By on 31 January 2011

Would you believe it? We get sent over 500 albums a month to review, and most of them are killer, and some, well, you can imagine…

Since we only have so much space in the magazine for reviews it’s time we utilised this little corner of cyberspace to introduce you to some cuts that should (or some cases should not) make it onto your Amazon wishlist…


‘Where Demons Dwell’
Kentucky mob Abominant have been thrashing out their own blend of blackened death metal for nigh on two decades now, and although the eight anger-injected tracks on their ninth studio album ‘Where Demons Dwell’ may be new, they are old in character. The production conjures up the sonic scent of pre-Pro Tools era recordings, while the music harks back to the purer pre-web days, making the influences on this album as free from ambiguity as Welsh is from vowels. With enough repetitive strain-inducing speed-picking, tendinitis-inducing blastbeats and node-inducing growls to keep their doctor smiling and the NHS frowning, the Americans may be lacking in originality and tightness, but they have certainly suffered for their art in creating this transatlantic melting pot of metal.

‘Leveling The Plane Of Existence’
After a pair of solid, technically sound death metal outings that were gratifying despite sounding rather predictable, we all knew it was time for Abysmal Dawn to step things up on their third album. Thankfully, the Los Angeles band does just that on ‘Leveling the Plane Of Existence’, a record that sees them attempting to have their growls heard above all the countless others in death metal and succeeding modestly. Much will be made about the fact that death metal producer extraordinaire, Erik Rutan, had a hand in the mixing, and indeed his dense, pummeling style is easy to detect, but the true strength of this album is in the songwriting. Unlike the hordes of young bands bent on shredding and blasting constantly, guitarist/vocalist Charles Elliott proves to be very adept at creating music as catchy as it is punishing. It’s always refreshing to hear a band unafraid to admit there’s nothing wrong with a great hook in extreme metal. 

‘Stains Of Resignation’ 
Julien Louvet, the entity behind this project, strikes as a person overflowing with ideas. Despite this only being TAG’s second album there have been a slew of EP’s and splits and the music is incredibly versatile itself. There are passages of Americana folk urged on by strings, as well as furious and acerbic bursts of blackened noise and depressive funereal doom. The acoustic and poetic ‘A Liquid Manure Of Guilt’ is reminiscent of Death In June and other neo-folkers, and on ‘Voice Of Aenima’ Jarboe is on hand adding her unmistakable charm. However the mix here is jarring and violent, and when songs are in full flight everything is turned up to the max and fighting to gain control. This makes things somewhat cumbersome and unwieldy to listen to with subtler tones lost, and regrettably it is almost as though the artist is being obtuse and simply trying to deluge the listener in sound. 

Hard working and tour-addicted French hardcore collective Birds In Row made this seven-track collection available for stream and digital purchase late last year and are now offering this physical live-recorded 12” version for public consumption. Part-gnarly, anger-fuelled hardcore, part-beefy, crusty groove, the mainland three-piece drag you in and under with their driving rhythms, accidental delicate subtleties and visceral rage. Dive into ‘The Ace Of Fools’ and ‘A Kid Called Dreamer’ for some high-speed energy. Take on ‘Chat Noir’ for some earnest gruffness and pull your best hardcore bass gurn for the roars through ‘Among The Ashes’. It’s Modern Life Is War-meets-This Is Hell, mixed in with a nice dose of Shai Hulud and a vocal narration that delves darker and deeper in sound and lyrical content. Birds In Row alone prove there’s plenty of reason to keep your eyes on the channel for the next wave of new noise. 

Packed to the brim with five discs of live tracks and demos, this is the kind of box set that doom wet dreams are made of. Kicking things off is a recording of the band’s first-ever concert in Jönköping in 1987; the sound quality isn’t the greatest (neither is the playing), but the band had sufficiently tightened up by their gig at the Buckley Tivoli in 1988. It’s on the third disc, containing demo tracks for the self-titled ‘White’ album, that things get interesting, with a selection of songs sung by Messiah, Mats Levin, Tony Martin and Doogie White as well! Similarly, the ‘King Of The Grey Island’ demos feature the vocal talents of Mats Levin as opposed to current frontman Robert Lowe. The final disc, with it’s selection of demos spanning 1992-2008 (dance-remix aside), features original singer Johan Längqvist singing some more familiar Candlemass tracks. One for the die-hard doom dancers out there, but a worthy compilation of rare material nonetheless. 

Yeah, Candy Cane isn’t a good moniker for a black metal band. It isn’t a good moniker, period. Thankfully the music makes up for it, if you’re willing to stomach the deterministically inevitable convergence of BM with math-core (and a bewildering yet satisfying sprinkling of Rush on ‘03012007’). The band will probably reject both tags, but, hey! The song titles are random dates, so there. It is Oranssi Pazuzu, however, that warrant the urgent purchase of this split thanks to an early BM Anthem of the Year in the shape of the sublimely eerie ‘Unihämähäkki’: think Blut Aus Nord sent back in time to play at King Solomon’s harem, with Varg Vikernes guesting on ‘Dunkleheit’-style chill-inducing minimal synths. The other OP entries herein share a similar vibe – minus the instant massive shoegazing BM chart appeal perhaps – but highly rewarding nevertheless. 

‘The Divine Antithesis’
No intros, no atmospheric easing into the maelstrom, no bullshit. Dutchman Mories seems to have left all his atmospheric tendencies in his Gnaw Their Tongues trouser pockets, as ‘The Divine Antithesis’ plunges you straight into a full-on black metal hell. The voice is sandpaper-raw and the sound is suffocating, as if these devilish sonics are coming at you from beneath a pile of a thousand charred corpses. Even occasional pauses in the drum machine-led barrage, usually just a couple of seconds enough for some cacodaemon to whisper vile obscenities, offer no respite, as the wall of sound continues on and on. There’s just so much to tackle at once – a mound of strange effects, squeals, howls, different voices, creepy-yet-barely-there synths and super-fast riffs create a seemingly chaotic landscape, but one that reveals itself in all its structured glory if you can stand the initial deluge of sonic information. 

‘Engines Of Oppression’
The main progression made by these Seattle thrashers since their 2008 ‘Rise From Ashes’ debut seems to be in the production department, but having Harris Johns on board for mastering duties has got to help, right? Although, whilst there are definitely similar tones to some of his legendary work with the likes of Voivod and Coroner, this owes more stylistically to the Bay Area (think the weighty arrangements and acoustic sections of Metallica-meets-the technical wizardry of Forbidden), with hints of Realm’s progressive tendencies and Toxik’s shredding leads and shameless melodies. Nope, it’s not even a bit original, but if you want intricate, tuneful thrash metal loaded with gratuitous leads and quasi-political lyrics, you’ve got it. And it’s infinitely more interesting than most of the  nostalgic rehashes clogging up the metal scene at the moment; the liner notes reveal a band that put a lot of thought and effort into their art, who thankfully also kick ass when they step on the gas.

‘Terra Ruina’
If, so far, Ghamorean have been nothing more than a ripple on the endless sea of extreme metal, it must be either because their very first label folded mere weeks after the release of their debut, ‘Plaguempire’, or because their remote location way, way up north in Umeå, Sweden, must have somehow prevented them from spreading the word. And if they had to self-release its follow-up, it had nothing to do with the sheer quality of their fusion of black and death metal, but more with the cruel fact that they just don’t fit the picture and thus, aren’t easily marketable. Their melodic edge is undoubtedly Swedish but the almost industrial like atmosphere and extreme coldness their complex music conveys, their angular riffing and storming, Messhugah-esque drumming, simply isn’t. Later Emperor in full on poly-rhythmic mode maybe? Whatever it is, there’s both an elegance and yet also a striking cruelty here. Simply put, ‘Terra Ruina’ has that rare ability to never really sounds like anyone else. 

Necronoclast is a one-man black metal project from Scotland. This isn’t exactly a rarity in the genre, with a new cave-dweller emerging every ten minutes, and it is unlikely that anything on ‘Ashes’ will make Necronoclast stand out. Sole member Greg Edwards is undoubtedly an accomplished musician and ‘Ashes’ does have those icy riffs nailed that make the genre so popular, but for most of the tracks the material is too similar to what’s been before. This is the main problem for Necronoclast, as it leaves the album seeming too safe, which is ironically what the genre is supposed to be against. This doesn’t mean that ‘Ashes’ is bad[$itals], just rather bland. Something that is unusual, however, is a refreshing production that adds to the atmospherics without taking away from the genre’s core values. It is unlikely that this alone will get Necronoclast noticed and, unfortunately, it looks as if there’s some way to go until gaining the status of peers like Xasthur. 

‘Subvert the Dominant Paradigm’
Noisear’s Relapse debut starts out with a whopping 29 tracks in a paltry 25 minutes, so it’s easy to tell going in that there’s a whole hell of a lot to digest on ‘Subvert The Dominant Paradigm’. The big question, though, is whether or not it’s worth our time to go through the trouble of dissecting it all. The Albuquerque, New Mexico band is known for delivering rather straightforward, workmanlike grindcore, but if they can’t differentiate themselves from every other like-minded grind band on the planet, why even bother? Thankfully Noisear shows some mildly impressive improvements in the songwriting department, as ‘Fraudulent’, ‘Life Consumed You’, and ‘The Blackened Sea’ offer well-timed, surprisingly dynamic respites from such blistering cuts as ‘Blackout’, ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’, and ‘Poisonous Cure’. However, any progress is quickly forgotten after enduring ‘Noisearuption’, a twenty minute feedback wank a la ‘Metal Machine Music’ and Neil Young’s ‘Arc’ that tries to be avant garde but is nothing but pretentious clatter.

‘Andromeda Awaiting’
‘Andromeda Awaiting’ is the final chapter in a trilogy that began with 2006’s ‘Nihil’, and what a strange tale it is. This Swiss collective dwell somewhere between neofolk and progressive rock, occupying a tranquil little oasis wherein Jethro Tull, Tenhi, and Vivaldi are worshipped in equal measure. Nucleus Torn construct their songs like classical compositions, in recognisable movements that gently lead the listener from idea to idea. Melancholy, beautiful, and altogether strange, they weave together classical, prog, folk, medieval music and the odd jazzy flourish and rely on violin, cello, piano and flute (lots of flute!) to animate their creations. ‘Andromeda Awaiting’ is very light on vocals, as only a handful of isolated passages feature male or husky female voices to great effect (especially over the slinky, Middle Eastern scales on ‘IV’). The whole album carries an otherwordly, romantic vibe, definitely one for the dreamers. 

‘Ingen Veit Alt’
Picking up right where last year’s ‘No Light For Mass’ left off, this 7”-onto-CD release adds 11 more minutes of Black Flag-worshipping, bass-heavy, Entombed-via-Trap Them rumbling occult hardcore to the 25 of the full-length. They always leave us wanting more, these Norwegians, keeping it short and urgent, as if they’re scrambling for the studio’s emergency exit as they belt out these dirty tunes, but the sneaking suspicion remains that we’d still want more even if the albums were two hours long. Okkultokrati’s particular brand of nekro-hardcore is one that lends itself well to diversity, which they sure know how to use. Even on this, a five-song short release, the structuring is nothing short of perfect – a spooky guitar-squealing intro, a d-beat-esque blinder, two longer and bowel-quakingly slower heavy songs making up the core of the record, before a gang vocal-ridden cover of Reagan Youth’s ‘No Glass’ rounds it all up. Before you press play again, that is. And again, and again.

Gonna get this out of the way quickly, but it’s necessary: it’s not a good look to play quote-unquote ‘extreme music’ while filching the name of another band who have been enormously influential on the same. Maybe eleven years ago, when Void the London black metal band formed, Void the DC hardcore crazies were slightly less namedroppable, but even so. Regardless: ‘Void’ is a nominally unlikely comeback from a band who offered up ‘Posthuman’, a bombastic ball of industrially-inclined BM, back in 2002 – and, despite the patronage of Emperor’s Samoth and Dødheimsgard’s Kvohst (vocalist on ‘Posthuman’), vanished very quickly after. The nine tracks here render their rebirth artistically worthwhile. There are clean vocals and piano interludes, but also fierce lead parts which whirl like chopper blades; at certain points you could almost peg this as a blackened take on Killing Joke. As such, it’s prone to falling between stools to some extent, but Void ought to be ushered back into the UKBM fold.

‘Efter Oss Synafloden’
Avowedly declining to jump out of the racks with a sleeve which may well be an “ecologically produced Ecopack” but is also the sort of browny-beige hue that makes you think of the very worst post-rock drear, Yersinia further sabotage what could be a relatively commercial metallic hardcore stomp by singing in Swedish, their native tongue. This is commendable, you understand: Sweden’s most recent hardcore outfit of note to do the same, on this writer’s radar at least, were DS-13. The strain of HC showcased on ‘Efter Oss Synafloden’ is less didactic. Bottom-heavy chugging is threaded through with twinkling melody, Grade and Coalesce being decent reference points; meanwhile, the occasional bout of nailed-on beatdown frenzy recalls post-Integrity, pre-pop charts Victory Records bands like All Out War. Mattis Erngren’s vocals switch between a Jacob Bannon-y hoarseness and the sort of lowing that wouldn’t be misplaced in a deathcore band; neither style hoists fist into air, both are perfectly serviceable.

‘Panzerfaust Justice’
Opening with a furious blast of bestial black metal a la Blasphemy, you’d be forgiven for thinking Zerstorer simply another goat obsessed war metal band, but despite the opening number and the ludicrous album cover of a cartoon skeleton with a rocket launcher, as well as one of the least imaginative album titles in history, the band do actually offer a little more than on first listen. Very much in the vein of the Aussie black thrash hordes, there is enough variety and atmosphere for the band to climb crawling out of the copycat band filled abyss. Songs like ‘The Punisher’ and ‘’Sociopathic Killer’ at least add a little more dynamism to proceedings veering as they do from Sodom-esque thrashing madness to slower fist-pumping passages. Although this is nothing that hasn’t been heard a million times before, Zerstorer at least show that they are trying. 


About Miranda Yardley

I'm Miranda. Bite me.

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