Monday, September 26, 2011

Grand Atlantic - Constellations

Grand Atlantic
Constellations
Independent Release

Brisbane based outfit Grand Atlantic have enjoyed some success here in Australia, but it’s in the U.S. where the band have really been welcomed with open arms, with the four piece act (Comprising of vocalist/guitarist Phil Usher, guitarist Morgan Hann, bassist Sean Bower, and new Mat Von Diehm) touring stateside with considerable success.
Not wanting to lose any of the momentum they’ve built up with their three releases to date (2006’s ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ E.P., 2007’s ‘This Is Grand Atlantic’ and 2009’s ‘How We Survive’), the band started song writing for their new album when time allowed, and in late 2010/early 2011, relocated to Seacliff Lunatic Asylum (An abandoned psychiatric hospital near Dunedin, New Zealand) with producer Dale Cotton to record their latest and highly anticipated third full-length effort ‘Constellations’.
It’s hard to tell whether it was Cotton’s influence, the fact that recording in such a strange and unusual location, or whether the band had already made a conscious decision to try something new – but either way, ‘Constellations’ is a little different from what we have come expect from the Grand Atlantic. The pop influences that have infiltrated their former work is still very much evident within the band’s eleven new tunes, but it’s the overall darker and heavier sounding shoegazer influences that masks the pop/rock side of the band’s sound that really dominates the overall feel of ‘Constellations’. It does not signal a complete reinvention of Grand Atlantic, but ‘Constellations’ at least hints at a band who aren’t prepared to go the safe option and simply repeat themselves time and time again.
‘Searchlights’ gets the album off to a relaxed and confident start with the band locking into a moody groove that evokes a bit of a reflective feel with its gradual ebbs and flows and soaring choruses, while the up-tempo and rhythmic follow-up ‘Central Station Blues’ sees the band turn everything up to deliver something that sounds like a cross between The Stone Roses and Jet.
From here, the band seamlessly mix moody atmospherics with energetic rock elements on tracks such as ‘Carved From Stone’ and ‘NML’, while elsewhere unleashing their inner psychedelic rock inhibitions on blistering efforts such as ‘Poison To The Vine’, ‘Little Traps’, the title track ‘Constellations’ and ‘Fresh Ideas In Home Security’ (Which is the first single/promotional video clip from the album).
But what really makes this album interesting is the diversity from one sound to the next, with the title track ‘Mountains Too Steep’ showcasing a touch of the blues/folk seeping through the band’s song writing, while the hint of classic rock within ‘Voyager’ and the stripped back acoustic closer ‘Queenie’ are definite favourites.
Given the success the band has enjoyed up until this point, it could have been really easy for Grand Atlantic to simply build upon their proven formula on their new album. But the fact that they’ve chosen to do something a little more daring shows that there’s more to Grand Atlantic’s career than merely achieving recognition on a global scale.

For more information on Grand Atlantic, check out - http://www.grandatlantic.org/

© Justin Donnelly

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mordbrand - Necropsychotic

Mordbrand
Necropsychotic
Deathgasm Records

Mordbrand (Which means arson in Swedish) are a relatively new act on the Swedish death metal scene, with the trio having formed a couple of years ago. But despite this, there’s plenty of experience within the band, with vocalist Per Boder once a member of cult underground act God Macabre (Who released the highly acclaimed ‘The Winterlong’ back in 1993), and guitarist/bassist/backing vocalist Björn Larsson and drummer Johan Rudberg still retaining their membership in the thrash band The Law, and in the crust/grind outfit Karensdag.
With such credentials, I was surprised to find that the band had already released a split E.P. with Evoke last year. But then given the rather low profile of the label it was released on (The U.K. based Me Saco Un Ojo Records), it’s probably not that hard to figure out why there was little mention of the release anywhere.
Despite this, Mordbrand have signed up with Deathgasm Records, and returned with a new E.P. in the form of ‘Necropsychotic’. And while I was excited with the prospect of hearing what the trio could come up with, I must say the end results are a little underwhelming.
In all fairness, it’s hard to break new ground as a death metal band that originates from Sweden. Anything that could have been done with the genre has been done, and countless times over and over again. In that respect, I don’t expect Mordbrand to seriously unearth a new sound or direction.
What I did expect was something that would excite and perhaps linger in the mind once the E.P. was finished. Unfortunately, as solid as Mordbrand’s batch of six new songs are they’re far from sounding anything above O.K.
The opening track ‘Eaters Of The Void’ gives listeners a fair indication of what the band are about in the musical sense, with the band mixing old school Swedish death ‘n’ roll (Which is evident by Rudberg’s d-beat drumming efforts) with a touch of brutality in the vein of Dismember, Vader and Grave.
‘Graveyard Revisited’ and ‘Deathbound’ are essentially Entombed worship efforts without the guitar buzz and dense production values, while ‘Skärseld (Return To The Unholy)’ takes on an even heavier and darker tone than the former, which inevitably earns its place as the E.P.’s strongest track.
The melodic riff work within ‘The Fall Of Flesh’ is notably well done, but the slow moving groovy closer ‘Deliverance’ seems to lack the spark of some of the other tracks - finishing the E.P. on a bit of a weak note.
Mordbrand are a good band, and ‘Necropsychotic’ is an O.K. E.P. But with so many other bands sounding good, and releasing O.K. efforts, this release just doesn’t have enough to make it stand out.
Hopefully with their next release, Mordbrand will finally deliver something that raises the bar on their former efforts, rather than simply settle for more of the same.

For more information on Mordbrand, check out - http://www.myspace.com/mordbranddeath

© Justin Donnelly

Sigh - Scorn Defeat (Deluxe Edition)

Sigh
Scorn Defeat (Deluxe Edition)
Deepsend Records

One of the strangest and more unpredictable bands to emerge from the east would have to be Tokyo (Japan) based outfit Sigh. For near on two decades, and over the course of eight full-length efforts, Sigh have continually redefined their sound and direction with every new release, which has both confused and earned praise from fans and critics alike for the avant-garde extreme metal act.
In the build up towards the release of Sigh’s upcoming ninth release later in the year (‘In Somniphobia’), Deepsend Records have decided to put together a deluxe edition reissue of the band’s debut full-length effort ‘Scorn Defeat’.
Taking up the first seven tracks on the first disc of this deluxe reissue is the band’s debut full-length effort ‘Scorn Defeat’. Although there’s no mention of a remaster, ‘Scorn Defeat’ still holds up remarkably well to today’s standards, despite having been released as far back as 1993 (On Mayhem guitarist Øystein ‘Euronymous’ Aarseth’s underground label Deathlike Silence Productions). Although Sigh would quickly move on from the black metal sound that made up most of their debut, it was clear right from the start that the band (Who at the time comprised of vocalist/bassist/keyboardist Mirai Kawashima, guitarist Shinichi Ishikawa and drummer Satoshi Fujinami) were anything but a straight forward act, with their take on black metal anything but traditional in terms of what the Europeans were producing at the same time.
Whether it be the doom-like undertones of the morbid opening track ‘A Victory Of Dakini’, the bizarre keyboard introduction to the thrash based ‘The Knell’, the eclectic hybrid of sounds within the experimental ‘At My Funeral’, the predominately instrumental piece ‘Gundali’ (Which despite the absence of guitar, is one of the album’s genuine highlights), the lengthy and progressive influenced ‘Ready For The Final War’, the sonic blackened blast of ‘Weakness Within’ or the slow and menacing vibe within ‘Taste Defeat’, ‘Scorn Defeat’ is a varied and forward thinking black metal release, and worthy of its underground cult classic status.
Closing out the first disc are the three tracks (‘The Knell’, ‘Desolation’ and ‘Taste Defeat’) that made up the band’s ‘Requiem For Fools’ E.P. from 1992 (Which led to the band’s signing with Deathlike Silence Productions), and the two tracks that appeared on the band’s split E.P. release with Greek black metal band Kawir from 1994 (‘Suicidogenic’ and the cover of Venom’s ‘Schizo’). As you would expect, the sound is a lot rawer than anything heard on their debut album. But while the sound isn’t anywhere near as polished as anything on ‘Scorn Defeat’, it does present listeners with another side to Sigh’s multifaceted sound, albeit in an aggressive and angry form (Especially ‘Schizo’, which is an obvious highlight).
While the first disc is a worthy purchase alone, it’s actually the second disc that will really appeal to Sigh devotees, with the disc getting off to a ripping start with two enthusiastic Venom covers (‘Black Metal’ and ‘The Seven Gates Of Hell’, both of which appeared on the band’s Sigh’s official bootleg tribute ‘To Hell And Back’ from 1995), followed by an equally worthy cover of Mayhem’s ‘Carnage’ (Which has only appeared on the vinyl re-release of ‘Scorn Defeat’).
‘The Zombie Terror’ (From the obscure Evil Records ‘Far East Gate In Inferno’ compilation from 1994) is an interesting inclusion here as it highlights the more avant-garde side of the band’s song writing.
But the real prize here is the addition of the band’s highly sought after (And damn near impossible to find!) ‘Desolation’ demo from 1990 (‘Weakness Within’, ‘Desolation Of My Mind’ and ‘Mentally Numb’) and their ‘Tragedies’ demo from 1991 (‘Death Throes’, ‘Sigh’, ‘Mentally Numb’ and ‘Desolation’). While the recordings are rough and raw at best (And at worst, kind of un-listenable!), they do provide an insightful look into how the band started out, and ultimately progressed to the point where they released ‘Scorn Defeat’. Hardly essential, but definitely interesting.
Overall, Deepsend Records have managed to put together the ultimate deluxe re-release of Sigh’s ‘Scorn Defeat’, with everything from the track listing right through to the packaging presented in the way a genuine deluxe edition should be put together.
In summary, if you have an interest in Sigh’s early days, or avant-garde black metal, this is one release that should be on your list of essential purchases.

For more information on Sigh, check out - http://www.myspace.com/sighjapan

© Justin Donnelly

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Denial Fiend - Horror Holocaust

Denial Fiend
Horror Holocaust
Ibex Moon Records

After previewing a brand new track to the compilation album ‘After Party Massacre (Death Metal Soundtrack)’ earlier in the year, Valrico (Florida, U.S.) based death/thrash metal outfit Denial Fiend have returned with their brand new full-length effort ‘Horror Holocaust’ – the long awaited follow-up to 2007’s rather impressive ‘They Rise’.
In their four years away, Denial Fiend has undergone quite a transformation, with guitarist Sam Williams (Massacre/Down By Law/The Spears) and bassist Terry Butler (Massacre/Death/Six Feet Under/Obituary) the only members remaining from the line-up that recorded ‘They Rise’. Taking on the vocal duties from Kam Lee is Blaine ‘Zippy’ Cook (The Accüsed/The Fartz/Toe Tag), and Rob Rampy (D.R.I./The Spears) has been behind the drum kit since the band’s split with Curtis Beeson in 2008.
With the band effectively changing half its members, you can be sure that there’s bound to be a change in sound. And sure enough, those who enjoyed ‘They Rise’ will be in for quite a shock with Denial Friend’s latest offering ‘Horror Holocaust’.
The most immediate shift in direction for the band between releases is made abundantly clear with the opening track ‘Corrupted Flesh’. Unlike Lee’s traditional death growls, Cook adds a demented and somewhat chaotic punk vocal to the band’s sound, which inevitably means that you’re either going to love it or hate it. Musically, not a real lot has changed, with the band still delivering a fast paced crossover/thrash like sound, with a slight influence of death metal detected in the solos and the locked in groovier passages.
Over the course of the album’s thirty minute running time, Denial Fiend bash out eight tracks of quality crossover/thrash metal, with highlights coming in the form of ‘Stuck Pig/Bleeding Out’, the fairly straight forward (And more death metal inclined) ‘Flesh Coffin’, the catchy ‘A Fiend Without A Face’ and the closer ‘Hell Asylum’.
What’s really surprising is that ‘After Party Massacre’ (Which was released as a stand alone split single release with Incantation earlier this year) is one of the album’s less than stellar efforts, and along with the sound effect enhanced instrumental piece ‘Dunsmoor’, it’s what you could very well call the album’s filler efforts.
If you’re a fan of crossover/thrash, and don’t mind Cook’s vocal style, then ‘Horror Holocaust’ is an album that you should track down. ‘Horror Holocaust’ is short, fun and a horrific bloodfest from start to finish.
If, on the other hand, you’ve never taken to Cook’s rather unique singing voice with The Accüsed, then don’t expect this album to change your mind otherwise.

For more information on Denial Fiend, check out - http://www.myspace.com/denialfiendband

© Justin Donnelly

Falls Of Rauros - The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood

Falls Of Rauros
The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood
Bindrune Recordings

When it comes to finding strange and unusual acts that dwell within the black/folk metal realm, you can count on Bindrune Recordings to unearth them, and introduce them to a whole new audience on a global scale.
Following on from recently successful releases from acts such as Obsequiae (‘Suspended In The Brume Of Eos’) and Forest Of The Soul (‘Restless In Flight’), Bindrune Recordings have signed up Portland (Maine, U.S.) based outfit Falls Of Rauros and released their latest full-length effort ‘The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood’.
Despite high praise for their two former full-length efforts (2006’s ‘Into The Archaic’ and 2008’s ‘Hail Wind And Hewn Oak’), I couldn’t say that I was all that impressed with Falls Of Rauros past efforts. Yes, the primitive production values played a part, but it was band’s lack of song writing strengths that really failed to grab me for the most part, leaving me with the impression that while there was potential within  the band, Falls Of Rauros still hadn’t quite hit their stride.
Now returning with their third effort ‘The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood’, the band (Alongside session drummer Austin Lunn of the Panopticon/Seidr who agreed to help out after losing their drummer following the release of their last album) have clearly stepped up in every way, and finally put together a release that is well and truly their strongest effort to date.
From the moment the band greet the listener with the instrumental piece ‘Earth’s Old Timid Grace’, it’s clear that a lot of thought and time has gone into the production this time around, with the clarity and the balance definitely standing out as a huge improvement on past endeavours. There’s also a greater acoustic influence in the band’s song structures, which definitely gives the band a sound that’s more atmospheric and progressive in nature, and infinitely more interesting than their song writing of old.
After the short introduction piece, the band takes on a heavier and denser black metal sound with ‘Banished’. Maintaining the shoe-gazer atmospherics of the former track, and balancing it out with a distinctly strong black metal influence, ‘Banished’ is a sweeping mix of melodic atmospherics and blackened aggression, with just the right mix of heavy riffs, harsh vocals and subtle melodic hooks and shades of captivating musicianship.
The equally lengthy ‘Awaiting The Fire Or Flood That Awakes It’ (Which clocks in at nearly fourteen minutes) is another stand out track with its ebb and flow of aggressive passages and moments of gentle serenity, while ‘Silence’ is by far the album’s most consistently brutal effort, while the closing instrumental ‘The Cormorants Shiver On Their Rocks’ offers up a sound that’s at the complete opposite end of the spectrum with its greater presence of acoustics and stringed instruments.
Despite the band’s lack of variation in the song writing direction on the album as a whole, and the somewhat overextended feel on some of the tracks, ‘The Light That Dwells In Rotten Wood’ is an absolute triumph for Falls Of Rauros, and comes highly recommended for fans of Agalloch and Shroud Of Despondency.

For more information on Falls Of Rauros, check out - http://bindrunerecordings.com/

© Justin Donnelly

ICS Vortex - Storm Seeker

ICS Vortex
Storm Seeker
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

ICS Vortex is well known within the melodic black metal scene, with his vocals adding a unique touch to works from Arcturus, Borknagar and Dimmu Borgir. After being unceremoniously dismissed from Dimmu Borgir in 2009, the Norwegian (Oslo based) vocalist decided to finally take matters into his own hands and put together a long overdue solo album.
Two years later, and with the help of renowned drummer Asgeir Mickelson (Ex-Vintersorg/Scariot/Spiral Architect/Borknagar/Ihsahn/Lunaris) ICS Vortex (Whose real name is Simen Hestnæs, and who provides vocals, guitars, bass and keyboards to the album) has finally unveiled his highly anticipated solo effort ‘Storm Seeker’.
Given Vortex’s vast body of past musical works, it wouldn’t be far fetched to assume that ‘Storm Seeker’ would slot musically within the melodic black metal genre. But after a cursory listen through the album, it’s clear that Vortex isn’t remotely interested in playing things safe and predictable. Instead, ‘Storm Seeker’ is an adventurous and diverse offering that ventures into unlikely areas such as progressive rock and folk metal, with the end results as equally mixed as the musical soundscape on the album itself.
The album’s opening track ‘The Blackmobile’ is by far the album’s most metallic and heaviest offering, with its faster tempo, thick instrumentation, relentless double kick work from Mickelson and guest guitar solo contribution from Cyrus (Sarke/Susperia) giving the song it’s force and drive. As you would expect, Vortex’s vocals stand out as the primary focus throughout, with Vortex utilising the off kilter melodies that has since become his trademark to full capacity – And to great success.
‘Odin’s Tree’, which again features Cyrus on lead guitar, is another stand out cut with its heavier vibe and instrumentation. But whereas the opener veered a little toward the strange vocally, Vortex keeps things fairly melodic and straight forward here, which helps the song stand out as one of the album’s stronger and more accessible efforts.
From here, the album starts to venture into the strange and undiscovered, with ‘Skoal!’ leading the charge. The swirling Hammond organ (Provided by Arne Martinussen) adds a very folk vibe to the song, while Vortex’s melodies are stretched out at times, giving the song a very schizophrenic feel.
The unexpected classic rock feel of ‘Dogsmacked’ and ‘Windward’ was a little unexpected, but no less worthy (Which means they definitely stand out for all the right reasons in my book), while the Opeth tinged title track ‘Storm Seeker’ is an absolute gem, and a personal favourite.
Elsewhere, Vortex has decided to drift off more into the experimental side of things in terms of choral structures and instrumentation, with mixed results. In terms of tracks that miss, ‘Aces’, ‘Oil In Water’ and ‘When Shuffled Off’ aren’t necessarily disasters, but are by far the album’s weaker efforts. Whether it be vocals that don’t quite hit the mark (The former two mentioned efforts), or just uninspired and overly simplistic (The latter). But in terms of tunes that do work in their experimental state is the darker and moodier ‘Flaskeskipper’ and the bizarre Pink Floyd like instrumental closer ‘The Sub Mariner’.
In the end, ICS Vortex’s debut solo effort may have a couple of weak moments, but is nonetheless rewarding and captivating enough to reward those who are prepared to expect anything but the predictable melodic black metal path Vortex could have easily taken listeners.

For more information on ICS Vortex, check out - http://www.myspace.com/icsvortex

© Justin Donnelly

Jasta - Jasta

Jasta
Jasta
Entertainment One Music/Shock Entertainment

Jamey Jasta is probably one of the hardcore scene’s busiest personalities, with the front man dividing his time between several musical outfits (Most notably Hatebreed and Kingdom Of Sorrow, and the lesser known Icepick), making guest appearances and managing his own business ventures (His record label Stillborn Records and his clothing line Hatewear). Somewhere in amongst his busy schedule, he’s managed to get together with a couple of friends (Guitarist/bassist Charlie Bellmore and drummer/additional guitarist Nick Bellmore) and assembled a new outfit under his own name, and who have duly released their self-titled debut release.
Solo albums from any artist firmly entrenched within a band of note are always an interesting prospect, and given the contrast between Hatebreed and Kingdom Of Sorrow, I was keen to see what Jasta would project sound wise on his own album.
If the opening track ‘Walk That Path Alone’ is any indication of what was in-store for the remainder of the album, then you would believe that Jasta’s solo album was little more than an extension of Hatebreed’s trademark sound. Full of aggression, tight knit riffing and Jasta’s hardcore bark, ‘Walk That Path Alone’ is a huge song, but nothing that truly stands as something completely separated from what is otherwise expected from Jasta.
The first single ‘Mourn The Illusion’ on the other hand is something altogether different. Musically the song falls a little more in line with the metalcore realm of Killswitch Engage with its melodic breakdowns and riffing. But what really stands out is Jasta’s own performance, where he mixes up clean vocals alongside his rasping screams. It’s really quite different and unexpected, and in a good way too.
‘Screams From The Sanctuary’ and ‘Set You Adrift’ are further surprising gems that mix the aggression of Hatebreed with a dual vocal presence that’s at times melodic and clean, and screamed at other points within the songs. But despite having a strong clean vocal, Jasta’s abilities sound a little stretched on ‘Nothing They Say’ and ‘Something You Should Know’ (Which features a guest vocal appearance from All That Remains’ Phil Labonte). The music is undoubtedly solid, but the somewhat repetitive chorus and lack of aggression at times does make the song sound a little drawn out and lifeless. It’s only on ‘The Fearless Must Endure’ (Which has a solo provided by Zakk Wylde) that Jasta seems to find the right balance of a solid hook and his clean vocal efforts without making the song sound like its falling into a pattern of repetition.
Returning to more familiar ground, ‘Anthem Of The Freedom Fighter’, ‘With A Resounding Voice’ (Featuring Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying), ‘Heart Of A Warrior’ (Featuring ex-Revolution Mother front man Mike Vallely) and ‘Death Bestowed’ (Which boasts a killer solo from Lamb Of God’s Mark Morton) are certified winners that will keep fans of Jasta’s work with Hatebreed satisfied to no end, while the teaming up of Jasta alongside Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe on ‘Enslaved, Dead Or Depraved’ is downright crushing.
Overall Jasta’s debut has enough kinks and new sounds to separate it from coming across as a poor imitation of Hatebreed, and yet has enough of Jasta’s trademark qualities to draw Hatebreed fans’ attention. Sure, the album has a few letdown efforts, but in terms of overall quality, ‘Jasta’ still manages to deliver.

For more information on Jasta, check out - http://www.jameyjasta.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Monday, September 12, 2011

Floating Me - Floating Me

Floating Me
Floating Me
Independent Release/Cross Section/Inertia Pty. Ltd.

Back in the early ‘90’s, Sydney based outfit Scary Mother were on the verge of big things. Their debut album ‘Tai Laeo’ (1994) was an amazing release, and an album that I considered to be one of the Australian metal/hard rock scenes overlooked classics. But despite the album’s success, and the band’s growing reputation as a live act, Scary Mother broke up soon after - never to be heard of again.
Throughout the years, I’ve often wondered what became of the various members within the group. So you can imagine my surprise to find an unassuming album some years later from a virtually unknown act called Floating Me, that not only features members of the almighty Scary Mother, but also some other well known names from Australia’s current progressive rock scene.
Founded in 2009, Floating Me boasts in their ranks three fifths of Scary Mother (Vocalist Andrew Gillespie, guitarist Antony Brown and keyboardist Tobias Messiter), as well as Karnivool bassist Jon Stockman and ex-Cog/Ezekiel Ox And The Fury drummer Lucius Borich. With such a promising line-up in place, my expectations for Floating Me’s self-titled album were really quite high to say the least. And in terms of musical direction, I tried to picture what a blend of Cog, Karivool and Scary Mother might sound like.
While I may have been way off the mark in terms of my predicted musical approach from Floating Me, I will attest that the band have exceeded any hopes I might have had for a fairly impressive debut effort.
Floating Me opt to open up the album in a rather slow and dark way, with the gradual build of ‘Deathless’ perfectly showcasing Gillespie’s deep and commanding vocal presence (Which in some ways brings to mind Jeff Martin of The Tea Party), and the band’s ability to craft a tapestry that is densely layered with heavier elements and haunting atmospherics.
The follow-up track ‘Narke’ is something completely different in both feel and sound, with the use of keyboards, programmed electronic sounds and big guitar riffs combined to give the song a modern progressive hard rock sound, without forsaking the strange haunting vibe that is projected through Gillespie’s presence out front.
The album’s first single/promotional video clip ‘Sugar’ is by far the most accessible, melodic and straight forward song from the album, and is sure to become a favourite of most listeners on the live front, while ‘Spirals’ and ‘Breaking To Breathe’ are similar in nature in terms of being more straight forward and heavy rocking sounding efforts, albeit with a little reworking in the studio with some effects and sound manipulation.
‘Piano’ sees the band exploring quieter territory initially, before finishing off the song in a heavier fashion when the band gradually switches to full-on mode, while Gillespie takes on the central role on the stripped back ‘Xtoto’, and with the help of vocalist Carla Werner, the emotive ‘Short Cuts To Feeling’.
The electronic and percussion driven ‘Bezhumous’ is an interesting detour into the unexpected, but an experiment that works nonetheless, while the acoustic driven ‘The Beautiful Fall’ stands out with its stunning melodies, and its somewhat brighter outlook in what is otherwise a dark album.
Finishing off the album is the lengthy epic ‘Across The Gulf’, which boasts some exceptional guitar work from Brown, a powerhouse performance from Gillespie and some equally mesmerising soundscapes courtesy of Messiter.
I expected great things from Floating Me given their line-up, and I wasn’t let down at all. Floating Me’s debut is nothing short of stunning, and hands down one of the best releases from an Australian act this year.
In simple terms, this album is an absolute must have for diehard fans of those involved.

For more information on Floating Me, check out - http://www.floatingme.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Obsequiae - Suspended In The Brume Of Eos

Obsequiae
Suspended In The Brume Of Eos
Bindrune Recordings

Bindrune Recordings may not have a vast array of artists on their roster, and they certainly don’t have a lot of releases to their name just yet, but what the label has released over the last few years has been of exceptional quality.
Their latest find is Minneapolis (Minnesota, U.S.) based outfit Obsequiae, and who’s debut full-length effort ‘Suspended In The Brume Of Eos’ has finally seen the light of day some two years after the release of their limited edition/hand numbered (To one hundred copies) self-titled demo was picked up by the same label.
Despite having only formed in 2007, Obsequiae is essentially a continuation of Autumnal Winds, who between 1998 and 2005, managed to release a handful of demos, before disbanding.
Having reunited under the name of Obsequiae, vocalist/guitarist Blondel De Nesle (Who’s otherwise known as Tanner Anderson, and is an active member of fellow Bindrune Recordings artists Celestiial) and guitarist/bassist/drummer Neidhart Von Reuental have moved on from where they last left things with Autumnal Winds, with ‘Suspended In The Brume Of Eos’ taking on a more melodic black metal vibe, but with a strong medieval/folk influence heard throughout the album’s dozen tracks.
While the fusion of melodic black metal and medieval/folk isn’t something unheard of, there’s something in the way that Obsequiae write and perform their compositions that gives the blended sounds a whole new perspective, and none more so than what’s heard in the album’s opening track ‘Altars Of Moss’. The sweeping folk-like electric guitar/bass riffs are balanced cleverly against a distinctly black metal vocal presence and drums (Which at times break into blast beats), providing listeners with a sound that’s as aggressive as black metal, but far from run of the mill structurally.
From here, the album alternates between aggressive blasts of melodic black metal (‘In The White Fields’, ‘Arrows’ and ‘Cabin Lights’), progressively edged/experimental black metal efforts (‘Atonement’, ‘The Wounded Fox’ and the slower paced title track ‘Suspended In The Brume Of Eos’) and medieval/folk instrumental passages (Such as ‘Sidhe’, ‘Wildes Heer’, ‘Estas Redit’ and ‘Boreas’) – which when combined, give the album a lot of depth, variation and separation from one track to the next.
Obsequiae’s don’t play the familiar melodic black metal with medieval/folk influences, and ‘Suspended In The Brume Of Eos’ is anything but the same old sound of most. This album really is something different.
Anyone familiar with Bindrune Recordings will know what to expect on Obsequiae’s debut – And that’s something really quite different. But if you’re a stranger to the label, and like your black metal to be a little more daring, ‘Suspended In The Brume Of Eos’ is well worth hunting down.

For more information on Obsequiae, check out - http://www.myspace.com/bindrunerecordings

© Justin Donnelly

Reign Of Vengeance - Disemboweling Swine

Reign Of Vengeance
Disemboweling Swine
Brain Damage Music

You could hardly call them a death metal supergroup, but if you look at the list of acts the four members of Reign Of Vengeance have been associated with in the past, it’s clear that the band certainly keep some impressive company. After a lengthy four years between releases (The last being 2007’s ‘Revenge By Bloodshed’ E.P. from 2007), the Scottsdale (Arizona, U.S.) based four piece outfit (Comprising of published author/Rebirth vocalist Marshall ‘Fucking’ Beck, Motive/Rebirth guitarist Tommy Gibbons, AinMatter/Cephalic Carnage bassist Nick Schendzielos and Decrepit Birth/Abigail Williams drummer Sam ‘Samus’ Paulicelli) are back with their debut full-length effort ‘Disemboweling Swine’ – The band’s first release on Brain Damage Music, the music label established by Brain Damage Films.
Given the member’s history, the label their signed to and the rather graphic artwork adorning the cover of their latest release, you pretty much know what you’re in for here – and that’s extreme death metal. And sure enough, Reign Of Vengeance delivers plenty of death metal to keep fans more than entertained for its entire thirty-three minutes.
The band get things off to a pummelling start with the title track ‘Disemboweling Swine’, which not only showcases their ability to deliver death metal with technical precision, but their willingness to throw a little more of a grinding influence into their song writing with the various background shrieking vocals and the overall density on the production front.
The more groove driven ‘In The Club With A Chainsaw’ doesn’t stray too far from the template of the opener, but does boast some great lead work to really give the song that something special, while the intense blast of ‘She’s Best Kept Headless’ and ‘He Hates His Fucking Job, He Hates His Fucking Wife, He Hates His Fucking Life’ maintains a destructive vibe.
Despite its humorous premise, ‘A Massacre Of Mormons’ doesn’t quite work with its somewhat off-kilter timing and mix of styles, while ‘As Seen On TV’ just seems to have little going for it at all. But barring the couple of missed targets, the band’s aim seems to be true on the Deicide-like ‘A Misfortunate Ride (The Goregrinders)’ (One of the few tracks where Schendzielos’ bass work really stands out), the straight forward crushing death metal delivery of ‘The Unwanted Intruders’ and the album’s strongest effort ‘A Tradition Of Bloodshed’.
‘Disemboweling Swine’ isn’t the greatest death metal/goregrind album I’ve ever heard, and Reign Of Vengeance aren’t exactly doing anything new outside of what bands such as Macabre and Cephalic Carnage have done better in the past.
But Reign Of Vengeance’s debut is a solid and enjoyable release nonetheless, and that’s enough to warrant further investigation from those interested.

For more information on Reign Of Vengeance, check out - http://www.reignofvengeance.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Warbringer - Worlds Torn Asunder

Warbringer
Worlds Torn Asunder
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

The resurgence of thrash metal over the last ten years has seen a whole host of acts emerge from the woodwork and help revitalise what was essentially a genre fading into obscurity.
While some acts seem content to push the old school thrash sound into bold new territory (With varying degrees of success), there are some that simply want to bring back the vitality and tradition of what made thrash metal so important in the first place. And one such act that’s done just that is Newbury Park (California, U.S.) based outfit Warbringer.
Having released one E.P. (2006’s ‘One By One, The Wicked Fall’) and two full-length releases (2008’s ‘War Without End’ and 2009’s ‘Waking Into Nightmares’) to huge critical acclaim, it’s not all that surprising to find that there’s plenty of hype surrounding the band’s all important third album ‘Worlds Torn Asunder’. And given Warbringer’s track record of delivering first class old school thrash in the past, it’s not all that strange to find that Warbringer have once again delivered another thrashing masterpiece in ‘Worlds Torn Asunder’.
Despite a change of guard within the band (Vocalist John Kevill and guitarists John Laux and Adam Carroll have welcomed back original bassist Andy Laux, and recently recruited ex-In Misery/Hexen drummer Carlos Cruz into the band’s ranks), ‘Worlds Torn Asunder’ doesn’t stray too far from the direction and sound that have worked well for Warbringer in the past, which is more than evident in the album’s opening track/single ‘Living Weapon’.
The Exodus influences that were evident on the band’s last album still linger within the riff work, but otherwise this is still very much the Warbringer we have come to know – meaning that there’s still plenty of speed, venomous Kreator-like vocals from Kevill, and riffs that put a lot of other so-called thrash bands to shame.
The single/first promotional video clip ‘Shattered Like Glass’ is definitely a highlight with its catchy choruses, shedding lead work and huge riffed grooves, while on the more mid-paced efforts such as ‘Wake Up... Destroy’, ‘Savagery’ and ‘Treacherous Tongue’, Warbringer have made a concerted effort to give the album a bit more variation from the flat out speed that dominated much of their past albums.
Both ‘Echoes From The Void’ and ‘Demonic Ecstasy’ (Which is preceded by the instrumental piece ‘Behind The Veils Of Night’) provide some new twists to the Warbringer formula of old with the band stretching out their compositions more for some truly memorable instrumental passages, while a track like the venomous ‘Enemies Of The State’ is essentially the kind of track you can depend upon Warbringer to serve up time and time again.
Warbringer haven’t yet released anything that falls below the bar they set with their debut, and their new album doesn’t disappoint in that respect. ‘Worlds Torn Asunder’ is a truly stunning thrash masterpiece, and further proof that Warbringer are in a thrashing class of their own.

For more information on Warbringer, check out - http://www.myspace.com/warbringer

© Justin Donnelly

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bury Your Dead - Mosh N’ Roll

Bury Your Dead
Mosh N’ Roll
Mediaskare Records

After a couple of somewhat experimental and poorly albums with vocalist Myke Terry at the helm (2008’s self titled release and 2009’s ‘It’s Nothing Personal’), Worcester (Boston, Massachusetts) hardcore/metalcore act Bury Your Dead and Terry decided to part ways in early 2011 - giving fans some glimmer of hope that the band would ditch their more recent nu-metal/melodic metalcore direction and return to their brutal and simplistic metallic hardcore sound. When the band finally announced the return of former vocalist Mat Bruso to their ranks after a four absence (Having last appeared on 2006’s ‘Beauty And The Breakdown’, and who in the meantime pursuing a career in teaching), there was an immediate positive reaction from both fans and press alike, and Bury Your Dead looked like they were back on track.
Several months on, and Bury Your Dead (Who now comprise of vocalist Mat Bruso, guitarist Brendan ‘Slim’ MacDonald and drummer Mark Castillo – Who has since parted ways with the band, being replaced by Dustin Schoenhofer) are back with their sixth album ‘Mosh N’ Roll’ - which is also their first release on Mediaskare Records after parting ways with Victory Records.
In the lead up to the album’s release, the band described ‘Mosh N’ Roll’ as a collection of tunes specifically written to be played live. In that context, I can understand what the band was aiming for in terms of sound and direction, with every one of the eleven tracks sounding bruising, simplistic, somewhat melodic and catchy, and downright heavy. In other words, ‘Mosh N’ Roll’ is very much the natural follow up that could have stemmed on from ‘Beauty And The Breakdown’ (Right down to having song titles that are named after Kurt Vonnegut’s literary works), and would no doubt sound perfect in a live setting.
But as an album, ‘Mosh N’ Roll’ is a bit of a disappointment. The bulk of the problem with ‘Mosh N’ Roll’ comes down to a genuine lack of progression from within the band. The opening track ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ (Which is the album’s first single/promotional video clip), the thick chugging groove of ‘Nothing Is Lost Save Honor’, ‘Deadeye Dick’, ‘Slapstick’ and ‘Jailbird’ are all great tracks, but you can’t help but feel that given the number of members the band have gone through over the last few years, Bury Your Dead seem content to maintain the status quo rather than push their themselves or their sound. And as for the decision to re-record (yet again) the title track ‘Mosh N’ Roll’ (Making it a third time that its appeared on a Bury Your Dead album), well I think that only reinforces my point.
Putting aside my own expectations (Which didn’t amount to much given that I quite enjoyed both the Bruso and Terry eras of the band), ‘Mosh N’ Roll’ is a solid enough release, but far the best compared to what the band have produced in the past.

For more information on Bury Your Dead, check out - http://www.myspace.com/buryyourdead

© Justin Donnelly

Confront Hate - Diabolical Disguise Of Madness

Confront Hate
Diabolical Disguise Of Madness
Hell Xis Records

It’s not all that often I get to hear what’s happening in the metal scene in Portugal, so I was quite keen to hear what long running Faro (Algarve) based outfit Confront Hate had to offer on their debut full-length effort ‘Diabolical Disguise Of Madness’ – the follow up to their self-titled E.P. from 2007.
Playing a mix of thrash and groove metal, it doesn’t take a huge amount of thinking to ascertain exactly what sort of band have played their part in influencing Confront Hate’s chosen style of music. Essentially what you have here is a mix of Pissing Razors, Pantera, Meshuggah and Divine Heresy, without sounding like any one of the bands directly. What this means in a lot of other ways too is that while the five piece act (Comprising of vocalist David Rosa, lead guitarist Ricardo Albino, rhythm guitarist Pedro Faustino, bassist Pedro Viegas and drummer Pedro Costa) are competent at what they do, they certainly don’t have enough originality in their song writing to really make their songs stand out as anything remarkable or memorable.
After a short build up to ease listeners into the album (By way of the instrumental piece ‘Sokenra’), the band fully get the album underway in a heavy fashion with the fast paced ‘Hate Will Never Die’. Brutal, full of crushing grooves and layered in a suffocatingly thick production, ‘Hate Will Never Die’ is a solid track, and one that definitely gets the album off to a trustworthy start. But in terms of really latching into your mind after it’s finished, the song does lack a little in terms of a memorable chorus.
Right from the outset, it’s clear that Confront Hate are all about locking into a tight groove and running with it. And nowhere is it more noticeable than in tracks such as ‘Corrupted Desire’, ‘Conception’ and ‘New Divine Shadow’. Precision delivered riffs and a tight knit rhythm section is what the band really excels at delivering. But in terms of writing hooks (Both within the choruses and on the riff front), Confront Hate still haven’t quite managed to find their niche.
The instrumental ‘Love Grows Cold’ is a cool breather around the latter half
of the album, and serves nicely as a precursor to the title track ‘Diabolical Disguise Of Madness’, which is easily one of the more memorable efforts on the album with its jagged Meshuggah-like time changes, its extra measure of aggression and a chorus that does actually have some distinct sense of melody.
Unfortunately, the album ends on a bit of a confused note, with the band’s attempts to combine some progressive elements (In an almost Devin Townsend fashion) with some heavier sounds on ‘Feeling The Silence’ sounding ill-fitting. And as for the six minutes of silence at the end (Which eventually makes way for a brief guitar effect right at the end), well it comes across as pointless filler.
Confront Hate have all the makings of a great band, but still need to work on writing songs that grab the listener rather than simply pass by without having an impact.
Overall, ‘Diabolical Disguise Of Madness’ is a good solid album, but also one that doesn’t really boast any moments that can be remembered once it’s finished.

For more information on Confront Hate, check out - http://www.confronthate.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Trials - Witness To The Downfall

Trials
Witness To The Downfall
Independent Release

In today’s music scene, you have to really make a bold statement with your debut album. Because if you don’t, you’ll simply get lost amongst the thousands of other act’s vying for the same piece of the action. That’s a simple piece of advice that Chicago (Illinois, U.S.) based outfit Trials have obviously tried their hardest to adhere to on their debut full-length effort ‘Witness To The Downfall’.
Described as an ‘album of brawny modern thrash and muscular melodic metal’, I pictured in my mind an image of what Trials’ music would sound like before I had heard a note. And as is almost always the case, the four piece act (Comprising of vocalist/guitarist Mark Sugar, ex-Malstrom guitarist Remy Walle, bassist Usha Rajbandari and Novembers Doom/These Are They drummer Sasha Horn – Who has since been replaced by Adam Kopecky) offered up something completely different. But while it did take a few listens to get my head completely around what the band were trying to achieve, I can honestly say that Trials have managed to produce a worthwhile debut with ‘Witness To The Downfall’.
In terms of strengths, Trials get the album off to a crushing start with the opening track ‘Praise’. Granted, the band’s mix of thrash and groove metal isn’t too dissimilar to what Machine Head and Skinlab have produced in the past, and the clean vocals from Sugar aren’t anywhere near as strong as his melodic growls, the well executed riffing, the overall structure of the choruses and the relentless drumming from Horn throughout definitely elevates what could have otherwise been a fairly unmemorable track.
Traces of Pantera can be heard within ‘Powerless’, which showcases the guitarist’s ability to keep things groovy and heavy at the same time, while on ‘This Is Starvation’, the band push their sound more into modern thrash realms, all the while incorporating in places some clean vocals amongst the predominately aggressive driven screams. It all sounds a little mixed and unfocussed, but surprisingly, Trials make it all sound remarkable well thought out, and expertly executed.
‘Hammer’ is another highlight on the album with its fast thrashing pace and clever mix of clean and melodically growled vocals (The chorus is an absolute killer!), while on ‘And Still I Breathe’ and ‘Shadows & Traps’, the guitarists definitely stand out for all the right reasons, with some memorable riff structures (The black metal influences on the latter was unexpected) and lead work (Some electric, some acoustics) on show within both tracks.
Despite some really impressive songs, Trials’ debut does have some tracks that don’t quite hit their mark, with ‘Declaration’ and ‘Kingdom’ getting a little lost amongst the album with their unremarkable moments, and the closer ‘Take This From Me’ that simply overstays its welcome.
It took me a while to fully understand what Trials was trying to achieve with ‘Witness To The Downfall’. But once I figured it out, I could appreciate what the band delivered.
Sure, ‘Witness To The Downfall’ isn’t a classic, and the band still hasn’t completely found their own sound. But if there’s one thing I can attest is that Trials have put together a pretty impressive debut, and one that does stand out from the masses.

For more information on Trials, check out - http://www.myspace.com/trials

© Justin Donnelly

Undead Creep - The Ever-Burning Torch

Undead Creep
The Ever-Burning Torch
Dark Descent Records

There was a time when the old school Swedish death metal sound could only be found from bands that originated solely from Sweden itself. But as the years have rolled on, more and more bands have managed to capture the same vibe and sound of the old school greats, with varying degrees of success.
But one band that has managed to successfully master the old school Swedish sound is Italian (Palermo, Sicily based) outfit Undead Creep.
Formed a mere two years ago (2009), the four piece act (Comprising of vocalist Sandro Casu, guitarist Giorgio, bassist Maso and drummer David) quickly announced their arrival within the underground scene with their five track self-titled demo the same year, which earned the band considerable praise in the press.
Two years on, and the Italians have once again returned with their debut full-length effort ‘The Ever-Burning Torch’ through Dark Descent Records.
From the moment the band launch into the opening track ‘Immolation For Reincarnation’, it’s clear where they draw their influences from. With its blatant buzzsaw-like production on the guitars, the dry drum sounds and the ever-present rumble of bass, there’s no denying that Undead Creep worship acts such as Dismember, Entombed and Asphyx in a major way. In fact, the band manage to mimic the sound so well you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference at times.
There’s plenty of variation on the album throughout, with the dual paced ‘Surrounded By Tombs’, the doom enhanced ‘Eternal Rest’, the d-beat driven ‘Eradicated Memories’ and the thrashier ‘Forbidden Cult’ allowing the listener to retain interest in the album from start to finish.
As an added bonus, ‘The Ever-Burning Torch’ is also bolstered with the inclusion of the band’s original demo tacked on at the end of the album.
While the inclusion of demos to a full-length album does have its pros and cons, the inclusion of Undead Creep’s original recordings here is actually a worthy bonus as all the tracks weren’t re-recorded for the album. The other great thing is that it eliminates the need to track down the bands hard to find demo, with the complete Undead Creep catalogue packaged nicely on the one disc.
Despite a slight dip in song writing towards the tail end of the album, and two instrumental pieces (‘Interlude - On Blackened Mountains’ and ‘Darkest Slumber’) that don’t seem to fit anywhere on the album, ‘The Ever-Burning Torch’ is a worthy tribute to the old school Swedish death metal sound, and should impress those whose tastes in death metal began and finished with the likes of Dismember, Entombed and Asphyx’s early releases.

For more information on Undead Creep, check out - http://www.myspace.com/undeadcreep666

© Justin Donnelly

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Cleansing - Feeding The Inevitable

The Cleansing
Feeding The Inevitable
Deepsend Records

After announcing their arrival onto the scene with their debut effort ‘Poisoned Legacy’ in 2009, Copenhagen (Denmark) based death metal outfit The Cleansing are back with their second full-length effort ‘Feeding The Inevitable’. And as expected, it’s another impressively brutal slab of modern death metal.
Having fully recovered, vocalist Toke Eld (Ex-Usipian) now takes on the front man position (Which was temporarily filled in by Corpus Mortale vocalist/bassist Martin Rosendahl), and makes his recording debut alongside new bassist Mads Haarløv (Ex-Corpus Mortale/Iniquity) on the band’s latest release.
The opening track ‘The Promethean Promise’ pretty much sums up what the listener can expect from the nine track album, with the band (Who also comprise of guitarists Andreas Lynge and Jeppe Hasseriis and drummer Morten Løwe Sørensen) providing plenty of variation in both speed and riff structures throughout the song, all the while maintaining a crushing brutality that is unmistakably rooted in traditional Danish death metal.
‘Third Eye Starring’ maintains the aggression and bludgeoning vibe and speed of the opener, but with the addition of some great lead work to break up the continual onslaught from start to finish, while ‘Your Flesh, Your Curse’ and the slow paced ‘Processed For Contamination’ further explores the atmospherics heard on the former track in greater depth, with the dual guitar work, the flourishes of speedier moments and the ominous spoken word passages earning the songs their place as the album’s definitive highlights.
‘A Cheating Progression’ and ‘Hour Of Decadence’ are fairly straight forward death metal numbers that boast the right combination of groove based elements and full on attack aggression, while the last three tracks on the album (Namely ‘Law Of Reciprocity’, ‘Two Days’ and ‘Crossroads’ - Which features a guest vocal appearance from ex-Koldborn/Cerekloth vocalist Martin Leth Andersen) are by far the fastest and heaviest tracks the band have to offer, and close the album off in a truly brutal fashion.
While ‘Feeding The Inevitable’ doesn’t really push the death metal scene into new territory, it does at least show that while there’s a lot of death metal band’s on today’s scene, few do it quite as well as The Cleansing.
Although short on innovation, ‘Feeding The Inevitable’ is a solid death metal release that is every bit as consistent and expertly executed as it is crushing and extreme. In other words, The Cleansing’s latest effort comes highly recommended.

For more information on The Cleansing, check out - http://www.thecleansing.net/

© Justin Donnelly