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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cvinger - Embodied in Incense

Artist: Cvinger
Release Title: Embodied in Incense
Year: 2016
Label: Art Gates Records
Genre: Old-School Black Metal
1. Chapter 1: Conjuration of the Dead God
2. Psalm, of a Hollow Man
3. Beheading the Desert Prophet
4. Enchanted Conclave
5. Weak to the Gallows
6. Chapter 2: Eye Carved upon the Serpents Stone
7. Martyr Shrine
8. Infinity of the Black Flame
9. Embodied in Incense
10. Chapter 3: Amen III

The second full-length from Slovenian black metal horde Cvinger offers another solid slab of pristine, chaotic-sounding old-school black metal to make it two solid epics in a row following their great debut. Offering frantic and brimstone scented tremolo riffing which nicely echoes the traditional second-wave acts in the mid-90s, there’s a bouncy and enjoyable up-tempo feel to the music here that contain a vicious old-school streak to their rhythms. As well, there’s the ability to meld those swirling tremolo riff-works alongside a more pronounced and chaotic series of frenzied drum-blasts that adds a blast-heavy approach to the music in conjunction to the more intense and blistering riff-work, and they stand-out all the more so on the album against the moody atmospherics featured in the lone slow, churning epic offering up some stylish variety. This alone makes it a rather strong and enjoyable enough effort to really make a strong impression here if only it didn’t rely so heavily on the use of short droning industrial interludes so often here, as there’s three of them spread out to open, close and partway through the album as a breather of sorts to set up the second half. It’s odd that this placement occurs here as it does interrupt the flow of the record where it’s just getting interesting and then breaks off into the brief, under-a-minute set-up before going through several more tracks and then back into a droning finale which is a little off-putting, yet as a tactic that was repeated from their debut it does have a minor pass associated with it going through the motions.

The first half here gets this going nicely. Set-up instrumental intro ‘Chapter 1: Conjuration of the Dead God’ uses a deep chanting speech with churning samples to set the stage for proper first track ‘Psalm, of a Hollow Man’ which features tight, ravenous swirling rhythms and utterly dexterous and blasting drumming over the traditional-sounding arrangements from the tremolo-styled rhythms that run through the fast, frantic tempos firing through the frantic blastbeats into the churning final half gets this off to a solid start. ‘Beheading the Desert Prophet’ uses immediate blasting drumming alongside the dynamic riffing with plenty of churning up-tempo patterns to the swirling rhythms that sweeps along to the mid-tempo churning tremolo patterns throughout the blasting finale for another strong effort overall. ‘Enchanted Conclave’ starts with tight, churning riff-work and blasting drumming that turns into a frenzied up-tempo blast of swirling tremolo patterns and intense leads that work along through a series of mid-tempo sprawling sections that blast back into the frenzied rhythms in the blasting finale for a wholly enjoyable highlight. ‘Weak to the Gallows’ uses a steady, slow build-up with gradual drumming and a steady churning series of riffing that holds the darkened atmosphere nicely alongside the switchover into the frenzied blasting with plenty of furious drumming and tremolo patterns on through the final half for a decent enough effort against the more explosive other efforts.

The second half is a little weaker with the interludes but still has a lot to like. Mid-album instrumental breather ‘Chapter 2: Eye Carved upon the Serpents Stone’ features dark rumbling noise and sampled screeching effects leading into next track ‘Martyr Shrine’ bleeding through with the tight tremolo picked rhythms and frantic blasting drumming with plenty of fiery rhythms charging along through the blasting atmospherics as the pounding drumming holds the steady tremolo pattern leads flowing through the finale for a strong highlight effort. ‘Infinity of the Black Flame’ features a slow-building series of churning riff-work and blasting drumming that weaves along through a sprawling series of plodding atmospheric rhythms before churning back through the blasting drumming and frantic mid-tempo tremolo riffing for the final half in another somewhat decent enough effort. The  title track slowly works through rattling rhythms and tight clanking drumming that keeps the mid-tempo rhythms along through the frenzied riff-work as the feverish rhythms and choppy drumming weave alongside the buzzing riffing into the finale for a strong highlight. Lastly, the instrumental outro ‘Chapter 3: Amen III’ uses sampled crackling fire sounds and unearthly groaning against the backdrop of droning noises which isn’t that bad of a final track but just sticks out even more here with all the other interlude tracks here which isn’t all that bad of a lasting impression.

Though there’s a minor problem to be had with the album’s structure with all the brief instrumental interludes holding up the pacing, there’s still more than enough blasting chaos and frenetic bombastic on display to really make this a hearty choice for those looking for more second-wave styled black metal or are just fans of the style in general.

Score: 87/100

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Behexen - The Poisonous Path

Artist: Behexen
Release Title: The Poisonous Path
Year: 2016
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Genre: Old-School Black Metal
1. The Poisonous Path
2. The Wand of Shadows
3. Cave of the Dark Dreams
4. A Sword of Promethean Fire
5. Umbra Luciferi
6. Tyrant of Luminous Darkness
7. Chalice of the Abyssal Water
8. Pentagram of the Black Earth
9. Gallows of Inversion
10. Rakkaudesta Saatanaan

The fifth full-length from Finnish black metallers Behexen offers a glimpse of the bands’ true power and devastation that has carried them thus far into their career. Loaded with swirling tremolo-picked rhythms that carry a frantic sense of chaos that recalls the main patterns of the second-wave groups but carrying on with that intensity found more often in Swedish groups where those types of riffing arrangements are given a boost by the utterly ferocious drumming that truly sounds like a cacophony blasting along throughout here. The other big element found here, the extended droning and mid-tempo charge that comes into play here with offers a rather enjoyable amount of variation present while still being somewhat similar in style to the album’s main tone overall. Though this all makes for a wholly enjoyable set-up, the fact that this one does have a rather odd set-up in regards to it’s structure is rather curious. The first half of the album is set-up and filled with more of the blasting, chaos-filled tracks, while the second half this changes into extended, far longer pieces that are driven along more by the mid-tempo gallop with occasional bursts into more frenetic endeavors before settling in on the mid-tempo work, so it’s all curiously split without more balance between them.

The first half here offers a spectacular look into their work. The title track takes an extended eerie intro that blasts into ravenous chaotic drumming and relentless swirling tremolo rhythms pounding along at furious, frantic patterns as the furious, charging rhythms charge along at frantic, blistering tempos full of savage riffing into the finale for a strong, impactful opener. ‘The Wand of Shadows’ also uses the eerie opener that explodes into frantic blasting drumming with plenty of charging tremolo rhythm-work charging through the stylish buzzing tremolo-pitched patterns into the frantic series of blasting drumming and riffing that works through the final half for another strong, solid offering. ‘Cave of the Dark Dreams’ blasts into immediate and ravenous drumming with plenty of blistering rhythms full of tight swirling mid-tempo tremolo riffing that takes on a frantic up-tempo series of riff-work that plows through a frantic series of blasting drumming and intense patterns through the sampled finale for a rather enjoyable highlight effort. ‘A Sword of Promethean Fire’ uses swirling mid-tempo riffing and plodding paces to hold to a steady rhythm as the droning tremolo riff-work gradually picks up into a full-on explosion of blastbeat-filled drumming alongside the driving intense tremolo patterns leading into the gradual fade-out final half for a strong and enjoyable effort. ‘Umbra Luciferi’ charges forth with immediate blasting drumming and furious riffing as the full-throttle tremolo riff-work continually swirls around frantic blasting patterns before setting into a stellar mid-tempo gallop with tremolo-picked patterns leading into the fade-out finale for a wholly enjoyable and blasting highlight.

The second half is slightly hurt by the epics but still has a lot to like. ‘Tyrant of Luminous Darkness’ works through a scathing series of blasting drumming and utterly ferocious tremolo riffing that rips and saws through varying dynamic blasts of dramatic technical rhythms that charges along frantically blasting into the swirling tremolo riffing and letting the extended ambient section wander through the final half for a truly blistering highlight. ‘Chalice of the Abyssal Water’ uses a quick middling intro to give way to a swirling series of intense tremolo riffing and furious, frantic up-tempo blasting drumming that continually charges along with the tight swirling rhythms that drop off into rather stylish plodding arrangements of swirling riffing leading into the finale for a somewhat overlong but enjoyable effort. ‘Pentagram of the Black Earth’ features utterly ferocious drumming and up-tempo swirling tremolo riffing bouncing along to a frantic gallop with plenty of furious blasting carrying on through the tight sprawling section leading into the tight final half for the album’s best song overall. ‘Gallows of Inversion’ uses an extended droning noise intro that gives way to immediate blasting drumming and frantic tremolo rhythms full of swirling intense patterns bringing the furious, frantic energy along through the few sprawling sections and more furious rhythms into the finale for a solid enough offering. Finally, the epic album-closer ‘Rakkaudesta Saatanaan’ takes the extended industrial droning intro to turn into a series of mid-tempo swirling tremolo rhythms and simple, steady plodding drum-work that holds the mid-range work along at an even rhythm as the eerie melodic leads charge forth alongside the return to blistering drumming and charging tremolo patterns into the final half for a rather enjoyable lasting impression.

On the whole this is a truly strong and highly enjoyable effort that doesn’t offer up too many truly troubling areas at all with the music within it yet curiously falls only through it’s track arrangement, leaving this one as a readily recommended piece perfect for fans of the style, Finnish black metal or just dark extreme metal as a whole.

Score: 91/100

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Master Crow - Die for Humanity

Artist: Master Crow
Release Title: Die for Humanity
Year: 2014
Label: Self-Released/Independent
Genre: Melodic/Technical Deathcore
1. Die for Humanity
2. Down from the Sky
3. Road of Vice
4. Katyusha
5. Scream in the Night
6. Staind in Blood
7. Born to Be Crucified
8. Eye of the Troll
9. Down from the Sky (Theo Holander Version)

The second full-length from French melodic death metallers Master Crow brings along plenty of highly enjoyable elements to make for one of the most explosive and enjoyable offerings in the style. The main segment at play here is the fact that the riff-work is just simply overwhelmingly technical and frantic, whipping up sizeable storms of complex chugging patterns driven along with plenty of ferocious industrial intensity, leaving this one to bring along the sort of blistering rhythms and cold, mechanical feel that’s simply devastating. The approach works in spades with the differing rhythm styles come along with the melodic leads that adds an accessible tone to those mechanical chugging patterns, furthering the overall enjoyment factor of the album with the wholly appealing facet where it’s complex and challenging rhythms that retain a wholly listenable approach with some appropriate and engaging melodies thrown into the mix. With the admittedly-triggered-yet-devastating drumming providing the kind of blasting dexterity for these cold rhythms to truly thriving here produces the last fully enjoyable element at play here to really present this as a dynamic offering. There’s rather small figure where this one does tend to hold this back is the fact that the album can feel quite limited and one-dimensional, never really moving along through much in the way of variation or dynamics and really keeping it centered quite locally around those distinct elements. Still, it’s engaging enough for a wholly enjoyable listen.

The first half here is a rather engaging and enjoyable set-up for this style. The opening title track takes an epic series of swirling rhythms before turning into ravenous pounding drumming and ferocious chugging riff-work leading through the stylized industrial rhythms and polyrhythmic patterns swirling along throughout the solo section and carrying into the frantic chugging patterns in the finale for a highly enjoyable opener here. ‘Down from the Sky’ features blistering technical polyrhythmic riff-work and light melodic drumming chugging along at a frantic mid-tempo pace offering plenty of stylish technical breakdowns alongside the swirling melodic leads bringing the tight riffing patterns through the final half for another highlight effort. ‘Road of Vice’ brings polyrhythmic technical charging patterns and blistering technical drum-work along through plenty of ravenous riffing and plenty of dynamic drum-blasts that bring the melodic flurries in small doses against the dynamic chugging whipping along through the finale for a decent enough effort. ‘Katyusha’ takes a slow, swirling series of droning riff-work and dexterous, technical drumming whipping along through highly complex rhythms full of feverish tempos blasting along through the breakdowns in the chugging rhythms through the solo section and keeping the frantic technical energy along through the chugging final half for another strong highlight. ‘Scream in the Night’ blasts through dynamic chugging riffing and pummeling drumming with plenty of driving technical rhythms firing along through the explosive series of overwhelming technical patterns blasting away against the melodic leads augmented with the clean vocals into the breakdowns of the finale makes for a wholly impressive offering.

The second half here is a little lower than the first half but does have a lot to like as well. ‘Staind in Blood’ uses buzzing chug rhythms and mechanical patterns through a series of furious breakdowns that whip along through a wholly frantic and furious blast of blazing technical chugging alongside the blasting drum-work that chops along through the final half for a blazing highlight. ‘Born to Be Crucified’ takes stuttering technical rhythms and frantic mechanical rhythms with pummeling drum-work carrying along through the stuttering tempo as the melodic rhythms carry along through the explosive swarm of up-tempo rhythms along through the breakdown-laden solo section and on through the finale for a strong and overall enjoyable effort. ‘Eye of the Troll’ takes blistering, blazing drumming with plenty of tight, choppy technical rhythms alongside the furious technical, challenging riffing with plenty of stellar polyrhythmic runs along through the tight breakdowns as the choppy melodic leads carry the frantic paces along through the sprawling final half for a decent and enjoyable offering. Closing with the Theo Holander version ‘Down from the Sky’ which doesn’t really offer much of a difference from the earlier normal version and doesn’t offer enough of a change that there’s any reason for it to be included here  as it’s the same blasting drumming over frantic technically-challenging chugging that appeared on the other version, leaving it a curious inclusion overall.

Though there’s some minor, barely negligible questions about the album as a whole, there’s quite a bit still to enjoy here which makes this a formidable release that should appeal not only to those who appreciate and enjoy the absolutely pummeling technical work featured or fans of the band or their members’ other works.

Score: 90/100

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Thermit - Saints

Artist: Thermit
Release Title: Saints
Year: 2016
Label: Self-Released/Independent
Genre: Thrash Metal
1. Lady Flame
2. Zombie Lover
3. Perfect Plan
4. Smoke & Soot
5. The Story About Bird & Snake
6. Fairyland
7. The Last Meal of the King
8. Louise
9. Mr. Two-Face
10. Saints

The debut full-length from Polish thrashers Thermit continues the great work that had been accomplished prior to the release and fulfills a lot of the promise established there. There’s not much deviation from their past here as once again the rhythms on display are pure adrenaline-releasing patterns straight from the late 80s Bay Area, propelling this along with quite furious and energetic riffing that really keeps these songs blazing along at rather fast tempos. Not only are they quite fast, but there’s a tightness to the leads that gives this a powerful, dynamic crunch that affords the band a great deal of muscle as they go about their frenetic paces, making this one even more dynamic with the inclusion of a strong series of overwhelmingly melodic and fiery lead-work along the way. Not content to simply focus on tight thrash for its duration, the band incorporates a heavy amount of traditional metal along the way as well for a wholly spectacular mix that really sticks out quite well. The heavy metal rhythms found here are quite different from the tight, dense riff-work found in thrash as instead this is featured with simple chugging, sprawling rhythms and a more spacious approach to the melodies so it’s not always about the fury but opting for a touch of that light-and-dark type writing structure usually found in that genre. Not only is this quite effective at generating a wide range of feelings within the music that makes for imminently more replay value but also turns this around from being just a straight-forward collection of tracks with this type of energy making for a complete representation of the band’s style. The main issue at hand here is that at times the traditional metal requires a slower tempo to work with while the thrashier patterns push the faster rhythms into play, and it’s evident there’s some arrangements that struggle to keep the interest going yet not enough to be a truly worthwhile detriment.

The first half features a fine showcase for what’s on display. Opener ‘Lady Flame’ uses spirited energetic riff-work and frantic mid-tempo drumming steadily along through the charging rhythms with plenty of strong thrashing rhythms as the dropoff into a slower sprawling section with melodic leads runs into the fiery solo section and on into the energetic final half for a strong opening effort. ‘Zombie Lover’ takes ripping riff-work and full-throttle rhythms carrying through tight, crunchy thrash and fiery leads along the mid-tempo pace with sterling soloing leading through the frantic, fiery rhythms bringing along plenty of melodic leads along through the dynamic finale for a truly dynamic, spectacular highlight. ‘Perfect Plan’ features tight, crunchy rhythms and pounding straightforward drumming through the driving mid-tempo pace with the twisting thrash riff-work and crunchy patterns keeping the dynamic charge on through the squealing solo section and keeping engaging rhythms along through the final half for another rather enjoyable offering. ‘Smoke & Soot’ uses a screeching intro with rather bland plodding drumming with chugging riff-work holding through a simplistic swirling rhythm with plenty of rather banal riff-work leading along through the slightly-livelier solo section as the funky bass-lines lead into the charging finale for a superb finish to a mostly dull offering beforehand. The instrumental ‘The Story About Bird & Snake’ offers deep, clanging bass-lines reminiscent of a cinematic western that works as an appropriate mid-album breather.

The second half here isn’t as great but still has a lot to like overall here. The epic ‘Fairyland’ offers light chugging and droning bass-lines giving a light, epic western feel with the simplistic chugging holding the energetic rhythms at bay while the droning, sprawling rhythms weaving along through the epic mid-section kicking into a livelier mid-tempo chugging through the solo section and carrying along through the finale for a truly overlong yet still somewhat enjoyable effort. ‘The Last Meal of the King’ features explosive and engaging riff-work with plenty of dynamic drumming and screeching melodic leads flowing along through the driving rhythm with fiery choppy chugging riffing carrying the stellar rhythms along into the fiery, frantic final half for a truly enjoyable highlight.  ‘Louise’ uses a simple mid-tempo chugging with plodding start/stop riffing that drops out for the fiery melodic leads heading into the thumping mid-tempo series of swarming fiery leads along through the solo section and holding into the charging, frantic finale for a decent start that gets wholly more enjoyable as it goes along. ‘Mr. Two-Face’ features immediate driving riff-work driving along through the steady swarm of energetic riffing full of stuttering rhythms and dynamic drumming that brings along the stellar and engaging series of energetic leads in the solo section as the sprawling melodic rhythms continue into the final half for a solid overall effort. Finally, the title track features swirling twisting rhythms and frantic drumming running alongside the fiery melodic leads as the charging pace carry on through the sprawling mid-tempo patterns as the charging rhythms and pounding drumming come back into the crunchy mid-tempo solo section and working along through the finale for another solid and impressive lasting note.

This the proper way for a debut to work as it manages to carry on through the promise generated from a bands’ earlier works and remains a wholly listenable and enjoyable piece despite that work, leaving this a perfectly enjoyable recommendation for fans of the bands’ work or just those looking for solid, enjoyable thrash overall.

Score: 90/100

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Lonewolf - The Heathen Dawn

Artist: Lonewolf
Release Title: The Heathen Dawn
Year: 2016
Label: Massacre Records
Genre: Heavy/Speed Metal
1. A Call to Wolves
2. Wolfsblut
3. Demon's Fire
4. Keeper of the Underworld
5. When the Angels Fall
6. Until the End
7. Rise to Victory
8. Heathen Dawn
9. Into the Blizzard
10. The Birth of a Nation
11. Song for the Fallen

The eighth full-length effort from French heavy/speed metallers Lonewolf continues on with their sound that’s been there from the start and makes this an unbelievably enjoyable release. The album carries on their tried-and-true standard of unleashing the classic heavy metal sound being brought aboard here. Mainly swinging from the more rousing, energetic patterns that contain tight, swirling and hard-hitting riffing filled with speed-metal patterns, furious straightforward marching and blistering drum-work that winds through the majority of the album here with the slow-down periods using more majestic marches with mid-tempo patterns working through the simplistic paces coming into play nicely there’s a lot of great work throughout here. While on the whole this makes for a wholly engaging time here, the whole structure of this one is what really stands-out as being the only real damaging effort throughout here the two different overall styles are split-up across here which leaves the first half rousing and energetic while the second half is slightly more mid-tempo. This is somewhat perplexing and doesn’t really offer a very smooth transition into the different sections of the album though this doesn’t diminish the content of the album as it’s more a set-up flaw than a musical one.

The first half here is where this one really stands out nicely. Opening instrumental ‘A Call to Wolves’ features epic orchestration and simplistic riffing to bridge an air of impending intrigue as proper first track ‘Wolfsblut’ bleeds through with charging melodic riff-work and dexterous drumming swirling along through galloping melodic rhythms chugging along through the main rhythm leads as the glorious backing shouts keep the steady up-tempo pace into the fiery, swirling solo section and leading along into the frantic final half for a stellar and highlight opening. ‘Demon's Fire’ uses blistering, fiery chugging riff-work and scalding up-tempo drumming propelling along into a steady mid-tempo gallop that charges through fiery thrashy rhythms leading into the twisting solo section and bringing the utterly furious speed metal riffing into the finale for another spectacular highlight. ‘Keeper of the Underworld’ features light trinkling and soft patterns in the early half before settling into a more traditional mid-tempo rhythms and plodding drumming as the more energetic patterns carry along through the dynamic solo section and carry into the charging final half for another solid, enjoyable effort. ‘When the Angels Fall’ uses discordant riff-work and plodding drumming alongside the blaring, steady bass-lines that move along through a simplistic and steady pace as the discordant patterns lead along through the steady patterns with the fiery solo section leading into the finale for a decent if unspectacular offering. ‘Until the End’ takes simplistic melodic leads over plodding, charging rhythms carries the middling tempos along throughout the first half as the change-over into more fiery melodies kicks the energy up into more charging solo section and leading the mid-tempo rhythms into the final half for a solid effort overall.

The second half is a little lower but still has a lot to offer. ‘Rise to Victory’ offers fiery up-tempo chugging rhythms and pounding drumming carrying the engaging up-tempo series of speed metal riff-work through the blistering tempos with the furious charging rhythms carrying into the dynamic solo section and keeping the energy throughout the finale for another blistering highlight. The title track takes swirling mid-tempo patterns and a strong series of melodic leads into the plodding mid-tempo patterns bringing the fiery mid-tempo sections letting the frantic rhythms carrying into the surging melodic solo section and into the final half for a solid and enjoyable effort. ‘Into the Blizzard’ takes grandiose swirling leads and charging mid-tempo riff-work leading through the sluggish opening that explodes into furious speed metal lashings with plenty of swirling leads and dynamic drumming along through the solo section and breaking along through the frantic finale for another high-energy effort. ‘The Birth of a Nation’ takes an epic and charging rhythm and stellar melodic leads through plodding mid-tempo patterns with plenty of steely epic riff-work keeping the epic grandiose rhythms along through the swirling fiery solo section and charging into the majestic march through the final half for a highly enjoyable effort overall. Finally, album-closer ‘Song for the Fallen’ takes a simplistic and majestic mid-tempo march offering plenty of plodding rhythms and straightforward riff-work allowing the dynamic epic rhythms to carry the steady, simplistic pace along throughout the sing-a-long choruses and through the majestic solo section with the bombastic energy carrying through the finale for a highly enjoyable lasting impression.

While there’s nothing really wrong here with the music on this release, the slightly disproportionate set-up of the running order is only enough of a minor let-down but not enough of a truly detrimental problem that it’s still highly recommended to fans of the bands’ previous works, the style in general or fans of classic traditional metal.

Score: 89/100

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Exalter - Obituary for the Living EP

Artist: Exalter
Release Title: Obituary for the Living EP
Year: 2016
Label: Trending Obscurity Distribution
Genre: Retro Thrash Metal
1. Tortured Innocents
2. Surrounded by Evil
3. Sacrificial Immolation
4. Nuclear Punishment
5. Throat Cutters
6. Thrash Resurgence
7. White Phosphorus Shell

The new EP from Bangladesh thrashers Exalter packs a solid punch of old-school sounding revival-influenced thrash that should see them become big names in the genre. From the start that’s precisely what’s gathered here which enables this to come off far more fun than it really should. That implies all the usual caveats, from tight-played hard-hitting riffing that adopts a series of either mid-tempo charging or up-tempo driving that takes on a different intensity level often-times within the same track. That creates a wholly impressive sense of dynamic and variety within the music which undermines their youth very well, even with the fact that the album does come off more with those mid-tempo charging rhythms. It holds up within a few similar arrangements and patterns that come along with that type of rhythm play within here, but it’s not enough to really hold back the enjoyable parts here.

There’s little to dislike about the music here. Opener ‘Tortured Innocents’ features ravenous riff-work and pounding drumming filled with tight patterns and rattling rhythms along through the up-tempo paces as the straightforward riffing alongside the pounding drumming whips through the solo section and along through the tight patterns in the final half for a solid opening impression. ‘Surrounded by Evil’ uses tight riffing and plenty of furious drumming taking the frantic, charging rhythms along through the steady chugging patterns at up-tempo paces with plenty of pounding, charging drumming leading into the solo section and carrying on through the finale for a solid, enjoyable highlight. ‘Sacrificial Immolation’ brings along thrashing drum-work and steady, churning riffing along through a simple thrashing pace with driving rhythms carrying the straightforward patterns along through the twisting riff-work bringing the thumping drumming along into the final half for another strong effort. ‘Nuclear Punishment’ uses deep charging riff-work and pounding drumming to work through a steady series of mid-tempo grooving chug-based riffing alongside the steady, charging rhythms that pound along through the solo section and carrying along through the finale for a strong highlight effort. ‘Throat Cutters’ starts with pounding drumming battering along to the steady riffing as the charging mid-tempo rhythms swarm through the main section while whipping up even more energy to charge through the frenetic riffing and pounding drumming carrying into the final half for an enjoyable effort. ‘Thrash Resurgence’ takes immediate razor-wire riffing and pounding drumming along through a frantic, furious pace with plenty of swirling rhythms and tight charging patterns through a series of frantic choppy riffing carries the explosive energy through the fine, charging finale for another highlight. Lastly, ‘White Phosphorus Shell’ uses a sampled-speech intro that gives way to blistering, charging riff-work and utterly ravenous drumming carrying along a steady, blistering pace with plenty of steady rhythms pounding along to the fiery solo section and carrying through the final half for a highly enjoyable lasting impression.

On the whole this one doesn’t really do much to reinvent the wheel when it comes to playing this kind of revival-era thrash but the conviction and energy stand out far more readily which are such important features anyway that this makes for an easy choice for thrash aficionados, those curious about the band due to their unusual origins or most metal fans in general.

Score: 86/100

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Formless Devotion - Sparks of Separation

Artist: Formless Devotion
Release Title: Sparks of Separation
Year: 2016
Label: Cyclopean Eye Productions
Genre: Black Metal
1. Aeonik Devotion
2. Resonance
3. Prana Of The Drakon
4. Phosfire
5. Illuminate My Temple
6. Tunnels
7. Sparks Of Separation

The debut effort from South African black metallers Formless Devotion comes off as rather appealing for the most part and serves them as a potential band to watch for in the scene. Despite appearing for the most part as a rather traditional nature, there’s plenty to enjoy here with this set-up as there’s the usual tremolo riffing, furious brimstone-scented melodies and utterly blasting drumming that creates a veritable swarm of traditional black metal on display, serving as a great set-up to the uniquely enjoyable inclusion of localized tribal influences here. Many of the shorter interludes here uses this kind of tribal drumming and industrial noise collages to set up the upcoming track, which is a cool idea in principle but wears itself out when the idea of getting in tune with the release is instead shelved due to stopping the momentum in order to get to another set-up track for the song after it. This is a highly disappointing effect with the four true songs on here appearing so enjoyable that it does seem to ruin the energy built up here and really comes off with the idea that it should’ve been just one or two in select places rather than doing it for all the tracks.

The tracks here aren’t bad and come off rather fun. Intro ‘Aeonik Devotion’ features churning riffing and steady drumming along through the series of blackened tremolo riffing throughout the sprawling mid-sections with churning rhythms holding tight until the blasting drumming continuously blazing through the tremolo-soaked finale for an engaging and enjoyable opening effort. Instrumental interlude ‘Resonance’ features percussive tribal drumming and dissonant industrial noise together into a meaningless collage that interrupts the flow of the album as a whole before getting back to traditional tracks with ‘Prana Of The Drakon’ utilizing discordant drum-work and swirling riffing that tends to avoid the blasting patterns for the simplistic mid-tempo marches featuring bombastic blistering drumming and swirling brimstone-scented tremolo riffing that continually weaves through discordant patterns of varying tempos for the final half in a rather enjoyable effort overall. Another pointless interlude in ‘Phosfire’ again uses dissonant industrial noises and plodding rhythms that serves as a nice change into a minor flurry of tremolo riffing leading into proper track ‘Illuminate My Temple’ with plenty of light swirling riff-work and plodding drumming slowly working into a light pace with surging tremolo riffing turning into frantic blasting among the mid-tempo patterns leading into the series of start/stop tremolo riffing throughout the finale for an enjoyable effort. Again, the noise interlude ‘Tunnels’ features blaring industrial notes and trumpeting blasts sets up the epic album-closing title track which features light melodic notes that eventually turns into far more blasting and swirling traditional tremolo rhythms that takes on sprawling patterns with the charging atmosphere and intensity continues on throughout the final half for a fun if tad overlong effort to end this on a high note.

Though this one tends to rely quite a bit on the nature of featuring interludes for the main set-up here rather than letting the traditional songs seep through for it’s enjoyment, there’s still more than enough engaging black metal to satisfy fans of the style or those simply curious how it’ll appear when sprung forth from non-conventional arenas.

Score: 79/100

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Astral Path - An Oath to the Void

Artist: Astral Path
Release Title: An Oath to the Void
Year: 2016
Label: Avantgarde Music
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
1. Maroon Sea
2. An Oath to the Void
3. Between Appalachia and the Shield
4. A Virulent Delusion
5. To Vega... Nebulous Anatomy

The debut album from Canadian atmospheric black metallers Astral Path offers a decent enough spin on this particular style in the genre as they go about launching their career. This here is based around traditional tremolo riff-work with plenty of swirling melodic keyboards weaving along throughout the tracks which adds a fantastic atmosphere here with the ability of the tracks leads to a celestial ambiance that coincides with the riffing arrangements. This is highly pleasing and engaging which makes for a great time here as the central basis for their work is nicely fused with the fiery traditional tremolo riff-work alongside the rather engrossing atmospheric melodies added together. There’s a rather big stumbling block here with this effort in that the album’s rather simplistic nature doesn’t really offer up a strong sense of variation within here as the album can run through tracks that can tend to feel as though it’s one-note. That’s mostly apparent in the one rather bland track that doesn’t go anywhere because all it does is just run through the same rhythms and melodies for the entirety of the track without doing anything new or varied with it, and it’s quite apparent in the album as a whole elsewhere even with that being the greatest singular example. As well, there’s the short running time as there’s only five tracks which can be quite a shock with the sudden ending, but otherwise there’s a lot to like here.

The tracks here aren’t really that bad and play well within the genre. Opener ‘Maroon Sea’ takes an extended synth-driven celestial riff that turns into driving swirling tremolo riff-work and frenetic drumming charging along the melodic rhythms running along throughout the steady pace as the swirling atmosphere driven throughout the final half makes for a strong opening impression. The Void title track takes simple swirling riff-work and plodding, simplistic drumming as the atmospheric riffing and celestial melodies weave throughout the series of droning rhythms carrying out throughout the extended patterns as the crashing riffing continues into the extended droning finale for a strong if somewhat repetitive effort. ‘Between Appalachia and the Shield’ uses the faded celestial synths crashes into a rather simplistic series of plodding melodic tremolo riffing as the simplistic melodies and steady rhythms carry on throughout the mid-paced riff-work leading into the light ambient celestial-inspired final half for a long, drawn-out and mostly dull offering. ‘A Virulent Delusion’ features immediate blasting drumming and ferocious tremolo riff-work running along through a frantic pace with the buzzing celestial melodies driving into the slow-down section with the light riffing and steady rhythms holding on throughout the final half for a rather enjoyable effort. Finally, album-closer ‘To Vega... Nebulous Anatomy’ uses an extended crackling fade-in intro that gives way to searing tremolo riff-work and frantic drumming whipping through a series of driving paces as the swirling melodic riffing turns into an extended section of atmospheric rhythms and light melodies before firing back into the frantic energy for the finale for yet another solid effort that ends this on a fine lasting impression.

Though the length is the clear-cut issue here, this is still a solid enough representation of the genre that does what the style provides without much change-up and makes for a solid if non-essential listen for aficionados of the style while those looking for more traditional style should heed caution.

Score: 75/100

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Nordjevel - Nordjevel

Artist: Nordjevel
Release Title: Nordjevel
Year: 2016
Label: Osmose Productions
Genre: Old-School Black Metal
1. The Shadows of Morbid Hunger
2. Sing for Devastation
3. Djevelen i nord
4. The Funeral Smell
5. Denne tidløse krigsdom
6. Blood Horns 03:38
7. Det ror og ror 04:50
8. Når noen andre dør...
9. Norges sorte himmel

The self-titled debut release from Norwegian black metallers Nordjevel is pretty much exactly second-wave Norwegian black metal of the highest order without much difference of execution. There’s not a whole lot here that separates the band from their countrymen peers pumping out the same kind of quality two decades ago, being expertly-designed and executed black metal full of ripping tremolo-picked rhythms soaked in brimstone and hellfire that sounds positively explosive in this dynamic mix. Buzzing along at a tight, frantic tempo which gives this a definite melodic air against the more ravenous and vicious rhythms that are much more prominent here. Still, the melodic undercurrent here is still very much a part of the attack as the buzzing rhythms create a more melodic base against which it can securely meld these vicious riff-patterns and utterly chaotic drum-blasts that tend to make the music all the more vicious and engaging as it features both rampaging full-throttle riffing against infectious melodic harmonies. While it can be said that there’s nothing all that original here about the band being so blatantly and openly aping that sound and aesthetics throughout the album here, it’s a moot point here being as fervently enthusiastic and engaging here as this is the only real flaw within their music and it gets lost quite early on as its drowned out in a sea of passionately-played, competently-executed riffs and melodies that make for an immensely enjoyable effort from a promising new project.

The first half here expertly displays what’s featured throughout this one. Opener ‘The Shadows of Morbid Hunger’ features an extended howling-wind intro before blasting into vicious drumming and ravenous swirling tremolo-picked rhythms along surging up-tempo paces full of buzzing riff-work and dexterous drumming keeping the intensity in check throughout with the blistering tempos into the droning-sampled finale which makes for a wholly enjoyable and impressive opening here. ‘Sing for Devastation’ takes a more melodic sprawling tremolo riff into a dynamic and rather frenetic mid-tempo run with fervent melodies and dynamic drumming that continues along at a steady pace with the tremolo rhythms augmented nicely by the melodic tendencies in the final half for one of the album’s better efforts. ‘Djevelen i Nord’ offers a simple melodic series of swirling riff-work and plenty of dynamic drumming that takes the melody-driven tremolo-picked rhythms nicely along the intense blasting drumming as the sprawling melodies surge through dynamic charging tempos loaded with intense riffing into the up-tempo finale for yet another impressive effort. ‘The Funeral Smell’ features pounding drumming along with stylish up-tempo tremolo riff-work bouncing along at a feverishly up-tempo pace with plenty of blasting drumming and melodic riffing buzzing along to the frantic tempos with the clattering drumming working into a ravenous final half for another furious effort. ‘Denne tidløse krigsdom’ blows through the air-raid siren intro into bristling double-bass blasts with ravenous tremolo-picked riff-work and tight, mid-tempo rhythms that continually blaze along at varying up-tempo paces as the swirling tremolo-picked riffs buzz through vicious patterns into a more melodic finale for an incredibly enjoyable track.

‘Blood Horns’ takes a steady, bombastic mid-tempo approach with chaotic drumming blasting through the furious tremolo-picked riffs full of up-tempo blasting alongside those swarming rhythms as the urgent rhythms and intensity packed into the furious and frantic mid-section further the vicious final half makes it a true lasting highlight among the already impressive offerings. Offering back-to-back blasters as ‘Det ror og ror’ takes a swirling melodic riff into a rather frantic mid-tempo series of swarming tremolo riffing as the blitzkrieg-style drumming continues blasting throughout the feverish speed-driven sections full of melodic harmonies amongst the blinding speed continually blasting along throughout the finale for yet another stellar highlight. ‘Når noen andre dør…’ features sparkling tremolo harmonies against the blasting full-throttle drumming that takes a more vicious run away from the melodic qualities in the mid-section full of furious riff-work alongside the utterly punishing drum-work that manages to bring back some melodic rhythms in the still-frenetic final half for an overall impressive outing. Lastly, the epic ‘Norges sorte himmel’ features a melancholic riff against droning militaristic drumming that settles into a fine mid-tempo march with the swirling tremolo melodies and pounding drumming that successfully adapts to quicker tempos with more furious riff-work and blasting drumming carry the devastating mid-tempo pace along with the occasional solo section or mid-tempo break as it settles into a relaxing piano-led finale for a rather enjoyable slower-paced offering. Their album-closing cover of the Slayer classic ‘Raining Blood’ offers a lot of the same riffing and speed but loses a lot of the engaging heaviness going through the notions here as the varying riff-work comes off enjoyable if slightly obvious in the final half which ends this one on an overall fun note.

This one turned out to be among one of the most faithful and utterly engaging second-wave worshipping bands in the genre, and that this one is only their debut immediately makes them top contenders right out of the gate with what is easily an essential release for anyone remotely interesting in traditional black metal fare or looking to rediscover the glory days of the Norwegian scene.

Score: 96/100

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Paradox (Gr) - Pangea

Artist: Paradox (Gr)
Release Title: Pangea
Year: 2016
Label: AFM Records
Genre: Power/Thrash Metal
1. Apophis
2. Raptor
3. The Raging Planet
4. Ballot or Bullet
5. Manhunt
6. Cheat & Pretend
7. Pangea
8. Vale of Tears
9. Alien Godz
10. El Muerte

The seventh effort from German thrashers Paradox once again shows them as perhaps the most underrated and overlooked of the scenes’ acts and continues their legacy nicely. Much like their previous efforts, this here is basically set-up to feature their classic speed/thrash metal and churning power metal melodies into one raging mixture. Taking tight, crunchy patterns more influenced by the Bay Area style with the occasional burst into a melodic mid-tempo chug, this here manages to spell out many of the band's trademark rhythms here and gives this a solid thrashing energy. Those are driven along by a rather frantic and impressive amount of technicality in the riff-work which adds a superb amount of energy and dynamic bounce to the material alongside the excess melodies that makes for a soothing and utterly appealing mixture here that plays much like the band’s signature style from the very beginning.

The first half here sets this one up spectacularly. Opener ‘Apophis’ slowly works through a gradual intro to build into tight, raging riff-work and plenty of thumping drumming keeping the frantic rhythms twisting with technically-challenging rhythms driving the melodic charge through the dynamic solo section and keeping the tight rhythms along into the final half for a stellar opening. ‘Raptor’ takes churning riff-work and stellar melodic chugging to explode into a mid-tempo series of riff-work bristling with technical patterns and pounding drumming keeping the up-tick into far more frantic mid-tempo patterns for the solo section and furiously charging through the finale for another strong effort. ‘The Raging Planet’ features swirling technical riff-work and charging rhythms with pounding drumming carrying through the fine series of impressive challenging riffing leading along through the melodic solo section and bringing the tight rhythms along through the extended final half for one of the better efforts here. ‘Ballot or Bullet’ uses a brief sampled speech before blasting through blazing riff-work and plenty of high-speed drumming charging forth in tight, crunchy patterns frantically blasting into the surging solo section and letting the blistering rhythms carry into the finale for another stellar track. ‘Manhunt’ uses a swirling, melancholic intro  with sterling melodic flair that quickly turns into ripping riff-work churning through the tight, technical patterns with frantic speed-drenched patterns furiously keeping alongside the pounding drumming through the swirling series of churning riffing into the solo section carrying along through the bristling final half for an utterly spectacular highlight.

The second half here is slightly lower than the first half but still comes packed with highlights. ‘Cheat & Pretend’ takes a simple mid-tempo churning rhythm and plodding mid-tempo drumming brimming with plenty of steady melodic patterns in the riff-work holding this in a very simple, straightforward pace leading into the solo section and leading along through the finale for the album’s first real bland effort. The title track features buzzing discordant riffing to lead into stellar and frantic thrashing patterns with stellar mid-tempo churning riffing leading through the fiery arrangements leading to the melodic solo section and letting the energetic riff-work and pounding drumming carry the frantic tempos in the finale for an absolutely stellar highlight that gets this back in action perfectly. ‘Vale of Tears’ offers melancholic riff-work and light ambient rhythms throughout the soft patterns with a gradual appearance of pounding drumming alongside harder arrangements switching along between the different styles as the churning solo section carries the plodding tempos into the final half for another rather bland effort. ‘Alien Godz’ features churning mid-tempo riffing and pounding drumming to eventually settle into a blistering charge full of speed-drenched riffing and plenty of pounding drumming carrying the frantic, fiery rhythms and blasting drumming that fires through the solo section and carrying along through the finale for another strong, impressive offering. Finally, album-closer ‘El Muerte’ uses a tight, thumping technical series of riff-work and pounding drumming with plenty of challenging rhythms leading into plenty of fiery patterns and pounding drumming carrying the high-speed rhythms along through the swirling solo sections and charging along to the frantic final half for a bruising and dynamic highlight that ends this on a high-note.

For a band to remain as consistent and enjoyable as they’ve been from the beginning makes them one of the undervalued and overlooked heavyweights in the style with ease as this is another stellar addition to their discography and makes for a superb choice for thrashers in general, aficionados of the more classic metal sound or just those looking for good solid metal in general.

Score: 96/100

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Nervosa - Agony

Artist: Nervosa
Release Title: Agony
Year: 2016
Label: Napalm Records
Genre: Retro Thrash Metal
1. Arrogance
2. Theory of Conspiracy
3. Deception
4. Intolerance Means War
5. Guerra Santa
6. Failed System
7. Hostages
8. Surrounded by Serpents
9. Cyber War
10. Hypocrisy
11. Devastation
12. Wayfarer

The second full-length from Brazilian thrashers Nervosa positions them near the top of the class for the South American revival scene and perhaps the movement in general. As expected for acts in this type of scene, the main focus for the majority of the album is the old-school Bay Area riff-work prominent on the songs which generates the same crunchy, tightly-wound rhythms that were present back then, coming off with the same fiery energy and drive here that makes that material all the more impressive for creating that same impact. Without much soloing featured, instead the main focus is on the rhythms and occasional lead-work being featured, giving this one a far more mid-tempo vibe overall with a few touches off into the more brutal and blistering tempos that works nicely here adding a nice impact to the proceedings when they occur as it acts accordingly to the tempered rhythms being focused on by the majority of the tracks. This though is clearly exacerbated by the fact that the album is slightly too long for it’s own good, featuring a few too many tracks here that serve the same purpose as each other so it really feels like it could’ve used a trim to knock off one or two to make for a tighter and less repetitive experience as that gets highlighted listening to three tracks in a row featuring the same effects for the most part, which really serves as the one lone flaw here.  Had this trimmed off one or two of the weaker offerings this would’ve scored quite high overall.

The first half here features a lot of strong work overall. Opener ‘Arrogance’ brings blistering drumming and tight, crunchy riff-work along to a raging mid-tempo charge with pounding rhythms, plenty of deep, heavy riff-work and dynamic drumming that works over several varied tempo changes leading to furious riff-work into the series of leads into the finale for a decent enough opener. ‘Theory of Conspiracy’ immediately blasts through furious crunchy riff-work and plenty of raging drumming that races along at a charging mid-tempo pace that allows the swirling rhythms to charge alongside the crunchy patterns leading into plenty of utterly pummeling breakneck riffing and furious drumming into the final half for a stand-out highlight. ‘Deception’ uses simple, build-up crunchy riff-work with a strong series of swirling leads alongside the pounding drumming that works into the screeching leads of the solo section as the frantic, chaotic leads hold along through the tight, dynamic rhythms as the crunchy riffing leads through the finale for a solid and enjoyable effort. ‘Intolerance Means War’ features raging leads and plenty of pounding drumming whipping along through a series of dense, tightly-wound rhythms propelled along at a frantic pace with plenty of swirling leads mixed along to the crunchy riffing and tight drumming leading along through the final half for a solid and decent-enough effort. ‘Guerra Santa’ fires off tight, blistering riff-work and plenty of ravenous rhythms with the tight, blasting drumming keeping the flurry of tightly-wound riff-work firing along at a furious pace that charges along with the frantic patterns along through the final half for another strong highlight. ‘Failed System’ utilizes a tight chugging intro with plenty of fiery drumming blasting along to the frantic rhythms charging along through the twisting swirling leads pounding along to the furious thrashing riff-work leading through the frantic solo section and carrying on throughout the finale for another strong thrashing highlight.

The second half doesn’t feel as immediate as the first half but has a lot to like. ‘Hostages’ works through a stylish, plodding series of rhythms with plenty of pounding drumming that opens up into a blistering mid-tempo series of swirling patterns and furious chugging rhythms that weave through the frantic solo section and carrying through the tight final half for a solid and decent track. ‘Surrounded by Serpents’ takes rolling drumming and a series of swirling leads through choppy chugging rhythms featuring a strong charge into tight, blistering riff-work and furious drumming patterns keeping the choppy chugging drumming inline through the charging finale for an enjoyable enough effort. ‘Cyber War’ features a thumping bass-intro with a fine build-up segment that turns into tight, thumping series of raging riff-work that brings along various full-throttle tempos surging along through the blistering drumming as the frantic leads charge along into the final half for a strong, impactful effort. ‘Hypocrisy’ slowly works through a gradual build-up intro that thumps along into a tight, furious blast with pounding, charging drumming flowing along through the heavy chug rhythms and pummeling, furious drumming that carries along through the strong, charging finale for another strong, enjoyable track. ‘Devastation’ features utterly blistering and dramatic drumming alongside tight, heavy chugging riff-work along a frantic series of rhythms that keep the tight paces featured alongside the furious riffing charging along into the stylish chug patterns flowing along throughout the final half for a solid and enjoyable effort. Finally, ‘Wayfarer’ features a light, chugging bass-line with swirling riff-work that takes a bouncy hard rocking pace with the thumping rhythms eventually moving along into the raging thrash riffing patterns with the blistering, pounding drumming utilizing the furious rhythms until the soulful acapella female vocals for the finale for a fantastic rampaging thrasher which gets a little undone by those bookended pieces for a decent lasting impression.

Through no fault of the music itself and really only hurt by a feeling of overkill with too many tracks for it’s own good, there’s so much to like here as the group continues to harness it’s destructive old-school thrash sound that this ends up being of a solid, worthwhile choice for fans of the bands’ past or those looking for a solid retro-thrash experience.

Score: 89/100

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