Sunday, March 1, 2015

Antioch – Antioch

It’s getting a little bit absurd just how many traditional heavy metal and speed metal bands are coming out of Ontario these days. As long as they keep up the quality, however, this really isn’t a problem. Newcomers Antioch definitely do just that with their first EP, which is a self-titled release featuring 6 tracks of pure, unfiltered heavy metal. Surprisingly, the EP is actually a tale of two sounds. On the one hand, Antioch displays the incredibly high-speed, charged style of speed metal played by fellow countrymen Skull Fist and Axxion. The songs in this vein (“Phantoms of the Sky” and “Leather Demon” being the strongest two) are incredible metal anthems that are driven by the absurd vocals of Nicholas Allaire. This man’s voice knows no bounds. In the aforementioned songs, he spends much of his time screaming his lungs out, not unlike Rob Halford on “Painkiller”. It truly is incredible some of the notes he hits in these songs. The rest of the band likewise takes their cue from that album, offering up scorching speedy licks and a rhythm section that complements this style.

At other times, however, Antioch takes a different approach. Some of these songs (“Inquisition” and “Golden Road”) are of a more epic, stomping heavy metal sound. The former track is practically an ode to bands like Candlemass, with its doom-laden riffs and astounding vocal performance. Although these two sounds provide somewhat of a strange juxtaposition on the EP, they’re both executed so well that there’s no real reason to complain. No matter which approach the band takes, there are always catchy riffs and melodies, as well as a very genuine vocal display.

All of this is without mentioning by far the best song on the EP: “Deathwell”. This song is a fitting end to this release. The chorus of this track redefines what catchy is, and the way it is combined with guitar solos in the outro show the band giving you everything they have. Most of the song has a very feel-good metal to it. The riffs are just so classic and enjoyable that you really can't criticize it in any way. Overall, “Antioch” is a stellar EP. The band is clearly very talented when it comes to writing songs with hooks and memorable sections, and they mix up their sound enough to keep things interesting. While they certainly have a lot of competition in the heavy and speed metal scenes, their material worthy to stand alongside their fellow Canadian bands.

Be sure to check out and like Antioch on Facebook!

Highlights
"Inquisition"
"Leather Demon"
"Deathwell"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 

Written by Scott  

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Running Death – Overdrive

Though modern day Germany doesn’t seem to pump out thrash bands quite like the country did in the 80s, there is still no shortage of denim-vest clad kids ready to create a frenzy of mosh-friendly riffs. Running Death has been around for over a decade now, but is only just releasing their first record studio album, “Overdrive”, in March 2015. Although Running Death makes no major innovations to the thrash sound, it is clear very quickly that they aren’t simply an Exodus clone. This album is sonically quite different from many of the band’s peers. The production is more laid-back and not excessively loud, which compliments the bands more melodic and speed metal-oriented approach. The band doesn’t downtune excessively (or possibly even at all; though my ear isn’t quite pitch-perfect, these guys definitely aren’t reaching modern levels of downtuning). The band’s riffs complement this approach. This means that Running Death isn’t playing at warp-speed all the time (but if you are looking for that, "Raging Nightmare" fits the bill perfectly!). Instead, they make good use of a variety of tempos and grooves to create something more than a 50-minute thrashing. Sometimes this leads to a truly sideways style of riffing, complete with weird rhythms or bluesy scales, but these differences make the album even more compelling.

Where Running Death is likely to either convince or lose some people is in the vocal approach. Lead singer Simon Bihlmayer is just that: a singer. Rather than trying to emulate the savage throat ripping of Mille Petrozza, he leans more towards the singers of bands like Deathrow or Iron Angel. In other words, though his accent is a bit heavy, he is definitely on the melodic side of things. He can become a bit more vicious occasionally, but overall, he is definitely playing to the band’s speed/thrash approach with his more singing. Granted, he’s not the most technically developed, but he does stand out quite a bit. The only slight complaint I have towards him is in the song “Remote Controlled”, where his vocals are mixed pretty low and it’s hard to hear him clearly over the guitars.

Overdrive” is a pretty lengthy experience. Though it only comes out to 10 songs after excluding the intro and interlude, the album does occasionally drag on a bit. Fortunately, the band’s diversity works to their favour, as it makes an album of this length bearable. With that said, it does feel like “Overdrive” lacks a few really killer tracks. The title song is certainly the best, and nothing sticks out in a bad way, but there aren’t too many hooks here despite all of the use of melody. Instead, the listener is treated to lots of shredding solos and great riffs (see the intro of "Mercenary" for examples of both), alongside plenty of more mid-paced emotionally charged sections. Ultimately however, “Overdrive” is a great listen because it isn’t something we’ve all heard 1000 times before. If you’re feeling a bit burned out on the THRASH THRASH THRASH approach of modern thrash bands, “Overdrive” is just the change of pace you need.

Be sure to check out and like Running Death on Facebook!

Highlights
"Raging Nightmare"
"Overdrive"

Final Rating
4.0/5 or 80%. 

Written by Scott 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Planet Eater – Planet Eater

I’m never surprised to find great metal bands in certain parts of the world (after all, we’re in the digital age now), but what does surprise me is just how many bands come out of particular areas. In this case, Canada’s prairie provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, for the non-Canadians out there) seems to provide an endless supply of metal bands, particularly those that lean to the more aggressive side of things. One good example of this is Planet Eater, a death metal band from Saskatchewan. Their first EP is a self-titled release that offers up an energetic series of tracks. Things kick off with the highlight of the EP, “Burn It To The Ground”. As the title suggests, this song absolutely destroys everything in its path. Though it offers many great riffs, what makes this track effective is the sheer catchiness of its title, and how it is easy to sing along to. The rest of the EP doesn’t stand out quite as much, but is nonetheless serviceable.

Planet Eater’s sound draws influence from a variety of death metal (and other) sounds, and it would be unfair to label them as simply a clone of another band. There is a lot of punk on this EP, which is primarily evident in the faster, higher energy sections. At times, this punk influence almost makes it feel more like a deathgrind record, not unlike early Bolt Thrower. Though perhaps not as pummeling as the aforementioned band, Planet Eater still provides plenty of headbanging material, and have a rhythm-heavy approach. Many of Planet Eater’s riffs are a bit more unique rhythmically than straight chugging or alternate picking (though those riffs exist as well).

One of the more interesting aspects of this EP is the vocal performance. It is clear that Planet Eater’s singer has many sides to his voice, but he spends much of his time in a standard death growl. His vocals are not too difficult to understand, and they’re more mid-ranged than ultra-guttural. He also can also lay back on the harshness at times in favour of something closer to a thrash vocal style. Overall, his voice definitely helps make the songs easier to appreciate, as he is clearly quite talented.

Planet Eater” is an EP that is absolutely worth hearing. If for nothing else, at least check out the madness of the opening track, and then make a decision about whether or not to venture further with this EP. Though it’s hard to argue that Planet Eater brings much new to the table, they don’t need to, as they’ve done a solid job of combining many sounds into one that is their own.

Be sure to check out and like Planet Eater on Facebook!

Highlight
"Burn It To The Ground"

Final Rating
3.7/5 or 74%. 

Written by Scott 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Deathbreed – New World Order

New World Order” marks the debut full-length for Swedish death metal band Deathbreed. Sweden has a long, rich history of death metal, ranging from the old-school bands like Entombed and Unleashed, to the more modern-sounding melodeath sensations Arch Enemy and In Flames, among others. Additionally, there’s a whole host of new death metal bands that pay incredible homage for the aforementioned old-schoolers. For that reason, you might expect Deathbreed to fall into one of these camps, but they really don’t. The best way to describe Deathbreed is as a modern death metal band that does everything right, but without trying to directly emulate or rip-off any other bands. The riffs that the band presents on this album are not exactly filthy, but they aren’t melodic either. Instead, they’re semi-technical, not unlike some of the later Cannibal Corpse records (in other words, they're crazy hard to play, but aren't Brain Drill-like). And perhaps Cannibal Corpse as a whole really is the best comparison to Deathbreed. It might be unfair to call Deathbreed generic, but really, when someone says death metal without any other adjective or prefix, this is exactly the sound that comes to mind. It’s bludgeoning, it’s brutal, but it doesn’t go overboard or technicality, breakdowns, or poor production. Granted, it’s not devoid or sweeps or chugging, but it doesn’t rely on them as a crutch.

But this presents the fundamental flaw with “New World Order”. If it doesn’t stand out from the crowd in terms of style, it at least needs to have great songs. Nothing on this record is bad, but it certainly can’t match up to the aforementioned Corpse. The problem is that with so many death metal records out there, it makes “New World Order” a bit redundant. I’ve listened to the record quite a few times now, and it does have its moments (“Surveillance” has a really cool solo, and the opening riff to “In The Name of Democracy” sounds like it was written by someone as crazy as Pat O’Brien), but there is not too much that can be recalled when the album is over. If you’re looking for a record to get some aggression out, or just to bang your head to, this will get the job done. The album is by all means incredibly technically proficient and well put-together, but it lacks the songwriting necessary to truly make you come back time and time again.

Be sure to check out and like Deathbreed on Facebook!

Highlights
"Surveillance"
"In The Name of Democracy"

Final Rating
3.4/5 or 68%. 

Written by Scott 

Invincible Force – Satan Rebellion Metal

Satan Rebellion Metal” is the first full-length for Chilean thrash/death/black metal band Invincible Force, and will be released by perhaps the most trusted of all underground metal labels, Dark Descent Records. The first band that comes to mind upon seeing Invincible Force’s name and imagery is of course, the legendary Destruction. When the music kicks in, however, it becomes clear that while Destruction did influence this band, they aren’t really all that similar. Invincible Force takes plenty of inspiration from more extreme metal as they incorporate lots of blast beats and incredibly dirty and malicious-sounding vocals. This is evident from the opening of “Rise The Wrath of Satan”, where the drumming takes hold of your attention and never really lets up until the song ends.

Despite having 8 tracks, this album is really more like an EP. It barely cracks 24 minutes, and is over incredibly quickly. With that said, this format works to Invincible Force’s strengths. The songs tend to have a few simplistic riffs (not unlike Destruction) that are always vicious and forceful, and then end without much fanfare. Perhaps the one exception to this is my favourite track on the record, “Summoning The Black Destruction”. The first minute and 20 seconds or so of this song shows so much potential. There is no blasting, and very minimal vocals. Instead, Invincible Force unleashes their best-crafted and most brutal riffs upon the listener in full Destruction-worship mode (the next song, “Desolation”, starts in a similar manner, but the vocals come in quite a bit quicker). Maybe I came into this album with the wrong intentions, but if it were 24 minutes of this sound, it would probably be near the top of my year-end list.

Nevertheless, the thrashing that Invincible Force provides is still up to par. Although there are a lot of black and death metal elements to this release, it still feels like a thrash record at heart. The band never sounds complacent in their energy, and is always looking to rip your neck apart. The production on “Satan Rebellion Metal” is incredibly suited to the music offered. It is clear enough that every instrument can be heard with no struggle, but it is not a particularly clean sounding release. Ultimately, although I don’t tend to be the biggest fan of thrash/death/black metal combinations (or even bands that combine the latter two styles), Invincible Force is great because they come at it from a thrash point of view. In my mind, there’s little debate that this band would be superior if they just stuck with the thrash elements, but “Satan Rebellion Metal” is still a must-have for those wishing to join the dark side.

Be sure to check out and like Invincible Force on Facebook!

Highlight
"Summoning The Black Destruction"

Final Rating
4.0/5 or 80%. 

Written by Scott 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

LH05 – When Hope Loses Us

At the end of 2014, Florida’s LH05 released their debut album “When Hope Loses Us”. This record is definitely among the more unconventional death metal albums out there, as it successfully combines the mechanical aggression of brutal death metal with the haunting atmosphere and emotion that keyboards, piano, and other melodies can bring. In that sense, perhaps the most accurate way to describe this album is that it sounds like the result of Insomnium playing brutal death metal. There are quite a few sections with narrations and voiceovers, most of which end up being pretty creepy (see the opening track “Farewell” for a great example). Often times the band can actually slow it down as well, which is usually pretty effective. Though at some times this makes the album more of a death/doom hybrid, LH05 is able to make this sound work, as it lines up with the atmosphere the band creates throughout the album.

The death metal elements of “When Hope Loses Us” are not necessarily the most captivating. There is a lot of chugging, and the riffs are incredibly muted and rhythmic. Naturally, the drums follow along with this, as do the indecipherable vocals. Sometimes the band (namely, the drummer) speeds things up a bit, to greater effect. Of course, the reason why this album is successful has more to do with the blend of melody with this death metal sound, so if you go in expecting as many riffs as a Cannibal Corpse record, you’ll undoubtedly leave disappointed. Still, the bludgeoning forceful rhythms are somehow quite hypnotic, particularly when the keyboards shine through to support them (see "Clarity" for a great example). Equally intriguing is when the lead guitars come through. This is something brutal death metal bands don’t do enough; usually there is a distinct separation between the pulsing beats of the music, and the spastic solo section; in LH05’s case, they use lead guitars to support the rest of the song, as seen in the ending of “Swamp of Sorrow”, or even the catchy leads of “Black Bird” or "Waltz of Death".

One likely area of contention on this record will be the use of interludes. Personally, I find that most bands that include narration in their interludes usually fail to do so in a worthwhile way. That isn’t the case for LH05 though. Though the piano sections in “Don’t Be Afraid”, for example, are quite jarring changes from the rest of the track, and incredibly strange sounding, they fit with what the band is trying to accomplish on this record. Overall, this proves to be a recurring theme on the album. While you may have heard the individual elements at play here before, you probably haven’t heard them in the way that LH05 puts them together. This album will probably be a grower, but it is a worthwhile effort simply because it isn’t a rehash of everything else we’ve heard before.

Be sure to check out and like LH05 on Facebook!

Highlights
All of it

Final Rating
3.5/5 or 70%. 

Written by Scott