Metal Music Reviews

TOOL Salival

Boxset / Compilation · 2000 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.04 | 17 ratings
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Salival is the first and unfortunately only live album by TOOL. I say unfortunately because this is really, really good and left me wanting more and I'm not even a big TOOL fan. This album is has mostly original material on it and God damm this must've been one hell of a show. The album opens with one of of not my favorite songs by them "Third Eye" it has a new intro and imo it flows better than the studio version, the ambient section always killed the paceing of the song but this version is slightly altered. The next track is a song from their debut EP "Opiate" the song "Part Of Me" and sounds better than the studio version, it's much more aggressive you could say it has more much more room to breathe. The next song is the final track that shows up on any studio album, the rest are originals/covers. This version of the Ænima track "Pushit" is a slower more tribal jam with a slightly longer runtime clocking in at 13 minutes, this is probably an unpopular opinion but I was never the biggest fan of (the studio version) but here I much prefer it. There's a quick interlude "Message To Harry Manback 2" not much to say about it other than it's creepy but an interesting track nonetheless. "You Lied" is a cover of a PEACH song, aka Justin Chancellor's old band and this song is a highlight for me, BUZZ OSBORNE of THE MELVINS shows up as the second guitarist on this track, Maynard's vocals are also really good here. Merkaba is one of the strangest songs by the band, it opens with this percussion sounds like it could be a xylophone or marimba, the song turns into a drum solo that's layered with a repetitive vocal sample and psychedelic effects, the song sounds like the older brother to Chocolate Chip Trip from the Fear Inoculum album. The next song is a cover of the legendary LED ZEPPELIN song "No Quarter", like the "You Lied" cover they remake the song in their style, it's dark and atmospheric the song has an extended instrumental section making it 11 minutes. The album ends with (what I believe was a hidden track on the CD) is L.A.M.C a skit type track with these dare I say creepy sounding repetitive (I think there call hammer strikes but don't quote me on that) the whole atmosphere is just off, for lack of better words. The next song is a personal favorite of mine "Maynard's Dick" it sounds like a parody of the alternative rock at the time and it's hilarious. But overall this is probably my favorite TOOL release, the instrumentation is amazing, the tones on the bass and guitar are phenomenal the drumming (like always) is on point and the vocals are insane Maynard in his prime, this has honestly become my favorite TOOL album I don't understand why both Prog Archives and RYM have this rated sort of low

GENERAL SURGERY Necrology

EP · 1991 · Goregrind
Cover art 2.83 | 4 ratings
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"Necrology" is an EP release by Swedish goregrind act General Surgery. The EP was released through Relapse Records in November 1991. The original vinyl version features five tracks, but the 1993 (Nuclear Blast/Relapse Records) CD version features two bonus tracks. General Surgery formed in 1988 and released three demos during 1990 but "Necrology" is their first "official" label release and ultimately also the only label release before they split-up. The members have since been part of other prolific Swedish death metal and grindcore acts such as Dismember, Afflicted, Crematory and Regurgitate (some of them simoultaniously with their involvement in General Surgery). The band reformed again in the early 00s and have been putting out a string of releases since 2003.

The music style on the 15:35 minutes long EP is Carcass influenced goregrind. General Surgery is probably one of the earliest examples of a Carcass clone (along with an artist like Xysma). The vocals are the typical imitation of early Carcass too with one high pitched snarling vocal style, one deep growling vocal style and one gurgling/burping vocal style. The song titles are of course ridiculously long and filled with strange gory imagery like "Slithering Maceration Of Ulcerous Facial Tissue" and "The Succulent Aftermath Of A Subdural Hemorrhage". So while there are nods toward old school Swedish death metal in the music too, this is first and foremost a Carcass tribute release. These are just a bunch of guys who came together to share their affection for Carcass and ended up releasing the stuff they wrote.

The production is raw, savage, and brutal, but you´re still able to hear what´s going on most of the time, so while it´s pretty lo-fi in nature, it suits the music perfectly. "Necrology" is generally a celebrated release in goregrind circles, and it is indeed an effective and for the genre also relatively varied release. General Surgery don´t really bring anything original to the table, but if you´re interested in listening to an early tribute recording the Carcass goregrind style "Necrology" is arguably a good choice. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

GENERAL SURGERY Internecine Prurience

Demo · 1990 · Goregrind
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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"Internecine Prurience" is the third demo recording by Swedish goregrind act General Surgery. The demo was recorded on the 28th of September 1990 at the band´s rehearsal space. Only 50 cassette tape copies were made. Everything was recorded live in the rehearsal space, so no overdubs here. since the previous demos vocalist Richard Cabeza has left and has been replaced by Grant McWilliams.

While the Carcass influenced goregrind style of the first couple of demos is continued here (some tracks are re-recordings from the first demos), the rehearsal recording techniques (or lack there of) makes "Internecine Prurience" a much more raw, savage, and filthy sounding goregrind release than it´s direct predecessors (the March 1990 "Erosive Offals (Malignant Necrotomy)" demo and the April 1990 "Pestisferous Anthropophagia" demo). There´s definitely some nasty gore drenched charm and some pretty effective songwriting hidden somewhere beneath the noisy and unpolished sound production, but sometimes it´s a bit hard to tell.

When that is said "Internecine Prurience" is still an entertaining and effective goregrind release by General Surgery, and it´s certainly proof that these guys were on to something good. A 2.5 star (50%) rating is warranted.

GENERAL SURGERY Pestisferous Anthropophagia

Demo · 1990 · Goregrind
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Pestisferous Anthropophagia" is the second demo recording by Swedish goregrind act General Surgery. The demo was recorded on the 29th of April 1990 at Sunlight Studio, Stockholm, Sweden with producer Tomas Skogsberg.

The Carcass influenced goregrind style of the March 1990 "Erosive Offals (Malignant Necrotomy)" demo is continued on "Pestisferous Anthropophagia", but now we get to hear General surgery´s take on the goregrind genre with much better sound production values and it does make a difference. It´s still a brutal, heavy, and filthy sounding production job, but compared to the unpolished rawness of the first demo, this features an almost pristine sound quality.

General Surgery obviously also understand how to compose effective goregrind songs, so although the premise of the goregrind genre is relatively one-dimensional, the band are still able to change pace and riff style, drumming style, and vocal styles enough times during the three tracks, 5:44 minutes long demo for this to be an entertaining listen. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

GENERAL SURGERY Erosive Offals (Malignant Necrotomy)

Demo · 1990 · Goregrind
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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"Erosive Offals (Malignant Necrotomy)" is the first demo recording by Swedish goregrind act General Surgery. The demo was independently released in March 1990 and it´s the first of three demos which General Surgery recorded and released during 1990. General Surgery formed in 1988 as a tribute to the early Carcass releases and it was always a side-project for the involved parties, who also worked with contemporary artists like Afflicted/Afflicted Convulsion, Dismember, Carnage, Unanimated, and Carbonized.

So with that premise laid out, it´s no surprise that the three tracks on the 5:51 minutes long demo are brutal, filthy, and gore themed grindcore with some deep slimy growling vocals complimented by higher pitched snarling vocals. General Surgery hit the balance right in terms of paying tribute to Carcass but also bringing just a little bit of themselves to the table. Thankfully "Erosive Offals (Malignant Necrotomy)" is not one long blast beat fest, and General Surgery actually quite often take the pace down to a heavy mid-paced groove.

Considering that "Erosive Offals (Malignant Necrotomy)" is a goregrind from early 1990 it´s pretty well produced. it´s of course noisy, unpolished, and raw sounding, but that´s how this type of music should be experienced. A 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating is warranted.

VOLA Witness

Album · 2021 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.86 | 7 ratings
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"Witness" is the third full-length studio album by Danish rock/metal act Vola. The album was released through Mascot Records in May 2021. It´s the successor to "Applause Of A Distant Crowd" from October 2018. A few videos were released to promote the release of the album.

Stylistically this is unmistakably the sound of Vola. Melancholic and atmospheric rock/metal with the strong and paatos filled vocals of Asger Mygind in front. Influenced greatly by artists like Katatonia, Riverside, and fellow Danish art/progressive pop/rock act Mew (although the influence from the latter was stronger on the preceding album). Compared to the more mellow and electronic tinged "Applause Of A Distant Crowd", Vola have opted to include more heavy distorted guitars and heavy drumming again like they had on their debut album. Keyboards and electronic effects are still a big part of the band´s sound as well as atmosphere enhancing choirs and harmony vocals. The tracks are predominantly vers/chorus structured and for the most part easily accessible. The strong melodies and melancholic atmospheres are the greatest assets of Vola´s music.

The album features a gorgeous, polished, and powerful sound production, which perfectly suits the material. This is not the type of music which would benefit from a more gritty and raw sounding production job. So upon conclusion "Witness" is another high quality release from Vola. To my ears it´s maybe a bit too formulaic and a few more musical experiments wouldn´t have hurt (including a rap part on "These Black Claws" does not qualify as being experimental IMO). A 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved though.

FEAR OF GOD Killing the Pain

EP · 1995 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Killing the Pain" is an EP release by US thrash metal/alternative metal act Fear of God. The EP was released through Bethany Records in 1995. It´s the successor to "Toxic Voodoo" from 1994 and it was the band´s last release before the untimely death of lead vocalist Dawn Crosby, who passed away in December 1996 as a consequence of her long struggles with alcohol abuse, effectively ending Fear of God.

The three tracks on the 14:11 minutes long EP are a strange, heavy, and murky sounding type of thrash metal (the instrumental part of the music is sometimes close to death metal territory). Crosby talks, moans, and screams her way through the songs (often buried low in the mix), while the band play a near chaotic and busy heavy style of music. The murky sounding production job doesn´t exactly help with bringing clarity to the soundscape. On one hand the raw and savage sound of the music is refreshing and very authentic, but on the other hand it´s not always a pleasant listening experience. The toms on the drumkit for example sound pretty horrible.

"Killing the Pain" is the least accessible release by Fear of God and it´s definitely their most raw release too. Who knows what a possible subsequent album release would have sounded like, but I suspect the band would have made something even more grim and vicious sounding. Even when the band is most melodic on a track like "Mourning Light", Crosby´s off-key vocals and rather original desperate delivery make it sound like the end of the world is near. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

VOLA Applause Of A Distant Crowd

Album · 2018 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.70 | 6 ratings
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"Applause Of A Distant Crowd" is the second full-length studio album by Danish Danish rock/metal act Vola. The album was released through Mascot Records in October 2018. It´s the successor to "Inmazes" from February 2016 and features one lineup change as original drummer Felix Ewert has been replaced by Swedish drummer Adam Janzi.

The material on "Applause Of A Distant Crowd" is, although it´s not as heavy and riff oriented as the material on "Inmazes", and generally features more electronic pop/rock music influences, still the sound of Vola. Melancholic and atmospheric rock/metal with the strong and expressive vocals of Asger Mygind in front. This time around just focused less on heavy riffs and rhythms (although they do appear on some tracks like they do on "Smartfriend"). Katatonia is an obvious influence (the Norwegians in Manes could be another valid reference and other times the Polish in Riverside), but also fellow countrymen in Mew are a big influence on Vola´s sound. Vola is often described as a progressive rock/metal act, but they are generally (at least on this release) a pretty straight forward vers/chorus structured rock/metal act with big catchy melancholic choruses, sophisticated choir- and harmony vocal work, and a great understanding of songwriting dynamics. There are a few exceptions on "Applause Of A Distant Crowd", where Vola treat themselves and their audience to some unconventional time-signatures and some pretty heavy riffs and rhythms, but it´s not the dominant sound on the album.

While some listeners may miss the heaviness of the debut album, this slighly more mellow and electronic tinged sophomore release is still a high quality album, which is wrapped in a powerful, clear, and detailed sound production, which perfectly suits the material. The melancholic melodies and atmospheric songwriting approach work really well, and although not used that much on this release, the heavy riffs and rhythms occasionally provide some needed bombast and edge. It is overall a soothing, beautiful, and mellow melodic rock/metal release though, so don´t come to this expecting something that´ll kick your teeth in. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM Unnatural Selection

Album · 1999 · Groove Metal
Cover art 2.58 | 8 ratings
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"Unnatural Selection" is the seventh full-length studio album by US thrash/heavy metal act Flotsam and Jetsam. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in January 1999. It´s the successor to "High" from 1997 and features a couple of lineup changes since the predecessor as guitarist Mike Gilbert has been replaced by Mark Simpson and drummer Kelly Smith has been replaced by Craig Nielsen. The new lineup toured Europe with Anvil and Exciter before entering the studio to record the material for "Unnatural Selection".

Stylistically the material on "Unnatural Selection" are generally a little more dark and heavy, and occasionally also more groove oriented compared to the slightly more sophisticated heavy metal sound on the two direct predecessors ("Drift (1995)" and "High (1997)"). In some ways I´d even call some of the tracks a bit brute (take a listen to "F**kers"), which isn´t how I´d normally describe the music of Flotsam and Jetsam. Flotsam and Jetsam are as well playing as ever and lead vocalist Eric A.K. is as always a singer extraordinaire, but even his performance isn´t quite up to par with his regular high level delivery.

Maybe the relatively abrasive and poor sounding production job has something to do with "Unnatural Selection" not being the best quality release by the band, but some of the fault definitely lies there. I´d usually go a long way defending Flotsam and Jetsam as they are an underrated act who have continuously released good quality thrash/heavy metal, but this one is a slight mistep in my book. It´s not terrible and there are still plenty of quality elements featured on the album, but overall it lacks sophistication and standout moments. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

VOLA Inmazes

Album · 2015 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 4 ratings
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"Inmazes" is the debut full-length studio album by Danish rock/metal act Vola. The album was originally independently released in February 2015, but saw a label release through Mascot Records in September 2016. Vola formed in 2006 and released their first official release in November 2008, which was the "Homesick Machinery" EP. It was followed by the release of the March 2010 one-track digital single "Glasswork", and the October 2011 "Monsters" EP. Then nothing was released for a few years until "Inmazes" appeared.

Although especially the "Monsters" EP featured some pretty high quality material, it´s obvious when listening to "Inmazes", that Vola were only in their formative stages as a band, when they recorded and released the three early career releases. They weren´t finished developing their sound and style, and "Inmazes" in all departments sounds much more fully developed and well thought out, than any of the preceding material from Vola.

Stylistically Vola play a melancholic and atmospheric rock/metal style which features both mellow and epic melodic sections and harder hitting and heavy chugging sections. The strong voice of lead vocalist/guitarist Asger Mygind and the catchy melody lines and supporting choirs and harmony vocals are great assets of the band´s sound in addition to the well composed and memorable tracks. It´s interesting to note that in addition to foreign artists like Katatonia and Porcupine Tree, who are obvious influences on Vola´s music, there is also a strong influence from fellow countrymen Mew. The track "Gutter Moon" is almost an ode to Mew or at least strongly influenced by the quirky progressive pop/rock melodies of that band ("Owls" is another example). The Mew influence is heard pretty much throughout the album when Vola don´t play their most heavy parts, then it´s other influences who are at play.

"Inmazes" features a clear, detailed, and powerful sounding production, and it´s a sound production perfectly fitting the material. Upon conclusion "Inmazes" is a strong debut album from Vola, and they immediately land on their feet with this release. They had a few years and releases building up to this album, and this is the perfect culmination of those years and the efforts made to come to this place. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

ANACRUSIS Screams and Whispers

Album · 1993 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.84 | 12 ratings
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"Screams and Whispers" is the fourth full-length studio album by US, Missouri based thrash/progressive metal act Anacrusis. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in May 1993. It´s the successor to "Manic Impressions" from May 1991. There´s been one lineup change since the predecessor as Chad Smith has been replaced by Paul Miles. Promotional videos were made for the tracks "Sound the Alarm" and "Release". "Screams and Whispers" ended up being Anacrusis last album in their original run as they disbanded shortly after the album was released.

Stylistically they´ve now made a complete tranformation from their raw and aggressive thrash metal roots towards a technically well played and progressive metal sound. The raw snarling thrash metal vocals and high pitched piercing screams are almost gone from the music (they still appear on occasion), and lead vocalist/guitarist Kenn Nardi predominantly sings clean vocals ranging from semi-raw singing to mellow atmospheric cleans. I´m often reminded of a more metalized and progressive version of Killing Joke (and artists like Alchemist and mid-90s Morgoth, but that was later and they were both also greatly influenced by Killing Joke, so maybe they don´t count). Both when it comes to the vocals but also the general feeling and atmosphere of the music. Anacrusis aren´t easy to pin down like that though, and there are a lot of other influences heard and Killing Joke is just one of them.

The music features both heavy thrashy parts, although that part of Anacrusis music has decreased greatly since "Manic Impressions", but more often heavy riffs and atmospheric clean guitars. In that respect Anacrusis did follow the times as many other contemporary thrash metal acts also released less thrashy albums. Artists like Coroner, Testament, Overkill, and Metallica in particular turned away from thrash metal (some for longer than others). Anacrusis have elements of the heavy alternative influence which some of the other mentioned artists were also toying with at the time, but of course Anacrusis were a much more progressive and unconventional sounding act. Which is probably why they never rose to anything but cult status. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

ANACRUSIS Manic Impressions

Album · 1991 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.70 | 10 ratings
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"Manic Impressions" is the third full-length studio album by US, Missouri based thrash metal act Anacrusis. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in May 1991. It´s the successor to "Realm" from February 1990. There´s been one lineup change since the predecessor as drummer Mike Owen has been replaced by Chad Smith. Being signed to Metal Blade Records finally meant some stability for Anacrusis on the label front, and Metal Blade Records even purchased the rights to the band´s first two albums and reissued them. Two promotional videos where shot for the tracks "I Love the World" (cover of New Model Army) and "Something Real", suggesting that Metal Blade Records genuinely believed in Anacrusis.

Stylistically "Manic Impressions" continues the development which Anacrusis started on "Reason", moving from their traditional thrash/speed metal roots towards a more technical and progressive thrash metal style. Featuring a more well balanced and professional sounding production "Manic Impressions" is a sharper and more detailed version of the style initiated on "Reason" with a few new added progressive songwriting ideas. Lead vocalist/guitarist Kenn Nardi switches between raw snarling thrash metal vocals, spoken word parts, and atmospheric clean vocal parts. The latter sometimes remind me of 80s UK pop/rock/electronic music act vocals but also 80s shoegaze vocals. He is definitely not a power/progressive metal vocalist like you´re used to hearing them (high pitched and theatrical in delivery). He is not the most skilled or distinct sounding clean vocalist, but there´s still something compelling about his clean vocals that I can´t quite put my finger on, but they generally work with the instrumental part of the music.

The songwriting is unconventional, adventurous, and at time even daring. Anacrusis obviously have an ambitious vision of what their music should sound like, and they follow that vision for better or worse. It´s as non-mainstream as you can get. In that respect they remind me of Voivod, although they are relatively far from the Canadians in terms of the actual music. But the overall vision isn´t that different. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

PORTAL Outre'

Album · 2007 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.94 | 9 ratings
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Along with Gorguts, Australia’s PORTAL was one of the earliest avant-garde extreme metal bands that started to expand the ever evolving world of death metal into ever weirder, creepier and more surreal territories. Founded in 1994 in the city of Brisbane, PORTAL developed a kindred penchant with Gorguts in experimenting with extreme dissonance, eerie down-tuned rhythms and a completely unorthodox methodology of composing its musical flow. While Gorguts embraced the more technical aspects of death metal, PORTAL favored dark depressive atmospheres that took a cue from the world of black metal and dark ambient music. The band also curated a surreal persona which kept the members shrouded in anonymity. The band’s unusual stage costumes were inspired by 1920s silent films with the intent of steering the focus on the music itself which included musical themes steeped in Lovecraftian concepts such as Nyalathotep, Yog-Sothoth, Azathoth and Cthulhu.

While the band would release its first self-titled demo as early as 1998, it wouldn’t be until 2003 that PORTAL its first bonafide album “Seepia” hit the scene which showcased the band’s unique display of seamlessly merging the worlds of technical death metal with the atmospheric bleakness of black metal. Unconventional arrangements, eerie atmospheric backdrops and a bombastic explosive delivery of blitzkrieg instrumentation made “Seepia” stand out like a sore thumb in the world of death metal that had in many ways become more formulaic as it became more popular. While the debut delivered a thunderous display of avant-garde death metal wizardry, the band was not happy with the outcome citing that the desire to weave in the atmospheric elements was unsuccessful due to the incessant pummelation of the senses displayed by guitarist Horror Illogium, original bassist Werm and drum abuser Ignis Fatuus.

The band spent the next few years honing its craft with a couple EPs before unleashing its masterwork, OUTRE, a title that literally means bizarre, eccentric and freakishly bizarre. This sophomore album found PORTAL coming of age with a much more expansive approach that took the world of technical death metal even further down the avant-garde rabbit hole. By this time the band had expanded to a quintet fronted by the eccentric chief growler The Curator who freakishly donned an executioner’s mask. Aphotic Mote joined Horror Illogium as the second guitarist and likewise bassist Elsewhere and newbie drummer Monocular joined the PORTAL team to craft one of the most startlingly mondo bizarro death metal dominant albums that the early 2000s had to offer. While initially inspired by the likes of Morbid Angel, Beherit and Immolation, PORTAL had expanded its sound into a world all its own which was as dystopian and far removed from what many would deem traditional old school death metal as one could possibly fathom at this point.

OUTRE wastes no time establishing its atmospheric presence with the short dark ambient intro “Moil” which cedes to the dissonant noise ferocity of “Abysmill” by implementing the same aggressive bombast as “Seepia” but with more nuance. While “Seepia” was a blitzkrieg of excesses, OUTRE immediately establishes an immediate emphasis on crafting a streamlined horrorscape of sound that features a more controlled restraint. A concerted effort to give each instrument its own role is the biggest leap of ingenuity on OUTRE with slow creeping bass lines, snare drum repetition and twin guitar dualities including slow slinking moments closer to doom metal than the world of frenetic death metal. The album also offers dark ambient interludes that connect tracks and place them into a more logical cohesive context which allows the Lovecraftian themes to bask in their own marinated ebullience. While the focus on atmosphere may have been firmly established, OUTRE refused to jettison the bantering sonic onslaught of fast reckless guitar riffing and resolute devotion to adrenalized speed rushes.

The band also developed menacing guitar tones that coupled with noisy production values offered and even further detachment from conventional death metal techniques, a term that some have referred to as “caverncore.”. Even The Curator’s vocal growls defied death metal conventionalities and lay somewhere between the emphatic raspiness of avant-garde black metal bands like Deathspell Omega and the guttural growls that death metal enthusiasts had become accustomed to. Attention to slower oozing bleakness as the emphasis allowed the aggressive elements to offer a more intricate contrast which heightened the surreal soundscapes even further. The use of varying tempos and moments of sluggish vagrancy allowed the atmospheric constructs to pierce the din and cast an overall tension that “Seepia” lacked. The album finds oddball moments such as the 2 1/2 minute title track that escape the world of all established metal norms and features a noisy display of unnerving chaotic din only to be followed by the most aggressive moments on “13 Globes” which reprise the “Seepia” styled pummelation effect only dripping in compositional unconventionalities and atonal dissonant guitar assaults.

In all its aggressive dissonant din OUTRE proved revolutionary in crafting a strange new style of death metal based extremism that utilized the technical aspects and abrasiveness of the world of death metal and married it with the atmospheric potentials that the world of black metal offered. The album straddles a strange line between many strains of metal and even adopts some of the characteristic of war metal in a battle-like procession into strange Lovecraftian realities where everything familiar seems twisted, mangled and intangibly mutilated into unrecognizable yet discernible patterns of technical wizardry. OUTRE is the album that put PORTAL on the world’s stage and it has become one of those landmark moments that prognosticated an entirely new strain of dissonant death metal bands that would follow. In the 2020s this may not sound as extreme with bands like Ulcerate, Gigan, Pyrrhon and Ad Nauseam having followed the lead but back in 2007 when this was released it really did take extreme metal into some of the strangest places yet experienced. This one is a grower. It took me a while and many listening experiences to wrap my ahead around it but after several years of soaking it in, i have to say that is is a cream of the crop release in the world of avant-garde metal.

VANILLA FUDGE The Beat Goes On

Album · 1968 · Hard Rock
Cover art 1.94 | 4 ratings
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If there was ever an award for the most head scratching career moves of the entire 1960s, VANILLA FUDGE must would surely win first prize. After a surprise hit debut album of nothing more than cover songs reinterpreted into the world of psychedelic soulful rock laced with heavy organ fuzz and showcasing some of the earliest traces of progressive rock and what would become heavy metal, the band followed with one of the most avant-garde albums to come out in the year 1968. While the debut featured familiar catchy pop songs including the top 10 hit remake of The Supremes’ chart topping single “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” the band quickly shifted gears into a strange collage album in the form of THE BEAT GOES ON in early 1968.

The year 1967 was the Summer of Love and offered a last air of innocent hippie glee before the calendar year 1968 roared in full force. The idealism of perpetual peace and free love were interrupted by a turbulent world stage where everything seemed to go topsy turvy overnight. The music of the era reflected this by shifting from simpler musical forms that had only just evolved out of the straight forward approach of rock and roll to headier and ever bolder musical experiments. The Beatles’ classic “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” deserves the lion’s share of credit for upping the ante in the world of simpler rock forms that focused on singles as a means of marketing to a full-fledged concept albums in an art rock style which hit the world with the subtlety of a lightning bolt.

While the world of psychedelic pop and rock would sally forth unscathed with many simpler forms of rock continuing to occupy the hit singles charts, some intrepid acts followed the cue of The Beatles and went for the concept album avant-garde jugular. VANILLA FUDGE was one such band having never even released a single song of their own making and then suddenly delivering a followup album that recklessly abandoned all the rules and engaged in a fearless exploration into the unknown musical possibilities that could result from just simply going for it. THE BEAT GOES ON was basically a meandering sampling of the entire history of music without any regard to how things connected or fit together in any way, shape or form. Based on the smashing success of the debut, the album still sold its share of copies but quickly alienated any fans who were expecting a continuation of the band’s soulful psychedelic rock playfulness that put VANILLA FUDGE on the map.

Broken into four phases with various short snippets called tracks, THE BEAT GOES ON meanders through a maze of crossover classical music (Mozart, Beethoven etc), medleys of famous pop hits by Elvis Presley and The Beatles as well spoken word speeches and one of the very first recordings of all time sampled by Thomas Edison. The band retains its psychedelic rock at key moments with the already established fuzzy organ heft and heavier rock combo effect of the guitar, bass and drum but in reality there are no actual songs on THE BEAT GOES ON and merely samplings strewn together into a psychedelic haze of consciousness shifting. Clearly the year 1968 was a traumatic one for the world and the methodologies of finding the proper musical escape hatch were becoming bolder and more ambitious with THE BEAT GOES ON being one of those albums that at first listen may seem completely pointless but also when placed into the context of the time fits in with how the world of musical exploration was panning out.

The album is compared with Frank Zappa’s “Lumpy Gravy” however VANILLA FUDGE beat Zappa to the punch by a few months with a nerdy concept album that engaged in the everything and the kitchen sink approach. The major difference of course that being that Frank Zappa was a gifted and brilliant composer of the avant-garde and VANILLA FUDGE being a naive quartet of youngsters who didn’t quite have the chops to bring their ambitions to a high level of competency. While many really hate this album including the band itself as they blame this unwise followup as a total career killer, as far as experimental avant-garde albums go it’s not that bad. While its hardly any milestone of creative fortitude, as a historical reference point and unorthodox art rock album from 1968 it’s a totally listenable experience.

Luckily the band would quickly follow up with a new album of mostly self-penned tracks titled “Renaissance” but momentum had been lost and THE BEAT GOES ON has been ridiculed by many ever since. Personally i admire VANILLA FUDGE’s audaciousness as the band clearly had no idea of how to keep an audience enthralled. One of those cases of moving too quickly into an arena where the artistry wasn’t up to snuff. It would’ve made a lot more sense to release “Renaissance” first and establishing the band as a bonafide creator of its own material and sound and only then after retaining its momentum by releasing something like this a year or two later. But when all is said and done, THE BEAT GOES ON exhibits a trend of a musical expedition into completely uncharted territory and that’s pretty remarkable for a band that could’ve simply put out another album of psychedelically tinged cover songs. Despite not crafting the next great art album of all time, VANILLA FUDGE earned its place as a bonafide proto-prog act that helped propel the spirit of the evolution of the rock music paradigm. While results were mixed, the spirit of the creative process excelled.

VANILLA FUDGE Vanilla Fudge

Album · 1967 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.47 | 6 ratings
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VANILLA FUDGE was an unusual 1960s band in the fact that these New Yorkers that formed in 1966 successfully created an entirely new sound in the world of psychedelic soul rock all without writing a single song of their own on their debut release. Add to that the band somehow cemented itself into the history books as one of the earliest bands that forged the way for not only progressive rock but the world of heavy metal, both of which would become major dominant musical forces in the decade to come. Starting out as The Electric Pigeons and then truncating to just The Pigeons, the band changed its name to VANILLA FUDGE which referred to a group of white guys singing and playing music created by black singers and musicians.

VANILLA FUDGE was organist Mark Stein, bassist Tim Bogert, guitarist Vince Martelil and drummer Carmine Appice. While Stein handled lead vocals, the entire band engaged in intricate harmonies influenced by bands such as The Beatles and The Rascals only VANILLA FUDGE was a pioneering band in bridging the world of black soul music with the brave new world of psychedelic rock. The band’s eponymously titled debut emerged in 1967 and found instant gratification as it literally shot up to the #6 position on the Billboard album charts even before the release of the crafty cover of The Supreme’s 1966 smash hit “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” was released as a single and too shot up the charts. Graced with an impeccable sense of harmony and by playing cover songs at half the original speed, VANILLA FUDGE delivered an irresistible new perspective on well known songs on its self-titled 1967 debut.

This first album was unique in the band’s five album run that lasted only three years as it featured no original songs whatsoever however the band did contribute three very short self-made instrumental intros that were listed as separate tracks but in reality served as nothing more than short snippets that connected the cover songs. With no original songs to showcase VANILLA FUDGE made it count in their unique and original approach into how they interpreted each song. The band excelled at crafting a mix of top notch soulful harmonies with Mark Stein’s vocals showing a particularly engaging style that mixed traditional soul singing with bouts of wailing and extended vocal techniques. The use of acid rock organ runs, energetic drumming excursions and heavy guitar moments earned the band the reputation as one of the few American acts that bridged the gap between the world of 1960s psychedelic rock and the future worlds of prog and metal.

Following only a year after The Supremes hit #1 on the Billboard singles chart with “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” VANILLA FUDGE’s version shot up to the top 10 as well only stalling at the #6 position. The single was enough to keep the band’s album racing up the charts and propelling VANILLA FUDGE into the big time. The success allowed the band to tour with Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane and eventually the band would tour with Led Zeppelin as their opening act. The band was a major influence on Deep Purple with its emphasis on the use of bombastic organ heft and harder rocking moments of guitar and drumming. The album walked a delicate balance between beautifully delivered soulful harmonies laced with tender orchestrations and the contrasting hard rock, the likes of which had never been attempted.

To be honest i’m not a fan of cover albums for the most part and the mid-1960s found many newly established acts not ready for prime time releasing albums that relied too heavily on cover songs to fill up space but VANILLA FUDGE is the exception as they definitely reinterpreted a diverse set of covers all the while drenching them in the sounds of the organ-fueled excesses of acid rock and heavy psych. The album flows perfectly from beginning to end and the band members really did take full command of the cover songs and make them their own. VANILLA FUDGE’s debut is an excellent slice of traditional soulful pop songs transmogrified into proto-prog and proto-metal splendor. This one really is a unique moment in history since the band would follow with the avant-garde sophomore release “The Beat Goes On” before delivering an album of all original material on “Renaissance.” While i don’t want to love this one, i can’t help myself! It’s a brilliantly bold move from a band that masterfully crafted one of the most uncanny hybridization albums of the entire 1960s.

GRAVE Extremely Rotten Live

Live album · 1997 · Death Metal
Cover art 2.81 | 4 ratings
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"Extremely Rotten Live" is a live album by Swedish death metal act Grave. The album was released through Century Media Records in April 1997. It features fifteen tracks recorded live on the 21st and the 22nd of September 1996 at the Showcase Theatre, Corona CA, USA. The band were apparently never satisfied with the album, because the recordings were culled from some of the earliests shows on their US tour and they felt that some of the later shows on the tour featured more tight performances.

The tracklist covers the band´s first four albums, one tracks from the 1993 "...And Here I Die...Satisfied" EP, and the "Reborn Miscarriage" track from the 1989 "Anatomia Corporis Humani" demo. As "Hating Life" (1996) was their latest album and they were supporting the release of that album on the US tour, "Extremely Rotten Live" features no less than five tracks from that album. So most of the material is old school Swedish death metal, but the material from "Hating Life" (and to a lesser extent the material from "Soulless" (1994)) is more groove oriented, so this is not the most representative live album in terms of what you normally hear at a Grave show. It was a short period of their career that they toyed with heavy grooves/riffs and throaty shouting vocals instead of brutal death metal growling, and they soon returned to a more old school death metal style, which they have stuck to ever since. That makes "Extremely Rotten Live" a historical document of what Grave sounded like in the mid-90s, but not a particularly good documentation of early- og latter day Grave.

"Extremely Rotten Live" features a sound quality which is decent and detailed enough considering that this was recorded live, but it´s not a particularly powerful or well sounding production. It doesn´t take more than a few tracks before my ears tire from the sound and when the material is of such differing quality too, it makes for a pretty uneven listen. So upon conclusion "Extremely Rotten Live" is unfortunately a missed opportunity and considering how seldom death metal bands are given the opportunity to record a live album, Grave´s frustrations with this release are understandable (I´m a little frustrated too...). A 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating is warranted.

ORGANIC BRAIN DISORDER Gruesome Acts of a Deranged Mind

Album · 2023 · Goregrind
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Gruesome Acts of a Deranged Mind" is the debut full-length studio album by UK goregrind act Organic Brain Disorder. The album was released through Bizarre Leprous Production in October 2023 and reissued by Acid Redux Productions in April 2024. Organic Brain Disorder is a one-man project with Brazilian born, but UK based Corvo handling all instruments, drum programming, and vocals. Organic Brain Disorder released a demo (titled "Demo 2023") in August 2023, but other than that, this is the first release by Organic Brain Disorder.

Stylistically you get a filthy, fast-paced, yet sharp and clear sounding goregrind style on this eleven tracks, 16:01 minutes long album. The vocals are low-in-the-mix distorted growling, which have that nasty juicy quality to them, which many goregrind bands favor. There´s a strong harcore/punk influence heard, and sometimes I´m reminded of early Napalm Death. At least when it comes to the instrumental part of the music. The drums are programmed, and Corvo has done a decent job with the programming. The sound production is powerful too, and "Gruesome Acts of a Deranged Mind" is overall a well produced release.

Upon conclusion you won´t hear anything on "Gruesome Acts of a Deranged Mind" which you haven´t heard before. So innovation and uniqeness are not features found here. But if you enjoy the goregrind style you could definitely spend you money worse than on this album. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

VOLA Monsters

EP · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Monsters" is the second EP release by Danish rock/metal act Vola. The EP was independently released in October 2011. It follows the release of the band´s November 2008 debut EP "Homesick Machinery", although the two EPs are bridged by the March 2010 one-track digital single "Glasswork". The EP features four tracks and a playing time around the 20 minutes.

Vola pretty much continues the electronic/keyboard tinged mellow rock/metal style, which is occasionally spiced up by heavier chugging metal sections, which they initiated on "Homesick Machinery", but they´ve become both heavier and more hard hitting while also becoming more pop/rock mainstream oriented, which is a bit of a feat really. I´m not sure how they do that, but it works pretty well with the heavy riffs and rhythms and the melodic and melancholic atmospheric pop/rock oriented sections. Some tracks work better than others, but when Vola strike the right balance between the mellow/melodic and the heavy, they strike gold (like they do on "Controllable"). I´m sometimes reminded of a less progressive oriented Caligula´s Horse, because of the balance and dynamics of the music.

"Monsters" features a high quality production job. Powerful, detailed, and dynamic. A professional sound production like this one is needed for Vola´s music to be given the best conditions to shine. This kind of music wouldn´t work with gritty and murky sounding production values. Compared to the otherwise good quality of "Homesick Machinery", Vola have taken a good step forward on "Monsters". Some of the immaturity of the songwriting and the production techniques of the debut EP have been weeded out here, and the added heaviness suits Vola well. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

MEMFIS The Wind-Up

Album · 2006 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"The Wind-Up" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish metal act Memfis. The album was independently released in September 2006. Memfis formed in 2003 and released two demos and a 2006 eponymously titled EP before recording and releasing "The Wind-Up".

Stylistically the material on "The Wind-Up" is a quite interesting combination of progressive post-hardcore (Burst, early-The Ocean Collective...etc.), progressive metal, and melodic/progressive death metal (Opeth is an influence here). Lead vocalist/guitarist Mattias Engström has a raw voice and delivers both brutal screaming hardcore influenced vocals and semi-growling (the are a few clean vocal parts on the album delivered by guitarist Johan Boqvist). The music is generally very dynamic and changes from beautiful melodic parts to more brutal agressive parts in varied tempi. Epic melodies, guitar harmonies, and mellow sections are contrasted by aggressive and brutal parts. It´s all delivered by a skilled band, who also understand the dynamics of writing a memorable and intriguing song.

"The Wind-Up" is well produced, featuring a powerful, clear, and detailed sound production, which features just the right amount of organit grit to not sound sterile and polished. Upon conclusion "The Wind-Up" is a good quality debut album from Memfis, and they deserve more attention than they got with this release. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

DEICIDE Banished By Sin

Album · 2024 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 2 ratings
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"Banished By Sin" is the thirteenth full-length studio album by US, Florida based death metal act Deicide. The album was released through Reigning Phoenix Music in April 2024. It´s the successor to "Overtures of Blasphemy" from September 2018. There´s been one lineup change since the predecessor as guitarist Mark English has been replaced by Taylor Nordberg. The latter is a relatively prolific name in death metal circles having performed with artists like Massacre, Ribspreader, and Wombbath (among others...). "Banished By Sin" was released to some controversy regarding the AI generated cover artwork, which many fans heavily critiziced.

Stylistically there are very few surprises on "Banished By Sin" if you´re familiar with Deicide´s output since "Till Death Do Us Part" (2008). Lead vocalist/bassist Glen Benton maybe sings more of his high pitched demonic vocals and thereby complimenting his raw throaty growling vocals which ultimately makes the vocal part of the album relatively diverse, but other than that this is Deicide as we expect them to sound these days...anti-christian/blasphemous lyrics and all. Although they can still whip up a storm of blast beats and fast-paced riffs, "Banished By Sin" is predominantly a heavy and mid-paced affair. Everything is delivered with great energy and skill though, so Deicide are definitely still a force to be reckoned with (scene veterans or not). The lead guitar work is blistering and powerful, and Steve Asheim as always delivers a sharp and brutal drum assault.

"Banished By Sin" features a clear, heavy, and powerful sounding production job, but to my ears it´s almost too polished for Deicide´s music style. A bit more grit would have suited the material better. Upon conclusion "Banished By Sin" is a good quality death metal release from Deicide, but it´s not an album which rival their classic 90s releases, which isn´t surprising since nothing they´ve released since the mid-90s have been able to do that, but that doesn´t mean it´s not a release worth investigating and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

VOLA Glasswork

Single · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Glasswork" is a one-track digital single released by Danish rock/metal act Vola. The single was independently released in March 2010. After the release of the November 2008 "Homesick Machinery" EP, Vola went through several lineup changes, which may have resulted in "Glasswork" being their first release since the debut EP. "Glasswork" is exclusive to this release and does not appear on any of the other early career Vola releases.

Stylistically "Glasswork" is a melodic rock song which is relatively straight forward and features a melancholic atmosphere, some nicely melodic lead vocals, choirs, and harmony vocals. But typically for Vola the song gets heavier towards the middle and the melodic rock is succeeded by heavy yet still atmospheric and slow building riffs and rhythms, before "Glasswork" ends in a more mellow style. Personally I find the first couple of minutes of "Glasswork" a bit pedestrian and mainstream pop/rock oriented, but fortunately Vola manage to surprise the listener with more progressive songwriting ideas as the song progresses. "Glasswork" is a well produced release too, and upon conclusion it´s a nice little stop gap release between their two early career EP releases. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

JOHN ARCH A Twist of Fate

EP · 2003 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.53 | 21 ratings
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"A Twist of Fate" is the debut EP from US progressive metal artist John Arch. The EP was released through Metal Blade Records in June 2003. Arch left the music business in 1987 after fronting the first three Fates Warning albums, and this is the first we´ve heard from him since. He is helped out by his former Fates Warning bandmate Jim Matheos on guitars and keyboards (Matheos also co-wrote some of the material on the EP), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Transatlantic..etc) on drums, and Joey Vera (Fates Warning, Engine, Mercyful Fate, and Armored Saint) on bass. So the lineup who recorded the material featured on "A Twist of Fate" are seasoned and quite prolific.

The first three Fates Warning albums are a hybrid of heavy metal, US power metal, and progressive metal elements, but "A Twist of Fate" is a much more focused progressive metal release. While the EP features both present- and former members of Fates Warning and Dream Theater, who are both considered some of the greatest and most successful progressive metal acts from the late 80s/early 90s, Arch has crafted a release, which sounds like neither, although the music of course features some of the same stylistic elements used by those artists (this is after all still a progressive metal release).

"A Twist of Fate" features only two tracks. But both the 12:25 minutes long "Relentless" and the 15:38 minutes long "Cheyenne" are progressive metal epics. The tracks are quite complex in structure and to those familiar with the Arch/Matheos project, which Arch would form with Matheos some years down the line, the material on this EP are quite similar to the sound of the output by that project. Dynamic, and when it´s called for, nicely heavy progressive metal with the incredible voice and high pitched delivery of Arch in front. He hasn´t lost a beat in all those years, but maybe his voice isn´t worn because he hasn´t toured as much as his contemporaries. He still hits the really high notes with ease and showcases his famous legato and vibrato techniques. In other words a world class singer, who has his own distinct sound and voice, and singing over intriguing, varied, and well written material as he does on "A Twist of Fate", it just feels like sun, moon, and stars align...in terms of "classic" progressive metal styled releases, "A Twist of Fate" is highly recommendable and a 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

KAMELOT Eternity

Album · 1995 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.22 | 16 ratings
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"Eternity" is the debut full-length studio album by US power metal act Kamelot. The album was released through Noise Records in August 1995. Kamelot was formed in 1991 and released a couple of demos before being signed for the release of "Eternity".

Stylistically the material on "Eternity" is melodic US power metal with both traditional heavy metal- and semi-progressive metal leanings. There are couple of Euro power metal elements in the music too, but on this album I´d put Kamelot in the melodic US power metal camp. Lead vocalist Mark Vanderbilt has a very strong voice and a commanding delivery and he sometimes sounds a lot like Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche) and to a lesser degree like Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden). Kamelot are a very well playing act on all posts though, and you´ll be treated to both a powerful playing rhythm section, tasteful use of keyboards, and the relatively hard-edged (for the genre) and melodic guitar riffs and leads by Thomas Youngblood.

The tracks are well written, epic, melodic and memorable, but still heavy and powerful, and the band generally strike a great balance between the raw and the melodic on the album. "Eternity" also features a powerful and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly and upon conclusion it´s a high quality debut album by Kamelot and a promising start to the band´s career. They haven´t invented the wheel or anything like that, but it´s a solid release and especially fans of early 80s Queensrÿche are recommended giving this album a listen. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

JANE Together

Album · 1972 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 3 ratings
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"Together" is the debut full-length studio album by German rock act Jane. The album was released through Brain Records in the spring of 1972. The origins of Jane are found in late 60s the German psychedelic band The J.P.s (Justice of Peace), who by 1970 had regrouped and changed their name to Jane.

Stylistically the material on "Together" is a slow- to mid-paced, heavy, and blues based type of psychedelic rock, dominated by Werner Nadolny´s omnipresent organ playing and the guitar solos of Klaus Hess. Pink Floyd is an influence, but so are artists like Deep Purple and Procol Harum. Lead vocalist Bernd Pulst has a rough voice and a decent delivery suiting the material.

So the band are generally well playing and they have a style of music that they want to play and perform with both passion and conviction. It´s not exactly the most unique sounding music style and Jane don´t step outside the box much, but they arguably do what they do with great skill and conviction. "Together" is relatively well produced for the time, and uponc conclusion it´s a recommendable album to those who enjoy heavy psychedelic rock which is loaded with organ and blues rocking guitar solos. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

DIR EN GREY MISSA

EP · 1997 · Metal Related
Cover art 2.44 | 4 ratings
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"Missa" is the first EP recording by Japanese rock/metal act Dir En Grey. The EP was released through East West Japan in July 1997. Dir En Grey formed in early 1997 after the demise of La:Sadie's, where several members came from.

Stylistically the material on the six tracks 31:23 minutes long EP is an experimental/alternative rock/metal style, which is actually a bit hard to decribe. The vocalist mostly sings clean vocals and he often reminds me of David Sylvian, when he sang for Japan. The lyrics are predominantly in the Japanese language, with a few excursions into English language territory. The two guitarists often compliment each other with one playing distorted parts while the other plays clean guitar pars, or one plays rhythms while the other plays lead. The rhythm section are pretty active with bassist Toshiya standing out for his busy bass playing.

"Missa" is a decently produced release and you´re able to hear all instruments and vocals in the mix. It lacks a bit of warmth and bottom end heaviness, but other than that it´s a decent sound production. Upon conclusion "Missa" is an interesting debut release from Dir En Grey, although the band´s style and sound is still a bit immature and also slightly confusing on this release. Personally I find it more interesting than a great listening experience. A 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating is warranted.

BEHOLD... THE ARCTOPUS Nano-Nucleonic Cyborg Summoning

Boxset / Compilation · 2006 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.42 | 7 ratings
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"Nano-Nucleonic Cyborg Summoning" is a compilation album release by US technical/progressive metal act Behold... The Arctopus. The compilation was released through Black Market Activities in August 2006. It compiles the two tracks from the 2003 "Arctopocalypse Now... Warmageddon Later" EP, the three tracks from the 2005 "Nano-Nucleonic Cyborg Summoning" EP, and four live tracks which are exclusive to this compilation.

Behold... The Arctopus are the type of act who take the technical aspects of progressive metal and run with them. It´s chaotic sounding, avant-garde, extremely technical in execution, and featuring song structures which are almost impossible to follow. Something new is happening every second of the songs. Let´s just say that you can´t expect to be treated to easily accessible vers/chorus structures. This is incredibly challenging music both in terms of musical performances and the complexity of the compositions. As the music is fully instrumental, there aren´t even any vocal hooks to hold on to.

A mind bending and blistering flurry of fast notes (often dissonant) and technical drumming designed to melt your brain is a way to describe what´s happening on "Nano-Nucleonic Cyborg Summoning", but Behold... The Arctopus actually have a more darkly atmospheric and ambient side to them too, and when those sections occur they work like sci-fi futuristic breathers amidst the otherwise chaotic sounding complexity of the music.

Both the material from the "Arctopocalypse Now... Warmageddon Later" EP and the material from the "Nano-Nucleonic Cyborg Summoning" EP are well produced. Powerful, raw, and detailed sound production suiting the material well. The live tracks are pretty well produced too and it´s interesting to hear that Behold... The Arctopus can perform their insanely technical music in a live environment too. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

NAKKEKNAEKKER Demo

Demo · 2020 · Death Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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"Demo" is the first demo recording by Danish death metal act Nakkeknaekker. The demo was independently released in August 2020. The band formed only a few months prior and this demo was recorded by the trio lineup of Anton Bregendorf (drums), Joakim Kaspersen (guitars), and Johan Lundvig (guitars). So the demo doesn´t feature bass or vocals, which of course makes it a slightly different listening experience.

Stylistically this is old school influenced death metal and the Swedish scene is no stranger to these young guys (their more well known countrymen in Baest aren´t either). It´s not hard to imagine that the material could have been pretty great with growling vocals on top, but since they aren´t there, this does sound a little unfinished. It´s a bit of a shame really because the quality of the music is generally pretty high and despite their young age, Nakkeknaekker can both play their instruments and obviously understand how to compose an effective death metal tune. The demo features a pretty well sounding production too, so all in all it´s a relatively promising first release from Nakkeknaekker. A 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating isn´t all wrong.

ANACRUSIS Hindsight: Suffering Hour & Reason Revisited

Album · 2011 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Hindsight: Suffering Hour & Reason Revisited" is the fifth full-length studio album by US, Missouri based thrash/progressive metal act Anacrusis. The album was released through Divebomb Records in February 2011. Anacrusis formed in 1984 and released four full-length studio albums in the period 1988-1993 after which they disbanded. They however reunited in 2009 in their original lineup, but instead of writing new material they opted to re-record the material from their first two albums, "Suffering Hour" (1988) and "Reason" (1990) and the "Apocalypse" track from their 1986 "Annihilation Complete" demo and released the material as "Hindsight: Suffering Hour & Reason Revisited".

The early Anacrusis albums didn´t feature the most well sounding production jobs, and it´s probably why the band opted to re-record the material and present it with a more professional sounding production. Stylistically the material from "Suffering Hour" (1988) and the "Apocalypse" track are pretty raw and aggressive thrash metal bordering technical thrash metal, while the material on "Reason" is full-on technical thrash metal with progressive metal leanings. Lead vocalist/guitarist Kenn Nardi has a raw thrash metal voice and occasionally also delivers a high pitched piercing scream. He sings some clean vocals, but they mostly occur on the material from "Reason".

Nardi is credited for producing, engineering, and mixing "Hindsight: Suffering Hour & Reason Revisited" and it´s a relatively well produced release. I´m not sure about the whole re-recording idea though. While the first two albums arguably could have prospered from better sounding production values, there is still some charm to the gritty and unpolished nature of the original recordings, which you don´t get here. On the other hand some of the worst production errors on the original recordings have been corrected here. All clean/acoustic guitar parts for example sound good on "Hindsight: Suffering Hour & Reason Revisited", which they didn´t on the original recordings, and the clean vocals are also better sounding here than they were on the original recordings. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

JUDAS PRIEST Sin After Sin

Album · 1977 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.92 | 119 ratings
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1977 was certainly not the most prolific year for hard rock music in the United Kingdom. The old "dinosaurs" were either quitting or devoting their favour to the wide American market, and it was too early for the album production of the early members of NWOBHM. In this strange in-between time, alongside bands like UFO, Nazareth, AC/DC or Thin Lizzy, a relatively established, almost six years long touring formation from the Birmingham suburbs called Judas Priest tried to take the next step in their still slowly developing career. With a new record deal in their pocket, the band has gradually begun to blaze a trail for other future members of the brotherhood of aggressive distortion and sixteenth-notes. But the fact that the band was still in their "searching" phase shows fully on their first release for CBS - the album Sin After Sin.

The opener Sinner sounds pretty pumped up, and the accompanying guitar lines of the Tipton/Downing pairing amuse me a lot; unfortunately, the band also inserted a slowed-down instrumental passage into the bowels of the track, which still stumbles backwards to the progressive tendencies of the previous two albums. Even Halford's vocals, at times turning into a rather annoying squeal for me, don't yet have that edge of years to come. Joan Baez's cover of Diamonds and Rust (on the one hand, it sounds utterly implausible that an increasingly harder rocking band would borrow material from a folk bard, on the other hand - with the band's name itself inspired by a Bob Dylan song, I suppose pretty much anything is possible) is another in a line of hilarious covers that Priest have been able to do - fast, melodic and with the potential to be properly hardened.

Starbreaker shows exactly the direction the band would take on subsequent albums - biting guitars, Halford's vibrating but already sovereign vocals in the treble, and a throbbing rhythmic underside. At the same time, he's my biggest (who knew, right?) favorite on the record. It makes it all the more frustrating every time that the following track, Last Rose of Summer, goes in a completely different direction. A calm narrative with Halford's civilian vocals makes it a rather uninspiring end to the first side of the album at five and a half minutes long.

After an awkward opening, Let Us Prey peels off into a passable ride in which the work of hired drummer Simon Phillips and the colourful escapades of the guitar solos are definitely worth mentioning. The track Call for The Priest - Raw Deal does offer some sympathetic riff work, but the slow pace with few changes is not enough for its seven minute length. Oh, and we have another ballad here, named Here Come the Tears, on which Priest seem to have definitively assured themselves that the road to success does not lead past the piano in their case. Closing one Dissident Aggressor comes in with a proper acceleration and a wailing guitar solo, and (like Starbreaker) I more than enjoy it.

So what to do with this trying but still "looking over its shoulder" effort? When Judas Priest tried to rock hard, things were looking very promising, but the slow tempos and ballads drag the record down to below average again - the real "Sin After Sin" is contained mainly on the second side of the album. Along with the debut, I see this record as the weakest thing Judas Priest issued in the seventies or eighties.

Y & T In Rock We Trust

Album · 1984 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 6 ratings
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I discovered Y&T on sometime in 2011 or 2012 and I quite enjoyed some of their glam metal stuff with rich backing vocals and awesome guitar solos. I listened to their classic 80's albums Eartshaker (1981) and Mean Streak (1983), but I was most hooked by their follow-up In Rock We Trust (1984). I've given it a few more chances in recent months to see if this music would still work for me.

In short - it works. The fine-tuned sound has just the right groove for me, Dave Meniketti's voice was dealing with some serious rough sawing, and his guitar soloing usually comes at the best possible moments. There's a catchy riff at the core of almost every song included, my favorites probably being in the hits Masters and Slaves, Rock & Roll's Gonna Save the World and Don't Stop Runnin'. The last one is also my absolute number one on the album, primary because of the awesome chorus with vocal answers. I'm also having fun with the wilderness She's a Liar, in whose verses the bass rips into runs with jazz roots under the guitar chords. On the other hand, the two included ballads (I'll Keep on Believin' (Do You Know) and This Time) don't make me sit on my ass as the band sounds quite replaceable in them - especially the second of them, in essentially identical form, could very well be in the repertoire of band such as Journey.

From the lyrics of the first three songs one could get the impression that In Rock We Trust would be a philippic against the rulers of this world and a warning against the war that the imaginary chess of earthly strongmen could cause - even after forty years this theme is not completely passé. But beyond that, it's along the tried-and-true relationship line, oscillating between the self-praise of a kicked-off desperado (Don't Stop Runnin') and a paean to the girl who gives a guy a hard time in bed on demand. In between, of course, you'll find plenty of self-centred lovelorn despair, of which the aforementioned Journey were masters. Fortunately, I can enjoy most rock music quite well without concentrating on the lyrics any more, so as long as it doesn't offer topics for deeper thought, it's not a major obstacle for me.

I've been friends with In Rock We Trust over and over again because Dave Meniketti and co. have managed to deliver the music on this album in a catchy yet uninhibited way. This mix of riffs and melodies is quintessentially 80s in the best sense of the word.

VOLA Homesick Machinery

EP · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.17 | 2 ratings
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"Homesick Machinery" is an EP release by Danish, Copenhagen based rock/metal act Vola. The EP was independently released in November 2008. Vola formed in the mid-2000s by a group of friends attending the same music school. They recorded some demos in 2006, before writing and recording the four tracks which ended up on "Homesick Machinery".

Considering the fact that this is an independently recorded and released EP, Vola have produced a pretty well sounding EP. The sound production is clear, detailed, and powerful (although the heavy parts could have benefitted from even more power and punch). Stylistically Vola are a pretty eclectic act and they play everything from mellow electronic tinged rock, to 70s influenced hard rocking sections, to chugging heavy riffs and rhythms. Keyboards are omnipresent as are the melancholic vocals and strong expressive voice of lead vocalist/guitarist Asger Mygind. Another dominant and important part of Vola´s sound are the many beautiful choirs and harmony vocals.

"Like The Rainbow" opens the EP and it´s a nicely melodic and catchy song, which isn´t very heavy until the last minute of the song, and that´s how the other tracks are too. A good combination of mellow melancholic sections and heavier sections, which provide the music with some light/dark dynamics. A slightly more uplifting and more easily accessible Katatonia isn´t the worst description of Vola´s music, although Vola aren´t clones (artists like Porcupine Tree and Riverside could also be mentioned). If you´re familar with 2000s and 2010s Danish rock acts like Turboweekend, Spleen United, and Mew, some of the elements of Vola´s music could also be influenced by artists (and fellow countrymen) like them, although Vola are of course a much heavier act.

Upon conclusion "Homesick Machinery" is a good quality first release from Vola. Even this early on they show great potential and of course both playing skills and understanding of the dynamics of composing an effective and catchy rock/metal tune. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

ANACRUSIS Reason

Album · 1990 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.42 | 7 ratings
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"Reason" is the second full-length studio album by US, Missouri based thrash metal act Anacrusis. The album was released through Active Records in February 1990. It´s the successor to "Suffering Hour" from 1988, but since Anacrusis only had a one-album deal with Axis Records, they recorded the "Quick to Doubt" demo in 1989 and used it to shop for a new label. Seven out of the eight tracks from the demo was re-recorded and included on "Reason" (all eight tracks if you have the European version featuring "Killing My Mind" and "Injustice" as bonus material).

Stylistically Anacrusis have developed a lot since "Suffering Hour", which featured a raw and aggressive thrash metal style with technical thrash metal leanings. "Reason" is still a thrash metal album, but in addition to the technical playing (which has increased) the album also features quite a few progressive songwriting ideas making this a technical/progressive thrash metal release. It´s artists like contemporary Coroner, Realm, and Mekong Delta I´m reminded of while listening to "Reason", but a much more resent band like Vektor must also have worshipped Anacrusis in their youth.

The vocals switch between raw snarling thrash vocals and some mellow atmospheric clean vocals, which unfortunately aren´t produced that well. The sound production is otherwise pretty decent for the time (the clean/acoustic guitar parts could also have benefitted from better production choices though). Upon conclusion Anacrusis took at bit step towards a more technical/progressive metal style on "Reason" and while they certainly didn´t leave behind their raw and aggressive thrash metal vocals, speed, and riffs, "Reason" is generally a much more sophisticated release than "Suffering Hour". A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

ANACRUSIS Quick to Doubt

Demo · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Quick to Doubt" is a demo recording by US, Missouri based thrash metal act Anacrusis. The demo was independently released in 1989. It follows the release of Anacrusis 1988 debut full-length studio album "Suffering Hour". It´s a bit unusual for a band to have to record demos when they have already released a debut album, but Anacrusis were only given a one-album deal by Axis Records, and they were therefore out shopping for a new recording contract. A contract they would eventually sign with Active Records for the release of their second full-length studio album "Reason" (1990). Seven out of the eight tracks from this demo was re-recorded and included on "Reason".

The demo was recorded on a four-track tape recorder in guitarist Kevin Heidbreder's basement. Considering those recording conditions Anacrusis have managed to produce a pretty well sounding demo. Stylistically Anacrusis still play an aggressive thrash metal style, but since "Suffering Hour" they´ve increased the technical playing and progressive songwriting ideas, and it´s interesting to hear how fast Anacrusis were developing. The raw thrash metal vocals and the clean vocals are now more evenly distributed and the songs feature fewer all out thrash metal sections. Instead Anacrusis toy with different tempi, time-signatures, intriguing lead guitar work, and even some atmospheric sections. It´s a promising demo and a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

ANACRUSIS Suffering Hour

Album · 1988 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.17 | 9 ratings
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"Suffering Hour" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Missouri based thrash metal act Anacrusis. The album was released through Axis Records in 1988. Anacrusis formed in 1984 and released the "Annihilation Complete" demo in 1986. Four of the seven tracks from the demo were re-recorded and included on "Suffering Hour".

Not surprisingly then "Suffering Hour" continues the raw and aggressive thrash metal style from the "Annihilation Complete" demo. Anacrusis are however a technically well playing band and while I wouldn´t call this pure tech thrash there are certainly tech thrash elements and moments here and there (opening track "Present Tense" is for example a pretty technical thrash metal song) and "Suffering Hour" is an album often travelling the border between raw and aggressive thrash metal and technical thrash metal. Not completely unlike a band like Coroner or maybe Realm.

Sharp thrashy riffs are complimented by blistering lead guitar work, and Kenn Nardi´s rough shouting/screaming vocals (when Nardi hits the high screams I´m reminded of Vektor) and his occasional clean singing parts, while the rhythm section drive the music forward with great energy and skill. The structures of the tracks are pretty anarchistic, which make the songs less accessible but provide them with longivity. You have to work a little to understand and appreciate these tracks. Anacrusis are obviously a band who do things their own way and on their conditions.

"Suffering Hour" doesn´t exactly feature pristine production values, but it´s not as bad as it may sound and the raw and unpolished sound production even provides the music with some grit and atmosphere it may not have had, if the album had featured more clear and professional sound production values. Upon conclusion "Suffering Hour" is a good quality debut album and fans of thrash metal which is on the border to technical thrash metal and sounds a bit unconventional are advised to investigate. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

MARTY FRIEDMAN Drama

Album · 2024 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.17 | 2 ratings
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As one of rock and metal’s most distinct guitarists on the scene since the 1980s, MARTY FRIEDMAN has remained one of the most creative musicians beginning with his days with Cacophony, crafting neoclassical classics like “Dragon’s Kiss” and of course bringing Megadeth to the highest ranks of the world of metal music. Despite his contributions to the world of shredding and guitar virtuosity, FRIEDMAN has also displayed a firm command of exquisite compositional creation with emotive albums such as “Scenes” and “Introduction.” After relocating to Japan, FRIEDMAN has also delivered many albums worth of J-pop inspired metal and has proven that his relentless pursuit of new avenues of exploring where the guitar playing can go is virtually limitless.

Now well into his 60s and nearly four decades after his work with Jason Becker in Cacophony, FRIEDMAN is still going strong and returns in 2024 with his latest solo extravaganza, DRAMA which finds him back in the role of guitar god after seemingly exhausting his love of Japanese themed music set to the world of metal music. DRAMA is a near hour’s run of FRIEDMAN doing what he does best and that is namely delivering sharp melodic hooks in the form of some of the most phenomenal guitar playing moves in the known universe. Like most of his solo offerings, DRAMA is a mostly instrumental affair but also finds a couple tracks, “Dead Of Winter” and “2 Rebeldes” with vocal contributions.

Also joined by drummer American Gregg Bissonette of David Lee Roth, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai fame, DRAMA also finds some classical music support from cellist Hiyori Okuda and violinist Miho Chigyo. as well as offering emotive orchestrations with Japanese pianist / keyboardist Mika Maruki adding beautiful textures to his melodic tunes. Long abandoning the one-dimensionality of pure shredding, DRAMA offers a collection of mostly mid-tempo tracks that implement some of the now familiar exotic scales FRIEDMAN is famous for and while shredding seems to be MARTY’s laser preferred mode of guitar expression these days, he still has the ability to crank out some amazingly virtuosic moves however always in the context of the melodic composition at hand.

In many ways DRAMA sounds like a collage effect of some of FRIEDMAN’s 90s work with a mix of alternative metal riffing, slower clean guitar playing on various musical scales that are melodic and in the case of this album an emphasis on emotive atmospheres and subordinate instrumentation. Personally i prefer the instrumental tracks as the vocal ones don’t work for me (i assume FRIEDMAN is the singer) however many of the melodies and styles seem a bit recycled and there is even a reprise of the track “Triumph” in an updated form that first appeared on the 1992 “Scenes” album. Overall this album is a bit too much of what’s been done before for my tastes. I haven’t really been blown away by anything FRIEDMAN has done since the 2002 album “Music For Speeding” but it’s a well played and well performed album. A little too mellow overall and i wish there were more upbeat metal moments. It’s a good album but not one i would call essential in the FRIEDMAN canon. Great to hear him still doing his thing though!

MY DYING BRIDE A Mortal Binding

Album · 2024 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.04 | 5 ratings
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"A Mortal Binding" is the fifteenth full-length studio album by UK doom/death metal act My Dying Bride. The album was released through Nuclear Blast in April 2024. It´s the successor to "The Ghost of Orion" from March 2020. There have been a couple of lineup changes since the predecessor as guitarist Neil Blanchett has joined as the band´s second guitarist (he actually already joined in 2019 but didn´t perform on "The Ghost of Orion"), and drummer Jeff Singer has left and has been replaced by a returning Dan Mullins, who previously played with My Dying Bride in the 2007-2012 period.

It´s been quite a few years and albums since My Dying Bride released anything which surprised the fans of the band (the last time was with the release of "Evinta" in 2011), but My Dying Bride actually used to be (pre-2000) a pretty experimental death/doom metal act in terms of developing their music greatly between releases (the first five studio albums are quite different in sound and style), while still staying on the path of their trademark death/doom metal style. After 2000 they´ve released many high quality releases, but also a few less inspired ones. The latter are still quality releases, which could easily be other death/doom metal artists masterpieces, but when you set the standard as high as My Dying Bride have done throughout their great career, the fans also have very high expectations each time a new My Dying Bride album hits the streets.

"A Mortal Binding" is not one of the most unique nor is it one of the most adventurous My Dying Bride releases, and as a listener you get pretty much what you expect. So all the ingredients of a My Dying Bride album are in place. Lead vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe switching between death metal growling and darkly poetic goth tinged clean vocals, heavy doomy riffs and rhythms, atmosphere enhancing keyboards, and melancholic leads delivered by both guitars and violin. What "A Mortal Binding" does different than the last couple of releases is the focus on rhythm. My Dying Bride were always a relatively rhythmic death/doom metal act, but the return of Mullins has definitely pushed My Dying Bride in a more rhythm focused direction. So it´s not all just long droning power chords and slow minimalistic drumming.

The sound production is more raw, less polished, and more immediate than the last couple of releases, and at this point it´s a relief to hear that My Dying Bride still have a bit of grit in them. Opening track "Her Dominion" is the best example of that, as it´s a pretty heavy death metal track solely featuring growling vocals. Although other tracks on the album also feature death metal growling, "Her Dominion" is however a bit of the odd one out track on "A Mortal Binding", and I´d say the remaining tracks are more in line with what you´d expect from post-2000 My Dying Bride material. Highlights include "Thornwyck Hymn" and the 11:22 minutes long "The Apocalyptist", but as always My Dying Bride are impressive in terms consistency, and there´s nothing on this album, which isn´t quality material. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

SUPURATION Isolated

EP · 1991 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Isolated" is an EP release by French death metal act Supuration. The EP was released through Seraphic Decay Records in 1991. It follows the release of Supuration´s 1990 demos and the 1990 "Sultry Obssession" EP. The material featured on most of the minor Supuration releases from 1991 was culled from the August 1991 "Promo tape '91".

Stylistically it´s also a continuation of the relatively brutal (for the time) death metal style Supuration initiated on their 1990 releases. Supuration have a bit more up their sleeves than your regular death metal act though, and there´s a progressive edge to their music (including the use of keyboards and clean vocals), which was quite unusual for the time. "Isolated" is culled from the August 1991 "Promo tape '91", while "Sultry Obsession" as far as I can hear is culled directly from the 1990 "Sultry Obsession" demo/EP. "The Creeping Unknown" is culled from the 1991 "The Creeping Unknown" single (but ultimately also comes from the August 1991 "Promo tape '91").

As the case is what almost all of Supuration´s early 90s releases, "Isolated" is a good quality death metal release with progressive leanings. Although the material are culled from different releases, the sound production on all three tracks are relatively well sounding (considering that this is early 90s demo/single/EP death metal recordings). A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

SUPURATION The Creeping Unknown

Single · 1991 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"The Creeping Unknown" is a single release by French death metal act Supuration. The single was released through Morbid Records in 1991. Supuration formed in 1990 and released quite a few minor releases before recording and releasing their 1993 debut full-length studio album "The Cube". "The Creeping Unknown" is just one of those minor releases. The material featured on most of the minor Supuration releases from 1991 was culled from the August 1991 "Promo tape '91", and that´s also the case with the two tracks featured on "The Creeping Unknown" ("The Creeping Unknown" and "Sojourn In The Absurd").

Both the title track and "Sojourn In The Absurd" are good quality death metal compositions with a progressive edge. Powerful growling vocals, intriguing riffs and rhythms, melancholic lead guitar work and an overall interesting atmosphere. The sound production is of a good quality too, so upon conclusion "The Creeping Unknown" is another intriguing release from the early 90s Supuration catalogue, which is well worth investigating. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

SUPURATION In Remembrance of a Coma

Single · 1991 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"In Remembrance of a Coma" is a single release by French death metal act Supuration. The single was released through Distorted Harmony in 1991. The material featured on most of the minor Supuration releases from 1991 was culled from the August 1991 "Promo tape '91", and that´s also the case with the two tracks featured on "In Remembrance of a Coma" ("In Remembrance of a Coma" and "1308.JP.08").

Stylistically the two tracks on the single is death metal with progressive leanings. It´s still primarely rooted in old school death metal but Supuration are not content with just playing straight forward death metal and their songwriting is pretty adventurous and eclectic for the time. Clean futuristic/robotic vocals (on "In Remembrance of a Coma" they are more of the spoken variant) compliment the growling death metal vocals, and the music features both keyboards, clean guitars, and a good portion of tempo-changes and compositional shifts in direction.

"In Remembrance of a Coma" is the more regular Supuration track of the two tracks on the single, while "1308.JP.08" is quite unconventional sounding like a death metal song where the songwriters have listened to a lot of Voivod and Killing Joke. It´s a pretty odd track, but certainly intriguing. The material is well produced and this is overall a good quality single release from Supuration and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

IRON BUTTERFLY In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

Album · 1968 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.56 | 15 ratings
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IRON BUTTERFLY is synomous with being one of the most famous one-hit wonders in the entire history of rock music. IN-A-GADDA-DA-VIDA, the band’s second album and surprise hit single is perhaps a testament to how an endless series of mishaps, happenstance and unplanned moments conspired into capturing the zeitgeist of an entire generation and somehow against all odds ended up becoming one of the biggest selling albums in all of music history. The San Diego based IRON BUTTERFLY was just another acid rock band that permeated the late 1960s led by organ player and vocalist Doug Ingle who was the primary songwriter and lyricist. The band was fairly typical of the era and delivered a rather average garage band style of psychedelic rock. Like many bands IRON BUTTERFLY was also plagued by lineup changes and after the release of the band’s 1968 debut “Heavy,” things got even more turbulent. The band was part of the L.A. psychedelic scene along with bands like The Seeds and The Strawberry Alarm Clock but never really stood out in any particular way.

It actually seemed like a sophomore album might never materialize due to the fact guitarist Danny Weis quit the band just before the recording sessions were due to take place. In a state of desperation the band replaced him with Eric Braun who had started to learn how to play the guitar three months prior. The title track was also a pure fluke in its creation. It’s peculiarity was the result of nothing more than Doug Ingle going on a drunken binge one evening and uttering unintelligible lyrics to drummer Ron Bushy who misinterpreted what was supposed to be “In The Garden Of Eden” that he could only make out as IN-A-GADDA-DA-VIDA. If that wasn’t strange enough, after writing five songs that would become the A-side of the original vinyl LP release, what would become a huge hit was nothing more than a soundcheck never intended to be recorded but by sheer chance was accidentally caught on tape while the band was waiting for their producer Jim Hilton to arrive at the studio.

While the usual method was for IRON BUTTERFLY to write structured psychedelic pop rock songs, the band just decided to improvise for over 17 minutes with the results being the entire B-side of the original album. The band’s ATCO Records for some reason thought that all the mishaps would make a great B-side and took the chance releasing the unedited 17-minute track as a raw performance that included all the unintended mishaps but somehow thought it might resonate with the psychedelic haze that permeated the summer of 1968. The gamble obviously paid off and the album became a massively huge hit outselling every other album for the next year and by 1969 had surprised a million copies in sales. The title track was released as a single but butchered down to a mere 2 minutes and 52 seconds. Since the appeal of the track was the long jamming session that featured trippy organs, impromptu drum solos and a repetitive psychedelic guitar riff with mumbled lyrics, the album was instantly endearing to the post-flower power crowds that wanted a bit more acid fuzz in their rock music.

Likewise the rather pop oriented five tracks on the A-side also appealed to the hippie crowd with short tributes to “Flowers And Beads” and the flower power themed “Are You Happy” which provided the perfect gateway to the unconventional title track that followed. Due to the fact the appeal in the album was the 17-minute title track which was never released as a single in its entirety, the only way to obtain it was to buy the album thus the album for a brief moment became the biggest thing in the USA outperforming bands like The Doors, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and the biggest names in the world of psychedelic rock. The fact that the album has gone down in history as both a critical step towards the later world of heavy metal and progressive rock has only cemented its status as one of those essential albums that one must hear and own despite the fact the album really doesn’t exhibit any particular traits of a classic band that stands the test of time. The album basically was a complete surprise hit that absolutely nobody could’ve planned if they tried and proof that sometimes fate determines things more than any amount of calculated planning. To date IN-A-GADDA-DA-VIDA has sold more than 30 million albums! Amazing!

Perhaps if i was there in the summer of 1968 and in the midst of the hoopla i would be as enamored with the whole IRON BUTTERFLY thing but honestly i can’t say find this album as anything more than an average standard psychedelic pop rock album of the era. It’s true that the phenomena of the title track does indeed make this a legendary release and for that reason i do own a personal copy because after all the title track is a part of the overall culture for better or for worse. From a critical point of view the first side of the album is decent with catchy psychedelic hippie songs that are quite listenable if rather unremarkable but there’s no denying that the legendary title track was and remains unlike anything that came before or came after and serves as a significant musical milestone as far as experimenting with rock music is concerned. The sloppiness and rather amateurish performance really only highlights the slacker drop out and do your own thing ethos of the era. After all 1968 was a very turbulent year politically across the world so a nonsensical anthem that was nebulous and could be interpreted differently by individuals and still resonated collectively was obviously exactly what the doctor ordered. A true anomaly of history yet will be in the collective consciousness for eons to come. This has to be one of the most unlikely hit albums of all time!

MITOCHONDRION Archaeaeon

Album · 2008 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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The Canadian MITOCHONDRION which got its start in Victoria, British Columbia in 2003 is amongst a new breed of dissonant death metal bands that has popped up since the late 1990s with the intent to craft dense ominous atmospheres as its primary focus and in the process incorporating myriad methodologies of extreme metal techniques to generate a chaotic and complex surrealist’s soundscape of otherworldly metallic bleakness. Founded by guitarist / vocalist Shawn Haché and guitarist / bassist / vocalist Nick Yanchuk along with early members bassist Nick Gibas, guitarist Mitch Aramenko and drummer Jesse Anderson, the band experienced the usual turmoil of lineup changes before settling as the four piece of Haché, Yanchuk, Godard and Gibas.

While following in the footsteps of bands like Portal, Gorguts, Ulcerate and Pyrrhon, MITOCHONDRION developed its own stylistic approach early on thus setting itself apart in significant ways. Primarily steeped in the world of chaotic and dissonant death metal, MITOCHONDRION spawned its first early convocation ARCHAEAEON in 2008 as a self-released limited edition of only 666 copies but due to the its rising popularity has since found the proper label support on the Dark Descent label which remastered this debut in 2011 and has reissued it with completely new cover artwork. The remastering was performed by none other than metal avant-gardist Colin Marston of Krallice, Dysrhythmia and Behold… The Arctopus fame. The music while more accessible than most of Marston’s output offers a plethora of metal stylistic approaches that deliver a turbulent descent into the an atmospheric yet intense metal encounter.

ARCHAEAEON successfully weaves together a tapestry of metallic savagery owing as much to the burgeoning modernities of technical death metal as it does the more continuous streamlined flow of the old school variety. Often compared to Deathspell Omega for delivering an order to chaos approach, the blackened avant-garde tones and bleak barbarity of the musical flow is undeniably intense in nature and yet utterly impossible to pigeonhole into an established subgenre of the metal universe. While chaotic and dissonant in the vein of Portal or Ulcerate, ARCHAEAEON delivers its descent into darkness in a martial stylistic approach akin to going to battle as if the band crafted its own metallic vision of some of the classical soundtrack moments on epic films such as The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. While many disso-death bands excel in complexities that offer curveball drifting into time signature rich frenzies or atmospheric abstractness, MITOCHONDRION delivers a fairly uniform rhythmic procession through the entire 71 1/2 minute run of ARCHAEAEON.

The band proves on this debut that it exhibits the perfect flow of consciousness that is punctuated by moments of atmospheric respite as well as delivering an incessant cascade of martial rhythmic guitar riffing, war metal style drumming techniques and moments of lead guitar soloing that offer more than enough variety to keep the entire album from stagnating even for a single track’s worth of playing time. The tracks are cohesive in how they interact from one to the next and the confluence of the death metal techniques with black metal and occasional doom metal excursions provides the perfect recipe for a well-crafted album’s worth of technical yet not too abstract strain of innovative death metal. It would not be an understatement to call the overall feel and mood of the album epic in scope and instrumental fortitude. The secret of the album’s appeal is that it never allows you to fall off the trajectory set forth. The incessant riffing and marital drumming styles keep you enthralled in the battle at hand and the excessive arsenal of variations that decorate the rhythmic flow are vast in scope and maintain a highly aggressive and satisfying delivery system.

This album was one of those love at first spin affairs but after a fair number of repeating attentive listening experiences it is also one that has a surprisingly satisfactory staying power as all the elements are so perfectly strewn about in a way that doesn’t allow your attention to drift off and destroy the momentum. MITOCHONDRION has proven itself to be one of the major players in the modern world of the new and varied extreme death metal varieties and this debut ARCHAEAEON showcases the band on full operational mode from the very initial opening “Chapter 11” on through to the 14-minute plus powerhouse “137 (Death’s Hedecaratia)” right down to the noise-ambient closer “Conclusion: Organum Exitus.” The band delivers a highly intellectual album based on the texts of Gnosticism and administers it all with a brash bravado of a seasoned extreme metal band that gracefully blends all its astute research of the metal universe into a cohesive whole of metal splendor. This band has risen quite high in my world and one listen to this complex behemoth of a debut should answer the question of why i have come to that conclusion. A brilliant beginning that was followed by the 2011 masterwork “Parasignosis.”

SUPURATION Empheral Paradise

Single · 1991 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Empheral Paradise" is a single release by French death metal act Supuration. The single was released through Regurgitated in 1991. The material featured on most of the minor Supuration releases from 1991 was culled from the August 1991 "Promo tape '91", and that´s also the case with the two tracks featured on "Empheral Paradise" ("Empheral Paradise" and "Reveries Of A Bloated Cadaver").

"Empheral Paradise" is a track showing the many different elements of Supuration´s sound from this period. Both thrash- and death metal riffing, tempo-changes, occasional doom/death heaviness, atmospheric lead guitar work, growling- and futuristic/robotic sounding clean vocals, eerie keyboards, and a generally unconventional and adventurous approach to death metal songwriting. "Reveries Of A Bloated Cadaver" is a slightly more brutal and death metal oriented song, but of course that track also features one or two progressive inclined moments.

Qaulity wise I think "Empheral Paradise" is the better composition of the two, but "Reveries Of A Bloated Cadaver" is still a good quality track featuring the unique sound of early Supuration. The sound production is of a good quality, although the clean guitars on "Reveries Of A Bloated Cadaver" sound a bit "off" in the mix. Considering that these tracks were culled from a demo the sound production is just fine though. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

PROCESSION Frontiera

Album · 1972 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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One of the heaviest prog bands from the Italy in the 1970s, PROCESSION emerged from the city of Torino in 1971 and delivered two albums with mostly different lineups and styles before disbanding permanently in 1975. The band was quite active on the live circuit in both incarnations during its four year run but like many talented bands of those years didn’t find the fame and fortunate that it deserved. The only two members to appear on both albums were lead vocalist Gianfranco Gaza and guitarist Roby Munciguerra. This debut album FRONTIERA was notably different than the majority of Italian prog acts of the day due to the fact it featured no keyboardist yet some tracks seem to have an uncredited atmospheric keyboard presence. Officially the band featured two guitarists, a bass and percussion. The three remaining members on this debut were guitarist Marcello Capra, bassist Angelo Girardi and drummer Giancarlo Capello.

While existing in a similar classically inspired framework of composiitons led by the exceptional and unique sounding lead vocalist Gianfranca Gaza, PROCESSION’s first album was based in hard rock and even reaching proto-metal intensity at times but also fortified with strong acoustic segments including the use of mandolin especially on the track “Incontro.” The band was also notable for its lyrical themes revolving around immigration hence the title FRONTIERA which means “Border” in Italian which apparently was a major issue in the Torino region at the time. The band’s big sound included dueling guitar action and heavy percussion but although based on the harder rock styles of the early 1970s, the compositions themselves have more in common with the classically infused symphonic prog bands that dominated the Italian scene.

Tracks like “Un Mondo Di Liberta” surely must’ve been the heaviest rock in prog in the entire nation of Italy with crazy fast tempos, blitzkrieg chunky guitar riffs and lightning fast solos. This particular track could easily qualify as one of the very first prog metal tracks as not only is it seriously intense but the longest track on the album reaching nearly 9 minutes in playing time. But it’s not just all crazy metal head banging. Halfway through the track suddenly gives way to a lush acoustic guitar segment with softer contemplative vocals which also finds a nice mandolin strumming session joining in. Surprisingly it never returns to the heavy rock but the following “Solo” continues in a hard boogie rock fashion. Like most of the tracks the band is skilled at creating a mood and dynamic and then changing things up in the middle into something completely unexpected thus adding interesting elements of surprise.

Likewise “Un’Ombra Che Vaga” starts off with heavy metal thunder before completely shifting into a purely acoustic sing-along style of local traditional folk music. The band members all add their harmonies and it’s probably the most mainstream sounding track on the album and then the last song “Solo II” delivers a slice of heavy boogie rock and then ends the album without further ado. While hard rock as the main focus in Italian prog wasn’t common, there were a few bands like Il Rovescio Della Medaglia who delivered an exclusively hard rock version of prog on its first two releases. The strange thing about PROCESSION is how balls to the wall heavy they were while in hard rock mode and then how soft and romanic they sounded during the softer acoustic passages. The contrast is like night and day and the unpredictable nature of when the heaviness ends and the placidly begins seemed rather random.

This band was truly unique and sounded like no other with blazing twin guitar attacks one minute, ridiculously bombastic riffing the next and then a complete curveball 180 degrees into some of the most melodic classically inspired acoustic rock you could imagine. The operatic prowess of vocalist Gianfranco Gaza really deserves credit for tying it altogether because without his powerful vocal abilities none of it would sound convincing. A truly unique sounding album that wouldn’t last for a second round. The band did manage to squeak out a second album with a mostly different lineup but “Fiaba” delivered a more mainstream Italian prog sound with keys, flute and saxophones. Overall this is a weird but satisfying slice of Italian prog.

ANACRUSIS Annihilation Complete

Demo · 1986 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Annihilation Complete" is the first demo recording by US thrash metal act Anacrusis. The demo was independently released in 1986. Anacrusis was founded in 1984 in St. Louis, Missouri and they released a couple of demos before being signed for the release of their debut full-length studio album "Suffering Hour" (1988). Four of the seven tracks featured on the 36:01 minutes long demo would be re-recorded and included on "Suffering Hour".

Stylistically Anacrusis play a raw and aggressive type of thrash/speed metal. But while it´s certainly both savage and gnarly, Anacrusis still have an occasional melodic edge (the use of guitar harmonies included) and lead vocalist/guitarist Kenn Nardi performs some clean singing in addition to his raw shouting thrash metal vocals. Considering that this is a demo recording and that it´s the band´s first demo recording, Anacrusis are a very well playing unit. The lead guitar work is especially impressive but it´s audible that all members of the band know how to handle their instruments. The vocals are pretty time-typical and standard for the genre. They get the job done but not much more than that.

"Annihilation Complete" features a well sounding demo production, which is rough around the edges, but still clear enough for all instruments and vocals to be audible in the mix. Upon conclusion it´s hard not to be a little impressed by the professionalism that Anacrusis show here and "Annihilation Complete" is arguably a promising debut demo. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

SUPURATION Promo tape '91

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 1991 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Promo tape '91" is a demo recording by French death metal act Supuration. The demo was independently released in August 1991. It´s one of the seminal recordings from the early part of Supuration´s discography (1990-1993) before they released their 1993 debut full-length studio album "The Cube". Supuration´s early years can be a bit confusing when looking at the number and types of minor releases they put out, but when it comes down to it, you really only need the 1990 "Sultry Obssession" EP and "Promo tape '91" to have the most important recordings from that period of the band´s career. Almost all other releases from that period feature tracks from one of those two releases.

So it´s now established that "Promo tape '91" is a seminal release in Supuration´s discography. But not only that...it´s also a high quality release showing the world the unique and sometimes progressive oriented death metal style of early Supuration. They would get increasingly more progressive from 1993 onwards, so the material on "Promo tape '91" is a chance to hear Supuration while they were still predominantly a death metal band toying with progressive songwriting ideas, rather than the other way around, which became the norm for them after 1993.

Featuring no less than eight tracks and a total playing time of 30:31 this could almost have been Supuration´s debut album if a label had opted to release it. Instead the promo tape was send to various labels shopping for a recording contract. The sound production is also of a high enough quality for this to be put out as a label release instead of a demo. I´ve heard much worse sound productions on official studio albums. So upon conclusion "Promo tape '91" is a high quality demo recording and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

SUPURATION Sultry Obsession

EP · 1990 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Sultry Obssession" is an EP release by French death metal act Supuration. The four-track, 13:09 minutes long EP was independently released in November 1990. A demo version of the EP also exists which features three tracks, because track number 1 and 2 from the EP are only listed as one song on the demo version of the release. Other than that the demo version and the EP version feature the same material.

Stylistically Supuration play a rhythmically varied and for the time brutal type of death metal, but featuring both thrashy riffs and progressive songwriting ideas. Eerie sounding keyboards suddenly appear and there´s also some Voivod Sci-fi influenced dissonance and futuristic "robotic" clean vocals. This is still first and foremost a death metal release though, and the progressive songwriting ideas only occur here and there as spice and atmosphere enchancing moments. Supuration would further develop their style over the next couple of years and release a highly progressive death metal debut album in "The Cube" (1993).

Upon conclusion "Sultry Obssession" is a very impressive EP release from Supuration. Considering that the material is culled from a 1990 death metal demo it´s quite advanced in the songwriting department, and there´s some high level musicianship on display here too. Add to that a near-professional studio sound production and "Sultry Obssession" comes off quite intriguing. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

INTRONAUT Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)

Album · 2013 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 10 ratings
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The fourth album in the INTRONAUT canon came with the longest title of them all. HABITUAL LEVITATIONS (INSTILLING WORDS WITH TONES) and was released in 2013 and marked a dynamic shift in the band’s sound due to the fact after three albums the vocalists Sacha Dunable and Dave Timmick completely dropped the growly vocal aspects altogether leaving only a clean singing style throughout the album’s 9 tracks that added up to just over 57 minutes of playing time. Of course this is nothing new of progressive sludge metal bands with bands like Mastodon following a similar route however there comes a point where it just isn’t sludge metal any more!

The beauty of INTRONAUT is that this Los Angeles based group has been amazingly consistent in delivering high quality and well-designed albums ever since its debut “Void” in 2006, a trait that continues to the current day. The amazing lineup of Sacha Dunable (guitar, vocals), Joe Lester (bass, upright bass), Danny Walker (drums, samples, 2004-18) and Dave Timnick (guitar, vocals, tabla, percussion) has been stable since the band’s 2008 album “Prehistorians” therefore INTRONAUT has become a well-oiled progressive sludge metal machine that has seamlessly integrated the caustic elements of sludge metal into the context of a bonafide progressive metal band without a flinch.

In this regard, lack of extreme metal vocals disregarded, INTRONAUT continues to craft an amazing web of intricately designed progressive metal composiitons that still implement plenty of heavy sludge metal riffing along with the drumming style that is fairly common in the world of sludgery. Danny Walker still manages to slip in some ethnic sounding percussive effects and the band continues to excel at alternating heavy sludge laden riffs and grooves with the cleaner gone full prog metal guitar effects. The time signatures are ubiquitous as are the mood changes with dynamics, tempos and even instrumental timbres shapeshift in unexpected ways. The music is complex enough that the album requires a number of spins to fully sink in but provides an immediate fix as well albeit not in a way where the complex melodies will get under your skin right away.

The instrumental interplay is the album’s strongest suit with exquisite guitar riffing trade offs from both Dunable and Timmich accompanied by Joe Lester’s phenomenal virtuosic bass playing and Danny Walker’s unique percussive style that tastefully delivers slower beat keeping rhythmic percussion as well as offering jazzy drum rolls and occasional blastbeats. Likewise the sludge-heavy moments are well balanced by the slower contemplative softer parts. Due to the lack of growly vocals HABITUAL LEVITATIONS exudes a more atmospheric vibe than the previous albums which in my opinion is its downfall but nevertheless the album’s compositions are so very, very strong that it’s easy to give it all a pass.

Admittedly my least favorite album in the INTRONAUT universe and one that took the longest to warm up to simply due to the COMPLETE lack of growly vocals. Atmospheric sludge works best IMHO when both styles are fully utilized to offer the much needed contrast otherwise the music sounds like a totally abandonment of the sludge metal side of the fence and fully committed to the world of clean vocal powered progressive metal. Of course other bands like Cynic have jumped that fence but then again what came after is never as convincing or well balanced as what came before. Even Neurosis was wise enough to keep the growly vocal aspects in tact partially on the mellower albums like “A Sun That Never Sets.” After years this one has grown on me and although my least favorite of the lot, a lesser INTRONAUT album is still an excellent album indeed as this band has notched up into my top 10 sludge metal bands of all time.

SUPURATION Sultry Obssession

Demo · 1990 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Sultry Obssession" is the second demo recording by French death metal act Supuration. The demo was independently released in November 1990. It was simoultaniously released as an EP with additional track "Hypertrophy", which is actually not an addition to the original demo. The original demo just featured track 1 and 2 from the EP as one track titled "Sordid & Outrageous Emanation" (the EP tracks "Hypertrophy" and "Sordid & Outrageous Emanation").

"Sultry Obssession" is Supuration´s first studio demo recording, as their first demo was recorded live at their rehearsal space. No tracks from the first demo were re-recorded and included on "Sultry Obssession", so the demo features all new material. The material is also exclusive to this demo as none of the tracks would be re-recorded and included on Supuration´s debut full-length studio album "The Cube" (1993).

Stylistically Supuration have become a bit more brutal since the first thrashy death metal demo, but also more progressive. Already this early on there is a Voivod sci-fi influence heard here and there, and considering that this is a 1990 death metal demo, it´s actually quite impressive in terms of the eclectic nature of the songwriting, the high level musical performances, and the near-professional sound production values. It´s no wonder that Supuration opted to re-release this demo as an EP. The quality certainly warrants such a move. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

CARNIFEX Pathological Rites

Boxset / Compilation · 2018 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Pathological Rites" is a compilation album release by Finnish death metal act Carnifex. The compilation was released through Xtreem Music in May 2018. Carnifex formed in 1989 and recorded two demos before disbanding in 1993. The second demo ended up shevled though and the material from that demo appear for the first time on "Pathological Rites".

"Pathological Rites" however features more than just the shelved second demo. The compilation also features all material from Carnifex first demo titled "Decadence" which was released in July 1991, the two tracks Carnifex recorded for their 1991 split with Festerday, and "Fresh Flesh", which is a rehearsal recording from 1993. So it´s the full body of work recorded by Carnifex during their releatively short existence.

The material from "Decadence" opens "Pathological Rites" and it´s decent quality old school death metal. Nothing bad, but seldom outstanding. They´ve cleaned up the sound from the original demo and that´s a big plus. The two tracks from the split with Festerday follow and they are both in the same style and roughly features a similar sounding production job as the material from the "Decadence" demo.

Then comes the four tracks from the shelved second demo and lets establish right away that Carnifex weren´t going the death´n´roll way that many of their contemporaries did. Instead the material from the shelved second demo is pretty brutal and sometimes grindcore influenced death metal. Carnifex have however branched out a bit since the "Decadence" demo and the music is a bit more varied and now also features more lead guitar parts and a couple of more mid-paced brutal grooves. The sound production is decent although it´s pretty abrasive and noisy.

The 1993 rehearsal track "Fresh Flesh" closes the compilation and if that track is an indication of anything in terms of the possible direction Carnifex would have moved in, had they not disbanded, I´d say it´s a continuation of their old school death metal style but featuring more tempo changes, more sophisticated melodic guitar work, and more varity in the songwriting. There are no vocals on the track, so it´s hard to know if the band imagined death metal growling or something else, but my guess would be death metal growling.

Carnifex made an impact on the early Finnish death metal scene, and although very few other people than a few Finnish death metal fans from back then probably know anything about them, it´s still a good idea to release some of these early demo recordings in compilation form, to provide the new generation of old school death metal fans with a chance to hear some authentic early 90s death metal. Murky, savage, and a little naive it may be, but it´s authentic and delivered with every ounce of passion possible. a 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating is warranted.

CARNIFEX Decadence

Demo · 1991 · Death Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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"Decadence" is the first demo recording by Finnish, Helsinki based death metal act Carnifex. The demo was independently released in July 1991. Carnifex formed in 1989 and recorded two demos before disbanding in 1993. The second demo was not released when it was recorded though and the material from the demo wouldn´t appear until 2018 as part of the "Pathological Rites" compilation album.

Stylistically the material featured on this demo is in a grim, brutal, and heavy old school death metal style. I´d say Carnifex are predominantly influenced by the US, Florida scene, but as always with Finnish acts from those days, Carnifex take their influences from all over the place (there´s for example an occasional UK grindcore influence in the music too). They are not the most unique sounding Finnish death metal act from those days, but they are a well playing band, and although the sound production of the demo is a bit murky and you can´t hear every detail of what´s being played, there´s still some pretty good quality features to be found here.

So upon conclusion "Decadence" is a decent quality death metal demo from Carnifex. It´s nothing out of the ordinary for the time or the style, but a 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating is still warranted.

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