Sunday, November 12, 2017

Euphoria – The Omega Void

Detroit’s Euphoria made a huge splash with their Vektor-inspired tech-thrash record “Operation: Genesis” last year. Fortunately, they wouldn’t wait too long before giving us another taste of this cyberschizophrenic brand of thrash, as they have recently unleashed a new EP. Besides featuring far superior cover art, “The Omega Void” largely follows in the footsteps of its predecessor. Featuring mind-boggling riffing that sounds like it was written by extraterrestrial lifeforms, the songs on this EP are simply otherworldly. The band’s psychotic maelstrom of riffs is complemented by a vocalist whose voice defies logic. At times, he imitates a more predictable thrash singer, but he always has a tinge of shriekyness in his sound. There’s no shortage of ear-piercing screams on this record, and they only up the intensity of the music. If you ever successfully understand what he’s saying, it might be helpful to have a dictionary handy because this isn’t music about zombies ripping people apart: it’s some complex stuff (and I say that as someone with a Master’s degree…).

Surprisingly, even the production on “The Omega Void” is almost identical to the band’s debut. There was a unique, punchy bass drum tone that Euphoria had created last time around, and it is still retained on this EP. Aside from the drums, the guitars also stand out for having a razor-sharp tone, making some of the more standard thrash riffs even more aggressive. Despite Euphoria’s tendency towards all things extreme, they have some softer moments. The lengthy “Dimension Zeroth” has a huge melodic interlude where the band’s guitarist unleashes some fury on his fretboard. The remaining instruments eventually build back to heavier music, but the solo keeps going. The band’s ability to seamlessly move between these types of segments makes them far more effective. 

There really aren’t many legitimate weaknesses of “The Omega Void”. While it does only have two full tracks, the latter is almost nine minutes of fun. The interlude of “Senescence” is definitely a waste of time, and consists of some scratchy violins with no clear purpose. Hopefully, the band’s future full-lengths avoid the progressive tendencies to stuff albums full of interludes that don’t really add any value. When Euphoria is thrashing, they do so exceptionally, so as long as they stay on track, they will definitely still be a band to watch for the future!

Be sure to check out and like Euphoria on Facebook!

Highlights
"The Divine Embrace"
"Dimension Zeroth"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Midnight – Sweet Death and Ecstasy

Few bands can claim as much responsibility for the recent rise of dirty black/thrash/speed metal as Cleveland’s Midnight. And while this naturally attracts a horde of incredibly untalented musicians making mediocre music, Midnight has always been a cut above their imitators. 2014’s “No Mercy For Mayhem” in particular was filled to the brim with energetic, catchy tunes. For this reason, the follow-up, “Sweet Death and Ecstasy” proved to be somewhat of a disappointment.

Make no mistake, this album still sounds like Midnight. Athenar’s Cronos-like vocals are still in tact, as he grunts his way through the record with little difficulty. Musically, the band hasn’t really changed their approach either, opting for a rough around the edges sound. The music is incredibly proficient for the style, and Midnight is adept at adding melody to their songs (a major failing of many of the band’s peers). Nevertheless, the album retains a sleazy, almost sloppy feel to it.

With a familiar sound, it might not be clear why “Sweet Death and Ecstasy” is a disappointment, but the truth is that the songwriting just isn’t as memorable as it was in the past. There isn’t a single effort that stands out as being an instant live favourite. It doesn’t help that the pacing of the record was mismanaged; it opens with a 7-minute, plodding track that does very little of interest, and then immediately rips into a shorter, speedier number that sounds exactly like what everyone would want out of Midnight. 

After this, it’s business as usual for Midnight. Most tracks are on the faster side, and overflowing with simplistic, NWOBHM-esque riffs. So while the record might not be a disappointment for most, it just feels like Midnight bought into their own hype. While metal isn’t really relevant enough to offend anyone in 2017, the cover art feels like a cry for attention. The music is by the numbers, which isn’t to say it’s bad, but just not as brilliant as their past work. So if you’re a fan of Midnight, “Sweet Death and Ecstasy” is probably worth a purchase, but it falls very short of the band’s previous album.

Be sure to check out and like Midnight on Facebook!

Highlights
"Penetratal Ecstasy"
"Here Comes Sweet Death"

Final Rating
3.5/5 or 70%. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Hazzerd – Misleading Evil

Calgary’s Hazzerd has been around for a few years now, and while their 2014 EP seems to have slipped past me, the same can’t be said for their debut full-length, “Misleading Evil”. The duality of the cover art might suggest that Hazzerd has two sides to them, but they tend to be a straight forward thrash band. Their influences are no secret, with the Bay Area scene likely having the strongest impact on Hazzerd’s sound, particularly from groups such as Testament or Exodus. Like both bands, Hazzerd gets more melodic or experimental when they need to, but never at the expense of bludgeoning you with riffs. The leads in particular really stand out as being well crafted and unique.

To their credit, Hazzerd is very song-focused. The only time they go somewhat off-path is on the title track, which is an 8-minute progressive instrumental track. It might not reach the brilliance of “The Call of Ktulu” or similar efforts, but is nonetheless a nice change of pace. Beyond this track, highlights continue to be numerous. “Absolute Destruction” is interesting because its verses lock into an insanely tight groove where the guitars play speedy 16th notes, yet the drums are more laid back. Another standout cut is “Under The Influence”, which is the only instance of a less serious track that is more of a party anthem. It’s got a slight speed metal edge to it that isn’t found elsewhere on the record.

One element of “Misleading Evil” that makes it stand out is the production. Like many modern thrash albums, it is loud, but where it differs is how the instruments are mixed. The guitars in particular are substantially louder than every other instrument, sometimes even drowning them out. The outcome is 50/50: on the one hand, riffs are the most important part of a thrash album, and this sound accentuates them, but on the other, sometimes it is just too much. Every other instrument has great moments, so a more balanced mix would also be favourable. It does make the guitar solos even more impressive though.

Production aside, “Misleading Evil” gets the job done. Rarely does a band do such a predictable style of thrash successfully. Their avoidance of more extreme vocals in favour of commonplace shouting is also appreciated. Hazzerd truly sounds like a band from the 80s, back when everyone had the same goal but different ways of achieving it. Make no mistake, although this sound has been done before, Hazzerd has their own way of approaching it. As a result, “Misleading Evil” should be an easy favourite for most thrashers!

Be sure to check out and like Hazzerd on Facebook!

Highlights
"The Tendencies of a Madman"
"Absolute Destruction"
"Misleading Evil"
"Under The Influence"

Final Rating
4.5/5 or 90%.