Here are three short reviews of three short releases that I think are really good. I’ve been meaning to say something about two of them for the last week or two, and the third I only heard for the first time yesterday — and that’s the one I’ll start with.
I wish I had time to carefully read every e-mail and Facebook message we get from bands and listen attentively to all their music, but I can’t. Instead, what I’m able to check out is a matter of happenstance — it often comes down to whether I happen to have a few minutes to kill at the moment when I read a message that pricks my curiosity.
For example, yesterday I was skimming through the NCS e-mails with a few minutes to kill and saw a message from a Polish band named Soulless Carnage who described themselves as “a blackened death metal crew, inspired by classics like Morbid Angel, Deicide, Grave“. In fact, they’re partially named after a Grave tune (“Soulless”).
(In this post DGR reviews the 2014 EP by Ireland’s Weed Priest.)
Let’s sit down for a moment and have a quick heart to heart chat. I’m not the most worldly when it comes to heavy metal, but if you name your band Weed Priest, you can really only be one genre right? A name like that has to point to the stoner doom spectrum of things. Especially when it comes paired with artwork and a logo like what you see above (my goodness I like that artwork). So, while Galway, Ireland-based band Weed Priest may never be accused of burying the lead, you could definitely say that the group have the image side of things pinned down to a T.
Their newest release, the EP Worship, released August 1st, has a lot to live up to then — because a group who have so finely honed their image, down to the point where each member now refers to himself as “Brother _____” in their line-up listings, had better be good on the music side of things. Otherwise, it’s all wasted potential. Fortunately, Weed Priest do live up to their outward appearances and public personae about the best that anyone could have hoped for.
Worship is a retro-as-hell sounding disc, as if it were crafted as a worship ritual for the early seeds of doom, the occult, and stoner rock that were planted in the early 70′s. It sounds like it was recorded after a massive Sabbath binge, and it stands as an all-too-brief preview of what could be a really good run from a band with only two other releases to their name, if they stay on the course where Worship is pointing.
(Here we have yet another review by DGR, and this time the subject is the new album by an Irish band named Vile Regression.)
Even though it’s probably a bit formulaic at this point, I still love to introduce reviews by explaining how I found the band. So, let’s take a walk down memory lane for a little bit, as I tell a truncated version of my history with Dublin, Ireland-based Vile Regression and of websites gone by.
On the previous website that I worked for, one of our writers made it a routine during our two-year history that around St. Patrick’s Day he would try to share as much Irish metal as he could — stuff people hadn’t heard of, not the usual listing of bands. He really wanted to dig, find smaller groups, even go into local scenes if he could, to really try and put the country at the forefront at about the most stereotypical time possible.
Even though I jokingly poke fun at the reason for these bands getting listed on our site — and we returned to them numerous times throughout the following year — I still found a couple of really good groups, and that feature was instrumental in my discovery of some amazing stuff.
(DGR wrote this review of the first demo by a Sacramento group who have apparently been Imbibed By the Quasar.)
Imbibed By The Quasar are a new Sacramento-based death metal band, one born from the seeming ashes of the group Bispora (who at the time had hung up their hats but have since apparently reformed), a project known as Lunar Stereo, and Malevolent (whose drummer Greg Chastain pulls double time in both bands and whose keyboardist Jeff Clifford contributed a ton of material from other projects he had).
It’s super-rare that you’re able to find a project right as it starts out. Sometimes the planets align, however, and you get to see something from its genesis all the way to its baby steps and eventual exposure to the world. In this case I caught word of Imbibed By The Quasar very early while doing my seemingly random monthly check-in with bands I hadn’t heard from in a bit. Though Bispora weren’t going to be doing anything for a while, I was super-interested in learning what might be produced by the combination of a huge chunk of that band and people from Malevolent, a band who at that point had gone radio silent for some time.
On the group’s Facebook page, the guys had said it was going to be more death metal focused than Bispora. Given the history of some of the musicians in the band, this wasn’t too shocking a turn. August 1st saw the release of their aptly titled Demo 2014, ostensibly the world’s first exposure to the band. Let me tell you right away, boy is it a weird way to spend eight minutes and forty seconds.
Earlier today I posted a review of the Denver Black Sky 2014 festival, which I had the pleasure of attending last weekend with a fine group of old and new friends. I was already a fan of most of the bands on the two-day line-up, but the festival also introduced me to some excellent new discoveries. And two of them were the first two groups we heard on August 2 — Khemmis and Gomorrah.
If I had time, I’d write about more of the bands I heard for the first time in Denver, but I damn sure wanted to say something about these two, because they made such a memorable beginning to such a great weekend of music.
Khemmis make their home in Denver, and to date their available recorded output consists of a 2013 self-titled EP. The cover of the EP is excellent — and it appeared on one of the two shirts that my friends and I bought after their set at Black Sky:
(DGR reviews the second EP by Lesser Life from Chapel Hill.)
I don’t know exactly who recommended Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based Lesser Life, but I know that their release The Light Will Never Touch You Again appeared on one of the many lists we featured as part of 2013′s annual year-end liststravaganza or what have you will call it. The Light Will Never Touch You Again is a manic release, filled with violence and a heavy dose of grind fed directly into its veins. It is one of those releases that captures nihilism well, and because of that the group have always remained in the back of my mind.
I’ve gotten into the habit of doing random check-ins with bands that pop into my mind, especially the ones who I may not have heard from in a bit, and Lesser Life have been I had consistently kept an eye on until about the end of May. Were it not for my infatuation with their Over In A Millisecond shirt with the artwork from Shining’s V – Halmstad on it, then it would’ve likely stayed that way, a victim of me assuming that they were probably on the two-year album cycle.
However, at the end of July I found myself at the face of a new EP, put out scant weeks after I had taken a breather on keeping up with the band. The title is Go Hence Unto A Swift And Bitter Death, so if there were any worry about the band suddenly shifting course and deciding to write songs about nice things, we can shove those back under the table — because if Go Hence Unto A Swift And Bitter Death is any proof, Lesser Life are still pissed.
(DGR reviews the debut EP by Leprous Divinity.)
Given that California has a huge population, you could rightly assume that this state dishes out a humongous amount of music on a daily basis. Not only that, but genre shifts and sonic waves seem to be massive here — moving through the metal scenes here like tsunamis. So if there is one sound that seems to be catching on, a ton of bands will be doing just that — or will be newly formed to play around with the style.
You could also correctly assume that right now, judging by the scale of California’s metal output and no doubt because of the massive spotlight being shined on it by the recent renaissance of the Unique Leader label and its slate of artists, that we seem to be on one hell of a death metal kick at the moment. Whether it be the brutal, tech, slam, or prefix-core aspects of the genre, you better believe that we’ve been dishing it out in spades.
Thus, it is hard as hell to get noticed, especially if you’re just launching your band off the ground and are attempting to tread a super-fine line. Such is the situation faced by Leprous Divinity, a group whose sound is rooted in the combination of brutal death metal’s slamming elements and the downward-focused chug of deathcore, resulting in a super-slow, gargantuan slab of metal designed for the sole purpose of crushing people beneath its weight.
The Swedish label Blood Harvest Records plans to release a series of 7″ EPs between now and year-end. Yesterday I reviewed the first two of those EPs to reach the label from the pressing plant (here). In this post I’ve collected thoughts about the next three that are planned for release, which are now at press.
Ascended Dead come our way from San Diego, and include current or former members of Ghoulgotha, whose Blood Harvest EP was one of the two covered in Part 1 of this series. Their release is a four-song collection entitled Arcane Malevolence, which follows the band’s four-song demo released in 2012.
The label pitches the band with references to the likes of Possessed, Necrovore, and the early sounds of Morbid Angel and Sarcofago, and that should give you an idea of what you’re in for. This is thick, murky, grinding death metal, the gears of the monstrous machine choked with grime and spewing noxious fumes as it barrels ahead at a murderous pace.
The Swedish label Blood Harvest Records plans to release a series of 7″ vinyl EPs between now and year-end. I’ve received advance digital versions of five of them and thought I’d put down a few words about all five, divided into two posts. In this one the subjects are the two EPs that the label announced yesterday it had just received from the pressing plant. The other three are apparently being manufactured now, and I’ll cover those in Part 2 tomorrow.
Ceremonial are a Chilean band with two previous demos to their credit. Their Blood Harvest release is a four-song offering entitled Ars Magicka. The music is a blazing blitzkrieg of black thrash, a rapacious attack of rapid-fire riffs, booming bass, and acrobatic drumwork, with utterly venomous, echoing vocals.
A deep rumbling noise could be heard rising up from the bowels of the interhole yesterday as the name BÖLZER! was simultaneously growled by reviewers who had just received their advance copies of the band’s new EP Soma. The degree of excitement that had been building in anticipation of the EP was phenomenal, given that before Soma this Swiss band had only released a grand total of six songs — three of them on 2012′s Roman Acupuncture and three on 2013′s Aura. I can’t think of many extreme underground bands who’ve made such a big splash in so little time on the strength of so few tracks. But on the other hand, this Swiss duo really don’t sound like anyone else, and that’s a rare achievement in this day and age.
I’ve admitted before that my attraction to Bölzer has bordered on the unhealthy. I listened to Aura so much that I began to fear an alien entity had taken up residence in my skull. I included “Entranced By the Wolfshook” on my list of 2013′s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. After seeing the band at Maryland Deathfest, I waited in line so long to buy a shirt that I missed the next band’s entire set (but seriously, how could you not struggle for the chance to get apparel emblazoned with “THUNDER TONGUE BOLT FIST” on the back?). So yes, I was growling the name yesterday, too.
Well, I have good news and bad news about Soma. The bad news is that it only includes two songs — “Steppes” and “Labyrinthian Graves”. And that’s it for the bad news.