(In this post TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by Kalmah, which is being released today in North America by Spinefarm Records. There’s also a full-album stream after the review.)
Finnish melodic death metal today is a totally different beast than it was back in the day. Back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, music of the kind turned out by bands like Insomnium and Before the Dawn was in the extreme minority. Instead, what you had was a massive movement of bands who relied heavy on neo-classicism, cheesy synths, and a decadent excess of guitar harmonies that would span up to four guitars. Early Children of Bodom, Wintersun, and Kalmah were the defining bands of this particular style. While Children of Bodom in my opinion jumped the shark and went beyond the point of no return a long time ago, Wintersun have proved they still have it in them. However, the truly persistent warrior is Kalmah, who’ve been doing their thing, and doing it well, non-stop since they started.
Seventh Swamphony is another fine addition to Kalmah’s discography and a testament to their consistency. For a band to release their seventh album and still maintain the standard they originally set is a rare and commendable accomplishment. I really think their charm lies in their fun combo of black metal ferocity and vocal bent, folk and neoclassical melodic choices, and their particular (and quite frankly astounding) proficiency in using dual (or more) guitar lines to great effect in their compositions.
(DGR reviews the new, fifth album by Dagoba, which is being released in North America today via eOne Music.)
“Groove metal” is one of those phrases that frustrates because it feels like it doesn’t really mean anything. It seems like a catch-all for bands that we have difficulty defining and it has wound up a resting place for groups that are, in essence, really heavy but don’t rely on guitar leads and solos as more traditional bands tend to. It has also become the bastion and hiding place for modern day nu-metal groups. Thus, it’s unfortunate when a band winds up being pigeonholed into said genre, because even if they’re a really good group, the amount of baggage attached to the label tends to bring out an insane amount of vitriol from fans.
In some quarters, such has been the fate of Dagoba, a four-piece groove-oriented band who hail from France and who alternate from being crushingly heavy to straightforward metal with clean singing implemented, often within the same song. They’re a band who’ve caught some undeserved flack (and some deserved, the band sometimes doing themselves no favors with their chosen performing names). I would almost breathlessly recommend two of the group’s previous albums, Face The Colossus and Poseidon, as examples of well-done groove and in general as really good albums. That’s why the new disc, Post Mortem Nihil Est, was so interesting from the outset. The group — armed with a new guitarist in Yves Terzibachian and some fucking incredible artwork courtesy of Seth Siro Anton — had some serious work to stand up to: Poseidon was one of my favorite discs the year that it hit.
Mark Riddick’s cover art for Teratism’s new MLP La Bas tells you something of what you need to know about the music: It is, in many respects, far out on the frontier of bestial extremity, dwelling in a poisonous landscape where demonic entities howl for the manifestation of the Adversary. Yet there are depths in this musical inferno, and the more you listen, the more you discover of its otherworldly dimensions.
The vocals are the most challenging aspect of the music, yet they are also a vital ingredient in the occult atmospheres that La Bas generates. In a word, they’re horrifying. V. Wrath delivers a series of distorted incantations, condemnations, and satanic proclamations that range from roars to shrieks to cracked, whispered chants. Often, the vocals are layered, producing harmonies that invoke sensations of bedlam. Whether agonizing, despairing, or furious, the ferocity of his delivery is convincing evidence that Teratism have indeed opened a fearsome channel to hellish realms.
Much of the accompanying music is also ferocious, with distorted, swarming guitars and blasting drums generating a dense cloud of evil noise, perhaps most intense and overpowering in the EP’s relentless third track, “Thy Swill Be Dung”. But La Bas isn’t thrashing black metal; it is instead mainly devoted to the creation of bleak, damned atmospherics. “Shadows Flee the Burning Sons of Light” becomes dirge-like and doomed, a miasma of contagion, soaked in illness, and “Gospel of the Heliophobe” splices its whirlwind of cacophony with moments of crawling malevolence.
Let’s get one thing out of the way up-front: The new Deeds of Flesh album Portals To Canaan is a bewilderingly complex tech-death masterpiece. As a demonstration of pure physical speed and dexterity married to voracious brutality, it’s difficult to imagine any other release surpassing it this year.
The songs are one explosion after another of intricate instrumental extravagance: jabbing, darting riffs; swarming melodic leads; jackhammer bass rhythms; bursts of noodling notes and frenzied arpeggios that fly by almost too fast to follow; blistering reverberant solos; unorthodox rhythms; blinding, blasting drumwork. It’s as if the musicians were juiced up on exotic accelerants delivered from another star system when they laid down these tracks.
The music will no doubt spawn different mental images in different listeners, but for me I imagined an army of alien machines fabricating some immense incomprehensible structure in deep space, a thousand gleaming entities performing a thousand tasks at light speed according to perplexing blueprints drawn by monolithic sentient devices with computing power beyond the understanding of mere mortals: Vast frameworks lashed together by writhing metallic tentacles, tangles of wires threaded by nanobots into almost indecipherable patterns, titanium girders slammed into place and joined by explosive welders.
(In this post TheMadIsraeli reviews a re-recorded EP by the French band Uneven Structure.)
2013 marks the return of “that word” (THALL). First we had the Means End debut, we have a new Vildhjarta EP on the way, and as of right now we have a new (and old) offering from Uneven Structure. I wrote a short review and hosted a download of the original version of Uneven Structure’s first EP known as 8, a twenty-plus-minute song, Meshuggah Catch-33 style, that presented a much different band than what they turned into on their debut Februus. Re-recording 8 was probably the best thing Uneven Structure could’ve done, in terms of offering people something until the next album is finished.
8 was a piece of work that deserved a new makeover. It was a great piece, but it had a sub-par production and it was kind of an oddity that the vocalist was none other than one of Vildhjarta’s two. Now we get 8 re-recorded with a new mix, vocalist Matthieu Romarin working his vocal magic, and the music enhanced with the lush ambience this band has become known for in the backdrop of what is otherwise still the heaviest thing they’ve written.
What the re-recording of 8 really does in the end is solidify it as a true Uneven Structure work rather than an outlier that merely served as a stepping stone for the band. The more aggressive, slightly industrial harshness is still prevalent, but by mixing in the atmosphere and ambience of their current sound, the band have turned it into a whole new beast. As a matter of fact it’s even more overwhelming than it was before. Even with Matthieu Romarin’s clean vocal incorporations amidst his zen-focused roaring, the music has a much darker undertone than anything on Februus did, adding also a bit of eeriness or unease to the mood.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the debut EP by Florida’s Monotheist.)
Checkmate atheists, creationists win again.
No, I kid. However, it is a shame we never got to Monotheist’s debut Genesis of Perdition before now. We posted about it, like, once or something, but this has been a very sorely overlooked EP. It’s even more impressive considering this is a Christian band, and we all know how most Christian “metal” is. The thing that originally made me curious about Monotheist was the fact that 7 Horns 7 Eyes and Ovid’s Withering vocalist JJ Polachek is also the vocalist for this band. He has a record of taking part in exemplary musical projects. Turns out Monotheist are quite excellent, and if there was ever an EP to check out this year, it’s Genesis of Perdition.
Monotheist play a progressive style of death metal that is unrelenting on the br00tz scale, creating a mix of tech-death, slam, and black metal with occasional surprise moments and oddities. There is also a huge emphasis on classical drama within the music, even incorporating strings, pianos, and the like to add flavor. In fact, the album opens with a full string intro in the form of the title track. That’s followed by the first song, “Subzero”. The menagerie of tremolo-picked riffing, crushing chugs, and drama-filled technical expose’s is quite impressive, as Monotheist know their death metal very well.
(In this post TheMadIsraeli reviews the 2012 debut album by a Brazilian four-piece based in The Netherlands who call themselves Seita.)
Let’s talk about Sepultura for a minute…
A lot of people will talk about the Big Four, the underrated Testament, or the technical wizardry of Watchtower and Annihilator, but for me the height of thrash metal was the early Sepultura catalogue before Chaos A.D. Thrash took a pretty huge turn in the late 80’s and early 90’s, where if it wasn’t going the way of groove metal it was pushing the speed limit: How fast can you go, how heavy can you be while doing it, and how absolutely visceral an effect can you produce? For me in many ways, Sepultura defined what I ultimately loved about thrash metal. The frantic sense of panic, the speed, the technicality that could be gotten away with at those high speeds — Sepultura not only had all that in the bag, they also had an astute sense of songwriting.
Their know-how of when, in the midst of their slower numbers, to ambush listeners with an orgasmic adrenaline rush of fury out of nowhere was unrivaled at the time (I present “Desperate Cry” as evidence of this), and quite frankly in my book still is. This is the kind of thrash I like. It’s focused on absolutely blistering speed, a healthy dose of technicality that is yet pointed and focused, with an emphasis on savagery. My other thrash tastes reflect this in the music of bands such as Sodom, Kreator, early early Slayer (pre-Reign in Blood and post-Show No Mercy), Devastation, Exhorder, you get the idea.
(DGR reviews the new album by Sweden’s Dark Tranquillity, with all four officially released album tracks to stream at the end.)
When a band has become as storied as Dark Tranquillity, new releases can pose a bit of a challenge. It seems that at some point pretty much everyone in the metal community has crossed paths with these melodeath veterans, and their opinion of them has largely been marked by that experience. Reviewing a new release by a band such as this one is also difficult; you don’t want to spend a whole review comparing a newer work to past albums because you tread a very thin line between either sounding informed or accidentally painting the new disc as derivative and making yourself look like someone who can’t let go of past glories.
Construct, which saw release at the end of May, is a tale of two albums. It is an album that feels a bit like a career retrospective, yet it also includes some of the most daring work the guys have gotten up to in a while. Construct is the furthest that Dark Tranquillity have spread their wings in their career.
On We Are The Void it really felt like they had pushed the style that they had used on Character and Fiction – a sound that is more straightforward melodeath and really represented a more refined Damage Done. The crazy part about Dark Tranqullity’s career arc, however, is that they also produced a couple of slower, mid-tempo, synth-filled affairs in Haven and Projector, and until now, those albums had represented the points at which the band had most changed things up.
If you were to put Dark Tranquillity’s discs on a spectrum, then, Construct would lay closer to the Haven/Projector side of things. However, if you’re spooked by that mention, then you need to stick around – because Construct is one of those times where almost every experiment works really well.
The first time I listened to Evolve by Chicago’s Of Wolves I had more “what the fuck?” moments than I’ve experienced with any other album this year. I listened to it as the band wants it to be heard — straight through, letting each song run right into the next one. It was a breathtaking (and breathless experience), with something unexpected lying in wait around every corner, and with more corners than a roller-coaster ride.
These three working men in Chicago are fed up, frustrated, and pissed off. They vent their fury at everything from churches to governments to pervasive greed to the treatment of Native Americans to the mass of their fellow citizens (aka “sheep”) who allow themselves to be brainwashed, duped, and distracted from protecting their own self-interests — and they don’t mince words about it. As they say, “Life has been rough, the music is therapy.”
Apparently, the therapy consists of taking a whole kitchen sink’s worth of musical influences and interests and letting them spill out in a flood of exuberant creativity.