Saturday, April 18, 2015

Blasphemer – Demo of Darkness

Though metal fans of the underground have made an impressive effort to uncover all of the lost gems of the old-school death metal scene, it is inevitable that some bands have fallen through the cracks. One such example is the UK’s Blasphemer. Although they never put out an album, they did put together a few demos in the early 1990s, and recently resurfaced. In 2015, they unleashed the appropriately titled “Demo of Darkness”, and gave everyone a reminder of what old-school death metal should sound like. The riffs on this release hearken back to a time when the thrash influence was still prominent in death metal, with many of the faster riffs sounding like something you would find on an early Cannibal Corpse or Morbid Angel record. Similarly, the vocals also take an old-school approach; they’re fully growled, but also entirely understandable. A good comparison would be to modern-day Autopsy (another band that Blasphemer worships, as they throw some slower, doomier sections into their music occasionally).

One really awesome thing about this demo is the approach to soloing. Both tracks have numerous guitar solos (though “Immortality” definitely favours them more), and go for a noisy, spastic, Trey Azagthoth approach. The solos are incredibly furious, and although they pay little attention to coherent musical form, they do appear quite deliberately planned.

Of the two tracks, “Immortality” is probably slightly stronger, if for no other reason than it feels a bit more consistently fast. In reality, both of these songs are a prime example of a band that fits in with the early 1990s quite well (because they were there). Once again, it is the thrash influence that makes this obvious; bands are usually better when they sound like they’re developing with a scene rather than simply worshipping it. As much as I love modern rehashes, sometimes you just can’t beat the original, and Blasphemer is original UK death metal!

Be sure to check out and like Blasphemer on Facebook!

Highlight
"Immortality"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 

Written by Scott 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Backhill – Shadow Man


Backhill is a new project from Finnish multi-instrumentalist Kimmo Perämäki, who handles the guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals on “Shadow Man”. Though his musical history lies in power metal (he is a former member of Celesty), “Shadow Man” leans in a bit of a different direction. The best description of this release would be melodic metal. It’s definitely a bit of a vague term in general, but it perfectly describes this album. The songs are built around great melodies, both vocal and guitar, and it sort of sounds like “easy-listening” metal. In fact, the only song on this entire album that displays any aggression is the short tune “She Said” (which is one of the stronger tracks). Aside from that, the rest of the album is more straightforward, and very easy to get into. At times, the band builds a bit of a creepy atmosphere, such as on the title track, but overall, this album is just about having fun.

Two very apt comparisons to Backhill would be the bands Altaria and Fullforce. Both are more focused on writing really great songs rather than sticking within the confines of power metal. As a result, the music ends up being a bit lighter, and perhaps alienates those who need some double bass, but the music ultimately proves very rewarding. Backhill takes a similar approach on “Shadow Man”. As the album goes on, it actually strays further from metal and more into rock territory. One exception is the closing ballad “Little Lighthouse”, which is neither rock nor metal. Despite being the softest song on the album, it is actually one of the best. It is a duet featuring some female vocals, and a really catchy chorus. The song actually sounds like it was written for Michael Kiske; or at least, both singers offer a similar delivery that is very effective (it's just easy to imagine how incredible Kiske would sound on this track). Another great tune is the instrumental "Jaako and the Beanstalk", which displays both Perämäki's shredding abilities and his ability to write incredibly captivating guitar lines.

Despite my praise above, I find the album to be lacking just a little. As mentioned earlier, I’m ok with it not being too heavy, but unfortunately it doesn’t feel like the songs always make up for the lack of speed and intensity. When they do, this album is incredibly enjoyable, but at other times, you kind of just want Perämäki to let loose and unleash a power metal assault. At the very least, this album displays a lot of potential. There’s nothing that’s outright bad, but perhaps a better balance between the band’s softer approach and some more rocking tunes could make the band’s future records stronger. Nevertheless, this is highly recommended for fans of the aforementioned Altaria and Fullforce, as you can never have too much of that style of music!

Be sure to check out and like Backhill on Facebook!

Highlights
"Shadow Man"
"She Said"
"Jaako and the Beanstalk"
"Little Lighthouse"

Final Rating
3.75/5 or 75%. 

Written by Scott 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Grethor – Cloaked In Decay

Cloaked In Decay” marks EP number 2 for Grethor. This American black/death metal group plays really twisted music. It’s almost misanthropic; this EP truly sounds like the soundtrack for anyone who hates anything and everything. This is most obvious from the vocals, which hack, wheeze, and scream their way through the EP. Despite offering a variety of different vocal styles, all of them sound bizarre. Of course, this is a perfect fit for the music, which presents unique-sounding sections of excessive dissonance. The guitars are often playing melodies and riffs that are technically unpleasing (though this is the intended effect). It seems that as these guitar lines stray further and further from any sort of standard music theory, the rest of the band also ramps up the intensity, with the drums usually finding a way to blast at inhuman speeds.

The band does spend some time playing more straightforward black/death metal. There’s no shortage of brutal, downtuned riffs on “Cloaked in Decay”. Many of these riffs tend to be consistent 16th note patterns that flow well with the continuous thunder of double bass. As these sections are not the primary focus relative to the dissonant sections, it is understandable why the production is not particularly clean. This EP is on the noisy side of things, with no one instrument really winning the battle. Certain aspects of the drums are quite a bit louder than others (noticeably the ride cymbal), but for the most part, the instruments are jumbled together in a way that will take multiple listens to truly decipher. Nevertheless, this approach to production seems congruent with the band’s musical direction, and you can’t really fault them for it.

Admittedly, I’ve never found much appeal in this style of music. Grethor does execute it well, but it feels like once you’ve heard one album like this, you’ve heard a lot of them. Perhaps that changes with extensive listening of this style, but sometimes the idea of making music that breaks all of the rules is better than the actual result of it. Again, this is no comment against Grethor’s musical quality, as “Cloaked In Decay” accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do.

Be sure to check out and like Grethor on Facebook!

Highlights
All of it

Final Rating
3.5/5 or 70%. 

Written by Scott 

Cambion – Unfold Chaos Supreme

With members in both the US and Germany, Cambion is an international death metal group built upon hatred and brutality. Their 2015 release, “Unfold Chaos Supreme”, is exactly as the title describes: a high-quality offering of pure anarchy. One thing about this release is for sure: it is not for the faint of heart. At the opening of “Bend The Knee (To Molech)”, the band starts blasting away, and rarely lets up (with a slight exception at the end of "Perfected Aggressor"). This album sounds like a constant jackhammer, with eerie, twisted tremolo-picked riffs accompanying the relentless beating of the snare drum (I would seriously question if a snare drum could even survive one of their songs without breaking). These elements combine to form something that is truly decrepit and evil, rather than just brutal. Cambion’s vocalist is likewise a great complement to this effort, as his vocals blur the line between growls and shrieks, and ultimately just sound evil. Normally, I would take issue with the fact that they’ve clearly put his vocals low in the mix, but that just enhances the atmosphere in this case. It makes his screams sound like he’s trapped and desperately trying to escape, and it helps keep the riffs in focus even while he is growling.

Another aspect of “Unfold Chaos Supreme” that is particularly enjoyable is the guitar solos. If they made any sort of melodic sense, it just wouldn’t work, which is why the Kreator (“Pleasure to Kill”-era) and Slayer-styled solos are perfect. A great comparison would be to Slayer’s “Altar of Sacrifice”, where solos come in seemingly at random and exist to create an even more hellacious environment. As you may have guessed, this complete mayhem means that there is little room for anything you can really cling onto about specific songs. But “Unfold Chaos Supreme” is one of those instances where it just doesn’t matter. Cambion has set out to assault your eardrums and they’ve succeeded. If you come to this style of metal for songwriting, you’re in the wrong place. The only slight exception to this is the opening of “Perfected Aggressor”, where the riff reminds me of a Cannibal Corpse riff, but even that song quickly devolves into a fury of incomprehensible savagery. Overall, if you need a record that oozes hatred, there is no better choice than “Unfold Chaos Supreme”.

Be sure to check out and like Cambion on Facebook!

Highlights
All of it

Final Rating
4.2/5 or 84%. 

Written by Scott 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Crÿptic Shift – Beyond The Celestial

Beyond The Celestial” is the newest demo from UK extreme metal band Crÿptic Shift. Though it offers just two tracks, there is plenty of material here to enjoy. In fact, this demo is features an absurd number of riffs, each and every one of which will induce immediate neck trauma. The band doesn’t play at full speed for the entirety of the demo, but they do serve up some pretty absurd tempos. Their riffing style is abstract, and unlike anything I’ve ever heard. “Voyage Through Dimensions” in particular has a riff that starts out like an extreme thrashy riff and then ends with a technical, modern-day Cannibal Corpse-styled riff. If that description made little to no sense, it really is a perfect description then; at times, this demo gets downright weird. The aforementioned track also features plenty of riffs that are harmonized, and at times, some of these sections sound like the guitars are competing against each other, rather than working together.

Aside from the weirdness of this band, Crÿptic Shift does provide more normal metal elements. The vocals are a death/black hybrid-sounding rasp, with more than enough aggression to suit the music. The drumming is stellar, coming up with some unique patterns (see the intro of “Voyage Through Dimensions” for the best example). The bass playing is difficult to hear (except for when neither guitar is playing anything on the low end), but that is more of a function of the production, which admittedly is not the best. This album is noisy, and it will take a few listens to really decipher what is happening. In that respect, it actually reminds me of early Voivod, which might also be an apt comparison for the general sound of this band. They use interesting chords and dissonant sounds to take familiar metal tropes and put their own spin on them. While more Crÿptic Shift is extreme than Voivod, they share that same twisted vision.

Be sure to check out and like Crÿptic Shift on Facebook!

Highlight
"Voyage Through Dimensions"

Final Rating
3.9/5 or 78%. 

Written by Scott 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Suffer The Pain – Midnight Sacrifice

Midnight Sacrifice” is the first full-length from Swedish band Suffer The Pain. At less than 30 minutes, this 14 track ripper is a short, but sweet offering of crusty, punky death metal. The songs on this record tend to be largely in the same vein: fast-paced, driven by solid buzzsaw riffs (check out the tremolo-picked riff in the title track for the best example, though quite a few tracks have a similar-styled riff), and drums that worship at the altar of punk. This sound means that not too many of the tracks stand out from one another, but they all offer lots of aggression and quality riffs. The vocals tend to be standard growls. They’re not excessively guttural, which means that you can pick out words here and there, and would likely be able to follow along easily with the lyric sheet. Though the vocals and guitars are quite competent, the highlight on this album is the drumming. They're incredibly active, both with fills and standard beats. They help to keep the record going at full force for its entire playtime.

One potential area of improvement for Suffer The Pain is the production. With this style of release, it is understandable that the production isn’t exactly crisp or clear sounding; however, because the guitars are so distorted and the album sounds so quiet, it actually doesn’t make things particularly heavy. What the band plays is heavy, but it just doesn’t sound as heavy as it could, especially when compared to the giants of Swedish death metal like Entombed or Unleashed. Another minor complaint is in the lyrics on “Nightmare”. The band starts doing some counting, which, to be honest, sounds kind of lame. This music is supposed to be brutal, but it ends up sounding like a kid’s version of a death metal song.

In any case, these two issues are definitely not problematic enough to ruin the album. In fact, “Midnight Sacrifice” is a pretty solid ball of energy, and will likely appeal to anyone who wants their death metal to start crossing over to punk. Though the band is firmly rooted in metal, the outside influences on this record are clear, and add something unique to the band’s sound.

Be sure to check out and like Suffer the Pain on Facebook!

Highlight
"Midnight Sacrifice"

Final Rating
3.5/5 or 70%. 

Written by Scott