Saturday, January 29, 2011

Valdur and Harassor at The Blvd.



After a 1 1/2 month long hiatus, I had been itching to get to a show. The opportunity presented itself with Valdur appearing at The Blvd. on relatively short notice. A number of other bands appeared on the bill as supporting acts, only one of which caught my ear. Just about every other known black metal band from L.A. made up the audience.

That band was Harassor. A trio without a bassist, Harassor play stripped down, raw, tremelo picked black metal with a steady, clicking cadence. Think Ildjarn, Black Funeral, albeit with a much deeper sound, and you're on the right track. Expecting nothing, I was pleasantly surprsied as Harassor were tight, brutal, and chock full of catchy songs and nihilistic atmosphere. Awesome! I had a chance to briefly chat with the drummer afterwards, who indicated that Harassor was merely a hobby for the trio. Even so, I intend to track down whatever demo material Harrassor happen to have floating around out there.

Valdur has vaulted to the top of my favortites list for their heady mix of primal ferocity and songcraft. As my esteemed colleague and I discussed after the show, there's a hint of primal majesty about this band's sound, an intangible quality that is difficult to attain, black metal or otherwise. I expect this band to just get better and better with time, and I'll say again that Valdur are probably the best USBM band that you've never heard of.

The pictures...

Harassor (note the unique drummer positioning)...




Valdur











The video...

Harassor



Valdur



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Short Bursts IV

Been awhile, but here are a few “shorties” that have been sitting in my “to perhaps someday review” pile…

The Secret Solve Et Coagula



(Southern Lord)

Solve Et Coagula is not exactly what I had expected from Italy’s The Secret. I was under the impression, perhaps erroneously, that The Secret was some sort of metalcore band, so imagine my surprise to find The Secret’s third full-length amongst a recent package of physical promos from Southern Lord Records. Turns out that my metalcore assessment was not even close as The Secret, on this album anyway, play a very rough, sludge-laden form of grindcore that more than reminds me of recent blast fests from bands such as Brutal Truth and latter day Agoraphobic Nosebleed.

Very loud grindcore with chaotic songs and a very biting, dirty sounding production is de rigueur from The Secret. Toss is some very good songwriting and some stifling, very wet atmosphere wonderfully enhanced by the organic production, and Solve Et Coagula ends up a great grindcore album with that Southern Lord touch of authenticity.

I’m not very enamored of Southern Lord’s recent flirtations with hardcore as that genre is not really my thing, but Solve Et Coagula is a pleasant surprise of over the top grindcore.

The Secret MySpace

Earth A Bureaucratic Desire For Extra-Capsular Extraction



(Southern Lord)

This is a “best of” compilation of early material from drone/ doom pioneers Earth, reissued in a gorgeous package from, yep, Southern Lord Records. Containing remastered material from Earth’s first couple of official releases from the early '90s, specifically Extra-Capsular Extraction and Sunn Amps And Smashed Guitars Live, A Bureaucratic Desire For Extra-Capsular Extraction features incredible album artwork and detailed liner notes from band founder Dylan Carlson. The liner notes are well worth the effort as Carlson describes the tumultuous early days of Earth, as well as his friendship with Kurt Cobain (who appears in the backing vocals of a track).

Also worth noting is that this material dates to a period before the heavy, doom-laden saga of Earth 2 and, although heavy and distorted, feels closer in theme and tone to Earth’s most recent, gentle albums. In short, A Bureaucratic Desire For Extra-Capsular Extraction is a nice warm up for the imminent dropping of Earth’s new full-length.

Earth MySpace

Subhuman Profondo Rozzo



(Maple Metal Records)

Italian thrash metal by way of a Quebecois record label? Hmmm. Screamed/ growled in Italian, Subhuman play modern thrash metal with both fierce and melodic touches on Profondo Rozzo. There are some good riffs delivered at a frenetic pace and the songwriting tosses in a mix of tempos, but the vocals are much too prominent and approach the metalcore/ deathcore scream at bit too close at times for my comfort level.

However, there are a few good things to be found on Profondo Rozzo, and with an upgrade in catchiness and songwriting, Subhuman may get some notice. Working against Subhuman, however, is the fact that the retro-thrash revival has pretty much been played out at this point, and only the best bands are going to be left standing. Subhuman are not one of them.

Not a bad release, Profondo Rozzo is innocuous and, ultimately, quite forgettable.

Subhuman MySpace

Nekrasov Extinction



(Crucial Blast Records)

One man basement black metal from Australia is what Nekrasov is all about with Extinction, a, as usual, wonderfully packaged release from Crucial Blast in digipack format. However, rather than just playing raw, low-fi necro black metal aiming for “kvlt” status, Nekrasov embraces his use of programmed percussion with gusto. Ramping up the speed to 250 bpm-plus levels, Nekrasov couples the quite obviously mechanized drumming with plenty of low-fi screeching, fast riffing with a buzzing quality, and far too many industrial tinged, ambient passages that make up at least half of this already overly long, 60-minute album.

Extinction is suitably nihilistic, but probably suffers from the lack of creative input from other members. Toss Striborg and Noism into a blender, and you’ve got the gist of it.

Nekrasov MySpace

Tenebrae In Perpetuum/ Krohm Split



(Debemur Morti Productions)

Two minor “kvlt” black metal bands that have been around the block a few times appear together on this split, as each band contributes three songs to the effort. First up is Italian raw black metal act Tenebrae In Perpetuum. A veteran band with a number of full-lengths already under their collective belts, Tenebrae In Perpetuum are completely unremarkable in any way and stick to a template of mid-paced, raw black metal with melancholic overtones and nary a hint of any originality whatsoever on their half of the split.

Unfortunately, Krohm, a better band (a one man project, actually), does not fare very well, either, with three unremarkable songs of rather typical, mid-paced, early Burzum-esque black metal. Suitably atmospheric, the three songs do not meet, however, higher standards established on past, well regarded full-lengths from Krohm, and the songs have a bit of a “mailed it in” quality.

In short, a disappointing split from two, for the most part, competent bands.

Krohm MySpace

No listing was found for Tenebrae In Perpetuum, who have, apparently, split up, anyway.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Interview: Dark And Somber Greetings

Recently, a news item from Earsplit PR crossed my desk about Dark And Somber Greetings, a new project that produces and sells, that’s right, black metal themed greeting cards!

Immediately, I had to get the scoop on this new endeavor, so I promptly set up the following interview with the producers of such cards...



1) Describe how this project got started. What sparked your interest and motivation?

I had been making cards similar to these for years just for our friends, and even that had been probably inspired from funny stuff that I had seen on the Internet. I mean, what metalhead has not received, or seen some kind of variation of, a holiday message or greeting featuring Immortal, for example, with Santa Claus caps crudely photoshopped onto their cold heads? Many times on my birthday, I received this cake with Abbath and Horgh rendered in frosting!

However, these hilarious concepts were always confined to digital media used mainly as images posted on social networking sites (another phenomenon that is un-metal, but is, nonetheless, devoured by metalheads). We saw nothing that cool in print at all, and for good reason; metalheads don't send out greeting cards (especially the black hordes), like, EVER!

So, having established that there was virtually no market for this concept and that the only individuals that would "get it" would be the last people in the world to actually buy them, we decided that the idea was ABSURD enough to be worth doing.

2) Describe the creative process. What motifs and themes did you consider? What “holidays” are incorporated into the designs?

We kept the holiday cards vague; basically a "Season’s Greetings" and a "Happy Holidays.” As far as the process goes, it is different for each card. The card "It Says Happy Birthday" was something that I thought of at the start, so that image was designed specifically for that message. Other cards at times had an image and the text was an afterthought. We would just sit in front of the computer cracking each other up, basically.

3) Who is the model, or models?

Norfgar, Wolfcock, Hausstritcor, Gal Yell, Corpse Rapist, King Monarch, ÜÜÜhL, Heinous Lupus, Equinox, and Manotaur were all very generous with their time, and we were honored to work with them.

4) Where did the production photography take place?

In another dimension, beyond the thrice nine kingdoms; a place cold and dark.

5) What paper stock have you decided upon and was this an important consideration?

After touring many paper corporations all over the world we finally decided on our own stock made of recycled bibles. We have been harvesting them from hotel rooms for years, and we finally had a use for them!!! The ink is made of the blood of goats mixed with cephalopod ink and the bile of toads!! An arduous process, but quite necessary... heheheh.

6) Will more cards be produced in the future?

We are adding two new cards this month; Valentine’s Day! We are very excited about them since the Black Metal community has always been in love with that day. The two new designs may actually be the best ones yet, so we expect them to sell out. Our ideas beyond February are uncountable for the possibilities are indeed endless.

7) Please describe how readers can purchase the cards, and describe your prices.

The cards currently only retail in Los Angeles at Amoeba Records and Vacation Records, but that is about to change. You can order them by going here.

We offer the whole set of 5x7 cards for $30.00, or pick any 5 for $17.00. Individually, the cards are $4.00 each, and our official website is coming soon...

Thank you for your time.

FROSTBITTEN NECRO-HAILS TO YOU, COMRADE!



Recently reviewed...

Khors Return To Abandoned



Desultory Counting Our Scars



Inquisition Ominous Doctrines Of The Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm



The following lineup appears to be shaping up quite nicely...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Two more from Chris...

Here are two more quick reviews from Chris, a stalwart if there ever was one....



Cough Ritual Abuse

(Relapse Records)

By: Chris Davison

Some doom is virtually easy listening. You know the kind of thing; you pop it in your CD player or digital playlist machine thingamawhatsis, and it produces some virtual Sabbath worship that gives you a facsimile version of Osbourne and company circa 1973. There is nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all, except that, well, it's kind of expected, not to mention a crowded field. Then ,there is the other doom. The “other doom”, I hear you opine? Yeah, the stuff that's as heavy as a cart load of lead being transported in a cast iron wagon.

That's where Cough come in. Largely, and rightly, lauded within the doom community over the last year or so (There's an actual doom community? Like a commune run by burnouts on downers? Now, there's an idea for a reality TV show...), Ritual Abuse is their second full-length album proper. Picture a drug fuelled hellride through tortured, painful crawls across broken glass. Opener “Mind Collapse” does exactly what it says on the label – like a slow motion collision between Electric Wizard, Reverend Bizarre at their most obtuse, and the filthy antics of Iron Monkey.

Elsewhere, stand out track “Crippled Wizard,” which almost impossibly reminds me of Dactylis Glomerata -era Candlemass, with mangled vocals and degenerate riffs, manages to elevate the art of depravity to new levels. A fun ride through infectious, bouncy riffs this ain't.

Anyone expecting any stoner friendly riffs is going to be incredibly disappointed; those of us seeking depressive soundscapes and feedback-drenched voyages of uncomfortable discovery through the human psyche are bound to find something akin to catharsis here.

An incredibly strong, though not by any means easy, listen, Ritual Abuse might well be the official soundtrack to bad times. Tune in, turn up and give in.

Cough Official MySpace



Desultory Counting Our Scars

(Pulverised Records)

By: Chris Davison

Well, I thought I had better go and do some research before launching into this review. See, way back in the day (as we old timers are want to say), in the cold mists of 1996, I bought Swallow The Snake by Desultory. The album had been really highly praised in Terrorizer Magazine back then (I wasn't a Usenet user, and there really weren't very many Internet sites going that had reviews back then), so, therefore, I went the whole hog and bought that very same album without even the basic precaution of a pre-purchase listen. The thing is, Swallow The Snake was a complete and utter pig’s ear of an album. It stunk worse than a bag of cheese left in the sun and stitched under a car seat for post-relationship revenge. An uninspired, boring morass of death n' roll nonsense, it has remained on my “do not play” pile pretty much ever since.

Counting Our Scars can't be the same Desultory, quoth I, listening to the proper melodic death metal of opener “In A Cage”. Except that, it is. Perhaps the intervening fourteen years have given the Swedish chaps a bit of time to reflect on what exactly it was that they had thrown away all those years ago when they had gone for the big riff and the easy groove. In any case, this is a Desultory that has returned with all the fire of their heyday, and with a renewed vigour and vitality.

Musically, this is pretty much a half way house between the melodic slant on death metal, with some nice clean guitar breaks here and there amid tasty axe work wrought into numbers such as “Ready to Bleed,” and a rougher, quintessentially Swedish take on the notion of old school death metal. This is an album that sounds professional and quite polished, with the vocals and guitar work in particular being stand outs – the former being a hoarse, furious roar, the latter being either scything and cutting in the cleaner sections, or bludgeoning and blunt with the main riffing.

To be honest, Counting Our Scars isn’t going to reinvent the world, though it does have a certain appeal, not least from knowing that these veterans of the scene have been able to pick up their instruments and pretty much place themselves back onto the same elevated level as their peers. While not quite as punishing as, say, Evocation with their recent Apocalyptic, it does at least hold just as much attention as the recent Necronaut album, and sounds a whole lot less contrived than that album.

Now that the chaps have got the aggression back in their souls, let's hope that Desultory won't leave it another fourteen years before their next release.

Desultory MySpace

Editor: I reviewed this album, as well, soon to be published at About.com.

Just announced...

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Chris' take on 2010...

2010 A Year in Review

By: Chris Davison

So, farewell then 2010. Another year closer to the grave, another year older though not particularly any the wiser. What to make of this past year from a metal perspective? Well, first and foremost, one of the most talented vocalists in metal history shuffled from this mortal coil in the form of Ronnie James Dio. So much has been said of the event by others (and generally in a more erudite way than I could manage) that I think I will leave it but to say that his talent will be hard to replace.

In other news, Dave Ellefson rejoined Megadeth (a.k.a. The Dave Mustaine Ego Project) in time to milk the emergent “playing our best album” fad tour, trading in any shred of dignity for cold hard currency. “We are friends, first and foremost,” Mustaine told a disbelieving metal press, before going to exclaim, “Oh and we are going to tour Oceania. Oceania has always been our friend.”

Peter Steele died, depriving the nostalgia circuit of the possibility of a Carnivore reunion while ensuring that, at least, the Type O Negative live performances wouldn't have been as awful as in the last couple of years. Meanwhile, Joey Belladonna was given the opportunity to rock the poodle cut to audiences of portly thirty and forty somethings attracted to their teenage fantasy of seeing the Big Four on the same bill. Of course, their teenage fantasy probably didn't have Megadeth as a pale shadow of their former selves, Anthrax as the most dysfunctional family since the Addams came to town, Slayer on the back of their fourth shitty album and Metallica apparently unable to write a convincing heavy metal song even at the threat of immediate execution. The resulting “all star jam”...



...was pretty much the biggest anti-climax since the Millennium bug failed to destroy Western civilisation. Fuck, if I wanted to watch saggy middle aged guys make a mockery of their early promise, I could stand in front of a mirror (though to complete the effect I would have to charge myself a hundred dollars and post a video of it on YouTube).

In fact, pretty much every major label band produced a massively crappy album. Dimmu Borgir followed up on a career highlight (In Sorte Diaboli), and produced Abrahadabra, an album which saw the amazing vocals of ICS Vortex instead replaced by the Wicked Witch of the West. With her feet on fire.

In an amazing proof of the law of diminishing returns, Six Feet Under released Graveyard Classics Volume 3, another selection of SFU cover tracks. In an amazing idea, Chris Barnes asked fans of the band on their official forum, “S'up fuckers! We just finished Graveyard Classics Volume 3, but we don't think we ruined quite enough of your favourite tracks! So post up your top ten metal tracks of all time, we'll play them (except with the solos completely fucking ruined) and with me burping over the top of them! Fuck YEAH!” I don't know about you, but I can't wait for Volume 4: paying tribute to the gods of metal by doing a metaphorical shit on Mount Olympus.

Volbeat continued to irk pedantic thirty-something metal purists by not being Dominus (DEN) and by being a shitty Elvis-loving joke rock band, while simultaneously grabbing hands full of awards from dumb critics. Opeth released their much awaited live CD and DVD set, The Sound of Paint Drying, with bearded wonder Mikael Akerfeldt being the first metal performer to produce a live performance so boring that watching the DVD carries a government health warning of sudden onset of coma and possible cardiac arrest. Triptykon continued Tom G. Warrior in his single handed quest to be the physical incarnation of the Emperor from the Emperor's new clothes. Quite how no one has figured out that he hasn't written a single song worth listening to since 1985 is one of life's true little mysteries. Somewhere in Switzerland, Tom laughs a little at you all listening to the sound of his bank balance swelling.

In other news, Live 4 Metal finally shut its doors, bringing a British heavy metal institution to an end, with mainman Steve Green concentrating on his flourishing (and time consuming) business, leaving an unlikely band of writers condemned for crimes they may or may not have committed. Now unwanted by the authorities, they survive as critics of fortune, a rag tag collection of Brits and Yanks combined in a mutual love of heavy metal, fine beers and wines, and a healthy disdain for organised (or any kind, for that matter) religion. Now, prowling the intarwebz of 2011 in an unlikely party van with only a TDK C90 and a tape deck (Slough Feg on one side, Angelcorpse on the other, mothertruckers) for company, they exist as bums-for-hire. Which is a horribly overblown way of saying we here at Metal Flows in My Veins (or, MFIMV as the hip kids are saying) look forward to another ridiculous, incredible year of heavy metal in 2011.

Remember, reader, take care of yourself. And each other. And listen to Slough Feg The Animal Spirits, for it was my album of the year...