Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Album Review; Ethereal - Opus Aethereum

Ethereal - Opus Aethereum
Released Via Candlelight Records
Genre: Black Metal

Track Listing:

1. Nomicon
2. Overwrite The Archetype
3. Unholy Ungodly
4. Psalm Of The Deciever
5. Devouring The Forsaken
6. Contorted Utopia
7. Aethereum
8. Waking Death

Founded in Liverpool over a decade ago, Ethereal have slowly but surely refined their black metal sound through two prior EP’s and a rigorous touring schedule, including support slots for bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse and Gorgoroth. ‘Opus Aethereum’ is the band’s first full-length, and it’s an intriguing beast that shows Ethereal’s worth more with each listen. The sound itself is equal parts traditional and modern, due to the steady supply of accessible hooks, musical dynamics and the symphonic bombast. There are shades of death metal to be found within the in-your-face instrumental attack, but at its heart this is grandiose black metal with no pretence. From song to song this record maintains a relentless drive that is attributable to the concise execution of each track as much as songs themselves being very well written. The production of the album matches this band completely, as each and every element of sound is remorselessly aimed straight at the listener’s temple. Ethereal have managed to avoid the pratfall that suckers in many other new black metal bands; they don’t come across like a shameless throwback to the Scandinavian scene of yore. Instead, Ethereal already sound very much like their own entity. You can practically feel the years of effort and pure determination bursting from the speakers like a caged beast, and that kind of urgency and fury is exactly what a band like this should possess, and what could see Ethereal climbing higher in the scene.

Rating: 9/10

Links: https://www.facebook.com/EtherealDarknessUK?fref=ts

Album Review; Entrails - Obliteration

Entrails - Obliteration
Released Via Metal Blade Records
Genre: Death Metal

Whether you look at Entrails as the classic Swedish band who never made anything past a couple of demos in the 90s or as the resurrected band responsible for the widely revered ‘Raging Death’ album, one thing is for sure; you’ll be anxious to hear this record. You might find the starting portion of the record to show a large difference quality of the songs. ‘No Cross Left Unturned’ sees Entrails announce what would appear to be the arrival of yet another twisted old-school Swedish death metal record, but this is succeeded by ‘Epitome Of Death’, a rather ore confused track that sees the guitar duo of founding member Jimmy Lundqvist and new recruit Penki trying to incorporate the death march into the end of the tracks, and rather than being cool or suiting the deathly aesthetic of Entrails, it just ends up sounding very Spinal Tap. After this shaky start, everything then carries on to be as retro as one would expect, from the riffs to the steady tempos, the melodic hints and the gnarled vocals. There are tracks that catch the ear from the first few listens, such as ‘Skulls’ and the sinister ‘Midnight Coffin’, and the album runs pretty seamlessly, but it’s a little too clear to hear that there’s nothing here that is quite as essential as what we heard on ‘Raging Death’, which is undeniably deflating. All that said, ‘Obliteration’ is worth the time it takes to listen to it, and is an enjoyable listen without a doubt, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some people stick to the recent Entombed A.D. and Bloodbath records.

Rating: 7/10

Links: https://www.facebook.com/Entrails666

Album Review; Dulcamara - El Anagonista

Dulcamara - El antagonista
Released Via Art Gates Records
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

Track Listing:

1. La Eternidad Genetica
2. Pariah
3. Cuestion De Honor
4. El Antagonista
5. Gehena
6. El Arte De La Degradacion
7. Donde Nacen Las Pesadillas
8. Invencibles
9. Romance Mecanico
10. Ciudadano Ejemplar
11. Dioses Antiguos

An epic feel and keen ear for melodic hooks seem to be the fundamental ingredients behind Dulcamara’s fourth release. While the overall sound is very obviously rooted in the melodic death metal scene, it’s the use of synths and the heavy groove throughout the album’s eleven tracks that help prevent the album from sounding derivative. Every component of the band is given their room to shine bright; whether it’s the impressively powerful vocals on show during ‘Cuestion de Honor’, the Morton-meets-Amott riffing showcased on ‘Pariah’ or the beautiful piano cadences giving the third dimension to ‘Gehena’; Dulcamara prove themselves to be a tight, efficient unit. It might come across as a tired cliché to say this, but this is an album that is best consumed as a whole. Obviously, the lyrics are all in Spanish, but don’t let the language barrier put you off, as this is a multi-faceted band that knows how to keep the flow of an album constant without losing the attention of the listener or ending up with an album that sounds the same from track-to-track. ‘Donde Nacen Las Pesadillas’ demonstrates perfectly that this band can write instantly memorable music with little to no difficulty. This record deserves a place of distinction in any metal fan’s collection for this year.

Rating: 8/10

Links: https://www.facebook.com/dulcamaracomanches?fref=ts

Album Review; Divahar - Divarise

Divahar - Divarise
Released Via Sleazy Rider Records
Genre: Black Metal

Track Listing:

1. Shadows
2. Blindness
3. Call Of The Fire
4. Alien
5. Ravenstone
6. Into The Heights
7. Areakan
8. Insane Silence

Here we have a relatively solid and concise debut album from this Armenian all-female band. Through the eight tracks present here, there are enough mid paced riffs (mid paced for black metal), pompous symphonic arrangements and scattered grinding salvos to please fans of the genre. There is a paradox to be found in the album as there is ambition on show, but too often the songs themselves feel safe, rather than displaying the sinister venom that is present in the best black metal releases.

It is clear from ‘Shadows’ and the ominously grand first single ‘Alien’ that there is enough musical ability in the four-piece to pass the test, especially from the band’s vocalist Dev, but it’s puzzling to hear that even though keyboards and orchestration play a prominent role in shaping the sound of the band there isn’t much to be found in the way of dynamics from song to song. The decidedly off-kilter ‘Call Of The Fire’ is the most obvious exception to that statement, and the stand-out track on the album.

A treat for the black metal faithful is to be found on ‘Blindness’ in the form of a guest appearance from Mayhem vocalist Atilla Csihar, whose demented tones lift the song a step higher than it otherwise would have been. There’s not much else on here that could be described as special, although there is a hint of potential to be heard. If a future release is given a huge cinematic approach then Divahar could be onto something more worthwhile.

Rating: 5/10

Links: https://www.facebook.com/divaharband?fref=ts

Album Review; Disasterhate - Mirroring The Abyss

Disasterhate - Mirroring the Abyss
Released Via Club Inferno Entertainment
Genre: Thrash/Death Metal

Track Listing:

1. Me = Android
2. Desecrated Sick Reality
3. Shining Black Reality
4. In A Rarefield Morning Sun
5. Blank
6. Toxic Sleep
7. The Abyss
8. Day Of Zero
9. The Isle Of The Dead

It’s with destructive verve and cold charisma that ‘Mirroring The Abyss’ blasts its way out of your speakers. This is achieved with a surprisingly slick amalgamation of influences including the futuristic fury of Fear Factory, eighties thrashers Forbidden, the melodic heaviness of Nevermore and progressive leanings that knowingly nod to early Opeth.

These nine tracks are full of class that can only come from meticulous construction. It’s been seven years since the Sicilian quartet’s initial release, so this is not an album that has been churned out for the sake of it. For proof of this; just pick a track! Whether you feast upon the thrash of ‘Me = Android’, revel in the groove of ‘Toxic Sleep’ or embrace the progressive in closing track ‘The Isle Of The Dead’ you’ll find something worthy of celebration here.

The songs are often not as straightforward as they may appear. There are sideways twists and turns to be found all over this album that thankfully do not set the songs off-track. The focus is never lost and the flow is never interrupted, keeping the album sharp and concise from start to finish. As far as performance goes; the band comes together well as a unit but the outstanding contributions of Reitia and Klaudia, both of whom take on guitar and vocal duties, are worthy of praise on their own. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take another seven years before we hear more from Disasterhate.

Rating: 9/10

Links: https://www.facebook.com/disasterhate?fref=ts

Album Review; Dendera - Pillars Of Existence

Released Via Metalbox Recordings
Genre: Heavy Metal

Dendera’s debut ‘The Killing Floor’ was an enjoyable trek through heavy metal soil that felt modern but a little too familiar at times, but I can say with great pleasure that ‘Pillars Of Creation’ comes across as a much more mature beast. Influences of Judas Priest, Megadeth and Dream Theater all shine through the dust on this record, but it’s the few hints of progressive metal that give this record the more up-to-date feel that the aforementioned debut lacked slightly. ‘Claim Our Throne’ starts slowly before bursting into a solid opening track, then ‘Bloodlust’ takes things to the new level. This is a track destined to impress live audiences on the band’s upcoming slot supporting Anvil. ‘In High Tide’ bears the British mark of Judas Priest with its melodic majesty, though Ashley Edison’s vocals are more reminiscent of Bruce Dickinson. This is perhaps the biggest triumph of Dendera; they’re easily the most impressive pure heavy metal band to come out of the UK in recent memory. Other bands would do well to take note that while there may be no extreme vocal styles on show here, this sounds very fresh. This is simply due to the fact that in the metal scene as it stands today, this does sound fresh. ‘Disillusioned’ shows there is more darkness in this classic metal style than some modern genres, whilst ‘Unholy’ is an anthem in lyrics, riffs and singalong power. Dendera have more to them than meets the eye and have proven that we should make no assumptions of throwbacks when we see the tag ‘heavy metal’ in 2015.

Rating: 9/10

Links: http://metalboxrecordings.com/

Album Review; Dead Existence - Endless Misery

Released Via Black Bow Records
Genre: Doom/Crust Metal

Track Listing:

1. Consume
2. End Devoured By Beginning
3. ...
4. Worthless
5. Tear Apart The Veil
6. Obsidian Black
7. Delusion Of Hope
8. Regretamine

Dead Existence have been making waves, indeed. This record displays why; through a combination of frantic sludgy metal, a definite punk mentality, and a hefty slab of doom metal, Dead Existence have a musical Frankenstein that many people within the echelons of the UK scene’s more influential people will grasp onto with both hands. Lest we forget, doom and sludge metal are ruling the UK metal underground at the moment. However, where many other bands that we see absolutely everywhere at the moment seem to be a tad formulaic, there’s an element of liveliness to Dead Existence through which you can hear some soulful playing and writing. Neurosis are clearly in this group’s list of influences, as shown by the sprawling, ever-shifting nature of this record. End Devoured By Beginning’ starts off with some jazzy drumming and very low-key guitar playing, but it soon bursts into a leviathan-sized riff, complete with furiously barked vocals and more drumming that simply will not be tied down for too long. Naturally, very long songs are the agenda of the day, with all but two of these tracks ducking under the five minute mark. As the album title would suggest, depressive hopelessness is on the mind of Dead Existence, but rather than wallowing stupidly through endless doom metal monotony, Dead Existence choose to seethe for a duration of time before exploding into fury, and as they do this, many interesting musical ideas come to the surface. This is doom metal with a fire in its belly, and I’ll be keeping an eagle’s eye on this band.

Rating: 8/10

Links: https://www.facebook.com/DeadExistenceuk

Monday, 17 August 2015

Album Review; EscapeTheCult - All You Need To

Independent Release
Genre: Progressive Metal

Track Listing:

1. Backfired
2. Clandestine
3. I'm Absolute
4. Feel The Flight
5. Tired Of The Past
6. This Time Will Come
7. Where No Grown Up Grapes

While some other super groups end up sounding like an unimaginative, clumsy melding of different well-known bands, EscapeTheCult is an entity unto itself. The band is comprised of Primus/A Perfect Circle drummer Tim Alexander, King Diamond guitarist Mike Wead, vocalist Matthieu Romarin of Uneven Structure, and the band’s mastermind, Kamlath bass player Peter G. Shallmin. This cauldron of musical excellence combines to form one of the most multifaceted records you’ll hear in 2014.

‘All You Need To’ has a beautifully soulful quality to it that feels organic from note to note. Nothing on this album feels forced, and yet there’s so much delivered within the seven tracks. There are plenty of metal riffs and guitar solos, there are more ambient, almost new wave tinges, and a lot of jazz influence to be heard. This melting pot is nicely topped off with Romarin’s smooth yet powerful singing voice.

There’s a wide array of emotional connotation on show here; ‘Clandestine’ has an innocent joyfulness to it. Then there’s the more brooding and thoughtful ‘I’m Absolute’. ‘Feel The Flight’  is a brilliantly realised song; uplifting with hope and full of spirit, which can be as easily credited to the more subtle nuances of the music as to the sumptuous vocal melody. To say there’s a lot going on is an understatement, yet everything has enough breathing space, preventing the songs from getting bogged down.

All too often an album is professed to take the listener on a journey, but ‘All You Need To’ does exactly that, and it achieves this through the purest means. This is not a record that will try pretentiously to challenge your perceptions of what heavy music can be, instead this is four very achieved musicians coming together to create art, and like all accomplished artworks it will draw you in again and again. Here’s hoping that this is not a flash in the pan, as it would be great to see what else EscapeTheCult are capable of in the future.

Rating: 8/10

Links: https://www.facebook.com/EscapeTheCvlt?fref=ts

Album Review; Darkness Divided - Written In Blood

Released Via Victory Records
Genre: Metalcore

Track Listing:

1. Severance
2. The Shepherd's Hands
3. A Well Run Dry
4. The Hands That Bled
5. The Descent
6. Eternal Thirst
7. Withering Kingdom
8. Remnants
9. The Will Of Man
10. Interlude
11. Divine Mercy

There are two sides to this album. On the one hand; their metalcore style has been done to death! Everything from the overall tone of the songs to the bounce-along drum beats and chugging breakdowns. The vocals are mostly uninspiring and predictable. Almost every clean melody is even in the same key as the bands that come before this. The song structures are tired and do nothing to get you interested, ‘The Hands That Bled’ being a prime example. A lot of what is on show is shameless repetition of things we have heard since the turn of the century and is more likely to invoke a sigh of exasperation than anything else, especially when the short interlude tracks come into play. Every trap that metalcore bands can fall into, Darkness Divided fall hard. There are plenty of flourishes that are clearly a product of clever studio tricks, and the overall mix of the album is very pretty and pristine, but this doesn’t make up for the bulk of the material itself.

On the other hand, there are scattered amounts of interesting guitar lines and the odd breakdown here and there are genuinely heavy, showing a Slipknot influence on tracks like ‘The Will Of Man’, which has a quirky sound at the breakdowns. There’s occasional proficiency shown in the guitar lines that is frustratingly underutilized. These few points are needles in a poorly packed hay bale, and it’s albums like ‘Written In Blood’ which show metalcore is on its last legs.
Rating: 2/10

Album Review; Dark Mirror Ov Tragedy - The Lunatic Chapters Of Heavenly Creatures

Released Via Wormholedeath Records
Genre: Symphonic Black Metal

Track Listing:

1. Thy Sarcophagus
2. Unwritten Symphony
3. Dancing In The Burning Mirror
4. Ichnography On Delusion
5. Virtuoso Of The Atmosphere
6. Perish By Luminos Dullness
7. The Constellation Of Shadows
8. The Name Of Tragedy
9. The Noumenon I Carved


This band’s fourth release contains nine tracks in total, and those nine tracks are full to the brim of gothic charm, classical influence and sharp instrumentation. There are a lot of ingredients here to appeal to fans of different strains of metal; there’s some decent riffs and shred-heavy guitar solos that deliver weight and fury to the sound, while violin and keyboards offer a dark, seductive beauty. This contrast makes for a very multi-dimensional listen. Take the standout track ‘Dancing In The Burning Mirror’, which shifts well between the two extremes over its nine minute duration.

Each seventh of this South Korean band clearly knows their role very well, as this album displays Dark Mirror Ov Tragedy to be a cohesive unit. It’s all too easy for a band trying to meld so many different styles together to sound like a clumsy mishmash, but this album shows the band’s compositional skills. The vocal shrieks may sound thinner than most black metal fans would like, but each rasp cuts through the heavy mix of music well enough. The three minute acoustic interlude ‘Virtuoso of the Atmosphere’ doesn’t feel essential to the album’s flow, especially when ‘Perish by Luminos Dullness’ could have easily carried the album onwards with good panache.

Dark Mirror Ov Tragedy have shown an elegant and broad-minded approach to extreme metal that the underground scene would do well to learn from. It’s not perfect, but it’s far from boring.

Rating: 7/10

Links: https://www.facebook.com/darkmirrorovtragedy

Album Review; Dagoba - Tales From The Black Dawn

Released Via earMusic
Genre: Groove/Industrial Metal

Track Listing:

1. Epliogue
2. The Sunset Curse
3. Half Damn Life
4. Eclipsed
5. Born Twice
6. The Loss
7. Sorcery
8. O, Inverted World
9. The Dawn
10. Morning Light

Just when grand opening of ‘Epilogue’ makes you think that this album is going to explode into a huge stomper of a song, it becomes a let-down to hear that there is something a little soulless about ‘The Sunset Curse’. For all it’s industrial elements, it doesn’t deliver the right punch in the face that such a sound usually does. The symphonic elements are alright, if a little uninspiring, but the low-end guitar notes don’t sit high enough in the mix to give the song the ability to curb-stomp you. The same thing applies to ‘Half Damn Life’. Vocally, the shouts are decent enough, though they lack the kind of characteristics needed to embed the songs in your mind, whilst the clean vocals are like a cheese grater to the ears. The songs are presented in a tight enough manner, but there is just something missing. It also becomes apparent that Dagoba are a bit of a one-trick pony by the time ‘Eclipsed’ kicks in. Every song on the record has not just a similar feel, but the exact same feel, which truly stunts the growth of the record. We all have the bands from whom we want to hear a specific sound, but a band like Dagoba, who cite such a wide range of musical influences from classical music right to black, death and power metal, should be putting these tools to use in order to create an album with a lot more dynamic capabilities than this. Poor songwriting and a lack of imagination is the downfall here. Hopefully, Dagoba can do better next time.

Rating: 2/10

Links: https://www.facebook.com/dagoba13

Album Review; Fear Factory - Genexus

Released Via Nuclear Blast
Genre: Industrial Death Metal

Track Listing:

1. Autonomous Combat System
2. Anodized
3. Dielectric
4. Soul Hacker
5. Protomech
6. Genexus
7. Church Of Execution
8. Regenerate
9. Battle For Utopia
10. Expiration Date

Fear Factory are unique within the metal scene. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of another band that sounds like them. Their long career has seen them go through highs and lows. The most recent high being 2010's 'Mechanize', which was a complete tour-de-force, backed up by the cannonade percussion of Gene Hoglan. Since then, Hoglan left the band and 2012 saw the release of 'The Industrialist', which was a fractured affair. Not a terrible album by any measure, but it definitely had something missing at its core. It lacked that certain spark that helped previous Fear Factory albums breathe and grow. For their new record, Cazares and Bell brought in Malignancy drummer Mike Heller.

As it happens, Heller was a great choice. He gels in well with Dino Cazares' mechanical, down-tuned riffing. Over this, frontman Burton C. Bell's barks and snarls weave their magic over opening track 'Autonomous Combat System', which begins this record's story of sentient machines living among mankind, and all its questions of religion, mortality, climate control and the essence of being human.

Without a doubt the music is very familiar to anybody who has heard Fear Factory, and there isn't much new to hear on this record, save for on the final track 'Expiration Date', which sees Fear Factory take us on an ambient journey. Before that, though, it is staccato riffs and triplet-based drumming wound super-tight and topped off with roomy choruses that feature the always superbly produced clean vocals of Bell. However, what helps this album is that the song writing has a lot more soul within it, it's been thought out more but not forced. The whole entity flows really well and each song has its strengths. It sounds like the album that 'The Industrialist' tried to be, and at times even sounds better than 'Mechanize', which is saying something since that album was one of my favourites of that year.

'Dielectric', 'Soul Hacker', 'Protomech' and 'Church Of Execution' are all the kind of powerful, pulverizing and thought-provoking metal songs that really bring an album like this to life. It goes without saying that the moral questions of Artificial Intelligence have been a hot topic over the last number of years as mankind seems to move swiftly towards that particular moral crossroads. 'Genexus', with its description of mechanization being a part of the next step in mankind's evolution shows how this band have presented the case both for and against this issue, while bearing the rebellious metal connotations within the songs, aimed at political systems, dehumanization and religion. Fear Factory are sharp again, back on track again, ready to grind your ears into dust again.

Rating: 9/10

Links: http://fearfactory.com/

Album Review; Kataklysm - Of Ghosts And Gods

Released Via Nuclear Blast
Genre: Death Metal

Track Listing:

1. Breaching The Asylum
2. The Black Sheep
3. Marching Through Graveyards
4. Thy Serpent's Tongue
5. Vindication
6. Soul Destroyer
7. Carrying Crosses
8. Shattered
9. Hate Spirit
10. The World Is A Dying Insect

The Canadian death metal institution Kataklysm have been on a rapid ascent over the years. True enough, in their now fifteen year tenure with Nuclear Blast, Kataklysm are yet to disappoint with their studio output. Gaining recognition and fans bit by bit as they go. Without a doubt, 2013's 'Waiting For The End To Come' saw them climb higher than anticipated, gain immense profile and draw in the live arena. They have been no stranger to festivals over the years but the last two years have seen the band seemingly work harder than ever. Now, with their follow-up, many hope to see a return on all the interest the band have cultivated. This means that 'Of Ghosts And Gods' cannot disappoint.

This is a band that, though rooted firmly within the realms of death metal, have never been afraid to put the odd subliminal twist upon their output. Stepping out of their comfort zone and taking their fans along for the ride. 'Of Ghosts And Gods' sees the band proceed again to new grounds. While still heavy enough to please all comers, the record carries a lot more melody than its predecessor. Opener 'Breaching The Asylum' proves this all-too-well. The song is catchy, with a lyrical message concerning the madness of religion in modern times, showing that frontman Maurizio Iacono hasn't lost the desire to invoke thought within the listener's mind.

Second track 'The Black Sheep' takes the bands sound further afield, as its heavy, heavy riffing power is built around a super-thick groove the likes that one would expect of a band like Devildriver or Lamb Of God rather than this death metal outfit. Recoil from that statement, you may; but the effect is huge. This is a song that is an iron-clad live contender. Look out for the pits with this song. 'Marching Through Graveyards' is reminiscent of the first track, but with a satisfying blast beat that will take seasoned Kataklysm fans back to the band's hyperblast beginnings. The same applies to 'Thy Serpent's Tongue'. This is more akin to old school Kataklysm but it also has a groove woven through it which saves it feeling like a total throwback.

If anything, the presence of the super-speed drumming of Oli Beaudoin at various points through the middle of the album helps this record achieve more heaviness than we heard on 'Waiting For The End To Come', and the song writing on this record feels that bit more complete. The groove element may lead to some fans turning their noses up at this record, but those people would be missing out on a solid, cohesive and smooth flowing album. There may well be people out there that were hoping to hear an album's worth of songs that sounded like 'Elevate' with this record, but my ears are more than happy to hear Kataklysm refusing to repeat themselves.

At the end of the day these are well-crafted songs that bear a lot of substance, a lot of heaviness and even more staying power. It may be a grower for some, and I would urge those people to stick by this album. As soon as I learned that Andy Sneap would be taking care of mixing this album, I knew it would sound great, and it does. Everything is clear and full of impact. If anything, this record exceeds 'Waiting For The End To Come' and should see Kataklysm's steady climb up the mountain that is the metal hierarchy continue ever stronger. After twenty three years as the underdogs, I think its about time that Kataklysm have their turn at the crown.

Rating: 9/10

Links: https://www.facebook.com/kataklysm

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Article: An Introduction To Indonesian Metal

Globalization is the word of the moment. As strange as it may be to some, many of us, the initiated, the metalheads are fully aware that metal is playing its own unique part in globalization, has been since a band called Sepultura came stampeding out of Brazil, making all heads bang as they went, or KISS and Deep Purple played their first shows in Japan. Combine that with the massive worldwide tours that have been embarked upon by bands such as Iron Maiden and Metallica, and the metal world is growing exponentially.

Metal music is no longer the sole privilege of the UK, America, Scandinavia and Europe. There are now metal scenes all around the globe. China, India, South America, Africa, even countries such as Iraq, Israel and Saudi Arabia have their own metal bands! Not very long ago, this would have been a bizarre thought. True, many of the bands in these countries do not gain much (if any!) recognition far beyond their homelands, but some have managed. Orphaned Land, Melechesh and Chthonic are examples of this. However, there is one scene which boasts a vast plethora of bands that SHOULD NOT go unrecognized. That scene is in the far-east country of Indonesia.

This scene, as any round the world, consists of many different sounds, many different styles of metal but the mainstay of the Indonesian metal scene is extreme death metal in it's various forms; death metal, brutal death metal, slamming brutal death metal and technical death metal. There are many quality bands to check out; Burgerkill, Jasad, Siksakubur, Trojan, Viscral, Djin, Saffar, Dead Squad, Revenge, Brutal Corpse and Kaluman to name but a few.

By attending Bloodstock Open Air, I was fortunate enough to see Burgerkill and Jasad play on UK soil for the first time, on the same day. I was familiar with their music and was not disappointed by their performances. To me, these two bands represented a scene which is itching to burst loose from its homeland and take the metal world by storm. Onstage they showed conviction, ambition and an invigorating amount of passion for their art. In me, these performances drove me to delve deeper into the Indonesian scene, gain more knowledge about it and ultimately write this article. In order to do this I needed to hear an insiders perspective on this fascinating breeding ground of metal. I was fortunate enough to get in touch with former Before I Die member Ilham Priono, who was gracious enough to answer plenty of questions on the subject. The following is our conversation;

Me: "I have heard a lot about metal in Indonesia, particularly in Jakarta and Bandung...

Illham: "If you wish to know the metal scene's story in both cities, you should check out bands such as Siksakubur, Tengkorak and Dead Squad from Jakarta and Jasad, Burgerkill and Jeruji from Bandung.

Me: "Tell me about the start of the scene in Indonesia"

Illham: "The first metal community in Indonesia was in Jakarta, early in 1988, (that was) the first time the metal community (began) appearing in public. They hung out at the Pid Pub, a small pub in the shopping area of Pondok Indah, South Jakarta. According to Krishna of Sucker Head (Jakarta Death/Thrash band), each night of the week the pub's owner would give bands a stage in the front of the pub. Emerging metal bands continued to play metal music gigs at the venue; Roxx, (Heavy Metal/Hard Rock), Sucker Head playing (Death/Thrash Metal), Rotor (Thrash Metal), Mortus (Thrash Metal), and Alien Scream (Thrash Metal). Subsequently, some of the bands split and created new bands.

These bands were only playing and recording cover songs from other bands. Among them all, the only lucky ones were Roxx (who recorded) their first single 'Rock Echoed'. This happened because they were one of the finalists of Festival Rock Indonesia 5. (They) Got a record label contract, (which) at the time is something quite impossible, because of how difficult it is to penetrate the label with that kind of music at that time. (They) sent a demo to an alternative radio (station). At that time, radio stations who would often play the demo were Bahamas Radio, Radio Metro, Jaya Radio SK and Radio Mustang.
The most dominant was Mustang Radio, because they had a program called Rock 'N' Rhythm every Wednesday night from 19:00 to 21:00. They even once surprised (us) by (playing) Sepultura, when they came to Jakarta in 1992. In addition to radio, mass media that often reviewed the new rock and metal at that time (were) only HAI Magzine, Tabloid Citra Music, and Vista Magazine. Studio One Feel, which is the oldest music studio which allows rock and metal, even old metal bands from the capital never touched this studio."

Me: "What were the first metal bands that influenced the Indonesian scene? You mentioned Sepultura, but were there others?"

Illham: "Indonesian metal in the 90's was influenced by two metal concerts; Sepultura in 1992, and Metallica in Jakarta, 1993. The concerts gave considerable contribution to the development of metal bands in Indonesia. After the successful Sepultura 'burn' in Jakarta and Surubaya, Roxx released a self-titled debut album under their Blackboard label. The album became one of the classic Indonesian speed metal albums of the 90's.
Rotor got the lucky card after phenomenal success opening for Metallica for two consecutive days in Lebak Bulus Stadium, after recommendations from the manager of Metallica. Rotor released 'Behind The 8th Ball' on the first major label in Indonesia, Aquarius Musikindo. Sucker Head (comprised of two members of Rotor) released 'The Sucker Head' after signing with Aquarius Musikindo, (which was a) new beginning in 1995."

Me: "Has there ever been any kind of opposition to metal from religious of political powers in Indonesia?"

Illham: "In Indonesia, many metal bands, just like in other countries are criticized by the government and socially. There are some black metal bands, but not as famous (as the) death metal bands. But there are some bands whose lyrics were very religious. Purgatory (Nu-Metal) filled out their lyrics with stories from the Quran, Saffar (Death Metal) were the same."

Me: "With those two bands putting Islamic stories into their music, have the black metal bands ever openly criticised Islam?"

Illham: "Despite many differences of religion, it's not causing a split in the underground music (scene). So far, no one has questioned the religious differences."

Me: "Considering Indonesia's very extreme sounds, how do the fans view international mainstream metal bands such as Bullet For My Valentine, Killswitch Engage, Avenged Sevenfold, Lamb Of God, etc.?"

Illham: "Those bands have all visited Indonesia several years ago. They play an important role in the metal music industry in Indonesia. Burgerkill have opened as guests for As I Lay Dying and Bring Me The Horizon. They have fanatical fans in Indonesia, including me. I played Metalcore before joining Before I Die in 2009. I think if they come back for a concert, many fans will come."

Me: "Recently Burgerkill and Jasad played their first shows in Europe at Wacken Open Air and Bloodstock Open Air. How much does it mean for Indonesian bands to play abroad?

Illham: "It is very meaningful for us. They've opened the gateway to an international class. Indonesia has a lot of talented musicians who have not been exposed to the world. I hope Indonesian musicians can perform again in Europe. This is the first time Indonesian musicians are playing Europe. So far, Indonesian musicians are always gigging in Southeast Asia and Australia. I often see Australian bands in Indonesia and vice-versa. If there is an opportunity to be able to perform in other countries, surely Indonesian musicians will continue to grow. In Indonesia it is very difficult to hold a metal event."

Me: "Why so difficult?"

Illham: "We have to give a lot of money to police! They are corrupt. They believe that metal music events only cause unrest. I live in Cilegon City; since 2010 the police have banned metal events."

Me: "Are metal shows therefor very secret, to avoid police involvement?"

Illham: "For any events, you must have a permit from the police, if you do not want to be stopped by them."

Me: "Do the politics of Indonesia play a part in Indonesian band's lyrics?"

Illham: "Yes. They criticize the government, too."

Me: "This is interesting to me, as I heard not long ago that Indonesia's new president, Joko Widodo, is a metal fan."

Illham: "Yes, it's true..."

Me: "Do you believe he will act to make it easier to hold metal events?"

Illham: "I don't think so"

Me: "Why not?"

Illham: "I think Mr Joko will be busy with his government system and politics."

Me: What message do you have for western metal fans that want to check out Indonesia's scene?"

Illham: "Just visit Indonesia, a country with culture, but don't forget to enjoy Indonesian distortion too. Let's share the culture."

Along with this unique insight into the beginnings and the challenges of the Indonesian metal scene, Illham was good enough to give me recommendations of Indonesian bands to listen to. It only seems right to share these bands with you all, below. So, have a listen, embrace the crushing brutality of Indonesian metal, and let us all continue to expand this metal world that we are proud to inhabit.

Burgerkill - 'Under The Scars' (Death Metal/Metalcore from Bandung)

Revenge - 'Servant Of The Myth' (Technical Death Metal from Jakarta)

Dead Squad - 'Manufaktur Replika Baptis' (Technical/Progressive Death Metal from Jakarta)
Before I Die - 'Reconstruction Of Murder' (Brutal Death Metal from Jakarta)
Siksakubur - 'Merah Hitam Hijau' (Death Metal from Jakarta)
Undergod - 'Kudak Kadek' (Brutal Death Metal from Bandung)
Saffar - 'Mandatory El Arshy' (Death Metal from Bandung)
Trojan - 'Pleasure Of Sickness' (Brutal Death Metal from Bali)

Djin - 'Ill Millenium' (Technical Death Metal from Medan)
Bleeding Corpse - 'Konspirasi Ajal' (Brutal Death Metal from Bandung)
Jasad - 'Liman Soka' (Brutal Death Metal from Bandung)

Kaluman - 'Eksekusi Mati' (Brutal Death Metal from Bandung)

Friday, 14 August 2015

Album Review; Bullet For My Valentine - 'Venom'

Released Via RCA Records
Genre: Melodic Metalcore

Track Listing:

1. V
2. No Way Out
3. Army Of Noise
4. Worthless
5. You Want A Battle? (Here's A War)
6. Broken
7. Venom
8. Skin
9. Hell Or High Water (The Harder It Breaks)
10. Pariah

Go back to 2010 and you'll see this Welsh metalcore band at the height of their strength after the success of their album 'Fever'. It looked very much like they were ready to conquer all in their sights, and they had a considerable crowd behind them every step of the way. Then, out of nowhere, the momentum came grinding to a halt after the release of 2013's 'Temper Temper', which saw the band venturing more into rock territory than their established metal territory much to the confusion of many fans and critics alike. Bullet For My Valentine, it appeared, were very close to being left behind from the pack they were vying to lead.
Now, in 2015, the band are armed with the album they claimed harks back to the sound of fan favourite 'The Poison'; heavier and more aggressive than its predecessor, apparently...

Well, I can tell you this album is only more aggressive if your definition of aggression is teenage angst. Heavier than 'Temper Temper'? Perhaps, but then it comes down to your own gauge of heaviness in metal.

'No Way Out' is liable to end up being the band's opening song on their upcoming tour, and one can see why. It carries the usual BFMV sound which their fans will like and is a kind-of-fast song with plenty screams and the usual clean vocals. One glance at the lyrical content of the song and you may wish to rip your hair out, as the band's woe-is-me themed lyrics haven't matured one iota. It's a shame because with better lyrical content this could have been a decent Bullet For My Valentine song. After this, we have 'Army Of Noise', which sounds like it may have been recorded for 'Fever' before failing to make the cut. It's certainly a catchier track, though considering the rabble rousing nature that the song aims for, the chorus is too sugar-sweet. There's a blinder of a guitar solo here, so never let it be said that these guys cannot play their instruments!

Next thing you know, we're back to the shoe-staring, self-pitying whine which attempts to hold up a middle finger. 'Worthless' is exactly what it says on the tin, another shameless attempt from Bullet For My Valentine at targeting their awkward teenage demographic. One cannot help but think, if you want to go forth as a metal band again, give the metal scene more credit than to think that this kind of unimaginative song writing cuts it. Same applies for 'You Want A Battle? (Here's A War)'. Oh, and 'Broken'. Are this band really struggling so much to think of a way to add variety to their lyrics?

When it comes to the claims that this album is more like 'The Poison', this is nowhere near accurate. To say it's like a watered down extension of 'Fever' seems to be more accurate as the band still does not sound as ambitious as they did circa 'The Poison' and 'Scream, Aim, Fire'. The album does little to keep the listener interested and does even less to help the band gain any more fans. Or to regain any lost fans for that matter. It's frustrating to see Bullet For My Valentine receive such high praise from the metal community, especially when they are being called the biggest UK metal band of the last fifteen years, as there is very little on this record or its predecessor to justify such a lofty position.

They have played some great shows in the past to some considerable crowds, and their first two albums led a lot of the youth of a generation (MY generation, I might add!) into metal music, but it feels like those days are long gone and that this band has chosen to pander to the squeaky clean comfort zone of their fans who have absolutely no intention to challenge themselves as they listen to metal. As we all know, challenging records, progressive thinking and musical evolution are what makes metal such an invigorating genre. If you want to play it safe in metal, then you're really missing the point. Bullet For My Valentine have missed the point, but I doubt they will care because a lot of their fans certainly wont.

Rating: 3/10

Links: http://www.rcarecords.com/home

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Album Review; Thy Art Is Murder - Holy War

Released Via Nuclear Blast

Track Listing:

1. Absolute Genocide
2. Light Bearer
3. Holy War
4. Coffin Dragger (Ft. Winston McCall of Parkway Drive)
5. Fur And Claw
6. Deliver Us To Evil
7. Emptiness
8. Violent Reckoning
9. Child Of Sorrow
10. Naked And Cold

After all the hype behind the previous album 'Hate', I was personally a little disappointed with the album itself. I found it to be two-dimensional. As for this new record, I found the complete opposite. I've been completely blown away by this record which combines razor-sharp and thought-provoking lyrics, massively heavy death metal riffs, melodic guitar subtleties and brilliant songwriting. As the album title and the harrowing artwork shows, this record blazes with anger at the modern state of socio-political affairs in regards to religion, with extra focus on the Middle East. Each song is a crushing assault on the ears and there are even moments of anthemic catchiness to be found on such songs as 'Holy War', 'Light Bearer' and 'Deliver Us To Evil'.

Vocalist CJ McMahon showcases his abilities fantastically throughout this album, proving that he can be a true powerhouse vocalist, delivering the lyrics with clarity, feel and seething rage. These songs will stand the test of time and will prove to be crowd-pleasing favourites in the live setting. This may just be the time when Thy Art Is Murder live up to their reputation and take a step higher in their climb to the summit of the metal scene, and they will do it with hordes of like-minded, furious fans at their backs. Their musical chops are clear, and their message is not only clear, it's a statement that needed to be said. Meet the new demagogues of extreme metal.

Rating: 9/10

Links: https://www.facebook.com/thyartismurder?fref=ts


Album Review: Cruenta Lacrymis - 'Sweetness And Blasphemy'

Cruenta Lacrymis - Sweetness and Blasphemy
Released Via Metal Scrap Records
Genre: Symphonic Dark Metal

Track Listing:

1. Intro - The Era Of Cruenta Lacrymis
2. The Steersman's Course
3. Mother Of Sigh
4. Burning Spirit
5. Sicarius
6. The Ghost Of The Jew
7. Downward
8. Circle Of Damnation
9. Bloody Revenge
10. Luxury
11. False History
12. Sound Of Soul

After a standard-issue mood building intro, the symphonic pomp of Cradle of Filth and the pace of Dimmu Borgir’s blacker moments reveal themselves instantly to be the backbone of the sound that this Italian four-piece has crafted. The metal found in Cruenta Lacrymis’ sound is notably under-utilized; from the first song proper ‘The Steersman’s Course’, the guitar, bass and drums are often present to do nothing but add a bit of propulsion and pace underneath the well-programmed symphonic elements. However, when the music slows down in ‘Mother Of Sigh’, the guitars are given more room to breathe and present actual riffs. There is a great deal of melancholy within the record’s twelve tracks, giving the music a feel that is akin to the likes of My Dying Bride. Unfortunately, a great number of the songs that are presented to you sound far too alike, and end up feeling formulaic and passive. ‘Bloody Revenge’ is a moment that holds more promise in regards to what this fledgling band are capable of, but ‘Sweetness And Blasphemy’ is too much of the same thing. Great for fans of fast-paced, wall of sound, symphonic metal, but those of us who seek variety will need to look elsewhere.

Rating: 5/10

Links: http://www.cruentalacrymis.com/

Album Review: Cradle Of Filth - 'Hammer Of The Witches'

Cradle of Filth - Hammer of the Witches
Released Via Nuclear Blast Records
Genre: Gothic Black Metal

Track Listing:

1. Walpurgis Eve
2. Yours Immortally...
3. Enshrined In Crematoria
4. Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess
5. Blackest Magick In Practice
6. The Monstrous Sabbat (Summoning The Coven)
7. Hammer Of The Witches
8. Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych
9. The Vampyre At My Side
10. Onward Christian Soldiers
11. Blooding The Hounds Of Hell

From the opening seconds of the renaissance-reeking ‘Walpurgis Eve’ into ‘Yours Immortally…’ it is only too clear that Cradle Of Filth are back and in inexplicably rude health. Frontman Dani Filth’s voice is on form, to say the least. His trademark piercing screams are pushed further than some may expect, and are littered throughout this record, but not to the point that it becomes ineffective. In fact, effect seems to be the word of the day as far as these compositions are concerned. Regardless of what some people may argue, Cradle Of Filth’s sound is built upon a core of black metal, but the gothic shades make it a different beast, and then within this album, there are other elements that build Cradle’s sound up to even more grandeur than we have heard on the band’s most recent releases. ‘Enshrined In Crematoria’ features riffs which bring the heaviness and intricacy of melodic death metal, whereas ‘Blackest Magick In Practice’ has moments that are akin to technical death metal, as hard as that may be to fathom. Cradle Of Filth have always been difficult to pigeonhole, which has been their greatest strength, and now they’re playing to that strength very, very well. This has doubtlessly been enhanced by new guitarists Marek 'Ashok' Šmerda and Richard Shaw, as the twin guitars bring back a more three-dimensional guitar style than was heard on ‘The Manticore And Other Horrors’. The album’s title track, dealing with the book of its namesake, the Malleus Maleficarum, and the prosecution of witchcraft in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, is razor sharp and shows that Dani still has a flair for poetic lyricism, whilst the heavy-handed first single ‘Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych’ shows Lindsay Schoolcraft to have a beautiful and harrowing voice, capable of taking moments at the forefront, as well as a great ear for slight musical nuances. Altogether, this intense and harrowing journey through the theatrical world of Cradle Of Filth stands not only as a return-to-form, but perhaps as one of the band’s most undisputedly cohesive and quality records to date.
Rating: 10/10

Links: https://www.facebook.com/cradleoffilth


Album Review: Cattle Decapitation - 'The Anthropocene Extinction'

Cattle Decapitation - The Anthropocene Extinction
Released Via Metal Blade Records
Progressive Death Metal/Grindcore

Track Listing:

1. Manufactured Extinct
2. The Prophets Of Loss
3. Plagueborne
4. Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)
5. Circo Inhumanitas
6. The Burden Of Seven Billion
7. Mammals In Babylon
8. Mutual Assured Destruction
9. Not Suitable For Life
10. Apex Blasphemy
11. Ave Exitium
12. Pacific Grim

It’s been just over three years since ‘Monolith Of Inhumanity’ was released to an unsuspecting metal world, and now it’s time for Cattle Decapitation to brutalize your eardrums once again. Fans of the band are in for a real treat, fans of the last album will be in euphoria, as this record picks up on the theme of ‘Monolith…’ and expands upon it very effectively. Here, the band speaks of the end result of mankind’s destructive effect upon our planet and the ecological and environmental devastation coming back to haunt us. They do this in a very bleak and hopeless way, only in so far as the lyrics are concerned. This is Cattle Decapitation, after all so do not expect to hear introspective shoegaze moments or softly sang acoustic accoutrements. Instead, the band display exactly how calling them death metal alone is a miscarriage of justice. There are plenty of moments of grindcore brutality, some more expansive black metal passages, even some doom-laden musical moments such as those on the opening song ‘Manufactured Extinct’, and it all carries a healthy amount of musical progression the likes of which this kind of truly extreme music needs. The record is damn-near seamless, and flows like a fine wine, which is only heightened by the underlying concept which helps weave the tapestry of this record together. Needless to say, every individual band member has not gotten lazy on this seventh album; the riffs are able to jump from eviscerating brutality to thought-provoking expansiveness with great ease. You would still swear that David McGraw was a human drum machine considering how tight, flawless and completely furious his every beat is, and vocalist Travis Ryan is a master of extreme, with black metal shrieks, pig squeals and brutal, throaty growls all getting their own tasteful utilization throughout this record. Ryan also uses the more melodic, psychopathic screams in a very tasteful manner, as best heard on ‘Plagueborne’. You want extreme; Cattle Decapitation have it. Masterful.

Album Review: Cadaveria - 'Silence'

Cadaveria - Silence
Released Via Scarlet Records
Genre: Gothic Black Metal

Track Listing:

1. Velo (The Other Side Of Hate)
2. Carnival Of Doom
3. Free Spirit
4. The Soul That Doesn't Sleep
5. Existence
6. Out Loud
7. Death, Again
8. Exercise1
9. Almost Ghostly
10. Loneliness
11. Strangled Icons

It is album number five from this Italian so-called horror metal band and unless you’re the most stereotypical goth on the planet that actually enjoys misery and the feeling of hopelessness this album is going to offer you nothing at all. This is gothic music in the least elegant of forms that I have heard to date. Sure, the clean vocals are good enough, but aren’t really all that. The less said about the monochrome harsh vocals the better.

Take ‘The Soul That Doesn’t Sleep’; every element of the song floats past you without any sign conviction, each riff dull and empty, the melodies unimaginative and passive. It’s all very pedestrian, failing to demand any attention at all. ‘Existence’ does show a spark at fleeting moments, but it soon becomes just as tiresome. ‘Out Loud’ simply lacks any imagination and comes across as little more than a throwaway attempt at black metal, while ‘Death, Again’ makes me want to hit my head against wall as it somehow manages to be even more dull than the preceding songs.

The overall sound of the album doesn’t help anything either. Whatever the lead guitars try to do is so far back in the mix that there was no point including them in the album. When the clean vocals hit any lower notes they are smothered by the dirge of monotony that is the music and the savage spirit of black metal is all but absent. ‘Silence’; ironically, silence would be preferable by far.

Rating: 1/10

Links: http://www.scarletrecords.it/

Album Review: Bunker 66 - 'Screaming Rock Believers'

Bunker 66 - Screaming Rock Believers
Released Via High Roller Records
Genre: Blackened Thrash Metal

Track Listing:

1. Seduce Me Tonight (Celtic Frost Cover)
2. Another Victim
3. Ghetto Dwellers
4. Screaming Rock Believers
5. On The Prowl
6. Cannons Of Satan
7. (She's Got) Demon Eyes
8. Rulin' Like A Tyrant
9. Nightdemon

Bunker 66 are a band with a lot of guts, considering they open by covering an unfavourable Celtic Frost song; ‘Seduce Me Tonight’. The band hits with a surprisingly improved take on the aforementioned song. The first original on the album is unfortunately inferior, leaning on one mediocre riff for far too long. There’s a very obvious Motorhead influence on show throughout this album, with simple riffs and blues-driven guitar solos, but the simplistic approach seems to have only served to dumb songs like ‘Ghetto Dwellers’ down as opposed to delivering much impact. The garbled gang vocals doesn’t help matters. The title track is catchy enough to get the toes tapping for a bit, even though it’s again too close to Motorhead at times, particularly the classic ‘The Chase Is Better Than The Catch’ which would be fine if this song was better than it. It isn’t. ‘On The Prowl’ has an opening riff that is close to ‘Damage Case’. By this point in the album, the similarities begin to frustrate, as does the production job on the record. The rhythm section sounds fine, but the guitar leads and the lead vocals constantly echo, rendering the lyrics on ‘Cannons Of Satan’ almost unintelligible. It really doesn’t say much for Bunker 66 when the best song on their second album is a cover song. This is a record that you could easily summarise as being utterly forgettable rubbish.

Rating: 1/10

Links: https://www.facebook.com/Bunker66


Album Review: Bone Gnawer - 'Cannibal Crematorium'

Bone Gnawer - Cannibal Crematorium
Released Via Metal Inquisition Records
Genre: Death Metal

Track Listing:

1. Anthropophagist Inferno
2. Modern Day Cannibal
3. Chainsaw Carnage
4. Horrors In The House Of Human Remains
5. Chawed, Mauled & Gnawed
6. Il Sesso Bizzarro Di Cannibali
7. Chrome Skull
8. Below The Murder Of Carrion Crows
9. Carnivore Beneath
10. Untold Story: Human Pork Bun
11. Cannibal Crematorium

This record begins with two minutes of screams and cries interspersed with the sounds of chainsaws and other power tools. No prizes for guessing that the album contains nothing but old school, horrifying death metal from there on out. It’s all very much rooted in the early 90s tradition of the genre, so tech-heads need not look here. Blunt, hammer-blow riffing bursts from the speakers, with a more melodic riff appearing every now and then. Founding member Kam Lee, also of Massacre, puts on a solid vocals performance with a roar that could send a lion running. The title ‘Chainsaw Carnage’ sounds like it has come right out of Debauchery’s playbook, but it’s a violent tour-de-force that’s as catchy as it is destructive. ‘Horrors In The House Of Human Remains’ leans in more of an Autopsy-like direction, but shows some good use of melodic guitar lines and another vocal performance that Glen Benton would be happy with. If the riff at the start of ‘Chawed, Mauled & Gnawed’ doesn’t make you smile, then I don’t know how to help you. Those who know their horror films will get an ear-to-ear grin on their faces from the song ‘Chrome Skull’, which pays a fun and furious homage. There are a decent amount of guest appearances from underground metal musicians from bands like Fetid Zombie, Dead, Acheron and Witchclan, which shows just how much of a true underground project that Bone Gnawer is. Look past the bizarre and frankly crap interlude ‘Il Sesso Bizzarro Di Cannibali’, and you have a rock solid second album by a death metal band that knows no pretence.

Rating: 7/10

Links: https://bonegnawer.bandcamp.com/