Saturday, March 31, 2012

Impious Baptism - Path of the Inverted Trinity(2012)

Impious Baptism- Path of the Inverted Trinity

The rather truncated J, the man behind Impious Baptism, might be one for simple monikers, but his body of work speaks for itself. Think of a major Black Metal or Thrash band from Australia, and chances are Mr. J has played for them. Destroyer 666, Nocturnal Graves, Destruktor, Hobbs' Angel of Death, etc. It's an impressive resume, and makes his solo project Impious Baptism a very interesting one. A legit metal-head like J should be able to whip together some of the finest Bestial Blackened Thrash on Earth right?


Path of the Inverted Trinity, the second EP from Impious Baptism this year, is dripping with the gore of Satanic sacrifice and charred with scorching hellfire. Mr. J is not only a master musician, who plays guitar, bass and drums with incredible skill and speed, but also a passionate songwriter. Sure, Path of the Inverted Trinity is nothing new... at all. It follows the well worn paths of it's precursors: Fallen Angel of Doom, INRI, Unchain the Wolves. But it does so with energy, talent and above all song-craft. Take "Iron Doctrine of the Antichrist," which sizzles with rage and pure speed, but also a strong sense of groove and tightness. It maintains a single tempo for much of the running time, yet never becomes boring or lifeless. The opening riff salvo of "Descent From Ashes" is damn impressive, and shows that Mr. J's(still having a hard time with the single letter name...) is with his axe. The EP is fast, no nonsense and fucking pissed, but it's also brilliantly crafted and musically competent. There is a level of intensity and unholy zeal that seems wholly missing from many within a genre that, by it's very nature, should be all intensity and unholy zeal.

Path of the Inverted Trinity isn't a masterpiece by any stretch, and the production quality in particular is suspect: it often cuts in and out, and the layer of static can be rather obnoxious as it crackles and clicks over the top of each of the three tracks. But in terms of sheer blasphemous fire and guitar-slaying madness, it delivers where so many pathetic worship albums fail miserably. This is worship, of Satan and genre, that sings praises and deserves some in return.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Curse Quarterly Report

So March is coming to an end, and it's time for a quarterly report of the best albums of 2012 so far. This list will only include Extreme Music releases, and I will be adding a nifty little 8tracks playlist at the end, so if you haven't actually listened to any of the albums I reviewed, you can sample for yourself.

Best Performing(first to last in descending order)

Charon- Sulfur Seraph(The Archon Principle)

Vattnet Viskar- Vattnet Viskar

Plague Widow- Plague Widow

Lord Mantis- Pervertor

Muknal- Muknal

Witch In Her Tomb- Witch In Her Tomb

Axis of Light- By the Hands of Consuming Fire

Spawn of Possession- Incurso

Locrian & Mamiffer- Bless Them That Curse You

Desecravity- Implicit Obedience

8Tracks Playlist

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cerebrate- Demo(2011)

Cerebrate- Demo

Featuring members of Cascadian Black Metal band Ash Borer, Cerebrate are a Death Metal band... and... um...

Fuck, honestly I can't be bothered.

One almost has to wonder that, considering the progressive and anti-scene nature of Ash Borer, if Cerebrate is... kind of a joke? A subtle "fuck you" to static Death Metal fans who will eat this shit up again and again and keep asking for more. Will the members of this "band" one day declare on their Facebook page that Cerebrate was just a clever ruse to show how lame and easily sated that lame Death Metal purists can be?

I can see it now, as clear as an azure sky on a summers day... *flashback noises

Member 1: "Dude, I need some new gear for the next Ash Borer album. My shit is getting ragged as fuck..."

Member 2: "Yeah, I need some cash too man... got a drug habit to maintain..."

Member 1: "Hmmm... we could try playing a few more shows, getting the kids out to see us?"

Member 2(I assume it took two guys max): "Maybe... kinda feeling too lazy for that..."

Member 1: "Well, how about we whip something up to sell to Death Metal fags? Shouldn't be too hard?"

Member 2: "Death Metal fags? None of those basement trolls have any cash."

Member 1: "Oh yeah? Then how come obscure ass Swedish Death Metal demo's sell for big bucks on eBay? None of them have any girlfriends. They have nothing else to spend their money on."

Member 2: "Good point... well, what should we give them? Some Incantation worship? Some Morbid Angel felatio?"

Member 1: "Nah dude, those would take too long, and I am all hung over and shit... how about some SwedDeath? Just give them some blatant and derivative Entombed worship for the nth time. We will record it at your house, it'll take like twenty minutes. Then we'll sell them for a few bucks to get new equipment for Ash Borer."

Member 2: "And of course, those sweet, sweet drugs..."

Member 1: "Of course. Grab that practice amp and that guitar. I wanna push this out before the Dr. Who Marathon starts."

Member 2: "Um, that guitar is fucked to shit man..."

Member 1: "Who cares. We are gonna record the shit on a tape player anyway."

Member 2: "But man, I mean we got to do more than that right? What about cover art? And song titles? Lyrics... those all take a long time with Ash Borer."

Member 1: "Jesus fucking Christ, how hard do you think it is to trick these crusty old purists? They want it. They expect it to be all shitty looking... I will just draw something up in Microsoft Paint. We will call the tracks "I" and "II", and I'll just read the phone book in a growly voice..."

Member 2: "Will that work? Really?"

Member 1: "Did you listen to the most recent Miasmal."

Member 2: "... I'll grab my coat."

Rating: 0/10

Second Opinions Are Like Cancerous Assholes...

So starting tomorrow, we will be doing something a little bit different around here: the Curse's new authors will be reviewing albums that I have already reviewed, and giving their opinion on them. Some of these opinions might be different(I imagine they will all be different), some might be the same(not likely), but they sure will be opinions...

Be on the look out. I have no doubt being called a stupid asshole by my own co-authors will be a lot of fun... and I might just jump in with my own second opinions as well.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mgła - With Hearts Toward None (2012)

Mgła - With Hearts Toward None

Since 2005, Mgła's unique sound has developed a cult following within the black metal underground. With their monumentally excellent EP Mdłości and its quality follow up Further Down the Nest, they refined a song-writing style centered on melodic leads, backed by thick rhythm guitar, varied drumming and deep growls. After four years of silence, they've finally hit us with With Hearts Toward None, the follow up to their 2008 debut album Groza, delivering everything fans have come to expect from the band.

To get my main problem with the album out of the way quickly, With Hearts Toward None follows the style they perfected on Mdłości and Further Down the Nest pretty closely. Mgła's style is unique, but I'd really love to see them expand upon what they do with it. I find it impossible not to compare it to their debut album, Groza, which had more adventurous song writing and a clever use of bass that is unfortunately rare in black metal. While I'm not going to claim that Groza revolutionized black metal, With Hearts Toward None is less exciting in the composition of its songs. This could have something to do with the song lengths; it has 7 songs averaging around 6 minutes, while Groza has 4 songs averaging around 9 minutes each. As such, the album provides less space within each song for variation, so I'm inclined to be forgiving.

Though that's certainly an issue I have with the album, the nuts and bolts of the songs are brilliant. It says a lot about Mgła's song writing that, even if it feels a bit less complicated than Groza's, With Hearts Toward None is still one of the most enjoyable black metal albums I've experienced in recent years. As usual, Mgła's ability to shift from riff to riff is reminiscent of the early works of Darkthrone and Burzum, with each switch feeling like a smooth, natural progression. Their leads provide memorable melodies, with “III” and “V” being some of my favorite in Mgła's catalog. The lead guitars contrast with and compliment the darker rhythm guitar, which make a strong showing. The bass is there, but is less audible and used to lesser effect than in Groza. The rhythm guitars steps in to provide interesting moments instead; they make dramatic showings in “I” and “IV”, and the riffs they play in “II” and “VI” are album highlights. “III” is a good example of the albums subtle strengths; the military snare roll that shows up during the bridge and the solo at the end of the song are stand out. The vocals are as usual excellent, their depth and strength being reminiscent of Mikko Aspa of Deathspell Omega and Clandestine Blaze fame. Their depth gives the songs a sense of invocation that compliments the Orthodox style of black metal they play, and you can even make out the lyrics! The 10 minute long ending track, “VII”, is particularly worth mentioning. As I said, the length of the songs in Groza are to its benefit, and the 10 minutes allotted to “VII” give it the room to breath that gives it a great deal of gravitas. While it may not be my favorite track on the album, it is a worthy finisher.

With Hearts Toward None isn't a step in any new direction for Mgła, but it's listenable in the extreme. Despite the fact that they developed this style expertly on Mdłości, and that Groza's song writing and bass work make it more structurally unique, songs like “III” and “V” prove how utterly enjoyable With Hearts Toward None is. Both old fans of Mgła and those new to them will find much to enjoy here, and Mgła have proved once again that an individual take on the traditional black metal sound can be as interesting and fresh as any experimentation.



Stone Angels- Within the Witch(2011)

Stone Angels- Within the Witch

I really love that cover art.

It was certainly the first thing that stood out to me about Stone Angel's debut LP, Within the Witch. It looks like the dessicated corpse of Yggdrasil exploding from the Earth into a mass field of crucified victims who cry out in pain. It's also perfectly appropriate for the album: blackened and monolithic. Within the Witch does not do anything new or different then any other Sludge/Doom album ever released, but it does pack massive riffs and plenty of atmosphere into tight, heavy tracks.

Musically, Within the Witch is fairly standard yet highly competent Doom/Sludge in the vein of Thou, Burning Witch and Noothgrush, so there are not a whole lot of surprises here. Larger than life riffs, tortured screams and earth-shattering bass drive each song along fairly predictable paths, all performed well and with good energy. It's all fairly standard business as usual type stuff: "Bleeding Black" could easily be an EyeHateGod song with it's groovy riffs and thundering low end, while "Withdrawing the Jinn" has that classic New Orleans-metal charm to it... like EyeHateGod as well really. "White Noise, White Light" takes more from the Burning Witch/Thorr's Hammer style of Sludge/Doom, complete with that occult blackened edge and cavernous vocals.

Where Within the Witch stands out are during those moments of subdued bleakness. During the last few minutes of "White Noise, White Light," the listener is treated to a lovely piece of ambient noise; jarring feedback filters in the distant while a woman whispers indecipherable words, perhaps of evil, perhaps of sorrow. These moments are sadly rare during Within the Witch, and I can't help but hunger for more of them. There is a serious spark of creativity and adventurousness here: "Coffin Cross," by far the strongest track on the album, seethes with Blackened rage, ascending the well trodden paths the rest of the album follows and entering new and exciting territory. It's just too bad that Stone Angels didn't appear interested in following these moments over the entire album, instead choosing to give us lots of EyeHateGod stuff.

Not that there is anything wrong with that: I fucking love EyeHateGod, and even the most worship heavy moments of Within the Witch feel superior to most EyeHateGod worship bands out there today. Stone Angels are an extremely young band, having only formed in 2010 and already with a full-length under their belt. The talent and songwriting skill is here, and it peeks through often enough to give Within the Witch plenty of value. Within the Witch does not live up to this obvious talent, but it gives us a glimpse into a potentially grim future.

Rating: 7.5/10

Cara Neir- Stagnant Perceptions(2011)

Cara Neir- Stagnant Perceptions

Dallas, Texas based Cara Neir have a pretty interesting song writing technique. Take everything you have ever listened to, and play that. It's big, exhaustive and ballsy, but also charming and extremely enjoyable. Stagnant Perceptions can be almost overwhelming in it's diversity, but for the most part maintains a unique identity throughout, even if it doesn't have complete consistency.

At it's most basic, Stagnant Perceptions is a mix of classic Norwegian Black Metal ala Darkthrone, and the more violent, dark and crusty Screamo of acts like Joshua Fit For Battle and Funeral Diner. For some, this will lead to all kinds of retarded whimpering about "trveness" and what not. Those people are fucking stupid: Black Metal has always been about doing what others think is wrong because fuck them for thinking that way, and Stagnant Perceptions is certainly a "fuck you" type record. Classic, by the book Norwegian rawness will suddenly transform into a flurry of melodic Emo riffs before ending in Doom-y repose, all in the same song...specifically "Imperialist Design"... which would be the opening track. "Return to Torquemada" is classic Dissection at the beginning, then shifts to Crossover Thrash without any real warning in awesome fashion. The final track, "Not Enough" sounds like an unholy combination of Daylight Dies and Converge... seriously, that was the only thing I could think of to describe the song. Stagnant Perceptions could be described as spastic, and in a way it is with how often genre's shift over the albums eleven tracks. But it also really isn't all that spastic, as each individual shift feels natural and well written, not merely chaotic for the sake of chaos.

It's damn impressive, but also likely too much for some. I can easily see some listeners losing patience with Stagnant Perceptions because of how all over the place it is. Sometimes even I was a little annoyed with just how much stuff was going on. It can certainly be difficult to keep up with all of it, but Stagnant Perceptions songwriting is mostly strong enough to over-come the wide open nature of Cara Neir's style. It's a style that while a bit cumbersome is also perfectly fearless and without cynicism. Cara Neir sound like a band that actually love music; not just the esoteric concept of musical creativity, but actual music that has been recorded by other artists. One can hear a real passion for the various crusty, dark and inherently nihilistic music that only a select few of us can ever really enjoy. Stagnant Perceptions is an album for those who love noisey shit that your parent's still fucking hate. So many fans of Metal and Punk run away from those concepts, become embroiled in endless battles for the legitimacy of Extreme Music as art and become cynical pseudo-fans who would rather bicker then listen. There is no generational musical disenfranchisement on Stagnant Perceptions, only pure emotion and chilling bleakness.

Rating: 8/10

Download Cara Neir- Stagnant Perceptions At "Name Your Price" Rates Here.

And seriously, no fucking 0$ bids. The album is self-released, so all the money goes to the band.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Vattnet Viskar- Vattnet Viskar(2012)

Vattnet Viskar- Vattnet Viskar

Massive and deep, filled with layer upon layer of compositional complexity and a true sense of what makes Black Metal, Vattnet Viskar's first EP possesses the kind of sound that can change the entire direction of a genre. Perhaps not Black Metal as a whole... it's just a three song EP from a relatively unknown band that hasn't even past the "free shit on Bandcamp" phase. No, Vattnet Viskar is probably not headed for the same level of glory as Hvis Lyset tar Oss or Storm of the Light's Bane. But this little EP packs enough punch to change the rapidly growing yet still awkward Atmospheric Black Metal movement growing in the United States: Cascadian Black Metal to some, Blackgaze to others(and to more than a few cloak-and-chalice Black Metal fans, hipster trash). The reason being fairly simple, and easily detectable upon a single listen: that unlike many of the artists within the genre who battle with the concept of "Black Metal" as an artform and a genre, Vattnet Viskar(whose name means "the water whispers" in Swedish) have actually mastered the Black Metal part of the equation. Unlike Liturgy, whose rampant and free form experimentation destroys any actual Black Metal elements beyond shrieked vocals and dissonance, or Altar of Plagues, who flat out just don't have any Black Metal in their sound, Vattnet Viskar's sound is firmly entrenched in Black Metal.

The hypnotic repetition of Burzum and the dissonant creepings of Deathspell Omega are at the very heart of Vattnet Viskar. These elements are the center, the arches of support for moments of brilliant, intense experimentation with Neurosis-esque Sludge and Shoegaze that litter this twenty seven minute EP. Rather then trying to forcefully mix these disparate parts into contorted, over-stuffed epics of formless dissonance and enormous "wall-of-sound' production, everything on Vattnet Viskar is finely crafted to create different atmospheres at the appropriate moments. The Black Metal moments sound like Black Metal, and that is something so few bands within this sub-genre seem to accomplish despite the association. The opening bells and whispering chants of "Weakness," followed by the first salvo of blistering and grim Orthodox Black Metal, flows naturally into the later sections of the song, where repetitious and hypnotic Sludge riffs meld seamlessly with distant, heart wrenching sound-waves. Listening to the last few minutes of "Intention/Oblivion" is like bathing in sonic waves of your own vulnerability: the composition is so massive, so sincere, it cuts right to the heart of you. There are no vocals for several minutes, but the intended mood is quite clear: it swallowed me up like a vortex.

There just are not that many albums out there that literally suck me in, but Vattnet Viskar has a Black Hole like effect on me. The riffs are such a perfectly blended mix of dissonance, harmony and melody, the drums are adventurous and skillful(the drumming during the first three minutes of "Barren Earth" is mindblowing), the low end plays it's proper role, occasionally bursting with sheer volume to strengthen an already powerful vortex of sound. The vocals, while primarily monotone, are incredibly powerful: they practically ignite the air around them with rage and horror. Vattnet Viskar may not be purely original in the modern Black Metal scene, but it is incredibly hefty(thanks mostly to the perfect production, clear but raw) and intense. Real emotion comes pouring from every note, and the sincerity of the music makes it feel almost transcendental.

Yes, transcendental. The famous phrase uttered by American Black Metal's Clown Prince(or Troll King) has finally been realized. That it comes from a small time band from New Hampshire may come as a surprised, but the dream of Hunter Hunt-Hendrix has come to fruition. Vattnet Viskar feels like a step forward for Black Metal as a genre while at the same time ascending beyond it's already broad constraints. So many acts have tried to reach this plane, are still trying to reach this level of perfect, harmonious intensity: a true synthesis of Black Metal and more progressive elements. Yet so far, in my personal experience, only this unknown four-piece have reached it.

And thus, the essence of Black Metal, and what it represents, is renewed once again.

Rating: 10/10

Friday, March 16, 2012

Macabra- Blood-Nurtured Nature(2012)

Macabra- Blood-Nurtured Nature

I only listened to Blood-Nurtured Nature once. And in one listen, I am convinced that Blood-Nurtured Nature is the worst album of 2012 so far.

An international collaboration between American "musician" Mark Riddick and French vocalist Adrien "Liquifier" Weber, Macabra is an attempted return to the classic late 80's, early 90's Death Metal sound: just beginning to tear itself from the rotted womb of Thrash Metal dessicated corpse. For many, this is Death Metal, the only Death Metal. All other Death Metal is false Death Metal, devoid of the genre's true evil. It is fake Death Metal for pampered teenagers and false posers.

I am not one of these "old school is the only school" people.

Blood-Nurtured Nature is a sloppy, poorly produced mass of cliched Death Metal tropes that tries to sound like every single Death Metal band from the late 80's all at once. Considering Mr. Riddick can barely even play any of the instruments featured on this album, it's a disaster from the first minute to the last. In many ways, it's rather impressive that Mr. Riddick can play guitar, bass, drums and keyboard. On the other hand, the fact that he is incapable of playing any of them well enough for a major Metal release is a slight problem. The drums and guitars are frequently out of synch, and the guitar playing itself is so consistently sloppy and uninteresting as to be obnoxious. The entire album is one massive, brutal miscalculation from the start, and it never has a chance to recover.

Seriously, it's all bad. The production is nothing short of atrocious: the guitars sound like they are made of cardboard, the bass has absolutely zero punch and the drums sound flat and lifeless. The production quality remains consistently, obnoxiously thin and flat throughout Blood-Nurtured Nature's painfully long thirty five minute running time, and never fails to destroy any real value the piss poor compositions might have stumbled upon by sheer providence. The opening of "Contribution To Your Dis-Elaboration (Sustenance Of The Void)" might have sounded very brutal in an Undergang type way, if it didn't sound like it was recorded in a bedroom on a twenty dollar microphone. It's just so... bad. Even the aesthetic is dated and inoffensive, clinging for dear life to typical horror movie cliches and imagery as though they were some new, controversial idea that hasn't been used by every other fucking artist on Earth since the 90's. Korn features darker and less embarrassing imagery than the typical, played out "I'm a crazy serial killer" idiocy spewed forth by Macabra. Typical predictable aesthetics to go with typical, inoffensive Old-School Mash that is ready made for consumption.

Perhaps the worst part about Blood Nurtured-Nature? It has no identity. It has no purpose. It has no energy. The whole album is so by the numbers, safe and without the thrill of songwriting, it becomes impossible for the album to justify it's own existence.

And album must have one of three things to be truly worthwhile: creativity, proficiency and energy. If an album has even one of those things, it was a musical journey worth undertaking. Albums like Blood-Nurtured Nature were never meant to be creative or proficient. I get that. They are supposed to be little time machines to take listeners back in time to the way a genre was played back when it was a new thing. But an album like Blood-Nurtured Nature must have energy... and yet it doesn't. It's worship without any zealotry, as though the duo of Macabra feel they have to worship Old School Death Metal, but don't really want to. The whole album sounds like a painful and boring time sink for the band itself.

Is there anything worse, for the band or those who listen them?

Rating: 2/10

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Obolus- Lament(2012)

Obolus- Lament

Obolus are another in an increasing number of obscure, mysterious Raw Black Metal bands... or solo projects... or whatever. As is increasingly common, no one really knows(creepy inflection) who makes up Obolus. Frankly, it's a played out gimmick that Deathspell Omega have been toying with for over a decade now. Regardless, this San Fransisco based Black Metal project have released this new EP through Flenser Records, a label well know for signing only the most progressive and noise-y Black Metal bands, so one would expect Lament to push many, many boundaries and enrage many, many hardcore cloak-and-chalice Black Metal elitist.

But it really doesn't. Lament is in many ways a fairly standard slice of raw, atmospheric Black Metal heavily influenced by the Depressive Black Metal sound. Elements of Burzum, Emperor and Leviathan all show up through Lament's five tracks of cold, disenchanted bleakness. And while nothing on display here is particularly original, Lament is as solid and even exhilarating as one could hope it would be, featuring mature and legitimately atmospheric compositions that make excellent use of keyboards to maximize the grim chills.

The strongest aspect of Lament is easily it's massive, yet extremely raw, production. I have heard Obolus referred to by some as part of the "Blackgaze" movement(considering they are from California, that makes some sense). I don't hear these elements in the actual compositions, but Lament's production could certainly give off this illusion. Making use of a "wall-of-sound" style production popular with many modern Shoegaze acts, Lament sounds just massive, with the oddly comforting fuzz of the guitars and bass creates a bed of dissonance for the listener to snuggle up into. The vocals hide just beneath the static, shrieking out as though they were voices in your head, pleading with you to end their suffering. Lament just has a tremendous sound, which allows it to overcome its fairly standard songwriting.

Standard, but not poor at all. Lament can be absolutely thrilling at times, like the explosive and haunting "Hatred," which blisters with raw riffs, chilling keyboards and damaged, fearful screams. Repetition is used to excellent effect throughout Lament to create atmospheric tapestries and deep wells of darkness. "Grievance" in particular shows these powerful techniques in full effect, starting with a highly atmospheric lead over the sounds of falling rain and suffocating static, before a slathering of Emperor-meets-Darkthrone style raw Black Metal kicks in, the keyboards providing a mournful chorus to a drama of raw, blistering Norwegian Black Metal.

Not having any expectations for this album might have helped, but Lament has been one of my favorite albums of 2012 so far. It isn't original, but the mature and complex musical compositions combined with some of the best production I have heard in Black Metal all year allows Lament to overcome it's standard origins and be something greater than the sum of it's parts. Flesner Records has been giving this spectacular little EP away for free via Bandcamp(while also releasing the album in physical form), so toss away the misgivings and give this a serious spin.

Rating: 8.5/10

Sigh - In Somniphobia (2012)

  Sigh - In Somniphobia

Despite Sigh's humble beginnings as a less than adventurous black metal band, their reputation has been built on the avant-garde stylings they've cultivated since the late 90s. For me, Imaginary Sonicscape was the apex of their career; it's a marathon of weirdness that remains one of my favorite albums. Word that In Somniphobia would be a darker Imaginary Sonicscape unsurprisingly got me and many others eager for its arrival, and after months of waiting, here it is. Sigh have delivered on their promise for an experience reminiscent of Imaginary Sonicscape, but unfortunately it is sorely lacking in the brilliance of the latter album. The strength of Sigh's previous work was their ability to ground their experimentation in a rock solid foundation of metal; the hand claps, synths, weird electronic voices and organ solos all complimented the core of the music, those wonderful riffs, leads, choruses and solos that make much of Sigh's work so memorable. In Somniphobia feels first and foremost an experimental experience rather than a metal one, and it's very much to the music's detriment. I'm not a metal purest, or afraid of experimentation, but the weirdness' lack of a strong foundation leaves all the synth and sax oddness feeling hollow.

There is no absolute dearth of riffing, but the guitars lack the same substance as the best of what Sigh has previously offered. It's immediately evident from opener “Purgatorium”, where the riffs and leads seem like they're there more to complement the organs and strings rather than to bring any real substance to the song. Melodic leads in general make a big showing, but they feel weak and don't muster the same force as those in, say, “Corpsecry-Angelfall” from Imaginary Sonicscape. Mirai's vocals are at his weakest here as well; while his growls are generally derided, I find that they presented a lot of emotion and texture in the past, whereas here they feel more standard. The catchy choruses are missing as well, denying us the same glorious hooks of Sigh's previous work. All in all, it is quite frankly boring; the album fails to justify it's running time, which falls just short of 65 minutes. Many of the longer songs individually carry on with a similar mix of self-indulgence and fruitlessness (see: “Amongst The Phantoms”).

There are times when the experimentation works well. The brooding spaciness of “Somniphobia”, the urgent excitement of “L’excommunication a Minuit” and the album's highlight, the sinister and jazzy “Amnesia”, provide a brilliant series of tracks that present some of the album's best guitar work and experimentation, and a great mixing of the two. Sigh clearly still has the chops to produce great music, but unfortunately the album as a whole doesn't represent that very well.



Monday, March 12, 2012

Revenge- Scum.Collapse.Eradication(2012)

Revenge- Scum.Collapse.Eradication

Revenge do not fuck around.

There are a countless number of truly brutal, truly unhinged bands out there, but few can match the napalm-and-vomit that this Canadian duo spew from every orifice. It's all this band know how to do: belch out disgusting abominations that stink of death. Scum.Collapse.Eradication is no different in this regard from any previous Revenge album... in any way.

I know, I know. Revenge are "trve" and "real." Shit like musical progression and exploration are for "posers" and the "untrve." And in many ways that's fine. Some bands find a sound, and stick with it. They make music they want to make for fans who don't want them to change. It's a perfectly harmonious atrocity that never comes off the rails or slows down. Devastation by the numbers; comforting genocide... dependable hatred for humanity. All of this I can understand and even appreciate.

That doesn't mean I can get all the way behind it. Scum.Collapse.Eradication is the definition of competent, and at times elevates itself above it's station. "Parasite Gallows(In Line)" is a crusty slice of Carcass-inspired Deathgrind, with completely unhinged guitar solos to boot, that mixes in a heavy dose of Archgoat-style mid paced riffing that does not fail to crush spines. "Filth Solution(Intolerance)" makes maximum use of the pitch-shifted gutturals(lifted right from Reek of Putrefaction) to create a swampy mess of distorted Grindcore riffs and Blasphemy-infused hatred. All the stuff you expect from Revenge is here. Which is nice...

But it begs the question, a question I have been finding myself asking a lot lately. Do all bands lend themselves to multiple releases? How many Nile albums do you have to buy before you've gotten enough of the same... exact... sound. Or Amon Amarth? Or Hate Eternal? For most people, including myself, the answer is one(except for Amon Amarth... closer to zero). Revenge are in the same boat. Fact is, if you own any of the previous Revenge albums, then you have already listened to Scum.Collapse.Eradicate. You already have experienced this punishing whirlwind of savagery and blast beats. Which is not to say the album is worthless, and I find this album has my favorite production of all the Revenge albums. It's fun and aggressive and heavy. It's a whole lot of things, most of them good.

But all of them have been done before. So yes, Revenge do not fuck around. Scum.Collapse. Eradicate is deadly serious in every way. It's all about the murder, the mayhem and the hatred... and nothing else.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Upcoming Releases To Get Horny About: Second Stage

It feels like years since Nuclear War Now! announced the release of an upcoming full length from Chilean witch doctors Wrathprayer. In Utter Darkness turned a lot of heads, but I found the demo's production... essentially broken. But when I heard this new track from the upcoming The Sun of Moloch: The Sublimation of Sulphur's Essence Which Spawns Death and Life, I pretty much shit myself. I mean even the name of the album is killer as fuck. Easily the most anticipated Metal release on the upcoming release schedule.

Is anyone else disappointed with this new Black Breath track? It's pretty obvious Black Breath are going in a more... Thrash heavy direction. Considering I'm not the biggest fan of Thrash Metal, this isn't the direction I was hoping Black Breath would go. Even the cover art looks horrible...

I'm really digging the direction Impiety is going right now. It might be a little pretentious(their songs are getting really fucking long), but it's much more expansive and inventive than their previous material. This particular new track from the upcoming Ravage & Conquer album shows a much stronger Angelcorpse vibe to the whole project. Perhaps Impiety are seeking to give us the Morbid Angel album we all deserve? Increasingly stoked for them.

Time to go completely off the rails. As some of you might know, I have been all about obscure Japanese Post Rock/Post Punk/Math Rock. Not sure how this ended up being the case, but within hours I was completely obsessed with bands like 百蚊(100 Mosquitoes) and Mass of the Fermenting Dregs. One band I have discovered during this unholy and completely ridiculous musical obsession is ハイスイノナサ(haisuinonasa), who play some of the most beautiful and heart wrenching Math Rock/Post Rock I have heard in a long time, with elements of Shoe Gaze and Electronica thrown in for extra tastiness. The bands first two "Mini CDs," about a city and The Child of Imagination And City, are just spectacular, and are available for streaming and "name-your-price" purchase via Bandcamp

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Demoncy- Enthroned is the Night(2012)

Demoncy- Enthroned is the Night

In all of American Black Metal, no project is more underrated than Demoncy, the brainchild of the mad priest Ixithra. While Profanatica, Xasthur, Leviathan and Nachtmystium seem to get most of the press, Demoncy has always been the forgotten beast. Part of it has been Demoncy's irregular release schedule, which saw the project produce almost nothing but demo's until 1999. But in 1999, Demoncy gave us Joined in Darkness, an unparralled masterpiece of Black Metal than has never gotten the run it deserves. Sounding as though it were recorded in the bathroom of R'lyeh, Joined in Darkness was the definition of crushing darkness. But when Demoncy followed this up with the utterly worthless Empire of a Fallen Angel, which saw the project head in a much faster, melodic and... ugh... Swedish direction, many feared that we would never again receive a dark blessing like Joined in Darkness.

Enthroned is the Night is the triumphant return of the Demoncy that we rabid fans of Joined in Darkness have been waiting for. Well, sort of... it at least doesn't reek of Swedish melody and triggered drums. Enthroned is the Night is certainly a stylistic revival: a return to the vile concoction of Norwegian Second Wave Black Metal and Canadian/American Bestial Black Metal, making the album feel just as comfortable next to Transylvanian Hunger as Fallen Angel of Doom. Tracks are relentless, aggressive and extremely ugly. "Winds of Plague" explodes with a crushing riffs and thundering double bass that bring to mind an unholy union of Archgoat and early Mayhem, while "Unclean Spirits" invokes the decrepit spirits of Profanatica and Sarcofago, complete with copious blast beats and static-riddled riffs. Every track has a strong emphasis of tempo, featuring plenty of change-up between Blasphemy-like speed and slower, atmospheric riffs, which keeps the listening experience active and relentless.

I also feel I need to write a love letter to Ixithra's incredible vocals. Sounding like Gollum with throat cancer, Ixithra and his vicious, demonic "whisper-growls" have been one of the few elements of Demoncy that we have seen imitated by other Black Metal artists, but never truly matched. Part of what made Empire of a Fallen Angel so utterly and incomprehensibly bad, outside of the whole Marduk-meets-Dissection thing, was that Ixithra ditched his trademark vocals in favor of a horribly generic gruff abortion that lacked any nastiness. But back doing what Demoncy was always meant to do, the vocals on Enthroned is the Night drip with acid and phlegm, as though Ixithra is choking upon his own filth ridden soul.

But for all the joy I feel that Demoncy has returned to the sound that made such a masterpiece, such a brilliant and eternal pitch black jewel, I cannot hide the tinge of sadness that creeps down my spine. For listening to Enthroned is the Night so often has given me a brutal, heart-breaking epiphany, one that flies in the face of everything I have believed about Demoncy so long: Demoncy are a one hit wonder. Enthroned is the Night is a brilliantly played return to form no doubt, but in reviving the sound that made Joined in Darkness what it is, the various weaknesses and failures of the style are brought down hard to bare. This album is so straight forward and so lacking in variety, were this any other band I might pull a Miasmal rating right out of my ass.

Enthroned is the Night could not be any more straightforward or uncreative. The album is even divided into perfect little sections: tracks one, six and eleven could be categorized as "intro," "intermission" and "outro" leaving eight tracks divided into sections of four. I know this seems like a stupid thing to notice, but it is just the first thing that screams "I'm barely trying!" Each tracks sounds almost exactly the same, following same-y patterns that never differentiate between each other.

Not rarely. NEVER.

Without the sudden stops between tracks, Enthroned is the Night could quite easily made into one long song. But honestly, that would have been way too creative. The sound that Demoncy developed on Joined in Darkness is so uncompromising, so unrelenting and truly bleak, it just does not lend itself to any kind of experimentation. It didn't matter with Joined in Darkness because it was just... so... evil. It was so vile, so soul siphoning, that the fact that every track sounded the same didn't even matter. It was a blasphemous tapestry that Satan himself would have wrapped himself in at night as he slept on his bed of burning souls. Meanwhile, Enthroned is the Night feels more like Satan's pillow case that he occasionally drools on... it just doesn't evoke the same sense of dread and abomination.

Yet even though Enthroned is the Night feels so much smaller and slighter than Joined in Darkness, part of me just loves the fuck out of it. Part of me screams for more, and I find myself feeding this hunger very regularly. Enthroned is the Night is my version of comfort music, something I can have playing all day long and never truly tire of(which says something really fucked up about me as an individual). This part of me screams even now as I write this: it pounds furiously on the back of my head, in protest of what my logical brain is now forcing me to do. For no matter how much I love Enthroned is the Night, it is impossible for me to look upon it and say with certainty that this is a great album. It just isn't. It's predictable, same-y, uncreative and pig-headed in it's utter relentlessness.

And I want more!

The screaming fanboy: MORE!!!!!
Real score: 7/10

Male Misandria / Malveillance - Split(2012)

Male Misandria / Malveillance - Split

Though Suffering Jesus Productions has,sadly, recently closed its doors, one of its final acts was to getout this split between Italy's oddly named Male Misandria andQuébec's Malveillance. While the uninitiated listener might find itodd to see a split between a grindcore band and a black metalproject, the similarities are apparent immediately upon listening.Both Male Misandria and Malveillance provide unrelenting and viciousblasts of musical violence that go for the throat and don't stopuntil they've tasted blood.

Male Misandria start the split off with“Magister Makeup”, an intense track which balances brutality andspeed with skill and good song writing to great effect. It providesan immediate glimpse as to the showing MM make here. The guitar toneis clear and gives every riff a clarity which allows theirmemorability and heaviness to shine. This is a definite plus giventhat the music depends heavily on the guitar; the bass is inaudible,the drumming provides what it needs to but doesn't shine, and thevocals are impassioned but don't step far out of an often seen mix ofhigher screams and lower growls. There are moments when the screamsget particularly high pitched and out of control, and that's when thevocals shine the most; “Marble Marquinia” and “Mothlife” bothprovide great examples. Though the other aspects of the music aren'tparticularly exceptional the riffing is thankfully strong. As said,they are memorable and heavy, switching up enough to keep the songsinteresting and exciting while not changing up so much that the riffsdon't make an impact. Male Misandria are strong song writers ingeneral; “Marble Marquinia” and “Mannerless Maternus Mo” havedramatic openings, “Mothlife” ends with a high speed solo, andthe way a melodic lead threads its way through tremolo picked rhythmguitar in “Male Model Merge” is reminiscent of certain types ofblack metal. The crescendo of Male Misandria's half is “Martyr”,which nears 6 minutes and is the longest track on the split. It's adramatic and complex song that shows off MM's strength as songwriters. It's full of interesting moments: it opens with an“Egyptian” sounding riff (or at least Egyptian in the bounds ofthe West's musical imagination), before shifting into black metalinspired riffs. The song has many moments that nearly hit epicterritory, and it has a very interesting bridge where atmosphericguitars and distant, echoing vocals mix with shifts between blackmetal inspired riffing and thick chords. They wrap things up with aninexplicable dark ambient/industrial track, “Masto B”, whichdoesn't make a ton of sense, but is at least solid for what it is.

Malveillance's side opens with its ownweirdness. “Rien” is an ambient track over which F(Malveillance's one and only member) simply speaks in a way thatbrings to mind a pissed off, slightly drunk man. If I understoodFrench, I might be able to read more meaning in to it, so I'll giveit the benefit of the doubt. Everysong is named after an individual. A web search got me hits on a fewof the names, who appear to be important figures in Québec of someform or another, so it seems safe to say that Malveillance's half ispossibly dedicated to a variety of influential figures in Québec'shistory. As soon as “Rien” finishes, F immediately kicksinto what Malveillance is known for: filthy D-Beat inspired blackmetal with a raw, simplistic and hateful style that is no doubtinfluenced by the work of Norway's Ildjarn. The guitar and bass havea thick and dirty raw production that I find benefit's Malveillance'ssound even more than the production on his previous release,Consentir a L'absurde. Theonly problem with the production is the drums. The cymbals have avery tinny sound; I can't decide if it's a crappy drum machine, or ifthe recording of real drums wasn't done quite right. If you can lookby it, the core of Malveillance's sound is present and as strong asever. The songs shift between one or two black/punk riffs, with athick, low end sound. As is typical of this style, the songs arepresented in some ways as variations of a theme, providing an intenseand holistic listening experience, rather than one dominated byclearly demarcated songs. I think Malveillance is one of the top actsof this style, and any fan of it should find there thirst sated byhis performance here. It's length of only 14½ minutes gives it lessvariation than Consentir a L'absurde,but it more than provides the visceral experience I look for in thiskind of music.

The split ends witha few bonus tracks from each artist. Male Misandria presents a lessrefined version of the grindcore previously. The production is muchrawer, probably because the songs were recorded in 2007. “Spazio”isn't as interesting as the earlier tracks and “Love” is yourtypical under-10-seconds grind track. “Vivere da padroni” and “ViOdio” are more interesting thrashy numbers with some audible bassactually popping up. Some synth weirdness pops up here at times mostprominently in “Vi Odio”, where it shows up in the break down andsticks around for the rest of the track. The synths are prettyawkward, and I'm glad they dropped them. Those last two song are alsoa bit over long. The bonus tracks aren't totally unwelcome, but theyreally bring to light how much MM have evolved as song writers in 4or 5 years.

Malveillance onlyhas two bonus tracks. “Cloportes Soumis” fits in with the styleof the earlier songs, and it seems like it might have fit betterthere. A cover of Crude SS's “Nazi Go Home” follows, and it'sbeen infused with the Malveillance sound so much that it's not reallyidentifiable as anything but. Still, it's a nice track that closesoff the album well.

Overall the splitis an excellent showing by both bands and I highly recommend it tofans of either, to fans of grindcore or extreme punk/black metalmixtures, or in general to anyone who likes extreme music that boilsdown to a musical punch to the face. Though Suffering Jesus' labelside is unfortunately dead, they're distro is still open, and thissplit is more than worth its cost.



Monday, March 5, 2012

Aborted - Global Flatline(2012)

About fucking time. Aborted has dabbled in melodic experiments for far too long (not that they were bad, Strychine.213 was pretty good) and has finally went back to its splanchnic roots of goregrind. Goregrind is an oversaturated genre nowadays, with all these back-alley bands that think that a bunch of 900 BPM blast beats, mindless detuned grooves, and horrible guest vocals by frogs, dogs, and bulls make a goregrind band good. It's like an abortion with a kick in the stomach compared to a suction-aspiration one. Well, the master-butcher has returned, and he definitely showed these superfluous dilettantes how to wear the apron and use the power-tools without disemboweling themselves like fucking idiots.

This album is a welcome relief; feels like the goregrind of the old pantheon, tinged with obvious modern (in a good way) influences. This album is great because it completely revitalized the genre, and can easily bring together the veteran metalheads with the younger generation, without causing them to kill each other in order to prove which one's the scenester. It takes the medical-malignancy theme, low-pitched vocals, and firm velocities, chops them up, cooks (or keeps them raw, if you will), and serves it in a dish of blood-drenched human bones and skin.

The album also features solid guest vocals from Keijo Niinimaa (Rotten Sound), Trevor Strnad (The Black Dahlia Murder), Jason Netherton (Misery Index), and Julien Truchan (Benighted), all bands I love. Even though TBDM's Strnad doesn't really fit in the "grindcore" setting, he still executes his role like a freshly manufactured scalpel, yet to cut the skin. The album starts with some apocalyptic news, a dying heart monitor, and basically impending doom. And that shit delivers. The album feels like being chased by a horde of ravenous flesh-eating zombies, or getting a premature autopsy, whatever floats your boat. Superb songwriting combined with neckbreaking speed with actual song structure is an obvious choice of a soundtrack to a zombie apocalypse.

Aborted definitely delivers in skin-cracking lashing, without killing your ass, but making sure you're going to suffer until the end. Lo and behold, high and low pitches, fast and slow playing, guitar and bass solos. Creepy 80s B-Movie horror-like guitar harmonies and just a general atmosphere of blood, gore, viscera, and everything pathologically erroneous make this album awesome. Relish this goregrind masterpiece; there's enough entrails and guts for everyone to sink their hungry blades and teeth (or... other stuff, if that's your thing) into.

Rating: 9/10

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ives - Abandon (2010)

Ives - Abandon

Black metal has always had at least some peripheral relation to punk. Early bands like Ildjarn and Carpathian Forest used it, and when you think about it, the raw black metal style is very DIY. Still, from the past decade to the present, a much stronger surge of bands playing a black metal/punk mixture has arisen. Many of these bands have brought together the raw energy found in both punk and black metal, to vicious and often interesting ends. Florida's Ives are another recent band to try their hand at the black/punk mix, and Abandon is their second demo. It's a svelte 20 minutes with some interesting moments, though unfortunately more trite ones.

Opener “The Taste of Severity” starts with a God awful sound clip about cannibalism before breaking into some decent enough but very unsurprising black/punk. The music alternates between blackened punk chords backed by D-beat drumming and riffs that sound like Mayhem circa 1994. The vocalist growling “smear the blood on my face / taste the blood in my mouth” fails to have the emotional resonance they were going for.

From there, each track becomes longer than the last. Second track “Burning The Incense, Amanita Virosa” opens slowly and unfolds into a mix of black metal, crust punk and sludge. It's an interesting mix, like a black metal Dystopia, but the track quickly becomes more blackened Discharge worship, before switching to Mayhem/Darkthrone inspired black metal, and so on. 7 minutes in and one of the key problems with the demo becomes apparent: the music tends towards predictable shifts back and forth between riffs copped from classic Norwegian bands and Discharge inspired punk leading to unexciting ends.

The best parts of the demo occur in the last half. Part way through “Lost In The Pleasures Of Moonlight”, the music shifts into dark and droning chords which accompany a xylophone (!!!) before exploding into some absolutely fierce black/thrash riffing that blew me away, especially coming right after the down tempo bridge. Titular track “Abandon” provides interesting moments as well. Its dramatic opening displays vocal variance with some yelling taking the place of the standard black metal rasps that dominate the rest of demo. The song sadly turns into another back and forth between punk and riffs that sound like they wouldn't be out of place in Darkthrone's Under a Funeral Moon. Surprisingly though, Ives then does another bizarre 180 into unique territory when fiddle begins playing over melancholy black metal riffing before fading out (albeit somewhat sloppily) into an instrumental passage of folk consisting of acoustic guitars and haunting fiddle. The black metal comes back in, accompanied by excellent cymbal use. The fiddle stays present for the remainder of the track providing an incredibly enjoyable final minute before the demo ends.

Therein, though, lies another one of the problems. The unique moments are caught in a mire of ho-hum punk and black metal riffing jacked from early Norwegian BM records. The crust/sludge/black opening of “Burning The Incense”, the ambient bridge, creative use of xylophone and thrashy finish to “Lost In The Pleasures Of Moonlight” and the violin use, folk break and melancholy riffing in “Abandon” are excellent, but are caught between trite filler. Ives definitely shows promise on Abandon. They have the potential to pull together an interesting full length, either by making an eclectic album (similar to what Akitsa and Ash Pool have done) that tastefully displays their various ideas, or by bringing it all together into a more cohesive style. Either way, they'll need to root out the generic aspects of their song writing. I'd definitely be interested in a debut album from them, and Abandon has some wonderful moments, but as a whole it fails to thrill.



Saturday, March 3, 2012

Morgirion- Infinite Retribution Upon Paradise(2012)

Morgirion- Infinite Retribution Upon Paradise

Wielding one of the best covers of the year so far, Morgirion's Infinite Retribution Upon Paradise sounds as black and wicked as that Skeleton Mage looks. Mixing elements of Second Wave Black Metal, Bestial Black Metal and Death Metal into a viscous goo, black as charred remains and colder than ice, Infinite Retribution Upon Paradise signals the coming of wicked things. Hailing from Connecticut, this trio of blood mages form slithering incantations of malice and sin with plenty of verve and excellent musical chops, if also a penchant for excessive compositions that wield far too many sacrificial daggers for far too long.

My first thought when listening to Infinite Retribution Upon Paradise was "this sounds a lot like Gyibaaw," and it remains an apt comparison. Both bands love serpentine song structures and drawn out, The Chasm-like riffing sections with plenty of old school Black Metal thrown in. But while Gyibaaw are prone to sudden bursts of wild experimentation and unhinged vocal abominations, Infinite Retribution Upon Paradise is a more straight forward and traditional affair, albeit a varied one. "The Final Incantation" starts off with an Emperor-like funeral procession before bursting into blast heavy Death Metal and then bringing on more Emperor, complete with keyboards and minimalistic guitars, dripping with grimm atmosphere. "Pyroclastic Warfare" drops a heavy dose of Blasphemy, then without warning shifts to a keyboard hymn, with an explosive wave of Raw Black Metal churning beneath the surface.

The Chasm are an obvious influence here, and it shows on tracks like the finale, "Inception Revoked," a thirteen minute epic that;s over-flowing with Blackened Occult Death Metal riffs and demoniacal invocations. Keyboards also make their way into this track, but they feel forced and underwhelming, as though the band were trying to force even more atmosphere where it doesn't belong. This is a common occurrence with Infinite Retribution Upon Paradise: forced and unnecessary keyboards. When it works, like on the aforementioned "Pyroclastic Warfare," it's great, but more often then not the keyboard compositions sound same-y, uninspired and perhaps most disappointingly shoe-horned into the track. "Suffer Before Me, Forsakened Hordes" reeks of cheese, mostly due to the lame keyboards filtering beneath a fairly standard Black Metal track that features far too much Swedish-style melody: a rare-low light on an otherwise impeccable album.

If not perfectly written all the time, Infinite Retribution Upon Paradise is stellar most of the time. It does the proper job evoking thick, demonic atmosphere's and unholy sonic landscapes with all the zealotry and energy you could ask for. It may not be the fire that will burn down the decaying, rusted gates of Heaven, or the spear that again pierces the side of Christ, but without question Infinite Retribution Upon Paradise is a weapon finely crafted for late night angel slaying and gloomy sojourns into the unknown and horrifying.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, March 2, 2012

Axis of Light- By the Hands of Consuming Fire(2012)

Axis of Light- By the Hands of Consuming Fire

The shrill wails of By the Hands of Consuming Fire will peel the skin away from your flesh, revealing your inner weakness and filth. It shines a burning, unholy light over you as the sonic waves of madness riddle you with suffering. Not since last years emotionally affecting No Help For The Mighty Ones has an album had such a profound effect on my mood and psyche. Bubbling with sheer rage yet flowing with inner beauty, By the Hands of Consuming Fire represents everything truly awesome about Black Metal at it's most raw and unrelenting.

As though moving through each track if carried by veins and arteries, melody and harmony filter just beneath the thick layers of static and the tortured screams of vocalist Axiom; his unhinged an maniacal rantings worthy of praise alone. But there is also a certain amount of sadness in his voice, a sense of actual loss that you can feel in his super-high-pitched shrieks. This same emotional brevity comes through in the compositions as well. Warped-speed rage and blistering wrath gives way to short lulls of cavernous depression before the rising hate spills over the edges and brings us back to pure anger. Those aforementioned moments of melody and off-kilter harmony stab like daggers from beneath, and bring with them a coating of spiritual poison that seeps into you and suffocates your very blood. By the Hands of Consuming Fire will leave you agitated and very fucking cold.

It's also a step away from being a sloppy, unlistenable mess. The second member of this twosome, Origin, plays all the instruments and does so with lots of energy. Also sloppiness and without much in the way of technical proficiency. The timing isn't always spot on, and the drums have a tendency to miss their marks. Yet all this does is add to the appeal: By the Hands of Consuming Fire is a purely cathartic experience that throws traditional musicianship out the window in favor of pure emotional electricity, and I for one an a sucker for stuff just like this. I'm not as in love with the production. Complaining about production on a Raw Black Metal record is like complaining about the taste of alcohol; quite literally missing the point. But the drums are almost completely lost in the mix, and that lack of pulverizing low end makes this album feel much more high-pitched and screech-y. For some, this might be a major turn off.

But for me, By the Hands of Consuming Fire is anything but a turn off. Listening to this album is akin to shooting cocaine straight into my brain: it leaves me on edge, fried out and full of conflicting desires. And if you are not left totally frazzled and exhausted after this screaming nightmare, then you are truly cold and without feeling... perhaps the person that this album was made for.

Rating: 9/10

Goatwhore-Blood for the Master (2012)

                           Goatwhore-Blood for the Master
Hearing the latest effort by the Louisianan masters of blackened swampcore, Goatwhore, made this February 15th possibly the most eventful Valentine’s Day in my (thus far) grimdark, loveless mortal existence, and while I wasn’t immediately floored by the slightly thrashier approach our favorite bayou crawlers chose on their latest opus, repeated listens ultimately cumulated in an album that I can see myself returning to in aeons to come.

The most obvious contrast that can be made here is to Goatwhore’s previous album, Carving Out the Eyes of God.  While the wicked hooks and punkish attitude of the latter album had propelled Goatwhore at last onto the radar of the metallic mainstream, I felt that the sullen, bitter miasma that characterizes the work of so many Louisiana metal bands (and had characterized all of Goatwhore’s albums up until that point) was slightly compromised in favor of a catchier, more accessible approach, something that diminished its power relative to earlier efforts like A Haunting Curse. 

To go over why Blood for the Master truly excels in contrast however, I must emphasize how it brings back much of the claustrophobic aggression that had characterized Funeral Dirge for A Rotting Sun and A Haunting Curse and integrates it with the superb songwriting of Carving, creating a work that is simultaneously catchy and abrasive in the ears of the listener.  The thrash influence is stronger than ever, with songs like “Collapse in Eternal Worth” and “Death to the Architects of Heaven” filled with palm-muted thrashing madness that grows repetitive, but works well in churning the collective momentum of the record in a forward direction. 

The second-wave black metal influences have also returned in full-force, stronger than they have been since the days of Funeral Dirge.  While the last two records took much of the power chord-laden style of Celtic Frost and interpreted it in a modern context, Blood for the Master sees these swamp dwellers once again making a sojourn to Nordic shores, with tracks such as “Beyond the Spell of Discontent” chalk full of tremolo-picked melodic melancholy that hearkens back to Darkthrone and Gorgoroth’s earlier days.  Yet amidst the cacophony of classic, yet clichéd influences, Goatwhore never loses their uniquely American identity, throwing in moments of sludgy southern attitude, most prominently evident in “When Steel and Bone Meet,” one of my personal favorites off the record.

Despite its unique atmosphere and tasteful integration of antediluvian influences within a modern framework, Blood for the Master was not without its weaknesses.  First of all, Louis Benjamin Falgoust II (a mouthful more befitting of a monarch of the Anciens Regime than a black metal vitriol spewer)’s vocals have certainly declined since the days of Soilent Green’s Pussysoul, and here he sounds more like a tired old man attempting to maintain a (annoyingly “hardc0re”) façade of true aggression than the mutilated larynx of nihilistically-fueled anger a black metal vocalist is supposed to be.  I found that this uninspired approach often interfered with the motifs and soundscapes the band was attempting to conjure, often breaking me out of whatever necrotic stupor a great riff puts me in back into the shitstain of reality.  Great vocalists like Erik Danielsson of Watain, Mortuus/Arioch of Funeral Mist, and Naas Alcameth of Nightbringer only serve to intensify the crushing wall of oppression that is black metal, but Ben Falghoust’s voice is utterly devoid of phlegm, black bile, and hate, and in their current state sound more appropriate for a dickless metalcore act than a great band like Goatwhore.

The songwriting, while still memorable, doesn’t have quite the same staying power as some records in their back catalog.  The songs, all structured in a similar manner and somewhat lacking in dynamics, have a tendency to mesh together as in many inferior black metal records, and there are no massive standouts like Carving’s title track or “Forever Consumed Oblivion” on Blood for the Master.  I mentioned before that the palm-muted thrash picking grows extremely irritating if the album is listened to as a whole, and indeed, hearing them used in an identical fashion over and over again gives the album an artificial, inauthentic feeling that sadly shatters the black metal spell.   Despite these complaints, my desire for a more brutal incarnation of Goatwhore was satisfied quite nicely by Blood for the Master, and I’d recommend this album to any acolyte of heavy metal for its accessible yet potent approach to the genre, as well as to more seasoned black metal hierophants looking for some originality in their collection.

Rating: 8/10