(In this post TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by Sweden’s Cut Up.)
As someone who is a complete fucking nerd who enjoys analyzing nuances, subtleties, patterns, and periods within art, or the examples of all those contained within a particular artist’s body of work, I find few things more fascinating within the realms of music than the phenomenon of the extreme metal sophomore album. Mostly I’m impressed by its power to either make or break bands. If you release a killer debut and then a shitty sophomore album, or just one that doesn’t capitalize on the steam of the debut, you can absolutely tank your traction and name right then and there and never recover. Some bands can release a terrible debut and get away with it, but a band who start well take a big risk if they release a sophomore album that is anything less than excellent.
This subject may be worth a digression into a deeper conversation about what a sophomore album should accomplish, and maybe I’ll do an article on that alone someday, but for now the context is Cut Up.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the new fourth album by Colorado’s Havok, which was released by Century Media earlier this month.)
I LOOOOOOOOOOOVE Havok. These guys are the quintessential example of what an excellent re-thrash band sounds like. Old school energy and attitude, but new school song-writing, technicality, and slight tinges of hybridization with other borrowed styles.
Thus far, Havok’s got what I call a pretty flawless discography. The EPs, while underdeveloped, were great; Time Is Up was the best thrash album of its year; and the band’s last release Unnatural Selection was definitely up there in its year, too.
It’s been four years since Havok released anything, marking the first time the band have gone more than two years between major releases since their inception. While they’ve certainly been gaining recognition (rightfully so) and touring like fucking madmen, the band have clearly been working on their sound, and where to go from here.
(The MadIsraeli reviews the new album by Warbringer, which will be released on March 31 by Napalm Records.)
Warbringer are a band who up to now never quite hooked me. They’re no doubt talented, and they are definitely in the upper echelon of the old school thrash revival. I should’ve liked these guys more. They were essentially more aggressive Twisted Into Form Forbidden, but I always felt they played it too safe, enough so that it kept me from being enthralled by their music. Having said that, I’ve always been willing to give the newest Warbringer album a listen when one comes out, because I WANT to like these guys more than I have.
The main thing that really makes these re-thrash bands any good is when they know how to blend the old school with modernity, and in the past Warbringer were too busy living in the past and imitating it rather than emboldening it with a new-school spirit. That is, until Woe To The Vanquished.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the second album by Once Human, which was released in February by earMUSIC.)
As much as I like to talk shit about bands who are bad or try too hard to be edgy (though not on this site), I’m ALWAYS open to bands changing or making dramatic improvements in their sound. It’s always possible for a band to redeem themselves, and sometimes it’s possible for a band to release an album so good that the detractors have to concede the improvement lest they be convicted of perpetual intellectual dishonesty.
We all had that laugh at Once Human, a metalcore band featuring most notably Logan Mader of Machine Head fame. They released that embarrassing “You Cunt” song that not only wasn’t anything special, the name itself just lacked class and really felt like it was going for cheap nü-metal levels of shock value. We laughed this band so hard into oblivion that they removed any promotional traces of their debut. You’ve got to do some digging now to even realize that Once Human HAS a debut album. But something dramatic has happened to this band.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the second album by the Ukrainian black metal band Devilish Art, independently released at the end of January.)
I really love it when black metal meets the harshness and chill of the heavier side of industrial. Khonsu has done a good job of this, and of course there are bands such as Mysticum. Mysticum suffers, though, from that same rythmic stagnation issue I mentioned in my recent Cirith Gorgor review. There still needs to be dynamism, interesting transitions, and tasteful incorporation to really drive the elements home together in a way that feels alive and organic.
Devilish Art’s Temple Of Desintegration is my first exposure to them. They have a debut, but I haven’t listened. Devilish Art play a very riffy style of black metal that reminds me a lot of Naglfar and Old Man’s Child mixed with harsh industrial and electronic elements in an impressive cohesion. Engaging in both its hybridization and in its pure, singular stylistic moments, this is an album in the black metal realm that’s going to stick with me.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the new EP by the Dutch black metal band Cirith Gorgor.)
I’m really picky when it comes to black metal as of late. I mean, I’ve always been picky, very specific about what I like to hear in any sub-genre of metal, and I have my own views about what I think works and doesn’t work musically. I’ve been on an avant-garde and progressive kick in regard to the blackened arts lately, but I also immensely enjoy straight melodic black metal that’s just fucking belligerent and relentless. Naglfar, Old Man’s Child, and Nordjevel are common staples in my black metal listening, when it’s not Dark Fortress, Khonsu, or most recently Lorn (whose new album I reviewed here).
Cirith Gorgor, Dutch blackened legionnaires, are damned good at writing scorching melodic black metal that provokes windmills and whiplash while knowing how to incorporate great, technically inclined, layered riffing that evokes that arcane sense of mystique that black metal has really leaned toward in the last few years.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by Texas-based Power Trip.)
One of the worst offenders within the utter triteness that was the so called “re-thrash” movement was the rise of the whole crossover party thrash scene. I came to intensely dislike certain bands (who shall remain nameless) who seem to place all their emphasis on the energy and aesthetic of thrash but completely forsake all of the power, attitude, and uninhibited human rage that thrash encapsulates so well — while also having no good idea how to truly manipulate the hardcore aspects of their sound to give the music high-impact groove when needed.
Newer crossover thrash, however, has been seeing a YUGE renaissance. The newer Ringworm material, Iron Reagan (a band with Municipal Waste alumni), and the subject of this review — Power Trip — are producing music that is on a mission to recapture the genre and hit the turbo button, producing some of the most straight-up genuinely pissed metal on the planet.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by Warpath from Hamburg, Germany, which is out now via Massacre Records.)
Warpath are an interesting musical discovery for me. Originally a thrash metal band that had some moderate underground recognition in the ’90s, the band hung it up until the culmination of a reunion that resulted in a subsequent comeback album. Vocalist Dirk Weiss is the only original member, collecting an entirely new lineup. Warpath, in name, has come back, but with a new sound and one that’s impressive. It would be a shame for people to miss out on this.
Bullets For A Desert Session is a powerful testament to hybridization in metal, and an impressive metallic golem of deathly proportions. While thrash metal is still a part of Warpath’s sound, the band have mixed in the metallic heft and drag of bands like Celtic Frost and Crowbar, the filth of High On Fire, and a style of death/thrash that sounds a lot like The Crown. Dirk Weiss’s vocals are almost like a demonic version of Lemmy Kilmister mixed with the low-end grit of The Crown’s own Johan Lindstrand.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by the Finnish band Lantern.)
I’ve been eagerly anticipating a new Lantern record since I heard and reviewed their undeniably powerful debut full-length Below. That thrash/death/black combo, which personified a synthesis of early Napalm Death, Celtic Frost, and Emperor, still holds absolutely true and finds itself achieving new progressive ambition on the band’s sophomore opus II: Morphosis.
This is also a new chapter in the project’s lifespan, upgrading from an enthusiastic duo to a full-fledged five-piece, although I still suspect guitarist/composer Cruciatus and vocalist Necrophilos call the majority of the shots, if not all of them.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by the Italian band Lorn, which has just been released by I, Voidhanger Records.)
Black metal has rarely achieved that truly evil, blasphemous, horror sound that many bands have aspired to. It wasn’t until the style took a more melodic, progressive, and esoterically melodic approach that I started to care about it in the early 2000s or so. I don’t like Burzum, Bathory, or Darkthrone. Emperor was where my taste for the music started, and in following suit, all of my favorite black metal comes from that Emperor school of thought… until recently.
I suppose I couldn’t help but feel that first-wave and some second-wave black metal was just rather cartoony or something. I couldn’t take it seriously. I always wanted to hear an album or EP from this genre that truly succeeded in capturing the sound of a pit of hell opening up, or being trapped inside a dank chamber with a bunch of banshees torturing you with non-stop blood-curdling shrieks until you were incapable of knowing peace, sanity, or anything but the endless wail.
Lorn has done that.