Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Horizons Edge – Heavenly Realms

Heavenly Realms” is album number two for Australian power metal group Horizons Edge. Don’t let the fact that the band is unsigned fool you, this is very impressive power metal that is sure to please fans of the subgenre. The band’s approach is not unique, but it is effective. Relying on pleasing, soaring melodies, uptempo songs, and wild vocals, Horizons Edge knows what works. Though they should not be classified as a progressive band, they do have some of those tendencies. Sometimes the melodies are a little stranger, or a bit more out there, but this prevents the band from sounding strictly like a combination of power metal tropes.

The main factor that will make you love or hate this album is the vocals of Kat Sproule. To be clear, she has a good voice, but it isn’t always used as effectively as it could be. She definitely suffers from not restraining her voice, and instead hitting notes at her will. Still though, she comes up with some pretty catchy vocal lines, and songs like “Vagabond”, and especially “Ride The Stars” will be stuck in your head for a while. The latter song in particular is the most effective on the album because it is a high-speed affair, not unlike something I would expect from a band such as Gamma Ray (with lower-pitched vocals, of course) or Keldian.

One song deserving of special mention is the cover of Gown's “Head Honcho”. If you’re anything like me, you probably had no idea who this band is. In fact, after doing some research, I’m still not sure I’m on the right track here, but Gown is a band that appeared in the movie “Hot Rod” (one of my favourite movies ever), featuring members of Queens of the Stone Age. The song they play in the movie is an 80s hair metal-styled anthem, which is precisely what Horizons Edge covers here. As a sucker for that style of metal, this cover is incredible, and quite possibly the best part of the record. Its melodies are killer, and the chorus is absurdly memorable. 

On the whole, “Heavenly Realms” is an album that displays how well-versed in power metal Horizons Edge is. The band could benefit from tightening up the songwriting a little bit, and even the mix (the vocals feel very distant), but overall, this record succeeds in doing what it set out to.

Be sure to check out and like Horizons Edge on Facebook!

"Ride The Stars"
"Head Honcho"

Final Rating
4.1/5 or 82%. 

Written by Scott

Friday, November 20, 2015

Assimilation – Apotheosis

From the Western end of Canada comes “Apotheosis”, the debut EP from death metal band Assimilation. This release takes considerable influence from old-school death metal, with particular nods to some of the heavier, slower Morbid Angel songs at times (such as on the title track), as well as references to thrashier bands at other times. This latter sound is evidenced by the riffing style and the guitar tone, which tend to lean more towards the sharp, buzzing riffs of thrash. In direct contrast to both styles are the guitar solos, which present a more balanced, melodic approach. Though they don’t sound out of place, these solos definitely provide variation amidst a release that is otherwise dominated by the low-end.

The vocals on this release are one of the better examples in the subgenre. Again, Morbid Angel proves to be somewhat of a good comparison, as Assimilation’s vocalist is able to capture that ghastly, ghoulish sound so well. His voice has a bit more low-end though, with the ability to hit higher notes as needed. In general, he tends to complement the musical madness that surrounds him, as the band utilizes double bass, tremolo-picking, sweeping, and a variety of other techniques as required. No particular sound is abused, but none is capitalized on either. While “Apotheosis” is technically proficient, its songs don’t have the catchiness of tracks like “Evil Spells” or “Where The Slime Live”. Assimilation does have a ton of great riffs, and if they can amp up the memorability and quality of songwriting a little bit, it would not be a surprise to see them sign to a legendary label like Dark Descent Records or FDA Rekotz anytime soon.

Be sure to check out and like Assimilation on Facebook!

All of it

Final Rating
3.7/5 or 74%. 

Written by Scott

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Under The Church – Rabid Armageddon

Featuring 2 members of Swedish death metal legends Nirvana 2002, Under The Church is a band that continues to fly the flag of the disgusting, HM-2 driven sound that the country is known for. “Rabid Armageddon” is the band’s first full-length release, and is a stellar album that perfectly encompasses everything that these bands were about in the early 1990s. For one thing, the guitar tone on this album is beyond heavy. It sounds as if they’ve tuned as low as humanly possible, connected several HM-2 pedals together (which doesn’t even really make sense), and ran it through their amp’s distortion channel. Seriously, this sound is not for the faint of heart; it has some major fuzz to it, making riffs more discernable by their rhythms than the pitches of the notes they contain. Nonetheless, Under The Church manages to write great songs even though a lot of the guitar parts run together.

The title track is one of the best examples, as its chorus will make you easily scream along to “Rabid Armageddon” with easy. Whether it is your first listen of the album or your 10th, this song remains the easiest to latch on to. Another standout is “Suspended In Gore”, where lead vocalist Mik Annetts enunciates clearer than anywhere else on the record so that you can easily hear the carnage he describes. As he delivers lyrical violence, the band also consistently delivers musical mayhem. There is not a moment of compromise on this record, as it is filled to the brim with cavernous, monolithic riffs with no end in sight. The band does experiment slightly on “Penance”, as much of the song makes use of slower, doomier riffs that are definitely unexpected, but the result is still immensely heavy. Even though Under The Church does a pretty good job of writing memorable songs, having this unique section on the record helps to keep the entire record fresh. 

Rabid Armageddon” has everything an old-school Swedish death metal fan could ask for. Admittedly, this has never been my favourite style of death metal, primarily because I felt like there was less emphasis on songwriting in the Swedish scene than in the Floridian death metal scene, for example. But Under The Church has no such problem, and they also deliver the authentic sound as though it were still 1992. Combine this with the absolutely astounding cover art, and you’ve got a very complete package.   

Be sure to check out and like Under The Church on Facebook!

"Rabid Armageddon"
"Suspended In Gore"
"Walpurgis Night"

Final Rating
4.0/5 or 80%. 

Written by Scott

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sadistic Ritual – Edge of the Knife

One of the only things more exciting for me than realizing I missed a release from one of my favourite labels is discovering that it’s a thrash release that passed by me. This sets the scene for Sadistic Ritual’sEdge of the Knife” EP, which was put out by Unspeakable Axe Records in July 2015. As the cover art implies, this release is pure violence. Not unlike bands such as Kreator or Razor, Sadistic Ritual aims to verbally and musically slash your throat with their vicious riffs and maniacal, crazed vocals. From start to finish, “Edge of the Knife” is a release that unleashes vast amounts of aggression, and never stops. It isn’t quite a hyperspeed release in the way that bands like Sadus or label mates Besieged employ, but is instead more of a balanced thrash attack. The primary difference between those bands and Sadistic Ritual lies primarily in the drumming, as this band’s drummer has quite a bit more variety in the beats he plays. The ability to mix things up leads to numerous great moments throughout the CD.

The opening track, “Merciless Retribution”, spends quite a bit of time thrashing your neck away before transitioning into a death metal-influenced passage, complete with tremolo picking and blast beats. The very next track, “Funeral Raid”, utilizes shredding that is much cleaner than the buzzsaw-esque rhythm guitar tone that the EP uses. This makes for a nice contrast, as it shows some variety on an otherwise savage release. Another highlight is “Restless Dead”. As the name implies, the riffs on this song are truly restless, with the track features some of the most energetic riffs on the record. The title track continues this crusade by featuring a riff supported by a quarter note bass drum pump-up. The result is a section that will make you want to break everything around you, in true Paul Baloff fashion.

Edge of the Knife” utilizes a standard assault when it comes to thrashing. Their riffs are by no means unique. Similarly, their vocal approach sounds like an Americanized version of Mille Petrozza’s visceral attack. Nonetheless, this sound is effective because Sadistic Ritual has so much conviction. Never content with the riff they’re playing, the band always strives to find something more brutal. It cannot be overemphasized how much “Edge of the Knife” is aided by its production. As noted above, the rhythm guitars are razor sharp, and the remaining instruments similarly straddle the line between sounding way better than their 1980s counterparts, and not sounding like an overproduced modern thrash release. This approach makes the band sound incredibly tight as they shred out riffs immense speed. Overall, this EP was a pleasant surprise because it is another take on a familiar sound. There are plenty of bands who are sonically similar to Sadistic Ritual, but few are this compelling. 

Be sure to check out and like Sadistic Ritual on Facebook!

"Funeral Raid"
"Restless Dead"
"Edge of the Knife"

Final Rating
4.5/5 or 90%. 

Written by Scott