Thursday, 25 April 2013

Review; Rotting Christ - Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy

Track Listing:

1. In Yumen-Xibalba
2. P'unchaw Kachun - Tuta Kachun
3. Grandis Spiritus Diavolos
4. Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy
5. Cine Iubeste Si Lasa
6. Iwa Voodoo
7. Gilgames
8. Русалка
9. Ahura Mazda-Azra Mainiuu
10. 666

Darkness and metal have gone together hand in hand since the days of Black Sabbath themselves, but this connection has only strengthened over time and these days we are often presented with an album that we hope has a very palpable occult energy to it. A lot of the time, these hopes are sunk and the occultism that is put across seems cabaret or even like a gimmick. Some bands have even gone so far to admit that they used things like Satanism as a gimmick, such as Venom. Greek Black Metal band Rotting Christ, however, seem to take a very real and deep interest in the darker side of culture and philosophy, particularly mysticism, and this comes across in their music brilliantly. Their understanding of demonic atmospherics and hypnotic psychedelics is clear from the word go as this, the band's 11th full-length album kicks off.

Even with the near-constant blast-beats going on in the music, there's a distinct feeling of classic metal to the band's sound. Not necessarily classic black metal, but I find it easy to see that as a good thing; many of the bands that try to deliberately pursue the classic 'Kvlt' black metal sound end up sounding like insincere, two-bit copycats. Rotting Christ have managed to seamlessly meld their black metal roots with traditional metal sensibilities whilst weaving in various folk music elements, obviously taking great influence from their homeland Greece and it's cultural history. Some of the background choir passages and orchestrations are very powerful and moving indeed. Epic, in the truest sense of the word.

In the metal stakes, Rotting Christ possess a very blatantly European sound, from the guitar tone right through to the instrumental harmonies and vocal approaches are so obviously and brilliantly continental that I catch myself thinking two things; firstly that it's only right that Rotting Christ are one of the premier underground metal acts in Europe, and secondly; that all the 'Tr00, Kvlt Black Metallers' who can be found claiming that Rotting Christ are not a real black metal band (for all the stupidest, elitist reasons imaginable!!) need to take a jump into the 21st century. There's nothing worse than identikit metal bands, as such; an album like 'Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy' is a huge breath of fresh air, in a similar fashion to the recent works of seminal progressive black metal troupe Enslaved. The inclusion of traditional greek singers, pianos, strings and other such instruments is a bold move for a band labelled as black metal, but Rotting Christ manage to pull it off with what seems like ease. the fact of the matter is that this band is much more than simply black metal.

If the album has one point of weakness it's that it listens like a concept album; by which I mean that it all blends and melds together from song to song. It's be extremely difficult to single out a favourite song or two because the album is best enjoyed as a whole. In the internet age where most people seem to suffer from short attention spans, they may lack the patience to be able to appreciate this amazing body of work in its full glory. However, as somebody that has a great amount of patience when it comes to music, I can say that my favourite cuts would be the somehow-catchy 'Cine Iubeste Si Lasa' and the fantastically atmospheric title track 'Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy'. The big surprise song on the record is the strangely rock 'n' roll feeling 'Iwa Voodoo' which boasts some brilliantly catchy riffs and has the overall feel of a gothic call-to-arms, as bizarre a concept as that is!

To all those who think that black metal sounds best with the shittiest production job in the world, completely indecipherable lyrics, guitars with next to no tone, and that it can only be played by Scandinavian bands; Rotting Christ's 'Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy' has clearly proven otherwise. This is an intricate, dark and deeply beautiful album that owes as much to the intrigue of world cultures as it does to the molten heart of Scandinavian black metal, and shows just how much room metal has to evolve if the right creative minds take on the task. Listen to this album and feel the Metal World get that little bit more vast.

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Review; Killswitch Engage - Disarm The Descent

Track Listing:

1. The Hell In Me
2. Beyond The Flames
3. New Awakening
4. In Due Time
5. A Tribute To The Fallen
6. The Turning Point
7. All That We Have
8. You Don't Bleed For Me
9. The Call
10. No End In Sight
11. Always
12. Time Will Not Remain

The new Killswitch Engage album has been watched by the metal community with baited breath. This was due to two reasons; Firstly, long-term fans of the band were hoping the new release would be better than 2009's Self-Titled release, which is widely considered as a disappointment. Secondly; this would be the first album to feature original singer Jesse Leach since 2002's "Alive Or Just Breathing", arguably the band's best effort to date. Sure enough, there are a lot of people, myself included, that will miss Howard Jones but it would be a lie to say that Jesse's return to Killswitch wasn't one of the best pieces of news to come out of the metal world at the end of last year.

It comes as equally exciting to be able to say that Disarm The Descent is not just a good KSE album, it's a great one! The album explodes right back into Killswitch territory that we all know and love. It's more aggressive than the 2009 let-down and taps into the energy that the band had on display back in 2002. The vocal capabilities of Leach have come on by leaps and bounds in his absence, and it's great to hear that he can still deliver great choruses like the one in the opening song, and the lead single "In Due Time". Hooks can be found aplenty in this album, and they're certainly better than most mediocre Metalcore attempts that come out of the woodwork left, right and centre.

The lyrical content of the album comes across as very transparent, open and honest to the point that Leach may well be spilling his guts on the floor at several points on the record. However, the personal favourite lyrics are found in "Beyond The Flames" which also boasts some brilliant riffs and rhythm work as well as a truly beautiful sense of melody. It would be a great moment live without a doubt.

The band's clear influence was always the catchy-yet-heavy approach of Swedish metal legends At The Gates, among others. This influence still shines through in everything from the guitar chops to the vocal styles. The mixture of clean singing and harsh screams or growls is hardly original these days, but when it comes to the Metalcore boom of the 2000's, Killswitch were always one of the more impressive bands to utilize that sound. This title remains firmly in their hands upon listening to this album. The songs are massive, memorable and catchy-as-fuck. Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel deliver constantly great guitar work, with some lead work that other bands in the genre couldn't touch if they tried. The album feels a lot faster than Killswitch generally go, and the shift into high gear serves them well, especially in "A Tribute To The Fallen" and "All That We Have".

The album feels a whole lot heavier and more musically punishing than most of the material of the Howard Jones era, as well. There are some genuinely punishing blast-beats coming from Justin Foley's drum-kit. Combine that with the production work laid down by Adam D and Andy Sneap, who lend their expertise brilliantly to the sound of metal, keeping it from sounding over-polished, and the album comes across as anything but bog-standard metalcore. This is a band that was once poised to be the biggest American band of their generation, racing for the throne against Lamb Of God, Trivium and Machine Head (Who won the race, no question). Now, we might just see Killswitch try to leap forward again to re-solidify their position as one of modern metal's luminaries.

Disarm The Descent does slow down on the track "Always", a ballad that may not be to some people's liking. It boasts a very moving melody and a couple of muted sections with the vocals coming in from the background in an almost haunting manner. It's a wildcard song, but should be to as many people's tastes as not. It seems to make sense to put the slower song of the album at the end though, as "Time Will Not Remain" brings everything kicking and screaming back to life for one last ride through the band's rejuvenated fury, complete with sing-along chorus, naturally.

The only weakness that Killswitch Engage have ever had is that their songs can end up sounding the same on each album, they are not the masters of variety, but those who like their sound will not have any complaints in that department. The major point of celebration on this album is of course the return of the prodigal singer, there's no denying that, but such things shouldn't make a band's music better out of a sense of nostalgia. It's good then that Killswitch reverse that idea; Disarm The Descent is full of musical performances that should make people even more glad that Jesse is back. This is exactly the record that the band needed to make after their recent slump period, and it's great to see them back on good form.

Rating: 8.5/10

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Review; Warbeast - Destroy

Track Listing:

1. Cryogenic Thawout
2. Nightmare In The Sky
3. Egotistical Bastard
4. Nobody
5. The Day Of...
6. Warbeast
7. Blood Moon
8. War Of The Worlds
9. Destroy
10. Nameless

I'd heard a whole lot about Warbeast from reading various interviews with Down frontman and Housecore Records figurehead Phil Anselmo, who relentlessly champions the band with very high praises. Anselmo also took on the task of producing the album just as he had with the band's debut 'Krush The Enemy' album. Since then the whole band has decided to step up a notch and bring everything to the next level, with a new bassist and guitarist in tow. Whilst I cannot comment on any comparison between 'Destroy' and the first album, having not heard it, I can say that the new album is a crusher in its own right.

The album's main strengths come in the form of riffs and pulverising drum work, as shown from intro track 'Cryogenic Thawout', which showcases some Texan swagger and huge Thrash Metal riffs to set the tone nicely for the album as a whole. As soon as 'Nightmare In The Sky' drops the band goes to Mach 3 and stays that way for pretty much the whole album. The vocals spit out with some old-school Thrash spirit and every guitar solo goes straight for the neck with technical proficiency.

'Egotistical Maniac' has a great sarcastic vocal delivery that is bound to go down well with boozed up festival crowds in the summer, but also boasts one hell of an instrumental refrain that is sure-fired circle-pit material. 'Nobody' is a stomping-anthem that is bound to make any listener feel like a hard-ass with a lot of fuck you attitude. As far as Thrash Metal goes, it doesn't get much more fun and dumbed up than this, but it doesn't make the mistake of feeling silly too often as other bands like Municipal Waste do.

Through the record, the lyrical content is typical Thrash Metal fair; trash talking, alien warfare, robotic monsters, and general havoc, but it is the pace and quality of the music and the fact that the album is full of fun metal moments. These guys clearly don't take lyrics too seriously, and with musical chops as good as what they show on this album they can afford to for now. If there's one thing that lets the album down is a lack of variety; the speed is more than impressive, but the songs are each the same as the one before it. There's not much on the album that hasn't been heard from other Thrash bands before them, but the delivery feels more genuine than most modern 'Neo-Thrash'  bands I've heard recently. A decent album, not really original enough to get overtly excited about, but certainly good enough Thrash to listen to when the mood takes you.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Review; Thy Art Is Murder - Hate

Track Listing:

1. Reign Of Darkness
2. The Purest Strain Of Hate
3. Vile Creations
4. Shadow Of Eternal Sin
5. Immolation
6. Infinite Forms
7. Dead Sun
8. Gates Of Misery
9. Defective Breed
10. Doomed From Birth

This Australian five-piece have been making considerable waves, even in the UK recently, which is admirable for a Deathcore band these days. Deathcore remains something of a dirty word among many of today's metal fans. However, as with any record, it's best to listen before you judge (Except the new Paramore album, believe me!!!)

As a side-note, before I get started on the music; That album cover is fucking awesome!

As soon as the album opens you can hear the Whitechapel influence all over the band's sound, and though the material on show is relatively impressive, this listener cannot escape the feeling that Thy Art Is Murder feel like another in a long line of Deathcore bands that try to claim they're playing the genre differently from their peers, but mostly fail to uphold the claim.

The inclusion of the odd guitar solo here and there is a welcome addition to the Deathcore formula, but the vocals, though impressive at both the high screams and the growls, are not very distinctive in style or sound. At times the lyrics are quite hard to make out, too. The rhythm section is tight as hell, with their drummer showing some serious chops. The Deathcore standard down-tuned riffs come across as quite throwaway at times, and feel very formulaic. To be fair however, the breakdowns are impressive and well placed. Especially the one found in 'Shadow Of Eternal Sin'. The production job on the album is also very good, despite the aforementioned problem making out the lyrics.

The album is clearly not without merit; any out-and-out Deathcore fan will enjoy this to no end, and there are some truly memorable guitar leads among the constant chaos. The album is also very quick of pace, to the point that if the music was a more original it'd be an exciting record. Live, I'm sure this would be considerably pit-inducing in small venues, it is a brutal as fuck album after all! To me, however, the hype surrounding this band seems a bit unjustified. Frustratingly, I feel there could be potential in this bands future, if they make themselves stand out with their music rather than their geographical location.


Review; Saxon: Sacrifice

Track Listing:

1. Procession
2. Sacrifice
3. Made In Belfast
4. Warriors Of The Road
5. Guardians Of The Tomb
6. Stand Up And Fight
7. Walking The Steel
8. Night Of The Wolf
9. Wheels Of Terror
10. Standing In A Queue
11. Luck Of The Draw

They were the first band I saw live, and remain largely unrecognised titans of the UK metal scene; Saxon have released another new album and they're yet again proving that sometimes you just cant beat the old school approach.

Full to the brim of thrash-tinged classic style metal riffs and brilliant performances from every musician in the band, Saxon are on stronger form than ever. Boasting catchier songs than 2009's 'Into The Labyrinth' and 2011's 'Call To Arms' and even better vocal deliveries from Biff Byford, the album is an engaging listen from start to finish. Each song has choruses that will be just as readily sang along to live as anything from the 'Wheels of Steel' or 'Strong Arm of The Law' albums.

Album highlights include the brilliantly fast-paced 'Warriors Of The Road', the epic 'Guardians Of The Tomb' and powerhouse track 'Night Of The Wolf' all of which show that the aforementioned Biff Byford is on stronger form now than he's ever been. The guitar solos throughout the album are all fantastic, showing that Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt are masters of the instrument. The intro to 'Guardians of the Tomb' and the thrash-inspired riff for 'Night Of The Wolf' bear testament to this. Even the album low-point 'Standing In A Queue' is not really a bad song as such! In fact, it's just that its plain odd, if not silly, to have a metal song about queuing! How unabashedly British of them!

The great song writing and execution is made all the more apparent with help of studio guru, Hell guitarist and former Sabbat guitarist Andy Sneap, who's managed to give the album a rough-and-ready sheen that compliments the band's work excellently.

There's nothing new going on in this album, after all this is a band that is an impressive 37 years into their career, so they are set in their ways, but as a fan of metal old and new, I'm more than happy for them to stay as they are.

Simply put: Saxon are here to stay, so embrace the power of classic British Heavy Metal.