Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Brutality - Ruins Of Humans


2013 has been a great year for death metal fans. First Finnish death overlords Convulse come out with an EP after 19 years and now legendary Floridian death metallers Brutality come out of the dark after 17 long years with an EP entitled ‘Ruins of Humans’. Even though the band has been active since mid 2012 not much was known about the activity of the band possibly because the band had already reformed twice, once in 2005 and the second time in 2008 but never recorded any new stuff or played new shows, so when I saw this release last night on Rateyourmusic I was taken aback. Not much info was available about this except the fact that it could be purchased digitally on

Even though Brutality has a distinct sound they can call their own none of the 3 albums that they have put out sound same. While their magnum opus ‘Screams of Anguish’ which makes my list of top 5 death metal albums any day was a technical slab of death metal suffering perfected the Floridian death metal sound and delved deeper into the twin guitar sound and had a sense of urgency throughout with its complex song structures, overlapping riffs and peregrination into doom metal territory, the bands second album ‘When The Sky Turns Black’ sported a heavier sound, flirted a bit more with the doom metal territory as well as the melodic leads, and though complex at times wasn’t as technical as the former album and the bands’ last album ‘In Mourning’ had a meandering muddy tone and most attention to detail was given to the flowing melodic solos. Needless to say ‘Ruins of Humans’ was a release where you would not know what to expect.

Surprise.. the Brutality way.
So, what is Ruins of Humans? 2 songs, 14 minutes, 8 solos and around a dozen riffs is what it is. First things first, the band logo as on ‘In Mourning’ which the band possibly adopted because of the onset of mid 90’s hardcore has been trashed the old iconic logo with the dragon on it is back. Secondly and more importantly this EP has the same legendary line up as on the debut with Scott Reigel handling the vocalist duties, Don Gates and Jay Fernandez heading the twin guitar assault, Jeff Acres taking care of backing vocals and playing the bass and Jim Coker bashing behind the kit. It is amazing that how even after a hiatus of almost 2 decades the band still has the signature Brutality sound. While Mr.Reigel still has that powerful voice which can alternate between guttural growls and deep screams it is Jim Coker’s ability to move dexterously from a blastbeat to a powerful drumfill to simply going in the background and supporting the band when one of the many soaring guitar solos that hit your ears that really captured my attention. With the 2 tracks lasting 8 minutes and 6 minutes in length the band is no stranger to long tracks with the band continually churning out songs in excess of 6 minutes throughout their career. On their last album the band did breach their 8 minute mark but the tracked seemed dragged out.

As the self titled tracks starts out with whispered vocals and a soft guitar solo in the background which extends more than a minute take a deep breath, it is the only time the band will give you the opportunity to do so throughout this EP. This music as expected does not sound very similar to anything the band has done in the past though it borrows elements from all their 3 releases specifically the first and last album. While not as potent as their previous albums it surely is an intensive one. As the band thrusts forward with fast paced riffs bolstered by the powerful drum fills which scream of the legendary Brutality sound you never know what to expect from the complex minds that are collectively known as Brutality. Blast beats often act as a precursor to a change in either tempo or riff or a solo be it miniature or lengthy. The complex song writing only fuelled by the many riffs which are at times subtle and yet complement each other and at many times distinct is what meshes the band together to create an 8 minute monster of a track. While mostly sporting the old school sound that is atypical of death metal the majority of the solos are very melodic. By melodic I don’t mean the keyboard wankery and symphonic drivel that most modern melodic death metal band use, but melodic as in the melodic solos present on previous Brutality albums albeit a bit more melodic. Think of the guitarwork on Quo Vadis’ ‘Defiant Imagination’ mixed with the soaring, towering and lengthy solos of Forsaken’s ‘After the Fall’. Look out for the moment @ around 4:30 on the first song where the music breaks away into the thudding of the bass drum followed by the galloping riffs. A growl and riff change later the band jumps into a guitar solo and descends once again into the pit of aggressive ruthlessness. As lengthy melodic leads and soaring solos end the first track the second track entitled ‘Irreversibly Broken’ begins where the band left off. Clocking in at less than 6 minutes has as many solos as the first song but this is a less complex track with lesser tempo changes and lesser riffs but never relinquishing from its pivotal desire which is a create a bit of an epic atmosphere with its melodic leads and the towering guitar solos.

All in all, by going the Suffocation and Convulse way by incorporating a real essence of melody in this release and not creating compositions as technical as before, Brutality has with ‘Ruins of Humans’ expelled forth their most accessible release. Having awoken from their slumber after almost 2 decades the newer bands should take a much needed lesson by these masterly death metal scholars. Back in the day the band never garnered as much attention as they deserved, but with this wrecking ball of a release and the modern age where a guy like me sitting behind his computer in India is reviewing this EP a mere day after the release, Brutality may hopefully get the recognition and exposure they so thoroughly deserve.

SCORE - 80/100

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Magic Circle - Magic Circle


“A magic circle is circle or sphere of space marked out by practitioners of many branches of ritual magic, which they generally believe will contain energy, and form a sacred space, or will provide them a form of magical protection between themselves and what they summoned, or both” ~ Wikipedia.

Awesome, isn’t it? What can possible make this witchcraft and wizardry even more fascinating? A huge dollop of doom of course. Of all the lyrical boundaries that Doom metal has implemented into its art form it is the fascination of doom with witchcraft and the occult that has often yielded the best results and timeless classics. So, when an occult drenched traditional doom metal band consisting of 4 members rises from Massachusetts whose doom scene has blessed us with acts like Upsidedown Cross, Grief, Elder, Ice Dragon, Tentacle and Blue Aside to name a few your heart is bound to skip a beat.

Highly animated live, he is really into his music
Magic Circle has members was formed in 2011 by a members from local hardcore bands which went by the names of Mind Eraser, Rival Mob and The A-Team. Having gained quite a reputation with their power punched gigs the band finally released its self titled full album early in 2013. True to its reputation Magic Circle does not disappoint. Starting off with a heavy lumbering riff the band announces its presence when vocalist Brendan Radigan goes ‘Out of the darkness I emerge’ and from there on there is no looking back. The band plays a style of music that encompasses influences from the riff-centric and occult drenched imagery of Hour of 13, the NWOBHM tinge and soloing as on Pagan Altar’s magnum opus ‘Mythical and Magical’ backed by song writing skills evocative of Mistreater’s ‘Hell’s Fire’ along with the tendency to milk out riffs as much as possible and add small noodling solos all throughout as was a hallmark with the legendary heavy metal doomsters Trouble. There music is generally mid paced but alternates between mid paced and up tempo so expect no dragged out tempos as present on releases by Pilgrim and Reverend Bizarre. While most tracks follow the similar structure of starting off but slowly and eventually morphing into a burgeoning piece with its plodding grooves and ritualistic riffs and drums there are tracks like ‘Rapture’ where the band goes all out right from the get go. The bands sense of melody is unparalleled and the band manages never to drift from its predominant intent of creating a cohesive and entertaining album that manages to stay fresh through with its chugging riffs, towering solos and dominant drums whether the band is playing a rumbling riff which is a calm before the storm or a whiplash inducing chorus. Another aspect which thrusts this band to newer heights and gives it an added dimension is the garage styled production of retro doom that lends its innate coarse harmony to the music which aids the foursome to better attain what they wished to.

However much the song writing skills, the sense the melody or the raw talent be praised here what cannot be exalted enough is the performance by vocalist Brendan Radigan. His passion fueled performance is what makes the record what it is. His tonality, which can be described as a weave of Pagan Altar front man’s  Terry Jones’ nasality and Lords Of The Crimson Alliance’s front man’s Far Cry’s towering vocals, is the lubricant which binds the band with such malleability which in turn evolves the band into a mass wrecking ball in front of which intransigence in nugatory. As on the end of February this album which has come out of nowhere is my favorite metal release of the year so far and may well be the doom metal release, if not THE album of the year. 

SCORE - 92/100

Monday, February 25, 2013

Tyrant Goatkaldrakona - Horns In The Dark


What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about Hungary? The out of world leggy babes of course, how a stupid a question that was. So, more specifically when you think about Hungary and its connection to extreme metal music how many bands come to your mind? Not many will answer be able to answer that question because Hungary and extreme metal haven’t really mixed but there are a few noteworthy bands. Pokolgép for example was a brilliant heavy metal band. Void Of Sleep is decent doom metal band and Sear Bliss have gained some attention in the black metal scene, but amidst all this lies the exalted Tormentor and the brilliant black metal album ‘Ano Domini’ and the most revered track of all, the infamous black metal anthem of all ages, ‘Tormentor’  without the mention of which no black metal discussion is complete.  So, when an old school death metal emerges from that country it does turn your curiosity notch up a bit.

The band in question here is named Tyrant Goatgaldrakona and has 2 members which boast the names Hellfire Commander of Eternal War and Pain and Grave Desecration and Necrosodomy, with a logo designed by a company called Sickness 666 and a black and white album cover which has a goat reading an old black book in front of a sacrificial altar on which lies a pile of skulls and is surrounded by a few members of some secret satanic cult while there is a meteor shower in the sky. Oh, and there is of course a pentagram just above the band logo. If this doesn’t scream bloody metal I don’t know what will. As contrasted to the image that the band tries to put forth with their over the top imagery and names the music is primitive and brutal.

The mold of death metal that this band embodies is that of a savagely violent form of death metal. The band obviously worships at the altar of Incantation as is seen in their music and is at rare occasions dotted with influences from the Swedish metal scene. The bands main aim is to arrive, raise hell and leave. Its inclination towards just leaving a message in a small compact form without the frivolous sweeping solos or highly technical compositions is in a way the attitude that started the metal genre as a whole. Right from the onset the band the band unleashes an aural onslaught of a thick slab of death metal suffering which with its unrelenting constitution grips the attention of the listener. The heavy Incantation aura can be heard throughout with the signature Incantation like extremely heavy riffs being pummelled out like there was no tomorrow.  The vocals range from guttural to whispered and when guttural they are very reminiscent of the mighty Craig Pillard. As compared to the bands previous release which was their debut was an EP by the name of ‘Sign of Moloch’ which was more on the slower side of things this release is relentless throughout. The songs are more varied, complex and well thought of and instead of coming off as a brainless Incantation clone the band add a whole lot of originality in the composition. Though the band is very highly influenced by the American scene of old school death metal there are shades of the archetypal buzz saw guitar tuning and riffs of the Swedish death metal scene as is seen in a couple of riffs in tracks like ‘The Mountains of Irkalla (From Life to Death)’, ‘Church Of Fire’, ‘Dawn Of Decay’, ‘King of the Desert (Malkum in Rex)’ and the title track. The drumming is never just lost in the background. Though the drumming for the majority of the part acts just as support it never takes the centre stage but at times it used as the catalyst to thrust the band forward with blastbeats in tracks like ‘The Mountains of Irkalla (From Life to Death)’ and ‘Church Of Fire’ which are evocative of Jumpin’ Jesus played with sincere precision. The true strength of the band lies in its ability to change the momentum from hyperspeed to snail paced death doom riffs that are highly infectious with their simplicity and headbangability with impossible fluidity as seen in tracks like ‘The Mountains of Irkalla (From Life to Death)’, ‘Dawn Of Decay’ and ‘Arcanum Secretum’. If you have been following the band since its inception you will notice unlike most bands that write good small songs and falter at longer track, Tyrant Goatkaldrakona can craft the longer tracks very well. In a rather short album where most tracks are 2 – 3 minutes long the first and last track are over 6 minutes long and everything that the band stands for can be heard here, and with such a unique ability and track placing the band starts as well as ends off with a bang begging the listener for more. Though highly influenced by the Incantation school of music the band also reminds the listener of Black Witchery is songs like ‘Horns in the Dark’ with its frantic drumming and its penchant for war metal.

In the vast spectrum of death metal the class of music the band chooses to play the and with the influences the band has chosen the scope for variance reduces to quite an extent but with the album lasting only 30 minutes the album never becomes tedious. This and the fact that there are numerous tempo changes and solos dotted throughout also prevent boredom and sounding as if the band has run out of ideas. The clear production and the slightly muddy guitar tone aid the band well in its objective and adds the depth this kind of music needs. A bone that I’d like to pick with the band is its guitar solos. The few solos which are here sound rather similar and scattered all over the place and lack construction which is rather surprising because the band has the ability to write memorable solos when well constructed and thought of as seen on the track ‘King of the Desert (Malkum In Rex)’ and in their Morbid Carnage which in this modern day and age is one of the very few old school thrash metal bands that are worth hearing and do not sound like trash. Maybe the band wanted to keep things fast keeping in theme with the album and that may be the reason for such faulty scattered solos but I think they act as a hindrance to some good song writing. Despite this, the band knows its death metal and knows what audience it wants to target. Not being from a country that is known for death metal or a well known label may be the reasons the band does not garner as much attention it deserves, but for those into the old school of music this is a band to follow in the future and a death metal album that is surely worth hearing. This band may well be the finest extreme metal import from Hungary after Tormentor.

SCORE - 76/100

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance


Darkthrone needs no introduction. Their influence on extreme metal is almost unparalleled and with albums like “Soulside Journey”, “A Blaze in the Northern Sky”, “Under a Funeral Moon” and “Transilvanian Hunger” the band has more than their share of timeless classics. After conquering all they possible could in the black metal category the band changed their approach and started infusing elements of crust punk and heavy metal though never entirely moving from their roots. This started from their album in 2006 entitled ‘The Cult is Alive’ and the band proceeded to release a string of albums that sounded rather different from each other though never they were all essentially Black/Crust albums with hints of heavy metal. It was evident from the aural experience as well as the lyrics that the band were having fun, which you can’t blame them for as they had no option left since they had contributed literally nothing and went through an extended lean patch after releasing ‘Panzerfaust’. Any other band would have been done and dusted by now but since the releases however mediocre and poor they were carried the honourable Darkthrone tag the band managed to stretch out a carrier which has extended more than 2 decades now.

Anyone who has been following the band, even if it has only been from their punk infused music days (however unlikely that may be), one thing has been evident. That has been the gradual shift from crust and the inclusion of the more traditional, heavier and thrashier sound. So, as the band releases its 16th (!!!) album on Peaceville Records, a company that has worked with the biggest in the business like Opeth, Katatonia, Anathema and Pentagram to name a few,  entitled ‘The Underground Resistance’ one could expect another album which embraced the traditional sound a bit more and let go of the punk attitude music a bit more.

‘The Underground Resistance’ is in a plethora of ways much much different from what the duo of Fenriz and Nocturno have ever done. Containing only 6 songs but lasting 42 minutes the band has opted for quality more than quantity and with long tracks the band will test the listener’s patience at times. The music on this record can be defined as a combination of Of Black Metal, Thrash metal, Heavy metal, speed metal, power metal and crust punk. It is not like the band choose to mesh all these genres together in each and every track but instead chose to pick a few of these genres per song and move on to the next and this is the reason no two tracks sound similar and make my job as a reviewer that much tougher because as much as I hate track by track reviews the band leaves me no choice here.

Not a peace sign. A tribute to Celtic Frost's "To Mega Therion"

See ? Expect a lot of early Celtic Frost influence here.
The album starts off with ‘Dead Early’ and as soon as it hits you one thing is clear and that is that the band unsurprisingly has shed the punk sound a bit more and embraced a heavier more traditional approach. If you’ve been a fan of the band’s last few albums there is no reason you shouldn’t enjoy this track with punky vocals and riffs (that would have made ‘Fast Eddie’ proud)  played out with a tuning more suitable for a proper black metal album. Throughout the track the band plays with a Motorhead sensibility and even though it is less than 5 minutes in length it a bit dragged out. Nothing special this track and is a lukewarm album opener. It is the second track entitled ‘Valkyrie’ where things start getting interested. Starting off on an acoustic guitar this track is the unlikely mix of traditional metal, old school power metal mixed with a tingle of black metal. While the song structure if based on traditional metal Fenriz tries his hand on the operatic siren like power metal vocals while the cymbal work on the drums as well the guitar tuning is more suited to a typical black metal abum. As the soaring chorus of the track has a definite epic Manilla Road feel to it you cannot but praise the song writing skills the band has expressed here. The tempo changes, the placing everything here is brilliant, and as the track ends on a beautifully soaring melodic outo that conjures images of the artwork in your mind you can understand why this track will be many’s favourite track off of the record. Proceeding to track number three entitled ‘Lesser Men’ which starts off with a blatant rip off of the famous Mercyful Fate track named ‘A Dangerous Meeting’ the influence of Celtic Frost and Hellhammer in the drumming, vocals and riffs permeates through this track and acts as the precursor of what is to come for the rest of album. Yep, expect a lot of First Wave of Black metal worship from now. As contrasted to the previous track there are a lot of gruff Celtic Frost vocals here as well as the Hellhammer riffs. Also as contrasted to the previous track the song writing is bad and like the first track this song as well seems too stretched. The fourth track ‘The Ones You Left Behind’ is essentially more of the same stuff but instead of gruff vocals there is a duo of operatic vocals as well as raspy vocals. Like Valkyrie this track has a great melodic section here with an atmospheric build up and heavy metal influenced solo but the tempo change from this section to a more upbeat part is bad and really breaks the flow of what was a great track. It just seems forced and out of place. This brings us the last two tracks which length wise make up half the album. The first of these entitled ‘Come Warfare, The Entire Doom’ lasting more than 8 minutes sheds off all influences except Celtic Frost/Hellhammer with the simplistic heavy and catchy riffs with raspy vocals with a good bit of Venom thrown in. Even with the long track length it never gets tedious even with hardy any riffs and just one small guitar solo in the end. The last track is the epic of the album, and clocking in at 13:49 minutes (of course, the length has to deliberate, and for those who don’t know 1349 was the year of the infamous Bubonic Plague in Europe) entitled ‘Leave No Cross Unturned’. The riffs, the clean vocals which are at time operatic is the bands take on old school power metal. Fenriz never sounded better with his clean vocals approach and the track starts off strongly with his strong vocals and catchy riffs. It doesn’t take long for the abundant Celtic Frost worship to come in once again with those simple catchy riffs, supporting drumming and gruff vocals. Amidst the tempo changes and the switching between Celtic Frost worship and old school power metal worship even though this song doesn’t have enough changes in the tempo or enough riffs to warrant the massive track length the band manages to pull it off in all its epicness and glory.

This amount of Celtic Frost worship could be expected though. If anyone had seen the promo photos of Darkthrone there was a pic where some felt the band was throwing a pace sign, but if one noticed carefully it was homage to the famous cover of Celtic Frost’s “To Mega Therion”.  This latest release is definitely a grower though, because a solitary or maybe two listens will not let you get hold of everything that is going around here. Just for the sake of summarization this album has elements of heavy metal, speed metal, power metal, 2 waves of black metal, thrash metal and crust punk. The vocals range from clean to operating to gruff to punky and to raspy. The track lengths vary from 4 minutes to 14, and from aggressive to laid back to atmospheric to epic.  Though it was wise of the band not to incorporate all these elements on each track together because that would just have been a clusterfuck, this albums seem to me an attempt to throw everything at the wall and see what stuck. Because of the variance of style of tracks the band has little or no fluidity and continuity and seems like the band doesn’t really know what they want to achieve. Unlike previous albums where the band had their fun this was a serious attempt at creating some good music however on previous releases, the band knew what they wanted, a good time, but here the band seems unsure and confused of what they want.  That being said it if definitely a better release than the last few albums and has enough on it even amidst the poor song writing to warrant a few listens except of course ‘Valkyrie’ and the brilliant epic ‘Leave No Cross Unturned’

SCORE - 64/100

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Enforcer - Death By Fire


Enforcer is a Swedish heavy/speed metal quartet that has gained quite a following with their take on old school heavy and speed metal. Though they lack highly on originality the bands’ two albums entitled ‘Into The Night’ and ‘Diamonds’ has received much praise because of the inherent quality of the traditional old school sound. ‘Diamonds’ especially was an album which was considered a gem in the New Wave of Traditional Metal,  caught my attention and launched the band to the top of modern metal food chain due to the bands youthful energy and passion that bled profusely. The band sounds like a mixture of the speed metalesque youthful energy ‘Kill ‘Em All’ era of Metallica, melodic sensibility of ‘Cryptic Writings’ era of Megadeth and instrumentality of ‘Somewhere in Time’ era of Maiden meshed together with the power and choppy riff thought pattern which is reminiscient of early Angel With and Judas Priest.

Fast forward to 2013 the band released their third album which has been entitled ‘Death By Fire’. Like on the previous releases the album art, title and song tracks are all very 80’s.. Unlike previous releases the band has this time added influences from the fluffy cheesiness of power metal like on ‘Run For Your Life’ and has also added the glam metal quotient with certain choruses like the ones on ‘Take Me Out Of This Nightmare’, ‘Satan’ and ‘Sacrificed’being reminiscent of Motley Crue and Quiet Riot. I feel that the band could have done away with these elements as they don’t seem to suit the bands personality and contribute greatly in the final result which is a rather bland release. ‘Crystal Suite’, a 4 minute instrumental track is essentially history of the guitarwork of Maiden with the track opening with an early Maiden riff slowly moving onto a ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’ melodic portion and also containing a ‘Dance Of Death’ type solo. Also, the previous releases revolved a lot around Olof Wikstrand’s high pitched over the top vocals, but this time the axe work has taken center stage which is not exactly the best trade-off since Olof is brilliant vocalist, his voice suiting the band note for note. He added a completely new dimension to the bands’ sound with his John Gallagher (Raven) and John Cyriss (Agent Steel) type vocals because you could feel his passion which added a youthful energy to the whole band. After the title track the band seems to lose its way completely by churning out material that is boring, uninspired and highly inconsistent. The riffs seem rehashed, the vocals sparse and the solos badly constructed entering one year and leaving out the next without leaving an impace in between and in the process not giving anything with any playback value whatsoever.

However, not all is bad. Roped in by Nuclear Blast the production is not over produced but pristine and the plodding bass lines and drums can be heard well behind the guitar work and powerful vocals. The band still does possess the energy and love for the 80’s. Also all tracks leading upto the and including the title track are great songs. The masterful guitarwork and blazing solos on tracks like ‘Sacrificed’, ‘Satan’ and ‘Mesmerized By Fire’ really worth listening.

All in all this is the weakest release from the ‘Enforcer’ catalogue till date. They have never been original but always had the passion to leave a mark on the music they deeply love but here they seem to cover up for the lack of even that inkling of creativity by adding power and glam elements to their music which ended badly the band falling flat on its face. Highly inconsistent apart from the first 3 tracks and moments in between this album is possibly worth a solitary listen. If you ever need a dose of NWOTHM listening to this bands’ previous releases will be a better idea.

SCORE - 52/100

Listen To Full Album

Vorum - Poisoned Void


Contrary to popular belief old school death metal connoisseurs are of open mind. Play it well and we accept you whole heartedly. Play it like crap and you’re thrown into the deepest bowels of ignorance never to be even glanced at again by the death metal hordes. The band in question here, Vorum, is a 4 piece band from Finland, the land that has given us bands like Lantern and Krypts in the near past. Undoubtedly the land is the dormant hub in the world of new school of revivalist old school metal. However, as I was saying, all Vorum has done prior to this record has been a small 20 minute EP entitled ‘Grim Death Awaits’ back in 2009 and a split with a certain Vasaeleth, a US band with a cult following, and yet the band has gained an eager fan base in the current death metal scene.
Released earlier this year, the debut LP by the band entitled ‘Poisoned Void’ consists of 8 tracks, including 1 from the aforementioned split with Vasaeleth, which all together last for 35 minutes. Produced by a small label called Woodcut records which till date has dealt with less than 10 Finnish extreme metal bands and boasting of artwork by Alexander L. Brown who has leant ink to bands like Heresiarch, Lantern, Mitochondrion and Withchrist, the music contained within this release is a no frills, unconcealed and straightforward assault on the willing or unwilling listener. Compared to the EP that helped this band gain a reputation for sincere, no time to waste death metal, Poisoned Void is rather different. While the EP’s 8 tracks lasted 20 minutes, this albums’ 8 tracks last 35. Except the final title track which lasts 7 minutes all the other track are in the usual 3-4 minute category.

Apart from track lengths while ‘Grim Death Awaits’ borrowed heavily from death metal lords Incantation and Autopsy this album seems to be a mixture of Swedish, Finnish and US death metal. Contemptuously using the chainsaw riffs made famous by Swedish swamis like Entombed, Dismember and Nihilist, backed by the innate heaviness which was emblematic in the Finnish scene because of bands like Convulse and Demigod meshed together with the symbolic murkiness and song writing of bands like Autopsy, Vorum has released an album that while has underlying influences in every aspect permeates a knowledge of effective and original death metal throughout. The strong point of the band is definitely the guitarwork and song writing skills. The guitarwork uses the typical throaty screamed vocals which even though is nothing spectacular is well executed and the drumming which alternates between blastbeats which thrust the band to the next level or simple drumming in the background as support to give the album its focal point. Most of the album is up-tempo except for the rare Autopsy-ian doomy riff here and there. Coming back to the guitarwork, the dual guitars with the catchy riffs, razor sharp rhythms and melodic tremolo picked solos make for the bread and butter of the band as compared to the EP which relied on brutality and heaviness. The murky guitars occasionally carry a raw black metal tinge to it which help create the dark mood present here. The ability of the band to know when to throw in the doomy section or the face melting melodic solos or churn out high quality and catchy riffs and when to stop is a definite highlight of the album. The way the guitars with its oozy rottenness entwine each other and yet give each other enough breathing space is the glue that holds together the whole band and moulds into a lean mean cohesive unit. The production is real good, and really helps the band attain the old school sound it wishes to achieve.

The approach showcased here is a gimmick free and simple albeit effective one. The band hasn’t pushed the boundaries in any way whatsoever but mixed together known elements in the proper proportion to give the old schoolers an album they will truly appreciate because of the consistency, the fact that every track here has something to offer and an unforgiving intensity throughout without going over the top or trying too hard. Keep this one here in mind, it will surely make your albums of the year list.

SCORE - 86/100

Portal - Vexovoid


At what point does music move to far past its logical extremes ? This is a question that may be answerable solely by the one and only Australian twisted geniuses better known as Portal. Vexovoid is the 4th release by the band that has made music a psychological weapon of mass mental deterioration. 

In the past the band has been able to conjure up images of twisted imagery through it's self imploding suffocating atmosphere and unconventional song structures, uncatchy music which often made you and I question what the hell was happening. None of of really got the answer, not a satisfactory one anyway. It's a question that no one can answer, except maybe the band itself.

So has anything changed for the band ? In a nutshell, umm.. No. So, is it still the same ? Well, almost. The band still has that suffocating atmosphere, inherent brutality, but they sound a bit calmer from the previous releases maybe. A bit calmer may not be suitable for this band, a bit less chaotic will be more apt. The band still sound like Immolation, Deathspell Omega and Gorguts put in a blender and the resultant music is being played backwards. The band still relies a lot on atmosphere, and by atmosphere I don't mean the kind of 'piano ambient spacey' atmosphere that new age crap extreme bands use so as to portray a feeling of depth and emotion, but a skullfucking, suffocating, raging I dont give a fuck relentless atmosphere, that the band has used continously to it's advantage in the past and continues to do so. They still don't care about philistinian things like melody and harmony. 

Vexovoid takes no time to get started, almost immediately throwing the listener down into a pit of nothingness. From the first track to the last moment of music here, there is a nearly unrelenting wave of harsh, abrasive sounds, with little- if any- respite to speak of. That being said, the effect of this sound is undeniable. The band has this brilliant habit of being able to make this Lovecraftian type unimaginable horror and convert into music and lay it down in front of you almost daring you to take a bite off of it.

Portal is nothing like anything you have heard before. This is metal for the weird. This is metal which is not for the weak hearted. This is metal, as it was supposed to be, an art, an expression of oneself without caring about the listener. This is not metal which cares about the convention which is considered the norm. This is not metal that cares about production. Really, if after creating an image like this if you think that this is a band that caters to the needs to people who will bitch about production or not being enjoyable or fun or catchy, and if really that is what you expect you are way out of line.

This is chaos that you will like. You may not know why, but you will still like it.

Grim, Bleak, Frightening, Awesome.

SCORE - 72/100

Tentacle - Ingot Eye


Tentacle is a side project of the band members of Ice Dragon. For those who have been living under a rock, Ice Dragon is a Stoner/Doom Metal/ Psychedelic Rock band that has gained a cult following over the past few years because of the bands’ relish for continuous reinventation of self.  Ice Dragon believe that the only thing constant is change and so even when they hit the home run with a successful formula on a particular release it doesn’t hinder the bands’ idea of pushing music to the logical extreme on their next release instead of sticking to the same formula, playing it safe and churning out some quality material in the same vein as their precursor. This is the reason why no two Ice Dragon releases sound the same and this love for experimentation backed with an aura of open mindedness has attracted many a person into the bands’ fan base in a world where most choose to play it safe and release new stuff that mostly sounds like a re hash of their older stuff.

That being said, Tentacle was formed in 2012 and they released their debut EP in the same year entitled ‘Void Abyss’. Early this year they released their debut album labelled ‘Ingot Eye’ which lasts around 40 minutes and consist of 4 tracks with lengths varying from 5 minutes to 13 minutes long.  A mere glance at the name of the band, and its artwork promptly communicates to the listener the bands’ obsession with the infamous H.P.Lovecraft.

The band plays a mixture of lo-fi yet burdensome and onerous mix of doom with elements of drone-y sludge metal with the pivotal aim being to create an atmosphere that is riddled with dirge and bleak hopelessness. As compared to the debut EP this release has a rawer, heavier and more oppressive sound. If the previous EP was a taste of the bands’ exploration into the deepest darkest unknowns this album is a peregrination into the entrails of all that is murky and filthy. The music moves along at a pace that is neither as slow as Pilgrim or Reverend Bizarre but not also as mid paced as Alunah or Subrosa. A good choice, after all it is the slow, heavy plodding riffs that create a foreboding and morose feeling more successfully than up tempo riffs.  The band in a short time seemed to have mastered the concept of building up an atmosphere using heavy riffs, deep cavernous bass lines tortured vocals and repetitive drums that engulf the listener in a hypnotic, trance like and lethargic cocoon.

Show me the tentacles !!

The music in itself at times seems to draw out inspiration from Black Sabbath’s first 2 LP’s and at times even classical music. This beast of an album with its horror fuelled imagery and odiously nauseating atmosphere is sprinkled with hints of psychedelia. Even though the music moves along at a similar bruised pace throughout there are enough variations in each tracks that makes sure that the listeners’ attention doesn’t meander elsewhere.  Be it the variation in vocals that range from screamed to at times even clean or the subtle changes in the tempo of the guitar work or the trudging bass lines backed by the use of a single unwavering note against the backdrop of surrounding silence, each such change which has been masterfully placed piles onto the demonic and twisted feel this album permeates throughout its length. The band has this ability to mesh all that is mentioned above to create a singular unit of utmost quality and flows together with impossible liquidity.

The production deserves special mention here. Remember when Celtic Frost and Hellhammer released their legendary stuff 30-odd years back and it was the most repulsive and heinous stuff one had had the pleasure to listen to? How did the band do that? They used the simple concept of downtuning their guitars and let reverb do the rest. In the simplest of words, that is what the band has done here.  The band admitted that they had to work hard to get the sound they wanted and it has ended up paying dividends. In a day when overproduction reigns supreme and where production has a two dimensional sound – left and right, the band has gone out of the way to get the old school sound came to you from up, down, backward, forward and in the process created a multi dimensional listening experience, a sound which has sadly been long forgotten in the current day and practiced only by a handful of musicians. If you have listened to Head Of The Demon’s 2013 debut album then you know what I am talking about, for they too possess that evil reverb laden old school sound.

It is good news that Tentacle is not just an experiment by Ice Dragon. They are a serious band which is here to stay. Those familiar with the works of Ice Dragon may at times find some similarities over here but there are enough variations from the core Ice Dragon sound to call Tentacle a different band that carries a harsher, more nefarious look into the minds that are collectively known as Ice Dragon. Get your hands on this album as soon as you can as this is definitely ‘Best Doom Metal Albums Of The Year’ stuff.

SCORE - 86/100

Krypts - Unending Degradation


This is the definition of Death Metal as on RateYourMusic - Death Metal is a Metal sub-genre that began in the United States in the mid 1980s and was heavily influenced by Thrash Metal(particularly bands like Slayer and Kreator). Pioneers of the genre include bands such as Possessed, Death, and Morbid Angel. This genre often utilizes abrupt changes in tempo, key, and time signature, although this is not present in all forms of this music. Guitars are heavily distorted and down-tuned, and are often played using techniques such as palm muting and tremolo picking. Chromatic chord progressions are often featured in Death Metal songs. Death Metal drummers typically play in very fast patterns and often employ double bass drum techniques and the use of blast beats to create a highly aggressive sound. Vocally, Death Metal uses a style consisting largely of guttural growls, grunts, and gurgles. Lyrics are bleak and often violent or anti-religious. Even today, this style is considered a largely underground form of music.
A pretty good definition covering almost all characteristics of death metal. Almost. This definition, and the definition of death metal as on Wikipedia are quite similar but both do not mention one very important characteristic of death metal. The atmosphere. Remember the golden era of death metal when the only aim of playing death metal wasn’t just playing blast beats and aggression but an inherent evil foul and wicked almost suffocating atmosphere? Not many in this ongoing new school of old school death metal have been able to grasp and master this concept, hell, not many of the old school bands were able to do it unless you’re a band member of Incantation or Autopsy but Krypts seem to have grabbed that elusive devil by the collar and make it its own and in the process have written a chapter on death metal atmosphere that would have made the masters proud.

Krypts, a Finnish band have been around for a while. Even if you’re a new band when you come from a country that has birthed the bastardly putrid sons of bands like Demilich, Demigod, Convulse (who, for those living under a rock have come up with a pretty nifty little EP earlier this year) , Adramelech, Xysma, Cartilage (to name a very very few) you carry of extremely legendary tag of Finnish death metal which can be a huge burden to carry. They formed in 2008 and have released a self titled EP in 2001 and a demo called ‘Open The Crypts in 2009 and since then have lived up to their expectations and released stuff which created ripples of excitement in the death metal community. A glance of at the album art which has been inked by THE Timo Kotela who has made the famous Deathspell Omega and Watain covers has also done artwork for bands like Kaamos, Teitanblood, Katharsis and Dead Congregation is a visual showcase of the music contained within the debut album labelled ‘Unending Degradation’ . It’s bleak, dark, and oppressive yet possessing a sense of all that is unholy.

If ‘Open The Crypts’ and ‘Krypts’ were teasers into the putrid make of death metal this band was about to churn out then ‘Unending Degradation’ is the full monty of unabashed, rancid death metal that if I may be completely honest may have surprised many of fan of this band including me as something this heavy and lumbering was not expected. But then again it may not be as surprising considering Dark Descent records have signed ‘em up, a label that over the years has signed only the best of the best to their catalogue of death metal, some bands being Adversarial, Goreaphobia, Lvcifyre and Anhedonist. The album consists of 8 tracks and lasting nearly 40 minutes has 3 tracks from their 2009 demo. These tracks are ‘Open The Crypt’, ‘Dormancy Of Ancients’ and ‘Day Of Reckoning’. These tracks have been re-recorded and given an atmosphere and feel that make it go consistently with the other tracks of the album instead of just being copy pasted and makng them seem out of place, which once again is not every surprising since Dark Descent is anything but an amateur. The music can be described as a mixture of Death and Death\Doom with its traditional Finnish styled downtuned heavy goodness, sepulchral bass lines, visceral bellows  and sunken drums that mesh together to create an unforgivingly dark, deep and debauched atmosphere. Throughout the album there are various tempo changes which change between mid paced and slow lumbering with well thought of precision. After all its the heavy and slow riffs that make for a more morbid atmosphere than the hyperspeed technical ones. Each time the gear is changed it brings about the unmitigated change in the cavernous atmosphere which the band intended to do so in the first place. Whether the riffs crawl along at a maggot like pace or a faster more paced approach the band never meanders from its pivotal aim which is of creating a monstrously perverted atmosphere. 

Throughout the album the band permeates an esoteric intelligence by showing it knows what it wants backed by an unbridled creativity of the instruments through which the bands can bring forth unto the listener what the band needs. The song writing and song placing on the album is another brilliant feature innate here. The way the band uses extended outros as intros to the upcoming tracks as well as further piling to the suffocating atmosphere and how the band meshes the slow placed lumbering riffs of the track ‘Inhale...’ as a precursor to the unhinged crushing brutality of the following track ‘The Black Smoke’ shows the vision of the band which is further cemented in this all killer, no filler consistent release when the band finishes of with a bang with their final track ‘Beneath The Archaic’ which is masterpiece of modern death/doom and everything the band stands for.

Devastating stuff. Unending Degradation has cemented Krypts place in the modern death metal scene by creating an album that is so full of emotion and by merging its old and new stuff with amazingly perfect liquidity. This is an incarnation of old school death metal.. the Finnish way. In a year that boasts of releases by Zealotry, Convulse, Mitochondrion, Lantern, T.O.O.H, Mithras, Vorum, Portal and Suffocation amongst others and with 10 of the 12 months of this year still left toppling this beat beast of an album will not be an easy task, and if some band old or new does manage to best this.. well then this year will bring back a smile on the face of an old school death metal fan.

SCORE - 89/100

Manilla Road - Mysterium


Mysterium, Manilla Road's latest output is a mesh of early Manilla Road ala Crystal Logic, The Deluge, Open the Gates and newer Manilla Road ala Playground Of The Damned and The Voyager.

The album structure is similar that that of the band's classic Crystal Logic that thrusted this band into immortality, with all tracks being mid to longish length while the last track being by far the longest of em all. Upon hearing the album one thing is very clear, the band has definitely shrugged off its more melodic approach since they got back together, a sound very prominent on their last few albums and have adopted a rawer sound reminiscent of the legendary MR which released a string of classic albums. Mark Shelton hasn't sounded this good in while and The Shark may have well found the machine to reverse time because he lashes out the signature galloping choppy riffs throughout the album right from the start. The song writing is good and you can feel the band has been greatly insipred by its own thrashy releases like The Deluge and Mystification, and heavy metal releases like Open The Gates. The band has the epic feeling which is more reminiscent of The Voyager than the classic albums and the production is great and suits the band well. It isn't super layered and all like most heavy and power metal bands today which gave them a fake, cheesy, extremely pristine one dimensional sound. 

However all is not well. The last quarter of the album isn't as good as the rest which is highly unlike MR as they are one of the most consistent bands in the business. The album has 2 ballads like last album, called 'The Battle Of Bonchester Bridge' and 'the Fountain' and like I felt when I heard their last releases, The Playground Of The Damned and The Voyager, it's just one ballad too many. 'The Calling' is well, nothing to be honest. It is just sound, and comes across as a bad pothole on what has been a rather smooth ride. It could have been used as an intro the final 11 minute title track of the album but the band chose not to. That brings us to the final track, the supposed to be lengthy epic title track. After the previous track the band could have chosen just to jump right to the good art, but they chose to have an intro to this as well. Though it isn't annoying it could have been skipped. Also for the first time in their life the band became a bit predictable here. One would never know what to expect on MR's long epic tracks but you almost know when the tempo change and when the guitar solos are coming. Nonetheless it's a good track, having soaring guitar solos that bring out the epic feeling which is so trademark of Manilla Road.

The band has turned down the epic quotient a bit on this release though I don't know why because it is the band's strongpoint and the band can still do it as they showed on their album , The Voyager released just a few years back. The band has opted for a more straightforwards sound in some parts, but has also showed that early Manilla Road is still alive and kicking. Even after the extra ballad and the title track where 2 minutes could easily have been shaved off from either end this album is a good release which is worth hearing for any fan of the band. It is not album of the decade stuff but still a great release with the first 3 quarters of the album being solid and which many may dub as the band's greatest release since they got back depending on what aspect of the band they like most.

Favorite tracks - The Grey God Passes, Hermitage, Hallowed Be Thy Grave.

SCORE - 77/100