Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Review; Xenosis - Of Chaos & Turmoil

1. Of Chaos & Turmoil
2. Building 7
3. Homeland Insanity
4. Soulless Army
5. All Seeing Eye
6. Bromance
7. I Am Ceasar
8. Abyssus
9. Nature Erased
10. Bilderberger King

Death Metal has always appeared to be a very closed-minded genre. Many of its die-hard fans, or purists have a very specific idea of the 'right' way for a band to play Death Metal. Guttural vocals, super-distorted guitars, and everything rhythmic or melodic moving at breakneck speed from start to finish. It may be almost 30 years since the genre first tore its way into the heart of the Metal underground, but bands that call themselves Progressive Death Metal are often still scrutinised, and polarise opinion completely. Despite the fact that some of the essential Death Metal bands had a progressive edge to them; Death, Atheist, or Cynic anyone?

Xenosis, from St. Ives, Cornwall, have the calling cards of Death Metal right from the off. 'Of Chaos & Turmoil' is as powerful an opening song as any, and sets the bar pretty high for the rest of the album. The blend of Death Metal and Jazz influences is not a new one, but it is refreshing to hear a band execute this musical style without sounding pretentious, or soullessly technical. There is a very real weight to this music that makes it easy on the ears, rather than being unnecessarily challenging to wrap your head around, which is always the danger with Progressive or Technical Death Metal. As the record carries on, the song 'Homeland Insanity' has some very interesting twists and turns, including some unusual time signatures, with things going from steadily-paced to sixth-gear in an instant at several points. There's a short but memorable guitar solo, and some astounding bass work from bassist/vocalist Ryan Denning also.

The vocal style is old-school Death Metal, which is once again refreshing to hear, and makes a change from the Death Metal trend of trying to have the deepest and most brutal vocals that leave the lyrics unintelligible at times. 'Soulless Army' carries a great sense of groove with it, and is the kind of song that it's impossible not to headbang to, especially during the riff and lead work at the tail end of the song. 'All Seeing Eye' goes from eerie beginning to wild eccentricity in the space of a nanosecond and bears a lot of the hallmarks of Jazz, making it an exciting listen. One can only imagine how fun and challenging it must be to play this song live!

The first thing that jumps out from the song 'Bromance' is the intense speed that the drum work of (Now former member) Ian Arnold breaks into on frequent occasion. It's a genuinely jaw-dropping display of skill that would be enough to make any lesser drummer give up there and then. The song also shows off a great sense of melody during a slower section in the middle of the song. Some not-so clean singing makes an unexpected appearance in the song as well, and it serves the song relatively well.

'I Am Caesar' may as well be called 'Insert awesome instrumental work here'! Cool bass intro, solid stomp-along riffs, exceedingly fast mosh-ready sections, Jazzy clean sections, all check. All sublimely executed. The guitar chops that are on show throughout this album, let alone this song by duo Stephen Moss (Who has unfortunately since left the band) and Jules Maas-Palmer are exceptional in the truest sense of the word. 'Abyssus' opens as a straight-edge thrasher before changing things up yet again, in what is definitely a running theme throughout the album, but not one that ends up feeling old or overdone, thanks to the quality of the music itself.

'Nature Erased' brings a wall-of-sound style to the fray, that then breaks into another whale-dwarfing groove. Not that it's surprising at this point, but the way the band play their respective instruments is beyond skill, but the song writing capabilities that have been on display throughout the album are what shine brightest; there are no leads or guitar solos that feel self-indulgent, no bass flourishes that feel unnecessary, everything is well structured, very intricate and flows effortlessly, making the album feel like a full body of work, rather than just a collection of songs.

Casual fans of metal may become baffled by this album, people who play metal on any instrument will adore this album before realising that they really need to put more practice in. I like to think that even the staunchest of old-school Death Metal purists would like this album, but I can't be sure. However anyone that isn't close-minded and vitriolic against anything outwith their little bubble will find something in this album that should remind them that what has kept Metal relevant and exciting throughout the decades is it's ability to evolve. This album is a prime example of that evolution and that excitement. Not just a great showcase of Metal or Death Metal, a great showcase of music.

Rating: 9/10

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Review; Sodom - Epitome Of Torture

Track Listing;

1. The Final Bullet
2. S.O.D.O.M
3. Epitome Of Torture
4. Stigmatized
5. Cannibal
6. Shoot Today - Kill Tomorrow
7. Invocating The Demons
8. Katjuschka
9. Into The Skies Of War
10. Tracing The Victim

Teutonic thrashers Sodom have delivered this, their 14th album 'Epitome Of Torture' and they make no qualms about the fact that they are a thrash band. Straight from the off, there are fast tempos, relentless riffs, and screamed vocals. It's a very familiar formula, but it'd be difficult to be wholly original within the thrash metal sub-genre so long since it's inception. Naturally then, there is a big feeling of nostalgia, but this is a band continuing what they've been doing since 1981, and they do it well. There are plenty of solid riffs throughout the album, particularly in the title song and the speed metal riff in 'Stigmatized' that sounds like it could've come right from the Persecution Mania sessions.

Sole remaining original band member, vocalist and bass player Tom Angelripper is clearly the driving force in the band, and his vocal style on this album is versatile, at least as thrash bands generally go. His snarled vocals are still present and evergreen, but there are also plainer screams and shouts on songs like 'The Final Bullet' and 'Cannibal' that aren't overly different from what we hear from Tom Araya of Slayer. The music itself is pretty much traditional thrash metal fare; guitar solos are where you expect them, the speed stays up most of the time, and listening to it incurs the urge to bang your head or jump into a mosh pit.

Sodom are of course one of the Big Three of Teutonic Thrash Metal alongside Kreator and Destruction, both of whom have released brilliant albums recently (Check out Kreator's album Phantom Antichrist and Destruction's album Spiritual Genocide) and it does strike me while listening to Epitome Of Torture that it's not of the same quality as the recent output by the other two aforementioned bands.

It's not a bad album; Sodom have always been a reliable band in their studio output, and have cast a long shadow of influence over both the early Death Metal and Black Metal scenes, but this album doesn't seem to have enough hard-hitting songs to make it a great album. There are some quality tunes on here; 'Shoot Today - Kill Tomorrow' and 'Invocating The Demons' being my favourites, but while through the rest of the album there are good riffs and little moments, it too often feels mediocre. 'Katjuschka' is one song on the album that is just plain generic and forgettable.

One song that does hook itself into the brain with no mercy is the penultimate song 'Into The Skies Of War' which is simply gargantuan. This itself is a catch-22, because I find it very frustrating that there is such an amazing song that shows the band still has the ability to write razor-sharp tunes but the rest of the album is littered with blunt moments. At the end of the day though, it is an enjoyable listen, but not really an essential one. You'll bang your head, you might scream along with it, but it's not going to be your most listened to album of the year unless you're the biggest Sodom fan on Earth. Nevertheless, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a Kreator, Destruction and Sodom tour! C'mon guys, make it happen!

Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Review; Rob Zombie - Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor

Track Listing:

1. Teenage Nosferatu Pussy
2. Dead City Radio And The New Gods Of Supertown
3. Revelation Revolution
4. Theme For The Rat Vendor
5. Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga
6. Rock And Roll (In A Black Hole)
7. Behold! The Pretty Filthy Creatures
8. White Trash Freaks
9. We're An American Band (Grand Funk Railroad Cover)
10. Lucifer Rising
11. The Girl Who Loved The Monster
12. Trade In Your Guns For A Coffin

Throughout his solo career, Rob Zombie has had every album he's released since 1998's Hellbilly Deluxe measured up against said milestone record. There's no arguing that the original was the best in Zombie's run of solo albums, but each album thereafter has had its high points and great catchy tunes. His particular brand of Industrial tinged shock rock is unique in this world, and the lyrical content is best enjoyed with some willing suspension of disbelief. The use of horror movie imagery is hardly new, but Rob Zombie manages to freshen it up with random yet catchy lyrical themes that often come across as nonsensical in the best possible way. It was this formula, alongside an absolutely mind blowing stage show involving huge robots, fire and bizarre screen shows all aided by the charisma of the man himself, that have made Rob Zombie a big name in the rock and metal world.

Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor (Which is one of the best album titles ever!!) features all the elements from Rob's music that we have known and loved thus far; eerie horror movie samples, evil sounding riffs and guitar ditties, a larger-than-life party vibe, bizarre lyrics, and of course Rob's no-frills rock 'n' roll singing. What is a curveball on this album is that it has something of a nineties White Zombie feel to some of the songs such as the lead single "Dead City Radio And The New Gods Of Supertown". This is not necessarily a bad thing if you enjoy White Zombie, but feels very unusual this far into Rob's solo career. However, as mentioned, all the calling cards of Rob Zombie's solo career are present. This is nowhere best experienced than in the opening song "Teenage Nosferatu Pussy" - a massive, stomping tune with enough bombast to level Wembley Stadium.

The party never really ends in Zombie world, and further tunes like "Revelation Revolution" are equally suitable for headbangers and folk who want to dance, alike. "Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga" has a similar brag to make, but more-so than damn near any other Zombie song to date, it is shamelessly catchy and all the better for it. I can't listen to the title chant without both shouting along and stamping my foot.

"Rock And Roll (In A Black Hole)" is a strange shift in pace, with its slow creeping verse suddenly exploding into a full on chorus, neither seem to compliment the other. "Behold! The Pretty Filthy Creatures" gets things back on track when it comes to energy, the tune itself is a grower rather than an instant set list must-have. The sense of swagger and groove is taken up to eleven on "White Trash Freaks" which is one of the album's highlights in my opinion. The cover of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're An American Band" is done well but isn't a great addition to the album, more of a setback. Each listener will either take it or leave it. The White Zombie vibe rears its head again on "Lucifer Rising" which is another good tune, but lacks the same hooks as the other songs. "The Girl Who Loved The Monster" has a great catchy chorus, and some creepy horror-movie style music behind the verse. On this song however, it gels together better than on the earlier mentioned "Rock And Roll (In A Black Hole)". The final song is a two-minute burst of energy that again brings the 90's spirit back to the fray for a decent closing song.

This is a good album, make no mistake; but it feels like an album of two halves, with the first half dwarfing the second half with ease. In a way, I find myself feeling somewhat short-changed, particularly because this is an album I've really been looking forward to. No doubt the true test of these songs will be when they're played by Zombie at one of his gloriously over the top live shows. Let's be honest - Everything can be made better live, and a few explosions, robots and the like sure don't hurt that process either.

Rating: 6/10