Sunday, January 31, 2010

Skull's Heartfelt Journey to The Prince of Darkness. From 12 to 40 years old.

So, I’m out last night delivering my pizzas, for fun of course, and I’m listening to the garbage that passes itself off as Chicago radio. The DJ on the air was speaking on the phone with some knucklehead who happened to be camping out overnight at a local Barnes and Noble store for the purpose of being the first in line to meet Ozzy Osbourne at a promotional signing of the new book “I Am Ozzy”. My ears perked up, which is an unusual response to Chicago radio for me, and I listened closely. After all, I have had Ozzy’s book for two weeks now (although due to time commitments with another book, I haven’t yet been able to start it), and the thought of having the opportunity to get it autographed by The Ozzman excited me. Unfortunately, I was scheduled to work today, and although calling in sick came to mind, I decided to stick to my work commitments and suffer the loss.

After arriving for work this morning, I mentioned to my lovely (and very cool) manager Tina my predicament. She was very sympathetic and tossed out the suggestion that, if we were slow, she might be able to cut me loose so I can meet my idol. Sadly, though, our business was not slow, and we were hopping all day long. I saw my chances to meet The Prince of Darkness dwindle with every minute that passed, and I soon lost all hope. Feeling dejected, I escaped outside at 3:00 pm for a quick smoke and Tina joined me. I told her my chance had passed and Ozzy would surely be off to some insane adventure by the time I clocked out. Tina then suggested something that, although very simple and obvious, I had never thought of. She said, “Why don’t you just call B&N and ask them if he he’s still there and, if so, how long he’ll be there.” Brilliant! My adorable manager just did my thinking for me! My hope was now restored! After I punched out, I called and was told that A) Yes, Ozzy was still there, B) The waiting line to see him was massive, and C) He would there until 6:00 pm or until the book supply ran out. It was now 4:15pm. I still had a chance!

Considering that I had left my copy of “I Am Ozzy” at home, I would have to roll the dice and hope their supply wasn’t exhausted by the time I got there. I hit the road and broke every conceivable traffic law known to man, and I arrived at the book store in 30 minutes.

After arriving, I searched high and low for a parking space, which took an additional 15 minutes, and hustled to the front door and the platoon of security guards flanking it. I was told there were maybe 15 copies of the book left inside and I had better get my ass in there quick. I did as ordered and cursed my lack of foresight while buying my second copy of Ozzy’s autobiography. But I was smiling ear to ear because I had made it! I was then herded to the end of the line of people waiting to have their copies signed. I sent out a couple texts to friends telling them I indeed was going to meet Mr. Osbourne and ogled at all of the fine looking ladies also waiting in line. It was then and only then, that I had time to think.

I spent the next 45 minutes rehashing memories in my head of the man I was about to meet. I was about to meet OZZY. The man who helped forge Heavy Metal in Birmingham, England with Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward in the guise of Black Sabbath. The first true Heavy Metal band, and the best of all time. The man who was subsequently FIRED by Black Sabbath, but arose from the ashes like a Phoenix by plowing his own way to stardom with a stellar solo career. The man who conspired with the late, and since canonized, Randy Rhoads on the stunning releases of “Blizzard of Ozz” and “Diary of a Madman”, only to lose him in a plane crash, which I don’t think he has ever gotten over. The man who bit the head off a dove during a press conference promoting “Blizzard…” and also, quite mistakenly, the head of a live bat he mistook for a rubber prop on stage. The man who, according to Metallica, snorted up lines of living ants off the ground in the early morning hours after a night of heavy partying. The man who was arrested for pissing on The Alamo, for Christ’s sake!

I remembered the first rock concert I ever attended. It was 1982. I witnessed the Diary of a Madman tour and I was 12 years old. St. Randy was still alive and I was completely mesmerized by the set. It will always live on as the greatest show I ever saw. I have seen Ozzy many other times since, both solo and with the resurrected Black Sabbath. I remembered being the misfit pre-teen that I once was who looked to Ozzy’s music as guidance when I was feeling low. Who could completely relate to “Goodbye To Romance”, “Crazy Train”, “You Can’t Kill Rock ‘n’ Roll”, and more lately in life truly understood “Suicide Solution” and “Flying High Again”. I remembered the child who wrote “OZZY RULES” on every blank piece of parchment he could find. The kid who explored Black Sabbath without abandon during his experimentation turned love for pot. The young man whose life ended up mirroring Ozzy’s in so many ways, yet only the dark ones and not the successful ones. I thought of the man I am today who still admires the Hell out of Ozzy for still being alive, still hurdling obstacles, and still succeeding. And I thought of how, after all that he’s gone through and all he’s survived, I still want to be just like him.

When my time came to hand over my book to the B&N employee to be put in front of John Michael Osbourne for signing (opened to the title page as instructed), my stomach lurched and I realized this was my only chance. He was not interacting with any of the fans. He was obviously very tired and I sympathized with him. He was surrounded by bodyguards and the line of people went past him almost silently. I didn’t hear anyone speak to him. As I approached and entered his presence, I didn’t appear before him as the 40 year old hardened man that I am today. I entered his space as the prepubescent 12 year old boy I once was, who worshipped the ground Ozzy walks on. As he was signing, in the brief five second space of time I had with him, everything and everyone else disappeared. It was only Ozzy and I in a 3 ft. by 3 ft. box. Nothing else mattered to me. As he signed, I leaned forward and said three words, “Thank you, Ozzy”, and it was then that I realized I wasn’t thanking him for just signing the book. Fuck the book. I was thanking him for everything. Everything he had done for me and everything he had meant to me for my whole life. As I spoke, and this realization hit me, a lump formed in my throat and my voice cracked while I held back tears. I didn’t care. I still don’t care. I wanted him to know how much he has impacted my life. He didn’t notice and I don’t think he cared. He moved my book over and reached for the next one. I did not take this as an insult, and my love and admiration for him did not fade. He was tired and sick of being on the road yet again. I said what I have wanted to say to him for almost 30 years. I thanked him from the bottom of my heart and am satisfied. Ozzy will always be a god to me.

Thank you for the push Tina.

Skull


Saturday, January 30, 2010

A teaser...

Nile/ Immolation/ Krisiun hits these shores on Tuesday night. In anticipation, here are a few of Skull's pics from the Chicago show a few days back...













Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Skull Reviews "Beasts Among Sheep" by Javelina



Javelina- Beasts Among Sheep

(Translation Loss Records)

By: Skull

Stoner/ Doom is another “mood metal” for me, and it usually takes a craving for it for me to pop some on. However, the likes of Kyuss, High on Fire, The Melvins, etc. do hit my system with some regularity, and I do have a strong appreciation for it. As far as this genre goes, though, Javelina’s second release, “Beasts among Sheep”, is one hum-dinger of an album.

Spewed forth from Translation Loss Records (and recorded in Chicago), this album charges out with both guns blazing with an all out assault on the listener from the first two tracks “You’re Gonna Hate This” and “A Little Paranoia Goes a Long Way”. Taking a small step back, “Towers of Silence” lulls one into a false sense of security and then destroys with some seriously heavy riffs. Speaking of which, this release is chock full of some outright mean riffage throughout, most notably in “Arcadia” (I dare you to get through this one without banging the old noggin). My rolling system ate this one up voraciously, and then defecated it all out of my Infinities!

The leads are excellent with passages in “Stepchild” akin to old Judas Priest, or Iron Maiden. The bass rolls along with the riffs when appropriate and deviates to fill gaps when necessary. All the while, pounding drum work helps coagulate the sludge into its true form. This recording simply does not let up for the whole eight track duration, and closes epically with “Beware the Wrath of the Patient Man”. Mysteriously, the track has a roughly thirteen minute gap of silence before a three minute finale. If this is some cover or tribute, I can only plead ignorance, as this truly did not seem necessary to me. The track itself closed the door well enough.

My overall impression of Philadelphia’s Javelina is that they must have a tremendous live presence, but, as good as this album is, I wonder if it actually does them justice. Javelina are hitting the road starting in early February. Apparently, the closest they will get to Chicago will be when they hit Indianapolis in March (they were here in Chicago last October). Indianapolis is a bit of a haul for me to catch a show, but I’ve spent the better part of the last few days looking at my calendar, rationalizing, and jingling my car keys…

Links

Javelina Official MySpace

Translation Loss Records

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bottom of the Pile Part II

I've sort of reached the bottom of the pile with albums that deserve a quick write up, yet are outside of my main interests. Here's a quick look at each.





First up are two recent releases from crust punk pioneers Hellbastard. I must admit that I'm not familiar with all of the intracacies of crust as a genre, but, to these ears, Hellbastard sound quite similar to old school crossover/ hardcore. A couple of bands come to mind for comparison, namely The Crumbsuckers, old D.R.I., and Attitude Adjustment. Hellbastard, from Newcastle, England, have been around for ages, and have recently released an EP and a full-length, "Eco-War" and "The Need To Kill", respectively, on Selfmadegod Records. "The Need To Kill" is the better of the two releases, with fast crossover songs and a good, solid production that still retains an 80s vibe. Hellbastard are definitely a genuine throwback, and are most decidedly not a "rethrash" retread. "Eco-War" has a decent cover of "Die By The Sword" to boot, but has slower songs with a weaker production. Certainly, at the very least, Hellbastard will appeal to crossover fans.

Links

Hellbastard Official MySpace

Selfmadegod Records



At the very bottom of the pile is a self-released (promoted by Earsplit PR, however) two-song demo entitled "Glorybound" from Windfaerer. Windfaerer are a trio from New Jersey playing solid, fast pagan metal obviously taking more than a page from Enisferum. The music is solid, however, as both tracks are fast, have a rough sound, and incorporate just the right amount of melody with violin. Windfaerer may make a name for themselves in the pagan metal genre, and you may want to check them out.

Links

Windfaerer Official MySpace

For now, I've reached the bottom of the pile. Also, here is my recent review of the re-issue of "We're Going To Hollywood For This... Live Perversions" DVD by Carpathian Forest.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bottom of the Pile Part I

During the depths of winter, album releases slow to a trickle, only to pick up again around early February or so. The let up has allowed me to, more or less, get caught up as I’ve written a boatload of new reviews to be published at The Plague in early February. In addition, Skull has helped me out, and three more of his reviews will be appearing soon.

As I’ve plowed through the album pile, I had been putting off looks at albums that are somewhat outside of my genres of choice, but are still worth a brief write up. Here’s a look at each, split over a couple of postings.



First up are two similar bands in the stoner genre, each sort of sounding like a cross between 70s-era stoner rock, the classic Mindfunk album “Dropped”, and influences from Southern sludge; that is, sort of an Eyehategod-lite. At the top of this pile is the self titled second album (I think) from Raise The Red Lantern (a title swiped from a classic Chinese film, it turns out), on At A Loss Recordings. From Chicago, Raise The Red Lantern are a bit hard to pin down, with melodic stoner wanderings and shoegaze interspersed with heavier moments of sludge, and, somewhat strangely, a weird progressive vibe that reminds me somewhat of Voivod. Periodically, the riffs are quite good, bass heavy, and catchy as is necessary, but I found myself really turned off by the vocals, which very nearly devolve into metalcore screaming at times.

Links

Raise The Red Lantern Official MySpace

At A Loss Recordings Official MySpace



Also along the same lines as Raise The Red Lantern are Ichabod, from Boston, with their third full-length entitled “2012”. Released on Rootsucker Records, Ichabod are treading the same ground on “2012” as some of the more crushing stoner/ doom acts, such as Samothrace and Black Cobra, but with a generally up tempo approach. The “Dropped” approach is also most apparent in Ichabod, with plenty of catchy, sludge ridden riffs lifted from the 70s (I wasn’t surprised to encounter a cover of “The Nile Song” on this album) overlaid with melodic vocals that veer into harsher territory now and then.

Links

Ichabod Official MySpace

Rootsucker Records

Although quite similar, I found Ichabod to be the better of the two bands.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Skull goes to see Karl Sanders!

The death metal bill of the year hit Chicago at the storied Cabaret Metro last night, and Skull, naturally, was there (Skull passed out at the Metro one time at a King Diamond/ Megadeth show when we were 17 years old). I'll be giving this show a full write-up when the tour hits Los Angeles on February 2nd, but Skull did leave me impressions via text messages as the show progressed.

The version of the tour that hit the Metro did not feature Abigail Williams, who recently dropped off the tour due to an injury sustained by drummer Ken Meyers, and no other band had time to fill the empty slot prior to the Chicago show (Skull lucked out, it turns out). Therefore, Skull witnessed Dreaming Dead, Krisiun, Immolation, and Nile with the show being over at a reasonable hour.

As would be expected, according to Skull's texts, all three headliners absolutely crushed, and this tour ends up being highly anticipated by me and just about everyone else. Dreaming Dead weren't all that bad, either ("First band features two broads. They're not bad."), and Schall and crew should shred it up live.

And then, the coup de grace of Skull's texts, about an hour later, outside one of the Metro's adjacent bars...

"Dude, I just had my picture taken with Karl!"



To my dismay, the HOB Sunset Strip show is going to get deathcore/ wanker band Rose Funeral to take the slot abdicated by Abigail Williams. Whoopee. I would simply prefer...



A full report after February 2nd will follow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Beast Of The Apocalypse "A Voice From The Four Horns Of The Golden Altar"



The Beast Of The Apocalypse- A Voice From The Four Horns Of The Golden Altar

(Transcendental Creations)

The Beast Of The Apocalypse are a duo from The Netherlands releasing their debut full-length album entitled “A Voice From The Four Horns Of The Golden Altar” on the French Canadian label Transcendental Creations. Like so many others, The Beast Of The Apocalypse are a direct descendant of early Bathory, as this debut album very much sounds like a mix of Bathory’s first two albums.

“A Voice From The Four Horns Of The Golden Altar” contains a very fuzzed out guitar with simple, yet powerful, riffs, a nice variation in tempo, and deep growls to the vocals, mostly in the far background. At times, the pace speeds up to a near blast, but the drums are so far down in the mix that they merely come across as a deep rumble at times. Adding to the atmosphere are a few weird synthesizer/ harmonic effects that fade in and out between, and within, songs. The production is muddy and deep with the guitars being down tuned, the bass nearly nonexistent, and the drums hard to discern.

Although the music is somewhat simplistic and not terribly original, “A Voice From The Four Horns Of The Golden Altar” is quite effective with good songwriting and atmosphere that gives the album a deep sense of foreboding. In addition, I wouldn’t exactly call the music very catchy, but the simple riffs are memorable and have a feeling of power. Variations in tempo keep the album from getting stale, and the periodic appearance of the weird effects enhance the atmosphere at the right moments. In short, “A Voice From The Four Horns Of The Golden Altar” is a good example of primitive black metal, no more, no less.

Primitive black metal with roots in the 80s seems to be making a comeback of sorts of late (like so many other favorite genres from yesteryear) with a monstrous, recent release from Teitanblood, and now this album from The Beast Of The Apocalypse. If you have any sort of interest in primitive black metal, you pretty much can’t go wrong with “A Voice From The Golden Horns Of The Golden Altar”. Recommended.

Links

The Beast Of The Apocalypse Official MySpace

Transcendental Creations

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Taking a second look... "Defiance" by Deströyer 666



Deströyer 666- Defiance

(Season of Mist)

Recently, I posted about the best albums of 2009 (along with everyone else). Inevitably, albums get lost in the shuffle with estimates of the number of albums released in metal during 2009 somewhere around 10,000 (!)

An eagle-eyed reader cornered me on why “Defiance”, the latest full-length from Deströyer 666, hadn’t garnered even a mention on my list. Simply put, I didn’t have time to devote to the album, something that I set out to remedy after being admonished. Over the last couple of weeks, though, I’ve given the album its deserved attention, and have decided to give the album a short write up, even though “Defiance” is not on my semi-official “to review” list.

Seven years have passed since “Cold Steel… For An Iron Age”, D666’s last full-length, and, as a result, I haven’t paid much attention to the band since (I must go back and revisit that album, and soon). The band’s sound seems to have changed a little in the interim, with the signature form of dirty, blackened thrash smoothed out a bit. “Defiance” has a lot of variation to the songwriting, with lots of tempo changes. Heavy hitting mid-paced dirges accompany all out blasts, all played with surprising moments of melody that give the songs a certain catchiness. Some of the guitar even approaches a degree of intricacy, something not normally expected from D666.

I must also say that “Defiance” reminds me of the recent output from Marduk and Funeral Mist. “Defiance”, “Wormwood”, and “Maranatha” have a similar production, resulting in a similar powerful sound. In addition, K.K. Warslut sounds more than a bit like Mortuus/ Arioch in vocal delivery, adding further to the comparison in my mind. In short, I find myself enjoying “Defiance” a great deal.

So, how does “Defiance” stack up against the best of 2009? Very well, indeed, and should have garnered a mention in my main list of stellar releases of the year. However, I would rate both “Wormwood” and “Maranatha” higher, as those two albums really stood out for me in 2009. Still, “Defiance” is highly recommended.

Links

Season of Mist

Deströyer 666 Official MySpace

Incidentally, I still haven’t listened to “Angelus Exuro Pro Eternus”, the latest full-length from Dark Funeral that was released back in November in Europe (the release date for North America is later this month). The album is in my review queue, but I’ve been hearing bad things about it. We’ll see.



Here's my recent review of the self-titled debut full-length from Bay Area melodic drone outfit Worm Ouroboros.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Skull goes to see the Metal As Art Tour (two of the bands, anyway)...



Bands: Hypno5e, Revocation, The Binary Code

Venue: The Empty Bottle, Chicago, Illinois

Date: January 11th, 2010.

By: Skull

Divorce and a host of personal problems has kept me away from the Chicago metal scene since I saw Sunn O))) back in June. Catching wind of Nile coming around soon, and hearing their incredible new release, woke me up a bit. Then, finding out that Revocation was playing a FREE show brought me out of my shell and got me salivating for some live shit. I couldn’t miss this one! Their latest release “Existence Is Futile” has been in my regular rotation for some time now. Finding out there was no way to RSVP, I rolled the dice and hoped my work schedule allowed for the venture. It did.

I shook off my chains at 6:00pm and headed south for The Empty Bottle on Western for a three-band bill. The acts consisted of Hypno5e (headliner) with Revocation and The Binary Code as support. I broke a cardinal rule of mine and listened to Revocation the whole ride down. I caught some horrendous traffic but still got there early enough to grab a bite at “The Bite”, which is adjacent to Empty Bottle. I repeated the fabulous Green Curry Chicken performance I had already encountered before the Sunn O))) show, and then took my place at the bar during the sound checks. Once again, I snuck in under the ropes and they locked the doors to the public, keeping me in. I was seemingly the only lad who wasn’t an employee of the bar, or of the bands.

They opened the doors as I was ordering beer #2 and a small crowd began to filter in. After finishing my drink, I browsed the merch tables, scooped up some Revocation shirts, and ran them out to my car. I came back in time to catch New Jersey’s The Binary Code open up their set of somewhat high energy technical death metal. To be fair to them, I will openly state right now that this night was ALL about Boston’s thrash masters Revocation for me, and I could give a rat’s ass about who else was playing. All I wanted was for the opening act to wrap up and move aside. I found myself pushing up my cuticles and nursing my beer at the bar for most of their set. I did take a couple pictures, but was rather unenthused. The sound mixing did not seem right and, although they obviously had some talent, especially the lead guitarist whose abilities seemed to get lost in the fray, they could not be heard properly.

Their third song was a bit interesting. Their singer had obviously attended The Barney School of Vocalization and was quite skilled. As they were wrapping their set up, I decided to take advantage of the time and sneak in the men’s room for a quick whiz. While voiding I could hear real power coming from the stage and emerged from the lavatory to really enjoy their finale. My hat’s off to them. I was obviously sitting in the wrong part of the bar for the majority of their set.

After a brief changeover, Revocation took the stage for a quick sound check and ripped open their set, starting with ”Unattained”, and then going straight into “Pestilence Reigns” right out of the box! Holy fucking shit! They completely ruined the small crowd of maybe 150 people with their adrenaline filled brand of (dare I say it…”fun”?) progressive thrash. They played, among other tunes, “Reanimaniac”, “Anthem Of The Betrayed”, and the mind blowing “Dismantle The Dictator” at a frantic pace. They were extremely tight, and I really enjoyed seeing the guitar leads being passed back and forth and played simultaneously. The drumming was impeccable and the dual vocal attack effective. A small pit continued to erupt, which at one point caused me to lose my footing and fall on a sweet young thing sitting on a step behind me. Members of the crowd were thrashing everywhere, including the old fart writing this piece, and I found it hard to find time to take pictures. The set was way too short, but I expected that.

When it was over, I approached the stage and briefly told Anthony Budan that they deserved to headline next time around. I think he appreciated that. They had better headline! In my opinion, Revocation are doing to thrash metal what Rush has done to rock n’ roll. They are expanding it well beyond its parameters and opening up a whole new genre for other bands to explore. Hails to Revocation!

My apologies go out to Hypno5e. I have a two job day ahead of me tomorrow and did not stick around to catch their act. I had already gotten the fix I was craving for anyways.

Some pictures...

The Empty Bottle's door



The Binary Code



Revocation





Skull's t-shirt haul (thanks, Skull!)





Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ihsahn "After"



Ihsahn- After

(Candlelight Records)

I must admit that I’m usually not very enamored of progressive styles of metal, whether they are of the death metal, black metal, or doom metal variety. Although I do appreciate bands such as Opeth, Cynic, and so on, I rarely go out of my way to listen to such artists. Ihsahn is another artist whom is greatly appreciated, but is rather low on my priority list. With that in mind, I approached “After”, Ihsahn’s third full-length since embarking on a career as a solo artist, with caution.

Ihsahn’s skills as a musician and songwriter are undeniable after such a long and influential career (it’s hard to believe that he’s only 34 years old). In addition, with such a major release from an artist of his caliber, “After” is going to have highly skilled session musicians, crystal clear production, and so on. The question then simply becomes, will the songs more than engage the casual listener beyond the niche fans of progressive metal? Yes, much more so to me than those found on “The Adversary” and “angL”, Ihsahn’s first two full-lengths. Ihsahn has really hit his stride with “After”.

There’s an incredible amount of variation to be heard on “After”. The hugely progressive flourishes with plenty of flashy guitar work are here, easily personified in songs such as the opener, “The Barren Lands”. Although I find these aspects of the music to somewhat sterile, the songwriting is top-notch as the song is very catchy. Switching gears, there are a few out and out barnstormers on “After”, as well. Quite easily, I can envision songs such as “A Grave Inversed” as fitting in somewhere on “IX Equilibrium”, as the song is a near all out blast.

“After” is also moody and emotional, particularly with the slower tracks that seem to concentrate on enhanced atmosphere. For example, the title track has a wonderfully simple riff with melody introduced with clean vocals. A lot of the songs deep into the album bring a saxophone, courtesy of Jörgen Munkeby, to the forefront after only making subtle, sporadic appearances early on. These moments are particularly effective as I’m greatly reminded of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, particularly with the album’s closer, “On The Shore”. Keyboards are used quite effectively, as well, and do not compete with the guitar, nor come across as saccharine (“Austere” is a wonderful example). The overall result of these elements that come together is a very dynamic, emotionally engaging album.

If any album is going to convert me into a huge fan of progressive metal, or, at least, a believer, “After” could be it (I’m sure that most of you will take me to task for not giving in prior with any of the albums from Opeth). To these ears, “After” has a certain quality that grabs a hold of me, whereas I don’t have that experience with Opeth. To that end, “After”, released on January 26th, is very highly recommended.

Links

Candlelight Records USA

Ihsahn Official MySpace

Monday, January 11, 2010

Skull Reviews "Black Medicine / Fekete Orvosság" by Aetherius Obscuritas

No, I'm not getting lazy. Although there's been a bit of a let up in the deluge of albums over the last month or so, I've been trying to get caught up on my huge backlog of albums to review by submitting writings to The Plague (to be published in early February), and About.com (ongoing). Skull has been helping me out of late and I hope that he becomes a regular contributor. Here's his second review...



Aetherius Obscuritas- Black Medicine / Fekete Orvosság

(Paragon Records)

By: Skull

Dave seems to have thrown me a bit of a curve ball with the second album he has pitched my way for reviewing. What I have in front of me, and on headphones at the moment, is Paragon Records’ “Black Medicine / Fekete Orvosság” from a duo calling themselves Aetherius Obscuritas. This Hungarian outfit consists of Arkhorri, who basically covers everything but the drums, and Zson, who plays (you guessed it) the drums.

Although this is the duo’s fifth full-length release since 2004, “Black Medicine…” is my first exposure to Aetherius Obscuritas, and, on the first listen, the album didn’t really impress me. After a few more listens though, I had a chance to thoroughly peel away the layers and get them under my skin. This album has a remarkable amount of eclecticism to it and it blurs the line between black and death quite frequently. Also, during the last track, a faithful Running Wild cover of “Black Demon”, the music even turns into some good old black n’ roll before blasting away during the last 30 seconds or so.

The album’s guitar work varies and keeps you guessing. The drumming is quite competent and the bass is audible, clear, and even flashy at times, somewhat uncommon for black metal. Arkhorri’s vocals stick mainly to black metal-ish screaming similar to that of Nattefrost, but also mutate into growls, chants, and even a spattering of clean singing.

The eleven tracks are relatively short, ranging from the 1:58 blast “The End (The Predicted Fall Version)”, which is an excellent number, to the brilliant “Passed Out of Sight - Passed Out of Mind” that clocks in at 5:48. “The Moon Shield” has somewhat of a folksy feel with a passage accentuated by a flute, or some other classical wind instrument (synth?), that is quite catchy (although, after that flute followed me around at work for about 4 hours, it began to get annoying). The 53-second instrumental “A Múlt Lábnyoma / In The Wake of a Remain Footprint” seems oddly out of place, and is barely worth mentioning. The album also includes a decent homage to Marduk, which is a rendition of “The Black Tormentor of Satan”.

All in all, after giving “Black Medicine / Fekete Orvosság” some time to grow on me after my first disinterested listen, I am now eager to acquire Aetherius Obscuritas’ back catalog to discover the evolutionary process that brought them to this complex work that I am currently listening to. The album has definitely earned a spot in my library as, after all, albums that need time to get under the skin sometimes tend to be the most worthwhile.

Links

Paragon Records

Aetherius Obscuritas Official MySpace

My review of "Surpassing The Boundaries Of Human Suffering" by Ingested.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Skull Reviews "New Moon" by Swallow The Sun...

Skull has agreed to periodically contribute a review to this blog now and then, so I asked him if he would be willing to do a brief write up of "New Moon", the latest full-length from Swallow The Sun. First, though, here's a brief introduction from Skull.

Readers:

Dave has graciously given me the opportunity to contribute to his blog in the form of album reviews. I have already submitted some show reviews to him in the past, but am now finding that those are a cakewalk and album reviews are a completely different animal. I met Dave when I was 14 through neighborhood friends and we quickly developed a strong and enduring friendship. When I met him, I was into metal of the mainstream variety but Dave soon turned me on to the more extreme side of metal and for that (and his continued comradeship) I will always be grateful.

I just want to make it clear that I am not an industry insider, nor am I a musician. I do not have Dave’s encyclopedic knowledge of bands, labels, and recording styles of metal. I know what I like, and I know why I like it. Any reviews that I write are coming from the point of view of just a regular guy from suburban Chicago who has loved metal since the early 80’s, and is still continuing to discover and explore the art form.

Skull



Swallow The Sun- New Moon

(Spinefarm Records)

By: Skull

So, my first assignment is "New Moon", the latest release from Finland’s melodic doom masters Swallow The Sun. Doom is not my preferred genre, but I do get in a mood now and then, and have plenty in my library including STS’s discography. Released on Spinefarm Records, "New Moon", the sextet’s fourth full length release, continues moving forward from where "Hope" and their last EP, "Plague of Butterflies", left off with plenty of haunting guitar work and melodies filled with angst and sorrow. Mikko’s transitions from rough to clean vocals are seemingly effortless and smooth. The production is thick and flawless, and it becomes quite easy to get caught up and carried away with the flow of this album.

"New Moon" starts out strong and continues to hold my attention throughout all eight tracks. Of particular note is “The Sun-Lights On the Lake (Horror Part III)”, which is the most dynamic of the already enjoyable "Horror" series. With fantastic and, strangely enough, unaccredited female vocals alongside some surprising blasts of speed with STS’s already well established power, this song will surely become a metal classic that will transcend the genre. The title track of the release, “…And The Heavens Cried Blood”, and “Sleepless Swans” deserve mentions as standouts, as well.

STS has once again piqued my interest in Melodic Doom and "New Moon" is an essential acquisition for any doom enthusiast’s collection. For those unfamiliar with the genre, I can’t think of a better introduction to the field. I foresee some long, cold nights for my copy of "New Moon" because it has just made my regular rotation, and is now doomed to spend a long Chicago winter in my rolling laboratory.

I should also note that STS will soon be embarking on an all Finnish tour of the United States with Moonsorrow and Finntroll. The tour hits Chicago in April...

Links

Swallow The Sun Official MySpace

Spinefarm Records

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Ruins "Front The Final Foes"



Ruins- Front The Final Foes

(Debemur Morti Productions)

“Time Insults The Mind” by Black Anvil impressed many critics last year with the band’s semi-melodic take on 80s-era black/ death metal. So much so, in fact, that the album ended up on numerous year end top ten lists. Turns out that there’s another, equally impressive band out there straddling that same line between black and death metal with homage to the 80s, and that would be Ruins. From Tasmania and sporting a few connections to various Australian bands such as Psycroptic, Ruins issue their third full-length, entitled “Front The Final Foes”, and second for the French label Debemur Morti Productions.

I’m not familiar with Ruins prior to this release, but, immediately, two influences seem to leap out on “Front The Final Foes”. First, the vocal delivery of Alex Pope is a dead ringer for that of Thomas Gabriel Warrior’s classic work in Celtic Frost. In addition, Ruins sound like an up tempo version of early Celtic Frost, albeit with better musicianship and a modern sound. Second, I’m also reminded of Goatwhore, another band that straddles the line between black and death metal, but with greater ferocity than, say, Black Anvil. For that matter, Goatwhore’s Ben Falgoust also sounds a bit like Warrior; hence, another similarity to Ruins.

Rather than just rehashing old ideas played out by these bands, Ruins do provide their own take on the fine line between black and death metal with well written songs that incorporate plenty of tempo changes, a concentration upon riffs that alternate between great speed and mid-paced groove, and catchy songwriting. All the while, Ruins are able to maintain a dark tone, darker than that of Black Anvil, probably enhanced by their appearance on Debemur Morti, a label that has a “true” reputation.

Although probably too far from black metal, like Black Anvil, to satisfy purists, Ruins are ferocious and would appeal to anyone with an interest in a modern version of 80s-era black/ death metal. Strongly recommended.

Links

Ruins Official MySpace

Debemur Morti Productions