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BLACK BREATH Slaves Beyond Death

Album · 2015 · Death Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 2 ratings
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"Slaves Beyond Death" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, Seattle, Washington based death metal act Black Breath. The album was released through Southern Lord Recordings in September 2015. Black Breath was founded in 2006 and released their debut full-length studio album "Heavy Breathing" in 2010. On both that release and on their sophomore album "Sentenced to Life (2012)", Black Breath played a hybrid death/thrash/crust style with strong leanings towards especially old school Swedish death metal but still with strong hardcore/crust elements. Something has happened in the three years between albums though, as "Slaves Beyond Death" is a bit different sounding to the two predecessors.

Stylistically the music on "Slaves Beyond Death" is old school Swedish influenced death metal to the bone. The thrash and hardcore/crust influences of the two predecessors are completely gone (save for the occasional D-beat section, which isn´t unusual for old school Swedish death metal anyway), and while you can still hear that it´s Black Breath playing, they have changed their core style quite a bit. There´s been one lineup change since "Sentenced to Life (2012)" as guitarist Zack Muljat has been replaced by Mark Palm. I´m not sure if that change has meant anything to the musical style change, but it´s obvious it´s a conscious decision to get rid of the thrash and hardcore/crust influences.

And what a positive decision that turns out to be. Black Breath were great on their previous releases (including the 2008 "Razor to Oblivion" EP), but this time they are absolutely on fire. They may not play a style of music that is particularly original, but they manage to put their own spin on it, and their songwriting is generally of a high class. They understand the importance of catchiness, of creating memorable riffs, and what a good intro to a song means, but also the importance of an album´s overall flow, and those features are some of things which make "Slaves Beyond Death" a very special release. There´s brutality and aggression in the music, but there´s also just the right amount of melody and morbid atmosphere to balance them out and make the album a varied listen. The rhythms are also relatively varied throughout the album, which is another thing that ensures diversity.

The musicianship is on a high level throughout the album. Great tight yet organic playing, brutal yet intelligible aggressive growling vocals, and some really well played guitar solos and lead themes. The latter is especially present in the 7:47 minutes long instrumental closer "Chains of the Afterlife", which proves to be an absolutely brilliant way of ending the album. It´s not that the rest of the album features loads of solos or lead themes, but when they appear they always make a positive difference on the music. It never comes off as too accessible, so the brutality factor, or if you will old school death metal credibility, remains high throughout.

"Slaves Beyond Death" features a raw and powerful sound production, which brings out the best in the music. The guitar tone is unmistakably the sound of Sunlight Studios, and because of it I´m often reminded of early Dismember, while listening to the album. Upon conclusion "Slaves Beyond Death" is to my ears an absolutely brilliant old school styled death metal album. Black Breath has brought together all the essential elements of the genre and combined them in a most effectful way, which should leave fans of the genre headbanging and growling along (yes some of the choruses are that catchy) for years to come. A 5 star (100%) rating is fully deserved.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 148 - Invisable Forest

Album · 2015 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
PIKE 148 - INVISABLE FOREST is the 47th album released by BUCKETHEAD in 2015. Once again the chicken lover conjures up an album hovering near the thirty minute mark at 29:14 and handles all instrument duties. This one has six tracks each titled “Step” followed by a number: 1-6.

This album is quite different than the last. “Step 1” starts out with a fade-in of a drone kind of synthesized sound, then a progressive arpeggio on a guitar enters. Further on after establishing itself, a Pink Floydian space solo gently unfolds itself into the musical arena. The tempo is mid-range and it really does more like a Pink Floyd track than a BUCKETHEAD piece. A decent job but not quite to the Floyd’s level of perfection.

As with the other PIKES that i’ve heard so far that have all the tracks named the same with numbers, all of them run together to create a seamless flow of music. While the tracks run together they do change up the melody a little as they change into the next. By the time we get to “Step 2” it reminds me a lot of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” without the behemoth production and super catchy guitar line. This sounds like a cheap cover band unfortunately.

Eventually the Pink Floyd sound dissipates slowly and it becomes one of those slow ethereal albums that reminds me more of older BUCKETHEAD albums which happen to be my least favorite kinds! However fear not because the Pink Floyd inspiration comes back complete with some alt-country feel to it as well with some slide action! Well, this isn’t my favorite album either but at least this one isn’t irritating. It is actually not a bad album to hear in the background but certainly not an outstanding one that demands full attention. Overall not bad but absolutely nothing here original.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 147 - Popcorn Shells

Album · 2015 · Metal Related
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
PIKE 147 - POPCORN SHELLS is the 46th album released by BUCKETHEAD in 2015. Yet another all instrumental album clocking in near the half hour mark at 28:40. Once again BUCKETHEAD performs all instrument playing and this one has only three tracks.

The title track begins and is the longest at 14:24. This one starts off with a heavy rocker with crunchy metal guitars and accompanying bass and drum (machine). It kinda goes on and on with a few electronic additional noises here and there has little break downs now and again but is ultimately a long drawn out jam that is actually quite boring. Even the sizzling solos here and there are uninspired. Don’t like it. Next.

Track two “Stetzab” at 7:16 starts out with a cool bass sound accompanied by a drum (machine) in the cymbal range. Kinda funky but kinda not! No, after awhile it is apparent that it is funky but it’s kinda of a strange funk. Kinda of progressive and aggressive. Seems like it’s one of those bass and drum tracks as there are no other instruments popping up. No, wait. There are some kind of keyboards providing a percussion layer with sound effects. OK, here come the guitars half way thru but then as soon as they appear they drop out and let the bass become even more aggressive. You get the idea. This one’s not bad, but i’m not blown away either.

Track three “Yester” at 7 minutes exactly is the shortest track and starts out with a synthesized guitar riff and a drum machine. Yikes! Not very promising. Don’t like either sound so far. It kinda changes up the syncronicity of the instruments here and there but the patterns of this way and that way are rather boring. The whole thing continues in this manner. Nah, meh. This PIKE is a snoozer.


Album · 2015 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
These days, you can’t dive into a mosh pit without flattening a fan of Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocaust, Gama Bomb, Bonded By Blood, Goatwhore, Skeletonwitch or any number of bands who were far too young to remember thrash’s 1980s golden days. While many old-school fans complain about these kids, these are the bands keeping metal alive, and reasonably true to the spirit of the 80s, and not drowning the music in a deluge of metalcore mush. Add up-and-coming Illinois band Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre to that list.

Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre formed in 2011, and have forged a strong local fan base by following the blueprint set out by Municipal Waste. Digest a few old D.R.I. and Suicidal Tendencies albums, throw about some popular culture references, come up with some parody song titles, stick in a few old movie samples, and blast out short, sharp shocks of songs, and hey, presto! A debut album!

If you’re looking for originality, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you want good old headbanging fun, by a band with a silly name playing short, funny songs, you could do far worse than this.

Opening song “Welcome To Die” has definite echoes of Nuclear Assault, especially the bass twanging away like a tweaked-up Dan Lilker, and from there the band hit all the usual reference points for this style of music- songs about beer, fast food, and silly song titles, like “Alien Vs Predator Vs Brown Vs The Board Of Education”. “Yeezus Saves” takes a stab at Kanye West and his self-deification. There are samples from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on “Secrets Of The Booze”, and the closing riff even parodies the Turtles theme tune. “Post Vegetarian Grindcore” is a sub-half minute blast of grind silliness, and is followed by “KISS: America’s Band”, a 52 second song about nuclear disarmament and the effects of global warming, and the plight of the orang-utan in the disappearing rainforests of Borneo… No, of course it’s not! It’s about KISS!

Vocalist Macho Frost er… Josh Kandich could teach many other vocalists in this genre a thing or two. He’s got the Kurt Brecht (D.R.I.) sneer down perfectly, as many others do, but loses no clarity when singing fast, and proves he can sing in tune or hit a death metal growl when necessary. The rest of the band are pretty damn good too. The riffs are crisp and bouncy, the rhythm section tight, and these guys seem to have got a decent producer to bring out the bite in their music.

It seems like no bastard is listening to these boys because they are unsigned, but instead of letting that bother them, Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre have just got on and self-released this album, two EPs, a single and a split. This is pretty short, as far as albums go, but do yourself, and these guys, a favour and check ‘em out. Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre might not be destined for world domination, but they are having a fucking good time doing what they do, which is what music is all about.


Album · 2015 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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"Ghost Ship Octavius" is the self-titled debut full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Ghost Ship Octavius. The album was independently released in March 2015. Ghost Ship Octavius was formed in 2012 and is a three-piece on this album consisting of guitarist/bassist Matt Wicklund (God Forbid, Himsa, Warrel Dane), drummer Van Williams (Nevermore, Pure Sweet Hell, Ashes of Ares) and Adon Fanion on vocals (also guitars, bass, and programming). The band is helped out by several guests playing guitar solos. Among others Jeff Loomis (Nevermore, Arch Enemy), Chris Caffery (Savatage, Doctor Butcher, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Jon Oliva's Pain, Metalium), and Mattias Ia Eklundh (Freak Kitchen, Freak Guitar).

Stylistically the music on the album is US power metal, which means that even though it´s quite melodic and anthemic too, it´s generally more harder edged than many of the Euro powel metal acts. It´s not purely a US power metal release though, as it features many softer Euro styled power metal elements too, and also influences from traditional heavy metal and progressive metal. So stylistically the music is a bit of a melting pot, although the final result is quite consistent in quality and style.

The musicianship is generally of high quality throughout the album. Lead vocalist Adon Fanion delivers a skillful and passionate performance, although his voice and vocal style is pretty standard for the genre. It suits the music fine though. Drummer Van Williams is quite busy throughout the album. He is quite an adventurous drummer, and especially his use of double kick drums is quite unusual for power metal (more rhytmic breaks than the ususal double kick drum pedalling away). Matt Wicklund delivers loads of powerful and melodic riffs, while the many guest guitarists play one blistering solo after another. In fact the guitar solos featured on the album is one of it´s greatest assets.

The material on the 11 track, 54:22 minutes long album is quite strong too though, and the band are obviously skilled composers with many great ideas. At times the music becomes a bit too predictable and generic, but those moments are few and far between. The diversity of the material is a great asset and the listener is treated to both very melodic sections and quite heavy and raw ones too. Ghost Ship Octavius use keyboards in the music quite a lot, and it works well within their soundscape. It´s all packed in a powerful, clear and very well sounding production, which works really well with the music, and upon conclusion this is a high quality debut album by Ghost Ship Octavius. With a slightly more distinct sounding vocalist they could have made a real difference on the scene, but they are still pretty great as it is, and the album deserves a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating.

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MY DYING BRIDE The Light at the End of the World

Album · 1999 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.55 | 12 ratings
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"The Light at the End of the World" is the 6th full-length studio album by UK doom metal act My Dying Bride. The album was released through Peaceville Records in October 1999. There have been two lineup changes since the release of "34.788%... Complete (1998)" as drummer Bill Law has been replaced by Shaun Steels and guitarist Calvin Robertshaw has left too. The latter has been a member of the band since 1990 and is not replaced on this album, where Andy Craighan handles all guitars. Robertshaw does play on the closing track "Sear Me III" though in a capacity of session musician.

...after the rather experimental "34.788%... Complete (1998)" album, the band opted to return to more familiar ground with "The Light at the End of the World". There´s a small surprise in store though. The album sees a return of the death growls that had been absent from the band´s last three releases. The growling vocals are of course paired with lead vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe´s melancholic and paatos filled clean vocals, but with the growls back in the music it´s hard not to think of the band´s first two albums. There´s quite a big difference here though as there is no violin on the album. An instrument that was a dominant part of the first two albums. Instead (and this was also the case on "34.788%... Complete (1998)") there are some atmosphere creating keyboards added to the instrumental basis of guitar, bass and drums. The keyboards add just the right majestic atmosphere for the brick heavy yet melodic doom metal songs. They are not omnipresent though, and only appear when they are called for.

The album is 71:09 minutes long and I don´t think it´s all the material on the album that reaches excellence, but tracks like the strong opener "She Is the Dark", "Edenbeast", , the title track, "The Isis Script", and "Sear Me III" are all examples of My Dying Bride doing what they do best. Delivering beautiful, majestic, and sorrowfilled doom metal with great conviction and burning passion.

The sound production is powerful and suits the music well. I´m taken places when I listen to this album and never do I have to worry that the illusion is broken by something that sits wrong in the mix or distracts from the listening experience. At the end of the day "The Light at the End of the World" may not be My Dying Bride´s strongest album release, but it´s a great album in it´s own right. I´m not completely blown away by the album altough it has grown considerably on me over the years but a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is still deserved.

SORRY FOR NOTHING Reverse Evolution

Album · 2007 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Sorry for Nothing - Reverse Evolution

"Reverse Evolution" is the debut studio album by stoner rock/heavy metal band Sorry for Nothing. Like most people, I found out about this band through an online music game entitled 'Super Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe 4', which was pretty much just an online Guitar Hero clone but featured their song 'Swallow Your Soul'. One benefit to that game however, was finding cool bands like Sorry for Nothing.

Unlike their second album, which is a perfect balance between stoner rock and classic metal, Sorry for Nothing's debut is much more stoner/hard rock with some grunge elements than heavy metal. The original recording of 'Swallow Your Soul' is quite different than the re-recorded single version which is featured on the aforementioned game. It's much rawer, and actually sounds a bit faster. Still a great song, but I prefer the re-recorded version as the vocals are better in that one.

'Knots' is one of the highlights of the album, with an extremely catchy and instantly foot-stomping riff, drum beat, and great gutsy vocals. The song changes up a bit with dark metal riffing and basslines after a minute through. 'Glass in the Sand' is another awesome track, with nice bluesy guitar work reminding me of bands like Clutch. The drumming has some especially great cymbal work. 'Salty Dog' is probably my favorite and one song here that I would call heavy metal, with a great groove to the guitar. Some of the guitar work also is almost reminiscent of The White Stripes, with it's stripped-down blues tone. 'Bone Dry' is another favorite, which is another one of the more metallic tracks. It's also really catchy, just try not to tap your foot to it. The second half of the album seems to be where it picks up, as 'Big Top' is another really great track. It has an almost carnival-sound transposed into a heavy metal riff, with great raw energetic vocals. The closing 'Witchfinder' deserves a mention as well.

Overall, this is an excellent debut from a band that really deserves more notice. While the music on the album is pretty raw, there are still some pretty melodic passages, which sound pretty unique when combined with the raw gutsy vocals. If you are a fan of Clutch and/or raw balls-to-the-wall hard rock/heavy metal, do yourself a favor and check these guys out. Hope you found this review helpful.

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USURPER Cryptobeast

Album · 2005 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
In these times when so much of metal is diluted and tainted by outside influences, it is refreshing to find a metal band playing metal influenced by metal, the whole metal and nothing but the metal. All the emo/folk/prog/’core/next-lame-bastardisation-of-metal can fuck right off. That music isn’t metal. Usurper knew what metal was, and anyone who argues is looking for a clip round the ear with a big spiky club

Usurper’s ‘Cryptobeast’ is unashamedly filled to the eyeballs with metal cliché after metal cliché. But hey, a cliché is only a bad thing if you’re no good at it. You will never forget the names of these songs, because all the titles are chanted in the chorus except obviously the instrumental “Ectoplasm”. The lyrics are all about mythical beasts (nasty ones like werewolves mind you, there’s no unicorns or fairies here) and the supernatural. There’s even a metallic call to arms called “Kill For Metal”, for which Manowar would gladly trade two golden codpieces, an enchanted warhammer of doom, and a free pass to Valhalla.

First and foremost though, before anyone gets carried away with the spikes, studs, leather and long hair, Usurper are consummate musicians. To a man, each is a master of his craft, and there are no weaknesses anywhere in this band. The sound is gut-wrenchingly heavy and muscular, while surprisingly agile, but without compromise. Vocalist Tyrantor, new to the band when ‘Cryptobeast’ was recorded, had a guttural shout which strayed toward a death grunt at times, but generally remained in the realm of aggressive thrash.

It would be wrong to label this album retro-thrash, as it has been in some quarters. If thrash had kept evolving in the early 1990s instead of limply surrendering to the mainstream, this is what it would sound like. Imagine a world where Metallica’s self-titled album did not exist, where Dave Mustaine had remained permanently fucked up on heroin, where Sepultura had decided tribal music was crap, where Exhorder didn’t get ripped off and watered down by Pantera. This is Usurper’s world. This is a world where fists can be raised high (complete with compulsory studded leather wristbands) while chanting “Kill, kill, kill/Kill kill kill/For metal” without any trace of embarrassment or irony.

The other obvious highlight besides “Kill For Metal” is “Return Of The Werewolf”, complete with a roared chorus, solos (not too overindulgent) exactly where they should be, and machinegun blast percussion. “Conquest Of The Grotesque” and the title track also follow a very similar formula, but without becoming formulaic. There is little which is subtle about this album, apart from the atmospheric “Ectoplasm”, but who needs subtlety when there’s mindless violence to enjoy?

If you’re looking for something ground breaking, try something by Dream Theater, if you think you can stay awake through it. For bludgeoning Metal which recalls the good old days, but without being stuck in a time warp, you’ll find none better than Usurper.


Album · 1998 · Black Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
Choronzon is not a well-known name even in black metal circles, but that's hardly surprising. The one man band, created by P. Emerson Williams in 1986, was originally intended as a project to be heard by occult initiates. There is somewhat of an air of mystery surrounding Choronzon, deepened by the disappearance of what was supposed to be the first album 'A Paean To Lilith'. In the absence of that release, 'Magog Agog' became the debut.

The album starts with a dreamy electronic introduction, which doesn't sound anything too special, but eases the listener in to the album.

"Love, Strength; Lies" is fairly standard electro-black metal, with a simple synth beat behind a reedy guitar and a harsh, hissed vocal for the main part. There is also a second vocal track with more of a gothic feel to it. The guitars have a 'Filosofem'-era Burzum feel about them, but the riffs are more complex. The overall effect is something like the Sisters Of Mercy with bollocks.

"Perdurabo (Magog Agog)" changes the atmosphere and tempo completely, dominated by jackhammer, static drenched drums punctuated by blast beats and subsonic booms. Over this, Williams sings like Tom G. Warrior with his mouth full. It segues seamlessly into "Under The Leaves". Eerie electronic drones and scrapes intermesh the track, along with an unsteady heart beat and some laboured breathing, and it fades to nothingness.

"Crimson Awakening" is a far more traditional metal song, more thrash than anything, with snappy double kick drums and a lively beat. A demonic voice composed of white noise breaks the rhythm, followed by another thrash passage, then back to the screaming demon again. The whole dynamic of the song, the vocal melody, the traditional metal solos and the unexpected electronic elements hint at Morbid Angel at their strangest, or perhaps Emperor with a drum machine.

A criticism of the entire album is that it is highly repetitive, but as this is intended to be an album of ritual music, it is not really an issue. It is quite possible to imagine occult rites and ceremonies being performed to strains of this album.

CANNIBAL CORPSE Gallery of Suicide

Album · 1998 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.30 | 12 ratings
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"Gallery of Suicide" is the 6th full-length studio album by US death metal act Cannibal Corpse. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in April 1998. It´s the second album by the band featuring lead vocalist "George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher". One lineup change has occured since the release of "Vile (1996)" as guitarist Rob Barret left Cannibal Corpse to rejoin Malevolent Creation (He would return to the fold again in 2005). Barret is replaced here by Pat O'Brien, who had just come out of a stint with Nevermore.

The lineup change has little consequence on how the music sounds on "Gallery of Suicide". This is unmistakably the sound of Cannibal Corpse. Technically well played and brutal death metal with gore lyrics and imagery. Songtitles like "I Will Kill You", "Dismembered and Molested", and "Stabbed in the throat" should give you an idea of where we are in the lyric department. As always there is a furious intensity about the delivery of the band´s music, that is greatly admirable. Cannibal Corpse mean business and they are not afraid to break every bone in your body to prove it (yeah there is a pun here with reference to the songtitle "Every Bone Broken").

They don´t exactly reinvent themselves on this release, and to my ears it´s not their most memorable release either, but you can´t put a finger on the excellent musicianship or the brutal and raw sound production (which for the first time in the band´s discography isn´t handled by Scott Burns, but by Jim Morris). There are a few new ideas in the songwriting department too, but they are very few and the music is generally pretty one-dimensionally brutal. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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