Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mini reviews: Bongripper/Hate, Rorcal, Atheos

Bongripper / Hate split

While Bongripper are on tour with Conan, they’ve put out a split 12” together to celebrate the pairing but let’s not forget the other recently released split they did with Hate. For the uninitiated, this pairing brings two extremes together.

Bongripper’s smoky, high times instrumental doom has always been an interesting prospect, conjuring vast sonic landscapes that are easy to lose yourself in with massive Sleep-esque riffs. Meanwhile, fellow Chicagoans Hate’s side is unbridled reckless grinding hardcore, perpetrated with a total disregard for the listener hoping to take a breather and soak it in. So while Bongripper’s sole offering to this split, ‘Fisting’, is a hazy miasma of trudging riffs that only gathers in pace from time to time, Hate serve up a searing barrage to complement it perfectly – a split highly recommended.

Rorcal - Világvége
Switzerland’s Rorcal aren’t as well-known as they should be but given their country of origin and the (presumably) small scenes within it, it isn’t surprising to know that there are certain levels of interplay between Rorcal’s members and those of Impure Wilhelmina, Knut, and Vuyvr. Rorcal though have been slogging it out for years, shifting from moments of chaotic sludgy post metal to simply crushing doom, like 2010’s Heliogabalus, a 70 minute foray into the doom abyss.

Világvége is a whole other breed of dirge with the band upping the tempo, akin to their older material and adding the flavours of black metal for good measure. The band maintain their own identity strongly here but there’s a whiff of Hexis picked up as well but the strains of eerie melody always keep this unholy barrage interesting.

Atheos – The Human Burden

After various delays, Mullingar’s Atheos have released their first full-length The Human Burden. The technical death metal band has made us wait but it’s a wait well worth it, as this is surely to be a highlight for Irish metal come year’s end, and that’s definitely saying something in a year that sees new albums from Altar of Plagues and Slidhr. 

Atheos occupy a vein of death metal, with sleek production and top class musical chops that while impressive, is oversaturated, which is why it’s so refreshing to hear a band attempt to changes things up a little. Atheos definitely appear to have the bit between their teeth with this one. There’s grandeur and bludgeoning in each of these seven songs, striking a perfect balance between the two – a definite diamond in the rough.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Wreck and Reference video

The enigma that is Wreck and Reference are releasing a new 7” called Content (pronounced No Content) and have posted the strange video for the track ‘Absurdities and Echoes’. Strange is always the apt word for Wreck and Reference, as evidenced by last year’s album No Youth, an unnerving cacophony of drums or seething electronics coupled with agonising vocals and zero guitars. This new song is bizarrely subdued on the surface but dig a little deeper and there’s something not quote right about it, a feeling that made the album such an enthralling listen.

Watch out the video below and check out The Flenser for details on the 7”.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Amber - Lovesaken

Amber are in a difficult position. Lovesaken is their first LP and it’s being released in world that is now oversaturated with bands playing in a similar vein, crafting massive, melodic hardcore with flavours of post rock seeping through every pore. When you get a crowd like this, it’s difficult to really pick out the great from the mediocre and discard the rest. For every Light Bearer or Children of God, you’ll have some utterly derivative bandwagon jumping dross. So where do Germany’s Amber fit into this puzzle? They don’t really fit in anywhere, more forcing their way through and demanding your attention as Lovesaken is a definite triumph amongst this sea of otherwise dull bands. Stand up and recognise.

Amber’s music is one informed by many different guises of hardcore. There’s the epic crust inflection of fellow countrymen Alpinist and Downfall of Gaia, coupled with intense levels of melody and the bleeding heart emotion of screamo. Emotion is something that Lovesaken is not short on with each of these six tracks laying its battered heart on the ground for the whole world to see. This is made all too clear by the near-painful vocals of Anna, who bares all in each of her caustic shrieks that complement the sleek riffs.

Production-wise, the band has clearly spared no expense as Lovesaken is a gorgeously captured record with a vast sprawling space that allows Amber’s music to unfurl. ‘Lost’ is very much an example of this with a sombre intro giving way to a soaring riff and an imposing vocal performance.

The album reaches its true zenith with the title track, which brings this massive record to a close. ‘Lovesaken’ is a ten minute journey through daunting peaks and troughs that pull and drag you back and forth through a wide emotional spectrum, much like the album as a whole but with this crescendo, they have augmented each facet of their music, one last time.

Amber’s EP from last year definitely piqued a few ears’ interest but it wasn’t as gripping as this record. Lovesaken is the sound of a band starting to realise their potential, honing their skills and disposing of weakness.

Stream the record in full below.

New tunes, new bands: Scale The Summit, Shardborne, Wisdom of Crowds

Scale The Summit posted a song last week from their new record The Migration. ‘Odyssey’, which you can stream below, picks up right where The Collective left off with more dynamic song structure and atmospherics to complement to the dizzying technicality and further proves why Scale the Summit are lightyears ahead of most of the instru-metal dross of recent years.

Another band who are head and shoulders above the rest is Limerick tech metallers Shardborne who have posted their new video for ‘Living Bridges’, the first taste of their new album scheduled for release some time in the middle of the year. The video is a simple performance shoot to accompany the eight minute track that has expanded greatly on the ideas laid down with their 2011 EP Aeonian Sequence. Check out the video below.

Finally, Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse and Pineapple Thief mainman Bruce Soord have announced a new project together – Wisdom of Crowds. The band launched a Facebook page recently and have scheduled June 3rd for the release of their debut self-titled album. A brief minute and a half teaser can be heard below. Expect more news soon.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Zozobra - Savage Masters

In a lot of ways, Zozobra will always be looked on as just a side project for Cave In bassist Caleb Scofield but considering the quality of the two albums that were produced (Harmonic Tremors and Bird of Prey) you can make a valid point otherwise. But with a near five year gap since Bird of Prey and the re-emergence of Cave In during that time, it would have been fair to think that Zozobra were going to be on the shelf for some time, yet here we are in 2013 listening to their new record, Savage Masters.

Zozobra’s albums have always been terse and succinct affairs but they appear to have made a rather conscious effort to keep Savage Masters much shorter and faster than before, clocking in at 14 minutes. Where 2008’s Bird of Prey was by no means a leisurely record, it was not afraid to utilise the slower sludgier elements of say Eyehategod to counteract the rapid hardcore riffs of the record. Savage Masters on the other hand, has no give whatsoever and is much more a hardcore record than previous albums.

The early hardcore sensibilities of Cave In have definitely seeped into Zozobra’s sound on this one, but this is still a record imbued with sludge of the south, merely upping the pace. Vocally, Caleb Scofield sounds every bit as vicious as he did before. His vocals are instantly recognisable with a devastating throaty bellow that’s often imitated but never matched. On Savage Masters, he’s absolutely ruthless, exhausting himself to keep up with the pacier riffs and results are simply brilliant.

On the final track, ‘Born In A Blaze’, he continues the onslaught with no give, delivering his best vocal yet and ending the record on a bludgeoning high. This may only be 14 minutes but there’s ferocity here of albums twice its length.

Short, sweet and to the point. That’s Savage Masters.

New Black Sabbath track

Black Sabbath’s ‘God Is Dead’ was debuted last night on BBC Radio and is available to stream below now so everyone’s chiming in. The riffs sound a little like they’ve been picked from the leftovers of Heaven and Hell’s studio time. That said, the riff that kicks in just after the six minute mark definitely changes things up a bit as the songs is slowly plodding along before that. Ozzy appears to be the weak link on this though, phoning in an average vocal performance that is struggling to keep up with Iommi.

You would be forgiven for having your doubts about Sabbath in 2013 and the new album 13, but what is certain is that ‘God Is Dead’ is just above average – not necessarily bolstering doubts but certainly not setting the world alight either.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Refraction show this Friday

This Friday, Refraction will be playing in The Pint alongside ESTEL, Zhora and Wild Rocket. It’s an EP release show of sorts for Helixian, which may be online later this week. Regardless, the show will be worth popping along to as it’s only the band’s third show since coming out of hiatus in January. Inevitably some new material will played, a sneak preview of which was aired during their set in January and hinted to promising things to follow-up their stunning 2011 self-titled.

Check out the Facebook event page for some more details. It’s a paltry €7 in.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Gospel of the Horns live review

Last weekend, Australian trashers Gospel of the Horns hit Irish soil for a three-date tour of the island, with shows in Limerick, Dublin and Belfast accompanied by Swiss DM duo Bölzer and Ireland's own ZOM. On Saturday, they stopped into The Pint, which also saw the live debut of Primordial frontman Nemtheanga's new band Dread Sovereign and the first gig from Dublin's newest death metal prospect, Malthusian. Click HERE for the full live review on Terrorizer now.

New track from Altar of Plagues

Altar of Plagues have posted a second new track from their forthcoming album, Teethed Glory and Injury, released on April 30th. ‘Scald Scar of Water’ is another example of the band’s massive leaps into new territory with this new album, evidenced thus far by the artwork and video for ‘God Alone’, a move that was garnered praise and loathing in equal measure.

‘Scald Scar of Water’ is a seven minute odyssey, which is one of the album’s longer tracks. Unlike before where the band would venture into lengthy 15/20 minute journeys, the new album is made up of much more shorter tracks so ‘Scald Scar of Water’ makes for something of a change in Teethed Glory and Injury’s running time.

The track begins with a tribal-like drums and utterly agonising vocals that soon give way to a familiar black metal snarl that’s complemented by a bedding of unnerving electronics under the surface of guitars and drums. Eventually we hit a dark trough where the band completely changes the tempo and vibe, dragging us into this cold room of humming noises and ethereal chanting vocals. Much like the album as a whole, there’s so much to take in here.

Keep an eye out for the full album review soon as well as an interview with James Kelly. ‘Scald Scar of Water’ is streaming on the Terrorizer website and NPR

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Latest reviews: Agrimonia, Cnoc An Tursa, Weed Priest and more

Here’s a quick round-up the last few reviews that went online recently.
First up, Swedish crust turned post metal band Agrimonia will release their new album, Rites of Separation on April 30th, their first album with Southern Lord and the long overdue follow-up to 2010’s Host of the Winged. The review is online over on CVLT Nation now, click HERE to read.

Last week I published the review of Killswitch Engage’s new album, Disarm The Descent on this very blog too so in case you missed that, click HERE. Moving on, Scottish black metallers Cnoc An Tursa have been getting quite a few rave reviews for their first full-length The Giants of Auld… or have they? There’s a review on Metal Ireland now, right HERE.
Back home in Ireland, we have the debut album from Galway stoner doom three piece Weed Priest. This self-titled album is an hour of meandering, hypnotic smoky doom that’s certainly worth your time checking out. Read the review HERE.

Finally, if you missed it, Yoshiko Ohara of Bloody Panda released her debut solo album Ringing In Our Wrists last month and the review can be read HERE

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Killswitch Engage - Disarm the Descent

Killswitch Engage are sort of one with (non)drama. Hang on, the explanation is coming. Despite original vocalist Jesse Leach leaving in 2002 after the band’s seminal second record, Alive Or Just Breathing, due to very personal issues, never once were his friendships with his bandmates fractured. This was very much evidenced by guest appearances alongside replacement Howard Jones and collaborating with guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz in Times of Grace. Then, when Jones left in late 2011, a similar thing happened. It was amicable and tactful. In other words, no excrement was flung across the room.

So now it’s 2013, Jesse Leach has returned after being a decade away. Exiting almost immediately following the release of Alive or Just Breathing meant that he never saw the band’s breakthrough into the mainstream and become the much imitated force that they are in modern metal. In many ways, it’s like the return of the prodigal son. However, a lot has changed in the time since his departure and the release of this long-awaited new record, Disarm the Descent. It’s an album you can call many things but AOJB Pt.2 is not one of them.
One of the criticisms levelled against Killswitch’s self-titled album in 2009 was that the certain flair and emotional depth that characterised The End of Heartache just wasn’t there and that the band was stagnating, becoming another face in a sea of bands that were copying them in the first place. Now with this rejuvenation of sorts, Disarm the Descent couldn’t be called lackadaisical or anything of the sort but with that said, this is an album has played it safe, staying firmly in the middle of the road and never hurling any question marks at you.

Disarm the Descent is an easy-to-digest album that is peppered with impressive moments but has its fair share of filler too. Even though it takes a few cues from Times of Grace, the band hasn’t stepped outside any comfort zones despite being a very different album from AOJB, this is very much in tune with the band’s post-Heartache work. The gritty urgency of Alive of Just Breathing or the vastness of The End of Heartache aren’t seen, but credit where it’s due Disarm the Descent does strike moments of brilliance from time to time.

‘A Tribute to the Fallen’ is laden with the kind of massive hooks that you would expect from Killswitch, ‘You Don’t Bleed For Me’ hits a similar tone for memorable choruses and sleek riffing from Adam D and Joel Stroetzel, all the while ‘The Call’ is one of the band’s heaviest and most vicious tunes in years with drummer, Justin Foley, finally being allowed to lay down some blastbeats that synch perfectly with Jesse’s impassioned cries. Another worthwhile addition to the album is the presence of many guitar solos, something almost absent before.

Lyrically, nothing has changed too much. Leach’s poetry is every bit as emotive and compelling as ever, penning words that grab you by the shoulders, force you to face the darkness but always strive to battle through. These are themes and words that written by anyone else would come across as contrived, or even corny, but Jesse’s mantras of hope are always affecting.

Where Disarm the Descent falls down is on tracks where the band recoil into well-worn clichés that fail to ignite any fires. ‘New Awakening’, despite being pre-released weeks before the album, feels like it was picked up off the studio floor and tacked on, while ‘The Turning Point’ kicks in with a double kick drum barrage that was taken straight from the metalcore drummer’s handbook, 2007 edition.

The ballad ‘Always’ seems like it was shoehorned into the album out of a sense of obligation and album closer ‘Time Will Not Remain’ doesn’t end the record on a flurry of emotional crescendos as the likes of ‘Rise Inside’ and ‘Hope Is…’ did in the past, ending Disarm the Descent on something of a bum note.

If we were still throwing around ratings on this blog, Disarm the Descent would be looking at a six out of ten, focusing optimistically on the album’s strongest points, which there are still plenty of. Disarm the Descent may be Killswitch by numbers but it still serves to remind the masses of their existence, and the esteem they still richly deserve, after their lengthy absence.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Latest news tidbits: New Burzum album, video from KEN Mode

Burzum will release a new album next month, continuing the trend of yearly records from Varg Vikernes since his release from prison. Sôl Austan, Mâni Vestan will be released on May 27th, through Byelobog Productions as per usual, and will be an instrumental electronic album, similar to his incarceration records in the late ‘90s.

Posting on his website, Varg described the style and concept of the album: "Sôl Austan, Mâni Vestan is, just like the other three so-called post-prison Burzum albums were, a concept album. I have still not been able to leave behind the Pagan religious-spiritual concept of a descent into darkness and the following ascend back into the light; the Pagan initiation, the elevation of man to the divine, the enlightenment of the mind, the feeding of the elven light in man.

"Being an instrumental album, and a purely electronic album too, Sôl Austan, Mâni Vestan is naturally very different from [last year’s] Umskiptar, my latest metal album. Yet again I have left behind the metal genre and have chosen a different path but for no other reason than me following my Pagan spirit willingly to wherever it takes me. This time it kindly took me to East of the Sun and West of the Moon."

How this will hold up is anyone’s guess but the change of direction is enough to pique a few people’s interest, especially after last year’s very disappointing Umskiptar record. The artwork for the new album is below and you can check out the tracklisting HERE

Meanwhile, something entirely different; in case you missed it, the review of KEN Mode’s new album Entrench was published this week and yesterday the band released the music video for the track ‘Counter Culture Complex’, which was premiered through Pitchfork but have a look at it below and try and figure out what’s going on it. There’s snow, fire and archery anyway.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

KEN Mode - Entrench

KEN Mode have arrived. The Winnipeg hardcore outfit has been beavering away on compelling and belligerent albums for years, work that we thought reached its zenith with 2011’s striking Venerable record, an album that, at the time, was KEN Mode’s finest yet. That is until now of course. Signing with Season of Mist, Entrench not only marks a new chapter for the Canadians in regards to awareness but they have complemented it with what is their best record yet.

Enveloped in a world that is chaotic and dark, Entrench is an album that has harnessed all of KEN Mode’s established strengths, all the while finding new ones, into one single body of work that is engrossing and aggressive from beginning to end.

For a mere trio, KEN Mode conjure an unholy and frenzied cacophony. It’s a trait that has been a constant throughout the band’s existence, drawing the influences of Botch, Angel Hair and Converge, but on Entrench everything has been dialled up to hazardous levels. They’ve never sounded so invigorated, and just plain violent, wasting no time with first track ‘Counter Culture Complex’. It’s an easy thing to say that a band has matured on their latest album but often that might suggest that their prior material was almost juvenile, which isn’t the case in the slightest, but Entrench is the sound of a band that has fully realised what they are capable of.

Followed by the devastating one-two of ‘No, I’m In Control’ and the particularly caustic ‘Your Heartwarming Story Makes Me Sick’, KEN Mode have unleashed an unmitigated hail of corrosive hardcore in just the first three tracks. Where some bands overexert themselves and frontload albums with the most fevered tracks, Entrench is merely laying down a powerful gauntlet for things to come.

Meanwhile, the band aren’t afraid to recoil into pensive brooding dirges like the slow, hypnotic crawl of ‘Romeo Must Never Know’, which displays KEN Mode’s flair for diversity but that’s followed by the totally ruthless ‘Secret Vasectomy’ that reels things back into familiar territory. Ending with ‘Monomyth’, the band pull the curtains in mesmerising and soothing fashion with a beautiful piano and string arrangement instrumental that’s completely at odds with the overall aesthetic of KEN Mode but works a treat here.

Entrench is KEN Mode’s finest hour and one of the finest hardcore or metal records of 2013 so far.