Friday, 29 November 2013

Review; Deicide - In The Minds Of Evil

Track Listing:

1. In The Minds Of Evil
2. Thou Begone
3. Godkill
4. Beyond Salvation
5. Misery Of One
6. Between The Flesh And The Void
7. Even The Gods Can Bleed
8. Trample The Cross
9. Fallen To Silence
10. Kill The Light Of Christ
11. End The Wrath Of God

It's strange thinking about Florida as a Metal fan; It conjures thoughts of sun, sea, Disneyland, family holidays...and some of the greatest Death Metal bands that have ever emerged! With bands like Death, Hate Eternal, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Atheist, Cynic and Six Feet Under, to name but a few, Florida will more than certainly be remembered by Metalheads as probably the most important hotbed of Death Metal pioneers that the genre has seen.

As far as my vote is concerned; the unholy beast of a band that is Deicide has always been my favourite of the Floridian Death Metal bands. Between frontman Glen Benton's bowel-churning vocal abilities and the Jesus-bashing lyrical content, there's a lot to appeal to my ears, not to mention the consistently great and understated instrumental capabilities the band have brought to each of their now eleven records, throughout all the line-up changes, the quality of the band's output has never disappointed me. Now the band's latest offering of evil brutality is upon us, and I've been dying to get my ears around it.

The first thing you know of this album is the distorted voice, saying "Some men just want to watch the world burn", which would set the tone for a Deicide album better than almost any sentance. Then with a triplet-powered stampede of guitars begins the music itself. Alongside some fairly standard-for-Death-Metal drumming, the album is off to a predictable but strong start. Riffs are solid and the execution is tight. All the while, Glen Benton's signature growl completes the sound, while the lyrical content appears to address the subject of terrorism. 'Thou Begone' brings in the first salvo of lyrical ammunition aimed directly at religion and the religious. It's arguable that this lyrical theme, which continues into 'Godkill' and 'Beyond Salvation' without relent, is repetition on the band's part, but with the impact of Benton's voice and the similarly powerful impact of the vocabulary that he applies to his lyrics it doesn't present itself as a problem. Instead of evolving the formula that is used in their material, Deicide push it onwards, adding to it like chapters added to a book.

With the lyrical content covered, it's worth mentioning the high class production on this album. Of course, producer Jason Suecof has lent his expertise to many other solid albums including Trivium's 'Ascendancy', The Black Dahlia Murder's 'Ritual' and The Defiled's latest album 'Daggers'. The nuances put onto a portion of the vocals, wherein Glen's voice is preceded by a fade-in of a sample of itself, giving the vocals an ominous, demonic feel that lends itself to what Deicide stand for perfectly. Everything else in the mix sits perfectly, with drums, guitar and bass guitar all perfectly audible, as opposed to many other Death Metal albums that bury the bass so far under the electric guitars that there's almost no point for it to be there. So, a quick well done to Jason Suecof for his contribution to this record.

A major strength that this record has is that none of the songs hit the four minute mark. I cite this as a strength because it keeps everything trimmed and concise. If a band like Deicide were to go attempt a long epic song eleven studio albums into their career it would be boring. We know this band's sound, as previously stated. The metal world now knows exactly what a Deicide album will sound like, so keeping the songs so choppy and to-the-point helps prevent the brutal in-your-face approach from becoming quite so old, even at this point. Was this a conscious decision on the band's part? Who knows, but nonetheless I find it worth mentioning.

Ultimately, as the album comes to it's conclusion with the venomous 'End The Wrath Of God' any fan will be left satisfied. I know I am. 2011's 'To Hell With God' was a great album in my opinion and is one that I revisit almost regularly, but I've come to like 'In The Minds Of Evil' even more, which is saying something. As far as I'm concerned, Deicide are still a band that are at the top of their game, and even though they haven't done anything here that will blow the minds of those familiar with their back catalogue, they've very effectively reminded everyone that they are the undisputed titans of insane, twisted, gory and blasphemous Death Metal. Get this album, you won't regret it.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Review; Sepultura - The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart

Track Listing:

1. Trauma Of War
2. The Vatican
3. Impending Doom
4. Manipulation Of Tragedy
5. Tsunami
6. The Bliss Of Ignorants
7. Grief
8. The Age Of The Atheist
9. Obsessed
10. Da Lama Ao Caos

Sepultura need little introduction to most people in the Metal community, at least that's true when you speak of classic records like 'Arise', 'Chaos A.D.', or 'Roots'. The band's efforts post-Cavalera brothers have garnered a great deal less euphoria for the Brazilian band. Something of a criminal shame considering that the Derrick Green fronted incarnation of the band has seen the release of solid records like 'A-Lex' and 'Dante XXI'. Not to mention the simplistic pleasure of the 2011 album 'Kairos'. Recently though, it's come to my attention that this year's release 'The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart' has seen a spike in interest for the Seps. It's coincidental that Soulfly have recently released the brilliant 'Savages'. Now, lets see which wins between them.

After a droning, intense beginning, music comes in with ferocity that I haven't heard from Sepultura in some time now. Anyone looking for an album like 'Kairos' should look elsewhere. Lyrics like "I saw the worst in the human nature, My hands are stained with blood of death" have real impact, or at least they do after you can get your ears past the music under which the vocals are almost hidden in the mix. This issue with the production, which was surprising considering that the band are working with 'Roots' album producer Ross Robinson, prevented me from instantly taking the album on, if I'm honest. However; after a few listens, it's not so much of a bother.

Musically, the album starts about as solid as it gets. Andreas Kisser delivers some riffs that could cut diamonds on 'The Vatican'. New drummer Eloy Casagrande is out to wow us all with incredible dexterity and power at the kit. The human mountain that is Derrick Green is on great vocal form. Combine that with guitar solos that show that Andreas is a massively underrated lead guitarist and you have all the elements of a great album. 'Impending Doom' shows off the band's knack for a slow, pounding number that tells the nearly over-told tale of how mankind is pushing itself over the proverbial precipice.

Things move back into faster territory for 'Manipulation Of Tragedy', whilst showing on two distinct occasions that Paolo Jr. is more than proficient on the bass guitar. The overall sound of the album does borrow from Sepultura's entire back-catalogue, and while the tribal beats that made them truly stand out from their contemporaries are present, the focus seems to be leaning more towards the murkier pseudo-Death Metal sounds of earlier Sepultura works such as 'Morbid Visions', walking the fine line between Death and Thrash. 'Tsunami' sees the frontman coming out with some high quality vocal hooks, and while the vocals do remain obscured in some way in the mix, the larynx shredding screeches of Kisser that back up Green's throaty roars ring through for added impact.

'The Bliss Of Ignorants' is weaved with the aforementioned tribal percussion that keeps Sepultura's identity open for all to see. Unfortunately the riffs in this tune pale next to many Sepultura riffs and the solo is more Slayer than Sepultura in places, but whether that's good or bad is up for debate. The percussion elements on show, which includes a solo section towards the end of the song do keep the song from being labelled as bad, but it's arguably a lacklustre song musically for this album, which is a shame considering the demanding screams of "Our freedom now!" that would've otherwise been the final selling point on the song. The beginning of 'Grief' is altogether strange, with a mournful vocalisation and plodding sound that is out of place on what has generally been a high-energy record. As the band comes in, it's fair to say that the full song does achieve the mood that it's name suggests, but it's simply not what I look for in a Sepultura song. Something of a misfire, in my opinion.

Luckily things go back on the upward trajectory during 'The Age Of The Athiest', which sees the energy return as Derrick Green launches into another verbal assault upon religion, politics and the current sheep mentality of many. Of all the tracks so far, this one would be the best addition to Sepultura's live show. On 'Obsessed', things start with a slow build that leads into a rather muddy sounding song that has its moments but never really reaches the heights that it threatens to through the bulk of the song.

'Da Lama Ao Caos' is a Chico Science & Nação Zumbi cover that has a lot of that tribal percussion courtesy of Derrick Green, some catchy guitar riffs and a very strange vocal performance that sounds very out of place on a Thrash/Death Metal album. There's a long bout of silence as the main album itself is obviously over, then at 17:34 into the track, there's a seven and a half minute long percussive solo that is more infectious than the song that took up the first four and a half minutes of the track. A disappointing end to what had the early promise of being a great addition to the Sepultura canon.

I won't deny that the album was generally concise and solid with a few truly standout songs, but at this point in the game, Sepultura needed to do more than what they have done. There are enough people that have pretty much abandoned the band post-Cavalera brothers (a MASSIVE injustice!), and what once was a global giant of a metal band has been relegated to a smaller league than they should be in, and I can't help but feel that part of the problem may be inconsistency. Sepultura is a band capable of much more yet, which makes this album somewhat frustrating. Solid effort, but only time will tell if it is counted among the classic albums that this band has released.

Rating: 6.5/10

Monday, 11 November 2013

Review; Carcass - Surgical Steel

Track Listing:

1. 1985
2. Thrashers Abattoir
3. Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System
4. A Congealed Clot Of Blood
5. The Master Butcher's Apron
6. Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard
7. The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills
8. Unfit For Human Consumption
9. 316L Grade Surgical Steel
10. Captive Bolt Pistol
11. Mount Of Execution

The return of Carcass has set the Metal world ablaze. For any poor sod unfamiliar with the legacy of this UK band - Carcass were spewed forth from Liverpool, England in 1985. After a few demos they went on to release 'Reek Of Putrefaction' in 1988. In a very short amount of time they became a founding band of the Grindcore scene, alongside Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror. Album number two, the seminal 'Symphonies Of Sickness' was a continuation of the sound, but featured a distinct flavour of Death Metal. The follow-up 'Necroticism - Descanting The Insalubrious' almost completely abandoned the Grindcore format in favour for Death Metal. It was also their first album with Michael Amott.

It was the 1993 album 'Heartwork' that saw the bands go in another direction, and made them pioneers in the emerging subgenre of Melodic Death Metal. Many fans didn't take too kindly to the band's change in sound back then, but the album stands as a landmark classic within the subgenre that it helped to forge. They then went on to release 'Swansong' in 1996. This was seventeen years ago now, in which times there have been a few break-ups, reformations and now-legendary festival appearances including Wacken Open Air and Bloodstock Open Air, among many others. It is only now, without Michael Amott, (who's primary focus has always been Arch Enemy) that Carcass return with new material as a three-piece. Guitarist and Vocalist Jeff Walker, Bassist and sometimes-vocalist Bill Steer and drummer Dan Wilding present 'Surgical Steel'...and it's a cast-iron Extreme Metal classic!

Opening with an instrumental intro in the form of '1985', which consists of guitar lines that almost sound like a lead that Iron Maiden forgot to write, it provides a foreshadowing of the greatness you're about to experience. Within seconds, any ill-feeling towards the band for not giving us any music for nearly two decades is obliterated. Then comes the first full song 'Thrashers Abattoir', which annihilates any worries on what Carcass would sound like in the 21st Century. It's a short, seemingly effortless statement of intent, and a furious one at that. Already the band sounds more vital than pretty much any band half their average age. 'Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System' carries this on with some more melodic moments added and a brilliant Thrash-like riff underneath a catchy guitar solo. Vocally, Walker and Steer are on top form.

As the album carries on into the third track which has a very modern groove to it, there's no denying the sheer power of the music on display. The tag of Extreme Metal has been applied to many, many albums in the 21st century, many of which have seemed to lack ant real conviction of the label applied to them. A lot of bandwagon-jumpers have caught the scene's interest simply for being the latest name in Black, Death or whatever niche of Metal it is they seek to inhabit. True extremity is something that the Metal world has lacked for some time. It only seems right that a band like Carcass would be the ones to give the scene a bloodied boot up the ass.

'The Master Butcher's Apron' breaks into a slow, stomping riff in mid-song that proves that Carcass have never been a one-trick pony. Their faster works may be what whips us all into a frenzy, but if riffs like the one heard in the aforementioned song don't make you bang your head, you're probably losing the function of your neck muscles! Throughout the record, the band's penchant for gore-laced lyrical content has been on constant display. The drumming of Dan Wilding is more than proficient for Carcass' music' Blastbeats are impeccable and every strike of a drum or cymbal falls in the right place and never feels wasted. Carcass are clearly a band made up of masters of their individual crafts the same way that a band like Revocation or Motorhead are. The tightness of the rhythm section and the flurrying guitar licks at the start of 'Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard' are the perfect show of this very fact.

'The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills' shows the side of Carcass that gave birth to 'Heartwork' a little more obviously, but as a whole the album does seem to combine the Grindcore sounds of their 'Reek Of Putrefaction' debut or 'Symphonies Of Sickness' with the aforementioned 'Heartwork', resulting in a balance of the sounds in their repertoire that flows with ease where it could easily have sounded like a muddy mish-mash of former glories. Whether this was a calculated move or a result of spontaneity barely matters after a few listens. The riff - vocal - riff structure in 'Unfit For Human Consumption' gives the song an anchor in the starting days of Metal. Some more sublime guitar leads fit the near-virtuosic musicality in with the brutality of the band like a glove. '311 L Grade Surgical Steel' and 'Captive Bolt Pistol' strike a similar chord as the previous songs without being tiresome. You're too busy trying to pick your jaw up off the ground to get bored with this album. Boring, this certainly is not!

The last song 'Mount Of Execution' starts with an unexpectedly slow series of clean guitars then leads into almost Doom-tinged territories that yet again have an almost classic-metal vibe to them, perhaps inadvertently showing the bands initial influences from back in the day. Then just as you think the album has come to a close, the best riff I have heard in a long fucking time comes in and lets Jeff Walker solo over it one last time, leaving the listener craving the next Carcass album to further cement the bands name in the history pages of Heavy Metal, just as Surgical Steel has this year. In a word - Brilliant.

Rating: 10/10

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Review; Death Angel - The Dream Calls For Blood

Track Listing:

1. Left For Dead
2. Son Of The Morning
3. Fallen
4. The Dream Calls For Blood
5. Succubus
6. Execution / Don't Save Me
7. Caster Of Shame
8. Detonate
9. Empty
10. Territorial Instinct / Bloodlust

Death Angel are one of many 80's Thrash Metal bands that have been party to the genre's revival in the 21st century after having reformed in 2001. Great albums and touring have seen them garner a lot of respect and a new generation of fans, and some could argue that this chapter in the bands history has been more successful than their past was. So far, none could argue that their 2008 album 'Killing Season' has been the greatest since their resurrection, but I was keen to see how this latest effort stood up.

A rather tense clean guitar passage gives way to the pure Thrash attack of 'Left For Dead' that we expect from Death Angel, and my hopes are raised. Always having been one of the somewhat more musically flamboyant bands of the Thrash Metal scene, at least compared to others such as Exodus or Vio-Lence, this edge is still with them. Mark Osegueda's vocals straddle the line between screams and singing with brilliant effect. The album is off to a great start, and the momentum keeps going with 'Son Of The Morning', no doubt a highlight track on the record. The intricate riff sits well between Mark's vocals and Will Carroll's great drumming. One great thing about Death Angel has always been that they're a band that have as many sing-along moments as they have mosh moments. The chorus to 'Son Of The Morning' is one of these, as is the bridge before Rob Cavestany's typically great guitar solo.

If it turns out that by the time 'Fallen' hits your ears you haven't managed to figure out how any Death Angel record goes, you need a slap. There's no frills with this band, which is perhaps they're biggest draw in my opinion. If you want no-bullshit Thrash Metal, you're in the right place. For those who like their metal more experimental, I'd suggest looking elsewhere. 'Fallen' is another great track, though, for those who love old school Thrash. Mark's vocal talents shine through more as the song goes on.

The title track is a tribute to the band's trials and tribulations that have seen them get where they are, while being a sniping shot at poseurs and naysayers. It's also the finest and most furious song on the album. The pace behind the band's riffs never gives up, and the conviction is prevalent here more than anywhere in their back catalogue. 'Succubus' comes across as a fuck-you song to some controlling or overbearing woman or another, no doubt a subject that has been explored countless times before. A good song nonetheless, and yet another of Rob's great guitar solos. Second guitarist Ted Aguilar's rhythm chops are delivered in impressive fashion, keeping the songs from losing their footing as Cavestany breaks out those leads rather wildly.

Enter the acoustic guitar on 'Execution / Don't Save Me'. A melancholy passage is exaggerated by a mournful electric lead over the top of it that then gives way to the Thrashy goodness. The riffs that come out of this song hit like machine-gun fire. Mark Osegueda's vocal delivery never falters and the chorus has the kind of hook that is primed for the band's relentless touring. 'Caster Of Shame' is punchy and concise; yet another good song, but at this point in the album, some listeners could end up suffering from a short attention span. Thrash Metal has never been the stomping ground of progressive music, give or take a few albums. As such, Thrash die-hards like myself will always love it, but a casual listener may have grown weary by now.

That said; the intro to 'Detonate' has a very surprising grandeur that does defy Thrash tradition, so persistent listeners are rewarded by this song. The song does of course go straight into what the band does best, including a few almost Slayer-esque riffs, especially the triplets after the chorus. The chaos that ensues during the guitar solo may also please Slayer fans. Mark's vocals reach new screeching heights right at the end of the song. Another definite strong point on the record. 'Empty' is anything but. It's the obligatory bleak song that gives a negative spin on the world around us. Not exactly original, derivative perhaps, but I wouldn't go as far as to call it filler. The music is still standout and the ability on show, particularly in the short bass solo, is still at Death Angel standard.

Another acoustic intro for 'Territorial Instinct / Bloodlust', and another set of leads that haunt the space around it. As the song begins to take real form, there is a truly memorable lead that shows just how underrated a guitarist Rob Cavestany is. Harmonies on the vocals at select points give the song a sneering, sinister edge to it. The song's lyrical content seems to coincide with the image of blood-soaked wolves on the album artwork.

The tail end of the song, and thus the album, blisters away with instrumental prowess that once again grab you by the skull until you realise just how good these guys are at their craft. That's perhaps what this record puts across most successfully; Death Angel have a great deal of experience behind them. Is their music overly original? No, but many people wont let that trouble them. Nobody could possibly try and tell them what a Death Angel album should be; when they deliver one, they do so with striking proficiency. 'The Dream Calls For Blood' is no exception, and to my ears it stands up to their youthful efforts such as 'The Ultra-Violence' and their more recent masterstroke 'Killing Season' with relative ease.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Review; Kataklysm - Waiting For The End To Come

Track Listing:

1. Fire
2. If I Was God...I'd Burn It All
3. Like Animals
4. Kill The Elite
5. Under Lawless Skies
6. Dead & Buried
7. The Darkest Days Of Slumber
8. Real Blood, Real Scars
9. The Promise
10. Empire Of Dirt
11. Elevate

Kataklysm are a great Death Metal band with twenty-one years of experience behind them. One could be forgiven, at times, with trying to label them as Melodic Death Metal but whilst I wouldn't say the band's music is as atonal as the likes of Cannibal Corpse, it doesn't have the same melodic nature as Melodic Death Metal bands do. There's real balls to Kataklysm's music. Despite this, they have never been one of the first Death Metal bands mentioned in conversations I've had, which I think is a huge mishap. There have been some killer records in their catalogue, and they are absolutely crushing during their live shows. 'Waiting For The End To Come" is their tenth full-length studio album, and as I start to listen to it, I know partially what to expect.

The way the album opens with the whiplash-inducing 'Fire' almost feels like the band are starting the album with a statement of "Abandon hope all ye who enter here". Not in the way that you're left facepalming due to mediocrity, but in the way that is metal as fuck and taps into the fiery recesses of the metalhead psyche. Hell, as lyrics go "I summon thee, oh… great fire, To bring eternal devastation" is about as awesomely metal as it gets! As the second track rolls in, the onslaught only picks up pace. Unbelievably tight, high speed drumming gives the music the majority of its tonne-weight heaviness, as has always been the case. There are pretty good guitar and bass sections to be heard through it all, and Maurizio Iacono's vocal delivery is as devastating as ever, all the while anchoring the lightspeed music to the ground.

By the time 'Like Animals' hits, the album, to some, could run the risk of being samey. The provided antidote to this comes in a few breaks from the speed drumming, during which the guitars are able to deliver more memorable riffs. While the lyrical themes so far aren't already well explored in the world of metal, the delivery in Maurizio's brilliant vocals cannot be faulted. He stands among very few Death Metal vocalists as somebody who is able to perform guttural vocals without the lyrics becoming unintelligible. A steady build up at the start of 'Kill The Elite' leads to music that you feel you have heard already on the album, but the chorus in the song is worth it. Besides which, some may feel that the old "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" adage may apply to Kataklysm as much as it does to AC/DC or Motorhead.

The thing helping the songs thus far is that none of them feel to long. They are all cohesive, quick one-two sucker punches that prevent the album from sounding long. This isn't anything progressive, Kataklysm could be accused of repeating themselves, as I've mentioned, but at the end of the day, the simplicity of the record is one of it's biggest assets. 'Under Lawless Skies' comes with some great riffs and more screeched vocals, and at various points it feels strangely soulful for such heavy music. The same is to be said of 'Dead & Buried' with the side-note that the riff directly after the chorus lines is one of my favourites on the album. 'The Darkest Days Of Slumber' is another very strong point.

While 'Real Blood, Real Scars' washes over me a little bit, 'The Promise' has top notch riffs and a rhythm that stands out in the album. Though it bears less of the speed moments that fans may crave constantly from Kataklysm, for me this helps the album gel together. Besides; the speed is back for 'Empire of Dirt', which would send any crowd into a fit of headbanging, either within or outside of a circle pit.

It's rare for me to find the last song on an album to be the best therein, but 'Elevate', which also serves as the first single from the record, is absolutely flawless as a song! It's truly catchy, heavy as sin and the lead guitar lines at the intro and chorus, whilst fairly simplistic, have an almost serene beauty that I haven't heard on a metal song this heavy in a long time. 'Elevate' is exactly the kind of closing song that makes you want to start listening to the album over again, all the while bringing a successfully executed album to a satisfying close. I myself can't wait to hear the band perform these songs live on their upcoming UK tour, and I will be at the Glasgow show, screaming along to every word I can. Kataklysm have done very well here.

Rating: 8/10