Sunday, November 29, 2009

Laudanum, Lightning Swords of Death, Black Ganion, and Valdur...

Laudanum, Lightning Swords of Death, Black Ganion, and Valdur

Venue: The Blvd., Los Angeles, California

November 28, 2009

The under pressure L.A. metal concert scene is showing signs of starting to crack. We’ve just learned that, at least for now, the just scheduled Suffocation/ Devil Driver co-headlining tour is bypassing the city, choosing instead to play in far suburban Pomona and up the coast in Ventura. For the entertainment capital of the world, the problems seem to be multiplying and I doubt that the problems will be rectified any time soon (for example, Los Angeles has been without a NFL team for 15 years).

Therefore, it becomes more important than ever to support the smaller venues and lesser-known bands when they come through the city. With that in mind, we traipsed out to East Los Angeles to catch the interesting four-band bill described above. The venue, The Blvd., is a small bar with a second room attached acting as a 50-person capacity concert hall. Further adding to the charm is a great, hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant next door.

First up for the evening was one of the most promising black metal acts, in my opinion, in America today. From the slopes of the Eastern Sierras, Valdur have a few minor releases to their credit, each one an icy display of atmospheric black metal with majestic melodies and brutality. Musically my favorite act of the evening, Valdur smoked through a 40-minute set that also included a new song. My hope is that this band gets onto a label and gets a support slot on a tour of the country, as this is a band that deserves the exposure. Very well done.

Next up was a noise-core band from Japan, of all places, called Black Ganion. Popping over the Pacific to play a few shows on the U.S. West Coast, Black Ganion were certainly energetic and very well-received for their half hour set. Playing a set consisting of mostly short songs, Black Ganion were a weird combination of noise, grind, and the odd moment or two of sludge.

Local black metal act Lightning Swords of Death, just newly signed to Metal Blade, were up next and delivered a huge set with energy that reverberated through the crowd (about 30 people or so, by this point). Dark and atmospheric, LSOD were no nonsense for their set, and were well received. Unfortunately, the band did not have any merchandise on display; otherwise my t-shirt haul for the evening would’ve been larger.

Funeral doom act Laudanum rounded out the evening with an incredibly heavy and deeply harmonic set marred somewhat by microphone problems. Playing a relatively short set of four songs or so, Laudanum, to me, seemed to be just hitting their stride towards the end of their set.

Overall, the evening provided an interesting mix of bands in a small, intimate venue. Shows such as this, in any city supporting any scene, should be higher on everyone’s priority list.

Special thanks to Thor, Matthew, and William of Valdur. Cheers!

Always good to see Cosmo and Etan.

Again, the Eternal Roadie was present.

Bad phone photos and video from a very darkened stage (my camera is still broken)...

The Blvd.


Black Ganion

Lightning Swords of Death




The t-shirt haul...


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black September: Review and Interview

Black September- The Sermon of Vengeance

(Self released)

One of the great unsigned bands in the American death metal underground is Chicago’s very own Black September. Straddling the line between black and death metal, Black September have a handful of high-quality EPs, singles, and splits to their credit. Here is a review of the band’s latest two-song EP entitled “The Sermon of Vengeance”, as well as an interview with guitarist Chris McMorrow.


Immediately, what stands out about Black September, particularly on this EP, are three things. First, the guitars just have a great tone to them that are atmospheric despite a clear production. Second, the two songs are just very catchy and well written with a nice mix of tempos, riffs, and a few all out blasts. Two very catchy songs merely leave you wanting more. Third, female vocalist Jen Pickett’s delivery has a brutal edge that will undoubtedly garner comparisons to Angela Gossow, a good thing in my estimation.

In short, another great short release from Black September and I ask that labels give this band a serious look.


1. OK, I’ll come right out and ask out of the gate. Given the high quality of the small output of Black September, why hasn’t the band been signed?

We are not actively seeking any new labels right now. Shaman Records has been a main supporter from the beginning and have always been willing to release our records along with a few other labels that have helped out along the way. We will continue to write and release records as we have in the past and if a label is interested in signing us, then we will proceed from there. Our main focus is to write for ourselves.

2. What labels are expressing interest in the band?

At this point in time we have worked with such record labels as Shaman Records from Chicago, Halo of Flies Records from Milwaukee, Iconoclast Records from Italy, KNVBI Records from Pennsylvania, BuriedInHell Records and Injustice of Humanity Records from California. We are always open for talking with any labels that are interested in our releases.

3. Please give us a brief history of the band.

Black September started in the fall of 2006 after the disbanding of our previous project and we decided to start in a new direction. After the release of the two song Contortion demo, we recorded Tide of the Storm, a five song EP, with Sanford Parker of Volume Studios in 2007. Later that year, we went on an East Coast tour of the US and then came back and continued writing for a split with Thou. After the split was released we continued to play local shows as well as doing a few days with Thou to promote the record. After the release of the split we added a bass player and continued to play local shows as we prepared for another larger tour of the East Coast. Once returning, we immediately started writing three new songs for The Sermon of Vengeance and the Hordes of Flesh & Bone collaboration with Winters In Osaka. On these releases we recorded with Andy Nelson at Bricktop Studios in Chicago and are planning on using him for future releases.

4. Describe how the “Thrive and Decay” split with Thou came about.

We were asked to play a last minute show at a venue called the Peoples Project in Chicago with Thou and We Need To Talk who were both from Louisiana. We had never heard either band, but decided to play the show anyway. We arrived right when Thou had started their set and by the time their first song had ended, they had made a big impression. A band such as Thou is rare these days. They were focused, intense and I knew they were all fully behind the music they were playing. Sharing this dedication, a split release was only a matter of time. We worked out a deal and continued to write Under the Rising, which in contrast to Thou creates an interesting split release. The split was recently re-released by Gilead Media with all new artwork, layout and mastering.

5. How did you decide to collaborate with Winters In Osaka for “Hordes of Flesh and Bone”? How does Winters in Osaka complement the music of Black September? Are any further collaborations planned, with our without Winters In Osaka?

We had seen Winters In Osaka perform a couple of times before and decided that their take of artistic expression would be the perfect complement to Hordes of Flesh & Bone. Their dark and aggressive contribution added another level of depth and complexity that were previously unexplored in our writing process. There are no future plans for another collaboration, but I could easily see us working with them again.

6. “The Sermon of Vengeance” is more straightforward death metal, as opposed to “Hordes of Flesh and Bone”. What led you in this direction?

The Sermon of Vengeance was written as more direct, fast paced record and with Hordes of Flesh and Bone we wanted to write a song that allowed us to expand on our guitar work and create a song with much more depth and patience. We don't see ourselves as a straight forward death metal band and don't write with any such direction. We will continue to write a diverse array of songs that come from our influences in many other genres of music.

7. How does the band members’ involvement with Black September affect the various other projects of the band members? What other genres of music do the members’ other projects focus upon?

Right now, no one is currently working with any other projects.

8. Does Black September play live?

To date we have played live multiple times in and around the Chicago area as well as doing two separate tours of the East Coast. Live shows have been on hold while we continue to write and search for another drummer.

9. How goes the search for a new drummer?

We are currently talking to a few drummers who are interested, but we have not made any final decisions as of yet. The search will continue until we find a drummer that truly fits our writing and playing style.

10. Is the band presently a trio?

Currently we are continuing to write as a trio, but plans to add full time drummer and guitar player are in the works.

11. When can we expect a debut full-length?

We are in the process of writing a full-length and as soon as we can find a permanent drummer, we will proceed with our plans of recording. We’re hoping that this will be sometime in 2010.

Thank you for your time.


Black September Official MySpace

Friday, November 27, 2009

Two from Agonia Records...

Polish label Agonia Records has a good roster of quality acts, mostly playing various forms of death and black metal. Here’s a look at two rather humorous recent releases from the label.

“Nihilistic Vision” is the debut full-length from Sweden’s Die Hard (connections to Watain). The band name and promo pictures (bullet belts, leather, sunglasses, the works) accompanying the album are all you need to know that you’re in for a dose of old school black/ death metal in the vein of early Sodom, Venom, Hellhammer, and the like. That’s exactly what you get with “Nihilistic Vision” as Die Hard pull off their homage to past giants with flair and enthusiasm. Rather than just being a sloppy mess, Die Hard feature some top notch musicianship and a rather clean production, allowing the band to be more than a throwaway, listen-to-once-and-move-on, type of band. Employing a galloping, mid-paced tempo typical of the 80s throughout, Die Hard also feature the requisite Warrior-esque vocals, plenty of fast riffs, and the odd solo or two that inject a slight amount of melody. Take note old school fans, Die Hard are worth tracking down.

Agonia keeps the fun going with “Detached From Life”, the debut full-length from Sweden’s Mr. Death. Immediately of note is the hilarious cover art, done up as a pile of schlock horror VHS tapes with a chewed up copy of “Mr. Death: Detached From Life” on top of the pile. Once again, you immediately know what you’re in for with Mr. Death, and that’s gore metal with a D-grade horror movie mentality. Think Gorelord, Wurdulak, and other projects featuring Frediablo and/ or Killjoy, and that’s exactly what you get with “Detached From Life”. Although not original by any stretch, Mr. Death feature catchy songwriting, good musicianship with plenty of piled on meat and potatoes riffs, and deep production along with a few humorous moments. You really can’t ask for anything else from a release such as “Detached From Life”.


Agonia Records

Die Hard Official MySpace

Mr. Death Official MySpace

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Two well-regarded bands... Pelican and The Company Band...

In the interest of giving the albums sent to me a fair shake, here’s a brief look at two well-regarded projects that exist, in my opinion, well outside of the confines of metal. First up are post-metal giants Pelican with their latest full-length entitled “What We All Come To Need” on the equally gigantic Southern Lord Records. Whatever brief flirtation I ever had with post-metal in the past has long since passed and I have not paid any attention to the genre in who knows how long. I do like some of Pelican’s early releases, but I’ve not paid much attention to them since, even going so far as to skip the band’s headlining performance at the Troubadour earlier this year after catching Wolves In The Throne Room in an opening slot. Pelican are good at what they do, but it’s just not really my thing.

Essentially, “What We All Come To Need” strikes me as a quiet hard rock album with a decided lack of some of the gigantic chords and cavernous spaces present in post-metal. There are lots of slow to mid-paced tempos, quiet riffs, some introspective bass work, and a few heavier moments present on the album, but, overall, I would not characterize the album as heavy in any way. Probably the album is closer to stoner-influenced hard rock more than anything else, and sounds to me like a quieter, slower version of mid-period Monster Magnet with a clean production. The riffs are clean, the songs are well written, and there’s nary a moment of sludge anywhere in sight. That’s just fine for the fan that this release will appeal to, but this is just quiet background music for me at the most.


Southern Lord

Pelican Official MySpace

Next is the first release from a super group of sorts, the self-titled debut full-length from The Company Band on Restricted Release. Featuring members of acts such as Fu Manchu, Clutch, Fireball Ministry, and CKY, The Company Band is pure 70s oriented hard rock with a slight stoner edge. I was reminded of acts such as Bad Company, Lynyrd Skynyrd, George Thorogood, and so on, but with a bit of a harder edge. Running the gamut from slow songs with a quiet tone to up tempo rockers, this is yet another good release for fans of this type of rock music, and it’s certainly well done, but, once again, it’s just not my thing. If you’re interested though, and like to explore new acts playing classic rock, you might enjoy The Company Band.


Restricted Release

The Company Band Official MySpace

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beer With A "Metal" Label V... and my two cents...

Here is sweet, cloudy, golden ale from the Lost Abbey Brewery from San Marcos, California. A wonderful wheat-fueled ale that responds well to aerating, Inferno Ale is a nice creamy treat. Naturally, the label art kicks ass (ignore the symbol of their savior, as I do). Lost Abbey has lots of varietals (to steal a word from viticulture) to choose from, with a lot of “Cute-As-All-Hell” labels. 750ml bottles with a wooden cork; get it at Whole Foods!

OK, I finally got around to purchasing “World Painted Blood”, the latest full-length from the mighty Slayer. Although not officially in my queue of albums to review, here’s my short take on the album nonetheless. Two things about “World Painted Blood” immediately stand out. First the production has a much more organic quality, and sounds much leaner and meaner, and considerably less processed, than Slayer’s last couple of full-lengths. You can even hear Tom Araya’s bass, almost unheard of on a Slayer album. The result is a sound that is somewhat raw and sounds almost as if Slayer are toying with their roots as a garage band in Huntington Park and you’re right there in the room with them.

Second, “World Painted Blood” is easily the most consistent Slayer album, in terms of quality songwriting and sheer aggression, since “Divine Intervention”. We all know that Slayer have delivered kick ass songs on the three albums in between “Divine Intervention” and “World Painted Blood”, but they’ve been unable to deliver a consistently great album. This may be that next great album (time will tell), as “World Painted Blood” contains little to no filler and is a stripped down, mean beast of aggression.

I’m not sure where “World Painted Blood” will eventually rank in Slayer’s pantheon, but that’s not really the point any longer as Slayer have easily proven that they are still able to deliver the goods with no compromises. The new songs will absolutely kick ass in a live setting and I, like all of you, eagerly await Slayer’s next tour. I’m excited about seeing the band in concert for the first time in years. Quite sensibly, Slayer have ditched the metalcore brats and gothic wankers for a leaned out tour consisting of thrash metal titans. The tour, Slayer/ Megadeth/ Testament, hits Long Beach on January 22nd. I will be there.

Hail Slayer.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Handful of Hate "You Will Bleed"

Handful of Hate- You Will Bleed

(Cruz Del Sur)

Italy boasts a couple of excellent black metal acts that should be at, or near, the top of the heap. Besides Hiems, Handful of Hate proudly carry the torch of exceptionally high quality Italian black metal. The band has been around for quite awhile, mostly unnoticed and undeservedly so, and “You Will Bleed” is the band’s fifth full-length, released on the Italian label Cruz Del Sur.

“Gruesome Splendour”, the band’s last full-length from 2006, is my only prior exposure to Handful of Hate, and I recall a good example of fast, loud black metal with a nice combination of catchiness and brutality. Unfortunately, for reasons that escape me in retrospect, the album disappeared into the bowels of my collection, and I honestly can’t remember when I spun the album last. This is obviously my loss, a mistake that I must rectify, as “You Will Bleed” absolutely cranks.

“You Will Bleed” simply has it all. A huge, yet still raw, powerful production with roaring guitars, all out blasts with just a ton of mid-paced groove seamlessly intermixed, high-pitched rasps, and just insanely catchy songwriting. In fact, without the sheer catchiness of the album, “You Will Bleed” would just be yet another competent, fast black metal album. So impressed am I by the songwriting that is displayed on this album, that I can easily envision this album appearing on this year’s top ten list (I know, I’ve already said this about much more than ten albums over the course of this year, but this album is of top quality).

At any rate, “You Will Bleed” has a great deal of staying power and is an intense display of catchy black metal that would appear to give Dark Funeral, an obvious influence, a run for their money. I would hope that metal’s collective consciousness becomes aware of this simply monstrous album. Now, where the Hell did I bury my copy of “Gruesome Splendour”?


Handful of Hate Official MySpace

Cruz Del Sur

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Belphegor, Vreid and others...

Belphegor, Vreid, and other Heathenfest bands

Venue: The Ultraviolet Social Club, Los Angeles, California.

Date: November 21, 2009.

The Knitting Factory, The Black Castle, and The Key Club are all either gone or closing down. Metal is being pushed off of the Strip, and promoters are being forced to look for alternatives to book bands, big and small, for shows. The Ultraviolet Social Club, north of downtown near Silver Lake and Eagle Rock, appears to be an artist studio/ clothing business of some sort, but has a small hall attached that can be used for shows with a capacity of a few hundred in tight quarters.

The UVS Club, for now, appears to be the main alternative to the Knitting Factory, and the first metal show booked at this new site was the Heathenfest Tour, currently making its way through North America. Anchored by heavyweights Eluveitie and Belphegor, the main attraction for this show, for me, was the first L.A. appearance from Vreid, the excellent black n’ roll band from Norway. “Milorg”, the band’s last full-length, is a textbook example of a blend between black metal and just plain ol’ rock n’ roll, and without Vreid’s inclusion, I probably would’ve let this show go by.

At any rate, two local bands kicked things off early on. The first band was Hordes of Hate, a Darkthrone-clone band playing pretty lousy Darkthrone-clone black metal. Unlike Ba’al Zabub a few weeks ago, Hordes of Hate didn’t appear to have much talent and came off as rather silly. There was a smattering of applause.

The UVS Club, at this point, started to have some sound problems which persisted on and off throughout the evening, but this is not surprising given that the venue is hosting a show for the first time (as far as I know). Those problems affected the beginning of the performance by Statius, a local, up and coming power/ pagan band playing a nice mix of fast pagan metal with plenty of melodic keyboards. A young band with talent (see my review of their demo, “Arcane Fables”, here), I certainly expect Statius to become quite popular within their niche, and Statius were very enthusiastically received by the crowd.

Finland’s Kivimestan Druidi were up next, and, unfortunately, their performance was marred by atrocious sound that only marginally improved throughout their set. In all honesty, though, I wasn’t really all that impressed by what I heard and I’m not motivated to investigate the band further.

Finally, Vreid were up next and I moved up to the stage. The band absolutely kicked ass with a tight as Hell set delivered with a great deal of energy and vibe. Playing a good chunk of “Milorg”, Vreid dramatically raised the quality of the professionalism of the show, and were so good that they earned my t-shirt haul for the evening. Awesome.

Alestorm were next and were definitely well received by a large crowd of kids, but I simply cannot take this band seriously. I’ve only heard a few tracks from their recordings, but I was hoping they would be better in a live setting. Although very energetic, their music is just too bland and light hearted for me, as I prefer pagan metal with a dark tone. My friends and I couldn’t help saying, “death to false metal”, as their set went on and on for an interminable length of time. Ugh.

Somewhat surprisingly, considering that Eluveitie had yet to play, some people started leaving after Alestorm. However, it was pretty obvious which fans were there to see Belphegor, as the band is always solid. Drawing from their last couple of full-lengths, all very solid, Belphegor delivered the goods and schooled what remained of the kids on how it’s all properly done. Good stage presence and tight as Hell, Belphegor were enough for me as I called it an evening after their set. Eluveitie are a good band for what they do, but I’ve seen them before and I have no great interest in hanging around after 1AM to see them again…

I dropped my camera a few days ago, so here are the incredibly crappy phone pictures and video…










The t-shirt haul...

Special thanks to Ronny Marks! Good luck to you!

Always good to see Cosmo and Etan!

Next... monstrous...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interview with Algol of Hiems...

Hiems’ latest full-length, “Worship Or Die” on Moribund Cult, greatly impressed me as a powerful homage to classic rock within the context of black metal. To that end, and with that homage in mind, I recently had the opportunity to interview Algol, the man behind Hiems…

1) Four years separated the releases of “Cold Void Journey” and “Worship Or Die”. How did the music of Hiems evolve during this time?

In these years, many things changed, both in my private life and in my quest for “the sound”. The songs on “Cold Void Journey” are really old, as most of them were originally contained in the demos I produced in the ‘90s. As you can see, this is not just a four year gap!

2) “Cold Void Journey” adopted the usual aesthetics of raw black metal; however, “Worship Or Die” has a very muscular, loud, and deep production. What led you to decide to move Hiems in this direction?

“Cold Void Journey” was sincerely more anchored to the stereotypes of the genre, even if my personal touch was already present; the production, however, was not intended to sound dirty, it just came out this way – you know, no budget and less experience. The sound of “Worship Or Die” is closer to the result I always had in mind with Hiems. I spent more time in the studio, working hard on the album mixing, and that is why you can notice that sound difference. I always believed that a good sound can actually make the difference, and I’m not talking about crystal clear, plastic productions here, but about a MEAN, powerful outfit. Often, people forget that after “black” you have the word “metal” and metal comes from rock music. We’re talking about groove.

In any case, Moribund will soon release a new version of “Cold Void Journey”. I completely remixed and remastered the record, so the quality will surely be better. The edition will contain also a bonus CD with all of the old material of the band taken from the demo tapes.

3) The organ work incorporated into the conclusion of “Hiems” and “2909979” is a fresh approach to black metal. What led you to include this element in the music?

I always loved the Hammond sound. I find it’s really haunting and “magic”. I don’t believe in boundaries, in rules and dogmas; everything that can add an extra dimension to my music is welcome. Hammond is also strongly related to one of the best periods in music history, the ‘70s.

4) To these ears, those organ moments sound inspired by the classic, “arena” rock acts of the 1970s, namely Deep Purple (Jon Lord) and Yes (Rick Wakeman). Am I correct in naming these artists as inspiration? If not, which musicians inspired your organ playing?

Sure, all that big bands from the ‘70s are a great source of inspiration for me. The great thing about that period was the impressive level of all those acts; they weren’t simply “projects” or whatever – they had an immense innovative output, that continues to influence the musical scene even nowadays. Anyway, I didn’t play the Hammond myself (even if I played some organ in the last song). While in the studio I met this guy, Paolo Apollo Negri, one of the most talented Hammond players in Italy (and abroad, I think), I asked him to add some parts to the album, and he did it with an excellent result. He plays in some cult act like Black Widow and Wicked Minds.

5) Classic rock elements also show up in “Worship Or Die” with your cover of “Race With The Devil”. What led to the song’s inclusion on the album, and why did you decide to sing the song with clean vocals, rather than giving the song a black metal “twist”, so to speak?

The first time I heard that song I suddenly realized that I had to cover it. At the beginning I thought about a heavier version, with harsh vocals and so on….but you know, it was like raping the original feeling. I heard some punk cover version of Johnny Cash for example, and I thought it was just horrible – I didn’t want to make the same mistake. It was the first time ever for me to sing clean parts, but I felt very natural with it; I was hanging in the studio at night – I often like to work in the night time alone, and fortunately my studio let me do that – and after a good dose of straight whiskey I tried it out. And it worked!

About the reasons that led me to record that cover…firstly, it’s my personal tribute to rock music. People that will not appreciate it will probably never understand Hiems fully. On the other hand, I wanted to piss off narrow minded guys. Mission complete.

6) What changes, or evolution, do you foresee with Hiems for the next album? Can we expect another surprise of sorts from Hiems?

I’m still working on the next album, so I can’t really make previsions about it. I like to compose in the most natural and sincere way, I never start with a pre-made idea; I just play and keep what I feel right and mean. By now I can just say I have a great bluesy song, and probably I will use harmonica in another one. I’m hearing more and more ROCK influences in what it’s coming out. In a way or another, don’t expect a simple copy of the last record!

7) How different is your experience in Forgotten Tomb than that of Hiems?

Forgotten Tomb is a great band and has an immense importance for me, but Hiems is 100% mine. Hiems represents all my visions and incarnates my endless sound research. The main advantage for me is the total freedom that you have when composing alone, no compromises – you are able to keep straight your ideas, to keep your expression pure and intimate.

8) Any plans to present Hiems in a live setting with session musicians?

Not yet. I made four gigs with Hiems in the past with different session musicians, but at the moment I prefer to concentrate on composing and releasing albums. I will get back on stage just with the right conditions to give people a great show.

Thank you for your time.

Thanks to you, cheers!


Moribund Cult



Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Revocation "Existence Is Futile"

Revocation- Existence Is Futile

(Relapse Records)

OK, I finally had to break down and see what all of the fuss is about. “Existence Is Futile”, the second full-length from Boston’s up and coming technical thrash upstarts Revocation, has been recently released on Relapse Records and the metal blogosphere has gushing over this band with glowing reviews, even invoking adjectives such as “godlike”, to quote one fawning reviewer (Decibel).

At any rate, “Existence Is Futile” is a bit of a departure from the band’s debut, “Empire of the Obscene” from 2008. That album was, more or less, straightforward technical thrash with excellent songwriting and thick production, but what excited most listeners was the obvious technical skill of the trio of musicians as a means of separating the band from the pack. Considering that the album was treading the well-worn ground of technical thrash, however, the hints of possible greatness were just that, hints.

The potential for greatness is fulfilled on “Existence Is Futile”, as the album is a near masterpiece of progressive, fairly melodic technical thrash with well written songs that seamlessly mix genres into a cohesive whole with a maturity beyond a young band’s mere second album. Combined with an absolute tour de force of musicianship on the part of each band member (everyone has their moment in the Sun on this album), “Existence Is Futile” will probably be talked about for a long time to come. In essence, I’m reminded somewhat of Arsis, but with a bit of a more progressive bent and a willingness to step more outside of the confines of the technical thrash “box” than Arsis seem to want to do.

Besides the requisite blasts and shredding riffs, “Existence Is Futile” features plenty of intricate guitar wizardry, both with a hard edge and a progressive, introspective softness, backed up by a range of tempos. The melodic work of David Davidson’s guitar sound, to these untutored ears, seems inspired by the soloing of wizards such as Joe Satriani, Dave Murray, and Adrian Smith. Davidson also incorporates aspects of the free form jazz that seems to be de rigueur these days, but does so with a freshness that does not devolve into mere wankery. Anthony Buda’s bass backs it all up nicely with flair, and he also has plenty of moments to shine with fluidity sprinkled throughout.

Naturally, all of this wizardry would run the risk of falling apart if the songwriting was incidental, or if the drumming was merely adequate. Luckily, that is not the case as Phil Dubois- Coyne’s percussion adjusts tempos easily without sounding disjointed or jarring, and gives all of the switching around a solid framework with which to build songs. About the only detraction from this album’s greatness is the vocals, which are just sort of typical and rather incidental anyway, as the album is a near instrumental.

In short, “Existence Is Futile” is a near perfect album of technical thrash with a great deal of dynamics. Although somewhat more melodic than my own personal tastes, I can see this album easily making it into most top ten lists, if not my own. Essential.


Relapse Records

Revocation Official MySpace

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Two from Ibex Moon Records...

Here are two excellent, new releases from Ibex Moon Records. Ibex Moon Records is becoming permanently established as a potent force in OSDM, with quality releases coming fast and furious. To that end, Ibex Moon Records release the latest albums from Witchmaster and Acheron.

First up is “Trücizna”, the fifth full-length from Poland’s Witchmaster, and first since 2004. Playing an infectious form of sloppily played, yet insanely catchy, war themed blackened thrash on “Trücizna” (and on all of their releases, for that matter), Witchmaster aren’t exactly sophisticated, or original. However, as a direct descendant of early Sodom, Hellhammer, and Venom with a bit of a punk snarl thrown in, Witchmaster pull off their homage to the genre with panache and gusto. What easily saves Witchmaster from obscurity is the sheer catchiness of the music with a nice mix of tempos ranging from a mid-pace to all out blasts. Well done, war themed fun, umlauts and all. Incidentally, Ibex Moon Records’ version of “Trücizna” is slightly different from Agonia Records’ European release, with a demo version of the title track included as opposed to a cover of “Troops of Doom”.

Next up is “The Final Conflict: Last Days of God”, the seventh full-length from long running Floridian black metal act Acheron (now located in Columbus, Ohio). Fronted by the huge presence of Vincent Crowley, Acheron were never really a band that I paid much attention to, despite catching them live at the L.A. Murderfest a couple of years ago and enjoying their set. Partially, I suppose, is the reason that, despite a number of early releases, Acheron’s last proper full-length was six years ago. At any rate, I obviously have been missing out as “The Final Conflict…” is another, very catchy mix of black and death metal with a decidedly, firmly rooted base of just pure rock n’ roll with the requisite showmanship. To some extent, I’m reminded of a twisted version of Motörhead, as Acheron provide a nice mix of genres with good songwriting and an obvious, gigantic bass. A definite emphasis with Acheron is the somewhat larger than life personality of Crowley, which easily shines through in the music. Kyle Severn on drums is no slouch, either, and “The Final Conflict…” is easily the best that I’ve heard from Acheron. Monstrous, to say the least.

Both albums, “Trücizna” and “The Final Conflict…”, are highly recommended.


Witchmaster Official MySpace

Acheron Official MySpace

Ibex Moon Records

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fatalist "The Depths of Inhumanity"

Fatalist- The Depths of Inhumanity

(Ibex Moon Records)

The Sunlight Studios sound rears its vicious head here in sunny southern California in the form of Fatalist from Ventura (in my neck of the woods). With some connections to the now defunct Exhumed, Fatalist pretty much nail the requisite elements of the Sunlight Studios sound in spades on their debut full-length, entitled “The Depths of Inhumanity” on OSDM specialist Ibex Moon Records. The thick guitars, huge bass, and a mix of tempos ranging from a heavy hitting mid-paced crunch to all out blasts are all present on “The Depths of Inhumanity”, all sounding as if the album appeared from the early 90s. Hell, Fatalist even use the same font for their band logo as pre-Entombed young upstarts Nihilist did so many years ago.

As would be the case with competent OSDM, Fatalist hit the mark pretty well on “The Depths of Inhumanity”, and the band probably goes over very well in a live setting. As far as the album goes, however, the songwriting is mostly adequate, occasionally quite good on a couple of catchy songs, but it’s the bludgeoning, thick riffs, and heavy bass that will hold the interest of those of you with a taste for the purity of the Sunlight Studios-era. A few moments of melody do occasionally creep in, almost as if the band is intentionally flirting with an early Gothenburg influence, but these moments are few and far between, and aren’t all that interesting anyway. “The Depths of Inhumanity” is easily at its best when the intention is to simply crush your skull.

In all, not a bad debut and one that I would recommend to genre fans, but Fatalist still have a ways to go in order to begin to approach some the genre’s heavy hitters.


Fatalist Official MySpace

Ibex Moon Records