Reviews, January 2010

AUSTRIAN DEATH MACHINE – Double Brutal – Metal Blade Records

Comedy acts come and go. Side projects are even more rampant. When you combine the two, it can be something a bit special. Here we have AUSTRIAN DEATH MACHINE. The side project of Tim Lambesis, of As I Lay Dying fame. He first brought us Total Brutal in 2008, and now this year, we have Double Brutal. I have to say that ADM is just plain funny. Lampooning Arnold Schwartzenegger is not completely original. Arnocorps did it before ADM. But this is still hilarious stuff, and Arnold himself has given us plenty to laugh at.

Musically, Double Brutal is another dose of fairly standard modern Thrash / Crossover, with the occasional Metalcore tinges here and there. There is nothing musically groundbreaking or original, but somehow I think that if ADM were to be more experimental or technical, it would take away from the humor aspect of the whole thing. I will say that musically, the songwriting and performance is top-notch, and I have to give Tim Lambesis a load of credit. Considering he does everything, with the exception of solos, he is definitely up to the task. The voice of Ahnold comes from Chad Ackerman of Destroy The Runner. I have to say that while I enjoyed this one quite a bit, Ackerman’s Ahnold is much better (and as a result, funnier) on Total Brutal. The whole thing is still an absolute riot.

The second disc of this release (hence the “double” in Double Brutal) is a collection of covers that are extremely well done. They go a long way towards showcasing the influences of Tim Lambesis, and there isn’t a loser in the bunch. The only one that might be considered typical is “Hell Bent For Leather”. This song has been covered to death. The Metal sendup of the Terminator 2 theme is incredible, and the Agnostic Front cover is a total surprise, but refreshing to hear. All in all, if you are expecting a ground breaking and serious Thrash release here, look the other way. This isn’t it. But if you want to bang your fuckin’ head and have some decent Thrash to cop drunken sing alongs from, definitely grab this. You cannot possibly be disappointed in this when taken in the proper light.

ECRYPTUS Astral Crusades

 According to their MySpace page, ECRYPTUS calls themselves “Epic Imperial Sith Metal”. Based on what I hear from this EP, that would certainly be an accurate description. Musically, they specialize in the areas of Brutal Death Metal populated by bands such as Dying Fetus, Vital Remains, etc, with a slight Black Metal influence and a few jazzy elements. It’s definitely epic. Songwriting is their main strong suit. While not completely original, they make excellent use of elements set forth by the aformentioned bands, and others. There are plenty of blast beats to be found here. The guitars are downtuned and fast, and churn with venom. Through it all weaves a surprising amount of melody, which works well towards maintaining a strong sense of control in the midst of the maelstrom. Guitarist / vocalist Mike Michalski makes good use of an acoustic guitar in nice, slow interludes which break up the brutality, but never feels out of place. The distortion on the bass helps propel it to the forefront, and sounds just incredible. The drums are solid throughout the six tracks here, and manage to keep up a frantic pace. Overall, it’s an extremely well done musical package that should appeal quite nicely to fans of bands such as Dying Fetus, Vital Remains, Necrophagist, mid-era Death, Job For A Cowboy, and their ilk.

Lyrically, ECRYPTUS sticks with the mythos of The Sith, of Star Wars fame. Ecryptus, effectively being the first band of my knowledge to use Star Wars as a complete lyrical concept, have definitely tapped into something far more original than your standard lyrical fare of most in the scene. I applaud the band for having the balls to step outside convention, at least for this EP, and attempt something different.

While an extremely satisfying Death Metal experience, and one that will get repeated spins, it is not perfect. I personally feel that the vocals could have been mixed a bit louder. Mike is quite the vocalist. He utilizes a deep, bowel shaking growl, and accents it with the occasional high pitched, Black Metal derived scream. However, his vocals did get buried slightly in the mix, making one strain just a bit to make them out. When it comes to the guitar end of things, Mike is quite adept at performing the insanely fast rhythm lines, as well as the slow, melodic lead sections that permeate the six tracks. However, the solos leave a lot to be desired. The solos tend to lean towards the atonal Kerry King style, but sound rushed. A bit more work in this area, and Mike would be a force to be reckoned with.

All in all, ECRYPTUS has put together a very worthy contender to the underground Death Metal throne. One that stands out in a sea of cookie cutter bands, and that will be enjoyed for a long time to come by this reviewer. The whole EP, with artwork is available for free download, so you would be stupid to pass it by. Also, there is another release available, as well as t-shirts. All info can be found on their MySpace page, so hit them up and show your support! I know I will be keeping my eye on them. I am anxious to see where they go from here.

JOB FOR A COWBOYRuination – Metal Blade Records

Two friends and I first heard JFAC in the car riding to a concert in 2006. We had satellite radio on, and saw the band name come across the screen, followed by one of the songs (the name of the song escapes me) from the Genesis album. We were blown away. Here was a band with a silly name playing Death Metal, and playing it well. Yes, people. JOB FOR A COWBOY is a Death Metal band. They are not Metalcore, as the elitists and purists among us would have us believe. They shed the ‘core tag as soon as they released Genesis. I have spent countless hours trying to find a solid reason why they are so derided in the Metal scene. They are incredibly talented, play with conviction, and write songs. Read that again. They write songs. Most bands are content to simply regurgitate their favorite bands’ riffs, or pack their songs with so many riffs that the songs go over your head. JFAC write catchy, solid songs that will stick with you after the CD ends.

The above definitely still applies in this case. Here we have Ruination. This is their second full length for Metal Blade, and a damned fine one. Opening with “Unfurling A Darkened Gospel”, we are treated to ten tracks of punishing riffage shrouded in a truly violent atmosphere. The guitars of Al Glassman and Bobby Thompson are technical without losing their brutality, with every note clear. Check out the arpeggiated licks in “Lords Of Chaos” for proof. The guitar tone here is thick as fuck, loud and in your face. Just as awesome is the bass, which is well mixed, giving just the right amount of bottom end. They compliment each other perfectly, giving the album a feeling of power that is truly a joy to blast at maximum volume. The vocals alternate between a low, powerful growl to a diabolical shriek, and seem to do said alternating effortlessly. While not breaking any new ground with his drumming, Jon Rice turns in a technically massive performance. He is quite adept at blasting his heart out, then turning on a dime to make the song drop to a crawl, and sustaining that crawl with the right amount of finesse.

I am excited to hear where JFAC goes from here. I have been following since that road trip in ’06, and plan to follow until I have a reason not to. Fans of Whitechapel, Suicide Silence, etc. are already into JFAC. Fans of Suffocation, Skinless, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Morbid Angel, there is no reason for you to not be into this, as well. But, if you aren’t…If you have to be all elite and pure about JFAC, then that is fine with me. I will support the shit out of them. Leaves more room in the pit for me.

RIPCHAINDoom Generator

Out of Boise, Idaho comes RIPCHAIN: A bruising, angry beast bearing down on you with the torque of a supercharged big block, bent on mowing down everything in its path. Have you ever seen a particularly violent demolition derby? Yep. Kinda like that.  

Stubbornly eschewing trends, RIPCHAIN play Power Metal, but not in the frilly European style, and not the progressive style of a band such as Fate’s Warning, or even Iced Earth. RIPCHAIN specialize in the type of music that sincerely gives true meaning to the terms power and metal, respectively. Meaty, alcohol-fueled riffs stomp and rage like Armored Saint’s degenerate younger brother on ‘roids. There is nothing remotely pretty about RIPCHAIN‘s music. They are quite simply American Heavy Metal that would be just at home providing entertainment for a raging biker party as sharing a stage with the likes of Testament or Beyond Fear.

Tons of influences make their way into RIPCHAIN‘s pot of stew, from the aformentioned Testament and Beyond Fear, to Pantera and Black Label Society. I can even hear just a touch of Overkill in a few areas. The guitar tones are crisp and have lots of bottom end. Both guitarists do a fucking killer job of laying down those riffs I spoke of earlier, throwing off the occasional (but never overdone) Zakk Wylde inspired pinch harmonic. The solos are precise, but never overcomplicated, getting the job done quite nicely. Tony Cornia is an insanely solid drummer, who seems to understand the idea of “less is more”. That being said, when he wants to truly pound the fuck out of his skins, he is more than able to do so in fine fashion.

Vocally, David Ford shows his diversity by alternating between a completely clean sung vocal, and one that can only be described as a mid-range, throat shredding growl. The extreme vocals, oddly enough, bring to mind “Heartwork” era Jeff Walker. These “Walker vocals” fit perfectly in the context of what is being played. This is quite an interesting attribute, considering the fact that this is not Death Metal, and they are used primarily for accent. It is the clean singing of Mr. Ford that holds the only piece that may detract from the overall effect. His singing voice is honestly an acquired taste. My ladylove brought up Rush as a comparison when she heard the ep, and I think that’s fair. Geddy Lee has always had an extremly unique tonality to his voice that most dearly love, but some simply do not. The same thing can be said here. David’s vocals may take a bit of getting used to, but they add to the overall originality as a band.

Doom Generator is a 5 track EP of very, very satisfying American Heavy Metal that should easily find fans into any of the above mentioned bands. RIPCHAIN do truly hold a place all their own in the world of Metal. Not exactly fast enough to be considered Thrash, not brutal enough to be considered Death Metal, but more intense than most Power Metal, they manage to blend the three subgenres into a sound and fury all their own. Fucking monstrous.

RUINES OV ABADDONSanctus Morbidus Erectus

First, let me get something out of the way. Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth do not sound the same. Furthermore, those two bands are fucking amazing, and deserve everything they have worked their collective asses off for. So, if you fall into the majority of people that think it’s cool to hate both of those bands just because all of your “elite” scenester friends do, save your words for someone that cares. They will fall on deaf ears around here. There will be an essay about the finer points of “elitism” next month. For the time being, I can hear all the wheels turning. You are asking yourself (if you made it this far, anyway), “What the shiny blue HELL does any of that have to do with the review at hand???” Read on, and I will tell you.

RUINES OV ABADDON sound a LOT like early Dimmu Borgir. Also mixed into their potent blend of Black Metal, I can hear traces of Immortal, Emperor, Peter Tagtren’s Abyss, and the aformentioned Cradle Of Filth. Put quite simply, RUINES OV ABADDON are vicious, but have an thick air of beauty to them. They write instantly memorable songs that are every bit as melodic as the bands that influenced them. Granted, I will say that RUINES OV ABADDON will not win many points for originality, overall. But, the points they earn in songwriting and performance will far outweight the originality factor any day. Their bio says that they hail from California, but the aural carnage on display here is pure European. I fucking love this.

This three track demo starts off with the title track, “Sanctus Morbidus Erectus”. Immediately, the Dimmu-isms come into play with a keyboard intro that instantly recalls the keyboard intro to “Mourning Palace”. A few “Hail Satan…” chants, and this thing grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. The stop / start parts in this first track are a definite standout. Track two, “The Forest Seeks Revenge” comes out of the gate killing, with a Hellhammer (the drummer, not the band) inspired blast attack, and flows seamlessly into epic melodicism by the end of the song. The last track, “Kiss The Goat” makes excellent use of piano (!) throughout, while the guitars scream like razor wire, until the end of the song, where something comes in that has me scratching in really odd places. I don’t know if the guitarists are doing this, or if they were able to get someone to actually play a bagpipe here, but the last 30 seconds or so of the song are dominated by a major scale riff that is seemingly played on bagpipes. It is a thoroughly wonderful, “out-of-left-field” thing that showcases what could be, if the band allows themselves to sort of head in that direction. It is truly stunning. Per their bio, “We plan to push the Black Metal limits far past anyone’s expectations…” Hey guys…Keep implementing these types of elements, and you will do just that.

According to my Bible (http://www.metal-archives.com – should be every metalhead’s Bible), RUINES OV ABADDON were formed in 2008, and already have one other demo under their belts. Being this new of a band (I don’t know of the members’ histories before this band), they showcase massive amounts of talent. I simply cannot wait for their next release, to see how they are progressing. RUINES OV ABADDON stands a chance of being an enormous band if they explore the “left field” just a bit more.

SACRIFICIAL SLAUGHTERSpontaneous Suicide – Crash Music

 Anyone familiar with Ghoul? How about Splatterhouse? Impetigo? If you are into any of those bands, you have simply got to do yourself a favor and check out SACRIFICIAL SLAUGHTER. Spontaneous Suicide is ten tracks of catchier-than-the-clap Death Metal that is directly up my fucking alley. In their bio, they dub themselves “Extreme Death Thrash”. I would say that would be a damned accurate description.

These guys simply don’t fuck around. The album comes out of the gate raging, with no samples, keyboards or pretty guitar intros to be found. Just straightforward, filthy, gore-soaked mayhem that is sure to set your head banging. Production-wise, it sounds solid, but raw as hell and easy to crank for maximum impact. The guitars are loud and crunchy, with the bass sitting just behind them, providing precisely the right amount of bottom end. The songs are extremely riff heavy, so the tone the guitars possess really makes the whole thing pop. I really enjoy the sound captured for the drums, as well. They are punishing, but not oppressively so. They are recorded and mixed so that they retain all the power, but don’t drown anything else out. I am loving the old-school snare sound, by the way.

Spontaneous Suicide is one of those albums that feels so familiar, yet is completely fresh. The aformentioned Ghoul is the main similarity I can draw here, stylistically speaking. SACRIFICIAL SLAUGHTER are quite adept at blending that old-school Thrash style with mid 80’s Crossover and mid 90’s Death Metal for a style that definitely holds appeal. Other bands that I could draw parallels to here are Tankard, Impetigo, early Slayer, early Death…the list goes on. They don’t hold to a set “verse-chorus-verse” method of songwriting. However, all of the songs on here are so catchy that you will undoubtedly find yourself humming riffs for days. The vocals of Steve Worley are quite simply insane. His lower register reminds me most of Zion of Chicago metallers Disinter, mainly because of the gurgle that he employs here, His higher register is straight out of the Sean McGrath (Impaled, Ghoul, et al) school of thought. He even changes up every so often and brings in a Hardcore / Crossover shout.

Put quite simply, this is essential. If you have any doubt whatsoever and need a bit of something to give you a clue, stroll over to their MySpace page and check out the title track, Spontaneous Suicide (my personal favorite). That one song gives you everything that is SACRIFICIAL SLAUGHTER, wrapped up in a neat little package. Trust me. You will want more.

SINSTORM – 2009 Promo

Los Angeles, CA may be where SINSTORM hang their gauntlets, but their brand of melancholic Black Metal hails from much farther away. This is not harsh Black Metal. This is Black Metal that sends you to another place and time. SINSTORM is heavily melodic, but not in a Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir way. There is nothing remotely gothic here, and it isn’t keyboard drenched. Instead, SINSTORM create atmosphere within their song structures, and the way the guitars are played. I did hear one well-placed keyboard in the middle of “Celestial Extinction”, directly following a beautiful acoustic guitar interlude, but it didn’t dominate the mix, and blended in with the waves of distorted guitar that followed. Make no mistake, SINSTORM is a guitar driven band, and all the better for it.

SINSTORM utilize their influences well, while never falling into the trap of plagiarism. If you can imagine elements of Satyricon, Fog, and Emperor, awash with the darkness of Dissection and the mixed tempos of Borknagar, you should be able to get a handle on what these guys do. It’s all extremely well executed, and done in a style that is truly all their own. The guitarists both have a penchant for inverted, full strummed chords that have a slightly cold feel to them, while their use of tremolo sections contain just a hint of malice. I love this approach, as it lends a lot to the feeling of sadness and evil, respectively. My only criticism is that the bass is so low in the mix as to be almost non-existent. This CD is not harsh to listen to at all. On the contrary, it sounds phenomenal. I just feel it could have benefitted just slightly with a bit more bottom end. It’s my own personal quirk, so it probably means nothing in the grand scheme of things. All in all, SINSTORM has proven to be a new force to be reckoned with on the USBM front, and one that deserves all the attention they can get. Go check them out. Fans of the aformentioned bands will not be disappointed in any way.

SIX MILLION DEADRevelation At The End of Aeon

Rising out of the putrid heat that is the Arizona desert, Phoenix’s SIX MILLION DEAD have just become my new favorite band of the moment. These sick fuckers put the ingredients laid out by Marduk, Belphegor, Vader, and 1349 in a huge vat, bring it to a scathing boil, skim the absolute best off the top, and mold it into their own aural image of misanthropy. The production struck me instantly, as all instruments are perfectly heard. Revelation…is a huge beast of an album, raging with a ferocity that some bands with more tenure have forgotten long ago. The louder you crank it, the more violent it gets. You don’t expect this much vitriol coming from such a young band.

I am highly impressed with the guitar work on Revelation… It’s all memorable and so well done. Full strummed chords clash with extremely fast tremolo licks, recalling the best of Belphegor’s work. The drumwork deserves mention here as being unconventional in spots, such as lead-off track, “Bringer of Death”. Drummer Bert lays out your standard beats here, but breaks it up with an off-time piece that completely works in  the context of the song. It’s one of many “out of left field” elements that crop up throughout the disc. Another one lays directly in the middle of “Odium”. Here, in the midst of the chaos, the guitars weave a gorgeous harmony piece reminiscent of the melodic phrase in “Dechristianize” by Vital Remains.

I cannot even begin to imagine how vocalist Rob pulls this shit off live. The lyrics pretty much fill each song, with not a lot of room to breathe. Rob alternates from an agonizingly pissed off scream, and a low growl that truly sounds demonic. The two styles are overlaid in places, and complement each other perfectly.

There isn’t anything to complain about on Revelation At The End Of Aeon. It is truly an accomplished debut for a band that would be perfectly at home on either Nuclear Blast or Candlelight Records. Someone needs to snap them up now.

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