Sunday, May 17, 2015

Electric Wizard at the Roxy


I've been horribly negligent is posting this, but Electric Wizard blew through Southern California nearly a month ago. I happened to catch their appearance at the Roxy on April 19th, and you can read my official account here at Heavy Metal at About.com.

First up is a short clip...



 ... and a few pictures....






The t-shirt haul (front and back)....



A backlog of review links... First, over at Last Rites...

Obsequiae Aria Of Vernal Tombs



The second installment of Fast Rites has been published. I contribute quick reviews of albums from Ered and Six Feet Under.




Just one lone "shortie" from Heavy Metal at About.com for now...

Satan's Wrath Die Evil


... and a full-length review of...

Drudkh A Furrow Cut Short


Next up... in just a few short days...


Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Atomic Bitchwax - Gravitron





The Atomic Bitchwax Gravitron 
      

By: Chris Davison

Ah, a momentary respite from the unrelenting tides of heavy metal in my life. This is, improbably, the sixth full length album from the stoner rocking trio – a band who have passed my consciousness every now and then, usually in the form of tracks on compilations and the like.

I’m a bit of a sucker for fuzzed out stoner grooves, and The Atomic Bitchwax have these in abundance. Somewhat less heavy than some of their contemporaries, the band utilise blues based boogie and swinging drum beats to enter the consciousness, and while it is fair to say that the riffs are in abundance – with the kind of ultra fuzzy guitar tone that you may be expecting, it’s the bass work that’s the real lynchpin here. Whether providing churning underpinning beats as in the charmingly titled “Fuck Face” , or rumbling with a little more menace as in the aggressive frown of “Coming in hot”, the bass work really does form the rock-solid centre point to the music.



To my ears though, there just isn’t enough in the way of aggression here. While this would clearly be an album that would go down well in any mainstream rock club you may care to mention, it strays a little too closely to the likes of the Queens Of The Stone Age for my ears. Whether in the judicious use of cowbell, or the clean vocals in all of their Homme-ian glory, this is likely to be an album that appeals very much to the music video worrying types who like relatively easy listening blues based stoner-lite; but, to be honest, I’ll file it under “thanks, but no thanks.”

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Gruesome - Savage Land




Gruesome Savage Land
 

By: Chris Davison

Death. The band. Do you like them? Chances are, if you are perusing the words on this fine blog, you have more than a passing regard for godfathers of death metal. It’s a minor wonder, therefore, that more bands haven’t plundered the stylistic mores of such a pivotal band. Yes, of course, there are the progressive technical bands that from time reap the artistic fields left overflowing from the latter day iterations of the seminal crew, but what of those early albums?

Reader, my favourite Death album is Scream Bloody Gore. An album so primitive – so atavistic – that the sheer power of those thrashy riffs and rumbling bass required very few lyrics. Those early three albums – Scream Bloody Gore, Leprosy and Spiritual Healing saw a very gradual evolution from the sheer caveman appreciation of the riff, towards more sophisticated fare. Virtually nobody appears to show off their influences from these three albums; which is bizarre given the plethora of bands essentially retreading early Entombed, Carcass or Napalm Death.

Gruesome are here to change all that. When Matt Harvey, (of Exhumed) formed this band in 2014 with three fellow lovers of all things primitive, it was with the single intention of paying homage to those early Death albums. This is as close to the originals as you can get, without literally covering those early tracks, except now with the benefit of a modern production. You liked “Zombie Ritual?” Of course you did. Well guess what? You’re going to love “Trapped In Hell,” which is like that track on an unhealthy regimen of steroids. “Demonized” has the hurried, urgent tempo that used to be everywhere in death metal, until the race for technical ability outstripped the need to make exciting music. Everything is as it should be here – the curious, dry guitar tone, through to the decipherable vocals, which although paying homage to Chuck never descend into being an impression.




The songwriting here is absolutely excellent, and with just eight songs, this really feels like an album from the late ‘80s. The one thing that Gruesome have done here more than many of the retro-death-metallers (aside from their choice of muse), is to evoke the atmosphere of death metal of the time. There is a real sense of goofy mystique here, helped by the album art work, which is as absurd as it is well painted, and even the band logo and album title looking exactly as they would have done in 1988. Gruesome may not be reinventing the wheel here, but they are taking your battered old coupe and planting a well chromed new engine into it. Excellent stuff all round.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Obsequiae - Aria Of Vernal Tombs





 Obsequiae Aria Of Vernal Tombs


By: Chris Davison

Obsequiae - not only an excellent word for using up all your vowels in a game of Scrabble - are a three piece dark metal band from Minnesota. Metal Archives tells me that this is the first release from the band in four years, and their second album, this time on the 20 Buck Spin record label (points for the Pentagram related record label, chaps).

I’ve been reviewing heavy metal for the last fifteen years or so, and before that listening for the last thirty. I have heard pretty much every iteration of the fads and fashions of the scene. I’ve seen the hey-nonny-nonny folk-metal fashion, for example, come round twice. Reader, I am tired. I am jaded. I am old. Obsequiae are the first really fresh band I have heard in a very long time. They have made me feel like there are some unexplored corners of our extreme music that can still excite, mystify and delight. Aria Of Vernal Tombs is an album of sublime quality and truly mysterious and captivating atmospheres.

Starting with a mediaeval sounding instrumental, the album has eleven tracks of what I can only really describe as the occult sound of the middle ages. Even as I write this, it looks ridiculous, I know, but this is an album to put on in the dark and let it transport your imagination. At heart, there is a healthy love of mediaeval melodies here – played delicately on the guitar, and soaked in so much reverb that it brings to mind simultaneously the strange, choral sounds of The Eerie, the romping epic sprawl of Falkenbach and the cosmic strangeness of Mithras.



The vocals, a strangled, distant hoarse shriek are typically black metal, which finds accord in the speed and treble heavy production of the guitars, though the clarity and precision of the sound are more typically death metal. The record company blurb likens this to the work of Eucharist – and while I can certainly find that similarity in the production, the song writing and atmosphere are years apart. Here you will find female chanted voices, harp introductions and the sounds of running streams. You will find the pure heavy metal gallop, along with the black metal cosmic vastness and the death metal menace.

I often found myself comparing this album to the early work of the UK’s Solstice – not because of the music, certainly, but more because of the overall feel of the work. This is a serious album and one which is resistant to giving all of its charms in even the dozen or so play throughs I have so far given it. There are depths here which still only scarcely reveal their charms. This then will be a purchase that will continue to mystify and entertain in equal measure as time wears on. At merely a third through the year, it seems as if I have found myself with a serious contender for album of the year.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lunar Eclipse, April 4th, 2015

An early morning lunar eclipse occurred on April 4th. We've been lucky in the Western United States; this was the third total lunar eclipse visible in just the last year (actually the third of a tetrad; another lunar eclipse will occur in autumn). This particular eclipse had the shortest duration totality in over a century, lasting around five minutes. Here are a few pictures. I misplaced some of my equipment, so these pictures were shot by digiscoping through my 8" Orion Dobsonian telescope with my iPhone through a 32 mm eyepiece.


 
 

 

Here's a whole backlog of reviews. First, some "shorties" over at Heavy Metal at About.com...

At The Gates/ Voivod Split



Incantation Entrantment Of Evil



Forgotten Tomb Hurt Yourself And The Ones You Love


A full-length review...

Shining IX - Everyone, Everything, Everywhere Dies


Over at Last Rites...

Acid King Middle Of Nowhere, Center Of Everywhere


I'm editing a new feature at Last Rites called Fast Rites. A group of us get together and write some short, fast reviews. Check out the first of what will probably be a monthly feature here. I provide a review of an album from Gouge.


Here's a full-length review over at Metal Bandcamp...

Gruesome Savage Land



... and the latest issue of Dave's Demo Roundup, featuring reviews of demos from Orcultus, Violent Hammer, and Pneuma Hagion...










Saturday, April 04, 2015

Pig Destroyer at the Roxy


Grindcore greats Pig Destroyer recently detonated at the Roxy on the Sunset Strip (you can read my official review here). In tow were crossover/ crust/ powerviolence bands Nails, Despise You, and ACxDC. Although the undercard was a bit off of the beaten path for me, Pig Destroyer as headliners were not to be missed. Here are a few pictures.

ACxDC



Despise You



Nails





Pig Destroyer




The t-shirt haul...


Ufomammut Ecate


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Visigoth "The Revenant King"


Visigoth The Revenant King


By: Chris Davison

Of all of the places I expected the none-more-true heavy metal of Visigoth to hail from, I wouldn’t have put a bet on it being Salt Lake City. Now, as an Englishman who has never visited our former colony to the west, I confess that all I know about the state of Utah has been informed by old westerns and a sketchy knowledge of Mormonism. At least for the benefits of our readers, my interest in all things heavy metal is a little more informed!

Presented among this album, (and great title, guys – took me right back to my adolescent Dungeons and Dragons years in a good way) are nine hymns to all things pure heavy metal. I have seen this album described as power metal elsewhere – a mistake, to my ears, as The Revenant King really doesn’t have much in common with the German heavyweight bands that dominate the genre, save for an interest in the fantastic and an unashamed love of the guitar solo. Visigoth, in my opinion, have much more in common with the likes of Grand Magus, channelling the spirit of heavy metal circa 1980-1982, but with modern punch, tight musicianship and superb production. From time to time, I was also reminded of Doomsword, but with a mid-tempo delivery.

It’s hard to know who to pin the acclaim on for producing such an infectious album, to be honest. Sure, it would be tempting to reward Jake Rogers for his powerful, yet still gritty clean voice which lends a certain powerful edge to the music without ever becoming illegible. Likewise, the twin guitar attack of Jamison Palmer and Leeland Campana, while being informed by the work of the classic heavy metal outfits, always has enough chutzpah to avoid being some kind of retro curio. Instead, the twin axes produce some truly memorably melodies, as with “Dungeon Master,” or, indeed, in grinding out a stomping, earth-shattering sound on “Mammoth Rider.” Matt Brotherton (bass) and the mysteriously named Mikey T (drums) – (presumably no relation to the “Mr” of the same surname) bring the goods in the rhythm section, evoking a powerful low end grunt that can occasionally be lost in other modern true metal releases.



An excellent album then – with clear, punchy production and one that doesn’t outlast the entertainment it can bring. The Revenant King is the kind of album that has taken the best of the past, and combined it with the best of the present. This comes highly recommended for anyone with a taste for classy, blue-collar, swords and sorcery inflected true heavy metal.