Monday, July 20, 2015

That's All For Now....

... but not for good. Not that I update this wretched mess very often, but I've decided to retire this version of Metal Flows In My Veins. I'll move the whole kit and caboodle over to Word Press sometime in the hopefully not too distant future (a long overdue switch, to be sure), but not until after I've made some changes in my "other life," business-wise.

Until then, however, here's one more massive update. First up are three reviews from Chris Davison. Chris has been eminently patient with me and my infrequent postings, and I value his contributions and friendship. Second, I've taken a big break from concert going as MDF saturated me for quite awhile. But, I did manage to get out to catch False at the Complex a couple of nights ago (the next morning I had a 102 degree fever; bizarre). False only played three songs, which were good, and local post-doom miserables Pendulous opened. I took a few pics with my rapidly aging iPhone 5 (another aspect of my life to be upgraded soon, I suspect). Cheers to Andrew Lusby; nice to see you that night.

And, lastly, a few links to various, recently written reviews. I've a couple of upcoming obligations to fulfill, but, after that, I've decided to take some time away (a month or so) from doing reviews and what not, becoming a bit burned out.

Thank you for stopping by to take a look now and then. I hope to see you again sometime soon. Cheers.

Cathedral In Memoriam

 (Rise Above Records)

By: Chris Davison

Reader, given you are clearly a person of great distinction and refined taste, hence finding yourself reading this mighty organ, I will make the assumption that you are already well acquainted with the original pressing of this EP, the first by – in my humble estimation – the most important band in the history of doom metal since the mighty Black Sabbath. The story is well known – a number of Coventry based flare-botherers, led by ex-Napalm Death shouter Lee Dorrian, (a man who once poked me in the eye to the tune of “Lord Of This World,” trivia fans) and once-Acid Reign guitar maestro and one-man riff-architect Gaz Jennings.

In Memoriam gathers together the same track-listing as the 1999 EP, including the live tracks from Belgium from 1991, along with the stellar cover version of Pentagram’s classic “All Your Sins.” The live tracks sound suitably gnarled and grim, with the imperfections of the performance producing a nice level of grit to the proceedings. Included with the CD package is a DVD of a live performance from the same period. I can’t tell you what that’s like, as the promo material didn’t include it, but as I know that Rise Above usually produces the goods for hardcore fans, I can only assume that this would be as much about fan-service as the music offerings.

Whether in the recorded format, or in the live setting, there were really no peers for early Cathedral when it came to marrying the extremity of the what was happening elsewhere in the death metal and grindcore scenes with the doom metal tempos and atmosphere. If you already own a previous version of this EP, on the basis of the music I can’t say that you will need this – but if you find that you don’t already own this (I know, it’s an absurd suggestion), then now is the ideal time to set that straight.

Paradise Lost The Plague Within

(Century Media Records)

By: Chris Davison

Quite remarkable. That was my first reaction when I first heard opening cut “No Hope In Sight” from this album. I’ve been a fan of Paradise Lost since I first heard the opening strains of “Embers Fire” from the Icon album, delving backwards from that point and adoring the ultra-heavy miserabilism of the Gothic and Shades Of God albums. Truth be told, I could never really get all the fuss around Lost Paradise.

In common with most fans of the period in the 90’s, I thought that the Draconian Times album, as polished a metal album as the UK produced in the whole decade, was going to see them take to heavy metal stardom. The One Second album put paid to that. Not a bad album, by any means, it wore a host (sic) of electronic sounds on its sleeve. The following works all seemed to veer further and further from the bands metallic roots, leaving them less and less relevant to my tastes. I didn’t hear much to cheer me from 1997 to 2009, truth be told, when they came back with the Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us platter, a much more metallic take on their sound.

A couple of other remarkable things have happened to members of the band from the last few years. Firstly, Gregor formed the fiercely grim be-doomed death metal band Vallenfyre, who now have two brilliant albums under their skin. Then, noted miserabilist Nick Holmes became the newest vocalist for death metal supremos, Bloodbath, on their Grand Morbid Funeral album.

What does this all have to do with Plague Within? Simply put, this is the heaviest Paradise Lost album EVER. Yes, it’s heavier than Gothic. It’s more miserable than Shades Of God, has a grittier feel than Icon and enough polish and punch in the production to beat Draconian Times.  Opener “No Hope In Sight” sets the agenda – a leaden hymn, with rumbling bass, razor-blade riffs and Holmes in the form of his life with his uniquely decipherable bellow. “Beneath Broken Earth,” another album highlight, has a tempo that would make Crowbar sound like DRI. “Terminal” has all the trademark melody that we’ve come to expect from Greg Mackintosh.

“Punishment Through Time” is perhaps the most melancholy the band have ever been – which in itself is a feat for perhaps the most influential band of the doom-death genre, with a stomping mid-paced track with a particularly writhing introductory riff, and serpentine mid-section. When, shortly after the minute and a half point in the song, the main guitar attack produces a powerful chug, you’ll be reminded that this is a band that has remembered that its members all came from a death metal heritage. Erlandsson is on fine form throughout this album, keeping the rhythms tight and interesting without ever resorting to show-boating. It’s also as if Aaron (second guitars) and Steve (bass) have been enthused by the new experiences of their bandmates, as this is an album that crackles with a fresh excitement and vigour that hasn’t truly been seen in some time.

This isn’t just an album for the Paradise Lost fans; this is an album for anyone with even a passing interest in the extreme. It’s also an album that brings hope that elder statesmen of the extreme side of our music can produce career highlights even after twenty three years in the business. In all honesty, there will be virtually nothing near this in terms of quality for the year’s releases. This, dear reader, is essential. Miss it at your peril.

Wombbath Downfall Rising

(Dark Descent Records)

By: Chris Davison

Look, I’m going to have to come out and say this: how on Earth does a downfall rise? Surely downfalls fall, hence the word downfall ? Grammatical gripes aside, this is the first album from the Swedish death metal chaps Wombbath for over a decade. What can you expect from the band, you ask?

Well, this sounds like Swedish death metal. Yes, look, I know there are lots of different types, but this sounds like Swedish death metal. You know what I’m saying here – fairly groovy, heavy on the HM-2 pedal fat-riffed death metal, with a vocalist who sounds like he’s pretty cross about something. Who knows, maybe he’s cross at the title of the album? I know I am. IN fairness, this is the sound of a band who know exactly what they’re doing. They’re undeniably at their best when they lock onto a fearsome groove – as with the album highlight, “I Am The Abyss, ”which features some pretty nifty bass-und-guitar chugging, along with some of the best old-school heads-down drum blasting I’ve heard in the last few years.

When Wombbath produce an atmosphere, they really manage to tap into all that is best about this kind of music – slow to mid-paced reverb-soaked riffing combining with a rock solid rhythm section and some hoarse yet decipherable death metal vocals. There’s also an excellent, modern punchy production that doesn’t sacrifice the essential feel of the music on the altar of clarity or volume. If I have any criticisms, it would be that the album is fairly short at eight tracks long, including one introduction, and of those songs, there are a couple that could have been removed to make this an excellent EP rather than an average album. That aside, if you can pick this up for a decent price and old school death metal is your fix, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here.

Wombbath Official Facebook

Thanks again for the reviews, Chris.



One full-length review of some recent reissues from Spiritual Beggars

Over at Last Rites...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Maryland Death Fest XIII

Maryland Death Fest XIII

During Memorial Day weekend, MDF XIII came to pass, marking my third consecutive trip to the festival. Overall, the lineup was probably not quite as strong as those of the previous two years, but it was still a solid bill from top to bottom. Here’s my brief reflection on the experience, and on the logistics of surviving, more or less in one piece, what really is a rather grueling festival experience.

I decided to take the Virgin America redeye from LAX to Dulles on Wednesday night as I’ve done the previous two years. Certainly, I don’t sleep well on planes, but I actually managed to catch a few zzz’s as the 4 ½ hour ride actually passed rather quickly. My good friend Aaron picked up my friend Mike and I from Dulles on Thursday morning, as he now lives in the Washington D.C. area while going to law school. We crashed for a few hours at Aaron’s place before heading to Baltimore just after noon.

Aaron and I had a good experience with Airbnb last year, so we opted to do that once again, staying in a 230-year old row house on Tyson Street in the heart of the trendy area of downtown Baltimore. The place was clean and quiet, and our host, Taylor, graciously allowed a total of four of us (my friend Robert would join us that afternoon after taking a plane from LAX to BWI on Thursday) to stay for the weekend.

After settling in and dumping our stuff, we headed to Max’s Taproom in the East Harbor area for a drink prior to heading to Rams Head Live (RHL) and the Baltimore Soundstage for the Thursday night shows. We managed to catch a couple of songs as Origin were finishing up at the Soundstage, and I immediately jumped over to RHL to catch Primitive Man. Although not really my thing, Primitive Man were really good with a crushingly heavy delivery that clocked in at a perfect 25-minute long set.

I popped back over to the Soundstage to catch Internal Bleeding and Skinless in rapid succession with both sets being enjoyable. Devourment did not impress, so we all headed back to RHL for the remainder of the evening. In quick succession, we enjoyed excellent sets from Jex Thoth, Conan, Ufomammut, and Yob. I was especially interested in Ufomammut, as they’ve been a favorite ever since the release of Snailking, but every band that evening was excellent. Jex Thoth, in particular, have a great stage presence with frontwoman Jessica Bowen expertly working the crowd. We Über-ed our way back to Tyson Street afterwards (we used Über throughout the weekend as well as doing a great deal of walking).

The next morning, we first went to Faidley’s Market for some lump crab cake, and then headed over to the Edison Lot for the day’s shows. I was hoping for some changes at the Edison Lot from last year, mostly from an amenities standpoint. For example, MDF has lucked out the last couple of years with mild weather as heat exhaustion and/ or dehydration has not really been an issue. Free water was promised this year, but it only occurred in small coolers and paper cups near the entrance. As far as I could tell, this ran out very quickly and was not speedily replenished. Luckily, the food vendors had lowered their drink prices this year, and it wasn’t too hard to find bottled water being sold for a dollar or two. I largely stayed away from alcohol during the festival, only to relax with a beer or two at the end of each evening back at Tyson Street.

The food vendors were also pretty much the same as last year with the Greek and Thai vendors (right next to each other) being the best options with vegetarian fare and lots of fresh vegetables. This is one of the keys to surviving MDF, in my opinion; eat your vegetables. I was also popping vitamins throughout the weekend.

Another point of consternation was the lack of hand washing stations yet again. This really should be made a priority as Port-O-Potties get filthy fast and having 5,000+ sweaty people in close quarters is a bacterial nightmare. I judiciously applied hand sanitizer over and over (kept in my pocket) throughout the festival, but MDF really should address this issue in some manner.

The merchandise vendors were pretty much the same as last year; even their tents were in the same position. Digging through merch is fun, but it was apparent pretty quickly that a lot of the merch being offered for sale was the same as last year. That was mildly disappointing, but the flip side is that I didn’t go crazy buying shirts like I did last year. Over the course of the entire festival, I ended up buying five shirts (of bands that appeared at the festival), and a few patches for an intended new battle jacket.

Friday was Death Metal Day at Edison, as Funebrarum, Cianide, and Master destroyed the crowd in rapid succession. Vallenfyre, Aura Noir, and Lock Up gave everyone a bit of a break from the straight up death metal, but Suffocation, Obituary, and Bloodbath finished the evening in strong fashion. Suffocation and Bloodbath, in particular, were excellent.

We walked to RHL and the Soundstage for the evening shows. Mike and Robert headed to the Soundstage to catch Ghoul and Napalm Death, while Aaron and I stuck around at RHL for the mostly black metal shows. We arrived just as Drawn And Quartered were halfway through their set, eagerly awaiting Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult. Although frontwoman Onielar has an undeniable stage presence, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult ended up being the disappointment of the festival. Marred from the start by bad sound and a failing second guitar, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult couldn’t seem to get themselves going. Aeternus finished the evening and were excellent with their riffy take on folk/ black/ death metal.

Saturday was a day spent jumping around the venues as we arrived at Edison to catch Morpheus Descends, only to immediately head over to the Soundstage to catch Inter Arma. A highlight for the day, Inter Arma were an unusual choice to appear at the Soundstage, but were a pleasant surprise. We stuck around to catch Full Of Hell and Antigama, only to walk back to Edison for the remainder of the day’s shows.

Triptykon were the highlight of the festival for me, being one of my favorite bands. I wasn’t the only one anticipating the set, as Triptykon probably drew the biggest crowd of the entire weekend as Edison appeared to be filled to capacity. The setlist was strong and memorable, consisting of “Tree Of Suffocating Souls,” “Procreation Of The Wicked,” “The Usurper,” “Goetia,” “Messiah,” and “The Prolonging” in its entirety. The roar from the crowd was deafening.

Besides catching most of Bulldozer and Solstice, Arcturus were the other main draw at Edison that evening, delivering a strong set. Only one new song, though, the title track from Arcturian, was included. We caught a few moments of Razor before walking back to RHL and the Soundstage. The evening shows were a flurry of jumping back and forth as we caught Adversarial, Gnaw Their Tongues, and Demoncy at RHL. Demoncy were phenomenal with an atmospheric performance. We jumped over to Soundstage to catch the live debut of Agoraphobic Nosebleed along with everyone else as the Soundstage was filled beyond capacity. Aaron and I stayed for about ten minutes or so only to jump back to RHL to catch Tsjuder, who were awesome.

We began Sunday with a meet up at Max’s Taproom with a number of friends, and then headed to Edison. We caught sets from Primordial, Winter, Skepticism, Demilich (a huge highlight), Neurosis, and Amorphis. We finished the festival at RHL, catching Impetuous Ritual, Knelt Rote (a pleasant surprise), and Portal.

Despite a few minor issues, Maryland Death Fest is a very well run festival with a consistently great lineup. Everything runs very smoothly from set times being adhered to, to great security, to the great crowd vibe. Now a veteran of three festivals, I will probably continue to attend MDF for the foreseeable future.

As always, though, the best part of MDF is seeing all of the great people that I’ve become friends with through the Internet over the years. Special thanks goes out to the following people: first and foremost, my regular posse of Aaron Lariviere, Robert Baggs, and Mike Rivas. We sorely missed Farhaad Esfandiary and Adam L. Murray this year, though. The Last Rites Crew: Zach Duvall, Jeremy Morse, Jeremy Witt, Marlo Reghenas, Konrad Kantor, Rae Amitay, Jordan Campbell, Matt Mooring, and Doug Moore. The Los Angeles Scene: Joseph Aprill, Kim Galdamez, Jason Thomas, Christian Liebling, Cris Giesbrecht, Anna Hummell, Alix Valecillo, Adam Sperber- Compean, and Jake Himelfarb. I was also grateful to see Max Rotvel, Kim Kelly, Joseph Schafer, and Enrique Sagarnaga. Cheers to you all, see you next year!

Here are a few random pictures and videos. I only had my iPhone 5 with me, and I didn’t really try to position myself for great pictures.








Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult




Impetuous Ritual

Internal Bleeding

Jex Thoth

Knelt Rote

Lock Up

Morpheus Descends




Primitive Man










The t-shirt haul!

The patches!

Yeah, I'm going to go to the Saturday and Sunday shows...

Clearing the decks of recent reviews; all of these have appeared at Heavy Metal at First, some "shorties"...

Hypothermia Svartkonst

And, finally, some full-length reviews...

Arcturus Arcturian