Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Local Discovery... Plus a Few Reviews...

Voodoo Merchant

Here's a brief look at a demo from some locals that happened to cross my path. Venice's Voodoo Merchant play a version of stoner-influenced doom that incorporates the heavy dirges of bands such as Bongzilla and Samothrace, mixes in some psychedelic wanderings, and adds a touch of distant, melodic vocals similar to those of Ufomammut.

Five songs grace the self-titled demo with a great deal of cavernous, meandering jams (the first track, “Lost Jam”, will mesmerize) combined with plodding, crushingly heavy riffs. For a first effort, the demo works very well and should garner Voodoo Merchant notice beyond that of the locals who flock to their shows scattered around the L.A. area.

A couple of minor problems appear in the form of drumming that noticeably lags behind the guitar and bass in terms of musicianship (I understand that the drumming has improved since the recording, though), and the lack of a really thick, professional production that should really give a release such as this a tremendous amount of weight (unavoidable, of course, as a first demo).

At any rate, those of you heavily into stoner-laced doom with a hint of psychedelics should definitely give Voodoo Merchant a look, and I've no doubt that labels will notice.


Voodoo Merchant Official MySpace

Recently published at

Disfigured Dead- Visions of Death

Rotting Christ- Aealo

Blood Cult- We Are The Cult Of The Plains

Armour- Armour

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Return To Form From Two Notable Bands

Much has been made of Fear Factory’s “Mechanize”, easily the best album from the band since “Demanufacture”. However, another recent release from a band recently resurfaced is also worth noting.

I must admit that in the late ‘80s I was becoming increasingly distracted by the emergence of death metal, and began to take less notice of new thrash metal bands, particularly those that leaned towards a melodic touch. With that in mind, I never really gave the well-regarded debut full-length from the Bay Area’s Heathen much of a chance. Entitled “Breaking The Silence”, I only recall listening to the album once or twice, dismissed Heathen as too melodic, and completely forgot about the band. After one more album, Heathen dropped out of sight as thrash metal died in the early ‘90s.

Flash forward a few years, and Heathen founding guitarist Lee Altus went on to join Exodus after the departure of Rick Hunolt. Exodus have been riding high at the peak of the re-thrash revival ever since. Given that just about every major band from thrash metal’s heyday have reformed and have released new material, for better or worse, it’s only fitting that Heathen are giving it another go with Altus and a few other guys from the original lineup intact. With that in mind, Heathen release “The Evolution of Chaos” on the small label Mascot Records.

I have to say that I wasn’t expecting all that much from Heathen, regardless of the skills of Altus. Not because of past releases, but because I’ve been less than enthused by the reformation of some of the Bay Area’s second tier bands releasing new material (case in point is the recent album from Defiance). However, “The Evolution of Chaos” is a near perfect melodic thrash metal album.

Altus and company make a smart decision in giving the album a modern sound, rather than trying to capture the rawness of yesteryear (which, to these ears, always fell flat in thrash metal). The guitar sound is really thick, and the riffs from Altus and second guitarist Kragen Lum are heavy and infectious. Vocalist David White has a good range, and provides soaring melodic vocals that never become saccharine. A range of tempos is presented with a great deal of thrash metal gallop along with plenty of mid-paced groove. Solos are plentiful, and complement the album’s heavier chops very well. The songwriting is top notch, with a couple of near epics. To these ears, “The Evolution Of Chaos” ends up sounding as a more melodic version of modern Exodus with nods to classic Metallica in some of the riffs.

“The Evolution of Chaos” is a great album, and I’m pleasantly surprised.


Mascot Records

Heathen Official MySpace

Much has already been documented of the trials and tribulations of Fear Factory, but I lost sight of the band after “Demanufacture”. Personally, I found “Obsolete” to be a huge disappointment, and I saw the album as Fear Factory’s attempt at commercial success, following in the sullied footsteps of ‘90s Metallica. I haven’t bothered with anything released by Fear Factory since, especially after reading one poor review after another. Incidentally, as for Dino Cazares’ other projects, I’ve also ignored Divine Heresy, but I do wholeheartedly recommend Asesino, Cazares’ on again off again death metal project, as well as Brujeria classics.

At any rate, the buzz has been building regarding “Mechanize”, Fear Factory’s new album from, somewhat surprisingly, Candlelight Records. The reformation of the band’s key members, namely the reuniting of Cazares and vocalist Burton Bell, as well as the recruitment of drummer extraordinaire Gene Hoglan, piqued my interest. Rounding out the roster is veteran bassist Byron Stroud.

As has been advertised, “Mechanize” is a “return to form”; that is, if you’re going by “Demanufacture” as a means of measurement. Rapid fire, mechanized riffing from Cazares is punctuated by the pounding percussion from Hoglan, an obvious perfect fit for the style of technical drumming required. Burton Bell’s vocals alternate between a gruff bellow, and the melodic clean vocals that he is well known for.

Time will tell, on the other hand, as to whether or not the album is of the same songwriting quality as “Demanufacture”. But, there are some definite corkers on “Mechanize”, such as “Christploitation” and “Fear Campaign” in the album’s first half. The entire album is not an assault, however, as the post- “Demanufacture” era rears its head with the very melodic, almost commercial, “Designing The Enemy”, as well as most of the album’s eight minute plus closer, “Final Exit”. Given that these songs fall in the latter half, “Mechanize” ends up having two distinctive sides.

In the end, “Mechanize” is a mixed bag with some great songs that pummel you, especially early on, but the schizophrenic nature of the album with stabs at commercial viability leave me somewhat high and dry.


Fear Factory Official MySpace

Candlelight Records USA

Of the two albums profiled here, “The Evolution of Chaos” is the better.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Skull Reviews "Hour of the Wolf" by The Resurrection Sorrow

The Resurrection Sorrow- Hour of the Wolf

(Midnight Dreams Productions)

By: Skull

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks listening to my latest assignment on and off, and have been sort of procrastinating on this write up. The album in question is “Hour of the Wolf”, the debut full-length from New York’s The Resurrection Sorrow (Midnight Dreams Productions), and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it.

The ten track album starts out strongly enough with the heavy, riff laden “Resurrect the Sorrow”, a track of decent sludge. Overall, in fact, decent riffs are scattered throughout this release, and I’m suitably impressed. I’m somewhat less enthused with “Unholy Divine” and the title track, the album’s second and third songs, respectively. Could it be a lack of consistency within the songs themselves, or with the record as a whole, that bothers me? That’s what I’ve been pondering. Even though “Hour of the Wolf” drives hard at times, the album also comes off as simplistic party rock that might even spew out of my radio someday.

“Soul of the Soulless” reinforces my inability to wrap my arms around these guys with somewhat shoddy vocals, and a formulaic guitar solo at the tail end. However, the simple instrumental immediately following called “Shadow of a Vampire” hits me perfectly. I would have preferred that The Resurrection Sorrow expand and develop the song into something larger and grander, though. The eighth track, “Bloodshot Eyes n ‘ Soul”, is very catchy and kicks some serious ass, but the final two songs wrap up the album without much fanfare or dynamic ambition. “Hour of the Wolf” ends up a mixed bag, at best.

The promotional introduction to “Hour of the Wolf” states, “The wheel is not being reinvented here, it’s being reinforced.” I’m inclined to agree with the first part of that statement because the album offers nothing new, but does tip its hat to stoner metal. I think that future albums from The Resurrection Sorrow will decide the accuracy of the second half of that claim. I will keep my eye on them.


The Resurrection Sorrow Official MySpace

Midnight Dreams Productions

Recent reviews at

The Kandidate- Until We Are Outnumbered

Obscura- Retribution (reissue)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


On this day in 1600, the lapsed monk Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake by a Catholic mob on the Campo de Fiori in Rome. Amongst Bruno's "heretical transgressions" was a firm belief in the Copernican Solar System, and the postulate that the stars, like the Sun, could have a retinue of planets. Conceivavbly, those planets could support life.

The Kepler Mission

Planet Quest

The struggle against the irrational continues.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Skull Stays Out Way Past His Bedtime To Go See 8 Brutal DM Bands...

While leaving the Nile show last January, I was handed a flyer for an upcoming event in February with a slew of Brutal Death Metal bands with none other than Putrid Pile headlining. I didn’t take notice of the other bands playing at the time, but seeing that The Shaun LaCanne Experience would be in town automatically etched an imprint on my mental calendar, which is a good thing because I lost the flyer. Typical Skull. Then, a member of a supporting band called Nekropsy read my write up of the Revocation show, placed a comment reminding me of the event, and invited me to attend. After that my fate was sealed.

I arrived at the Nite Cap Lounge on Irving Park Road in Chicago’s far north side about 30 minutes before show time. It’s a small club with a little bar area by the door adjacent to a larger room with another horseshoe shaped bar extending up to just a few feet from the stage. The space was dimly lit and what light did illuminate the venue was assisted by candlelight. I staked out a spot in the smaller bar area, ordered a beer, and watched the people trickle in.

At this point, I had forgotten that so many bands were playing, assumed that the show would be a quick four-setter, and I’d be off before 1:00am. While the doorman was taking money and stamping hands next to me he inquired of the patrons as to which band they were mainly coming to see because he was tallying up their responses. I realized I was hearing a Hell of a lot of band names that I had forgotten were playing, so I asked the gent just who all were performing. He ran down a list of 8 bands. Son of a bitch! This wasn’t a show. This was a Death Metal extravaganza!! I had a work commitment in the morning. It was almost 9:00pm and there were still 8 sets to watch? Shit!!!!! I then commenced a mental debate over whether or not I could actually stay for the whole show, but Putrid Pile was headlining. I couldn’t skip that! Done!

At 9:00pm sharp, Asphyxiator started up their brief set so I moved on over to the show room. The whole night was set up as a birthday bash for Asphyxiator’s vocalist Miguel, so it was quite appropriate that he kick the night off. His band consisted of himself on vocals, a guitarist, and drum machine backing them up with mostly mid-paced beats with little variation. The guitar work was soft and somewhat sloppy, but Miguel fared well enough. The set came off as a showcase of his talented vocal work, and I was quite impressed. He reminded me a bit of Cianide’s Mike Perun. The thirty or so friends and fans in the joint gave him a great response. Happy birthday, Miguel!

During the teardown I crossed paths with Paul (of Gorgasm fame) from Nekropsy. Nice guy. We chatted for a few minutes about his band and I thanked him for the reminder and invite to the show. Our conversation caused me to miss the first couple songs of Indiana’s Moistened Disciples. What I did hear I liked. They were tight and fast with good tempo changes and some killer drumming and vocals. The crowd that had now grown to about 80 people or so responded favorably to the trio. This is a band to watch.

After another quick set up, a local Brutal Death Metal band called Kataplexy kicked into gear. They plowed furiously through their short set with ferocity and skill. I could barely see the hands of the guitarist and bassist due to the fact that they were flying up and down their fret boards so quickly and the drumming glued everything together nicely. Jason Herrera’s vocals complimented their sound and the growing crowd treated them well. This is another band to keep an eye on.

Now up next was Milwaukee’s DM quintet Burial Ritual. The crowd was obviously in high anticipation of this set and that didn’t escape my notice. I soon found out why. They fired up and proceeded to crush the crowd with heavy mosh-able grooves, mad vocals, and nothing less than expert drumming. At their slow points their riffs became even Sabbath-like. I found their style to be quite eclectic and I enjoyed their set immensely. A small pit struggled to erupt with the bar being quite a deterrent. Many were thrashing while Burial Ritual played with evident professionalism. Later in the evening I would track down one of their guitarists to acquire their full length debut “Tower of Silence”.

Soon Burial Ritual was tearing down as Chicago’s Nekropsy began sound checking for their set. By now the crowd had grown substantially and everyone seemed to be closing in for a good spot. Nekropsy play to a drum machine backup and Paul tweaked up the contraption as they dug in. Nekropsy lunged into a badass set of blasts, tempo changes, and excellent guitar work, which at times even became quite flashy. Paul’s guttural howls and grunts were quite effective and he even shared the vocal chores with the guitarist Frank. Jeremy, on bass, even threw his two cents in on the third song with a cleaner style of shouted vocals that gave the number a hardcore feel. Nekropsy had, by far, the most unique sound of all the support bands of the night, and I never missed a drum kit because their programmed tracks were intricate and diverse. It was obvious by the response that they were crowd favorites. I tracked down a copy of their latest release called “Redemption Execution”.

Following Nekropsy after another set change were Dyscracia. I somehow, quite uncharacteristically mind you, had the foresight to bring a pad and a pen to the show in case I needed to take notes. During each set I wrote down very brief impressions of the bands that I was watching, and used simple adjectives to describe them for the purpose of drawing from that while I write this review. Looking at my pad now I see only three items on the page dedicated to Dyscracia’s performance. The first is that they were a five piece and the second was that they are from Madison Wisconsin. The third one describes perfectly what I experienced from their set. It says “Fucking brutal!” They flattened the crowd.

The carnage continued with Saprogenic. Hailing from Detroit, Saprogenic destroyed in an all too short set that had its plug pulled because of time constraints. Miguel joined them on stage to share vocals during one song. I was truly impressed with these guys and felt slighted when they had to break off early.

While Saprogenic was tearing their set down and Shaun LaCanne began setting his equipment up, the tension in the bar thickened as everyone began to brace themselves for Racine’s Putrid Pile. The crowd was amped up from all the excellent supporting bands and now just wanted to be knocked on its collective ass. I am an admirer of Mr. LaCanne’s work, and had high expectations for this set. Let me tell you, he DID NOT disappoint. He completely obliterated the place in a quick, five-song set with a mix of old and new Putrid Pile tracks. He displayed his absolute wizardry over his guitar with the rolling, catchy, and excruciatingly heavy riffage that is unique to Putrid Pile, and earns him his place as a true original in metal. I was fucking floored and the crowd went absolutely apeshit! A pit had formed and people were thrashing heavily in front of the stage just drinking it all in and swooning from the fix. Time restrictions killed the buzz though, and Shaun reluctantly had to wrap it up. It was 2:30am and I was more than willing to stick around for a fuller set, but it just wouldn’t happen that way. I was grateful for my opportunity to catch Putrid Pile, but down over the fact that I couldn’t see more.

I decided to call it a night and walked through the smoldering ruins of the what was once Nite Cap Lounge, stepping over the corpses left strewn about as I headed out the door for my ride home, and a subsequently long work day. As lousy as my day turned out today, I have no regrets. Rarely have I seen shows with so many acts billed with absolutely no garbage to suffer through. It was a great night with some outstanding bands.

Special thanks go out to Paul from Nekropsy for the heads up and the invite...

By: Skull

Some pics...




Burial Ritual


Putrid Pile

Thanks, Skull!

Just announced...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Like many others, I note the following...

Today is the 40th anniversary of the birth of heavy metal. On this day in 1970, the self-titled debut from Black Sabbath was released in the U.K. (Vertigo). The album was among the first five albums that I ever purchased (sometime around '78 or '79). Needless to say, Black Sabbath has had a profound influence upon me.

"Listen to Black Sabbath"- Anonymous

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Skull Reviews "Serpents" by Struck By Lightning... plus more of my reviews have been published at

Struck By Lightning- Serpents

(Translation Loss Records)

By: Skull

So, the next album Dave tosses in my lap happens to be “Serpents”, the debut full-length from Columbus, Ohio’s Struck By Lightning. This is another selection from Translation Loss’ roster of up and comers. Encyclopaedia Metallum lumps these guys into the Death Metal/Hardcore genre, and I’m not sure if that’s entirely accurate (although, if a gun was pointed at my temple with the hammer cocked and my life depended on correctly categorizing these guys, I’d probably be taking a dirt nap soon after because they’re a bit hard for me to pin down). Gregory Lahm’s competent vocal work is somewhat reminiscent of Kurt Brecht from DRI, which does give SBL’s sound a slight hardcore aftertaste, but that seems to be somewhat at odds with the music.

The first four tracks really grab me. Most notably “Silent and Still”, with it’s almost playful lead guitar work, and “The Watchful Eye” with some powerful riffs and excellent banter between the bass and drums. But from “Widowmaker” and beyond, Struck By Lightning start to lose me. There’s a sort of sameness about the album, and I think that’s the problem I had with it. I actually never got through the whole album in one listen. The instrumental track towards the end of the album, “Collection of Teeth”, comes off as a small piece that they couldn’t bridge out into something larger. It seems to have been put in as filler, and that just irritates me.

Don’t get me wrong. “Serpents” is in no way a BAD album for a first effort, and it should sell. The production is thick, the musicianship is tight, and there’s a Hell of a lot of talent on display here. My audio system flat out loves it and it sounds massive and crisp in the lab. I’m very curious as to what direction Struck by Lightning will be heading in next, and I will definitely check out their follow up to “Serpents”.


Struck By Lightning Official MySpace

Translation Loss Records

Just published at

Charred Walls of the Damned- Self Titled

Troll- Neo- Satanic Supremacy

Shining (Nor.)- Blackjazz

Dark Fortress- Ylem

A possibility...

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Nile, Immolation, Krisiun, and Dreaming Dead Melt Your Face Off!

The show that I've been anticipating for months finally arrived.

Concert Review

Bands: Nile, Immolation, Krisiun, Dreaming Dead, and Rose Funeral

Venue: House of Blues, Sunset Strip; West Hollywood, California.

Date: February 2, 2010.

The death metal bill of the year thus far roared through West Hollywood on February 2nd. Perhaps the best death metal band in the world, Nile, are just beginning their touring cycle in support of their monstrous recent release Those Whom The Gods Detest, and providing strong support were highly regarded death metal bands Immolation and Krisiun. Rounding out the bill were Dreaming Dead, an up and coming death metal band from Los Angeles, and deathcore outfit Rose Funeral.

Due to insanely lousy traffic (what a time to start road construction on the Sunset Strip), I only caught the last couple of songs from Rose Funeral. A totally generic deathcore band that was horribly out of place on this bill, Rose Funeral elicited no reaction from the few people that bothered to show up early. Indescribably awful.

Dreaming Dead have garnered quite a bit of notice with their recent debut EP, Within One, on Ibex Moon Records. Hailing from Los Angeles, Dreaming Dead are fronted by vocalist/ guitarist Elizabeth Schall Elliot and second guitarist Laura Christine, formerly of Warface and Meldrum. Make no mistake: these ladies can really shred it up as Dreaming Dead roared through a great, long set that was well received by the crowd. Granted, Dreaming Dead are local heroes and have an obvious following here in Los Angeles, but this is a talented band that is just beginning to make an impact. I expect great things from a debut full-length from Dreaming Dead.

Krisiun need no introduction and, under different circumstances, could easily have headlined their own major tour. Krisiun are an absolute machine in a live setting, and are one of the few bands that I’ll go to see every time that they roar through Los Angeles. As expected, Krisiun hit a number of highlights from AssassiNation and Southern Storm, including a few of my personal favorites in “Vicious Wrath” and “Refusal”. Krisiun put in a powerful performance with excellent sound, and are always a tough act to follow.

Scene veterans Immolation were up next, and have a brand new album waiting in the wings. Entitled Majesty And Decay and soon to be released on Nuclear Blast Records, Immolation are extremely heavy and incorporate a great deal of time changes into their aural assault. I’ve always found Immolation to be an excellent band on record, and they crush in a live setting with presence and sound. A rather unique band built around non-traditional song structures, I usually find that the band’s older, more straightforward material translates very well into a live setting. This time around, set highlights were “Burial Ground” (in homage of Gene Hoglan, who was in attendance), and “Father, You’re Not A Father”.

Nile prove, once again, that they’re probably the best death metal band on the planet. Absolutely spot on musicianship, a huge sound, and professionalism are hallmarks of Nile, a band that obviously enjoys what they’re doing on stage. Playing a long set covering their entire discography, Nile were enthusiastically received by the jam-packed HOB crowd.

Set highlights included “Sarcophagus”, “Cast Down The Heretic”, “Execration Text”, and others too numerous to count. From the opening atmospherics of “Kafir” to the closing moments of “Black Seeds of Vengeance”, Nile just dominated the stage, and left no doubt that they’re at the top of the death metal heap. After the set’s conclusion, Karl Sanders dropped into the audience and shook hands, chatted, and took photos with everyone he could. A masterful performance, and Nile are a band not to be missed. As one audience member loudly proclaimed a couple of times after Nile finished a song (and loud enough to elicit grins from Sanders and Toler- Wade), "It's not fair! You fucking make it look easy!"

Yes, the economy is bad and most everyone has had to cut back, tighten belts, and pinch pennies in order to make various ends meet. However, the price of admission for this show is more than well worth the cost, and I highly encourage everyone to go out and see this tour before its conclusion. It’s not often that three giants of death metal appear on the same bill.

Here are some of my pics... I obviously still to need learn a thing or two about shutter speed...

Dreaming Dead




Some video. I kept it short to save memory on my camera.

Dreaming Dead




The t-shirt haul (I already have multiple Nile and Krisiun shirts)...

Special thanks to Chad Bowar!