Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black River Black N' Roll

Black River Black N’ Roll

Eagle Rock Entertainment/ Armoury Records

Black River MySpace

Reviewer: The Dragon of M87

Poland’s Black River has garnered some notoriety for sporting members of well known Polish black/ death metal bands, notably Tomasz "Orion" Wroblewski from Behemoth (best wishes to Nergal) on bass and Darek "Daray" Brzozowski from Vader, and a host of others on drums. However, Black River are quite far from black/ death metal, and are essentially a hard hitting rock band with plenty of Southern rock and blues influences, albeit with a very heavy sound and thick production.

Whatever muse Orion and Daray are satisfying, Black River are not some sort of joke side project as Black N’ Roll hits all of the genre elements well enough. Up tempo rockers, riffs aplenty, gruff vocals, and a huge sound are all present in spades on Black N’ Roll, somewhat of a misnomer as black metal is nowhere to be found within Black River’s sound. In fact, Black River are far closer to bands such as Lynyrd Skynrd (RIP Leonard Skinner) and descendants such as Black Label Society more than anything else.

Although Black N’ Roll has a couple of corkers scattered here and there, overall, I found the songwriting to be a bit uneven and the album became tiresome after a few songs. However, I’m sure that Black River would go over quite well in a live setting with a bottle of Jack on the bar in front of you. That’s probably just fine with them.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Earthride Something Wicked

Earthride Something Wicked

Southern Lord

Earthride MySpace

Reviewer: Chris Davison

Doom. It's such a short word that has such immense gravity. In terms of the lexicon of extreme metal, it conjures images – but what bands? Covering such a wide spectrum of outfits and approaches – from the baroque, operatic epic Candlemass to the inertia stifling likes of Khanate – it's pretty much a meaningless genre tag for a band unless attached to something else. So, while I could call these American bruisers doom, it really wouldn't inform you at all. The thing is, I don't really agree with the stoner tag I see attached to them on the internet. Being a clean living, non-herb consuming type, I find I can enjoy it all the same. So what is this album? I'll tell you what: Blue collar doom.

Yeah, I know, you're still none the wiser. Hear me out. Something Wicked is the sound of a band that reflects the frustration and disaffection with the working week. Sure, the lyrics don't speak explicitly of this, but you can somehow hear in the fuzzed out, rock-based bad-vibes sound that this is a working man's band. No flashy operatics, no gimmicks and just straight out truth as if drunk from the bottom of a bottle of sour mash. While there are a few occasions where the Black Sabbath influence can be heard explicitly (as with the galloping riff towards the end of the title track), the greatest similarity to those brummy gentlemen is in the working class atmosphere of the music. In a music world where any hipster with an ironic T-shirt, horn-rimmed glasses and an asymmetrical haircut can apparently get signed, it's refreshing that bands like Earthride can still come up with the goods.

From the fuzzed out swing of “Destruction Song” to the psychedelic romp of “Supernatural Illusion” (featuring doom royalty in Wino himself), this is the sound of a band that produces the goods without frippery. The bass sound, so gravelly in tone that I'm certain at appropriate volumes it could induce elephants to lose their bowels, is an absolute joy. The vocals, generally lazily (and erroneously) compared to Lemmy, are if anything even more extreme and just wholesale pissed off than ever before. Combine this with guitar riffs scientifically proven to be 57% more infectious than the Ebola virus and Wardian drumming, and you've got the best album of their career. A beer swilling, honest, hard working, straight talking construction worker of an album that is going to be a dependable friend in rough times.

Stoners, slackers, hipsters and wasters should look elsewhere. Hipsters, seekers of the ironic and wankers should let the door hit them on the ass on the way out. For the rest of us, put the car in the garage, drop the work gear off in the hallway, kick off your boots, grab a cold one from the fridge and crank this bad boy up LOUD. This one's for you...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Again, Short Bursts II

Here comes another deluge of albums for your consideration. Keeping it short…

Offending Human Concept

Deep Send Records

Offending MySpace

The OSDM revival hits the shores of France in the form of the debut full-length from Offending, but Human Concept is not quite straightforward OSDM, though. Besides the necessary downtuned guitars with choppy, meat and potatoes riffs and so on, Offending ramp up the speed a bit, approaching the music perhaps just a tad faster than is usually the case on most recent OSDM releases. Hell, Offending even attempt to add a few doses of technicality as if they’ve endeavored to have studied at the feet of Mohammed Suicmez with some fluid guitar work.

Don’t get too concerned, however, as Offending are sloppy enough to tone back the technical aspects of their music just the right amount, and are catchy as all get out with a huge, bottom heavy production. In short, Offending are another solid OSDM band, indeed, from Deep Send Records, a label that is increasingly releasing quality albums.

Crucifyre Infernal Earthly Divine

Pulverised Records

Crucifyre MySpace

More OSDM from Pulverised Records, a label that is pretty much a “must get” with regards to just about every release fired my way (OK, they’ve had a stinker or two, and some mediocre ones, as well; see below). Crucifyre, yet another Swedish act, are treading the hallowed ground between death and thrash metal, but not really in the Swedish sense. Similar to my recent look at California’s Deadly Remains, Crucifyre are firing forth, and stealing, solid riffs from bands of yesteryear such as the early versions of Slayer, Possessed, Dark Angel, and so on.

The riffs are infectious, the lyrics blasphemous, and the assault comes at you full throttle with a good production for this sort of thing. Once again, I ask, what’s not to like? Solid OSDM, yet again!

Encoffination Ritual Ascension Beyond Flesh

Selfmadegod Records

Encoffination MySpace

Bottom heavy, deep, deadly funeral doom/ death metal, released on cassette and vinyl only, no less, is not exactly what comes to mind with releases from Selfmadegod Records. But, that’s exactly what you get with Ritual Ascension Beyond Flesh from Encoffination. A duo splitting time between Georgia and Texas, Encoffination play what could obviously be pigeon-holed as funeral doom, but Encoffination actually speed it up a bit. The result of this amalgamation of styles is an extremely heavy, slightly slower version of dark death metal bands such as Incantation, and fits squarely between the funeral doom and death metal genres.

Not too many bands are treading these waters, perhaps the similarly named Coffins for one, but Encoffination are heavy enough to satisfy most funeral doom purists, and are “fast” enough to satisfy connoisseurs of dark death metal. The songwriting’s not too bad, either; judge for yourself. Yeah, the album only appears on cassette or vinyl.

Lightning Swords Of Death The Extra Dimensional Wound

Metal Blade Records

Lightning Swords Of Death MySpace

Lightning Swords Of Death (LSOD) are, by far, the best black metal band from Los Angeles at the moment (Nokturne are not too bad, either, but are largely inactive). I’ve seen LSOD perform live on multiple occasions, and they seem to just get better and better with each performance. In short, LSOD can bring the Hammer in a live setting with a darkly personified vocalist in Autarch, and a top notch bassist in Menno. The rest of the band is not too shabby, either.

Metal Blade Records obviously noticed the quality of this act, and promptly added LSOD to their roster for the release of The Extra Dimensional Wound (the Giger-esque cover art is exquisitely detailed, and outstanding). However, on record, LSOD’s sound is, initially, more of that of dark, rich death metal rather than black metal. The album is well produced with lots of deep, bottom heavy sound with a loud bass. All out blasts segue into mid-paced tempos that enhance the atmosphere and mood. However, the music has a discernible, intentional lack of structure and a chaotic quality that definitely categorizes LSOD as black metal rather than death metal, as the well planned lack of structure has a powerful atmosphere.

I should note that a number of the songs appearing here are re-recordings of songs that appeared on a split with Valdur from 2008. Even so, The Extra Dimensional Wound is an excellent release from a band that deserves your notice.

Salem Playing God And Other Short Stories

Pulverised Records

Salem MySpace

A long running Israeli band appearing on from Pulverised Records, Salem are playing traditional heavy metal with a dark tone and a few Gothic touches. The musicianship is tight, and the band’s sound comes a bit from the more bluesy, doom inspired aspects of the NWOBHM. Some of the riffs are quite good with an up tempo pacing, and the vocals are typically gruff. Gothic touches creep in with very melodic, clean female vocals and some flowing keyboards. I must admit that I find the music reminiscent of Samael circa Ceremony Of The Opposites minus the blackened themes and overt Satanic imagery. In fact, the lyrical themes of Salem are the polar opposite, so to speak, focusing upon the plight of Jews and islamic terrorism.

Salem definitely have a unique take on the darker shades of NWOBHM, however, and are an unusual band to appear on Pulverised Records’ roster for that reason. However, the songwriting on Playing God And Other Short Stories is a bit uneven, with the best songs appearing at the beginning of the album, by far. Overall, Playing God And Other Short Stories is a somewhat unique album, but not great.

Grave Desecrator Insult

Hells Headbangers Records/ Ketzer Records

Grave Desecrator MySpace

Brazilian death metal and, yes, it sounds like a collision between Abhorrence, Nephasth, old Sepultura, toss in some Krisiun, and so on. Rather primitive, but with plenty of good riffs, catchy songs, a guitar solo or two, blasphemous lyrics, all out speed, etc. What more could you ask for?! I tell you what: Harris Johns twiddles the knobs and gives the album THAT drum sound! Old Sodom, anyone? Now, you’re getting it!

Torture Division Evighetens Darar

Abyss Records

Torture Division MySpace

Various alumni from Swedish giants such as (possibly) Dark Funeral, Entombed, Vomitory, and about a billion other bands come together as a trio to crank out some pure, old school Sunlight Studios-era Swedish death metal. Evighetens Darar is a fix up compilation of sorts, putting together various bits of recent demo material from this off again on again project. All of it is very solid, straightforward Swedish death metal with no surprises whatsoever, but, what’s sort of unique is the “free music” policy of Torture Division. The band actively encourages fans to download their demos, trade/ sell the music to “friends”, make up their own artwork, etc. Sounds like a bit of an experiment in communism to me, but the music’s good enough for you to seek out active participation, if, in the end, you’ll probably end up getting screwed by totalitarians.

Dan Swanö has a hand in the mixing, so you know that, at least, Torture Division are worth a listen.

Excruciator By The Gates Of Flesh

Heavy Artillery Records

Excruciator MySpace

Silly band name and Heavy Artillery Records only means one thing, old school thrash metal. A label that is very hit and miss with regards to the quality of the bands that appear on the roster, Heavy Artillery Records are nothing if not persistent in raising the flag of thrash from yesteryear quite high. This time around, the discovery is Excruciator (at first glance, I initially thought that they were called Exlaxicator) from Portland, Oregon, and the name of the game on this five song EP is old school Teutonic thrash from the glory days of Kreator. Chris Birkley’s voice is a dead ringer for that of Mille Petrozza, and the vibe is sort of reminiscent of Terrible Certainty. Not bad, not great, but Excruciator show some promise (goofy band name notwithstanding).

Tribute to H.P. Lovecraft Yogsothery - Gate 1: Chaosmogonic Rituals of Fear

I, Voidhanger Records (ATMF has a hand in here somewhere)

Aarni MySpace

Every now and then, a tribute album appears in homage to H.P. Lovecraft, seemingly metal’s favorite horror writer. Certainly, he’s one of my favorites, as well, but tribute albums to his writings never really work. The reason, in my opinion, is that Lovecraft’s writing is so visually stunning, so strong, that it is very hard to encapsulate into any sort of worthwhile auditory representation, particularly with readers who have already formed such strong imagery in their minds while reading Lovecraft.

Four projects/ bands, three of them Finnish, attempt to do just that on Yogsothery - Gate 1: Chaosmogonic Rituals of Fear, a tribute organized by one man doom metal act Aarni, an artist with whom I’m not familiar. As would be expected, the admittedly wonderfully entitled Yogsothery - Gate 1: Chaosmogonic Rituals of Fear is uneven with two strong tracks, and two not so strong. By far, the strongest track is the nearly 26 minute opener entitled “Kuihtuman Henkivi" by horror electronica duo Jääportit. A haunting scream of harmonics and electronic tones sort of reminiscent of “Lux Aeterna” from the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack, this nightmarish abyss provides the perfect accompaniment to Great Cthulhu’s emergence from R’lyeh. If any track comes close, on this album, at least, to personifying the cosmic horror of the Cthulhu Mythos, this is it, and really makes the album worth purchasing for this track alone.

Also of note is the fourth track, another marathon, this time from Caput LIIIVm, a project comprised of members of various Italian bands, none very well known. Entitled “Resurgent Atavism,” the song would fit in quite well with the work of Sunn O))) and Boris on Altar with the same sort of mild, droning vibe. Of lesser quality are the other two tracks, uneven mixtures of cascading doom, acoustic guitars, various intonations, and so on from Aarni and Umbra Nihil.

So, worthy of a purchase? Yes, but I would’ve loved to have gotten a look at the 20-page booklet of liner notes that accompanies a formal purchase in order to bolster my recommendation.

Complete Failure Heal No Evil

Supernova Records

Complete Failure MySpace

Heal No Evil from Pennsylvania’s Complete Failure is pretty much straight up grindcore, but contains some slower-paced, longer songs than most blastfests (Complete Failure can still go all out, though), and occasionally drifts into crossover territory. Originally self released, Heal No Evil is, not surprisingly, a bit raw, and that definitely works in Complete Failure’s favor as I’ve developed a real aversion lately to über-produced grindcore.

There aren’t any real surprises on Heal No Evil, but Complete Failure write good enough songs, for the first half of the album, anyway, for anyone who feels that their grindcore collection is incomplete. However, the songwriting really takes a nosedive in the album’s second half with meandering, overly long songs that will rapidly bore you.

Give the first 16 minutes or so of Heal No Evil a shot, and you’ll find that there’s promise to be had with Complete Failure. Otherwise, take a pass.

Good enough for now…


Stench In Putrescence

Agalloch Marrow Of The Spirit

Agalloch Tour Flier

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The reference... VIII

Moribund Records varies greatly with regards to the quality of the bands on the label’s roster, and with individual releases. There are some stellar acts on Moribund Records (Ayat), as well as some absolute turkeys (Satan’s Host). A band that caught my eye, and ear, a couple of years ago is the duo known as Empire Auriga with their debut full-length album Auriga Dying.

Playing a dreamy, droning form of black metal with interesting compositions incorporating industrial and ambient elements, I reviewed the album for Live 4 Metal, and I also interviewed band mastermind Boethius.

Besides the band’s name, there are interesting astronomical references appearing on the two versions of the album’s artwork. Auriga Dying first appeared in a self-released form prior to a formal release from Moribund Records. Both versions of cover art depict different deep sky objects.

First of all, Auriga is a prominent constellation visible from the Northern Hemisphere during late autumn and winter. Below is a Sky Dome chart of the Northern Hemisphere sky as seen in the late evening in mid to late November, and Auriga is very easy to find.

The Charioteer, Auriga contains one of the brightest stars in the sky, Capella, or Alpha Aurigae. Besides being bright, Capella is also a well-studied example of a multiple star system, consisting of two sets of binary stars orbiting a common center of mass. In other words, two pairs, or four total stars, make up the Capella system.

Two other stars of interest, both easily visible to the naked eye, are within Auriga. Beta Tauri (El Nath) is actually shared with the nearby constellation Taurus (see map above), but is otherwise nondescript. Of more interest is the unusual variable star Epsilon Aurigae.

Epsilon Aurigae was first noticed in the 19th century as a very long period variable star. The star is a normal, run of the mill blue white star larger and more luminous than the Sun. However, inexplicably, the star dims by an order of apparent visual magnitude for a couple of years at a time once every approximately 27 years. The history behind the study of this star is a fascinating one, and can be referenced in the October 2009 issue of Astronomy Magazine, which provides a nice summary.

To make a very long story short, the star is actually being eclipsed by an enormous disk of dusty material in orbit about the star. The disk itself has a hole, sort of like a doughnut, that’s been cleared of material by a very tight binary star system. The following graphic from the article summarizes the situation quite nicely.

Essentially, Epsilon Aurigae is a triple star system with two of the stars locked in a tight orbit while surrounded by a dusty disk of material left over from the binary system’s formation. This binary system, in turn, is in orbit around the blue white primary star. A strange, rather unique, and yet beautiful system as the following artist’s conception illustrates.

The first version of the artwork for Auriga Dying appears to be a fictionalized composite of two different, unrelated elements, a globular cluster and wisps of what appears to be reflection nebulae in the foreground.

A globular cluster is a huge agglomeration of stars, all approximately the same age, arranged into a spherical volume a few tens of light years across. The number of stars contained within this relatively small volume is staggering, on the order of several hundred thousand to upwards of a million in some examples. For comparison, the number of stars contained within an equal volume centered on the Sun is only a couple of hundred. We live in a relatively sparse, quiet neighborhood (this is a good thing), but just imagine what the sky would appear as from the outskirts, or from the interior of a globular cluster.

Globular clusters are old systems, dating back to the formation of galaxies. Typically, globular clusters are arranged in a roughly spherical halo surrounding the center of galaxies. Each is orbiting the galaxy’s center. In the case of the Milky Way, there are several tens of globular clusters orbiting the galactic center with orbital radii typically extending to tens of thousands of light years.

The globular cluster depicted on Auriga Dying appears to be a retouched photo of M79, but I’m not certain.

As mentioned, any reflection nebulae would appear in the foreground of such an object, as the nearest globular cluster is over 10,000 light years from the Sun. The constellation of Auriga is relatively sparse with regards to interesting objects, however, and does not contain any globular clusters.

Moribund Records’ release of the album depicts the emission nebula IC 405 within Auriga, on the cover (false color). A relatively dim example of both emission and reflection nebulae, IC 405 is not very noteworthy, or interesting through even a modest telescope, appearing as a dim splotch of nebulosity surrounding the bright young star AE Aurigae.

For you geeks out there, the U.S.S. Auriga is the doomed starship (famously captained by Dan Hedaya) in Alien: Resurrection, and the warlike aliens depicted in the classic Star Trek: TOS episode “Friday’s Child” are referred to as Capellans (it’s not known whether Julie Newmar is a typical female of the species, though).

Apparently, Empire Auriga are gearing up for a new release…

Monday, November 22, 2010

Autopsy The Tomb Within

Autopsy The Tomb Within

Peaceville Records

Autopsy MySpace

Reviewer: Chris Davison

...and yet, the heated debate regarding re-animated bands of yore rages on. A certain compadre of mine, who shall remain nameless, has started a Facebook page raging against the hordes of previously defunct bands being brought back to life with much the same vigour as fictional zombies. For my part, I think the worth of this practice must indeed be measured on a case to case basis. While it may have been better for, say, Witchfinder General to have remained in the annals of metallic history, on the basis of this five track EP, entitled The Tomb Within, I can only say that I am glad to have Autopsy back from the post-mortem room.

The main dread, of course, is that bands will produce inferior albums and music that will forever tar the memory of their halcyon recordings. With a band as seminal and revered as Autopsy, and an album as untouchable and peerless as Severed Survival back in 1989, the risks must have been immense. Yet the recording of bonus tracks for the deluxe reissue of that same album a year or so ago seems to have shown the band that they can indeed produce new music of worth. I am happy to report that all things Autopsy are intact here; the twangy, almost sickeningly slack bass sound, those deranged guitar riffs, and the disarmingly shambolic drumming style. The vocals of Chris Reifert are as crushingly vile as ever.

These five hymns to the downright unpleasant retain the sloppy, viscous and gore drenched appeal as their earlier work, though with the benefit of many years collective experience and a truly masterful production job. To call this “old school” death metal would be a grave disservice (pun intended) to Autopsy, who practically own the whole neighbourhood of this absolutely revolting brand of extremity that is as infected as it is infectious. Slowing proceedings down to terrifying crawls is their speciality, and one which, truth be told, is perhaps as masterfully done here as it has been at any point in their history. It seems somehow inappropriate to say that there is plenty of life evidently left in Autopsy – let's just say that some creations are so appallingly monstrous that they just refuse to die.

The Tomb Within is further proof that the boys at Peaceville continue to keep their eyes on the ball, and only accept quality on their roster. Sure, like many others I enjoyed Abscess and The Ravenous, but, when all is said and done, there is only one true Autopsy. Hail to the Kings, baby, hail to the kings...


Furze Reaper Subconscious Guide

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Watain, Goatwhore, and Black Anvil at The Whisky...

Bands: Watain, Goatwhore, Black Anvil…

Venue: The Whisky; West Hollywood, California.

Date: November 19th, 2010.

The black metal tour of the fall roared into The Whisky, a fabled venue on the Sunset Strip, and you better believe that I was going to attend. I was not assigned to specifically review this show for, but I did take a few shots while being shoved around by the raucous crowd. Here is my brief impression of what went down.

I skipped most of the local openers, being only interested in the main tour. I did happen to catch HordeS Of Hate, a local Darkthrone clone band whom I’ve seen before. This time around, HordeS Of Hate were much improved with better songs, better musicianship, better set design, etc. Obviously, they’ve done their homework, but, in the end, HordeS Of Hate are still a Darkthrone clone.

Black Anvil were quite good, delivering a crushing set of dark black/ death metal that stands up quite well to the genre’s forefathers, and most obvious influence upon Black Anvil, Celtic Frost. The Whisky crowd was already quite full at this point, and Black Anvil were enthusiastically received.

As expected, Goatwhore were taut, professional, and firing on all cylinders. Ben Falgoust II has enormous presence as a frontman, projecting his personality out over the audience and successfully shrinking the size of the venue. Set closer “Apocalyptic Havoc” flattened The Whisky to the floor.

The stench was palpable midway through Goatwhore’s set, the stench of putrefying flesh. As good as Goatwhore and Black Anvil are as above average black metal bands, Watain are in a class all their own. Not necessarily due to the band’s albums (I was not overly impressed by Lawless Darkness), but Watain have dramatically upped the ante when it comes to delivering black metal with a degree of extremity, professionalism, and undeniable showmanship that has not yet been attempted on a large scale. Regardless of whether you buy into this band’s shtick (or marketing ploys; it’s a living), Watain in concert is not so much a performance, but a ritual.

The attention to detail on the stage is incredible. The Whisky is not a large venue by any means. The stage occupies a circular corner of the room, and only occupies maybe about 500 square feet, if that. Yet Watain fill the stage with as many totems as they can muster, all the while not making the stage become cluttered. The effects, and mood, all complement the ferocity of the band’s performance, causing the venue to metaphorically disappear, leaving behind only the ritual being performed. An undeniably powerful black metal experience. Obviously, Watain have studied The Grand Guignol, and the theater of the grotesque.

The pictures…

HordeS Of Hate

Black Anvil


Watain setup (a show in and of itself)


The t-shirt haul...

No video was shot per rules of The Whisky.

Not sure what's next, probably...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Short Bursts...

The “in house to review” pile has gotten way beyond out of control. In an effort to give at least some of the albums a fair look, here are a couple of brief reviews…

Pasadena Napalm Division Self Titled EP

Abyss Records

Pasadena Napalm Division MySpace

Vocalist Kurt Brecht of D.R.I. and most of the now sadly defunct Dead Horse, crossover greats from yesteryear, collaborate on a new project entitled Pasadena Napalm Division with a self-titled debut EP on Abyss Records. D.R.I. need no introduction to most, but the genre forefathers have been largely inactive for the last decade, only just recently resurfacing after Spike Cassidy’s recovery from cancer (and subsequent shellacking by Erik Danielsson at last year’s MDF). Dead Horse, roughly from the same area of southeast Texas, released two minor classics (Peaceful Death And Pretty Flowers is an old favorite) in the late 80s and early 90s, and then promptly dropped off the map.

At any rate, Pasadena Napalm Division are playing straight ahead crossover thrash that sounds exactly like what it is; a cross between D.R.I. and Dead Horse. No surprises of any kind appear on this six-song EP with galloped pacing, doses of humor and flat out silliness, and Brecht’s unmistakable vocals. The formula works, with most of the songs being catchy, but compared to early releases by D.R.I., there is a decided lack of seriousness with regards to the social commentary, or anger in delivery. Pasadena Napalm Division is performed by a bunch of guys comfortably in their 40s, and it sounds like it.

Viral Load/ Putrid Pile Split

Relapse Records

Viral Load MySpace

Putrid Pile MySpace

Other than a look at Shawn Whitaker’s Insidious Decrepancy at The Blvd. last July and Shaun LaCanne’s masterful album The Pleasure In Suffering (as Putrid Pile), I tend to stay away from the whole one man “band in a box” death metal subgenre, finding it static and boring. That view is only reinforced on a recent split from Viral Load and Putrid Pile, featuring, of course, both Whitaker and LaCanne. However, Whitaker appears in a proper band, the on again off again trio Viral Load, and LaCanne appears as himself as Putrid Pile. Each project contributes three songs to this split from, strangely, Relapse Records.

The three songs from Viral Load are straight ahead brutal death metal, but are quite catchy, well played , and well produced with a crystal clear sound. Quite obviously, there’s a live band at work here and just goes to demonstrate once again to my ears that the one man band simply does not measure up in this genre. Here’s hoping that Whitaker sticks to Viral Load.

The songs from Putrid Pile, on the other hand, are typical of LaCanne’s work and, although good for what it is as slam oriented death metal, the material is not nearly as interesting, or as fresh sounding, as what occurs with Viral Load. LaCanne does vary the songs, though, with slow passages complementing the blasts and a sort of thrash metal approach to one song (with a guitar solo!), but the drum machine becomes tiring quite fast. I, for one, would very much like to see Putrid Pile be a complete band.

Deadly Remains Before The Nothing

Deadly Remains MySpace

Here’s a bit of a surprise in the form of the self-released debut full-length album from Deadly Remains. From Santa Rosa, California, Deadly Remains are straddling the line between death and thrash metal on Before The Nothing. However, the approach is not of the Swedish persuasion as is typical of this nether region between the two genres; instead, Deadly Remains are tooling around in the territory forged by some of the harder hitting thrash metal bands of the mid to late 80s, bands such as Beneath The Remains era Sepultura, Dark Angel, and maybe even Exodus at their hardest hitting moments.

The riffs fly at you fast and furious, the vocals are rough, and the songs are generally catchy as Hell. What’s not to like? Not the most original album that I’ve ever heard, and Before The Nothing tends to falter a bit as you wade deeper; however, Deadly Remains are able to stand up quite well on their own without label support.

Agathocles This Is Not A Threat, It’s A Promise

Selfmadegod Records

Agathocles MySpace

OK, this seminal grindcore outfit from Belgium has been around in one form or another since around 1985 or so, and are just about first in line for sheer number of official releases. I’m quite embarrassed to admit, however, that their latest full-length (released last month; they’ve since released another split!) is my first encounter with Agathocles as grindcore is sort of off of my radar, with a few exceptions, of course.

At any rate, band founder Jan Fredericx is still kicking it as guitarist/ vocalist with Agathocles, and he keeps on managing to rope new members into his long running act. I’ve no idea how This Is Not A Threat, It’s A Promise measures up to prior releases, but this is a hugely wet sounding, organic, crushingly heavy mess of an album with a rather surprising variation in songwriting. Requisite blasts on the sloppy side, sort of like The Accüsed on Quaaludes, catchy as Hell mid-paced moments, and even slow moments of crust/ punk occur in spades here, stretched out over 27 songs in about 31 minutes. After so much hyper-compressed, soulless sounding grindcore being released these days (Cephalic Carnage?), Agathocles are a much needed reminder of the genre’s filthy roots. Nicely done; love the album cover.

Father Befouled Morbid Destitution Of Covenant

Relapse Records

Father Befouled MySpace

Father Befouled are a clone band of early Incantation, plain and simple. Slow, doom-laden, simple heavy chords and riffs interwoven with all out blasts, a deep, bottom heavy production, vocals treading the bottom end of the harmonic spectrum, an evil vibe, you name it, Father Befouled take more than a page from Mortal Throne Of Nazarene; they steal the whole damn playbook.

OK, truth be told, Father Befouled do the early Incantation shtick pretty well, but if you’re familiar with Incantation, there are absolutely no surprises here; but, you’ll enjoy Morbid Destitution Of Covenant, nonetheless. Those of you who have no idea what the Hell I’m talking about, start with Incantation and exhaust that band’s catalogue prior to segueing to Father Befouled.

Dead Neon Self Titled EP

Ecophagy Records

Dead Neon MySpace

Post-apocalyptic minimalist sludge/ punk with a vocalist who sounds like he has spent an inordinate amount of time listening to old Piledriver albums is what you get with Dead Neon, a bizarre trio from Las Vegas. Adding further to the band’s uniqueness is the fact that UNLV creative writing professor/ band founder/ vocalist/ guitarist Jarret Keene has published poetry with a post-apocalyptic bent, material that nicely complements the landscape of Dead Neon (I can’t help but think of the classic L.Q. Jones film A Boy And His Dog for comparison, an adaptation of a Harlan Ellison novella).

OK, given these references to the genre-oriented, literary aficionado hiding in my own academic background, I very much want to like Dead Neon, but this long EP is hit and miss for me. There are some great, catchy cascading riffs and moments of downtuned sludge with weird effects, but the vocals are a bit stentorian, and sound a bit forced and cheesy; hence, my reference to Piledriver (comes to mind). The EP’s closer, “Ride The Light,” is an interesting change of pace, though, sort of sounding like alternative/ country with soft vocals and strummed guitar. Still, intriguing…