(Andy Synn brings us a trio of reviews.)
I must admit, 2015 is the first year since I’ve been writing for the site where I’ve truly felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of music out there. I know of so many bands and albums that have slipped through the cracks over the last nine months or so, simply because there’s not enough time in the day/week to cover everything we want to.
As you undoubtedly know already, the ethos here at NCS is to cover and offer exposure to as many bands as we can, informed by a slight preference towards writing about less well-exposed bands over some of the more famous names.
This isn’t down to any form of “elitism”, and we’re not the sort of people who declare that a band has “sold-out” just because they’ve finally managed to make a name for themselves outside of the toilet circuit. It’s simply that, when it comes right down to it, the bigger bands are going to sell their albums regardless of whether we cover them or not… whereas the smaller bands will probably benefit far more from us writing about them. As such we’d rather target our limited support towards where it can do the most good!
So, in that spirit, here’s three more bands – all based somewhere along the slimy spectrum of Death Metal – whom you may or may not already have encountered. The first is definitely the most established of the three, who rightfully deserve a hell of a lot more attention and exposure than they’ve been getting, while the second recently signed to a major label for the relase of their debut album, and the third and final selection is very much a new band who show a lot of promise, despite a few flaws in their makeup!
PRION – UNCERTAIN PROCESS
Let’s not beat around the bush here… Prion are from Argentina, and Uncertain Process, their third album, is my first (though certainly not last) encounter with their particular brand of demonic Death Metal delights.
Right from the start this album hits that sweet spot between Brutal and Technical that gets my blood pumping and my brain buzzing (I was going to use the word “engorged” here, but there’s a time and a place for that sort of thing…), landing somewhere between the murderous bludgeon of Hate Eternal and the mangled technicality of Carcass at their most sadistic.
Now, despite an unfortunate tendency to overly-focus on the speed of the drums these days (almost to the exclusion of everything else), it’s still a well-known truism that Death Metal albums live and die by the strength of their riffs… and oh, what riffs they are…
Sick, slick, and hazardous to your health, tracks like the ravenous opening pair of “Power Obsessed” and the similarly rabid title-track, showcase the band’s devastating brand of controlled violence and mastery of the flesh-rending riff, instantly demanding that you sit up and take notice of these underrated Argentinian assassins.
That’s not to say that the drums are in any way lacking – Marcelo Russo is unquestionably a beast behind the kit, delivering an absolute blasterpiece in percussive punishment on every single track without overplaying his hand (see the locked in blast-and-groove attack of “Losing Itself in the Infinite” for a prime example) – it’s just the for Prion the riffs are, and always will be, king.
Whether it’s the hammering chuggery and crawling chords of “Anhedonist” (with its warped, death-jazz outro), the brainmelting tremolo’d tripwires that run through “End Is Near” (complete with an utterly irresistible slide-shifting central chord pattern), or the shameless hook-heavy attack of “Doomed Humanity of Horror” (with enough razor-sharp, string-scorching guitar work to give Arsis pause for thought), Prion know what makes a killer riff, and a killer song, and deploy their assets with targeted lethality and pinpoint precision.
So if you’re looking for something that takes its cues from the infamous Floridian sound of the ’90s, but updates it with a twisted tech-prog mentality and an honest-to-goodness, devil-may-care attitude– resulting in a mutant hybrid sound that’s bristling with more hooks than an abattoir-cum-sex-dungeon – then Uncertain Process is the album for you. And I am in no way uncertain about that.
This album rules. End of story.
BLACK TONGUE – THE UNCONQUERABLE DARK
I’ve been hearing a lot of good things over the past several months about Black Tongue, the self-described “Doomcore” crew hailing from the seventh level of Hell/Hull… mostly related to their impressive ability to pound living beings into dust via the sheer weight of their unbelievably dense and utterly crushing riffage.
And it seems I’ve been hearing things right.
Yes, the band’s roots are still entrenched in the “go heavy, or go home” of the Deathcore movement at its most single-minded, but the more overt Impending Doom-isms of their earlier material have now been bolstered by a monolithic chunk of pitch-black, Triptykon-esque gloom (one need only get about 45 seconds into opener “Plague Worship” to discover this).
Make no mistake, thus is one ungodly heavy album, whose top speed rarely rises above a groaning, mid-paced stomp (though the scathing “L’appel Du Vide” certainly proves an exception to this rule), with a good 75% of the material delivered in a crippling, tar-pit crawl of juddering, low-tuned, almost subterranean riffs and gloriously ugly vocal venom.
Granted, you could criticise the album for its over-reliance on massive, building-levelling breakdowns, but whereas that term – “breakdown” – has largely become shorthand for “running low on ideas”, nothing about this record feels phoned in. Every gut-rupturing salvo of cataclysmic chuggery hits you right in the chest with the weight of a collapsing neutron star, to the extent where you realise that Black Tongue aren’t breaking down just because they’ve got nowhere else to go… they’re actively trying to break YOU…
It helps that there’s an atmosphere of pure malice that runs throughout this album which goes well beyond the usual tacky misanthropy of the Deathcore scene, coupled with some fantastically brutal vocal patterns and hooks. On top of this there also some chillingly malevolent melody work employed where you least expect it (“Young Gloom” in particular is a standout for this, as is “A Pale Procession II…”), all adding to the impression that The Unconquerable Dark, as a complete piece of work, is an album which demands, and deserves, your full attention.
So mark me well, these nine tracks of thick, back-breaking, and doom-laden riffs (which hammer down like a slow-motion rain of anvils) all combine together into one truly devastating and merciless album, one which serves as a perfect retort to those who contend that the Deathcore scene has nothing to offer the Extreme Metal world anymore.
All hail Doomcore!
THE HUDSON HORROR – NEMESIS
That the Metal scene often seems torn between the twin poles of innovation and imitation should be news to no-one. And while not every band has to come up with their own paradigm-shifting take on the genre, neither is it ok to simply plagiarise from your influences wholesale. You need to bring at least something of your own to the table. Some hint of style or character that sets you apart from your peers, if only in the smallest way.
NYC riffmongers The Hudson Horror clearly haven’t quite figured out how to get this balance right just yet, though their debut album Nemesis still offers some hefty chunks of metallic meat to chew on– assuming you can overlook the more egregious similarities and (occasional) lack of stylistic focus.
Despite claiming to be a “Melodic Death Metal” band — and claiming all the standard influences on their Facebook page – The Hudson Horror’s sound is undeniably rooted in the heavier end of the mid-late ’00s Metalcore scene, with strong comparisons to be made both to the gnashing aggression of Himsa and the showy, thrash-tinged racket of The Autumn Offering.
It’s not that I think the band are being disingenuous so much as they honestly don’t seem aware exactly which side of the Melodic Death Metal/Metalcore divide that they fall on.
[FYI — please ignore any other reviews parroting the same claptrap about the album’s “Black Metal influences…” – a couple of tremolo runs here and there do NOT a “Blackened” band make…]
This might sound like I’m damning the band with faint praise, but while it’s clear that they’ve still got some work to do, The Hudson Horror definitely offer a number of fine tracks to sink your teeth into on Nemesis – with the opening pairing of “What The Moon Brings” and “Visions of Disgust” (despite cleaving as closely to the sound of Unhallowed/Miasma-era The Black Dahlia Murder as it’s possible to do) setting the bar high both in terms of high-quality riffery and high-intensity delivery (the latter also showcasing a more solid undercurrent of Cannibal Corpse-esque Death Metal thunder glimmering just beneath the surface).
Granted, tracks like the similarly Black Dahlia-aping, but rather unfocussed, “The Ophidian Resurrection” and the slightly incongruous grooves of “Wolf’s Blood” fall afoul of some generic Metalcore pitfalls, but when the album’s firing on all cylinders – as on the iron-clad “Heretic” or the 2-minute-rampage of “Scarlet” – these sins are surprisingly easy to forgive!
So while it’s far from perfect (and, in truth, would probably have made for a stronger EP with the omission of “The Ophidian Resurrection”, “Wolf’s Blood”, and the overly-ambitious title-track), there’s still a LOT to recommend about Nemesis.
If the band can continue to refine and develop a sound they can truly call their own (and learn to ignore some of the ridiculous and unwarranted hype that I’ve seen thrown their way), I’d definitely be very interested to see where they end up (and, indeed, WHO they become) several years down the road.