Saturday, August 31, 2013

Carcass - Surgical Steel

We all like a bit of drama, right? Carcass’ return album Surgical Steel is of course hotly anticipated and the media blurbs that were rolling in steadily attested to this with fawning pull quotes. Then the album leaked, well over a month before the official release. Conspiracy theories, threats, reviews after “one listen”, and some outright nonsensical posts and statements ensued. Frequently during those oft-hyperbolic exchanges there was one key question lost – is the album actually good?

The answer to that oh so pivotal question is yes, Surgical Steel is a good album. It’s not their best album of course, but it was never going to be and should you make a list of their albums, it will feature near the bottom and probably just above (the unjustly criticised) Swansong, if consensus is anything to go by. However this is the best reunion album that Carcass could have made.

Surgical Steel has all the hallmarks of a modern metal record. It’s certainly laden with all of the melodicism of their latter work from their original run and just enough of death metal’s core elements to keep this album suitably heavy and visceral, just as the artwork and familiar subject matter shows.

And Carcass have kept all those important elements intact for Surgical Steel; everything that makes them Carcass. Intro track ‘1985’, referencing their formation that year originally under the name Disattack, is led by slick clean guitar solo peeled off easily by Bill Steer giving way to ‘Thrasher’s Abbatoir’, which is an adequately titled track if ever.

Meanwhile, ‘Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System’ is where the album’s melodic knives are truly wielded with dangerous precision and speaking of which, new drummer Daniel Wilding (Aborted, Trigger the Bloodshed) has done a supreme job of filling the boots left behind by Ken Owen. Wilding will always be subject to criticisms on his playing, which is something he’ll just have to get used to, such was the presence and style of Owen’s playing but Wilding’s chops are still impressive, and tastefully executed, from start to finish and play off Steer’s guitar playing quite well, joined by another new recruit in Ben Ash.

There are several moments on this album that will stick with you for hours after listening through. ‘The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills’ is melodic Carcass in excelsis. The lead riff could easily have been plucked from Swansong and the chorus is utterly infectious to top it all off. One very real concern for a new Carcass album was delving too far into their melodic components and essentially creating a new Arch Enemy album but Walker on vocals. Instead, the band has maintained enough chunk and heft at the same time to avoid this route and perhaps the absence of Michael Amott on guitars has played a role in this turn of events.

If you’re looking for evidence of this, take ‘Unfit For Human Consumption’ as an example, which is loaded with an instantly memorable riff that’s complemented by catchy passages and a spat-out chorus from Walker to top it all off. In many ways, the song is emblematic of the whole album.

Surgical Steel is a triumph at the end of the day. It’s a solid slab of melodically minded death metal (note that doesn’t say melodic death metal) and serves to bolster Carcass’ reunion and reputation, especially in the eyes of the younger generations that didn’t get to see the spectacle the first time. Of course, it’s not the death metal gemstone for 2013 but it’s one of the better death metal reunion records of recent years and one that Carcass should be proud of.

Friday, August 30, 2013

New music: Tempestuous Fall, Seidr, Black Wing

Last year the prolific Australian musician Dis Pater commenced his new project under the guise of Tempestuous Fall, where he stepped away from black metal and into funeral doom, and the result was the rather stunning album, The Stars Would Not Awake You. This October he’ll release a new TF album entitled Converge, Rivers of Hell, once again working with I, Voidhanger from Italy for the release. ‘Pyriphlegethon’ is the first taster of the record with many of the TF hallmarks in place, drenched in sorrowful but gorgeous melodies and crushing dirges of guitars. Listen below.

Seidr are prepping the release of their new full-length, Ginnungagap. The band, which features Panopticon’s Austin Lunn and members of Wheels Within Wheels are streaming an expansive cut from the record now, via Stereogum. ‘The Pillars of Creation’ is the band’s post rock imbued black metal at its finest, with utterly wretched churning vocals to counteract to melody-rich vibe. Listen HERE.

On the flip is Black Wing, a project affiliated with Enemies List who put out the Dweller on the Threshold album last year, and includes dark folk misery merchant Giles Corey. 'My Body Betrayed Me' is a demo to tease new material in the works for an official release, and trades in acoustic guitars and pianos for discomfiting electronics. It very much shares the sombre vibes and melancholia of Giles Corey though. This will be an album worth keeping an eye out for.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Photos: Whirr and Nothing in Portland

In keeping with the trend of photos posts of late, here are some admittedly poorly lit photos from Nothing and Whirr’s show in Portland earlier this week. With no local support, it was just the touring bands on a Tuesday night. Both bands’ affecting shoegaze is a joy on record but on this occasion, it didn’t translate well live. The ‘wall of sound’ cliché is very much alive with Nothing and naturally, vocals are low in the mix. In this case, they’re totally inaudible and while the band is still immensely loud with sleek riffs, it’s essentially like watching an instrumental band. This same issue dogs Whirr, which is most disappointing. It’s important to note that they are touring without their vocalist Byanca Munoz right now, which is a real shame as Pipe Dreams is an album that’s chock full of gorgeous vocals from Munoz. Two of the guitarists assume the vocal duties but it’s all lost live, buried under the wave of distortion. At one point a guest vocalist joined them on stage but you couldn’t hear him either. Apparently this was common even when Munoz was singing too. It’s puzzling. It’s seems that Whirr are much more concerned with being as loud as possible at the expense of vocals. So frankly, it was a disappointing show and you know what else is disappointing? My god awful camera and the quality of these photos.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Latest reviews: Rosetta, Gorguts, Zhora, True Widow

Once again it’s time for a quick round up of the latest reviews splattered across the internet. Let’s get to it.

Rosetta – The Anaesthete
US post metallers Rosetta released their new full-length The Anaesthete, online and independently, for a pay what you want price. It’s an experiment of sorts for the band. Click HERE to see if it might pay off.

Gorguts – Colored Sands
No introductions needed. Gorguts are back with a new album after 12 years. Colored Sands is easily one of the year’s most interesting metal records but for the right or wrong reasons? Read the review from earlier this week HERE.

ZhOra - Almaz
Tipperary metallers ZhOra were really onto something last year with their online demo but now they’ve dropped their first full-length, Almaz. In a year saturated with stellar Irish records where do ZhOra fall into this puzzle? Read the review HERE

True Widow – Circumambulation
A few heads were scratched when True Widow signed with Relapse Records. The Texan trio’s dark dreamy rock, imbued with shades of Slowdive and Mazzy Star, is pretty far removed from Relapse’ usual roster, however, Circumambulation is an utter triumph for the band that doesn’t buckle at the knees to fit in with their new cohorts. Click HERE for the review.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Gorguts - Colored Sands

The reunion album. The anticipation and reluctance in equal measure. The glory and the failure. Since the mid-2000s we’ve been overrun with once-defunct death metal bands, from every corner of DM’s multi-faceted world, regrouping and re-emerging and of course many have released albums after years of new music silence, sometimes to supreme effect (Cynic, though no longer DM), while others should have kept quiet and stuck with the nostalgia trip of playing older material (Pestilence). And as the world debates the merits of the new Carcass album and looks anxiously towards At The Gates, arguably the most exciting death metal band of the last 20 or so years, Gorguts, have delivered their reunion album, their first slab of new music in 12 years, Colored Sands, a mind numbingly brilliant excursion into the abyss of technical and genuinely progressive death metal.

Needless to say, when an album such as this has been brewing for some time, the colossal weight of expectation can easily buckle the knees of the band. However, Gorguts and specifically the leadership of Luc Lemay have always existed inside their own creative sphere, blocked off from the thoughts and intrusions of others. This is, after all, the band that turned death metal on its head with 1998’s Obscura.

Colored Sands is certainly not an easy to digest album by any stretch of the imagination but has more rounded edges when compared to the angular avant-garde amour of Obscura. That said, opening number ‘Le Toit du Monde’, lays down a thrilling gauntlet with a juddering hail of drums and guitars that quickly gives way to a steam train of corrosive and angular riffing and it’s evident immediately that something remarkable is about to unfold.

Second track ‘Oceans of Wisdom’ sees the band peel off a sleeker riff-led outing, where Gorguts’ penchant for chilling and eerie melody shimmers through the cracks of the discordant surface. Similarly, ‘Forgotten Arrows’ weaves sleek riffs at first, disrupted by Lemay’s coarse and earth shattering bellow, exhibiting Gorguts’ wondrous dichotomy in sound to near perfection.

The layered sound is of course aided by a gorgeously airy production that gives the band all the necessary room to move and unfurl their mind-bending DM to effect, which is made all so clear by the guitars and vocals playing off and complementing each other so well.

‘Enemies of Compassion’ is a glistening jewel in Colored Sands, which really says something, but the lead riff is quite frankly one of the year’s very best, regardless of genre, striking a balance between memorability and searing cacophony.

Meanwhile, the nine minute splendour of penultimate track ‘Absconders’ is an utter joy that strikes another high point for the album, where the band explores some of its slower paced tendencies in trudging rhythms, perfected by shimmery lead guitars that all breaks down into a serene midway passage that gradually builds into familiar intensity once again.

This depth and profundity is a common theme in the album from start to finish and Colored Sands is simply rich and dense and fearlessly ambitious. The execution couldn’t really be flawed and Lemay’s newest recruits in Colin Marston, John Longstreth and Kevin Hufnagel have done a sterling job in filling the lofty roles that were ahead of them. The album is easily one of the very best death metal records of 2013 and one of the best progressive records of the year to boot. It’s likely to be the benchmark for which all death metal ‘reunion albums’ are to be measured, and rightfully so; the standard has been raised to a staggering height.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer Slaughter live review

Last Monday, the Summer Slaughter tour made its second last stop of the tour in Seattle, with headliners Dillinger Escape Plan and marquee names like Animals As Leaders, Periphery and Norma Jean and a host of others. Click HERE for the full review now on Terrorizer.

Steorrah interview

Read an interview HERE on 50K Music with German death metal band, Steorrah about their new crowdfunding campaign for their next album. Guitarist and vocalist Andreas Maerz explains why they've opted for this route and gives his thoughts on crowdfunding's rise.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Covers that are actually cool: Outer Heaven on Incantation

Outer Heaven posted their cover of Incantation’s ‘Golgotha’ a few days ago as a preview of Toxicbreed’s Funhouse Casa de Diversion Vol. 3 covers comp.

Outer Heaven released a demo last year and while a hefty hardcore record, it definitely took much from the old school death metal of Incantation and their pivotal album Onward To Golgotha, so it’s really not a surprise that they would tackle this beast and they’ve pulled off an impressive homage to Incantation. Listen below.

The third edition of Casa de Diversion, a covers compilation from the blog Toxicbreed’sFunhouse gathers together a variety of hardcore bands for covers both strange and wonderful. Check out the previous volumes HERE.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Photos: Vhöl and Bone Sickness in Seattle

So you probably noticed that posts have been sparse here of late and there’s a good reason for that. I’m currently doing some travelling, as you may have seen I was just in Vancouver and I’m currently in Seattle. Posting will get back on track soon hopefully but for now here are some more photos posts, given that I’m at a few shows that I wouldn’t see otherwise. Vhöl played in Seattle on Friday, the “supergroup” including members of Yob, Hammers of Misfortune and Agalloch, in The Highline with Seattle’s Bone Sickness supporting, who I was very excited about having the chance to see. Uzala and Brain Scraper also played.

Bone Sickness were on it and Vhöl's performance didn’t have too much to criticise as far as execution but here’s the part where I chime in on the fuss over Vhöl. The energetic black metal-imbued tunes are solid of course but still average, although the elements of Hammers of Misfortune that seep in are a nice touch. However I can’t ever listen to this band without feeling like they are merely the sum of their parts and the mighty weight of their respective bands overshadows all, and their live show didn’t do much to sway me otherwise. Nevertheless, there are a few photos below that I snapped while at the show, which had rather poor lighting (intentional, I presume). I never said I was a photographer.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Photos: At The Gates in Vancouver

Last night At The Gates rolled into Vancouver and needless to say I was there. Easily one of the best metal shows I’ve been to in months, it was a top quality set loaded with mostly classics from Slaughter of the Soul, opening with the title track, which is a moment I’ll never forget, as well as older gems like ‘Windows’, ‘The Beautiful Wound’, ‘Terminal Spirit Disease’, and their cover of ‘Captor of Sin’. Check out some select photos from the gig from my trusty (read: terrible) digital camera.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

New Dream Theater tune

Dream Theater are releasing their new self-titled album next month, their first with Mike Mangini involved in the writing process, though he did play on last record, A Dramatic Turn of Events, and the band has posted ‘The Enemy Inside’, which is the first taster of the new record.

You can stream the song below, which is short by Dream Theater standards and does the job of teasing fans with what the album has in store. The track has many of the trademarks you would expect; heavy but beautifully glistening guitar playing from Petrucci, somewhere in the vein of Systematic Chaos, and James LaBrie’s unmistakeable croon, which isn’t going to win over anyone of the fans that haven’t been keen on his vocals prior, frankly. Check out ‘The Enemy Inside’ below.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Check out Revocation's Metallica cover and new album review

Credit where it’s due, Revocation have really earned a lot of the praise in recent years and the technical thrash band is only set to raise their profile further with their new self-titled album, released next week. Check out the review HERE now.

But wait, there’s more. The special edition vinyl of the release features a bonus track; a cover of Metallica’s ‘Dyer’s Eve’, which was no easy cover task to choose to cover but Davidson and co. make it look easy. Their cover, still a glorified homage, is played with a modern flair (thanks mostly to the production) and deft technical prowess. It’s most definitely worth checking out below.