanon, have formed a particularly vicious breed of black metal. I recently reviewed the album at Live 4 Metal (re-published here), and had the opportunity to interview the band via email.

I welcome your comments.

REVIEW

Ayat- Six Years of Dormant Hatred

(Moribund Cult Records)

I’ve been waiting for a release like this. Given the lack of freedom in the Islamic world and the force fed religiosity, I would fully expect that whatever black metal is percolating deep in the underground would be particularly vicious and scathing. That’s exactly the case with the debut full-length from Ayat, a duo from Beirut recently signed to Moribund Cult. With song titles on “Six Years of Dormant Hatred” that make Danish cartoons and novels by Salman Rushdie look positively tame by comparison, needless to say, Ayat are literally taking their lives into their hands by releasing such blasphemy and billing themselves as the first anti-Islamic black metal band. Such zeal gives great weight and legitimacy to Ayat’s form of black metal, perhaps even more so than the original Norwegian scene.

At any rate, “Six Years of Dormant Hatred” is a truly vicious, hateful release that fires on all cylinders. First of all, the album just absolutely drips with power, with huge, powerful guitars that retain a bit of an old school sound (sort of similar to Hellhammer), but with stellar, solid musicianship; and mechanized, punishing percussion with a generally mid-paced tempo. Backing it all up is a notably fluid, audible bass. The vocals tend to shy away from the typical rasp, and alternate between high-pitched shrieks, tortured howls, and eerie harmonies that wouldn’t be out of place in the repertoire of Attila Csihar. The songwriting is varied, as well. In addition to some absolutely punishing tracks that have a certain degree of catchiness, there are a few droning, atmospheric tracks that somewhat switch gears, but manage to fit in nicely amongst all of the punishment. Adding to the atmosphere are some interesting samples taken from what sounds to be soft lounge music from the 1940s, as well as the odd spoken word interlude in French.

All of these disparate elements add up to a stellar debut from Ayat. “Six Years of Dormant Hatred” is probably one of the best recent releases from Moribund Cult, a label that is rapidly expanding their roster with some excellent, varied black metal. Buy or die.

For an audio sample of "Fornication and Murder", see my Playlist on the sidebar.

INTERVIEW

This interview was conducted via email with Filthy Fuck (his moniker) of Ayat. Please see the note at the interview's conclusion.

1) Briefly describe the history of Ayat, and the origin of the band’s name. How did Ayat form and under what circumstances?

Sadogoat and I started playing together in the late 90’s, we created Ayat in 2001 so we can do our own thing since musical divergences were starting to appear in our previous efforts with other people. I came up with the name Ayat because Islam, although being the dominant faith that it is with more than a billion adherents, was a topic that was never explored in Black Metal. It was as if Christianity was that much worse and that the Muslim countries are paradises on earth and there was actually nothing to complain about. There IS a lot to complain about. And the term Ayat with its story telling connotations left us space to explore other topics as well not related to the original religious meaning.

By creating Ayat we alienated ourselves completely from the rest of the Lebanese scene and condemned ourselves to be boycotted for a while and opposed by nearly everyone. Actually, by everyone. Even our friends voiced their support for us theoretically but apologized in advance for not being there if anything serious actually happens.

In any case, we’re big time favorites now. Which is very telling. We had to be worshiped abroad to be given the benefit of a doubt at home.

2) How did a band from Lebanon, a country not known for metal, end up on Moribund Cult’s roster?

Because we’re that good.

3) How does the tumultuous recent history of Lebanon factor into Ayat’s thematic and lyrical elements, if at all?

Of course it does. But the “how” takes too long to explain. We (Arabs and the West) are different, the general shape in which are countries are is different, when you get down to details, we even eat our soup differently, and for a specific reason. So when it comes to something as personal and self-consuming as writing music, we are bound to be effected by our environment and our history.

4) Do you have to deal with any forms of censorship in Lebanon? If so, do you have to rehearse and/or record in secret?

We face absolutely no form of censorship because we officially don’t exist for the Lebanese government. And we intend to keep it this way for as long as possible. I smuggled a few copies that I gave to very close friends and that will be the end of our sales here in Lebanon. We don’t rehearse, we just write music, because Sadogoat and I live thousands of miles apart. Recording in secret? Do Western bands record in public? We just record, man.

5) Briefly describe the recording process for “Six Years of Dormant Hatred”.

Painful and tedious. And occasionally hilarious. I always laugh when I get something recorded right, a sample in its right place, a certain scream that rips, a silence then a killer riff, those good parts always make me laugh. So, it was one year (yes it took us even more than a year to get everything down on listenable format) of utter shit intermitted by moments of pure authentic mischievous laughter.

6) Are you satisfied with the reaction to “Six Years of Dormant Hatred”? Do you plan to tour to support the album?

I’m very satisfied. We’re getting tens and zeros everywhere. I don’t like whatever is in between. People are either pissing on the CD or building a shrine for it. As for touring, I don’t think it is a possibility before the second full length.

7) Explain the meaning of the term “Dajjal”.

In Islam, Al Dajjal is the false prophet, something like your anti-Christ. The meaning of the term can be translated rather precisely with the term “Hypocrite”. It is someone who has all the characteristics of a real prophet but works for a different boss.

8) Did the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel have an impact upon Ayat’s music?

It stunned it to total inaction. It can probably affect the next release but whatever happened during these past six years only delayed an album that was already done. One cannot make Black Metal IN times of war. One makes it after the rubble settles.

9) Does the current conflict between Hamas and Israel influence the band’s current direction, or immediate plans?

The current conflict between Hamas and Israel cannot influence the direction or the immediate plans of Ayat in any way. How do you want it to influence us? Call our next album “Eyeless in Gaza, but for real this time”? Or do you want me to tell you we’re dropping our instruments and we’re joining Hamas on their next boot camp? You want to know my opinion and you’re phrasing it into something relatively connected to Ayat. I’m fine with that. I’ll tell you my opinion. I think this war is total crap. It’s not even a war. Israelis should kill some of their soldiers on the way back to even the odds because the number of casualties is so disproportionate that it can’t be called a war anymore. But who can mess with Israel? Bless them. They’re doing great. Holding the entire world in a headlock of guilt. One has to at least acknowledge the astounding ingenuity. What of Arabs? We have been degraded to the rank of a nation that can only be allowed to talk at UN meetings once we’re leaning to a cane and we’re bleeding from both ears. And who speaks in our name in these dire times when we desperately need a voice? On a fuckin’ goat somewhere, Islam Osama! And the lost boy wonder of Saddam as well. A fuckin’ happy day this is.

Meanwhile, Israel remains the only country in the world exempt from accountability. And the death toll is rising and most of them are children. But who cares about Arab children anyway? They’re not REAL children. They’re just terrorists in the making. I put my TV in the attic. This is all so sickening. And it’s quite emblematic of the shape of the world.

The Arab world should be put to sleep with an overdose of Ketamin to end its misery. We are so embarrassing one might wonder if we don’t deserve all of this.

As for the West, in the long run, this will mean absolutely nothing. You are already accountable for countless slaughters, and you “technically” have no hand in this one.

10) You describe yourselves as “Anti- Islamic” black metal. Please give us a more complete description of your intentions with this statement.

We never described ourselves as Anti-Islamic Black Metal. We are against the religious establishment in all its forms and Islam is just one form of it.

11) How has the band’s anti-Islamic stance been greeted in Lebanon, and elsewhere in the Islamic world? Do you feel as if you’ve risked your lives by taking such a stance?

(Don’t make it worse, man)

12) Given that most of our readers are in the West, can you give us your impressions regarding black metal in the Islamic world? Is the art form taking hold; that is, is there any sort of “scene” appearing? What are the thematic elements present in black metal in that part of the world, to your knowledge?

You’re not missing out on anything. Yet, I URGE you to buy Damaar’s album "Triumph Through Spears of Sacrilege". The best War Metal you have ever heard in your entire life.

13) Lastly, do you feel the need to emigrate from Lebanon to carry Ayat forward?

Not only Ayat. To carry anything forward one has to leave this fucked up place every once in a while because the market is elsewhere. But I am staying here on the long run. I won’t emigrate to wash your fuckin’ dishes or sell you Happy Burgers and be called “one hell of a guy” by left wing diners. I’m staying right here making what I do best unless I get an opportunity shining with awesomeness elsewhere. War doesn’t bother me one bit. I am content here. I have enough money to get by and getting laid regularly. I’ll only go abroad to visit and take exotic pictures of you to bring home.

**Interviewer’s Note: The “anti-Islamic” term is described in the entry for Ayat at Encyclopaedia Metallum, and has appeared in other reviews (example) of "Six Years of Dormant Hatred". Ayat’s official website does not acknowledge, or endorse, this term. Also, "Dajjal" is mentioned in the Encyclopaedia Metallum entry as a lyrical theme.

Ayat (Official)

The interview will also be published at Live 4 Metal.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Review: Dreaming Dead "Within One"

This review comes at the request of Scott Alisoglu and Ryan Ogle at Clawhammer PR...



Dreaming Dead- Within One

(Ibex Moon Records)

Dreaming Dead are a melodic death metal act with blackened overtones from Los Angeles and now issue their debut full-length, entitled “Within One”, on Pennsylvania’s Ibex Moon Records. A trio, Dreaming Dead are fronted by Elizabeth Schall, who handles all of the guitar and vocal duties.

The scorching guitar work is the obvious backbone of Dreaming Dead, with extremely tight, proficient musicianship from Ms. Schall as she alternates between exceptionally fast riffing that just shreds and melodic work with a classical edge. Backing up her guitar work are well written songs that start with a Floridian death metal base, but are occasionally lightened up with some non-saccharine Gothenburg style melodies, and brutally enhanced with a few all out blasts (hence, the blackened reference that I threw out there earlier).

As impressive as the musicianship is from Ms. Schall and the songwriting happens to be, the rather thin production of the drums, also very precise with tight musicianship, and the non-existent bass, unfortunately, robs “Within One” of a little bit of heft. In addition, Ms. Schall’s vocal work is average at best, with rather weak sounding high pitched growls. If you must ask that I compare her to Angela Gossow, Ms. Gossow definitely has an edge.

However, these detractions aside, “Within One” is an excellent debut and immediately vaults Dreaming Dead into metal’s collective consciousness as a force to be reckoned with in melodic death metal. Work on the vocals a bit, and I fully expect great things to come from Dreaming Dead. Overall, “Within One” is recommended.

Ibex Moon Records

Dreaming Dead MySpace (Official)

In addition, Dreaming Dead are appearing soon at the Knitting Factory (fear the bathroom once more) for a record release party...

Monday, January 05, 2009

Better Late Than Never... Top Ten List 2008



2008 was a banner year for face shredding, all out death metal. Black metal took a bit of a back seat this year. As usual, I’m probably forgetting tons of shit, so feel free to call me a fool. In addition, I’ve changed this list around a few times, even since it has been published on Invisible Oranges.

1) Krisiun “Southern Storm”
2) Earth “The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull”
3) Nachtmystium “Assassins: Black Meddle Part I”
4) Toxocara “The Great Rebellious”
5) Leviathan “Massive Conspiracy Against All Life”
6) Prostitute Disfigurement “Descendants Of Depravity”
7) Defloration “Necrotic Nightmares”
8) Bloodbath “The Fathomless Misery”
9) Misery Index “Traitors”
10) Samothrace “Life’s Trade”

Honorable Mentions: Ayat “Six Years of Dormant Hatred”, Belphegor “Bondage Goat Zombie”, Decrepit Birth “Diminishing Between Worlds”, Origin “Antithesis”, Testament “The Formation Of Damnation”, Lair Of The Minotaur "War Metal Battle Master", Dead Congregation "Graves of the Archangels", and, believe it or not, Exmortus “In Hatred’s Flame”.

Mildly disappointing, but, then again, I wasn’t expecting all that much (it has sort of grown on me): Metallica “Death Magnetic”

Biggest disappointment: The argument begins and ends with “The Unspoken King” by Cryptopsy.

Best retrospective: Hellhammer “Demon Entrails”

Best re-issue: Velvet Cacoon “Genevieve”

Best show: Exhume To Consume (Carcass, Suffocation, 1349, et al)

Best show that I blew off because I was lazy: High On Fire, Krallice

Worst show: Summer Slaughter 2008

Best metal book that I’ve yet to read (my other life has been really busy this year): “Swedish Death Metal” by Daniel Ekeroth

I also must say that I simply didn’t have time to listen to, or give a serious listen to, tons of other albums from all genres that have made everyone else’s Top Ten lists. If I have some time, I’d really like to listen to, among others…

Gojira “The Way of All Flesh”, Opeth “Watershed”, Eluveitie “Slania”, Hate Eternal “Fury and Flames”, Meshuggah “obZen”, Korpiklaani “Korven Kuningas”, Grave “Dominion VIII”, Satyricon “The Age of Nero”, Grand Magus “Iron Will”, Neuraxis “The Thin Line Between”, Motorhead “Motorizer”, Swallow The Sun “Plague of Butterflies”, Psycroptic “Ob(Servant)”, The Amenta “n0n”, Thyrfing “Hels Vite” (has the release on this one been pushed back?), Six Feet Under “Death Rituals”.

I haven’t seen enough DVDs to compile a list.

What else am I missing?! I welcome your thoughts…