Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Monomakh- MMXII(2012)

Monomakh- MMXII

Monomakh are a new project from(where else) Australia, and with MMXII, the projects new demo, is their contribution to the Blackened Death Metal resurgence that has taken place over the last several years.  Yet those expecting cavernous and overwhelming ambient atmosphere or warp speed blasting and war machine riffs are in for a bit of a wake up call here, as Monomakh bring a somewhat unique approach to the sound.  Bands like Incantation and Archgoat come to mind when listening to Monomakh no doubt, but this one piece project offers a fairly fresh perspective on the Blackened Death Metal sound from a country which has already defined and progressed the genre a dozen times over the last decade.

It's not to say that MMXII doesn't have it's share of doom-laden, tremolo picked riffs, occasional ambiance or war torn imagery(the cover art is literally of a battle after all).  It's what with all of these well worn elements, Monomakh brings both a more riff-oriented and diverse song writing template to the table, complete with a slightly greater focus on melody, and a more expansive, busy song-writing style.  Only "Barbaros" clocks in at under five minutes, and both "Kokytos" and "Deathabomination" exceed seven minutes running time.  Yet despite this, neither track ever feels under-developed, self-indulgent or tired.  Monomakh never resort to pointless, boring Funeral Doom or over-the-top keyboards to pad the running time... hell, riffs are barely ever re-used.  Each track on MMXII is jam packed with ideas, yet all of them remain cohesive and brutal from beginning to end.  "Barbaros" in particular is as savage and deadly as they come, starting out with a mighty scream and some fantastic drumming, while the whirlwind of riffs and melodic undercurrents bring to mind an unholy mix of Deiphago and Arghoslent.  Then it ends in a suffocating cloud of demonic plague spores that would feel right at home on an Antediluvian or Grave Upheaval release.

There is this wonderful yet subtle mix of modern, atmospheric Blackened Death Metal/Incantation worship and seemingly out of place old-school 80's/90's Death/Thrash on MMXII that may not quite hit the listener through the first few listens, but the more time one spends with it the more these elements show themselves in the compositions.  "Deathabominations" features plenty of old-school, Thrash-y sections and melodic leads what will remind many of the previously mentioned Arghoslent, as well as fellow Australians Destroyer 666 and Vomitor, yet it's so lost in the minutia of the cavernous production style as to feel organic and like a natural progression of the composition, as opposed to merely thrown into the song for "old-skull credibility." This focused thematic and musical attack is as impressive as they come, and makes MMXII one of the most listenable and powerful Death Metal releases this year.

And as if it couldn't get any better, MMXII is free of charge on the bands Bandcamp page, which makes the wonderful, heavy and catchy as fuck demo a must listen for everyone involved.  MMXII may not blow you away on initial listens(it sure didn't with me) due to a feeling of deja vu, but its the kind of complex, active album which requires multiple listens to appreciate and will eventually worm its way into your skull as it did mine.  Monomakh have come up with a new approach to Blackened Death Metal in a time in which the genre is dominated by clones and imitators, and that is something everyone should be able to appreciate.

Rating: 9/10

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hic Iacet- Hedonist of the Death(2011)

Hic Iacet- Hedonist of the Death

I missed Hedonist of the Death, from Spanish warlocks Hic Iacet, in 2011 despite near-universal praise for the bands debut demo.  Slow to catch on as always, I was never-the-less intrigued by the demo's glorious cover art and promises of Blackened, occult Death Metal in the vein of recent releases from Muknal and Temple Nightside.  Another occult themed Blackened Death Metal band seemed a bit... redundant at this point, but it was hard to say no to that cover art(I mean look at that shit.  I bought the recent vinyl re-release of the album from Hell's Headbangers just because of that album cover).

Luckily in this case judging a book by it's cover didn't blow up in my face(here's looking at you Sleepers in the Rift), and Hedonist of the Death delivers on most of it's promise for occult devastation and disgusting swarms of black locusts.  I would not go so far as to put this demo among the best the genre has had to offer over the past few years, and it's a demo that lacks many of the typical occult bells-and-whistles that their peers have taken to new extremes.  But despite a complete lack of anything that would be labeled "Dark Ambient" or "avant-garde," Hic Iacet still manage to invoke the ancient spirits and create thick, demonic atmospheres through strong, concise and effective song-writing.  Tracks usually run on the short side, avoiding self-indulgent stretches of lazy Funeral Doom or atmospheric keyboard-driven ambiance, and instead focus on driving rhythms and aggressive, simplistic guitar work.  Simplistic, but not overly repetitive either, as even the shortest tracks are heavy with riffs and tempo changes.  "Brevity of Congenital Rot" pretty much sums this album up perfectly: raw, simplistic and highly aggressive, with several killer riffs(particularly the opening riff) and lots of tempo changes that happen organically and not spastically.  The production is also superb, and although I'm normally not a fan of thin guitar production, it works here.  The drums are insanely raw and are devoid of any studio magic, while the bass brings all the needed power and thickness to compensate for the cold, thin guitar sound.  It's not much more than a mix of Angelcorpse, Incantation and Blasphemy, but with song-writing this good it's hard to complain with the final result.

It's a bit shocking however that despite the very simplistic riffs and song-writing on Hedonist of the Death that Hic Iacet don't sound tighter here.  The album is not obnoxiously sloppy by any stretch, but it's not like the material here is nearing Spawn of Possession levels of complexity.  At times the guitar players struggle to keep up and the drums and the whole group will stutter a bit . Part of the appeal of Hedonist of the Death is the simplistic, raw and primitive song-writing, but one has to wonder if the band took maximum time to get these songs 100% solid or rushed the album out.  Or perhaps this was a conscious decision by the band, though having only recently formed in 2010, it seems more likely the band were not as tight as they wanted to be when they released Hedonist of the Death.  And judging by the bands new upcoming material and it's lack of anything resembling sloppiness, it seems even more likely that the band were not yet completely comfortable playing with each other on Hedonist of the Death.  The sloppiness of this demo didn't really bother me personally, but it bares mentioning for those discerning listeners who don't care for anything less than perfection.
Hedonist of the Death is immensely charming, listenable and above all fucking heavy.  It's a stripped down, no frills take on Occult Black/Death that works due to fundamental song-writing which places riffs and timely tempo changes over abstract ritualism.  Truth be told, I actually prefer the abstract ritualism and avant-garde tendencies of their peers, but Hic Iacet have certainly carved out a somewhat unique take on the Occult Black/Death sound, even if it doesn't sound like it from the initial listens.  It's easy to appreciate the bands approach, and as the band grow together as musicians, I have no doubt that Hic Iacet will produce some pretty amazing stuff in the near future.  As it is, Hedonist of the Death is a stellar beginning, and highly recommended.
Rating: 8/10