It’s been almost three weeks since I put up a MISCELLANY post, which is way too long. My vacation had something to do with that delay, but still — too long. My list of bands to check out has grown to gargantuan proportions, which means the selection for today is even more random than usual — and this post is also really long. But it’s a fucking holiday weekend, and what else have you got to do?
You know the rules of this game by now: I keep a running list of bands I’ve never heard but who look interesting for one reason or another, and when I have time, I randomly pick a few names off the list and listen to one song from each band — not knowing in advance whether the music will be worth a damn. And then I record impressions in these MISCELLANY blogs, and provide you the songs I heard so you can form your own opinions.
For today’s way-late installment, I checked out four bands from distant countries. In fact, distance was sort of the criterion I used for picking names off the list this time. Of course, all countries are distant from Seattle, except Canada, which is more or less spitting distance away.
Not that I would ever spit on Canada. In fact, when I get nauseous about the state of political discourse in the U.S. (which happens about every other day), I fantasize about moving to Canada — until it dawns on me that I don’t know anything about the state of Canadian political discourse, plus the national sport seems to be hockey, which always looks to me like someone dropped a big pile of ants onto a piece of ice and stirred ’em into a state of frothing anger with a big stick. In other words, I have no fucking idea what’s happening.
Where was I? Oh yeah — metal bands from distant countries. For today’s post I checked out Heathen Beast (India), Skrypt (India), Bilocate (Jordan), and (in a late addition to the post) Ektomorf (Hungary). See what I found (and listen to the songs), after the jump. And just to spare you the suspense — I was pretty well blown away by what I heard from the first three bands, and the fourth was at least fun.
My first stop was a band from Mumbai, India, called Heathen Beast. The band sent us an advance digital copy of their debut EP, Ayodhya Burns, which is now available for free download.
Ayodhya is an ancient Indian city near the border with Nepal, allegedly founded by King Ayudh. It is both a holy city in the Hindu religion and a place of historical significance in the history of Indian Buddhism. In addition, it was the site of a riot in 1992 involving 150,000 people and leading to the destruction by Hindu nationalists of a Muslim mosque that had been constructed on the former site of a Hindu temple. In other words, it’s a city, like many others in the world, where religions have converged, conflicted, and caused death and destruction.
Heathen Beast is an avowedly atheist band and seems to have picked Ayodhya as a symbolic reference, dedicating the EP as “a tribute to all Indians who have lost their lives in the name of religion.”
As for the music, I listened to the first of the three songs on the EP, “Blind Faith”. It starts with an oriental-sounding guitar lead and then explodes into a raw, ragged, brutally brilliant black/death-metal onslaught. The melody is dark, the vocals sound like a cascading bath of acid, the guitars slash and burn, the drumming delivers gouts of blasts and double-kicks — and near the end, there’s some unexpected, prog-metal guitar melody trading off with the fury of the main verse. I liked this song a bunch.
So then I cheated. I listened to the other two songs on the EP — and damn, they were very good, too. “Religious Genocide” is a real blowtorch headbanger with fast, distinctive rhythms, flashy guitar work, and more of those acid-bath vocals. “Ayodhya Burns” starts slow, with another trad-sounding Indian melody and then unfolds into a mid-paced anthemic drama, with a dark melody to accompany the scalding vocals. But before long, the song accelerates yet again into a rampant fury, without losing the epic feel established in the first two segments. This EP is definitely a good find, and one we recommend.
Here’s a ReverbNation widget that will allow you to hear all three tracks on the EP:
All three songs on the EP can be downloaded for free at Heathen Beast’s ReverbNation page (here).
Skrypt is another Indian metal band (from Mumbai and Hyderabad) who invited us to check out their new, just-released, four-song EP, Discord. So that was my next MISCELLANY stop. I cranked up the first song on the EP, “Artifice”. And then I cheated and listened to it again. And then I cheated again and listened to the rest of the EP.
Let me see if I can do a pithy review of what I heard. I know the words will come to me in a minute . . . . Okay, here they are: Holy shit!
“Artifice” is thrash metal with a heavy dose of groove, a neck-breaker of a song for sure — with a mix of harsh and almost-clean vocals, a catchy melody — and all that would have been just fine, as is. But wait . . . there’s more. At about the 3:00 mark, the song organically transitions into a fast, proggy instrumental that includes an absolutely face-melting extended guitar solo. Holy shit — a great song!
But wait . . . there’s more. “Anathema” is a brain-coring mix of thrash, deathgrind, and prog-metal. Again, it includes an unexpected progressive instrumental section that becomes slower and quieter as the seconds pass, sandwiched in between the rapid-fire opening and closing sections. “Supremacy” is built around more technical guitar flash and darting drumwork, with rapidly transitioning rhythmic patterns that work beautifully. “Constructing the Absolute” starts as a traditional piece of groove-heavy thrash, but with continued technical guitar leads and polyrhythmic interplay among the instruments.
All these songs display intelligent, inventive construction and first-rate instrumental execution. Damned impressive music. I think I can be forgiven for cheating on the MISCELLANY rules. Particularly since I made the rules.
Here’s that song “Artifice”. Holy shit.
For more info, Skrypt’s MySpace page is here, their Facebook page is here, and their ReverbNation page is here. Though the band doesn’t yet have a legit download channel for the EP, you can order a physical copy of Discord for $5 through Roadcrew Records at this location; they deliver internationally. (Skrypt is looking for a distribution channel in the U.S., and anyone interested in providing distro can contact the band through Abbas Razvi (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via the band’s MySpace or ReverbNation pages.)
We first heard about this band by seeing their name included on the Metality blog’s music compilation, released to celebrate Metality’s 1000th post (we wrote about that here). Then we saw their name again in a comment we received on an earlier MISCELLANY post by Kareem Chehayeb, a member of the very talented Voice of the Soul. In his comment (responding to our invitation), Kareem listed other metal bands from the Middle East worth hearing, and he said this about Bilocate: “Any band that claims to be ‘oriental death metal’ should shut their mouths and listen to Bilocate. They’re the real deal.”
Their first full-length album, Dysphoria, was released in the winter of 2005. In July 2008, the band released their second (and most recent) album, Sudden Death Syndrome, which was mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Bloodbath, Katatonia, Paradise Lost, many more). That album generated a fair amount of international notice. Terrorizer called it “a tasteful and sophisticated piece of work that determinedly puts the Jordanian metal scene on the map”, and Metal Hammer praised the “rich, doomy sound” and called Sudden Death Syndrome a “stunning, heartfelt metal album.” Metal Storm nominated the album for its Best Doom Metal Album Award.
So, with that auspicious back-story, my third stop on this MISCELLANY expedition was to check out a song from Sudden Death Syndrome. I chose a track called “Inoculate” (the 5th of 7 songs on the album). It sounded to my ears a bit like Amon Amarth-style melodic death metal, but with instrumental segments that introduced a distinctly oriental flavor. The vocals were harsh but understandable, and I thought the song was way cool.
Okay, so since I cheated twice on this expedition, I decided to cheat some more and listen to the two tracks that followed “Inoculate”. The first of those is called “Pure Wicked Sins”. Man, that one was a real change of pace — slow, doom metal, accompanied by piano and synthesizer, with a blend of growling and spoken-word vocals. It builds in intensity and emotional power as the song progresses. Again, way cool.
The last song I heard (also the last on the album), “The Stone of Hate”, is an instrumental closer, with slow percussion on what sounds like a hand drum, and a swelling synth-driven ambience with the sound of strings. It’s quite entrancing.
As you can probably guess, I’m definitely going back and listening to the album as a whole. Based on what I’ve heard so far, I agree with those reviews quoted above — this is a rich, sophisticated, emotionally resonant album of melodic metal with an eastern flair.
Here’s the first song I heard. See what you think (comments welcome, as always):
For more info, Bilocate’s MySpace page is here. Sudden Death Syndrome is available as a CD through The Omega Order. Both of Bilocate’s albums are also available as downloads via iTunes and Amazon MP3.
Here’s a video of Bilocate performing “The Tragedy Within” from Sudden Death Syndrome at Dubai’s Sandstorm Festival in 2009:
P.S. We saw just a few days ago a post from Kareem Chehayeb’s band that Waseem Essayed, Bilocate’s keyboard player, is recovering from a terrible car accident in Jordan. We wish him a speedy and successful recovery.
Just as I was about to wrap up this edition of MISCELLANY, I saw a Blabbermouth blurb about a Hungarian band called Ektomorf — which I had intended to check out some day based on previous items I’d seen about the band. The Blabbermouth blurb was about a brand new video for a song called “The Last Fight”, which will appear on Ektomorf’s forthcoming album Redemption (their 9th!), which will be released on December 17 via AFM Records. The album was recorded by Tue Madsen at his Antfarm Studio in Denmark (which of course is always a good sign).
So, I watched the video. How to put this? On the one hand, as a musical composition, it’s not in the same league as the other music reviewed in this post — not nearly as inventive, distinctive, or instrumentally demanding. On the other hand, it’s fucking fun to hear. It’s a power-groove approach to thrash that’s built around some simple, but ass-busting riffs, and of course it sounds great. The lyrics are rudimentary and seem to include a lot of “fuck-you’s”, but maybe I’m imagining that because the vocalist kept giving me the middle finger. I don’t take it personally.
The professionally shot and edited video is thankfully free of lame visual effects and inexplicable story lines — it’s just the band playing, in a typically desolate industrial location. My only serious complaint was the Tony Romo jersey that the bass player was wearing, though this was offset by the t-shirt worn by the drummer. You’ll see what I mean.