After taking a rest for a couple of years after their last awesome album “Deathless Master”, one of my favourite ”Crusty” Death Metal bands Acephalix returns with another high quality album.
The musical style of the band is still right there where it was, perhaps even more energetic than before, while being definitely more hard-hitting and of great grades. A combination of slower and mid-tempo Deathliness and D-beats (and even blast-beats), gives room for a more Rocking style, previously heard not so much in Acephalix. In a lot of ways this album is a musical culmination of the member’s other Metallic projects, such as Vastum and Lawless.
All areas of the music are materialized with great skills, without overdoing anything, which would distance the band from its stylistic roots.
The in-your-face strings open Doomy and the Deathly damping and tremolo riffs offer nothing new under the sun, but are 100% loyal to the roots of the craft, spiced with some howling (often very Slayerlike) leads. The guitar-sound is crunchy and heavy as fuck, delivering the band’s trademark riffs.
The beats are performed with great precision to give a quality feeling, while being human and organic enough to appeal to oldschool Death Metal fans. The mixing of the drums works fine as hell as well. The bass-drums are pounding, the snares are hammering, and the rides are pleasantly clanky.
The vocals are as cool and entertaining as ever, going mostly with low growling and grunting, spiced with screams and shouts here and there.
In the past the band’s lyrics have been heavily Influenced by thinkers such as Georges Bataille, and without having read the lyrics of this album, I’m guessing they are similar psychological, philosophical and anthropological observations of the human condition as on the previous albums.
Graced by the magical touch of Greg Wilkinson, the soundscapes of the album manage to be damp, dark, heavy and murky, yet crisp and airy at the same time. The cover art matches the music perfectly, with its gloomy description of a chthonic mental cave full of details.
This album is perfect for all conscious and openminded fans of old-school Death Metal, whom do not object having their sounds a bit more benign and lyrics deeper than the current trends mostly offer. As one song-title of the album points out, ”God Is Laughing”, but the daemons of Death Metal are most definitely sneering and grinning satisfied.
This trio from Lichtenstein (Germany) has been active for about 5 years, releasing a Demo in 2013, before this their first EP. The band likes to label their music as Nihilistic Death Metal, but music-wise (in my opinion), in the early nineties this release could be labeled as Melodic Black Metal as well (depending on the image and attitude of the band).
After the atmospheric and “occult”-sounding instrumental intro of different picked strings and chiming bells, this EP offers us indeed four quite long songs of very old-school but actually pretty unique-sounding Metal of Death. While I’m getting a lot of the obscure feelings of for example Tiamat’s “The Astral Sleep”, and mostly the melodic eeriness, hook-filled tempos and technicality of the first Dissection or Unanimated releases, the band manages to sound very individual.
Besides the obvious music, the sounds and production of these songs are also very old-school (most likely deliberately), such as on those of an old cassette-demo or a 7”, partly murky and foggy, partly sharp and high, with the right amount of reverb in the voices from the temple.
The guitars, which are most present element in the mix, are usually played with high notes and full of melodies. The guitarist does a remarkably fantastic job, switching between different playing styles and quite complicated riffs with ease, while the drums follow and back the guitars with the same amount of imagination and skill. The quite high (as well, at least to my ear) basses howl and boom in the mix with great performance as well, and as the bassist is also doing the vocals, he is doing a terrific job naturally. The awesome vocals are mostly low screaming or high growling, in the vein of for example many early nineties Scandinavian melodic Death and Black Metal bands, usually barking in a typical yet personal and highly atmospheric fashion, yet sometimes going to truly twisted and insane places.
In the end, the greatest wonder of this release is not the authentic old-school obscure aura surrounding it all, but indeed the amount of riffs and different parts (under the same musical banner) in the songs, making whoever has composed and arrange these rituals a truly master of his craft.
Although (at a first quick glance) pretty similar in aesthetic and lyrical (?) lines with numerous modern Black Metal bands of the “occult” nature, the music Archaic Thorns creates really beats most of the other trendy currents in imagination, skills and style.
If you like your Death (or Black) Metal melodic, eventful, old-school, obscure and occult, look no further. This EP offers 28mins of highly imaginative and entertaining ethereal invocations, with an extremely high re-listening value. Hopefully the band will continue to record a full-length album in the future.
(Living Dead Society / Noise Not War Records / Unholy Prophecies, 2015)
Despite their young age as a band (being formed last year), the members of Bodybag have been active for a long time in their local underground Death and Black Metal scenes of A Coruña, playing in bands such as Black Goat, Noitébrega, Arkaik Excruciation, and of course the now disbanded Dishammer and veteran Machetazo. Meaning, these guys are highly skilled and experienced when it comes to the styles in question, especially old-school Death Metal, and that is exactly what their first release offers. Extremely down-to-earth Death reeking of good old ways.
The first song starts as a cool instrumental functioning as an intro, of slower and faster battering, giving us a hint of the violence to come, and after a spoken sample (of Heath Ledger as The Joker) we are given a taste of the real old-school and Grinding aspects of the album. The tempo of the Deathly beat is not too fast but just the right speed, while the following Grinding is equally classic in nature. I am getting extremely authentic feelings of old Autopsy, Grave and Terrorizer at the same time, while the band still sounds like an individual entity, something that is not that common these days.
The following seven songs deliver exactly the same awesomeness. The paces vary from aforementioned classic beatings of Death and Grinding blasts to D-beats and a few slower parts. The drums are played with over 20 years of experience in this art, with no excessive showing off, being as authentic in logics and performance as possible. The guitar and bass riffs are not a drop less bona fide, being quite minimal (as in not too melodic) and having together a nice guttural and growling yet ripping sound with a nice balance of low and high frequencies. The vocals are mostly early-nineties style cool low growlings without extra effects (with whispering, yelling, shouting and screaming parts here and there), also performed with great expertise. The fact that the drummer does half of the vocals gives of course the classic Reifert-effect in live situations, which is awesome as hell.
The overall mix of the album is of very high quality, being also loyal to the classic albums of the past. A very professionally produced package in all areas regarding sound. The lyrics are written in a very straightforward in-your-face kinda way, classic Death, Thrash and Crust Punk style, being mainly horror-movie-like depictions of gory violence and states of insanity, without being too cheesy or childish, fitting the music perfectly. This is Death Metal after all. And as an awesome final touch, the cover-artwork has that cool black and white tattoo-like drawing feeling, done by a pro.
The relatively short running time of the album (21mins) matters not when compared to the effectiveness of the material. This MLP is a total must-hear (and purchase) to all into the old-school ways of Death. If you still hang on to your albums of the early nineties with bloody hands, and curse the more modern (especially technical) currents of this art, you are guaranteed to get shivers down your spine and orgasms in your macabre mind with this stuff. Only Death is real!
Released as a vinyl by Living Dead Society, as a cassette by Noise Not War Records, and as a CD by Unholy Prophecies.
Even tho it is currently trendy in the realms of Death Metal, Black Metal as well as Crust Punk to imitate the sounds of the classic/cult-releases from the beginnings of these styles, some newer bands actually seem to deliver the authentic sounds and atmospheres with sheer dedication and honesty, rather than copying stuff. Corpspazm (formed in 2010) from Southern California is one of those bands, and this EP (limited to 100 cassettes) is a triumphant display of just that.
What makes this release special, is the tendency of the band to sound like early South American stuff like the classic “I.N.R.I.” of Sarcofago, the cult-demo “Satanic Blood” by Von, Australian crazy shit like Sadistik Exekution, as well as as bit younger more bestial Death and Black Metal like Conqueror at the same time. Needless to say, a mixture of these elements is a match made in heaven/hell for those initiated in the original art of Death and Black Metal.
The songs consists of quite simple (Punk-simple) riffs played through pretty murky distortion, with clanky and pounding drums played with real Thrashing passion, and truly sinister and cool-sounding vocals with enough reverb to sound like been performed 20 years ago. As the material is recorded at two separate sessions, the sounds of the songs vary a bit, but not dramatically.
Only 15minutes in length, this release offers six songs of such stylish and arousing Death-worship, a longer length is really not needed, unlike some beers. This stuff is not for anyone, but to those who understand and worship the occult styles of extreme Metal firmly rooted in Punk, will wet their pants with this material.
Dragged Into Sunlight came into my attention with their first full-length of 2009, “Hatred For Mankind”, which seemed like a fresh breath of total and honest aggression and hatred among all the trends going on in the Black and Death Metal undergrounds. Taking elements of indeed Black, Death and Doom Metal, spiced with elements of Grindcore, Noise, Sludge and other extreme styles of Punk, Metal and Electronic music, the band has been continuing along the path started by that particular album. The band has vast amounts of experience from previous musical projects as well as playing live, and this experience and dedication for creating and performing this extreme form of musical art has been present in all their doings. Now, about three years after their last release “Widowmaker”, the time has at last come to unleash yet another chapter in their great work, a chapter passionately anticipated by many.
Gnaw Their Tongues is the main project of Mories (originally from Suriname, now residing in The Netherlands), who has about forty releases under this name, also (like Dragged Into Sunlight) mainly focusing in harsh horrific marriage of Black Metal, Noise and other extreme styles. I have only seldomly touched upon his stuff with time, but have always acknowledged the man’s capabilities of creating truly disturbing audial visions of dread.
This collaboration-album was apparently at first revolving around an idea to create a new version of classic Industrial Metal (as begun by Godflesh’s “Streetcleaner”), which can still be heard in the material, not necessarily in the performance of the music itself, but rather in the production. Justin Broadrick (and another profilic producer Tom Dring) has also given his finishing touches to the production of the material. The three hours of material initially recorded for this released has been stripped down into about 33 mins of polished substance.
With about four years in the works, the material has indeed been most likely refined numerous times into this perfect symbiosis of (quite technical) Black and Death Metal as well as Noise (mainly). Besides the production, there is a certain Industrial feeling in the material considering the usage of electronics in a sampled and looping kid of way. Also some effects used in a percussive way give the Industrialized synthetic atmosphere to the otherwise quite organic stuff.
The amount of different soundscapes (and layers) of noises and samples behind the main tracks of clanky but pounding drums, Metallic guitars and distorted screaming vocals is also vast. In fact the material often feels like moving from a room, chamber or other similar space to another, with each having a unique horrific nature and atmosphere of its own, like different kinds of crime scenes. Spoken samples of different murderous themes spice up the already anxious and disturbing spectacle.
The Metallic parts of the material are again mainly a mixture of Death and Black Metal with elements of Grindcore, familiar from the previous work of Dragged Into Sunlight. The guitars are shredding, damping and howling like crazy most of the time, being usually technical (but not too much) rather than melodic. The basses and drums are played with experienced and “relaxed” hands, besides being performed with great skill and imagination, giving the positively human touch to the otherwise inhumane experience. The riffs and general parts of the songs switch from good idea to the next naturally and with ease. The vocals are screamed through the usual Dragged Into Sunlight amount of distortion. The overall mix, which is quite harsh and sharp but otherwise not by any means without low frequencies, is also put through filters of cool reverb. The quality and attitude of the material on the album stays pretty much the same throughout the five songs, resulting at the first listen in the songs drifting by without any clear changes in music, but being so utterly full of detail and entertaining in their horror, it is clear this album has tremendous re-listening value.
To the unexperienced, I’d say this album serves definitely as a better introduction to the music of Dragged Into Sunlight, rather than Gnaw Their Tongues, but if you are already a fan of both acts, you will not be disappointed by this release, guaranteed. In general, this album is a brilliant display of masterfully performed aggression, frustration, and disturbing soundscapes to anyone into the extreme styles such as Death and Black Metal, Grindcore and Noise. A highly recommended album.
God Harvest (from Saint Petersburg, Florida) have been active since 2010, and have released a Demo and a Split EP before this their first LP. The band has recently played with the likes of Primitive Man and Noisem, not bad at all for a band of their age.
Clocking around 19 minutes, this album is filled with intense and eventful Extreme Punk anthems of frustration and aggression, spiced with the alcohol- and drug-fuelled madness that is life in Florida.
With influences from D-Beat Crust (such as classic Anti-Cimex or Wolfpack / Wolfbrigade) and Death Metal (as in the styles of the early nineties), injected with the energetic and openminded attitude of Powerviolence, God Harvest manages to craft their version of Grindcore (which brings Disrupt to my mind quite often) using the classic formulas of the mentioned styles, and not only manages to do it convincingly but also in an extremely entertaining way.
The riffs are basically as typical and authentic as they get, but are presented in such an imaginative way, the album stays highly and intensely interesting from beginning to the end. The eventful arrangement (and performance) of the songs tells of the experience of the members, meaning these dudes totally know what they are doing.
The band plays extremely well together, with each instrument handled with great skills. The overall sound of the album is pleasantly warm and buzzing (in sort of a Death Metallic way), due to the combination of growling and low Doomy bass-sounds and the more Metallic shredding guitars. The drum-sounds are nicely tight but pounding, fitting the mix in the most classic Grinding way. The awesome low shouting and sometimes growling, and the higher screaming vocals are filtered through a distortion reminding of an old telephone or a walkie-talkie, a nice and original touch. Greg Wilkinson, who has mixed and mastered the album at Earhammer Studios, has done a very good job once more.
The length of the album is pretty much perfect for extremely intense stuff like this, but because of the high quality of the songs, I am left wanting for a few minutes more. This is naturally a minor minus, as this album is one of the most kick-ass works of art I’ve come across in years, definitely putting a big rebellious smile on an old (and younger) Crust and Grindcore-freak’s face. A highly recommended purchase mos def, and check them out live as well if you have the change!
Since their first release “Carnal Law”, Vastum (despite their relatively young age) has indeed been one of my all-time favourite and most respected Death Metal bands. Their style of slow old-school Death has a very authentic and honest, macabre and ominous, as well as deep artistic and intelligent feel to it. Despite having interviewed her about a year ago, now with the release of their new album “Hole Below”, I wanted to have a brief chat with Leila Abdul-Rauf (the singer and guitarist of the band) about her current state of affairs.
Hey Leila! How has the fall begun with you in San Francisco?
It’s off to a very busy start; preparing for the new album release and everything needed for the upcoming tour, and also working on many other music projects. So life is hectic and time is flying. I look forward to the transition between fall and winter, as the light dims, and things quiet down. It’s my favourite time of year, and usually my most inspired time to write music.
The making of Vastum’s previous album “Patricidal Lust” was plagued by different kinds of setbacks and tragedies. How was working on the new album, compared to the last? With only a year between the two albums, did the composition of the songs flow easily on it’s own?
We have certainly endured our share of many setbacks throughout the almost six years of the band’s existence. There was more of a gap between the last two albums than it seems. Patricidal was recorded in early 2012 even thought it wasn’t released until late 2013, due to our engineer Jef who died in a motorcycle accident shortly after we tracked, as well as our guitarist and drummer leaving the band shortly after that. After replacing Kyle on guitar in 2013, Shelby and I essentially became the new songwriting team. At that time we were playing with Necrot drummer, Chad. Then our bassist Luca left town for almost a year, so we were on hiatus and it was just Shelby and I writing songs for Hole Below. That was a difficult period because the band seemed like it was falling apart again. But when Adam rejoined last year, things fell back into place instantly. We went from having a bunch of semi-finished songs to a complete album in just a few months with very sporadic rehearsals. Adam’s focus and dedication had a lot to do with this. Recording Hole Below was a much smoother process than the previous record because there weren’t any interruptions during the recording, and we were more prepared and had a better idea of what we wanted to accomplish.
With an addition of a new talented individual (Shelby, the guitarist) and the drummer, Adam returning to the band, how have the guys fit into Vastum of today? As the band is known for being excellent performers live, will you be touring a lot with Vastum in support of the new album?
Shelby and Adam have been absolutely crucial to the band. Their work ethic have become the lifeblood of Vastum, and it’s an honor to be in a band with them. Shelby is a total shredder, a great and prolific songwriter. Adam is probably the best drummer I’ve ever worked with, among the top 3 at least. I believe all of his drum tracks on Hole Below were nailed in single takes. He’s a total machine. We will be doing a brief east coast tour in November with Trenchgrinder (NYC) in support of the new album.
The lyrics and artwork of Vastum (as well as another awesome band featuring same members, Acephalix) have been influenced by the work of Georges Bataille in the past, something which apparently comes from the singer and vocalist, Dan. How about the themes of the new album? I’m detecting some kind of ecclesiastic and molestation related themes?
For all of our albums, Dan created the artwork (with the exception of the Patricidal Lust CD which was a painting by Paolo Girardi), and we both wrote the lyrics. On Hole Below, there are themes of oceanic psychology, narcissism and perversion, exploitation of mind and body. I always find it difficult to summarize what my lyrics are about. When I do, I feel I miss the mark. I usually write Vastum lyrics when I’m in a troubled state and I’m trying to make sense of my world – a horror or suffering that I experience personally, or that I witness happening to someone else, on an individual or mass level. In my lyrics, I tend to use sexual themes more symbolically than literally, sexualizing the nonsexual and vice versa.
How are your other projects, for example Hammers of Misfortune, as well as your more ambient stuff (Ionophore, and the one you have been doing by your own name) doing?
Hammers has just finished recording our sixth album which will be out on Metal Blade early next year. I have also been performing live with Cardinal Wyrm (Svart Records) as their bass player/backing vocalist and will be recording some vocals on their new album. We just performed at the Grimposium in Montreal in August, which was a total blast; one of the most unique and fun events I’ve ever been a part of. Nate Verrill of Cardinal Wyrm and I have recently performed my solo material live, and there will be a vinyl release of Insomnia eventually. Ionophore are almost finished with our second album, Sinter Pools, and are still searching for a label to release it. I’ve also contributed some tracks for Jan and Ryan (of Ionophore)’s respective solo projects, Qepe and Souls and Cities. I have developed a fluid approach to collaboration; when I find musicians who I click with creatively, the result can take on many forms and combinations across genres. The traditional band approach (writing and practicing as a group, then recording the songs exactly as written) works for Vastum, but not really for anything else I write for. I find it more limiting as time goes on.
Thanks for this brief talk! Any clear plans for the rest of the year regarding especially Vastum? Also, considering the openminded and creative music scene of San Franscisco, any new local bands we should be keeping an eye on?
Thank you, again. Hole Below officially releases on November 6. The digital version is now up for pre-order through our Bandcamp. The CD and vinyl will be released by 20 Buck Spin, as well as a cassette version released by Sentient Ruin Laboratories. The Vastum/Trenchgrinder tour dates are:
Nov 5 – NYC – The Acheron
Nov 6 – Baltimore, MD – The Sidebar
Nov 7 – Richmond, VA – Strange Matter
Nov 8 – Philadelphia, PA – Second Empire
I haven’t been much of a show goer for years now, so I’m probably not the best person to ask what’s going on in the local metal scene in 2015. However, recently I got to see Death Grave from San Jose and was very impressed. Shelby also has a new band Extremity. Most of the San Francisco metal scene has relocated to Oakland for economic reasons, as I mentioned in the last interview. West Oakland is home to one of the largest practice buildings in the bay area; Vastum, Necrot, Cardinal Wyrm, Dispirit, Scolex, Infinite Waste and hundreds of other bands all rehearse there, and that seems to be the place where a lot of new bay area bands form.