Saturday, March 28, 2015

Night Demon "Curse Of The Damned"


Night Demon Curse Of The Damned


By: Chris Davison

Well, I have agonised over this. I’ve had a couple of true metal albums to review of late, and I am quite a fan of the genre, to be honest. If I could commune with the teenage me, the younger version would be quite disgusted to find his fatter, albeit more charming and better educated, 40 year old self listening to true metal. You see, I was a thrasher, and I used to turn my nose up at the likes of Saxon, Diamond Head, Angel Witch, and Judas Priest. You live and you learn!

Curse Of The Damned is an album that I wish I could like more. There are lots of ingredients to admire – accomplished musicianship, boatloads of enthusiasm, and some cracking riffs peppered here and there (“The Howling Man,” for example, is a riff salad, drenched in a memorable melody dressing), and a great, full sound for a three piece band. At first I wondered if the vocals of Jarvis Leatherby strayed a little too closely to those of Sean Harris (Diamond Head), or if it was that many of the songs sounded as if they could have been released on legendary NWOBHM label Neat Records sampler albums. 

I think the issue is that this is an album that has some cracking songs on it, but that – curiously – they all sound a little dated. I recognise that this is a dangerous area to go into when reviewing a true metal album, being as it is a genre that has stricter genre rules than, say, the avant-garde jazz chasers of the post-black metal world. This also sounds like a ridiculous argument to be making of a band like Night Demon. My point is this: by sticking too closely to the blueprint set by their forebears, they’ve actually ended up drowning out their individuality somewhat.




All of that being said, though, Curse Of The Damned isn’t a bad album by any means. The songs are well played and carefully written, and the production has a notable mid-range clarity that really allows the guitar licks to ring out. The aforementioned “The Howling Man” is a minor classic, and is destined to get the crowds’ heads-a-shaking at gigs. Sadly, the rest is a little too derivative of the most average of NWOBHM moments to make much of an impact on this old carcass.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Two Big Tours


 
I've finally managed to get out to see a couple of concerts, both being major tours. First, a couple of weeks ago, I caught the Through Space And Grind Tour with Napalm Death and Voivod (Exhumed and Iron Reagan rounded out the under card; I skipped Black Crown Initiate) at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip, and just last week I caught Enslaved, Yob, and Ecstatic Vision at the El Rey Theater, one of my favorite venues in Los Angeles. Both concerts were excellent, and you can read my official accounts of each here and here, respectively, at Heavy Metal at About.com.

Here are a few pictures from each; I didn't record any video at either show, though.

Iron Reagan





Exhumed





Voivod






Napalm Death (Barney Greenway won't sit still, and Erik Burke was filling in for an absent Mitch Harris)





Ecstatic Vision



Yob





Enslaved





Multiple t-shirt hauls...




I finally managed to get a copy of "Worlds Away"!


Next week...

Recent reviews....

First, a "shortie" at Heavy Metal at About.com...

Imperial Triumphant Abyssal Gods



Full length reviews of some major releases...

Enslaved In Times


Melechesh Enki



Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Exhumed "Gore Metal - A Necrospective 1998-2015




Exhumed Gore Metal (A Necrospective 1998-2015)

(Relapse Records)

By: Chris Davison

So, an odd one, this. As a self-confessed Carcass mega-fanboy, Exhumed were one of those bands that I absolutely loved in the late 1990s and early 2000’s, and Gore Metal, their first album, was one of my favourite records of the period. I am not, by nature, a big fan of re-recorded albums, as it goes. Isn’t it odd how heavy metal bands seem to do this quite a lot? I am not au fait with too many other styles of music, but from the top of my head I can recall re-recorded albums and music by Arch Enemy, Testament, Anthrax, Impaled, The Crown, Exodus, Dimmu Borgir and Iced Earth. In most respects, all I tend to hear are the same songs, except with modern-sheen ™ plastered all over the production, or a different singer giving the vocals a good going over.

Gore Metal however sits in a separate bracket, as arguably the production of the original was basic, and by the confession of the band, wasn’t performed by the same road-honed group of musicians that they are today. I have to say that my recollection of the original was that it was a spirited, if slightly sloppy piece of gore-spattered early Carcass worship. I have listened to it again, and while it is true that the progenitor album is essentially a muddy, strangely mixed bass-heavy work, it does have the charm and energy of a band delighted to be recording an album.

This re-recorded version does have a lot of things going for it. In the first instance, it is now possible to discern the separate instruments, rather than the blurry impression that the original had. This is particularly beneficial for the drum sound and the guitars, which now benefit from not only being heard over the bass, but in having improved soloing. They also managed to get Ross Sewage, currently of Impaled, back in to sing the vocals, as well as a full line up of Rob Babcock, Mike Beams, Bud Burke, and Mike Hamilton with, of course, mainstay Matt Harvey. In some ways, the album differs from the original not just in terms of the production, but in the interpretation of the songs. So while “Limb from Limb” and “Enucleation” may have the same basic structure, there have been some differences made to allow for the musicians to finally be heard.




While this is still – at its core – a ferocious, gore-obsessed, axe-wielding maniac of an album, in the quest to clean it up, I do think that there has been something a little lost in translation. Yes, there is no doubt that this is a version of the album that is far more palatable to the ear (as far as that goes with this kind of grinding death metal), and certainly features more accomplished and deft musicianship and polished production. The arrangements of the songs are better, and to be frank, I would rather listen to this version over the original in almost all respects. This is a cleaner, more incisive brand of blade-wielding maniac, but the na├»ve energy of the original has been buffed and polished to an inch of its life. “Vagitarian II,” for instance, while still a rumbling burbling full of menace, doesn’t quite have the filthy, grubby appeal of the first recording.

At the heart of this review rests a conundrum: how bad was the production and the musicianship on Gore Metal, and does this re-recording make the listening experience better or worse? The songs are still as strong as ever, and it’s now possible to hear more of their nuances than before, but let’s be frank – Gore Metal was not as awfully produced as, say, Impaled’s debut, The Dead Shall Dead Remain, which was essentially so bad that the only way to enjoy those songs is on the re-recorded version. I think that this album really gives you the best of both worlds – the songs are given new life, and certainly sound better, but the original still has the edge in terms of energy and ferocity.

Exhumed Official Facebook

Recent reviews...

First, over at Last Rites... 

Leviathan Scar Sighted
 


I finally had a chance to write another installment of Dave's Demo Roundup over at Metal Bandcamp. I take a look at some demos by a diverse group of bands; namely, Cold Fells, Rippikuolu, and Fuck The Facts




Here are some "shorties" over at Heavy Metal at About.com...



And a full-length review....





Some live reviews will be coming soon (I finally have managed to get out to some concerts). Stay tuned.

In Memoriam...

RIP Leonard Nimoy, a hero for his passionate portrayal of science, and for the promise of secular humanism. By bringing to life the character of Spock, he greatly influenced my life.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Napalm Death "Apex Predator - Easy Meat"





Napalm Death Apex Predator - Easy Meat


By: Chris Davison

Readers may be aware of the recent furor in the media regarding the claims by Fox “News” (US) that the city of Birmingham, England, had become a haven for radical extremists bent on broadcasting their furious message. If only they’d made the clarification that they meant Napalm Death, maybe they’d have been right! I make this their sixteenth full length album, excluding EPs and compilations, which of course means that Napalm Death have run a whole lot of experience since Scum erupted in 1987 and changed extreme music forever.
 
I am a fan of Napalm Death – though it is fair to say that I prefer their output since their move from Earache Records (aside from Harmony Corruption; that is). Their records have become a reliable indicator of furious, uncompromising grindcore. All of which serves to make Apex Predator - Easy Meat all the more remarkable. This is undeniably Napalm Death with all the hallmarks of their work – beyond intense grinding riffs, devastating drums, grumbling bass set to “attack” and the unmistakeable vocals of Barney Greenway. 

However, this time things feel different. To put a finger on it, Apex Predator... feels much more focused, lyrically and musically, while being more dynamic than their recent albums. It is also, by some considerable margin, their heaviest album by some distance. This is not a metric based on blasts per minute, nor upon the speed of guitar licks, but in terms of the atmosphere and feel of the album.

Apex Predator.... is an album that is perfect for the times in the UK. Having lived through the early 1980s in the UK, today feels very similar in tone. The economy is depressed, there is a pervading sense of helplessness and apathy from the political classes, while a fragmented and docile population snaps and bites at each other.  In setting the tone for the album, opener “Apex Predator – Easy Meat,” a slow, almost industrial sounding intro which appears to be narrated by Davros (creator of the Daleks, nerd-fans) with the words,

“Tenderise chunks of a weakling

Claim on bare bones for bleaching

Thousand yard stares 

For the meeting”

This is an indictment of the “free market” and the grinding of the weak for the corporate elite, and is a lyrical theme that continues with the blasting “Smash A Single Digit,” with the lyrics, “Non-reflective minions / who must labour and perish.” This is a band that is angry at the status quo, and it is an anger that perfectly captures the zeitgeist.

The clattering “Metaphorically Screwed” takes a fairly conventional punky beat, but then mixes things up with a funky mid-section that gives way to a swaggering crescendo, while Barney describes how the easy jargon of the modern age and consumerism has a sleep-inducing effect. “How the Years Condemn” is a stomping reflection on the absence of need for an invisible friend as the years advance, with a (relatively!) fragile discordant guitar which adds to the plaintive mood of the track. “Stubborn Stain” is perhaps the most typical Napalm Death track on the album, which again talks of the corporate disinterest in the suffering of its workers.

“Timeless Flogging” with the odd, mechanistic jarring time signatures gives way to a furious whirlwind of blastbeats and light-speed riffing, with some notably deft bass work. This is a song that describes the dehumanisation of the worker through repetitive, machine-like modern production line work. “Dear Slum Landlord,” with the choral vocal effect and Godflesh-ian crawl does what it says on the tin, but brings to my mind the empty vacuum that lurked at the heart of The Special’s “Ghost Town”. “Cesspits” has a lurching, aggressive pace that propels it with the force of a rabid dog, while “Bloodless Coup” argues that revolutions often lead to more repressive regimes, all set to an authentic old-school hardcore beat.


“Beyond The Pale” and “Stunt Your Growth” both horrify as much as they fascinate with their unflinching and uneasy listening. The latter, in particular has a middle section that is set to ignite pits when played live. “Hierarchies” brings to mind the punked-up metal of Benediction’s “Killing Music,” while “One-Eyed” asks questions regarding the role of television and who funds the tranquilising produce? 

Finally, “Adversarial / Copulating Snakes” – at over five minutes an epic for a Napalm Death song, ably ends the album, acting as a neat full stop and inviting the listener to press “play” for another go at the album – an effect I have found myself doing time and time again since getting the album. That the final track features a riff that is – erm – “inspired by” Procreation Of The Wicked” has nothing to do with it!

Those of a right wing nature are not going to enjoy the lyrical content of Napalm Death on this album, though they are a band that have never been afraid of covering politics in their music. Apex Predator... is all the more remarkable that a band that have been going for almost thirty years can still produce an album so cohesive, interesting and demanding at this stage in their career. It certainly isn’t anything like an easy listen, but be honest – when did that make for interesting music?


Clearing the decks of various reviews....

Ascension The Dead Of The World


I couldn’t make the Black Metal Warfare tour after all, but you can bet that I’m on board for...