Reviews, February 2010

CHTHONIC – Mirror of Retribution – Spinefarm Records

I have to applaud Spinefarm Records for picking up this band and giving them the attention they so rightly deserve. CHTHONIC is a band fifteen years into their career. Yet, on Mirror of Retribution, they rage with the hunger and fire of a much younger band. Hailing from Taiwan, they play dark Metal that will appeal to fans of bands such as Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. Ironically enough, I do hear a lot of pre-Midian era Cradle of Filth, especially in the vocal department.

As a matter of fact, the only areas that betray their Asian heritage are some melodies scattered throughout, and the use of an ancient two stringed instrument called an Er-hu. For the most part, they have a very European sound and feel on Mirror of Retribution, but the inclusion of this instrument (played like a violin) really sets this band apart. The entirety of track 7 (“1947”) is a gorgeous soundscape of those Asian melodies that I spoke of before, with a heavy reliance on the Er-hu. Don’t let it lull you into a false sense of security, however. Immediately following the beautiful strains of “1947” comes the furious “Forty-Nine Theurgy Chains”. It’s like a bucket of freezing water being thrown over you, and yeah…it’s incredible.

Produced by Rob Caggiano (Anthrax), the overall feeling of darkness and melancholy is acheived to great effect, but allows a feeling of triumph to shine through. Every instrument has clarity to them and in all the right areas. The keyboards, for example are used throughout the album, of course. But, instead of washing the whole album in keys, Rob allows them to sit in the background until such time as they are needed. At that point, and only that point are they brought to the forefront. Yes, this is a symphonic band, but a guitar driven one.

Mirror of Retribution is a quality album in every sense. Dark, twisted, epic and just a bit mischievious, it begs to be heard and appreciated. For more information on this incredible band, see my interview with bassist Doris Yeh elsewhere in this update of the zine.

GENOCAUST 2009 Promo

Just the name GENOCAUST lets you know that these guys from Tucson, Arizona absolutely mean fucking business. Thoroughly intense Death/Grind is the order of the day here. Over 8 tracks of sheer brutality, GENOCAUST will take you on a journey through Hell. Do not expect to come back unscathed.

I will start with my only complaint with these tracks. The production is spotty. Some of them sound incredible, while others don’t sound quite as nice. From what I can gather, some of these tracks have been recorded at different times. But they are all being re-worked and will end up as their debut full length album. I also do not have song titles yet, as this is just a promo. I look forward to hearing the finished product in a big way, because once you get around the sound quality of this promo, the songs themselves are insane.

Once you click play on this bastard, you are grabbed by the throat. Musically, I would have to consider GENOCAUST the product of a one night stand between Incantation and Disgorge with Morbid Angel watching from the closet. The guitars are downtuned and filthy, the vocals scrape the sewers (without the pig squeal element, I might add – They are truly that low and done the right way), and the drumming is manic, and the bass is actually audible, unlike too many bands of this genre.

I am hoping that they will get me a copy of the full length for review once it is finished. Until then, head over to their MySpace and keep an eye on their progress, and pick up a CD once they announce that it’s ready. If you are into bands like the aformentioned, you simply cannot be disappointed with GENOCAUST.

 ICHABOD CRANE – Wearing The Horns

You just cannot go wrong when you name your band ICHABOD CRANE. As stated on their MySpace page, the name, of course, comes from the Sleepy Hollow character, who was described as being superstitious, cruel and depraved. The last two adjectives go a long way towards describing the music of the band, ICHABOD CRANE. Hailing from Akron, Ohio, ICHABOD CRANE play a vicious and thoroughly infectious form of Metal that should appeal to anyone who hears them.

Wearing The Horns is seriously riff-heavy stuff. Melodic Death Metal and Thrash slam headlong into a huge wall of solid Rock. Instantly headbang-able, I can feel big Classic and Southern Rock influences here that mix well with the extreme Metal on display. Drawing parallels to other bands is not such an easy feat here, as Ichabod Crane have truly succeeded in carving out their own sound. So many bands claim to defy genres, but rarely deliver. Meet the one band that does. The sludge Metal of Down and Crowbar, the blackened Thrash and unholy screams of Goatwhore, the slight Metalcore tinge of current day As I Lay Dying, the melodic Death of very early In Flames and Dark Tranquillity, and a touch of the mathematic mindset of a band like Dillinger Escape Plan all make an appearance here. Cover the whole thing with a sheen of Molly Hatchet and harder edged Skynyrd material, and you should be able to get some slight idea of what I hear. I know the above description sounds like it could be an absolute mess, but it is truly cohesive, and make for one of the most original Metal listens I have ever heard.

ICHABOD CRANE have my vote for “Songwriters of the Year”. The way they structure their songs is done so well that while a riff may be repeated, it never gets old, flowing seamlessly into the next riff with a fluid grace. There isn’t a whole lot of stop/start going on here. A perfect example of this would be track number five, “Fickle Hearts”. I had to keep starting the song over just to hear the opening riffs again. It’s a very simple walkdown, utilizing octave runs that slide into each other in an almost serpentine fashion. It’s one of those riffs that, among others scattered throughout the CD (“A Lot Like Hell” opening and verse riffs, “Empusa” bridge riff, “Hitchcock Blonde” opener) that you wish you had thought of. I simply cannot think of a single song here that is not incredibly written.

The sound quality is of particular interest here, as well. The guitars have that warm, tube amp crunch to them, and bring a cool mid-school Hardcore feel to the whole thing. Especially during a slow bridge, or breakdown, such as in the chorus section of “A Lot Like Hell”. At the same time, every note and chord played is clear as crystal, so that during the Blackened sections, you can actually feel the veolcity of the tremolo riffs and hear every note while a full chord is played. Nothing is muddy, and IC does not hide behind a wall of distortion to cover up mistakes. The vocals are plenty loud, but restrained, and showcase plenty of brutality without dropping into the sewers for a full Grind or Brutal Death Metal vocal. The lows are suitably savage, and the high screams will send chills up your spine. The two styles are alternated between fairly often and evenly, with neither one taking precedence over the other. The drums are crisp and truly sound live, instead of compressed to death and triggered. There are plenty of blast beats to be had here, but this drummer knows how to lay back and play with tons of finesse when needed. My only disappointment in the sound is in the bass department. The bass is mixed a bit lower than it really should be, coming up for air primarily when there is a jazzy walking bassline to be had, or during a part that contrasts strongly with the guitars. This makes the overall tone of the album a tad thin, but this is a very minor quibble, and quite acceptable, given the level of playing and songwriting ability on display here.

ICHABOD CRANE have sincerely latched onto something special here. If they can keep up the momentum put forth on Wearing The Horns, they will prove themselves a force to be reckoned with in the extreme Metal realm. Listen with your eyes wide open, folks. This is truly powerful shit.

 IMPURITY – Promo 2009

Storming out of Gainesville, Florida is IMPURITY, with this four track juggernaut of pure Death Metal. While they cannot be considered wholly original, they do possess a ton of talent and do an excellent job of writing uncompromising Metal that will surely be welcome in the collections of any fans of the genre. Musically, IMPURITY bring to mind bands that were circulating around the Death Metal scene in the mid to late ’90s, such as Evilution, Disinter, Lobotomy, Epidemic, Malamor, Natron, etc.

Opening with a keyboard / drum intro that would be worthy of inclusion to The Mummy soundtrack, this too-short promo kicks immediately after with “Carnal Bane”; a track with one of the most wicked throwback tremolo riffs this side of Immolation. “From Battle To Legend” follows, with tight blasts, and guitar work that never lets up. The bridge riff is an arpeggiated progression that absolutely drips with malice, leading into the final track, “The Tundra”. I love the way guitarists Caldwell and Hayward allow the guitars to spar with each other, not being content to just allow one to follow the other. They do double each other a lot of the time. But almost as often, you can catch them running different courses in spots. While one guitar is running one of those tremolo riffs, the other is playing counterpoint with chords that may not even be following the same chord pattern. “The Tundra” is a perfect case in point, during it’s bridge.

The bass and drums crush in their own right, lending to the overall effect of a band perfectly in sync with one another. Laid over the top of everything is the anguished vocals of Damian Scott, who employs a well done deep Death Metal growl throughout, but trading it almost 50/50 with a tortured scream that will chill you to the bone.

I would swear that this was released in 1996 on Wild Rags as opposed to independently in 2009. The songwriting, production, and even the cover art and logo send me back to a time when tape trading was at its height. I was always excited to see what I would get in my fresh box of trades. As was most often the case, I was satisfied and excited with my new treasures. I am just as satisfied and excited with this one. My only complaint at this point is that the promo is too short. Aside from that, IMPURITY has done a great job at bringing the early days to the fore.

 IN MOURNING – Monolith – Pulverised Records

Swedish melancholic Metallers IN MOURNING have far transcended above their predecessors with this intoxicating brand new full-length effort entitled “Monolith”.”

Thus begins the info sheet for this release from Pulverised Records. I have to say that the sheet is quite correct on more than one point. Monolith is indeed an intoxicating slab of Metal that can only be described as melancholic. Having never heard the band before, I expected pure Doom when I read that tag. Imagine my suprise when the opening strains of “For You To Know” came in, boasting a glistening clean guitar, giving way after a few bars to a riff that would make In Flames proud. Melodic and dark, Monolith does manage to carry a Doom-ish feel, but in a more upbeat way. A slightly less progressive Opeth, maybe? It’s impossible to pigeonhole IN MOURNING. To do so would be almost criminal. As a band, IN MOURNING is a blend of all genres, but stubbornly refuse to fit into any one particularly.

Monolith is actually IN MOURNING‘s sophomore effort, but it easily could be mistaken for a fourth or fifth. It’s that good. The shortest song here is 4:09, with the majority of the tracks clocking in between six to eight minutes. Track 8 (“The Final Solution [Entering the Black Lodge]) weighs in at a hefty 12:51. Each song is a mini-epic unto itself, morphing and shapeshifting from shimmering beauty to ugliness with no effort whatsoever. I have to say that I’m even skittish calling these “songs”. They are truly compositions. In “With You Came Silence”(Track 6), a layer of octaves runs over a thick, crunchy guitar riff until 2:30, when both guitars grab the same octaves and run with them until 3:09, when the original riff abruptly comes out to play again. This all melts into an impossibly slow riff that carries the song through to its eventual end at 6:09. The aformentioned “Final Solution”, at track 8, begins with what could almost be considered a reprise of the final strains of “With You Came Silence”.

This is the way it is with the whole album. It’s all so catchy, but never sits comfortably in one place for too long. The production here is gorgeous, as well. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Black Lounge Studios (Scar Symmetry, Carnal Forge, etc), Monolith benefits strongly from having it all done in one place, and by one man (Jonas Kjellgren of Scar Symmetry). This album simply sounds amazing. All instruments can be heard as clear as crystal, and even the rain and thunder that permeates the middle of “Final Solution” is beautiful and brings the true feeling of melancholy to the forefront. The bass is deep, the guitars are crisp and crunchy throughout, and the vocals are perfectly mixed.

Wrap this whole thing in a layout by artist Travis Smith (King Diamond, Nevermore), and you have perhaps the perfect package. There is simply nothing to dislike here. If you are a fan of Opeth, Gardenian, Swallow the Sun, Into Eternity, or Edge of Sanity’s more ambitious efforts such as “Crimson”, you have to pick this up. It hits the US on February 10th, on Pulverised. Do yourself a favor.



M Inc – “Bone Dust” – Self Released Preview Track
When I started scouring Myspace, adding bands to the Crucible profile, M Inc caught my eye, so I added them, not paying much attention to anything aside from the logo, and the music on their player. I sent a message, figuring that I would hear back eventually and didn’t think much more of it. Imagine my surprise when I got a message back from M Inc, and it had been written by one Mr. Rick Rozz! Yes folks, M Inc is the new band of Rick Rozz of Death and Massacre fame. He sent me an email of this track, and let me know that they were working on more, but I could review this one for the time being. Well, I have to say that it is my distinct pleasure to do so, and introduce you to M Inc!

Granted, it is only one song, but if the rest of the material maintains this vein, then I am excited as fuck to hear the finished product. It will be a release that will be added to my CD collection. “Bone Dust” is the perfect showcase for the old-school Death Metal vibe laid out by these guys. Rounded out by Chris Jack (Vocals), Mike Mazzonetto (Drums), and Timmy Vazquez (Bass), M Inc has truly brought the spirit of the early years of pure Death Metal up to date. “Bone Dust” is chock full of speedy tremolo riffs, punishing mid paced drums, and the whammy bar insanity that served to let you know precisely who you were listening to. The solos on here are pure Rozz, and after so long of not hearing anything from him outside of what I already know, this is refreshing. Vocally, Chris Jack maintains a growl, but it never drops to the level of what I call “toilet bowl” gutturals. Martin Van Drunen, Matti Karki, and yes…even Kam Lee are all in the same vein as Chris Jack, and he does an incredible job at delivering the goods here.

I am not disappointed in any way with this song, only wishing that there was the rest of a full album to go along with it. I truly look forward to the release. From what Rick has told me (which you will read, or may have already read in the interview in the next update), there is some lable attention already. I’m excited as shit. Go check this out, add their Myspace, and be kept in the loop of what they have going on. The more attention on this, the better.



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