Reviews, June 2010

BATTALION Underdogs – Silverwolf Productions

            Ah, yes. As we all know, the thrash revival is fully underway, with various bands drawing up their interpretations of what came before. Some bands carry the flag proudly and make their presence known with high quality metal, deserving of all the praise they can garner. Others seem to be simply cashing in, and don’t necessarily deserve any attention at all. For the most part, you can tell which ones are which without mentioning names.

            Switzerland’s BATTALION definitely fall within the former category. This four piece shows definite conviction and promise in their pure worship of the Bay Area sound over the 11 tracks that make up Underdogs. Early Metallica and Exodus is the obvious foundation that they build upon here. But I hear a massive tribute to one of the most obscure bands of that era, Faith or Fear. This is who BATTALION most resembles, and that is a good thing. I have no way of knowing if this is intentional, as most people that I talk to have generally never heard of Faith or Fear. If you are familiar with that band, however, it would make sense to you when I say that I almost expect these guys to break into the chorus of “Punishment Area” more than once over the course of this album.  

            BATTALION are extremely talented songwriters when it comes to their thrash. Blending the straight ahead thrash aesthetic with slight power metal tinges and obtuse time changes, they do succeed in carving their own identity. Songs like “Stalingrad” and “Interlude” even break away a bit from the typical smash-and-grab thrash, with lush guitar passages and carry a solemn beauty. Definitely a band to watch, BATTALION succeeds on all levels.

CAGEScience of AnnihilationSelf Released

            OK. I have heard of CAGE, but I had never heard them. I keep bumping into them around the internet, and read news about them, but have never given them a chance. I decided to do so one day while on a hunt for out of print stuff on Mediafire. I found this album on there and decided to take the plunge and download it. If I download current music and it’s not a record company promo to review, it’s only to sample it and see if I want to buy it. Well…throw this high at the top of my next purchase list.

            I cannot believe that it took so long. I adore Judas Priest, Iced Earth and Primal Fear. CAGE proves themselves to be the perfect blend of all three. Science of Annihilation sees CAGE fitting perfectly into a thrash-infused power metal vein. This is no frilly, happy or pompous symphonic power metal. CAGE is a meaty, angry beast that easily devours lesser bands and emphasizes the heavy in the metal.

            This band has learned well from their forebears. Layers of guitars work as point / counterpoint, a la Tipton / Downing. Perfect case in point shows up in the first song, “Planet Crusher”, at 2:27. Both guitars flow into a dual lead section that runs together for a couple of bars before splitting off into individual lead sections. Both guitars solo together for another couple of bars, the whole time layered over two rhythm tracks. I have heard bands that attempt these tricks, only to come off sounding messy. The CAGE guitarists pull it off masterfully, making it all fit. Most of the songs on this album contain this style of lead work in some form or fashion.

            Vocally, Sean Peck sits quite comfortably in the throne built by the likes of Halford, Barlow, Owens, Conklin and Scheepers. While each of the aforementioned vocalists have their own style and sound, Peck seems to be a combination of all of them. This factor in and of itself gives him his own sound. He is a very, very strong singer, capable of pretty much anything he sets out to do. I even hear a touch of King Diamond in the bridge for the track “Black River Falls”. His range runs the gamut from the beautiful, to the majestic, to the seriously pissed off. His is a nearly flawless performance.

            CAGE, as a whole definitely know how to write songs, as well. The songs on Science of Annihilation are epic, pissed off, and intense. There is just no other way to describe it. Catchy and heavy, you will actually be remembering these songs long after you walk away from them. This is a hugely satisfying album.

            Based on the merits of this album alone, I will be going back and picking up their back catalog, in addition to the physical copy of this one. They are quite simply more than deserving of your almighty power metal dollar.

EVIL ARMY Evil Army – Hell’s Headbangers

            Punk infused thrash metal of the fastest and most vicious variety is the order of the day here. EVIL ARMY is a band of hellraisers from Memphis, TN who pack a mighty punch on this 13 track slab of face melting goodness.

            This album was released in ’06, but I just recently got ahold of it through the band, since it was their most recent (according to their MySpace page, they have just released a new one). I generally don’t review anything older than one year, but this is definitely worthy of your attention.

            Guitarist / vocalist Rob Evil handles all the songwriting on this, and produced the album. Put simply, he did an amazing job. Rounded out by bassist Bone and skinpounder Michael Murder, these guys channel the spirits of bands like Discharge, The Accused, Razor, Tankard, and what I like to call the “triple-letter” bands (DRI, GBH, DBC, etc) in fine fashion. With most tracks clocking in at less than three minutes, you know you are not in for anything remotely epic or symphonic. EVIL ARMY simply doesn’t fuck around.

KINGDOM OF SORROW  Behind Blackest Tears – Relapse Records

            This is release #2 for this unholy union of Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed, Icepick) and Kirk Windstein (Crowbar, Down). It fucking smokes. That’s all there is to it. Behind Blackest Tears truly combines the finest elements of Down and Crowbar and injects a healthy dose of added aggression that just makes me want to kill something. It’s hooky, riffy, melodic, and so purely fucking heavy. My god, this is heavy.

            I have never heard the first release, and I have to admit – I worried about how Jamey Jasta’s monotone hardcore shout would work in this context. I shouldn’t have. More than a few passages on here would be at home on any Hatebreed album, but he also weighs in with an awesome singing voice that I didn’t expect to hear from him. This part of him has enough grit to still be brutal, but brings a melodicism to the table that should shut the mouths of his detractors. That being said, you can listen to KINGDOM OF SORROW and see it as truly independent of Hatebreed OR Crowbar. KINGDOM OF SORROW is certainly a band unto itself.

            The riffs are pure Windstein. Thick and swaggering with the aforementioned hooks that instantly stick in your mind and make you want to hear more. The Down references are obvious, but on the whole, KINGDOM OF SORROW is its own animal, and deserves to be treated as such. Rounded out by members of Phantoms and Toxic Holocaust, this is a monolith. If you are a fan of any of the bands involved in KINGDOM OF SORROW, and you let this pass you by, you are missing out. This is essential.

MORBID CARNAGE Night Assassins – Pulverised Records

            “THRASH ‘TIL DEEAAATH!” – 1:21 into “Deviant”, track 5.

Holy shit! No need to ask me twice.  With all the quality thrash around, you would think the ‘90s never happened. While some bands sound thoroughly “retro” and try their absolute damndest to make their own personal Exodus record, the majority of these bands are quite adept at creating solid thrash they can call their own. MORBID CARNAGE is clearly one of the bands that fall into the latter category.

            MORBID CARNAGE is, simply put, a juggernaut. Their thrash construct is one of tight, fast riffs and shredded vocals that somehow bring to mind a strange bastard child of Schmier and Donald Tardy. Imagine listening to Destruction performing a cover of “Slowly We Rot”. The songwriting is catchy and vicious, even if not completely original. Granted, this style as a whole is a well worn one, particularly from the hands of the Euro bands. But to hear it done with the conviction that these guys possess is refreshing, and they do have a way of bringing some originality into it.

            European denim vest and gauntlet wearing, poser beating, beer drinking thrash has been given an upgrade. It’s name is MORBID CARNAGE.

 

THE FUNERAL PYREVultures at Dawn – Prosthetic Records

            I used to have a radio show a few years ago, and I played THE FUNERAL PYRE. Somehow, I don’t remember them sounding like this at the time. Vultures at Dawn is a much darker and less metalcore inspired album than what I seem to have heard previously. Definitely a good thing. The band always had a black metal inflection to their style, but Vultures…is fully black metal.

            The press sheet for this reads that THE FUNERAL PYRE is “…drawing inspiration from Gorgoroth, Dawn, Dissection, Beherit, and — somehow — the SoCal hardcore scene they grew up in…” I absolutely hear the four bands mentioned. I can’t say that I hear much of “the SoCal hardcore scene” on here. This is purely cold, uncompromising black metal. The keyboards that were prominent on previous releases are no longer present, and the whole affair is stripped down to its lethal basics.

          Black metal as a genre should convey a dark atmosphere, and fuel emotions. Those emotions are rampant on here. Tracks like the doom infused “Personal Exile” and “Monolith” are depressive mindfucks that trap you in a feeling of despair and hopelessness. At the same time, “Vultures” and “Blistered Hands” are filled with vitriol and make you want to kill something small and furry. The band does such a great job of writing solid songs, but never fall prey to the clichés that so many other bands fall into. They don’t wear corpse paint, they don’t “hail satan” every sentence, and they don’t hold their black metal as an image. I think that is the true essence of black metal. It’s a very personal genre of music, which in this day and age, should be independent of image. I applaud THE FUNERAL PYRE for carving out a niche of their own in the extreme metal world, while being able to remind us of where we come from, with the aforementioned influences. This is truly great stuff, and a treat to review.

THEUDHO  Silence EP  – Self Released

            Hailing from Belgium, THEUDHO takes the formulas of melodic death metal and power metal and churns them into a blackened mixture. They call themselves melodic black metal, but I don’t see that as entirely accurate. True enough, the black metal influence is there. Especially in the vocals of Jurgen, which most closely bring to mind Galder of Old Man’s Child. Some of the song structures are definitely of the black metal variety (Track 3, “Foreboding Dreams”), but there is so much more going on here. The power metal injection is huge over these four tracks, with the band peeling off riffs and shredding guitar licks that could just as easily find themselves on a Primal Fear album.

            Overall, Silence is a great effort from this young band. With four songs clocking in at under 18 minutes, I would like to hear more. But definitely strong, and I look forward to hearing what THEUDHO have up their sleeves next.


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