Sunday, February 24, 2013

Week 73 (February 24th, 2013)


Behold Almighty Doctrine
Unique Leader Records

The latest full-length album from Lecherous Nocturne isn't necessarily a long effort, but it causes quite a bit of chaos with an erratic and extreme edge that's sure to warrant many plays. The band thrashes, blasts and bludgeons through these tracks as if they had to record them all in time for dinner. But they didn't just throw these together either; rather the songs are so well structured with a sense of obscure technicality that I would liken the disc to something of a metal tornado of sound that comes through and leaves nothing but devastation in it's path. The riffs are frantic, the vocals are full of piss and vinegar with a definite core influence; and the whole package comes out sounding like something from CATTLE DECAPITATION, JOB FOR A COWBOY, OBSCURA, DECAPITATED, PIG DESTROYER and perhaps even LAMB OF GOD if they had been just a bit faster and gave a shit less about slow southern groove. The doctrine expressed here is certainly one of fury, it's a Bible of brutality through and through. If you're looking for a disc that you can literally file under the word "extreme" in the dictionary, this will be that "take no prisoners, shoot them all in the fucking head" album that you'd be sure to find listed. Definitely not one to pass up, if you're looking for the heaviest of the heavy. I think the piano interlude is only here to prevent aneurisms or spontaneous human combustion. (Eric May)



Fiends At Feast - Towards The Baphomet's Throne (PR2013) - Fiends At Feast are a Californian black metal five piece that also bleeds into death metal. This is their debut release, following an earlier EP. The disc sees the band doing everything right, from the ice fueled melodies, fiery bass lines, and venom soaked vocals. But not only that, these guys do enjoy the solo and don't mind employing it. The structure of the songs are also well conceived, making songs like "With Blood And Vomit 4:53" and the more eerie prog of "Walls Of Worship 6:33" come across beautifully. Well, as beautifully as one can for Satanic black metal. I really don't feel that there's one single track on this album that is a dud, and am certainly hearing influences from Dissection and Gorgoroth here; which always amounts to some greatness. Truly, this is a black metal album in the fullest regards; it literally bleeds with the blood and spirit of the genre. I'm truly afraid that these gentlemen will go unnoticed and by all means, they shouldn't. After reading one 90% review and one 60% review from other well-known music blogs (that don't have a picture of Megaman X as their current background) I would certainly agree more with the 90% and I feel that the 60% reviewer wasn't really listening to the album, merely just skimming it. Sure, there will be better bands with higher sound quality and maybe some avant-garde Sigh or Blutmond weirdness, but as far as really capturing the spirit of black metal; these gentlemen really seem to do it for me. Even the Spanish language "Profecia Negra 5:01" comes of without a hitch, making frontman Loki a heavy hitter in terms of vocal prowess.

But what's more, is that there are surprises on this album. There are slight influences from bands you might not expect and slight transitions into territory that you also wouldn't expect for this kind of music. But it is 2013 now and I fully agree that these slight differentiations makeup the core of what this era of black metal should sound like. After all, I feel thankful to personally be able to hear these evolutions become more apparent in black metal as we head toward something that seems to be as a big of a step as Venom in the 80's to Emperor in the 90's. Fiends At Feast show that black metal is indeed changing, but they also show that with the more things change; the more they remain the same.

At any rate, I would definitely consider this album worth checking out for the whole of black metal hordes. Could have done without the intro and interludes though.

Highlights: After The Gates Of Hell, With Blood And Vomit, I Am Death, Walls Of Worship, From Hell They Rise, Hedonistic Heresy, Profecia Negra, Cold Grey Sky (10 Tacks, 40:00)



Mors Principium Est - And Death Said Live (PR2013) - Five years after about a million lineup changes, Mors is back with a new disc that continues their At The Gates/Dark Tranquility influenced melodeath and combines it with core and a vocal approach that reminds me of a Ihsahn had he been influenced by metalcore. Now that statement might automatically be enough to tell people "fuck it, I won't even download it" but you probably already grabbed this from Rockbox or Get Metal and jammed it long before checking out this review in the first place.

The best way to describe the album is in all actuality a core approach to melodic black metal with symphonic influence and some great solo portions. It's definitely catchy, especially opener "Departure 5:44" (disregard the intro, it was a waste of space) which centers around the chorus. However, "I Will Return 4:29" comes along a little more like current Naglfar or final era Dissection (there's an unexpected influence) mixed with At The Gates style that fucking works for me. As I skim again through most of the tracks, I'm noticing much of the same thing about the album - it's pretty straightforward. The songs are all catchy and they all feature some interesting utilizations, but you won't necessarily hear any new ground being broken.

Being that the new Hypocrisy is coming out soon and from the single, seems to offer the same melodeath with catchy choruses (which I personally fucking like and would love to jump in a band to do round-about the same idea with the strong choruses - I've written dozens of lyrics around that structure, "Shackled and Chained" for instance) you aren't going to get anything surprisingly new. It sounds like Hypocrisy, it sounds like Zonaria, it sounds like X band that plays fast melodic death and incorporates repetitive choruses. Yet again, they're all done well here and the music backs it all up well. The fact that the band has incorporated these slight black metal influences certainly appeals to me, I'm definitely hearing the grim tones of (yes, Naglfar) in this wild mix of new musicians.

Nevertheless, And Death Said Live... is definitely a killer release that hits hard with everything that it does do and even if we have heard it before, it's not broken and I'm not going to fix it. As I said, I'd jump at a minute's notice to do material of this same accord, just because I fucking love it so much and consider it an inspiration. Five years may have passed, but this album was worth the wait. There are two deathcore guests (Bring Me The Horizon, Black Dahlia Murder) on this album, but I can't really hear them and am not too worried, so I don't care. I personally think the band's new frontman can hold his own without them and is definitely one of my favorite frontmen in metal music right now.

I jammed the shit out of this one. My opinion is what this blog is about, and I fucking loved this disc. Definitely one of my personal picks for best of the year, if you love catchy melo-death with a dark edge and fantastic guitar work, pick this fucker up. Of course, I'd love to be doing what they did here (just without the touring part.)

Highlights: All (11 Tracks, 46:00)



Manilla Road - Mysterium (PR2013) - Manilla Road need no introduction, they've been around for as long as many of their peers like Manowar and Candlemass, no doubt. I was actually surprised to see that they were working on a new album, (But guess who also is coming out with a new one this year? Satan. Yeah, I can't believe it either.) and though the production is lacking, I feel that some fans will feel right at home with it. I don't feel that opener "The Grey God Passes 4:12" isn't very strong at all, and I don't think the vocal approach works well with it - just seems a little off for some reason that I can't place. The track that follows, "Stand Your Ground 3:02" didn't do much for me either, despite the fact that it certainly thrashes more. And yes, the third track "The Battle Of Bonechester Bridge 4:36" despite it being musically strong, left me with a muffled vocal.

However, "Hermitage 6:11" certainly comes across well and I was quite surprised by it's Iron Maiden meets Candlemass flair. Though the vocal work is still not as powerful as it should be, the guitars certainly make up for it. "Do What Thou Wilt 4:16" follows with a definite doom approach and I certainly like what the song stands for and stand behind it; but again I feel that the vocals are muffled and should be at least raised a bit in the mix. I can't hear this guy very well and I'd like to. I like "Only The Brave 3:43" also, it's got a slight kick that goes into a melodic chorus which takes over most of the song. There's also a wonderful solo, but I believe I can say that about all of the songs, even the ones that I didn't particularly care for had awesome playing. But again, the guitars are heard perfectly, while the vocalist sounds like he's somewhere in the background fog.

I'm going to say the same thing with the next song "Hallowed Be Thy Grave 4:45." The bass riffs thunder and the leads are heard perfectly, but I can barely hear the frontman. I understand that they were going for an analog approach with the disc, but I've just come under the opinion that those days of hard to hear instruments and vocals must have sucked. I'm quite glad that remixing and mastering is now being used on many of these old albums, I love what it did to those early Blind Guardian tracks and hopefully more bands will take the time to polish up some of their old classics. "The Fountain 4:35" follows next, and due to the acoustics I can actually hear the vocals and they certainly work well with the ballad. But some of you might not be looking to hear something like this from Manilla Road.

The last two tracks to follow are "The Calling 4:05" which is an atmospheric interlude that follows the epic (over ten minutes) "Mysterium 11:39." With a song of this length, you'd expect the band to have gone above and beyond the call of duty and I can certainly say that they have. The song starts off light with a few good vocal lines and a solo that takes off into the main thump of the track. I can really hear the vocals on this one, but they don't sound like the were recorded with the band. You can hear the vocalist singing this in a separate studio while the music is playing. That should've been mixed a little better, I don't know how this thing was tracked, if the guitars and drums were recorded on the same track or if they were separate, but I think the guitars and drums should have come up just a little more to give the illusion of the track being performed in the band. Being a man who puts his own vocals on instrumentals, I've become something of an expert at this.

I think that Mysterium is a strong album for sure, but it's plagued with mixing issues that I noticed from the very beginning. The very minute I started playing the disc, I said to myself "this isn't mixed right." But I won't tell you that the bad mixing kills the album either. Mysterium has some truly formidable tracks and the guitar work is unparalleled. The very song itself is a wonderful closer and the effects help to bring that atmosphere. I just don't like the sound guy, whoever that was. There's a very high possibility than one of the band members did this themselves and in that case, someone's probably cursing at me right now. But I have to tell it like it is, straight from the horse's mouth.

Mysterium is musically strong, but could have been so much better. A mix can really make or break your efforts these days and this mix definitely didn't help matters any. Yet, this is (for the most part) a bare-bones analog recording with a full band that doesn't really happen anymore. Perhaps I've grown so used to digital shit and pro-tools that I have almost forgotten what it sounds like when an entire band is playing in the same area together.

A sign of the times? Perhaps. But I recommend that fans of the band and classic heavy metal check out this new album from a certain old dog in the metal pack. There's no reason to cast off a disc completely, due to a bad mix (references the final ...And Oceans album, Cypher and the latest Andromeda album.)

So yeah, there's still some magic in this one.

Highlights: Hermitage, Do What Thou Will, Only The Brave, The Calling, Mysterium (10 tracks, 51:00)



Supuration - Cube 3 (PR2013) - First and foremost, if you're looking for something different in the realms of death metal, go check out Supuration. These guys have been around since 1989 and also developed a side project called S.U.P. that dealt in prog. This album is the third part of their cube saga, called Cube 3 and even though it seems to lack the originality of the second part of the saga Incubation, the new release makes up for the title with what lurks in the music itself. Progressive death metal assaults occur here, with definite gravel vocals and a clean approach that reminds me of Enslaved, just with death metal instead of black metal (but give them time, seeing as they covered so much crap on Riitiir.) and the whole thing comes off as refreshing and unique.

There. I said it. Unique. These days, many bands try to be too unique and wind up sounding just completely odd altogether (not that I don't mind that) but hearing a group of guys that just make a subtle difference really comes off as something of a musical gift to my ears. The first thing you'll notice about Supuration is that the music isn't necessarily fast, even when the drums blast. They also don't seem to be interested in bludgeoning, and even if the drums are pounding in places like "The Delegation 5:32" you will still hear a slight clean vocal interjection (The Disenthrall 2:20.)Yes, this is a different kind of death metal; so leave all of your expectations at the door.

You might consider this odd, but I feel as if I might have to listen to this album one more time, even though I listened to it a few days prior during the listening process that I give each and every album I review. There's just so much going on within this music ("Consumate 6:09" for example) that I literally am having a hard time breaking it down in to a consumable package for words to convey. France has given us a lot of great musical exports, Gojira being one of the most well known; but I must inform you lovers of sweeps that these guys sound absolutely nothing like Gojira. This is certainly progressive death metal of a unique flair (I wouldn't even liken them to Opeth, in all honesty) that is not only interesting, but off-kilter in many aspects and incredibly listenable. The words "Highly Recommended" should certainly appear in 72" font, but I will instead leave you with that observation instead of actually doing what would come off as ridiculous.

One other thing that I need to explain about this band, is that Supuration are death metal. The music is certainly backed with all the grim and unwelcoming atmospheres that you might expect, but it certainly seems like the soundtrack to a really fucked up sci-fi film that I've never seen and certainly want to. There are metal magazines and other blogs that will probably say "yeah, it's okay" but I don't feel that some of these reviewers are literally listening to the music, just skimming through and making way for what's next on their plate, (mainly noting Decibel) so they can go home and listen to the music that they want to listen to. I sometimes feel as if some of these reviewers consider reviewing discs to be a chore. Like "Oh man, they sent me more albums. I really wanted to listen to the band x album" and my response to that, is to check out the promos first. There's a big chance that you'll discover something in there that you will like better than the "band x" album. Or the chance that band x's new album is as good as you would've liked. That happens.

But as far as Surpuration goes, I'm giving it a perfect ten and here is the reason for that. It's different, it's original - not something you've heard over and over again by bands with the same sounds and different names. The execution on the album is perfect, it's death metal with a progressive nature that sounds 100% different from any other band out there doing progressive death metal. Most of them draw on Opeth. These guys do not. They were out before Opeth, if you can believe it. The melodies are catchy, intriguing and a bit odd which I find appealing; and the vocals meld well enough to come across as anything that Enslaved played clean and harsh with while still maintaining the death metal origins of the band. If these guys don't get known for this record here in the states, then I would consider myself completely incompetent in my reviewing abilities and the genre of metal doomed.

This is what I wanted to hear in 2013. These guys brought it. Go check it out.

Highlights: Cube 3 (9 Tracks, 41:00)



The Omega Experiment - The Omega Experiment (PR2013) - These Michigan proggers certainly have much in common with Devin Townsend and you can certainly hear that in the riffs. They've got Devin down perfectly and I've um... never heard that before. Devin Townsend always did his own thing and these guys definitely have somehow emulated that style. As for Devin, he has expressed his personal backing in the project and now the band is finally on Listenable with a debut and plans to tour for this release. If you check the band's facebook, you will note that they are currently on tour right now. But that's enough about these two guys, let's talk about the music.

The band definitely uses the Devin Townsend Band (not project) formula here, definitely making me think of albums like Synchestra and Accelerated Evolution for starters. Of course there are plenty of other influences in the band like Queensrcyhe as noted by the promo material. There certainly is a sense of melodic majesty in this album, something of uplifting messages backed by both men who also share and duet vocals. The fact that these two line up so well together is quite amazing and makes the album worth checking out. If you're a fan of truly great clean vocal work in metal, then I'm not just telling you; I'm commanding you to check out this album and am sure that you will absorb and wind up playing it quite a few times or many more.

The track lengths vary quite a bit here, with the second song "Stimulus 10:21" being a sort of epic and rightfully so. There are the same complex atmospheres here that one could expect from any great Devin Townsend piece; but also the slight meanderings and extremities that separate it from progressive rock. "Furor 7:16" drags this point across with it's electronic thrash nature and use of harsh vocals. However, the song also incorporates moments of harmony while still keeping the metal edge. "Bliss 2:02" will remind us of the album's nature, a battle with drug abuse that continues into "Karma" where the harsh vocals sound more like they came from Demon Hunter than Devin Townsend and I have no idea what's going mid-way through the song, thinking maybe these guys should stick to clean and emphasize their heavy portions with music instead of vocals, making them lose what core influence they might gain from that; unless they are trying to appeal to that one dude that loves his prog and muscle music too. (But seriously guys - I'm joking.)

I have no idea what the band believes in, whether it's common reward/punishment religion or metaphysics or what-have-you; but this album certainly seems to give me a sort of religious (possibly pro-Christian) feel. I could really care less, but some people might have a problem with that; which is quite immature in the first place (after all, Jesus gave to us Extol, Antestor, A Hill To Die Upon and several other killer bands) but people are people.

At any rate, the disc is certainly worth like I've already said; "checking out for those fans of truly great vocal work" and I stand behind that and will amend the statement with "truly great musicianship." Though they have similarities with Devin Townsend, these guys definitely make the music their own and I would certainly like to see what is next for The Omega Experiment. A debut to me is like an offering:" Here's what we can do." A sophomore should expound upon that and I hope that maybe in 2014 or 2015 the band will have an ability to do that. You know, if we're still around by then.

Once more, I recommend that fans of truly great clean vocal work and musicianship give this prog metal two-piece a try. I think these guys will reverberate in the heads of prog fans young and old. They learned from the best in the business after all, so I don't see what could go wrong.

Highlights: Gift, Stimulus, Furor, Karma, Terminus, Paramount (9 Tracks, 56:00)



The Beyond - Frostbitepanzerfuck (PR2013) - You may be familiar with my review of this band's old demo and it's been so long since I did that, that I can't even remember what I gave that disc. At any rate, this thing has been redone with some added tracks and it's definitely much better than I would've expected. I guess I'll have to warn most of you that this contains punk at it's most vulgar and instead of growling or scowling the lyrics to most of these lyrics, they are right in your fucking face. Listening to this at the wrong time could get you into trouble, especially the opener "Roto-Cunt 3:10" and the G.G. Allin cover of "Cunt Sucking Cannibal 3:06" so be careful where you listen to this shit. And yeah, this is the kind of music that people will assume you've got serious mental issues if they catch you listening to it; but it's all part of the fucking display. The Beyond wants to be beyond all that shit quite frankly. "Goat Sodomizer 3:14" is a straight-up black metal track with punk influence that should appeal to fans of the punk Darkthrone era (which ended this year with The Underground Resistance and begins their 80's power? metal era) But honest to fucking god, this shit just sounds so therapeutic in some instances; like when you're walking the halls of the mall on break from your shitty job in the stock room and on your way to get something to eat from what's left of the fucking food court, you see all these people walking around and it just makes you feel better that you don't actually have to converse with any of them. You don't want to know them, nor care to know them. You look at the women and are like, no fucking way - she only wants to shit out kids and go to church and that shit. No fucking way. Might as well call it the fucking walking dead. Never had a problem with religion, just a problem with blind faith and most of the people in my small little area of the world are just that - sheep that are brought up a certain way and that's life.

But when you've got "Frostbitepanzerfuck 5:13" blaring in your ears, it just makes you feel better. The frontman just lets out the most infernal sense of "fuck you" scream and backs it up with even more aggressive punk that makes life more tolerable. Then there's a classic solo that you don't expect either. That makes life even more tolerable. But what I really like about this disc is that some of the tracks come of as pure punk and others come off as black metal. It's a perfect mix of the two and it's vulgar as fucking possible in most instances. I'd love to see these guys live in all honesty, I bet they put on a fucking hell of a show.

Oh, there it is. That's the one I was listening to while walking in the mall. "The Splatterhouse Maniacs 3:36." this tracks is blast beats and demonic scowls that just come off sounding fucking pleasant. And maybe I'm a nutcase, but these guys probably are nuts too. Hell, did you know that there are 27 invisible chemtrails in our air right now? Go look that shit up. If I'm crazy, I'm blaming the fucking air. Oh yeah, "Necro Overload 2:47." has some wonderful words in it also, that make me feel calm. The final track "Exterminate Humanity 4:35" is much slower than the others and it's got a darker vocal tone than the previous tracks. It almost sounds a bit doom, but let me fucking tell you something - it kills.

I've heard a lot of punk/metal mixes in years and haven't cared for many of them. But these guys are the exception. I have no idea how this album is being released, or whether they got signed or not - they ought to be signed to a major just so that people could see these guys on the American Idol stage and commit mass suicide. Does that help regulate the population then? Sounds like it would.

Despite my sick thoughts, I guarantee that the music is even sicker. So if you're in the mood for something sick that doesn't give a fuck about anyone or anything, (these guys make Anal Cunt style lyrics audible - I always loved those, but the band never actually blared that shit in front of your face as if they were scared of offending someone - it was always just a bunch of inaudible grunts and gurgles and that pisses me off to this day - someone needs to cover "She's Not Pregnant, She's Just Fat") then try The Beyond. Sure, they don't have a fantastically fucked up name like Anal Cunt or Jesus Anal Penetration, but they certainly make some fucked up tunes with regards to musicianship. Yes, as in these guys aren't just fucking around. You could see these guys in action and they'd put on a strong performance.

They already made a strong one here. Check it out, if you think you can take it.

EDIT: The first comment on the band's stream of their album for says "I like my misogynistic lyrics to be incomprehensible." Grow the fuck up and take a joke, you prick. I know this kills the whole psycho ramble thing, but seriously - learn to take a joke. These guys don't beat their wives when they get home and they don't sit at the table in spikes and corpse paint. It's just fucking punk and black metal and it does make you feel a bit better. Also try laughing.

Highlights: Every track contains the voice of God. Well worth checking out for all humans. (8 Tracks, 29:00)



Shakra - Powerplay (PR2013) - Fans of Nocturnal Rites and current era Edguy should definitely check out this new effort from Shakra. It's definitely just as catchy as you'd expect those bands to be and it's got the same power/rock edge that you'd also expect. Perhaps this really is nothing more than watered down power metal without it's speed and virtuosic guitar (even though there are some really great solos on this disc) semblances, but it's really hard to deny the catchiness and re-playability of tracks like "The Mask 4:44", "Higher 4:03", "Don't Keep Me Hanging 3:58" and my personal favorite, "Dream Of Mankind 5:06." Make no mistake about it, this is one album that I could sit and listen to for hours, especially if I was still in my teen years where one song could be listened to on repeat for hours and I never seemed to get tired of it. I've already listened to this thing quite a few times and perhaps these songs are now glued into that massive record collection I have in my brain, because every now and then I'll hear them playing inside of my head. Good thing the band doesn't charge for brainwave streams. At least, not yet.

If you're looking for a really great rock album with the obvious enhancement of classic elements, you'll definitely find it here. Though these guys seem to just want to get on the charts, I definitely consider their music fucking great and the messages powerful, (Dream Of Mankind, The Mask) though at the same time I'm sure that people are using some of these tracks for their fan-made anime music videos. It can't be helped.

At any rate, check out these power/rockers and I'm sure you'll find a couple of tracks if not many more that you will also find "get stuck in your fucking head" as with me. It's much better than Nickelback, in any case.

Highlights: The Mask, Higher, Dear Enemy, Save You From Yourself, Don't Keep Me Hanging, Dream Of Mankind, Stevie, Secret Hideway (12 Tracks, 48:00)



Helker - Somewhere In The Circle (PR2013) - First of all, Argentina's Diego Valdez is one of the greatest vocal gifts to power metal in years. This guy actually sounds a little like Dio and it's hard to fucking believe, but I had the headphones on and verified it. Whoa. Not only that, the guy can fucking sing and the band can really fucking play. I've got faith that AFM will do em right and they'll be able to go out there and really kick ass in Europe, where they hope to tour. They've toured with the likes of Hammerfall, Stratovarius, Gamma Ray and many more power metal kings, already and it shouldn't be too long before these guys headline their own tour, with the material presented here. Coming from a man who still gives a shit about power metal, this disc came like a furious punch to my cranium, delivering thrash, melody and plenty of old school grit accompanied by solos that you should expect from this kind of album. A power metal album - not that wannabe crap. This is the real deal.

The opener "Modern Roman Circus 3:55" is where we get out first fix of what sounds like Dio brought back to us, but I've almost no doubt that he's still here in spirit watching over the greatness of metal (What? You think the guy was really interested in the pearly gates when there's all this great fucking metal to be made here?) and this album proves it. "Begging For Forgiveness 4:13" features Time "Ripper!" Owens (ex-Priest, Iced Earth) and Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear on guest vocals, which make a great song even greater.

It's solid power metal with fantastic vocal work and everything else at top notch precision. Though there were a few songs (Flying 3:58, Inside Of Me 4:04) that didn't hit quite as hard, but everything else on the disc did; and that's certainly enough to warrant it a go. I'm not sure what other power metal gems we'll get this year, but Helker is certainly a damned good one. If you like anthemic power metal with far-reaching choruses, you've found exactly what you're looking for here. If you haven't heard these Argentinean kings yet, you really fucking need to now. There's no excuse not to check out power metal this fucking good. No excuse whatsoever.

Highlights: Modern Roman Circus, Just Be Yourself, No Chance To Be Reborn, Begging For Forgiveness, Wake Up, Still Alive, Ghosts From The Past
(11 Tracks, 46:00)



KEN mode - Entrench (PR2013) - Here's a new album from a band that I've never been too crazy about, and that's maybe because I just don't understand the whole post-hardcore extreme movement. I guess I'm talking about shit like Converge, Gaza, Dillinger (even though I like some of their songs) and others in this vein. It just never appealed to me. So that's precisely the same reason why I just don't much care for this one. I listened to the whole album in it's entirety, but found very little on this disc that even remotely interested me. I try to give every disc their fair shot, and I guess I kind of like "No, I'm In Control 3:38" and the slower, more atmospheric approach of "Romeo Must Never Know 7:32." But as for the rest of the tracks, it's really just the same-old technical fortitude and djent, djent, djent that I've heard before. Can't we just call these guys Converge with more djent?

Also, I need to mention that the album's closer "Monomyth 6:03" is complete garbage. Just being honest. Yes, you'll look at that track length and think that it's some large epic number; when all that it really is, is some light ambience track that doesn't really hold a candle to the atmospheric work that Cult Of Luna played around with on Vertikal. To tell you the truth, the band's last album Venerable (2011) was far better; and this thing wasn't even worth the wait. Let's just go ahead and forget that "Monomyth" even exists and count the ten tracks as they are. With that, you'll get around 42 minutes of music that all sounds roughly the same with some minor exceptions in riff structure and melody. Though there is that slower track "Romeo Must Never Know" and it actually sets itself apart from the others, I still have about 35 minutes of fodder that's in the way. Harsh, but at least I'm being honest. For fans of this stuff, you'll probably love it and call me an idiot; but that's cool because there's shit I like that I know some of you hate. This is just one genre of metal that's always been kind of tough to get into for me and I'm pretty damned sure that it will always be that way. Decibel gave this one an 8, pretty much praising it to make the label happy; but I'm going to give it just one number lower and consider it decent. It's not a bad disc, I just couldn't really get into any of it.

It's like asking for coffee and getting a cup of liquefied licorice instead. Throw it back in the trenches!

Highlights: No, I'm In Control; Romeo Must Never Know (11 Tracks, 48:00)



Paradox - Tales Of The Weird (PR2013) - Thrashers Paradox have put out a new album alright, but just because it's called Tales Of The Weird doesn't mean that it actually has anything to do with Weird Tales; a magazine where Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft got their start. However, if you're in the mood for melodic, power-laden thrash; this is probably just what you needed. After a short intro, the disc rushes with blazing speed on title track "Tales Of The Weird 9:19" which is a scorching and catchy power thrasher with the kind of solo that you should already expect from this kind of material. "Day Of Judgement 4:15" comes in next, thrashing even harder than it's predecessor but I don't think that the vocals hold up very well and I would pay more attention to the instruments.

"Brutalized 5:25" slows things down a bit, but then also goes into another thrash session. It's catchy, but decent. "Fragile Alliance 6:24" is next, using some weird effects and the sound of a crowd to boost it's thrash nature. I think the vocals definitely work a little bit better here. The frontman can't quite keep up with the speed, but on slower tracks he shows his worth. However, the chorus is stiff.

"Escalation 4:15" features the same by the numbers thrash, but sees the vocals at a much stronger pace. Again, the chorus is stiff. "Brainwashed 7:33" is next and I love this fucking intro. Then the intro seems to go into something that I would consider to be a very dark and unique thrash... well, for a few seconds anyway. I think these guys want to do more straightforward thrash than try to innovate and that's all well and good - I just think they should do a bit more. The vocals sound good here, the lyrics come out well enough; but the chorus is also very stiff. However, the band utilizes the extra time for an instrumental portion that really shows off their skills. "Slashdead 4:53" comes in with a chugga chugga that I certainly like, definitely has some Iced Earth influence. Believe it or not, the vocals and chorus on this one are actually pretty strong and I would consider it one of the disc's few highlights.

"Zeitgeist 1:53" is a short instrumental interlude that sticks with acoustic guitar up until a certain point when drums and an electric are used in the background. But the album's close come sin the form of "The Downward Spiral 3:42" which starts out with a powerful intro... please don't screw this one up.... hmmm, that's interesting. I really like the riffs being used on this one - it's a bit different then what the band's given us on the other tracks. It's a simplistic little riff, but it works. It's the shortest song on the disc that isn't an instrumental, but it's a definite standout and a good way to end the album...

Bonus Track

A Light In The Black (Rainbow Cover) (Bonus Track 7:17) - Yeah, you read that right. It's a 7:17 bonus track, in which the band experiments with a shitload of different ideas and it excited me more than anything else on this entire fucking album. But maybe that's because the band didn't actually write it. Yes, it's a Rainbow cover (RIP Dio) and they definitely seem to do a great job with it at any rate. It's not a super-thrasher and it's done justice. Keyboards are first used on the track, then the guitar completely tears it up (and I really mean, tears it up) as the keyboards come back into the fold, sounding like chiptunes as the chorus comes back and the song goes through a finale portion and ends.

This one's worth buying. But I'm not sure about the album as a whole. Paradox have the right idea and the musicianship is great, but it's very hard for me to get into an album of this nature where I'm not feeling the choruses or the vocals for the most part. The frontman's best vocal performance appears to be on a cover song and that's not a good thing. But if you still feel the need for power/thrash, check this album out.

Highlights: Tales Of the Weird, Slashdead, The Downward Spiral, A Light In The Black (Bonus Track) (10 Tracks, 54:00)



Portal - Vexovoid (2013) - I wasn't able to review Portal's 2009 album, Swarth because I hadn't been doing reviews that early on. But I've got this 2013 release and I've got to say that it's still Portal. The music still contains the ebb and flow of dark Lovecraftian worlds and the frontman still wears a fucking clock tower on his head, so this is still Portal as you know and love them. The disc is surprisingly short, only clocking in at a mere 34 minutes; but there's some really great ideas being utilized on this one, from the eerie riffs backing the blasts and abrupt atmospheric changes of opener "Kilter 5:46" to the Lovecraftian worship rite of "The Black Wards 4:16" (at least, that's what it fucking sounds like) and on through to the dense atmosphere of Plasm "5:46" where sound effects are well utilized; and further still into the machine-gun drumming backed howls of "Awryeon 4:21", there's a lot to like here.

The band is more interested in making death metal laden atmospheres, veritable "death metal in the fog" so to speak; moreso than making the kind of atmospheres that you would expect from the likes of black metal acts like Ash Borer or atmospheric doom-death, like a trillion other atmospheric doom-death bands. Yes, we could sanely call Portal an atmospheric death metal band in the truest sense, even though there is a considerable amount of common technicality on this album that some might shake their head on, wondering where the oddities of riffs have gone from Swarth. Perhaps the vacuum-laden sound of the last album has spoiled me, but hearing everything so clearly doesn't give the true sense of this coming from the beyond. I still think that De Magia Veterum has them beat as far as sounding like they've come from another plane of existence though.

Of course, that band always makes me sick to my stomach for some reason. I guess the closer "Oblotten 5:16" says it all though, with it's atmospheric riffs and little more. You may hear a tap of a cymbal there, but I can assure you that it sounds more like a portal being ripped open and then closed with a few slow plucks of an acoustic that reminds me a little of the devil's interval (tritone) which i think they ended the album with.

At the end of the day, Portal have made a solid atmospheric death metal album with more clarity than the others, but they just don't sound as weird as they used to. Evolution perhaps? Or a side effect of popularity?

Highlights: Plasm, Awryeon, Orbmorphia, Oblotten (7 Tracks, 34:00)



Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance (2013) - Don't be surprised that Darkthrone's new opus isn't a black metal album. It isn't even remotely close. Apparently, their last albums have been more punk laden; but this one sounds every bit like it was made back in the 80's and could have been summoned by Fenriz from some alternate dimension where it had already existed. You'll notice probably the most "black metal" even though I'd liken it to Venom's brand and nothing even a shard Norwegian, on the opener "Dead Early 4:49" but that's where the similarities end. "Valkyrie 5:14" is pure power/thrash in the style of early Blind Guardian, "Lesser Men 4:55" brings back the blackened thrash of Venom, "The Ones You Left Behind 4:16" contains some strong folk melodies and powerful choruses that mix Venom with folk-metal bands like Heidevolk.

I take my previous comment back. Upon listening to the album again, I'm noticing that "Come Warfare, The Eternal Doom 8:37" which is the longest track on the album might have the most similarity to the band's classic Norwegian black metal material. Yet it also has a touch of Venom and Bathory if they were a bit more scathing on the vocals. Fenriz doesn't use any shrieks here, which is great in my opinion; as a grueling scowl can sound far more depraved than a bunch of shrieking. But this album isn't just about the vocal end of course; and that's where the analog equipment shines with great melodies, deep seated chugs and pummeling thrash. The drums are also preformed quite well on this album bringing the thunder when needed and the backbone when required. This album actually hearkens to the days before blasts, when a drummer had to do much more than just pound the hell out of the kick pedals.

One might not know the exact reasons why Darkthrone decided to go back as far as 80's metal, but I'm sure that all those kvlt and true people are probably hissing and scowling in disgust over this one, calling Darkthrone blasphemers to the throne or whatever. But in all honesty, (and this might make some people take a ritual athame and drive it deep into their hearts) most of the tracks that follow the opener are all extremely powerful metal tracks that sound as close to the glory days as humanly possible. These are definite black thrashers and they're fucking great, fuck you if you've got a problem with it.

The final track on the disc "Leave No Cross Unturned 13:49" might even go so far as to being inspired by bands like Helloween. Yeah, there's a definite "Ahhhh!" high pitch vocal on here too, right at the beginning; so that you're aware it's of the relic quality. Of course, some of you might wonder why in the hell operatic vibrato is being used on this one and might scratch your heads. However, with close to fourteen minutes of playtime, the band keeps it interesting by adding some ghostly effects and the like to make things somewhat atmospheric with the old methods. I'm not sure how much of this was done on a computer, but I wouldn't imagine much. While there's production here, it certainly sounds as muddy as those old albums did; but you can discern all the vocals.

Highlights: Valkyrie, The Ones You Left Behind, Come Warfare, Eternal Doom
(6 Tracks, 41:00)



Hatebreed - The Divinity Of Purpose (2013) - I didn't know what to expect from Hatebreed's new album, but with the tagline "All pit, no shit" I wasn't left with a very good first outlook. However, the album actually sounds like a reinvention of the band and there are some definite strong tracks on this one. Opener "Put It To The Torch 2:12" sounds brutal from the get-go, while "Own Your World 3:39" thrashes just as well as it pays homage to hardcore. Songs like "End The Fight, Before The Fight Ends You 3:18" might sound like something you'll hear an MMA fighter blast in his headphones before getting pummeled into a mess at the Octagon, but it's pretty damned catchy.

"Dead Man Breathing 3:19" is probably my favorite song on the disc, the start paying tribute to Slayer and the thunder that makes up the main leads of this one had me banging my head from that first riff. There's also a nice little solo on the track. The next song that I'll highlight is going to be the album's title track, "The Divinity Of Purpose 3:39" which definitely reminds me of some of the band's very best material. Fans of both Perseverance and Supremacy should definitely like this material. There are songs on here that are just as good as classics "I Will Be Heard" and "This Is Now" which is one of my favorite songs from the band, I used to play it quite a bit in my teen years.

Though I've just highlighted some of my favorite tracks, I would definitely recommend that all fans of Hatebreed, hardcore and metal in general give this disc a shot. It's much better than I would've expected and sounds like Hatebreed at their finest. The riffs are strong and there's some powerful melodies being used here, the drums pound with fury and there are some definite crossover moments between hardcore and metal. A must for the year and certainly one of my favorite discs for 2013. It's one hell of an enjoyable beating.

Highlights: Put It To The Torch, Own Your World, Before The Fight Ends You, Dead Man Breathing, The Divinity Of Purpose (12 Tracks, 37:00)


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