Metal Music Reviews from Vim Fuego

SPECTRAL VOICE Eroded Corridors of Unbeing

Album · 2017 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 5 ratings
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Once upon a time, someone hit upon the great idea of pulling together death metal’s distorted heavy guitars and gargled vocals with doom metal’s pedestrian pace to create one of metal’s most vital and creative, but simultaneously depressing and gloomy, genres. As with all things metal, there could be more than one answer as to who came up with the idea first, but it matters not. What matters is the legacy of this momentous combination, from its earliest tentative steps through to today.

Paradise Lost’s debut album, the rather unimaginatively named “Lost Paradise” was one of the first examples of the genre to actually gain a wide release. It took death metal tunings and vocals, and played them at doom metal speeds. The band really hit their straps with the more gothic sounding “Gothic” (hmm, is that a pattern forming?) which also introduced the element of clean sung female vocals, and less of the deathly side of things. The band’s third album “Shades of God” saw the doom starting to dominate, as the death metal influences started to disappear.

There were also Paradise Lost’s great buddies from the north of England My Dying Bride and Anathema. Just about every early release by My Dying Bride was an exercise in soul crushing despair, with wonderful titles like “Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium” and “The Angel and the Dark River”. With less of a death metal sound than Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride were still crushingly heavy. Were? They still fucking are!

Anathema were just as despairingly heavy as the other two, although they lost their death metal influence a lot sooner. No matter, their later works like “A Natural Disaster”, “Judgement”, or “A Fine Day to Exit” are far more subtle exercises in desperation.

Skin Chamber threw an industrial element into the mix. Although inspired by Napalm Death, Skin Chamber came out sounding like Godflesh raping The Swans (ooh, The Swans! I forgot the fucking Swans!). Created by Paul Lemos, and Chris Moriarty of experimental band Controlled Bleeding, the original intention was to produce short, sharp sonic blasts, like Napalm Death was doing, under the name Fat Hacker. However, given time, a recording budget, and the aforementioned Swans’ album “COP” on heavy rotation, the result was two legendary albums of industrial doom-death which have rarely been emulated since. The project was put to bed after just the two albums, but was about to be resurrected in 2008 when Moriarty’s untimely death put paid to it.

Disembowelment er, or diSEMBOWELMENT, as they spelled it, was an Australian band formed in 1989 from the ashes of grindcore band Bacteria. The band became famous for their funereal tempos interspersed with occasional bursts of speed. Their only album “Transcendence into the Peripheral” is still regarded as an essential album of its kind today. In 1993, band members Renato Gallina and Matthew Skarajew formed the highly respected ambient/fusion/world music outfit Trial of the Bow. All in all, this was quite some achievement for a band which only existed for four years and never performed live.

Closer to home, (well, my home anyway) there was Sinistrous Diabolus from Christchurch, New Zealand. The three piece band produced an absolutely stunning demo in 1993 named “Opus One”. The three tracks were far beyond the realm of what any other band in New Zealand was doing at the time, combining doom and death metal with anti-Christian black metal imagery. Like many a great band at the time, if Sinistrous Diabolus had been based in Europe or the US, they would have snagged a record deal, but New Zealand was and still is too far from the rest of the world. The band lay dormant for many years, but was revived in the 2010s, and has been emitting occasional slabs of filthy doom-death ever since.

So why a mention of all these excellent albums of days gone by when this is supposed to be a review of Spectral Voice’s “Eroded Corridors of Unbeing”? Because “Eroded Corridors of Unbeing” is unbelievably tedious, and all the previous selections mentioned are better examples of doom-death metal.

All the ingredients for a good sound are there. Spectral Voice are undeniably heavy. The sound is utterly crushing and extreme. Somehow, it still doesn't work.

There is so little inspiration or effort in the music its surprising even the musicians themselves don’t get bored with it. Yes, it is supposed to be slow and heavy. Yes, it is decently executed doom/death. Yes, the band members in Spectral Voice are highly skilled musicians. These things are not what’s at fault here. The biggest problem is it is unoriginal, predictable, interchangeable, and ultimately dull.

This album has had a lot of praise from social media, but it seems like another case of hype building up the mediocre to a status far beyond that it deserves. Music is supposed to inspire some sort of strong reaction in a listener. “Eroded Corridors of Unbeing” inspires apathy.

That’s not to say “Eroded Corridors of Unbeing” is a total loss. While slow-paced plodding gets a bit monotonous, when the band uses a bit of tempo things improve. “Dissolution” blasts into life after a dreary opening passage, but this is over 40 minutes into the album. There is little to offer which has not been done before. While near faultlessly performed, “Eroded Corridors of Unbeing” has no character or vitality, and is just not an essential release.

CANNIBAL CORPSE Red Before Black

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.95 | 2 ratings
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With a band like Cannibal Corpse, it would be entirely reasonable to expect to find a body buried in the back yard, or a disfigured sibling kept locked in the attic, but it just hasn’t happened. Despite the themes of murder, mutilation, cannibalism, tracing back to the band’s earliest days, there are no true life horrors like "St. Anger", "Cold Lake", or "Risk" lurking anywhere in their back catalogue. The days of a tour de force like "Butchered At Birth" or "Tomb of the Mutilated" seem to be a long time ago, but “Red Before Black” proves that the same band which recorded those slabs of maggot riddled carrion still exists today.

Metal has evolved since the heady days of the early 1990s, and Cannibal Corpse have also evolved, while still keeping the essence and vitality which made them unique. This is a band which started out playing death metal and is determined to keep playing it until the bloody end.

“Only One Will Die” blasts off, no horror movie or acoustic intros needed, and it’s death metal bliss. Ah, fuck, you know what it’s like. Hammer smashed face drums, monolithic bass, hatchet to the head guitars, and vomit the soul vocals, and the aural horror show is back for another instalment. “Code of the Slashers” is one of those songs which should become a live favourite, with an impending doom crushing opening riff, followed by Corpsegrinder’s bestial vocals, and then a fast section kicks in. It’s uncompromising as fuck. It’s hard to imagine five guys all aged around 50 are still making such fucking brutal, complex, crushing, unearthly, thunderous music, but they are.

“Remaimed” is, if anything, heavier than “Code of the Slashers”. Once again, it seems Cannibal Corpse are going to sacrifice speed for the sake of heavy, but the song changes gears effortlessly between the two. And that’s one of Cannibal Corpse’s great strengths. They make this seem easy, when it’s anything but. Screaming “head shovelled off!” at the top of your voice along with Corpsegrinder is great fun, and that is exactly what “Red Before Black” is all about, albeit a dark sort of amusement. There are still plenty of elitists out there who wrote off Cannibal Corpse a long time ago, and can’t or won’t change their opinion. The band’s crime? Becoming too popular through their controversial artwork and lyrics, and even popping up as “thrasher band Cannibal Corpses” in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. That’s like judging a beer by the bottle and not what’s inside. Fuck ‘em. They are the ones missing out on some of the finest crafted death metal there is, and the band’s longevity has proved beyond doubt that any hint of gimmickry is long gone. Cannibal Corpse is no longer the most brutal and vicious band around (and fuck off once again to the elitists who say they never were) but fucking hell, how many bands are still creating such killing riffs 14 albums and nearly 30 years into a career? And look at the regularity of those albums too. There are no half decade gaps anywhere in the discography. This is a band that lives, breathes, and shits death metal. “Red Before Black” is for the fans who do the same.

PHYLLOMEDUSA Phyllomedusa, the Destroyer

EP · 2017 · Grindcore
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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Ever listened to a harsh noise or grindcore demo and wondered how the musician... no, performer, because this may not be music, is actually making those hideous/beautiful sounds? Have you considered what instruments might actually be involved? Is this created by over-amplified, distorted strings, or by some evil Dr Frankenstein electronic circuit soldered together with crowbars? And is that a human voice, altered beyond bestial into impure noise too dirty to be called white? Drums or machines? Are the microphones used in the recording process broken, or can human-created devices tolerate such stresses far beyond the red-line? Is this just the hideous nightmare outpourings of a cybernetic entity spontaneously formed inside a labyrinthine silicon chip?

In short, have you ever wondered where the boundary between noise and music is?

Here it is, right here.

Don’t try to understand or interpret “Phyllomedusa, The Destroyer”. Like quantum physics, it just is, and it’s beyond the understanding of most humans. There are two correct responses. The first, and more usual, is to recoil like pain receptors flinching from a flame. The other is to seek more, yearning for further stimulation of already overloaded pleasure sensors, like an overdosing addict knowing death will result but plunging the needle ever deeper in search of that elusive final apocalyptic high.

Few will tolerate this. Fewer still will find gratification. But which urge is stronger- fear of the potentially unpleasant and painful, or the desire and drive of Sacher-Masoch’s perversion?

JUDAS PRIEST Sad Wings Of Destiny

Album · 1976 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.42 | 141 ratings
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Do you remember the Atari 2600? It was a gaming console which first hit the market in 1977, and revolutionised home entertainment. A year before Space Invaders hit the arcades and chip shops of the world, the 2600 allowed you to play video games in your own home on your own TV. And the games which eventually followed were great fun to play, as many were ports of popular arcade games, the afore-mentioned Space Invaders being the killer app which really put the 2600 years ahead of the competition. It was followed by NintendoSegaMegadriveGameboyGenesis, or whatever the other wannabe consoles were, but none ever matched the 2600’s longevity, remaining in production for 15 years. Many modern day console gamers revere the 2600, because it paved the way for so much of today’s gaming innovation, culture, and methodology, but would they ever go back to playing just the 2600?

No, they would not.

Despite all it’s innovations, by today’s standard, the 2600 looks old and primitive. Look at a game like Adventure, for example. It was the first adventure/RPG available on a console. The main character is a block. Yes, a little coloured square ran around a castle and, among other things, could carry a spear which is supposed to be a sword with which he could kill a duck. Er, sorry, a dragon. Yes, the dragons looked like ducks. The mazes were blocky and reasonably simple. Compare this to the total immersion of any modern day RPG, like The Elder Scrolls or Witcher series, and it doesn’t even seem like the same technology. However, the basics are still the same- console, screen, controller.

“Sad Wings of Destiny” is an Atari 2600 album anachronistically stuck in a heavy metal PS4/XBOX ONE world. Yes, it is a thing to be admired and respected. Without it, modern metal would not exist in the form it does. It helped lay down the foundations and fundamentals of metal. But metal has moved on.

First though, the positives of this album. It is chock full of those masterly riffs Judas Priest made their career on. The first track “Victim of Changes” crashes straight into that stunning riff, and chugs away like the Little Engine who Fucking Well Could. Second track “The Ripper” is a creepy little fucker, portraying a sense of lurking evil.

A young Rob Halford is an eargasm all it’s own. His clarion call voice is crystal clear, He has the vitality and bite of someone young and ambitious who has an amazing vocal gift. His voice soars, dips, wails, emotes, and threatens. Halford adds colour and nuance, perfectly complementing the crashing metallic music of “Tyrant” or the subtle tones of a picked guitar on “Dreamer Deceiver”.

After a while though, the cracks begin to appear.

The pacing of the album is odd. “Dreamer Deceiver” is just too slow too soon after “Victim of Changes”, and really drops the album flow on it’s ass. True, “Deceiver” picks up the pace again, followed soon after by “Tyrant”, but then there’s another big flat patch with “Genocide”, which reeks of filler, followed by the piano/harmonised vocal song “Epitaph”. It sounds incredibly out of place, more like a rejected track from Queen’s “A Night at the Opera” sessions. Album closer “Island of Domination” is a rollicking rocker with a dirty groove, and just leaves the listener wondering what the fuck Judas Priest were really trying to do with the album as a whole.

The biggest problem here is it just doesn’t sound heavy enough. Volume helps, but it isn’t everything. Yes, a blasphemous thing to say, but there really is a lack of energy and punch to the whole thing which cranking up to 11 and snapping off the knob just won’t fix. Metal was still a relatively new genre in 1976, and studios, producers, and engineers often didn’t have much experience with recording it. As a result, large parts of the album are flat. Occasionally, the guitars sound like Bob Dylan’s nose was used as an amplifier.

Sometimes, time is a bitch. Back in the day, this music might have scared disco fans or the Kiss Army, but by modern standards, it’s all kind of quaint. This is an album which you really want to love, but will probably end up respecting rather than loving.

HAZZERD Misleading Evil

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Anyone with more than a passing interest in metal will know thrash metal died in the early 1990s. Why did it die? There were a number of reasons, but really, it fucking well deserved to!

It’s hard to tell exactly why thrash became so cancerously mutated. Bands started doing stupid shit, diluting the music with things like silly slapped bass and funky beats, or aiming for the mainstream with gutless power ballads. There was experimentation, social causes, a decline in pace, and a similar decline in quality. Perhaps thrash became an oversaturated market, filled with sub-standard crap. Maybe it was because the musicians involved in it lost interest as the genre had become too restrictive and straight-jacketed. Whatever the reasons, most of the big names abandoned it. Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax all slowed down, Slayer fucked off for a long while, Exodus fell apart, Kreator changed directions, Testament released some sub-par crap, and countless other bands “discovered” their love for acoustic ballads, radio-friendly rock rhythms, and shorter hair. There was no new good stuff coming out.

A few bands like Overkill soldiered on bravely, and the odd new killer band like Strapping Young Lad, popped up, but by and large, thrash lived on mainly through its past glories, like “Reign in Blood”, “Master of Puppets”, “Pleasure to Kill” and “Bonded by Blood”. So what was a lover of hard edged metal to do? There were a couple of options. The first, and probably best, was to start exploring the now established death metal scene, or look into the emergence of black metal. There was the less enticing option of putting the brain out of gear and following the smelly sulking masses of angsty teens into the grunge market, or the even less appetising moronicism of nu-metal.

And then, here we are, almost through the second decade of the 21st century, and thrash is back with… well, not really a vengeance, but it sounds like it’s fucking well supposed to again!

Yep, so press play on Hazzerd’s “Misleading Evil”, and you instantly get a pounding thrash of drums, a crashing riff of guitars, and away you go, speeding through the first track “The Tendencies of a Madman”. It is just like it is 1989 again. This is better than 1989 though. In those days, a band needed a pretty good record deal to get even a half decent studio sound, and even then it wasn’t guaranteed. Check Dark Angel’s “Leave Scars” for a prime example. What we get here from Hazzerd is crisp, clear guitars, with the right amount of crunch and zip so you can fully appreciate the riffs, and the shredding solos. The rhythm section is tight and energetic. Drummer Dylan "Shoes" Westendorp is also the band’s vocalist, and the dude can fuckin’ sing! Imagine Megadeth if they were still a young and vital band with something still to prove, possibly with Russ Anderson from Forbidden or Bobby Blitz from Overkill on vocals. Westendorp has the right mix of melody with a rough edge.

Often a telling test for a thrash metal band was how well they could hold the listener’s interest with an instrumental. Some, like Megadeth’s “Into The Lungs of Hell” and Nuclear Assault’s “Game Over” were excellent, while others like Death Angel’s “The Ultra-Violence” and Flotsam and Jetsam’s “The Jones” just get bloody tedious after a while. Here, the title track is an instrumental, and far from being boring, it is a highlight amongst highlights. No track stands out much from the others, because all are outstanding.

If you long for the golden days of thrash metal, check out “Misleading Evil”. It is a nostalgia trip and fresh and new at the same time. It has one of those Ed Repka-esque covers (a bloke called Andrei Bouzikov deserves the credit for it). This is fun and exciting, and a bit edgy, just like thrash metal was always meant to be. Metalcore pretenders, please take note: metal and hardcore were combined decades ago. It is called thrash fuckin’ metal. THIS is how it is supposed to sound.

GRINDER The Black EP

EP · 2017 · Grindcore
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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You know what? I was going to try to review “Dirt” by Alice In Chains, but I can’t. I can’t give it an objective review in any way, shape or form. I tried to listen to it for the first time the other day, got thoroughly bored with it, so I stopped.

Age and attitude has a lot to do with it. Alice In Chains was supposed to be the more metal side of the grunge movement, but I’m too old and cynical to buy into the teen angst it embodied. Even when I was a teenager I had more important things to do than to wallow in self-pity, like working to help keep the family farm afloat, while getting myself an education so I wouldn’t be trapped trying to scratch a living from the land. Yes, “Dirt” is meant to follow the emotional descent of someone falling into the clutches of an eventually fatal heroin habit, but that world, and those emotions, are alien to me. While I understand mental illness and depression, I just don’t get self-pity and addiction.

“Dirt” may have been exotic and fresh when it was first recorded in 1992, but a quarter of a century has been unkind. What little of the music I do recall sounded flat and dull. Perhaps it is the radio-friendly imitators and mimics which have spoiled Alice In Chains’ aura, or perhaps it is rose-tinted spectacles which keep this album held in such a high regard. Whatever it is, I didn’t like it enough to listen to it all the way through, and you can’t give half an album a fair review.

Just as I was considering something drastic, like mowing the lawn or doing the dishes because they were more interesting than “Dirt”, this little gem popped up on YouTube. “The Black EP” by Grinder is essentially the antithesis of “Dirt”. It is short, sharp, and silly. What could be less serious than coffee-themed grindcore with a real, genuine grinder on vocals? Yes, Grinder’s vocalist is a coffee grinder.

For anyone outside the grindcore sphere of influence, this may sound utterly inane and childish. Perhaps it is. However, jump online and check out even just a handful of grindcore demos and the thing which strikes you almost immediately is how atrociously recorded the vocals are. Grunts, groans, shrieks, growls, and even screams can end up sounding like a gurgling drain or a boiling kettle. It seems to be a hard task to keep already tortured vocals anywhere near intelligible when all other instruments around are raging at, for want of a better expression, full noise.

So Grinder offers nothing but a fun gimmick. The song titles are completely meaningless because the vocals are nothing but the sound of coffee beans having the caffeine powdered out of them, and possibly the resulting beverage percolating in the fires of hell. The music itself though is well above average for this style of release. There is the obligatory insane drum programming, set to an inhuman tempo, overlaid with crushing guitar and bass noise. There’s a couple of funny coffee-related samples, and song titles like “Beans of Prey” and “Hot Water Death Bath”.

What does it all mean? Fuck all. Why listen to it? Pure escapism. Is it better than Alice In Chains’ “Dirt”? I think so. Will anyone else? Probably not, but fuck ‘em. They can write their own review.

METALLICA Ride the Lightning

Album · 1984 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.45 | 197 ratings
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In the most famous of Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea’s paradoxes, the great hero Achilles raced a tortoise, who we shall call Trevor. Being a cocky bastard, Achilles gave Trevor a huge head start, figuring he would overtake him quicker than Zeus could zap a smart arsed atheist. So off they went. Achilles arrived at where Trevor had started, but of course the tortoise had moved. So quick as a flash, Achilles reached the point where Trevor had moved to, but the bugger had moved on again, so, Achilles kept on running. Each time Achilles caught up to where Trevor had been, Trevor had moved.

After a few hours of covering ever decreasing fractions, Achilles still hadn’t caught up and had pulled his Achilles. Trevor turned around and gave the limping and confused Achilles the finger, and carried on his paradoxical way, looking forward to going to the pub and telling all his tortoise mates how he’d beaten the mighty Achilles, and given philosophers and mathematicians alike a thumping headache. Unfortunately for Trevor, an eagle called Aetós thought Trevor looked tasty, swooped down and picked him up. Eagles aren’t particularly bright, but even they know a tortoise is a bit hard on the beak, so Aetós dropped Trevor on what he thought was a rock, but turned out to be the bald head of Aeschylus the playwright, killing him instantly, and allowing Trevor to escape uneaten.

And that is how Trevor the tortoise fucked philosophy, mathematics, literature, mythology, and an eagle all in one day.

If you remember back the the beginning of the story though, this is supposed to be about Metallica’s “Ride The Lightning”, and you may be wondering what the fuck a bunch of Greeks and a lucky bastard of a tortoise from two and a half millennia ago have to do with a 1984 thrash metal album. It may seem an incredibly long bow to draw, but just imagine Trevor is Metallica, Achilles is every other metal band in the world, and “Ride The Lightning” is the proof of the paradox in question. The crux of the matter is, just when other bands thought they were catching up with Metallica, Metallica had moved on to another level. No matter how far or fast those other bands moved, Metallica was still in front, even if by just a fraction.

Doing a detailed song by song analysis of “Ride the Lightning” is a bit pointless, because it’s so well known by metal fans, and if you’re not a fan, you’re probably not going to bother listening to it anyway. So instead, here’s a superficial analysis.

1. “Fight Fire With Fire” is about nuclear war, and there are claims it was the fastest thrash metal song in the world at the time. It could well have been, but there were a few underground bands playing faster in pure beats-per-minute. “Fight Fire With Fire” is a shitload better than any of those.

2. “Ride The Lightning” is about someone facing the electric chair, a little like the condemned man facing the gallows in Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. It’s a place not to be.

3. “For Whom The Bell Tolls” is based on Ernest Hemmingway’s Spanish Civil War novel of the same title. It’s a fucking good read. Also, Cliff Burton played the intro on his bass, which is awesome.

4. The suicide note song “Fade To Black” was Metallica’s first shot at a power ballad, and they got it spot on. It showed power ballads could remain powerful (see that, Motley Crüe, Tesla, Poison, Extreme, etc?) It laid the foundation for subsequent power ballads like “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, “One” and “The Day That Never Comes”.

5. “Trapped Under Ice” is about awakening from a state of cryonic suspension. It was the first song on side two, when such a thing actually meant something.

6. This album is seven masterpieces, and “Escape”. It’s James Hetfield’s least favourite Metallica song. Given that the band have produced numerous musical atrocities among their bounty of metallic and hard rocking diamonds, that is saying something.

7. “Creeping Death” was inspired by the plague of the death of the firstborn, from Exodus 12:29, for those of a biblical bent. Coincidentally, the famous “Die” chant was written by Kirk Hammett while he was still in Exodus.

8. The title "The Call of Ktulu" was inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Chthulu, but the different spelling made pronunciation easier. The reworking of this classical influenced song was the only good track on S&M, and deservedly won a Grammy in 1999.

So yeah... “Ride The Lightning” redefined what thrash metal was, is, and could be. Metallica bettered it once, or perhaps twice, depending on how you view subsequent albums. Every other band in the genre since has either tried, and failed, to match it, or seen sense and realised they couldn’t.

MONGE Monge

Demo · 2013 · Black Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Holyfuckingshit!

THIS is the reason I listen to metal. Occasionally, just very occasionally, something is thrown at you which is so unexpected and so intense it reinvigorates your lust for metal. As a rule, I’d rather listen to a noisecore demo which sounds like someone has thrown a pizza on a turntable and then dropped the needle on it than to subject myself to almost anything from the black metal underground. Atmosphere is something to breathe not listen to, symphonies are best kept for orchestras, and the old gods are as praiseworthy as the tooth fairy.

And so I approached Monge’s self-titled demo with much trepidation, investigating only because it is a side project of Brazilian grindcore band Facada.

The acoustic intro “Descending into the Deepest Abyss of the Self and Deny the Creator of Lands and Seas” is pretty ho-hum. Silly title, competently performed, but nothing much to write home about.

But then, “The Doctrine of Transcendental Invocation” blasts out of the speakers, and “Monge” is transformed into something sublime. All preconceptions are instantly vaporised. This is red-meat-dripping-blood raw black metal, a direct descendant of early Bathory and Mayhem. As with all the best raw black metal, it has buzzsaw guitars, lightning fast drums, and throat shredding vocals. The five tracks following the intro stick strictly to this formula, but it is hardly formulaic, because it is so viciously, convincingly carried off.

The only time this formula seems to change even slightly is on “Summoning the Lords of Tragedies Storm”, which seems to veer more towards crust-tinged grind, punctuated with incredible black metal blasting, and fades out into the only atmospheric passage of the entire demo, a rumbling rainstorm.

The cover of Rotting Christ’s “The Signal of the Evil Existence” is the coup de grace. The song is a perfect choice, made all the more so as the Greek gothic black metal masters began their humble existence as a grindcore band. Monge make it their own.

These three grind freaks could teach even the most frostbitten and grim tr00 kvlt high priest of black metal that the darkness and evil can still return without the extra-curricular fuckwittery of church burning, murder, and National Socialism. This is truly inspiring, violent extreme metal.

BLOODHOUND GANG Use Your Fingers

Album · 1995 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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The totally unofficial Bloodhound Gang `Use Your Fingers' Q&A

Q: So was the mega-successful, multi-platinum Rock/Hip-Hip crossover masterpiece `One Fierce Beer Coaster' the Bloodhound Gang's first album? A: No, it wasn't. The band's first album was `Use Your Fingers', released in 1995.

Q: So how come I've never heard of it? A: You haven't been looking in the bargain bin at your local record store.

Q: Was it any good? A: The record-buying public didn't seem to think so, and neither did the band. Bloodhound Gang actually split up after the release of `Use Your Fingers' because of the poor response it received, but reformed again.

Q: So what's the title all about then? Is it referring to Guns n Roses or female masturbation? A: Yes to both.

Q: So what's it sound like? A: It sounds just how you might imagine the predecessor to `One Fierce Beer Coaster' would sound.

Q: So it's got the funky beats then? A: Er, sort of.

Q: And it's got the silly lyrics? A: Yes.

Q: And the dumb bits between the songs? A: Of course it does. It's a Bloodhound Gang album isn't it?

Q: And does the CD have some dumb instructions on it? A: Yes! These questions are really dumb!

Q: Sorry, but I'm doing my best. There are lots of obscure references to American pop culture here. Can you help me out? A: I'll try...

Q: Is that really Rip Taylor on the first track? A: Yes, it is.

Q: So who's Rip Taylor? A: A camp American comedian, famous for being fat, having spiky hair, throwing confetti when he tells jokes, and being camp. Also known as the Prince of Pandemonium.

Q: And what is a sprinkle genie? A: You really, really don't want to know!

Q: Who are Vera, Flo, and Mel? A: All three are characters from the sitcom "Alice". Vera and Flo are waitresses, while Mel is the cook who owns Mel's Diner.

Q: Who are Jerry's Kids, and why do they need a sponsor? A: Comedian Jerry Lewis got all serious when he started getting old, and started a charity for disabled children. The children helped by the charity are known as Jerry's Kids.

Q: What was the Rockford Files? A: It was a 1970s police show starring James Garner.

Q: What are spaghettios? A: Little rings made of spaghetti, shaped like the letter O.

Q: What was Barbara Eden doing in a bottle? A: She was Jeannie in the sitcom "I Dream Of Jeannie", where she was a genie who lived in a bottle. Look, this is getting boring. Ask some questions about the music!

Q: Er, OK, I'll try. Um, did Bloodhound Gang write all the music? A: Of course not! They ripped stuff off all over the place and covered Kim Wilde's "Kids In America". However, The Cure wouldn't let them rip off a sample, which is probably a good thing, because this album is bad enough on it's own.

Q: Is it as good as Lawnmower Deth's "Kids In America"? A: No.

Q: Is "One Way" a Blondie cover, "Go Down" an AC/DC cover, and "No Rest For The Wicked' an Ozzy Osbourne cover? A: Sort of, no, and no.

Q: Are any of the songs clever and funny? A: No, but some are stupid and funny, like `You're Pretty When I'm Drunk', and he's pretty fucking drunk.

Q: So what else can you tell us about the music? A: That's a stupid question! Um, well, it sounds like the demo tunes on tinny little hand held keyboards, but it took five guys to make the sounds. Occasionally a guitar pops up, but not often enough.

Q: So, um, is this like, any good, or worth getting? A: It depends. If you like other Bloodhound Gang albums, then you might like this. If you are just a casual observer, who quite liked "Fire Water Burn" then you'd probably be very disappointed.

Q: So it's rubbish then. A: I wouldn't go quite that far, but it's not a masterpiece. Finished with the questions?

Q: Yes. A: Good.

BLOODHOUND GANG One Fierce Beercoaster

Album · 1996 · Metal Related
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Dick jokes, toilet humour, cheap swearing, tacky pop culture references, and so-uncool-they're-cool '80s New Romantic songs. Hmm. Must be Bloodhound Gang.

To say `One Fierce Beer Coaster' redefined dumbfuck, lowest common denominator rap metal is stealing a bit of Limp Bizkit's thunder, but take a look at the similarities. Both bands were/are loved and hated in equal quantities, both were quite keen on borrowing other people's material, and both have white boy wannabe Rappers for front men. But that's where the similarities end. For a start, Fred Durst takes himself far too seriously. Jimmy Pop Ali has a big squishy nose and knows it. Fred Durst couldn't write a rhyme to save himself. Jimmy Pop Ali's lyrics rhyme some of the least expected, dumbest words ever.

From go to whoa, “One Fierce Beer Coaster” is pretty much a series of jokes tacked together and called an album. Much of the humour is self-effacing, the Bloodhounds thinking of themselves as low down Gen-X slacker types, and they're probably right. However, Jimmy Pop and his crew have plenty to say about their safe and boring suburban society, the same way OG Rappers of the past commented on the ghettoes and slums of their youth. Basically, the suburbs are shallow breeding grounds for the mediocre and the superficial. Um, but most of this is just good, dumb fun.

First track "Kiss Me Where It Smells Funny" is an ode to the hazards of eating pussy. It has a big, simple guitar riff, a bit of scratching, a few samples, and Jimmy Pop singing like an idiot. And that's pretty much the formula for the rest of the album.

"Lift Your Head Up High (And Blow Your Brains Out)" touches on teen suicide, basically saying if you're thinking about it because of your crappy life, go ahead and do it, because you fuckin’ suck. "I Wish I Was Queer So I Could Get Chicks" pre-empted the TV show "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy" by a good few years, but basically reinforces the point that what women want in a man is a man who doesn't really want women. "Why's Everybody Always Pickin' On Me?" is self-explanatory, while "Going Nowhere Slow" is a big list of cities The Bloodhound Gang have played in, with New Jersey somehow upsetting the band, so it ain't ever going to be on their itinerary.

Even if they can't write a decent song of their own, Bloodhound Gang can spot a good tune. Stealing the memorable melody line from Duran Duran's "Hungry Like The Wolf" for "Your Only Friends Are Make Believe" was probably the brightest thing these guys did on this whole album. It's a slow paced, guitar driven song, breathing new life into the old '80s standard.

Even with their love of homoerotic New Romantic pop, some things were still too uncool, even for the Bloodhounds. Rob Van Winkel guest starred on "Boom". "So what?", you might say. Another wannabe nobody white boy rapper, right? Well, yeah, except this one used to go by the name Vanilla Ice, but don't tell anyone, OK? "Boom" is the slickest song on the whole album, the pair trading insults in a good old fashioned face off.

"Fire Water Burn" stands head and shoulders above the rest of the album. Sure, the formula is similar to the other songs, but the tune is the most memorable here, the lyrics the easiest to follow, and the double entendres are the funniest. Try not singing "The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire/We don’t need no water, let the motherfucker burn/Burn, motherfucker, burn!" after hearing it. It's a rap song for those who hate rap, and a rock song for the non-rocker. This is the song on which Bloodhound Gang have built their career, and good on them for doing so.

If your idea of a good laugh is the day's political cartoon in the paper, don't even bother with “One Fierce Beer Coaster”. If a good time for you involves women with big boobs, inserting foreign objects where they don't belong, beer, and making fun of those less fortunate than yourself, you've found the perfect album.

PORKY VAGINA Astroschwein

Album · 2017 · Grindcore
Cover art 4.25 | 2 ratings
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Vim Fuego
Extreme metal is far harder to penetrate than mainstream musical genres, but there are often gateway albums which open a genre for the innocent novice, before snaring them with something far more potent and addictive.

The gateway into thrash metal is often Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”. Death metal has Death’s “Leprosy”, or perhaps Carcass’ “Heartwork” for the more melodic end of the genre. Even grindcore has Brutal Truth’s “Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses” and Napalm Death’s “Harmony Corruption”.

Pornogrind though, has always been impenetrable to all but the most adventurous or most deviant of fans. Whether it’s the sado-sophistication of Cock and Ball Torture, the brutalized fuck tales of Spasm, or the puke-inducing pornographic barbarity of Necrocannibalistic Vomitorium’s artwork, pornogrind isn’t exactly inviting to the uninitiated.

But now, Porky Vagina has done the music world a great favour and released “Astroschwein”. Yes, the porky Polish pig pervs are back, and they have created an album which combines symphonies of sexual sickness with a plethora of tangential musical styles, while managing to infuse it with an accessibility usually unheard of in any musical genre with the syllable “grind” anywhere in its name.

The album kicks off with “Chlew i Honor”, a song with a revved up Spaghetti Western theme intro, which morphs into some good old gory grind, complete with machine gun programmed drums. There’s some odd carnival-type instrumentation thrown into the mix. And this is what you are going to get for the next 36 minutes. A lot of it doesn’t make a huge lot of sense, but the boys in the band are having a hell of a good time doing it. For example, “Cebulator” featured an interlude from Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King”, and also segues into Soviet era martial theme.

Now, perhaps you enjoy blasting, relentless grind with phlegm-bubbling vocals from bloody start to gory finish. That’s all well and good. This is not the album for you. However, if you think musically Mr. Bungle was a bit fucking lightweight, and Mike Patton could have gargled and pig squealed a bit more, then this will be an aural orgasm.

Pornogrind, and most grindcore subgenres for that matter, are often derided for showing off little to no musical talent, sacrificing skill for brutality. These guys aren’t fucking about any more. Bukkake John, Pig Fucker and Pussy Pomper have some serious musical chops, constructing schizoid songs heavy enough to smash your skull in.

This is not a full-on pornogrind album by the strictest definition of the genre, but most fans of grind, death metal, or even just the extreme end of the bizarre and unusual will find something to latch on to here. It may open up the diseased world of pornogrind to some, or it may send others running for the safety of their Dream Theater collection. There’s only one way to find out. Give it a listen.

THE RUINS OF BEVERAST Exuvia

Album · 2017 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 4.35 | 7 ratings
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Elevator music is much scorned, and for good reason. It is generally bland, soulless crap which is so inoffensive it is offensive. It is music so stripped of vitality and life it can be, and usually is, ignored. Occasionally, if your thoroughly bored mind wanders far enough, you might find yourself whistling along to “Hammond Organ Hits of the Swinging Sixties” or “Pan Flute Prairie Party”, entirely without meaning to. It is your unconscious mind trying to wake you from your blank-eyed stare.

‘Exuvia’ by The Ruins of Beverast seems to start off in the vein of black metal elevator music, featuring an ancient sounding Native American chant, and a ringing guitar tone, eventually underscored by a subdued black metal beat, and it seems like this album is destined for droning atmospheric black metal dullness, coming soon to an elevator near you.

To assume this and stop paying close attention is a mistake. Before you know it, ‘Exuvia’ has you trapped in a sticky spiders web, hypnotically entranced by the sheer depth and breadth of this work. This album covers so many bases. It has long, almost ambient drones, crushing doom/death sections, black metal both atmospheric and raw, devastating sludge passages, and compelling samples. Like a savage dog, straining on its chain, you know when it gets loose it’s going to hurt you, but you’re still surprised as you feel the canines sinking into pliant human flesh.

This whole lengthy album seems it should be the work of a modern day metallic orchestra, yet it is all the creation of just one man. Alexander von Meilenwald composed and played almost the entirety of this album himself (there are two guest keyboard players listed in the credits) and it makes for an incredibly cohesive album, despite the plethora of sub-genres explored.

Don’t take this too lightly. It might not seem like much at first, but when it has crawled up your trousers and taken bloody chunks from your genitalia like a rabid ferret, you will definitely take notice. Approach ‘Exuvia’ as a single massive multi-faceted work, like a modern symphony.

OPETH Still Life

Album · 1999 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.41 | 171 ratings
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Really and truly, what is the deal with this band and this album?

Opeth’s “Still Life” is fawned over almost universally, inspiring gushing reviews where critics fall over themselves in pursuit of the most lyrical platitudes. And for what? A dark concept album following a tale of unrequited love? A reinvigorating breath of fresh new life for a stale metal scene? A melodic progressive death metal masterpiece? The answer is none of the above.

What does progressive even really mean? It conjures up thoughts of widdly, boring songs which fill the entire side of an old vinyl LP, pretentious, self-indulgent musical masturbation which milks every last drop of tepid hope from a terminally bored audience. By that definition, “Still Life” is most definitely a progressive metal album.

There is the odd growl, but it’s hardly backed by death metal. Most of the time it’s hardly even metal. This album is littered with acoustic interludes and ooo-woo vocals. It doesn’t really offer much of a contrast from the metallic parts, because both are flat and grey. Even at full volume, this is still background music, inoffensive pap which slides in one ear and straight out the other. The band is castrated by it’s misguided attempt to transcend metal.

There might be song titles, but they don’t really matter, because there are no highlights. There are no bottomless depths of depraved mediocrity either. “Still Life” is just that- a flat-lined corpse.

The whole thing is just ditch water dull. And no, not a cool flooded ditch, sweeping along tree stumps and unlucky sheep with dirty, roiling depths raging down it’s course while threatening to burst it’s banks. No. This is stagnant, stinky green ditch water, so putrid even mosquitoes won’t lay eggs in it, instead looking for somewhere less torpid.

PHYLLOMEDUSA Spikeballs & Monklets (CxBxFxIxHxFxLxFxRxE Vs Phyllomedusa)

Split · 2017 · Grindcore
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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If a frog croaks in the swamp and nobody hears it, did it really make a noise at all? The answer to this slight rephrasing of George Berkeley’s 1710 philosophical though experiment is “fuck yeah”, but the more important question is if that croak was “Spikeballs & Monklets (CxBxFxIxHxFxLxFxRxE Vs Phyllomedusa)” would anyone really want to hear it?

There’s really only one reason most people would ever attempt listening to this split shared between CxBxFxIxHxFxLxFxRxE and Phyllomedusa, and that is to hear one of the oddest covers of Blondie’s “One Way or Another” ever recorded, distorted into a weird mass of grind, sludge, and noise. That comes later, but first, the rest of the album.

Catastrophic Blunt Force Intracranial Haemorrhage Fluid Leaking from Ruptured Eardrums, or CxBxFxIxHxFxLxFxRxE is actually a far more entertaining name than the music. Their contribution to this split seems to be their first release. “Removing the Limbs of Sacrificial Bodies, Displaying the Gastrointestinal Tract from Esophagus to Anus, Hanging in the Trees, the Skin Stripped from the Heads, Lifted Above the Leaves, Blood Dripping to the Forest Floor in Praise of the Great Beelzebufo” (and I’m not writing out that fucking title again!) is a nine minute song, of sorts. It has a comedy intro about toad breeding, before descending into a formless mush of pingy snaredrums, blown out bass, and gargled vocals. Sir David Attenborough even puts in a guest appearance. It seems like the performers are not in the same time continuum, so it’s a bit chaotic. Listening to the full track is something of a feat of endurance. If you get to the end, congratulations! You haven’t actually achieved anything, but at least the racket has stopped.

Pyllomedusa’s lone amphibiphile big frog regularly burps forth frog fancying anthems of wildly varying quality and genre, depending on the species of toad he’s been licking. A majority of his releases are noise for noise’s sake. There might be instruments, or even some element of performance involved, but who can tell. At his most awe inspiring, he spawns sludge so thick and deep it would swallow Mastodons and Iron Monkeys. And in between the two, he can be a one man grindcore battering machine. “Spikeballs & Monklets” falls somewhere between sludge and grind, a stinking swampy mess unique to Phyllomedusa. It is so DIY you can almost see the bent nails and hammer marks where big frog has knocked this all together by himself.

The biggest problem with big frog’s musical output is the lack of variety. The lo-fi recording process means the first song generally sets the tone for the album, and you are going to get several versions of the same song over and over. “Coat The Globe In Toxoid Calamity (Uninjurious To Lissamphibia)” is a thunderous sludge/grind monstrosity. So is “Spikeballs And Monklets (Ephippibane)” and “Browning Of The Bottom Right”, and the next two tracks too. Unfortunately, the tempo hardly varies, the vocals are throat-shreddingly awesome, but totally indecipherable, and the guitars too indistinct for it to matter if there are even riffs involved.

But then along comes the Blondie cover. “One Way Or Another, I'm Going To Kill You” (see what he did to the title there?) is instantly transformed from kitschy New Wave schlock rock into a psychopathic sludge serenade. The bouncy, poppy main hook of the song is hung, drawn, and quartered, becoming a mechanized torture device. Debbie Harry’s laconic vocals are replaced by the gargled, grunted roar of a t-rex with a throat infection. Forget fictional monsters like Godzilla. big frog is a real, live sociopath hell bent on the destruction of mankind for the sake of the amphibians.

This ugly, noisy mess can be listened to for free, and to be honest, it needs to be that price. It was also released on CD, limited to 50 copies, but it would be an extremely dedicated grindcore collector who shelled out for it. As a whimsical mud encrusted, distortion soaked curio though, it might be worth a listen for someone with half an hour to spare and a very open mind.

https://phyllomedusa.bandcamp.com/album/spikeballs-monklets-cxbxfxixhxfxlxfxrxe-vs-phyllomedusa

VARIOUS ARTISTS (SOUNDTRACKS) Judgment Night (Music From The Motion Picture)

Album · 1993 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.52 | 2 ratings
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If you don’t remember the movie “Judgment Night” it’s not a surprise. It was a box office bomb, combining a silly plot with some poor acting by a number of reasonably high profile stars who will be ashamed of being associated with such a dog. It’s box office receipts recouped less than two thirds of the movie’s budget. That the movie was so poor is a shame, because the “music from the motion picture” soundtrack which accompanied it was an absolute ripper.

All the songs featured here were collaborations between hip-hop and rock or metal artists, the results of which popped up a few pleasant surprises, along with a few turds. The idea of such collaborations had its roots back in the 1980s, when Aerosmith and Run-DMC, and later Anthrax and Public Enemy, pulled together the rock and rap scenes, with great results. There had always been a bit of animosity and mistrust between the two scenes, but these collaborations helped dismiss some of the animus. From a commercial point of view, it also made sense, appealing to two different markets.

Let’s be honest. A metal fan is going to listen to this album first and foremost because of the collaboration between Slayer and Ice-T. When this was released in 1993, Ice-T was still embroiled in the controversy over Body Count’s self-titled debut album, and the song “Cop Killer”. He was somewhat of a divisive figure in the metal world, where some “fans” were questioning why a black rapper was involving himself in metal. While the braindead racist minority were stewing in their own fetid ignorance, the rest of the metal world was embracing Body Count for what it was- a quality crossover thrash band with a strong message, with an outspoken, intelligent frontman. Slayer’s own troubles have been well documented too, with accusations of Nazism following the song “Angel of Death”, and the band inadvertently attracted an extreme right wing following, who would have been exactly the people who would have had a problem with Ice-T.

“Disorder” is a crossover thrash medley of three songs originally by The Exploited, played at breakneck pace, with King/Hanneman. The new lyrics, adapted from “War”, “UK 82” and “Disorder” relate to the Los Angeles riots in 1992, the state of race relations, and US politics in general. Ice-T and Tom Araya trade vocal barbs back and forth in crust punk style, getting more aggressive and angrier as the song progresses, culminating in a cacophonous finale. This is the fifth song on the album. Any truthful metal fan will have to admit skipping straight to it before starting to listen to the album in it’s true chronological order. It is worth it, and it’s fucking Slayer. The difficult thing for the rest of the collaborations on this album is trying to hold the metal fan’s attention. How long ‘til a bored metal fan skips back to “Disorder”?

First track: “Just Another Victim”

Artists: Helmet and House of Pain

Time: 4:25

Skip to “Disorder” time: 4:25 – the entire track

House of Pain’s “Jump Around” had not long since peaked at number three in the Billboard charts, and were a pretty big deal at the time. Helmet were no slackers themselves, with their album ‘Meantime’ rapidly racing toward gold status. The street-wise, tough attitude of both artists combines for a pretty damn robust track, with clipped hardcore guitars and a steady hip-hop beat.

Second track: “Fallin’”

Artists: De La Soul and Teenage Fanclub

Time: 4:28

Skip to “Disorder” time: 0:07

The first six seconds, fine. A hip-hop beat and some “woo” backing vocals. Then someone starts whining. “Disorder” time!

Third track: “Me, Myself and Microphone”

Artists: Living Colour and Run-DMC

Time: 3:08

Skip to “Disorder” time: 3:08 –The entire track

Living Colour started as a glam metal band with a few funky interludes, but after their smash hit album ‘Vivid’, their music branched off in all directions. This track combines a funky bassline, several guitar tracks, some trademark Run-DMC rapping, and a bit of well-placed scratching. It’s not full on metal by any means, but there is a satisfying groove, and is short enough boredom does not set in.

Fourth track: “Judgment Night”

Artists: Biohazard and Onyx

Time: 4:36

Skip to “Disorder” time: 4:36 –The entire track

The meeting of hardcore punk and hardcore hip-hop. This pairing had worked together earlier on a remix of Onyx’s “Slam” single. The guitars are very prominent, combining with a massive beat, and Evan Seinfeld’s yell underpinning it. The street-wise lyrics rapped over this create a tough, muscular track, which is hard, heavy, and smart.

Fifth track: “Disorder”

Artists: Slayer and Ice-T

Time: 4:59

Skip to “Disorder” time: er, this IS “Disorder”

If you don’t like this, you don’t like metal.

Sixth track: “Another Body Murdered”

Artists: Faith No More and Boo-Ya T.R.I.B.E.

Time: 4:25

Skip to “Disorder” time: um, Boo-Ya T.R.I.B.E. will gun you down in a drive-by if you try.

Both artists were well known for combining rock and hip-hop from their own sides of the spectrum, and it shows. This is probably the most natural sounding track on the album. Boo-Ya’s massive grooves and Faith No More’s crushing guitars combine for a truly compelling song. Mike Patton’s vocal insanity in the background is a particular highlight.

Seventh track: “I Love You, Mary-Jane”

Artists: Cypress Hill and Sonic Youth

Time: 3:52

Skip to “Disorder” time: 0:50

A promising start. A lethargic guitar scrape, and a hypnotic, fuzzy groove sounds a bit trippy, but then the vocals wreck it. If you are familiar with Cypress Hill, you will be familiar with their dope fuelled nasal voices. Anyone unfortunate enough to know who Steve Urkel was will know the sound. Next please.

Eighth track: “Freak Momma”

Artists: Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot

Time: 4:01

Skip to “Disorder” time: 3:30

So then, a fairly straightforward alt-rock track with Sir Mix-A-Lot (yes, he of “Baby Got Back” fame) rapping over top of it. Even though his voice is a little comical, there is something about this song which works quite well. Whether it’s Mudhoney’s nod to the psychedelic 60s, or Mix-A-Lot’s rapid fire vocal delivery, it’s not too shabby.

Ninth track: “Missing Link”

Artists: Del the Funky Homosapien and Dinosaur Jr.

Time: 3:59

Skip to “Disorder” time: 1:34, after the sweet solo, or skip to 3:13 to hear more

Dinosaur Jr’s trademark laid back sound gets loaded with bass here, and is so relaxed and effortless it would be going in reverse if at all possible. Del the Funky Homosapien’s vocals though are a bit grating, because of his slightly rough, off-kilter delivery. If you can put up with the awful rapping, the guitar under it is as good as J. Macsis ever delivered anywhere.

Tenth track: “Come and Die”

Artists: Fatal and Therapy?

Time: 4:26

Skip to “Disorder” time: Are you fucking kidding?

Quite a menacing track. Therapy?’s pounding alt-metal is given a seriously sinister edge with Fatal’s harder-than-hardcore lyrics and vocals. There are some industrial vocal effects, and a driving bass line, all the while Fatal seems to become increasingly aggravated, ending in a psychotic rant and bullet shot.

Eleventh tracks: “Real Thing”

Artists: Cypress Hill and Pearl Jam

Time: 3:31

Skip to “Disorder” time: 0:00

Best to just pretend this track doesn’t exist.

All in all, this soundtrack delivers far better value than the movie ever did. It offers far more than just a single incredible track, and finally settled the old argument about hip-hop and rock mixing like oil and water. It works well, when done properly. Dismiss ‘Judgment Night’ at your own peril.

DESTRUCTOR Decibel Casualties

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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The Life and Death of Julius Caesar Act 2, Scene 1

TREBONIUS: There is no fear in him; let him not die; For he will live, and laugh at this hereafter.

Clock strikes

BRUTUS: Peace! count the clock.

CASSIUS: The clock hath stricken three.

TREBONIUS: 'Tis time to part.

CASSIUS:…

TREBONIUS: I said, “’Tis time to part!”

CASSIUS:…

BRUTUS: Cassius, thou crusty botch of nature, he said “’Tis time to part!”

CASSIUS:…

BRUTUS & TREBONIUS (Shouting): Cassius!

CASSIUS (Removes something from his ears, a little surprised) : What?

BRUTUS: He said “’Tis time to part!”

CASSIUS (Angry): Thou cullionly rump-fed hedge-pigs! I was listening to Destructor on my iPod! Go yourselves, give unto Caesar that which is his, a ruddy great knife right in the squishy bits! I’m busy enjoying my anachronisms!

Cassius reinserts his earphones and walks away, gently banging his head and playing air guitar… _____________________________________________________

Apologies to the long since departed Mr Shakespeare, but he was quite fond of the odd anachronism, this being his most famous. For anyone who hasn’t quite figured it out yet, an anachronism is something which is not just out of place, but also out of time. Like Shakespeare’s infamous clock, Destructor is a band out of their correct time, and long may it stay that way.

Showing a lot of promise, Destructor’s 1985 debut album ‘Maximum Destruction’ was a tour de force of hard-hitting, gnarly mid-80s thrash. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired against the band. Bass player Dave Holocaust (real name Dave Iannicca) was murdered, and the band was passed over by the ever-clueless Island Records. Destructor seemed doomed. Founding members Pat Rabid and Dave Overkill kept things going as long as possible, but the shifting musical climate meant an incomplete second album stayed unfinished, and Destructor finally split in 1992.

For many years, ‘Maximum Destruction’ was one of those much beloved footnotes in history, which long time metalheads delight in pointing out to those who missed out, usually with the comment “they don’t make metal like this any more”. Well, now they do.

Luckily for us, Destructor reunited in 1999. German magazine Snake Pit interviewed Dave Overkill, and Overkill realised there was still interest in the band. Destructor was resurrected, and has been performing and recording ever since.

‘Decibel Casualties’ is Destructor’s fourth studio album. Showing a glorious and blatant disregard for fashion and the passage of decades, little has changed in the Destructor camp since the heady days of 1985. The studs and chains are a little rusty, but the band members still have goofy pseudonyms, and the music is still magnificently metallic. However, a few things have changed around Destructor. Production techniques and technology have advanced infinitely since 1985. Back then, the sound of metal albums often sounded shrill and brittle, or were swamped and muffled. No longer. ‘Decibel Casualties’ is razor sharp and crystal clear.

Destructor still performs exactly what thrash fans loved about the band in the first place- thrash metal. This might sound like stating the painfully obvious, but it is true. Where bands like Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocaust, and Gama Bomb have tried hard to recreate that old school spirit, Destructor ooze it from every pore. Take almost any track from the album, like “Keep the Faith” as an example, and you will find that driving “quicker-than-it-seems” rhythm, powered by massive riffs and double kick-drum devastation, overlaid with lead guitar duels and Dave Overkill’s raspy yet melodic vocals. It is not of this time, but feels timeless. It is what teenage thrash metal fans fell in love with three decades ago.

And that is basically the formula for the whole album, and Destructor’s whole career. Any attempt at probing for a deeper meaning to this music is futile. Take it at face value, because that is all there is to it. These are songs by metalheads, written for metalheads, about metal. If you don’t get it, you aren’t supposed to.

If this sounds like it will have you banging your balding head, raising your arthritic horns, and pulling muscles rather than riffs from your air guitar, then you too are a decibel casualty. Old school thrash metal does not need to be an anachronism or a nostalgia trip.

In Destructor, the old school is still here.

GENOCIDE GENERATOR III

Album · 2017 · Grindcore
Cover art 4.75 | 2 ratings
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At its heart, grindcore is really a very uncomplicated, honest form of music. Take an idea and some instruments, smash them together as hard as you can, and record the carnage. All too often, the result is a dreadful, tuneless sludge, as evidenced by the mountainous slagheap of unloved and unlovable demos polluting the grind scene. Yes, good on the bands for having a go and getting something out there, but some quality control would be nice.

Every so often though, the crushing weight of carbon black detritus produces a diamond. Bavarian band Genocide Generator is one such gem. ‘III’ is a fairly simple album. The bug-eyed hand-drawn zebra on the cover of this album is a welcome change from the usual grind standards of mangled internal organs and copro-perversity. This album features two guys with a singular vision, creating razor sharp, slightly metallic grindcore. The duo squeezes in the odd industrial and electronic element to churn out their self-named “grindustrial” music. Unlike many bands, these guys don’t rely on their machines for their extremity or brutality, but merely to enhance their sound, like The Berzerker minus the silly masks and most blatant death metal elements.

It all seems quite straight forward. Two Germans playing hard, fast, loud music. Grind away for a couple of minutes, finish, repeat. But just be a little careful, because these guys have a few tricks just to stop the listener getting too settled. ‘III’ is actually Genocide Generator’s second album. In keeping with the industrial theme, there are no song titles on the album. Instead, each has a two digit number. There is no human meaning to it, the numbers being the anti-musical machine’s code. But really, do individual songs matter? This is an album to be listened to in its entirety. It’s not a huge stretch, at just over 18 minutes, but it’s like an intense rollercoaster which only ever hurtles downward. It spirals and loops, without ever slowing. A drum machine gets thrown into the terminal velocity plunge, but gets left behind. There are other machines of loving gracelessness thrown in too, but where they end and the cyborg musicians begin is lost in the maelstrom.

This is sharp grind with a clear cutting sound, like Wormrot at their razorblade best. Unlike Wormrot though, there is enough of a metallic tinge for curious metal fans too. There are heavier albums, and there are faster paced albums, but many of those are to be endured rather than enjoyed. ‘III’ is one of those rare finds where it satisfies the base desire for brutality, but leaves you wanting just a little more.

PHYLLOMEDUSA Beast Of The East

Album · 2017 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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So what did you do for Save The Frogs Day, April 29, 2017? Not a thing? Didn’t know such a day even existed? The day is marked every year near the end of April. Don’t know why anyone would give a slimy green shit about frogs? It’s a good thing Phyllomedusa exists then.

OK, it would be hypocritical of me to pretend I’d heard of Save The Frogs Day before I discovered Phyllomedusa. The band’s only member big frog is somewhat obsessed with frogs, toads, newts, salamanders, and caecilians. Not heard of caecilians? Once again, neither had I. Look them up. They are snake-like, burrowing, almost blind amphibians. Besides fantasizing about frogs, big frog makes some incredible, and at times, incredibly challenging, music. He blends grind, noise, and sludge in immense distorted compositions, often overlaid with frog calls and horror movie samples, observed from an avenging amphibian’s angle.

The quality of Phyllomedusa’s music varies greatly. Some releases are so badly recorded they could just be a microphone stuck in a jet engine’s backwash. Other times, it sounds like a Mortician record played at about 4 r.p.m. Fortunately, ‘Beast From The East’ is of a higher quality, a voyage into the deepest sludgy primordial swamps imaginable. There’s no messing around with introductions. First track “Accidental Colonization In The East” drops straight into a massive distorted groove, with big frog snarling over top of it. It is a visitation into a grinding bass driven subterranean world where speakers emanate frequencies nothing man-made has any right to transmit.

There are instruments in there somewhere, but it is impossible to tell where bass and/or guitar ends, drums begin, or what species the vocals are actually coming from. And this happens six times, at various tempos between sluggish and tectonic. There are a few anti-human samples thrown in, but basically, it’s the same massive fucking song repeated again and again. There seems to be little in the way of riffs or distinguishing features differing from song to song, but the overall effect is so heavy, so powerful, so primitive, and so primal it matters not.

There may be incredible herpetological lyrics involved here, but there is no way to understand a single word. Imagine a nine foot long bullfrog with chronic indigestion complaining about it to a neighbour half a mile away and you might have some clue as to what big frog himself sounds like. He groans and burps and croaks his way through the six songs here, never once emanating a sound which sounds even vaguely human.

And to big frog’s message. Why is it important to keep a closer eye on frogs? Being amphibians, frogs spend most of their time in wet or damp conditions. Unlike reptiles, their skin has no scales, and is constantly exposed to the environment. This means frogs are incredibly sensitive to any sort of environmental changes whatsoever. They are in effect unwitting environmental barometers. The current prediction from the frogs? Well, the planet is in the shit, and it seems humans are to blame. Amphibians are generally quite a sturdy bunch. They first crawled from the sea about 370 million years ago, and seemed to like water, so headed for the swamp. Amphibian species seem to have been going extinct of a rate of one per 500 years for most of the intervening eons, until humans came along. Up to 200 species may have disappeared since 1980. The causes for this are man-made- pollution, infectious diseases, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change, and over-harvesting for the pet and food trades.*

We are the murderous, destructive bastards, and big frog wants to see an end to us, to save the frogs and thus the world. We were warned.

*Source: https://www.savethefrogs.com/about/why-frogs/

SLAYER Reign in Blood

Album · 1986 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.48 | 166 ratings
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Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

This well-worn aphorism is oft-attributed to Frank Zappa, Theolonius Monk, Steve Martin, or even Elvis Costello. Most evidence points toward humourist Martin Mull coining it. On the surface, it is a throw-away witticism. Imagine the absurdity of dancing to express an opinion on something as austere as architecture. Ha!

But if you look deeper and more philosophically, the absurdity disappears and a kernel of truth emerges. How can something as instinctive and primal as music, which is experienced at both the sub-conscious and conscious levels, be adequately described by the written word? Reading and writing are far higher level functions, requiring abstraction of thought and expression. There are limits to written language. Shakespeare produced incomparable soliloquies. Bertrand Russell introduced elegance of phrase to philosophy. Oscar Wilde’s rapier wit cut as deeply as it amused. The powers of these three, or any other writer since the emergence of written human expression, prove insufficient or inadequate to describe the primitive basal connection to a stirring piece of music. The conjunction predates the development of hominid language. In short, writing about music is futile.

Futility, though, has never been a barrier to human endeavour. If this were so, never a word would have been written of Slayer’s magnum opus, ‘Reign In Blood’. The futility of describing, comparing, exploring, analysing, or quantifying this album should seem insurmountable. Yet, since its release on October 7th, 1986, it has been written of again and again. It has been the subject of superlatives, metaphor, hyperbole, praise, worship, and envy. It has caused controversy, consternation, protest, alarm, confusion, and imitation.

To disciples of the faith, ‘Reign In Blood’ embodies thrash metal. It is fast, heavy, and aggressive. Any description beyond that is simply laying on bullshit. It is ten songs, slotted in to less than half an hour, often with little or no gap between each song. Only three songs are longer than three minutes. The songs cover subjects from horrific war crimes of Dr Josef Mengele, to cannibalism, to fear of death, to anti-religious diatribes. The songs seem to be a complex tangle of riffs and solos, underpinned by rapid precise percussion, while the almost shouted vocals have little use for melody. The cover is a Hieronymus Bosch nightmare vision.

‘Reign In Blood’ is ten songs, and ten songs only. On many versions of this album, there are twelve tracks. The two extra songs are superfluous, and do not flow. They are an addition by an entity which did not understand that less is more. The extra six minutes of music are useless. The length of the album is pushed out to almost 35 minutes, ruining it’s short, sharp punch effect. Do not listen to those songs.

Description of how this album sounds is completely useless. It simply must be experienced to be understood. Thrash metal devotees already know what it sounds like, and understand the importance of this album to metal, and music in general.

A world without ‘Reign in Blood’ would be futile.

STEEL PANTHER Lower the Bar

Album · 2017 · Glam Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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So… Four albums in, and if you don’t get the Steel Panther joke by now, you’re never going to.

The formula is quite simple. Steel Panther have the sound, look and attitude of so many of the hairspray abusing bands of the past, but instead of beating around the bush singing songs about cherry pies, roses with their thorns, and white snakes going off again, Steel Panther deal in genuine, unadorned pornographic filth. It is the perfect piss take revenge for teenagers of the 80s (yes, you’re probably in your 40s by now) who got sick of sitting through those endless lame hair metal videos to possibly catch a rare-as-hens-teeth Megadeth or Iron Maiden or Motörhead video. If those pussies were going to whine about their girlfriends, while often wearing exactly the same hair and make-up AS their girlfriends, they could have at least described what it was like to have sex WITH a girl! It would have gone some way to making up for the limp, derivative music.

So that is what Steel Panther delivers. ‘Lower The Bar’ lowers the bar on common decency right from the first track. “Goin’ in The Backdoor” is a none-too-subtle ode to anal sex. Michael Starr asks very politely “Hey baby, do you mind if I dip my nuts in your chocolate?” “Anything Goes” lists a number of highly unlikely, uncomfortable, and possibly illegal sexual acts including “Steal a Saturn 5 and fuck an astronaut/Zero G anal and weightless cumshots”. “Poontang Boomerang” examines the societal difficulties of short term sexual relationships, and the unintended infatuations resulting from such liaisons.

“That’s When You Came In” is the compulsory power ballad, replete with strings, acoustic guitars, and finds Starr lamenting “After all the critics said, our debut record was our peak/Now I couldn't hit the high notes/Sometimes I couldn't even speak” and life was starting to seem futile and pointless, until he once again met the girl of his dreams, who “…came in and blew me… You blew me away”.

The rest of the albums continues in a similar grubby style. It is childish schoolboy humour. It is full of dick jokes, treats women as sex objects put on this planet only to please men, and panders to every teenage boy’s most unrealistic masturbatory fantasy. Steel Panther differs from hair metal of the 80s only in it being completely honest. The band don’t pretend to be doing it for any reason other than to have a good time and get laid. The parody is pitch perfect. Anyone who finds it offensive is getting exactly what they deserve. The godfathers of 80s glam Cheap Trick showed they appreciate the sideways tribute, with singer Robin Zander contributing back-up vocals, and a transvestite appearance in the video, to the cover of “She’s Tight”.

As an album, this isn’t earth shatteringly brilliant. Sure, the song writing and execution are infinitely better than many of the hair metal pretenders it is extracting the urine from, but if you know anything about Steel Panther, you already knew that would be the case. Fans will love it. The humourless won’t. Critics will be divided. Some people will say the joke is wearing thin. Steel Panther won’t give a flying fuck.

HELLOWEEN Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II

Album · 1988 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.43 | 111 ratings
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Say you’re a German heavy metal band, and in 1987, you released an album called “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1”. It is a melodic metal tour de force, spawning the band’s debut single, garnering great critical acclaim, and racking up immense praise from fans. What do you do next? Simple. You release “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2”, and completely blitz the previous album.

Helloween intended to release the two “Keeper of the Seven Keys” albums as a double album, but the band’s record company forced them to split the release. It hardly matters now, because no self-respecting Helloween fan would be without both albums. However, it made “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1” seem a little silly, because the title track wasn’t on it. The record company interference has also long been thought to be a key factor behind Kai Hansen’s departure from the band after this album’s release.

Helloween were often unfairly compared to Iron Maiden during their early career. The similarities were pretty superficial. Yes, both bands had two guitarists, a great singer, an ear for melody, and a penchant for crafting epic masterpiece songs. But that’s where the similarities end. For anyone whose ears aren’t painted on, it’s quite obvious both bands play different styles of metal. Iron Maiden redefined what was meant by heavy metal, taking Judas Priest’s British steel and Black Sabbath’s never say die attitude to new heights. Helloween, heavily influenced by The Scorpions’ animal magnetism, injected melody into thrash metal like no other band before them.

Some of these songs are among the greatest examples of melodic thrash you will ever hear. Yes, this style of metal now gets the label power metal, but back in 1988, it was still called thrash. The brief instrumental “Invitation”, a bombastic military march, replete with brass, and an angelic choir, leads into the muscular main riff of “Eagle Fly Free”, and the album is off and running! The choppy rhythms of Hansen and Michael Weikath are driven by drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg’s double kick drum barrage and Marcus Grosskopf’s virtuoso bass. Over it, Michael Kiske weaves an allegoric tale, with a soaring eagle chorus.

“Rise and Fall” follows the same formula, except the chorus is even more magnificent, more sing-a-long-able, and Kiske hits some glorious high notes. “Dr Stein” was released as the album’s first single, and on the surface seems like a song about Dr Frankenstein. A closer examination of the lyrics however, reveals a more political theme. Musically, it is a cheerful, bouncy thrash/power-pop song, and even offers a pipe organ break Dr Phibes would be proud of. “We Got the Right” changes the pace somewhat, a driving, serious power ballad with stratospheric vocals.

For some strange reason, Helloween seem quite adept at writing memorable songs, but their titles are far from inspiring. “You Always Walk Alone” is a great song, with incredibly strong vocal melodies, a variety of very different guitar solos, and a stunning percussion performance by Schwichtenberg, but has such a forgettable, bland title. “March of Time” and “Save Us” all suffer similar fates- damn fine songs, but ditch-water dull titles.

The Kai Hansen penned “I Want Out” was the album’s second single, and to this day, remains Helloween’s biggest and possibly best song. The opening riff is instantly recognisable. The chanted chorus is powerful, and the refrain of “I want out/to live my life and to be free” speaks volumes to so many people on so many levels about so many situations. It could have been speaking of the political situation of the still divided Germany, to a teen weighed down by the angst of his age, a prisoner or slave desiring freedom, or perhaps Kai Hansen’s desire to untie himself from the band.

So how do you follow a career defining single? With a career defining saga of course! The scope of the multi-faceted, near-14-minute fantasy “Keeper of the Seven Keys” rivals Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (there’s that comparison again!) for scope, if not quite for execution or composition. While somewhat shorter than Lord of the Rings, it is a tale of travels and treasure, and demons and deception. Whether it is to be taken at face value or there is a deeper meaning, it’s a ripping yarn told in song.

And what do you follow that with? Well, depending on the version of the album you have, either contemplative silence, which leaves you wanting to replay the album again, or “Save Us”. While not a bad song in itself, probably the closest to a conventional thrash song on offer, it doesn’t work at the end of the album, seeming like a tacked on left-over, or a Japanese b-side. It is neither, originally being the seventh song on the album. It has been stuck there in one of those unfathomable decisions made when the album was remastered.

“Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2” marked the end of an era for Helloween. Founding member Kai Hansen left the band soon after its release, and forged a successful career with his own band Gamma Ray. Helloween also abandoned the fantasy driven melodic thrash the band had pioneered, instead committing near career suicide with the post-modern silliness of “Pink Bubbles Go Ape”, and the radio rock infused “Chameleon”, before returning to their power metal roots. The Keeper of the Seven Keys legend was eventually revisited in 2005 with “Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy”, but the band has never quite recaptured the magic. It matters not, because “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2” still exists, and expecting Helloween to better it is the definition of insanity.

FLOOR Floor

Album · 2002 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.33 | 3 ratings
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge: Album selected by aglasshouse

Floor. Not exactly an inspiring or enlightening name for a band. It seems a bit… beige. The three members of the band obviously thought it was OK, because they doubled down and also called their debut album ‘Floor’.

But Floor? What could you reasonably expect from a band with a name like that? Limp indie rock? Ironic minimalist anti-pop? Generic metalcore?

How about heavy metal thunder falling from the sky?

Like, fucking, WOW!

Yes, “like, fucking, WOW!” is a little lacking in the eloquence department, but just wait ‘til you actually HEAR this! Heavy doesn’t begin to describe it. Floor seems to have tuned down to somewhere about six feet below their feet, dosed their amp valves with steroids, and cranked the volume so far past eleven the knob has twisted off. The term doom metal seems insufficient, inaccurate but still totally fitting. The guitars are so heavy they have an actual physical presence. There must be a limit to what can actually be produced by six strings and amplifiers. The laws of physics say so. But Floor seems to have shifted that limit. The band has a rhythm section, yes, but for the most part they sit in the background keeping time and filling what little gaps are left. The band eschews normal metal vocals, instead going for more of an alternative/indie rock style, and occasionally bury the vocals in the mix, as Fudge Tunnel often used to good effect.

And Fudge Tunnel is a good reference point, although Floor is less abrasive. There are other odd points of reference popping up in the mix too. One moment, it’s something like Jane’s Addiction’s trippier moments, the next, there are vocal melodies and harmonies which wouldn’t sound out of place in Weezer. And then there will be a sludge laden passage straight from the Iron Monkey playbook, followed by an un-stoned Down riff. It is all tied up with pop music sensibilities, with clean, clear vocals, short punchy songs, and lush melodies. And next moment it caves your chest in with a sledgehammer.

Best tracks? Irrelevant really, because this needs to be heard in its entirety, but at a push, first track “Scimitar” stands out because it really sets the album’s tone. “Sneech” is a minute of sludge metal filth. “Kallisti - Song For Eris” is deceptively blissed out but heavy. Closing track “Triangle Song” is pure downtuned doom ferocity, the most metal track on the album.

Do yourself a favour with this album. Don’t listen to it on your iPod or phone. This needs speakers, the biggest, best speakers you can find. It needs decibels, and the organic pulse of several cubic metres of air particles conducting sound waves to your ears. The furniture, walls and floor need to vibrate too. Maybe that’s where the band’s name came from, because you need to feel ‘Floor’ as much as listen to it.

ATROCITY Regurgitate vs. Atrocity

Split · 2010 · Grindcore
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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On first sight, you might wonder “What the fuck is Atrocity doing on a split with Regurgitate?” After all, Regurgitate are Swedish underground legends of the grindcore scene, known for their sick-as-fuck humorous lyrics, gargled vocals, and monstrous sound, while Atrocity are German death metal chameleons, changing genres like other bands change underwear, covering grind, death, thrash, electronic, Gothic, industrial and groove metal. It has been a very long time since Atrocity have been anywhere near heavy enough, or underground enough, to share a split with the likes of Regurgitate without seeming as out of place as a cowpat on a football field.

On closer examination though, it turns out this isn’t the same Atrocity. This is Atrocity from Torrington, Connecticut, in the United States, formed in 1985, three years before the Germans. And this Atrocity played old school grindcore/death metal as pioneered by the likes of Repulsion and Napalm Death. This Atrocity also broke up in 2010, with this split their swansong. So how is it?

Short and anything but sweet, this little sub-six minute split seven incher starts with three tracks of Regurgitate’s usual blood gargling musical sickness. “Necrosadistic Cunts” and “Bloodbath Eruption” both clock in at under a minute and a half, grinding away like bloodthirsty threshing machines, exercises in controlled chaos and music heavy enough to have a physical presence. “Anatomised” is a three second micro-song tacked on the end.

Atrocity cover prolific country artist Will Oldham, also known as Bonnie “Prince” Billy, taking on the cheerless “I See A Darkness”, a song about the depths of depression, and also covered by Johnny Cash. Fear not though, for this song is country in origin only. This old school grind/death rendition is a marvel. Sped up, the song is over in half the time of the gloomy original. The barked vocals are reminiscent of Carnivore-era Pete Steele, or perhaps Repulsion’s Scott Carlson. There is an added, slightly discordant guitar solo, fuzzy bass and a pounding jackhammer rhythm, all of which contributes to turning the suicidal to the psychotic.

It is not often Regurgitate will ever share a record with any other artist and not produce the highlight of the recording, but it has happened this time. Regurgitate is Regurgitate, and under any other circumstance that would be enough to win the day. However, Atrocity’s farewell reinterpretation of a modern country song is simply death/grind at its absolute powerful pinnacle.

CEREBRAL FIX Disaster of Reality

Album · 2016 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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The ‘Fix is fucked. Long live the ‘Fix!

Cerebral Fix never fitted neatly into a single, definable genre of metal. Mixing crossover thrash, death metal and doom, Cerebral Fix would have been equally at home sharing a stage with Bolt Thrower, Cathedral or The Exploited. The closest reference point for ‘Disaster of Reality’ is the band’s first album, ‘Life Sucks... And Then You Die!’ an immature but promising slab of heavyweight crossover thrash, part Cryptic Slaughter, part Celtic Frost. ‘Disaster of Reality’ is a throwback to that previous age, with a casual, under-produced feel to it, with a bit of fuzz and static round the edges, but the band itself is tight as fuck. It has a 1980s crossover thrash feel, mixed with a 90s doom/death attitude, and a fuck-it-all attitude.

First track “Justify” is a solid, heavy hitting opener, a doom/death monster of epic proportions. “Mosh Injury” is Lawnmower Deth-esque silliness, but then without skipping a beat, blasts into the deadly serious “Crucified World”. The song hits one of those slow paced Godzilla grinds which made ‘Tower of Spite’ such a compelling album. And then the band rockets into “Realities of War”, one of the most convincing Discharge covers you will hear. It is followed by “Skate Fear”, which might seem a bit trivial after a serious song, but this cuts right to the core of what crossover thrash used to be- equal parts societal observation and childish fun. And that really is the essence of this band. Fuck only knows what’s coming next, but it’s going to be good.

“Reality Pill” and “Dear Mother Earth” strike a more serious tone again, and are followed by a cover of The Exploited’s “Dead Cities”.

And then when you think you have a handle on things, out comes “Felted Cross”, which wouldn’t sound out of place on Cathedral’s ‘The Ethereal Mirror’, an ode to all the bands of yore which influenced Cerebral Fix’s music.

“Inside My Guts” is a full on hardcore roar of a song, like Agnostic Front with a gutsache. The last track is untitled, a bastard remix of guitar and movie samples, electronica, a throbbing bass line and reggae style vocal shout-outs, with a trip-hop style rhythm. It’s a fucking mess, but it makes sense when you hear it.

The absence of Simon Forrest’s distinctive death/thrash rasped vocals might put some listeners off. Fortunately, Neil Hadden is a strong vocalist, and does not fall into the trap of trying to imitate his predecessor, using more growl than rasp. It still fits in with the band’s bleak, sand-blasted sound, just in a different way.

The word “swansong” often gets used to describe a band’s farewell release, the original definition coming from the belief that a swan gains the ability to produce a beautiful song as it dies. It is bullshit. It would also be bullshit to call “Disaster of Reality” a swansong. Yes, it is Cerebral Fix’s final album, but the music is still as ugly as it always was, and as it should always be.

R.I.P. Cerebral Fix 1986-2017

SIX FEET UNDER Torment

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 2.62 | 4 ratings
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Six Feet Under will always live in the shadow of Cannibal Corpse. ‘Torment’ has done nothing to drag it out from under that shadow.

Vocalist Chris Barnes was one of the founders of death metal’s biggest band, and contributed a huge part of Cannibal Corpse’s genre-defining sound. His less than amicable split from the band caused great consternation in death metal circles, worried Cannibal Corpse would become a shadow of its former self. For his own part, Barnes had formed death metal’s first super group, his side project Six Feet Under, which then became his full time gig.

However, Barnes leaving Cannibal Corpse did the band a great favour, allowing them to move into far more technical realms, pushing the boundaries of death metal. Barnes himself though, has continued to wallow in the fetid swamps of days gone by.

‘Torment’ is better than the ‘Graveyard Classics’ covers albums series, but not much. There is so little inspiration or effort in the music its surprising even the musicians themselves don’t get bored with it. Yes, it is mostly old school. Yes, it’s heavy, decently executed death metal. Yes, unfortunately, Chris Barnes’ gargly vocals are just the same as they have always been. He is supposed to be the superstar of this band, but is far and away its weakest link.

The indecipherable cupped mic growl was cutting edge in the early 1990s. It was one of the defining features of the still developing fledgling death metal genre, which Chris Barnes so ably pioneered. As musicians experimented and pushed at the edges of all things brutal and heavy, death metal evolved. Vocalists discovered it was possible to be guttural, varied and even comprehensible at the same time, while maintaining the music’s inherent brutality. Chris Barnes, his head fogged in a cloud of THC infused smoke, seems to have missed it. He is still peddling the same monotonous bark which so straight-jacketed Cannibal Corpse.

Barnes’ other innovation of the day was to push the boundaries of good taste and bestial lyrical perversion. Song Titles like “Meat Hook Sodomy”, “I Cum Blood” and “Fucked With a Knife” leave potential listeners in no doubt about what they are about to hear. The lyrics were always violent, often sexual, and always confronting. Sometimes though, Barnes’ murder/rape fantasies missed the mark, and just became tasteless, silly parodies of the truly vile. Songs like “She Was Asking for It”, “Entrails Ripped from a Virgin’s Cunt” and “Necropedophile” were a bit distasteful even to the most dedicated gore fiends. On ‘Torment’ Barnes once again crosses the line, with the tasteless “Bloody Underwear”, a title which conjures unsavoury imagery in any one of several ways.

That’s not to say ‘Torment’ is a total loss. While mid-paced plodding gets a bit monotonous, when the band uses a bit of tempo things improve. “Exploratory Homicide” blasts into life after the dreary opening track “Sacrificial Kill”. “Skeleton” also shows promise, with a militaristic snare and grumbling bass intro, but falls flat on its ass when Barnes attempts a vocal melody, in the loosest definition of the word melody. “Obsidian” also shows a glimmer of inspiration above the dull generic mass surrounding it.

Times have moved on and left Six Feet Under behind. The kindest thing to do would be to quietly euthanise the band. The more appropriate thing would be to scourge, flay, flense, eviscerate, disembowel, gut and fillet Six Feet Under (the band, not the people responsible!), and bury the mangled, maggot infested remains in an unmarked grave, along with glories also long since dead.

MEGADETH Rust in Peace

Album · 1990 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.48 | 211 ratings
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There is no doubting Dave Mustaine’s incredible abilities as a guitarist. It was the reason he was a member of Metallica. It was the reason he was able to put together a new band and win a record deal after being booted from Metallica. It was the reason Megadeth has always been regarded as one of thrash metal’s Big Four, despite the fact Megadeth was at least two years behind the other three when it came to releasing a debut album.

Mustaine’s biggest problem has always been gathering and maintaining enough talent for Megadeth to reach its full potential. He found a steady lieutenant in bass player Dave Ellefson, but a second guitarist and drummer proved more problematic. ‘Rust In Peace’ was Megadeth’s fourth album, with a third different line-up. It may seem hypocritical, but drummer Gar Samuelson and guitarist Chris Poland were both sacked due to drug problems, despite the fact Mustaine and Ellefson were also drug users. Replacements Chuck Behler and Jeff Young only lasted a single album, and were both sacked while Ellefson was undergoing drug addiction treatment.

Behler was replaced by his drum tech, Nick Menza. A new guitarist was a bit more problematic. Guitarists as diverse as Dimebag Darrell, Slash, Lee Altus from Heathen, and Eric Meyer of Dark Angel were suggested or auditioned as a replacement. Meyer and Dimebag were both offered the position, but both turned it down. The answer turned out to be Marty Friedman, previously of Cacophony. For an ego as big as Mustaine’s, Friedman must have been quite a threat. Why? Because Mustaine had finally met his match, if not his better.

Finally, Megadeth had its classic line-up. And so to ‘Rust In Peace’. Pushed by Friedman’s talents, Menza’s solidity, and his own and Ellefson’s sobriety, Dave Mustaine set out to create a fitting successor to the impressive but flawed ‘So Far, So Good…So What!’. This is what he came up with.

Non musicians will struggle to name half of what Mustaine and Friedman created between them. Sharp, spiky riffs, incredible solos, with notes flying past in all directions, it is a lesson in thrash metal guitar technique. Nick Menza’s drumming is streets ahead of anything the band had produced in the past. So, great riffs, great solos, great drumming, great musicianship all round. What’s the problem?

The faults are numerous, but for some odd reason, metal fans the world over ignore them.

The first is the main problem Megadeth has suffered ever since its formation- vocals. Dave Mustaine knows what he wants to say, and when he’s snarling his vocals, the message is loud and clear. The guy can’t fucking sing though. As soon as he tries anything melodic, he goes outside his effective range and ends up out of tune. Sometimes it doesn’t matter too much, but on the song “Five Magics” he hits the most dreadful tones of his entire career, and sings flatter than a witch’s tit. “Tornado of Souls” is also fucking awful, with his voice wobbling all over the place. Worst of the lot is the pointless filler ‘Dawn Patrol’. Yes, it shows off Dave Junior’s oft-overshadowed bass, but the almost Gothic vocals are just fucking silly, and the little sucky mole sounds at the end are just...wrong.

The next problem is the guts had almost completely gone from Megadeth’s sound. ‘So Far, So Good…So What!’ was not what Mustaine had wanted when it was recorded, but from a fan’s point of view, it was a damn sight heavier than this album or the first two. It had some grunt to it, even if it was a bit fuzzy. ‘Rust In Peace’ seems to have had most of the bottom end grunt removed in favour of crunchy mid-range tones to show off the crunchy riffs, and has a crystal clear high-end for leads and solos. That is fine, if that is the effect desired, but ‘Rust In Peace’ was released in the same year as Anthrax and Slayer both released their heaviest, most uncompromising albums. If those two bands could both get clear and heavy sounds, why did Megadeth have to sacrifice the heavy?

The songs? The fucking songs! Some of them aren’t even songs, but just collections of ill-fitting riffs. Metallica fell into the same trap on ‘…And Justice For All’, but covered their mistakes more effectively. On this album, some of the transitions from one riff to the rest are quite jarring, like a high school metal band not quite knowing how to put a song together.

There is the odd high point, like ‘Poison Was The Cure’, with a brooding intro dominated by Ellefson’s bass, before cracking into a bouncy, choppy main riff, like the best parts of the ‘Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?’ album. However, three thrilling minutes hardly make up for 37 minutes of frustration.

The maturity of ‘So Far, So Good…So What’ had gone west. Think of the emotional bitterness of “In My Darkest Hour”. What do we get instead? “Rust in Peace... Polaris”. Supposedly about nuclear war, it’s full of lame penis puns. What about the venomous attack of “Liar”? Try "Holy Wars…The Punishment Due", about the conflict in Northern Ireland, a situation Mustaine understood poorly. Oh yeah, and the second part of the song is about The Punisher comic. And the righteous anger of “Hook In Mouth”? Take your pick from a variety of half-arsed songs about UFOs, witchcraft, drugs, and apparently a ghost living in Dave’s attic (“Lucretia”).

This is a great album for aspiring metal guitarists to study. A forensic examination of the techniques used, and how the separate components of the music were constructed should be essential. However, as a whole, it fails. It is an egotistical dick waving contest, with the two guitarists showing how they can outdo each other, to the detriment of the overall effect. That this album is considered a classic is a perfect example of the emperor’s new clothes effect. Because it is so over-hyped and sharply executed, no one wants to be the first to listen to it with a critical ear and say, no, this album does not work.

No. This album does not work.

RAINBOW Rising

Album · 1976 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.49 | 135 ratings
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‘Rising’ was not predestined to become the 70s metal monster it became. Hell, Rainbow wasn’t even supposed to be a band.

Ritchie Blackmore was in the process of leaving Deep Purple in the early months of 1975. Deep Purple seemed to have developed a revolving door line-up, attracting stray musicians like a black hole sucking in passing planets. His initial intention was to record a solo album. In the process, he recorded a song with Ronnie James Dio and his band Elf. The result so impressed Blackmore he decided to make a band of it. Combining forces into a band called Purple Elf would have been career suicide, so Rainbow was born, the name inspired by the legendary Rainbow Bar and Grill venue. The album ‘Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow’ followed.

Blackmore reckoned the band could be better, so he sacked all the elves except Ronnie, which turned out to be an inspired move. What to do for a rhythm section? Just pull in Cozy Powell and Jimmy Bain. And what about that 70s rock staple, the keyboards? Blackmore and bassist Bain were busy auditioning possible band members while a band called Blessings was rehearsing in the studio next door. Blackmore was impressed with Blessings’ keyboard player Tony Carey, so asked him to audition. Since his own band was going nowhere fast, he joined Rainbow, and the rest, as the hoary old cliché goes, was history!

So what did the Ritchie and Ronnie collaboration come up with? Six tracks of essential 70s metal, and one of the most iconic albums in all of metal and rock, that’s what. The mists of time may have faded the impact of this album somewhat. It’s not going to blow the socks off a teenage Bring Me The Horizon fan. However, anyone with an interest in the history of metal, a love for guitar wizardry, or an ear for soaring rock vocals will love ‘Rising’.

‘Rising’ may seem a bit short, at only six tracks, and just over the half hour mark, but there is a lot packed into that space. Carey’s keyboards swirl in from the silence as an intro to “Tarot Woman”. Blackmore offers a sharp, almost industrial reply, and then Powell and Bain thunder in, and the song takes off. Dio tells his tale of fairground witchcraft. There really isn’t much more to say. The recipe is made to sound simple, but there are hidden depths, proving the execution has been anything but simple. It is vintage metal, made for metal fans, while avoiding the worst excesses of 70s progressive rock.

The introduction to “Starstruck” has had air guitarists fiddling away at nothing, and real guitarists throwing their hands up in frustration, ever since 1976. The song has a groove which was once the exclusive preserve of Deep Purple, but had been commandeered by Rainbow, and put to great use.

“Run With The Wolf” and “Do You Close Your Eyes” both have memorable metallic riffs and almost pop-metal hooks, punctuated with guitar magic and sing-along choruses.

Powell’s intro to “Stargazer” would have had drummers the world over scratching their heads as to how he did it. The song has an epic main riff, like Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, only more mystical. Dio’s fantastical lyrics and clarion call vocals soar over the mythic miasma. Blackmore also lets rip, releasing all shackles, a six string maestro at the height of his powers. His solos are technically impressive, and seethe with vitality. The song takes on further dimensions still, with the backing of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.

And then to finally nail this album to the wall, closing track "A Light in the Black" basically wrote the blueprint for power metal. Up-tempo, and hard driving, the song is also a melodic masterpiece. Keyboardist Carey and Blackmore trade licks through the song. Cozy’s kickdrums underpin the whole thing.

The pairing of Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio sounds like a match made in heaven on paper (and a bit of a mangled metaphor!), and there was no better combo at the time. However, the age old problem of creative differences reared its ugly head, leaving “Rising” as a one-off for this line-up. Dio joined Black Sabbath, and the enjoyed a lengthy solo career. Blackmore and Rainbow found commercial success with the singles “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “I Surrender”, and headlined the first Donnington Monsters of Rock festival. However, Rainbow never maintained a steady line-up, and has had periods of hiatus when Blackmore’s interests have been elsewhere.

No matter. Just be thankful “Rising” exists, as a snapshot of one of the great combos of all time.

SINISTER Syncretism

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 6 ratings
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Back in the early 90s, Sinister was one of those death metal bands which most fans were familiar with, but were hardly ever anyone’s favourite band. Yes, Sinister’s songs had plenty going for them, like great writing, and excellent musicianship, and pretty damn good production, but there always seemed to be a certain spark missing to really propel the band into the big leagues.

Well, Sinister have stuck to the old school, and it sounds fucking refreshing. This is death metal the way it was initially intended to be. It’s just fucking… death. There’s no wanking around with prog-jazz infusions, pentatonic djenital fiddling, nu-core cluelessness, or folky fuckwittery. Nope, this is down-in-the-gutters bottom end riffing, turbo charged drumming, and gravel gargled vocals. It’s all that was good and great about death metal, and why most fans initially fell in love with it. Aad Kloosterwaard’s vocals are a particular delight. His gut-wrenching growl is a joy to behold, a cross between Chris Barnes at his most eloquent, and Glen Benton at his most bestial.

It’s generally pointless isolating highlights in a death metal album, because it is album-based music. That is, once you hear the first song, you know exactly what you’re getting for the entire album. If your ear isn’t attuned to it, all the songs might sound the same. If it does sound samey, it’s your loss. Stick to the radio. Sinister is not for you. For fans though, it’s nine tracks of somewhat Satanic gore and mire, with song titles like “Convulsion of Christ”, “Black Slithering Mass”, “Confession Before Slaughter” and “Rite of the Blood Eagle”.

This style of death metal isn’t sexy any more. The youth of today seem to find generic deathcore more desirable. This is for old perverts and deviants, who love things the way they used to be, when death metal meant death fucking metal, and didn’t need to be qualified with posts, cores or melodicks. Will “Syncretism” propel Sinister into the big leagues now? No. Should it? That’s up to the listener.

VARIOUS ARTISTS (GENERAL) Insufferable Noise

Boxset / Compilation · 2015 · Grindcore
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Have you ever had the thought “What I really need to feel complete and fulfilled in my life is a free nine hour compilation of DIY and underground grindcore, mostly of Eastern European origin”? No? Me either.

Well, obviously Alexey Zavyalov, from Torn Flesh Records has had such a thought, because he undertook the task of assembling this monstrous compilation. Now, mega-compilations are quite easy to come by online, but the usual problem with them is that they are “unofficial”. That means the compiler has just pinched music from wherever they wanted, without permission or acknowledgement of the artist involved. Alexey has actually gone to the trouble of gaining permission for this one, so download away, guilt free!

Now, more than nine hours of free music sounds nice, but what is it actually like? Well, it doesn’t sound nice. It actually sounds pretty fucking nasty and brutal. Which is a good thing. First track on this 312 song marathon is “Bunka Bunka Blues”, from mincecore legends Agathocles. In a career now into its fourth decade, the Belgian three-piece prove their music has not evolved or developed one jot since they began in 1985. The sound quality is fucking terrible, with the drums in particular sounding like a pencil being tapped on a table. After all this time, it’s quite obvious Agathocles don’t really give a fuck about recording quality. They still do it for the fun of it.

And that’s what this whole compilation is all about. There are nearly 80 artists here, and it would be highly doubtful any of them make any financial gain whatsoever from playing music. It ain’t about the money. It’s about the glorious, guttural, gory, grindy grooves.

There’s a hell of a variety of different subgenres of grindcore on offer here. There’s near-death grinders, a good selection of porno-grind and gore-grind, a bit of cyber-grind, a bit of noise, and some experimental shit. A lot of these bands are pretty obscure, probably being put together in garages and bedrooms throughout the world, but grind fans will recognise a few of the names here, like Porky Vagina, Gorgonized Dorks, Shitnoise Bastards, and Straight Hate. Sound quality also varies a lot too, from crystal clear and professional sounding, to gargly old crap which sounds like it was recorded onto masking tape.

There are also covers spread liberally throughout the album, like Spinal Cord Ejaculation’s version of Anal Cunt’s “Radio Shit”, Porky Vagina’s reinterpretation of “Ace of Spades”, called “AIDS In Space”, Flesh Grinder’s creepy take on Obituary’s “Slowly We Rot”, the truly bizarre pornogrind cover of Nine Inch Nails “Hurt” by Anal Tetris, and NekRock unrecognisable cover of Dying Fetus’ “Kill Your Mother, Rape Your Dog”.

At more than nine hours long, there’s no way to sit through this entire compilation in one go without turning your brain to mush. It’s one of those collections where the best idea is to hit random play and let the ensuing chaos just wash over you. It also is not one for the uninitiated. If you’re new to grindcore, stick to Napalm Death or Carcass, because unless you’ve built up a grind tolerance, a lot of this will sound like aimless, pointless noise.

If this is your thing though, crank up the volume, crack open a beer, and toast Alexey Zavyalov for putting this all together.

METALLICA Master of Puppets

Album · 1986 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.60 | 244 ratings
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Listening to ‘Master of Puppets’ for the first time is something of a rite of passage for metal fans. Do you remember the first time you listened to it? I do. I even know the date- January 16th, 1990. I wrote the date on the cassette cover. It was a day to remember. It was the day I first encountered a metal legend.

I’d spent most of the previous year wearing out my copies of ‘…And Justice For All’, ‘South of Heaven’ and ‘So Far, So Good…So What!’, but I’d never heard ‘Master of Puppets’. I’d heard the hype about it, but didn’t really believe it. Sure, ‘…And Justice For All’ was amazing, but there’s no way Metallica could have recorded another album to rival it. It would have to sound something like Iron Maiden or Motley Crüe, or just be disappointing. Was I fucking clueless, or what!

Do you know that feeling you get when you’re hoping something will be good, expect it to be disappointing, and then get blown away when it surpasses even your wildest dreams? That was and is ‘Master of Puppets’. Those calm, relaxing classical acoustic chords are so familiar, but even on a first listen, decades past, it was obvious they would be body-slammed by something heavy. And it happens, a pay-off beyond belief for that sweet anticipation, with those first crushing chords and booming drums. “Battery” is fast, heavy, and James Hetfield’s vocals are clarion clear. Kirk Hammett’s solos are sparing, and get the air-guitar fingers twitching, until he busts loose with some of thrash metal’s most vital shred in the final third of the song.

“Master of Puppets” blasts in, in a similar vein to “Battery”, but just a touch slower. The somewhat oblique lyrics of the first verse lead into one of the best choruses in all of metal. And then just when you think the song is going to be a headlong charge from beginning to end, a desperate chant of “master, master” breaks down into a semi-acoustic, mellower section. And this is what lifts this album far above the masses. The contrast gives the heavier sections so much more weight. The dynamics and song construction are judged to perfection. Add in the sub-sonic rumble of Lars Ulrich’s double kick-drums, and then Kirk’s distinct solo. And you didn’t even notice that song was eight and a half minutes long.

The H.P. Lovecraft-inspired “The Thing That Should Not Be” thunders like the Great Old One Cthulhu himself. The simple mid-paced riff is a blueprint for what Metallica did five years later to such great commercial success on the self-titled black album. However, this song is also a million miles removed from any possible suggestion of mainstream ambitions. It is simply too heavy and crushing, and Hammett’s counterpoint guitar is too jarring.

“Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” starts like many a power ballad, until Hetfield starts singing. Power ballads are usually about love lost and lamented, not minds twisted and tortured. The melodic initial verses build, until the plaintive cry of “just leave me alone!” evokes a feel of pathetic desperation. What started as a gentle, calm song has shot off on a psychotic tangent, escalated into an almost uncontrolled avalanche of schizophrenic paranoia.

“Disposable Heroes” crashes straight in , with a chunky, yet understated riff, but hints at further violence to come. It does, in some of the most vicious, wrist snapping blasts Hetfield’s rhythm guitar has ever produced. That’s not to say this song is all about speed. The vocal melodies are simple, yet memorable, emphasising the powerful anti-war lyrics, which decry the dehumanizing effect of unthinking military discipline.

“Leper Messiah” is another huge beast of a song, pounding away like an old fashioned mining trip hammer, smashing the hypocrisy of televangelist preaching. The chant of “lie, lie, lie!” echoes the “Die, die, die” of “Creeping Death” from the ‘Ride the Lightning’ album.

“Orion” is Cliff Burton’s song. Yes, there’s some great leads on it from Kirk, and James’ riffs are as powerful as ever, but if you ever get the chance, find a recording of just the bass track. This goes above and beyond what any other metal bass player was doing at the time. The psychedelic trippiness of the song should seem strange on a hard driving metal album like this, but it works. Don’t try to fathom why, it just does. There is no loss of momentum, and no urge to skip the lengthy instrumental, and is an incredible set-up for the last thrashing dash of “Damage Inc.”

“Damage Inc.” is a good old fashioned thrasher. It’s a fast, heavy adrenaline rush, violent and simple. The big finish, with no drawn out fucking around, leaves you wanting more. And that is the sign of a great album. The moment it’s finished, you want to play it again.

‘Master of Puppets’ remains Metallica’s most accessible thrash album. It proved very difficult for Metallica to follow up. Cliff Burton was tragically killed six months after its release, which derailed the band in more ways than one. ‘…And Justice For All’ followed two years later, ostensibly following and evolving from what Metallica had produced here. While many appreciate it for being the powerful album it is, it left many fans scratching their heads, with its over-long, cryptic songs, and its dry, almost bass free sound. It was perhaps Cliff’s influence which had kept Metallica grounded, despite the fact he was musically the most adventurous of the quartet.

The legacy of ‘Master of Puppets’ continues to this day. It still inspires young musicians to pick up instruments to try to emulate their heroes. For older fans, beyond the reach of hero worship, ‘Master of Puppets’ is still just a joy to listen to. It is an old friend which never lets you down.

VIKING CROWN Banished Rhythmic Hate

Album · 2001 · Black Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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Black metal isn't meant to be fun. It's meant to be miserable, and dark and, well, black. So why does it sound like Viking Crown are having a good time?

This was Phil Anselmo's "black metal" side project, which slotted alongside his "stoner" project (Down), his gore grind collaboration (Necrophagia), and who knows how many other projects he had besides his day job as Pantera main man.

Don't get this expecting a full on, blasting, hyperspeed, blurred black metal assault, because it's not. Sure, there are the traditional black metal tracks, but the majority of the album is ambient darkwave soundscapes. The doom–laden drones are overlaid with orchestral effects, angelic/demonic chorales, and voices buried and distorted so far into the mix they seem to exist only on the edges of the conscious. The atmospheres of dread created are equal parts melancholically soothing and subconsciously unnerving.

So where's the fun? Well, it's in the unproduced straightforward metal tracks. They are so badly done, so cheesy, so poorly produced, and so downright amateurish, they're laughable! They sound like the band are playing in a bomb shelter, and have been recorded by a telephone receiver dropped down a ventilation shaft. The guitars have the sound quality of a buzzing fly trapped inside a milk bottle. The drums sound like a plastic bucket full of water being hit with a hammer. The bass player must have had the day off when this was recorded, because there's little sign of any bass anywhere. The vocals are the usual cat hacking up furballs fare expected of black metal. The riffs are straight from the "Slipknot Bumper Book Of Guitar Tips" and the blasts are out of time, until the drummer finally catches up.

The artwork and packaging of the album is quite impressive. The cover is graced by a demonic succubi with a goat skulls in place of human heads, and even bat wings. The figures seem to be engaged in some form of satanic rituals within a black church of some type.

So if impressively dark atmospheric soundscapes, god–awful rawer–than–raw black metal, and satanic imagery bordering on soft porn is your thing, grab this immediately.

CUNTSCRAPE Splitroast

Split · 2009 · Grindcore
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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If you go by the old saying “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” when you look at Splitroast, and then find it offensive, it’s your own fucking fault! In this case, the cover is telling the truth.

This less than classy little split album from Western Australia features a spooky looking labiascape cover, like a vaginal “Altars of Madness” or a gynaecological take on Obituary’s “The End Complete”. Inside, Cuntscrape’s artwork features a bearded man having his vagina probed with a stethoscope by a doctor. Death Fucking Cunt are pictured sitting around a tomb vandalized with the phrase “smash sack, sniff petrol, praise Allah”. It’s the perfect cover for filthy pornogrind and deviant death metal, which is exactly what the Mighty ‘Scrape and D.F.C. deliver.

Cuntscrape’s comedy grind is actually pretty well executed, combining highly inappropriate porno samples (A woman puking. A man says “Oh shoot! OK, you coulda used the dog dish. It’s no good. My house smells like sperm”, from “Technical Brutal Death Metal Song”) snatched from fuck knows where, with tight but stupid music. How stupid? Try song titles like “The Veiny Shaft of Justice”, “Uncle Nasty Fingers”, and “Mayonnasian”. “Breastaurant” has an almost blues-y swagger, reminiscent of the occasional flourish by fellow Aussie grinders Blood Duster. “Finntrollop” is a bang on piss take of Finntroll’s humppa-metal. The Middle Eastern-themed “Hommusexual” features ululation, and a yobbo taunt of “eat some meat, ya pansy!” In between all the parodies and porno though, these guys grind like a motherfucker.

Death Fucking Cunt deal in great slabs of brutal, technical death metal. If you like Suffocation, Dying Fetus, Deeds of Flesh, or any other band of that ilk, you will like the four tracks on show here. There’s the constant percussion barrage, the bestial vocals, the heavy, distorted, technical riffs, the breakneck tempos, and songs which are completely indistinguishable from one another. That’s not necessarily a criticism- if you like what happens in the first few seconds of “Flexus Plexus”, you’re probably going to like “hothorses.com”, “Light Beer = Intense Queer” and “Insane Cumsore” too.

The whole “Splitroast” package is intense and perverted. It is misogynistic, slightly homophobic, anti-vegetarian, racially insensitive, a little zoophilic, and childishly offensively funny. It’s also a damn good listen, for lovers of well-produced goregrind and brutal death metal. Anyone upset or offended by it simply doesn’t understand the purpose of “Splitroast”, and shouldn’t be listening in the first place.

DEATHFUCKINGCUNT Splitroast

Split · 2009 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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If you go by the old saying “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” when you look at Splitroast, and then find it offensive, it’s your own fucking fault! In this case, the cover is telling the truth.

This less than classy little split album from Western Australia features a spooky looking labiascape cover, like a vaginal “Altars of Madness” or a gynaecological take on Obituary’s “The End Complete”. Inside, Cuntscrape’s artwork features a bearded man having his vagina probed with a stethoscope by a doctor. Death Fucking Cunt are pictured sitting around a tomb vandalized with the phrase “smash sack, sniff petrol, praise Allah”. It’s the perfect cover for filthy pornogrind and deviant death metal, which is exactly what the Mighty ‘Scrape and D.F.C. deliver.

Cuntscrape’s comedy grind is actually pretty well executed, combining highly inappropriate porno samples (A woman puking. A man says “Oh shoot! OK, you coulda used the dog dish. It’s no good. My house smells like sperm”, from “Technical Brutal Death Metal Song”) snatched from fuck knows where, with tight but stupid music. How stupid? Try song titles like “The Veiny Shaft of Justice”, “Uncle Nasty Fingers”, and “Mayonnasian”. “Breastaurant” has an almost blues-y swagger, reminiscent of the occasional flourish by fellow Aussie grinders Blood Duster. “Finntrollop” is a bang on piss take of Finntroll’s humppa-metal. The Middle Eastern-themed “Hommusexual” features ululation, and a yobbo taunt of “eat some meat, ya pansy!” In between all the parodies and porno though, these guys grind like a motherfucker.

Death Fucking Cunt deal in great slabs of brutal, technical death metal. If you like Suffocation, Dying Fetus, Deeds of Flesh, or any other band of that ilk, you will like the four tracks on show here. There’s the constant percussion barrage, the bestial vocals, the heavy, distorted, technical riffs, the breakneck tempos, and songs which are completely indistinguishable from one another. That’s not necessarily a criticism- if you like what happens in the first few seconds of “Flexus Plexus”, you’re probably going to like “hothorses.com”, “Light Beer = Intense Queer” and “Insane Cumsore” too.

The whole “Splitroast” package is intense and perverted. It is misogynistic, slightly homophobic, anti-vegetarian, racially insensitive, a little zoophilic, and childishly offensively funny. It’s also a damn good listen, for lovers of well-produced goregrind and brutal death metal. Anyone upset or offended by it simply doesn’t understand the purpose of “Splitroast”, and shouldn’t be listening in the first place.

PORKY VAGINA Presents Christmas Special - Jingle Balls and Few Other Piggy Covers

EP · 2009 · Grindcore
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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An earworm is a terrible invasive thing. It burrows in through your ear and infects your brain. Soon, it starts to ruin your concentration, looping itself over and over in your mind, driving you to distraction. There is seemingly little to do about it, short of infecting yourself with a more powerful, and hopefully less annoying melodic parasite.

Christmas time is the earworm’s prime hunting season. How often have you found yourself dreaming of a white Christmas, only to have a bunch of 80s pop stars asking if you know it’s Christmas time at all, followed by a squeaky pre-teen Michael Jackson spying on his mother and a fat bloke in a red suit, and finally yelling to yourself “Fuck off Snoopy!”, and wishing the Red Baron had just let rip with his twin 7.92 mm "Spandau" lMG 08 machine guns from his Fokker Dr.I.

Porky Vagina have another solution. Give yourself aural trichinosis with “Porky Vagina Presents Christmas Special - Jingle Balls And Few Other Piggy Covers”. The trichinosis worm, caught by eating undercooked pork, can cause diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and vomiting, and can later lead to swelling of the face, inflammation of the whites of the eyes, fever, muscle pains, and a rash, and further complications may include inflammation of heart muscle, central nervous system involvement, and inflammation of the lungs. Sound unpleasant? Well, it will stop you thinking about Frosty the friggin’ Snowman!

These Polish porcine porno-grind fuckers produced a little Christmas EP of cover songs mangled almost beyond belief, the perfect antidote to a yuletide hangover. “Jingle Balls” (yes, balls, not bells!) is grunted and burped by a rutting boar, and has an incredible blast beat. Or at least, an incredibly inappropriate blast beat. And it is only 38 seconds long. Yes, this little EP was produced by a couple of diseased minds in Bukkake John and Pigfucker, and the humour is almost as under-developed and immature as the music.

“Maciora Walc”, which translates to “Sow’s Waltz”, is that rarest of things in porno-grind, and probably grindcore in general, an actual 3/4 timed waltz! With a blast beat. “Piggy Rangers” is a juvenile cover of the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers theme song. With a blast beat. “Vaginaganza” is a reinterpretation of the “Bonanza” theme song. With a blast beat. “Genital March” is a bacon-flavoured reworking of John Williams’ majestic “Imperial March” from Star Wars, and just for a change, no blast beat.

There are two Excrementory Grindfuckers covers, “Final Grinddown” and “I Like My Grindcore”, which were originally covers themselves. Even the kings of rock and pop can’t escape Porky Vagina’s hamming it up, with both “Jailhouse Rock” (“Jailhouse Fuck”) and “Smooth Criminal” (“Snoochie Boochie Smooth Vaginal”) getting a full on, unlubricated buggering.

Bukkake John and Pigfucker jam an absolute shitload of silliness and grindcore mischief into eight and a half minutes of what should only be loosely described as music, but fuck it, it’s infectiously likeable, and filthily funny. Give “Porky Vagina Presents Christmas Special - Jingle Balls And Few Other Piggy Covers” a go and instead of the usual schmaltzy earworm rattling around in your head, a Polish parasite residing in your brain will be compelling you to grunt and squeal “Jingle Balls” instead.

MAYHEM De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Alive

Live album · 2016 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 2 ratings
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A live Mayhem show is a rare and much vaunted occasion. The band’s body count, and the collective prison time served by various members has meant finding enough musicians for a show has not always been a straightforward exercise.

Even the most casual of black metal fans knows the basics of the Mayhem story. A group of Norwegian teens got together in the mid-80s, and from a series of events involving unhinged band members, murders, church burnings, master-tape tampering, and extreme theological and political views, black metal was born. Oh yeah, and there was a bit of music thrown in there too.

“De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” was a revelation on its initial release in 1994, the album black metal fans had been yearning for since “Deathcrush”. Put simply, it was fast, raw black metal from beyond the grave. Even though it had been preceded by a few high quality albums, from the likes of Darkthrone and Immortal, “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” redefined what black metal actually was.

When the Gods (from the Norse pantheon, of course) smile upon Mayhem, and the required number of living and un-incarcerated band members can be assembled, the results can be magnificent, as the band’s explosive “Live in Leipzig” album proved. So, can lightning strike twice?

“No” would be too simplistic an answer. “Not really” would be too vague. “Yes” would be wrong. “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Alive” is just a bit tough to judge.

Look at the title. Deliberate or not, sticking “…Alive” at the end of the album title invites instant comparison to the four, or perhaps five (it depends if you count the “Alive! The Millennium Concert” album or not) “Kiss Alive” albums. Many Kiss fans will tell you those albums are where the band shines brightest. Mayhem definitely shines live, but there is just something a bit flat about this entire performance. It was recorded in Norrköping, Sweden, in December 2015, and is the entire “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” album performed live, played in order, and seemingly without breaks, just like a studio album. Therein lies a weakness to the trend of bands playing entire albums live. The strike rate of great songs to duds meant Kiss had to be picky as to which songs they put in a live show, but even bands with a lower dud rate like Metallica still have the odd turd in the swimming pool, like “Escape”, James Hetfield’s least favourite song, which he was still forced to learn and play for their performances of the “Ride The Lightning” album. While there is nothing like “Hooligan”, “Baby Driver” or “2000 Man” anywhere in Mayhem’s back catalogue, the four tracks from “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” which appeared on “Live In Leipzig” just seems stronger in this situation too.

Vocalist Attila Csihar is not famous for between song banter, but surely there must have been some breaks between songs. Remember moments like Iron Maiden’s “Live After Death”, with Bruce Dickinson’s “And this is what not to do if a bird shits on you” or Lemmy’s introduction to “We Are The Roadcrew” on “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith”. Wit is not essential, but it would be nice to know there was actually a band playing live to an audience.

And that is possibly the biggest problem. This all sounds too polished, especially for such an incendiary black metal band, and may as well have been a re-recording of the entire album in the studio. There is no life, nor any chilled necrotic death to this album at all. Mayhem may perhaps be too good for their own good. While near faultlessly performed, it has no character or vitality, and is just not an essential release from one of black metal’s most essential bands.

COFFIN FUCK The 12 Days of Christmas

Single · 2016 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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It must be Christmas. All the signs are there. The shops are full of people emptying their wallets on junk which seems life-affirmingly important today, but will be forgotten or broken by New Year. All the good TV programs have done their dash for the year, and there are endless repeats of pointless drivel in their place. The roads are infested with homicidal maniacs intent on causing vehicular devastation. And Coffin Fuck has dropped yet another Christmas single.

For more than a decade, this New Jersey three piece have been churning out an annual dose of death metal yuletide fare. Past offerings have included the already irreverent “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”, “Deck The Halls”, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, and “Jingle Bells”.* This year’s mangled melody? “The 12 Days of Christmas”.

It starts with a creepy sample about a demonic Santa who’s out to punish naughty children of all ages. “You see Santy Claus tonight boy, you better run, you better run for your life!”

And then in rumbles the music. The music? Well, it vaguely resembles the actual song in question, with the addition of blast beats, double kick drums, guttural vocals, guitar squeals, and a breakdown every time Mandroid gargles “Five golden rings”. It’s never going to win awards for originality or quality of composition, but hey, what are you really expecting from a death metal version of a Christmas song?

Coffin Fuck should raise a smile from all but the most jaded death metal fans, and there is always the entertaining look of horror on your Granny’s face if you can slip this in among the more traditional Christmas carols.

*On a side note, check out the lyrics to “Jingle Bells”. The song is not actually a Christmas song at all!

METALLICA Hardwired... to Self-Destruct

Album · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.63 | 29 ratings
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Did the world really need another Metallica album?

Think back to what made those first four albums so great. It was energy, vitality, absolute killer fucking riffs, speed, power, thought provoking lyrics (if you don’t count a couple of misfires on “Kill ‘Em All”), and a fuck-you-we’re-doing-it-our-way attitude. So many bands either aspired to be Metallica, or realised they couldn’t match Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett/Burton/Newsted and so took different directions.

Like an erupting volcano, Metallica got too big to stay underground. The black album came along, which had huge riffs and huge sales, and has since been followed by some of the most frustratingly inconsistent music in all of metaldom. For every “Hero of the Day” or “The Day That Never Comes” there have been too many songs like “Frantic”, “Thorn Within”, “Devil’s Dance”, “Where The Wild Things Are” and “St. Anger”. There is also the issue of the well-intentioned, but over-ambitious and badly received Lou Reed collaboration “LuLu”.

Like a clumsy proctologist, this album is an exercise in simply going through the motions. The songs are long and pointless, and the album is long and pointless. The killer riff cupboard is simply empty now. It has been more than a quarter of a century since anything as memorable as “Blackened”, “Master of Puppets”, “Fight Fire With Fire” or even “The God That Failed”.

There are no highlights, nor many low lights. It’s all just at the same mediocre level. It has flashes of the once vital band, back when they were young, hungry and angry, but sounds like old, rich and slightly befuddled geezers trotting out the dinosaur rock they once railed against. There is the odd flash of inspiration though. There is a bit of actual thrash here and there. You can hear Kirk again, who went missing in action somewhere around 2001, and he no longer seems to need to be the shredding speed demon he once was, preferring to swagger and wail in a blues-y style. Lars rediscovered his second kick drum too. James’ singing voice is more tuneful than ever before. Robert is still Robert, his incredible bass playing skills underused as ever in this band, but still rock solid as fuck. These men in their 50s are still competent musicians, but have none of the fire of their early-20s selves.

The most telling factor though, is that this album is a chore to listen to. It is hard going, even on a first listen, and improves little on subsequent passes. The only song which really stands out is final track “Spit Out The Bone”, and it seems like an effort to reach it. It is an attempt to recapture the hard-and-fast finish to a Metallica album, like “Damage Inc.”, “Metal Militia” and “Dyer’s Eve”, and succeeds on its own merits, but probably benefits from being the strongest track in a 12 song trudge.

So, to answer the initial question, did the world really need another Metallica album? No, the world did not need another Metallica album, but we got one anyway. Ho hum.

WORMROT Voices

Album · 2016 · Grindcore
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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The cover of this album is quite striking. It is a shattered line drawing of a mentally shattered face, and is an apt representation of the music contained within.

Wormrot has always dealt in stripped back, no nonsense grindcore, and that is exactly what “Voices” delivers. Twenty songs, 26 minutes, it is an incredibly intense mindfuck. “Voices” will seem like white noise to many metal fans. Thanks for listening, but this is not for you. This one is for the grinders, the noise freaks, the explorers of sounds at the extreme edge of music. And for devotees of the extreme, it doesn’t get much better than this. The sound is clear and sharp, or at least as sharp as it is supposed to be. Being signed to Earache means the band has a recording budget and access to a decent studio. The distortion and filth is all meant to be there, and isn’t the result of recording in a garage with a wobbly old tape on an ancient Walkman.

And so, riff after meaty riff comes blasting out of the speakers, backed by frenetic, pinpoint accurate drumming, along with throat shredding, hyper-intense shriek/growl vocals.

Yes, there are songs here, and lyrics, obviously, but does it really matter? “Voices” is short, and should be listened to in one sitting. Music as violent and fierce as this is to be actively absorbed, not passively listened to.

BRUJERIA Viva Presidente Trump!

Single · 2016 · Grindcore
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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After some of the utter bullshit Donald Trump has spouted in the run up to the 2016 presidential election, Mexicans wanting Trump to win the presidency seems about as sensible as turkeys looking forward to Christmas. Trump’s gonna build a wall! Trump’s gonna deport the Mexicans and the aliens! Trump’s gonna start a war!

Well, the pudgy orange-tinted, tax-dodging, scarecrow-haired, pussy-grabbing little cocksucker better watch out. Brujeria are gonna fucking finish that war!

Released for Record Store Day 2016, this single leaves the world in no doubt what Juan Brujo, El Cynico, Pititis, Hongo and the rest of the Brujeria cartel think of Trump. The initial thousand copy run of this single were pressed in black, green, red, and white to represent the colours of the Mexican flag.

The hate-filled bile of the song’s introduction is not provided by the band, but by Donald John Trump, a New York real estate billionaire, occasional asshole reality TV star, and owner of the reddest neck ever to make the ballot papers in a US presidential election. As has become to be expected from Trump, the speech isn’t particularly coherent or well thought out, but it presses all the right buttons for the right-wing, gun-toting, Dixie-picking, cousin-loving, Bible-belters of his target audience. He’s gonna build a great wall across the Southern states, and then make Mexico pay for it. Juan Brujo would beg to differ.

El Cynico’s bass rumbles into place, Brujo snarls and growls over top of it, and Brujeria’s infamous racket delivers a message from south of the border. This says it all: “El quiere Guerra/Igual que yo/Hechando chingasos/Entrale cabron” and “Habla mierda - de mexico/Odia mojados - deportar los/Quiere guerra - entrale carbon/Ya hay soldados metidos en cada pinche rincon!” Take that, motherfucker!

Oh, you probably want a translation. OK, try this on for size: “He wants war/And so do I/Throwing punches/Get in the ring motherfucker” and “He talks shit, about Mexico/He hates wetbacks, deport them/He wants war, get in the ring fucker/There are soldiers in every fucking corner!” Pretty fucking angry in any language.

If you know Brujeria, you know what you’re getting here- dirty big distorted riffs, grinding bass, an obligatory messy blast beat, and dark, dark humour inside which there’s a serious message. It’s all as subtle as a sledgehammer to the testicles.

The sounds of The Donald being hacked to mush with machetes at the end of the song is a fitting demise for the bloated billionaire bigot.

B-side “Pared De Muerte” (Wall of Death) is a tribute to the moshpit game loved by generations of headbangers, a long-haired, denim-clad version of primal battle scenes enacted the world over for millennia, before the invention of the machine-gun ruined the fun. For anyone who has never participated in a Wall of Death moshpit, the crowd separates into two halves with a space down the middle, and then runs at each other, resulting in an almighty crash of bodies. It’s not exactly sensible or safe but it’s one hell of an adrenaline rush. A nice touch as the song fades out is a rendition of one of death metal’s heaviest and most famous riffs, from Pestilence’s “Out Of Body”.

So yeah, fuck you Trump. Bring it on. Mexico is ready and waiting.

OBLOMOV Mighty Cosmic Dances

Album · 2005 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 3.60 | 11 ratings
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge: September 2016

Oblomov was an unusual character. Created by Russian author Ivan Goncharov in the 1859 novel of the same name, Oblomov was the quintessential superfluous man and lived a life of decadent, indecisive uselessness. Czech black metal band Oblomov is a lot like their namesake, producing superfluous black metal, but without the literary character’s memorable futility. “Mighty Cosmic Dances” is a different sort of futility, one which is ultimately forgettable.

The big problem with “Mighty Cosmic Dances” is it is too safe, too risk-averse, too middle-of-the-road, and ultimately, is pointless.

“Mighty Cosmic Dances” opens with a cut-price Jean Michel Jarre ambient intro, which really doesn’t seem to gel with the bog standard black metal which follows.

OK, bog standard may seem harsh, but listen closely to what is presented here. There’s the raspy vocals, which don’t descend into over-dramatic operatic screams. There’s distinct riffs, and not just formless buzzing guitars. There’s the obligatory blasts. There’s a bit of bass and at least some effort put into production and engineering values. Unfortunately, it’s all just a bit boring. This is really nothing the likes of Marduk hasn’t done before, except Marduk did it better and earlier.

The only redeeming feature of this album is the solos. Instead of completely eschewing solos, or resorting to breakneck, formless squealing guitar as many black metal bands do, these actually fit to the music and suit the songs. But the songs themselves are a problem. Would Trey Azagthoth be so highly regarded as a guitarist if Morbid Angel’s songs were mediocre? Or Angus Young in AC/DC? Oblomov’s songs are the problem. They are all just too much the same.

The crappy 1970s synths come back to close out the album, and sadly, are a relief from the repetitive tedium.

The final result is something slightly lesser than the sum of its parts. It’s not vicious enough to be truly harrowing, and not melodic enough to drill into your subconscious like an earworm. It’s competent, but not impressive. This is a stock-standard music collection filler.

VARIOUS ARTISTS (TRIBUTE ALBUMS) Re-Machined A Tribute To Deep Purple's Machine Head

Album · 2012 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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“Smoke on the water. Fire in the sky.” The most famous words in metal.

“Smoke On The Water”. Deep Purple’s quintessential metal song (henceforth to be referred to as The Venerable Anthem) from the band’s career defining 1972 album ‘Machine Head’ –the blueprint for so much metal to follow. The deceptively simple riff, the soaring vocals, the pounding, driving back beat, Jon Lord’s swirling keyboards, Blackmore’s masterful solo. Black Sabbath had “Paranoid”, and Led Zeppelin had “Stairway to Heaven”, but neither has or had the mainstream recognition of The Venerable Anthem. It is an anthem for generations of rockers and bangers of varying hardness, a song instantly recognisable and appreciated by both headbangers, and non-metal, hell, even non-rock fans.

Every fan of The Venerable Anthem has a personal story to go with it. I was born the same year it was recorded. I first recall hearing it at the speedway with my Dad some time in the 1970s. In the 1980s, classmates at school were getting into rap and hip-hop, and one of the things they “dissed” (their stupid word, not mine) was Deep Purple and The Venerable Anthem. Naturally, the contrarian in me decided to go the other way, and decades later, when those disposable pop records of my fellow youths are long gone and embarrassingly not quite forgotten, The Venerable Anthem and Deep Purple’s legacy is still (Space?) Truckin’.

I have 21 versions of The Venerable Anthem. Four of them are the studio original by Deep Purple, variously from the ‘Machine Head’ album, two greatest hits albums, and a rock compilation album. There is also a ten minute live version. Other artists covering this iconic song are Black Sabbath (it was a live recording when Ian Gillan was fronting Sabbath, an incarnation occasionally dubbed Purple Sabbath), Bruce Dickinson, Polish thrashers Acid Drinkers, veteran Korean metallers Crash, death metal super group Six Feet Under, Soulfly, Metalium, Throne of Chaos, and, um, Pat Boone.

There’s a range of styles in those artists, from straight forward rockers, through thrash, groove and death metal, and even Pat Boone’s unmistakeable lounging around, but all remain respectful, and can be appreciated by all. The Venerable Anthem is often the first real rock song learned by many a budding guitarist because of its simple but infectious main riff, and long remains in many repertoires because of its lasting appeal. It is a song it seems it may be impossible to sully, wreck, destroy, or otherwise fuck up, no matter how incompetent the musician.

Until now.

Let’s back track just a little. To mark the 40th anniversary of the release of ‘Machine Head’, Drew Thompson of Thompson Music, came up with the idea of ‘Re-Machined’, a tribute to the album. Metallica responded within 20 minutes of his first approach, saying they would love to contribute, and would record “When A Blind Man Cries”. First minor hiccup- anyone who knows the ‘Machine Head’ album would realise that song isn’t actually ON ‘Machine Head’. Tragic Deep Purple fanboy Lars Ulrich loved the song, which was actually a B-side to the “Never Before” single. Who’s going to say no to Metallica? Thompson should have. “When A Blind Man Cries” was a B-side for a reason. It’s not terribly good. Metallica made the best of it, but the original material ain’t the flashest. Oh well.

Thompson managed to score a collection of more big names though. Iron Maiden contributed a storming rendition of “Space Truckin’”. Carlos Santana contributed “Smoke On The Water” (version #22 in my collection), with Jacoby Shaddix (Papa Roach) on vocals putting in a surprisingly dynamic performance. Super-mega-supergroup Chickenfoot provided an entertaining, driving live version of “Highway Star”. Say what you like about Sammy Hagar, but the old bastard can still sing! Black Label Society’s “Pictures Of Home” has an easy going, rolling swagger to it. Former Deep Purple singer/bassist Glenn Hughes joined the band after the ‘Machine Head’ album, but here teamed up with Red Hot Chili Peppers/Chickenfoot drummer Chad Smith to record “Maybe I’m A Leo”. Leather throated veteran Aussie rocker Jimmy Barnes paid his dues in the early 70s singing Deep Purple covers, and here scored a great bluesy cover of “Lazy” with modern day bluesman Joe Bonamassa, and Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford. The Kings of Chaos supergroup of Joe Elliott (Def Leppard), Steve Stevens (Billy Idol, Michael Jackson), Duff McKagan (Guns ‘n’ Roses) and Matt Sorum (Guns ‘n’ Roses, The Cult) put in an enthusiastic rendition of the oft-forgotten track from the original album, “Never Before”.

So far, so good. Eight of the nine tracks on this album range from a bit above mediocre (sorry Metallica) to the raging (Iron Maiden, Chickenfoot, Jimmy Barnes), and would have been a good place to end proceedings. However, Mr Thompson made a mistake. He added a second version of The Venerable Anthem.

Most Deep Purple fans, and metal fans in general would be unaware of The Flaming Lips. The alternative rock band has been going since 1983, and has won a handful of Grammys. Known for their psychedelic and sci-fi influences, The Flaming Lips have played “Smoke On The Water” live for many years. Now, for a band like that, their contribution to this tribute was hardly going to be straight forward. Added to the mix, the band recruited Butthole Surfers vocalist Gibby Haynes to participate. Haynes famously provided the nonsensical word salad vocals to Ministry’s “Jesus Built My Hotrod”. So what is the result?

An abomination unto all things metallic, deep and purple. A travesty. A turd floating in your pint of beer. The unfuckable Venerable Anthem is well and truly fucked.

The song starts with warped, almost fart-like noises. Imagine someone playing that famous opening riff on their armpit. Now, add a tinny back beat, like something found on a three-year-olds’ Playskool toy piano. Then the vocals start. Haynes sounds like he’s speaking, not singing, through a public announcement system you might be unfortunate enough to find in a third world airport. He seems to be imitating OOM droids from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. You know the ones, the anorexic robots which seem to be a bit thick and fall to pieces when shot. If you can stomach listening to this mess, it will induce first disbelief, then disgust, and finally vigorous swearing. Yes, these pretentious hipsters have been covering Deep Purple for a cheap, ironic “look at the long haired Neanderthals” laugh. Fuck ‘em. The Venerable Anthem deserves better than to be fucked with by these assholes. Mr Thompson may have been trying to expand the audience attracted to this album by adding an alt-rock band, but all it does is alienate the loyal headbanging and hard-rocking fanbase Deep Purple had built over the previous four decades. This band is what the skip button was designed for.

Eight ninths of this album should go down reasonably well with Deep Purple fans. It’s just The Flaming Lips mockery leaves an incredibly bitter taste in the mouth that much of the good will and good times contained here will be forgotten. This is a shame. Deep Purple, ‘Machine Head’ and The Venerable Anthem deserve better.

CARNIFEX Slow Death

Album · 2016 · Deathcore
Cover art 2.75 | 2 ratings
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Seen as one of the leading lights of the deathcore scene, Carnifex have gained a lot of notice in the metal and social media. If “Slow Death” is any indicator to go by, it’s another case of hype building up the mediocre to a status far beyond that it deserves.

“Slow Death” in a word, is boring.

Music is supposed to cause some sort of strong reaction in a listener, whether it be raptures of ecstasy at a Beethoven symphony or Slayer’s “Reign In Blood”, or disgust at vile Autopsy lyrics, or even uncomfortable laughter at terribly politically incorrect Anal Cunt song titles. Apathy is not a strong nor useful reaction to music, which is what this album induces.

Yes, the band members in Carnifex are highly skilled musicians. Yes, the music has excellent production values. These are not what’s at fault here. The biggest problem is the straight-jacketed genre of music these musicians perform. It is unoriginal, predictable, interchangeable, and ultimately dull.

There’s no need to isolate any highlights, because there aren’t any, but there’s no discernible low points either. This album is ten tracks of heavy, competently executed metal, with death metal-ish vocals and a few electronic flourishes. All ten are virtually indistinguishable.

Deathcore’s protectors will rabidly devour this album. That is their right. It is also the right of everyone else not to have to subject themselves to such uninspiring music.

TIMELESS MIRACLE Into The Enchanted Chamber

Album · 2005 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.38 | 10 ratings
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge: July 2016

While countless bands are obsessed with zombies, vampires and demons, Timeless Miracle’s particular cup of tea is werewolves. The self-described epic lycanthropic power metal band hasn’t exactly been prolific in the musical output department, with three demos, an album and a few compilation appearances since 2001. Released in 2005, ‘Into The Enchanted Chamber’ was the band’s debut album.

The lycanthropic influence is evident right from the first song. First song “Curse of the Werewolf” kicks off at a reasonably quick clip, galloping along quite cheerfully, showing off some ear pleasing but easily forgettable melodies and some fancy harmonies. It’s easy listening for metalheads. The Swedish accented vocals are a little odd, but quite bearable.

Then about five minutes into the song, the keyboards kick in, and the troubles begin. Oh dear...

There is a reason the patron saints of all things metal Manowar railed against keyboards- they’re annoying and fake sounding, and cover shortcomings in inadequate guitarists, or smother the art of good ones. Admittedly, this time it’s a smother-job, but just imagine how much better this could have been without the unnecessary electronic swirls of fake strings and tinny pseudo-horns. Sometimes, less is more. It’s like the Egyptians deciding to build a new annex on the pyramid of Giza, or like a sculptor deciding the Venus de Milo would look better with a third tit. Yes, real orchestras and instruments are expensive, and full credit for the real violinist on “Into The Enchanted Chamber”, but Timeless Miracle, you are a metal band, so play your damn guitars!

Unfortunately, finding one fault leads to looking for more. It’s all too happy! There’s some reasonably grim (and Brothers Grimm) material here, but vocalist Mikael Holst sounds like a motivational speaker on a late night infomercial amped up from a three day methamphetamine bender preaching the gospel of the latest diet fad which is guaranteed to make you lose sixty pounds in three weeks, or your money back!

As imminently forgettable as the first tracks are, the seventh song “Return Of The Werewolf” may cause emotional scars. Lyrically, it contains such banalities as “Running screaming little Red was scared/Coming closer faster was those burning yellow eyes/She trapped and felt onto the ground the beast was on her tail/Just outside her Grandma’s house her final scream was heard”.

Yes, it’s a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, a story in which an anthropomorphic wolf goes to great trouble to lure a small girl to her doom, while murdering and eating a member of the girl’s family, and is only foiled in his plot by the timely intervention of a passing woodsman. What does this morality tale for six year olds actually teach? First, even if you follow the rules, some bastard is always out to get you. Second, anthropomorphic wolves are assholes, but luckily are a bit stupid too. Third, grown men playing in a heavy metal band who feel the need to rewrite fairy tales should reconsider their musical career paths.

After this travesty of a song, it is impossible to take the rest of the album seriously. “Memories” is a power ballad, and at least this time the keyboards are a piano, but it’s dull yearning-by-numbers. The vacuous “The Gates of Hell” has something of a folky tinge to it, with a lively but silly march for a chorus. “Down to the Gallows” is a perfect example of everything wrong with this album. The chorus is just far too cheerful, with a condemned man is singing “Down to the gallows at the end of a rope/I will die as a sinner I'm going/Down to the gallows where so many have died/By the hands of the hangman” as if he was skipping off to a medieval market fair. The passage of “Greensleeves” mid-song may induce spontaneous regurgitation. The brief intermezzo track “The Dark Side Forest” sounds like it is chanted by Oompa Loompas.

And just when it seems this album has confessed all its sins, and is ready to be consigned to that dungeon populated by albums which will never again grace your speakers, redemption. Final track “The Voyage” is a splendiferous, sprawling fourteen minute epic. The multi-faceted pomposity and grandeur is Timeless Miracle through and through. Gone are the trite lyrics and inappropriate effervescence. Yes, it still sounds upbeat, but this time it fits. Who knows why the preceding fifty minutes of music is so arse-clenchingly awful? This almighty saga atones for much, cleansing the aural palette and leaving a pleasant last impression.

“Into The Enchanted Chamber” is mostly lacking in substance and lasting appeal. Paradoxically, the final track is an example of power metal at its epic best. It would be a waste to miss “The Voyage”, but be warned, it is also a waste to be subjected to the rest of the album.

D.R.I. But Wait... There's More!

EP · 2016 · Hardcore and crust
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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Let’s get rid of the clichés early: return to form, back to their roots, rediscovering the old fire, like (insert appropriate album here) never happened… Had enough yet?

“But Wait… There’s More!” is the first significant studio output from D.R.I. since the 1995 album “Full Speed Ahead”. It’s pretty fucking good, and it deserves better than some hackneyed stock phrase to describe it. Gone are the dull arsed plodding metal riffs Spike Cassidy churned out through the 1990s, and back are the simple, speedy hardcore sounds which originally propelled D.R.I. to the forefront of the early 80s hardcore and crossover scenes.

A couple of these tracks sound a bit familiar. “Mad Man” and “Couch Slouch” are re-recordings of two tracks which appeared on the band’s first demo, and then on the 1985 album “Dealing With It”. No, they aren’t as fast or chaotic as the original versions, but are infinitely heavier, and it’s still fun to shout “Couch slouch/Fuck off!”

The other three tracks on this EP mesh well with this duo. Kurt Brecht’s shout has always suited the hardcore side of the band’s sound better than their misguided, more metallic sound. He hasn’t tried anything new here, and it works perfectly.

D.R.I. have nothing left to prove, and so don’t even try here. There’s less than ten minutes of music here, and does what every artist wants- it leaves you wanting more. Does this band have another full album left in them? Who knows, and who fucking cares. Here’s “But Wait… There’s More!” Enjoy it.

SIX FEET UNDER Graveyard Classics IV: The Number of the Priest

Album · 2016 · Death 'n' Roll
Cover art 0.50 | 2 ratings
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If you were once one of the world’s best regarded death metal vocalists, why in the hell would you release an album of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden covers?

The aforementioned vocalist, Chris Barnes once had the death metal world at his feet. He was lauded as the driving force behind Cannibal Corpse, the world’s biggest death metal band, courting controversy and attracting the curious and the rebellious the world over. His gore laden murder music earned him notoriety and publicity throughout the metal world, ultimately diffusing death metal’s diseased tendrils to new, far flung audiences. Cannibal Corpse released four genre re-defining albums with Barnes, who then decided to try something a bit different, forming death metal’s best known supergroup side project Six Feet Under with Allen West from Obituary.

And then all the zombies came home to roost. Barnes and Cannibal Corpse parted ways acrimoniously. Fans and critics alike thought Cannibal Corpse would sink without their talismanic vocalist. Six Feet Under’s more laid back approach to death metal, injecting doses of both rock music and THC looked like the way forward for death metal.

History has proved otherwise. Cannibal Corpse’s music improved immeasurably with a more dynamic new vocalist in George Fisher, while losing none of their gore obsession. While Six Feet Under had legs initially, the band’s style never caught the imagination of the wider metal world, although it does have a dedicated core of fans. The band is now no longer a band either, but Chris Barnes and guests.

However, the guests Barnes gathered for this album are pretty fucking good. In a strange twist of fate, guitarist/bassist Ray Suhy and drummer Josh Hall are both members of drug themed Cannibal Corpse parody band Cannabis Corpse. Suhy in particular impresses, proving repeatedly that not only can he chug along with the gruntiest of rhythm guitarists in death metal, he can also shred and wail too. The song selection is original too, avoiding the obvious candidates like “Breaking The Law” and “The Number of the Beast”, despite the pun in the album’s title.

“Night Crawler” starts with a bludgeoning stomp, and sounds promising, right up until the moment Barnes opens his mouth. Oh dear… His one dimensional growl instantly flattens Rob Halford’s legendary operatic wailed melody into a tuneless drone. The spoken passage is a silly rasped whisper. And this happens in every damn song. Halford, Bruce Dickinson, and even Paul Di’Anno, the singers of the original versions of these songs, all had a vitality, versatility and strength to their voices and performance when these songs were written. Barnes has a guttural rasp, and that’s it, hence the question “why?”

By the time “Never Satisfied” comes along, there is a great urge building to shout at the speakers for Barnes just to shut the fuck up and let the rest of the band carry on as an instrumental group. If he had, the whole album would have been a lot better. True, it wouldn’t have been Six Feet Under, but in this day and age does anyone still really care?

Barnes struggles to spit out the verses of “Murders In The Rue Morgue” without tripping over his own tongue. The crunching intro “Prowler” is impressive, but then Barnes fucks it up again, by opening his stupid gargling mouth. “The Evil That Men Do” is just embarrassing.

Despite the best efforts of the backing musicians, this is just a fuck-awful rip off. It is the lazy dribblings of a dope fiend who has wrecked both voice and mind, and wants us to fund his habit.

ПОЦЕЛУЙ БОМЖА Спиздани

Single · 2015 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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One of the cool things about grindcore is that while, yes, there are certain parameters which define the genre, there’s nothing to stop a band colouring outside the lines. Russian avant-garde imbecile grindcore (their label, not mine!) act Поцелуй Бомжа (Kiss the Hobo) has done that right here, with a left-field cover of Paradise Lost’s “Say Just Words”, retitled “Спиздани” (“Spizani”).

Paradise Lost caught a lot of flak when this song was released, the first single from their 1997 album “One Second”, because it had strayed so far from the band’s doom/death roots into Gothic dance/rock. It didn’t seem to bother the band that much, as their future work drifted even further from the metal path. Kiss The Hobo’s Weh.r Kexitt twisted the song even more. While Kiss The Hobo is technically a two man band, M.David-jewnior was not involved, as he is the band’s lyricist, leaving Kexitt to mash this song to a messy pulp. Most grindcore is played at near light speed, which often covers any technical deficiencies in the musicianship. Not this time. This is played at a slightly bouncier pace than the original dirge. The main riff is taken up by an accordion, the bass is a tuba or something similar, and then the guitar kicks in. there are mysterious strings, and possibly a toot of a flute somewhere in the mix too. The overall effect is something like a demonic polka.

Kexitt has a poor grasp of English, and only a faint acquaintanceship with melody, but you can’t hold a keen man back, as he gives this his best pitch-shifted gargle, and added strangled screams for good measure. There’s some ghostly backing vocals near the end of the track too.

This shouldn’t work. It should sound like an ill-fitting mish-mash of random styles, ill-advisedly thrown together, forming a tuneless lump of noise. But this odd misinterpretation of a controversial excursion into Gothicism is like lightning striking Frankenstein’s monster. It breathes new, if slightly creepy, life into a collection of dull, dead parts. This is not much more than a harmless novelty, but it should raise an imbecilic smile on all but the most jaded metal fan’s faces for at least a few minutes.

PANOPTICON Kentucky

Album · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.62 | 13 ratings
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Vim Fuego
MMA Reviewer's Challenge: May 2016

A panopticon is an interesting concept. Dreamed up by 18th century social reformer and father of modern utilitarian philosophy Jeremy Bentham, a panopticon was initially an idea for a low labour prison. By building a circular prison with a central watch tower, a single guard could potentially supervise hundreds of prisoners unobserved, providing huge savings in staffing. The theory was, prisoners would not know if they were being watched, and therefore had to behave as if they were. No panopticon prisons were ever built to Bentham’s exact instructions, but experiments were conducted with similar constructions. And a strange thing happened. Prisoners went insane.

Inmates hated the panopticon to the point it drove some to mental breakdown. The thought of every single moment of life being under observation, 24 hours a day was just too much, even for hardened criminals. Bentham would have been horrified, because central to human happiness in his philosophy was the experience of pleasure and the lack of pain, including psychological. Many prisons built in a similar style have now been scrapped, but some are still used.

Even some workplaces were operated in this style, as employers found productivity increased, albeit as worker happiness declined. The word panopticon has become synonymous with the invasion of the state into every aspect of life, a lack of privacy for ordinary people, the oppression of workers, and the erosion of civil rights. And this is where “Kentucky” by Panopticon fits in.

This album covers the state of Kentucky from its bloody origins when the Cherokee were ruthlessly and forcibly removed from the forests, through the turbulent and violent times when the coal mining industry destroyed the landscape and humanscape simultaneously, and concludes with a native Kentuckian despairing at the environmental desolation still visited upon his once pristine home.

Although it’s instrumental, “Bernheim Forest in Spring” is hardly the typical atmospheric black metal introduction track. Rather than the “grym, frostbitten” silliness often associated with black metal, it creates an impression of timeless forest covered hills and morning mists, encapsulating the primeval sylvan solitude of Kentucky’s wilds.

The tranquillity is obliterated by the coal blackened sledgehammer of “Bodies Under the Falls”. Man-mountain polymath Austin Lunn, the creator of the initial backwoods beauty is also its destroyer, jarring the listener from any sense of peace of mind with a barrage of crystalline sharp black metal riffs, with the subtle undertone of a flute. This epic track is a telling of the arrival of Europeans in the Appalachian mountains from the point of view of the displaced Cherokee, forever weeping at the destruction of their idyll and the rending of their connection with the land, but taking some solace through killing some of the newly arrived invaders.

Traditional folk song “Come All Ye Coal Miners” provides contrast to the metallic songs once again. It is a call to arms against the coal mining companies which subjugate miners, whose wages and lives were both cheap, and includes a chilling sample where a miner explains both miners and the environment are considered disposable by the mining industry.

“Black Soot and Red Blood” pulls the black metal back a shade, but the subject matter is still brutal. The mining industry was incredibly ruthless and cruel, screwing down miners to subsistence living, whilst crippling and killing men through neglect and lack of safety measures.

Kick men long enough and they will eventually kick back, as the miners of “Bloody Harlan” County did in the 1930s. The miners went on strike repeatedly, demanding better pay and conditions. The mining companies resorted to hired thugs and scab labour. After the Battle of Evarts on the 5th of May, 1931, which saw deputies armed with machine guns take on strikers wielding shotguns, and resulted in four deaths, the governor of Kentucky called in the National Guard to restore order. This incident was one of the inspirations for Florence’s Reece’s protest song “Which Side Are You On”, the next track on the album.

The folk/gospel rendition of “Which Side Are You On” is an example of less being more, with the simplistic melody backed by banjos, voices and a thudding beat, creating images of desperate men holding picket lines against what must have seemed overwhelming odds. “Killing the Giants as They Sleep” collides with the end of the song like a phalanx of deputies smashing into a determined picket.

Leaving the woes of the labour movement behind, “Killing the Giants as They Sleep” picks up on environmental concerns, as generations of mining have desecrated the once pristine landscape. Otherworldly flutes float through the metallic maelstrom of the song. There are ghosts in the music, of men losing their connection with the wilderness, and of forest spirits driven before the relentless destruction of mineral extraction. The song jags viciously between the ethereal and the painfully hyperreal.

“Black Waters” the third folk song used on the album, further stresses the Appalachian desolation, although it is unrecognisable as such. The song drones like a wrecked church organ with a choir of the damned chanting behind it.

The gentle mountain music of the final track “Kentucky” ties up all the loose ends. It leaves the listener thinking about the previous seven tracks, about how humans can be so inhumane and destructive in the pursuit of progress and profit, and how the places people live and work help define them.

The contrasts created between the black metal and bluegrass country elements of this album demonstrate different realities in the same locality, but also reveal the only weakness to this minor masterpiece. Bluegrass music almost always sounds upbeat, even when a song is depicting a melancholic or dark subject. The banjo is an inherently cheerful instrument, and bluegrass violins are hardly sonorous.

This minor quibble aside, “Kentucky” is an album to quieten black metal nay-sayers and genre mixing sceptics. It describes a powerful interconnected story without becoming a full on concept album. The non-metallic elements are executed with skill and conviction, and do not dominate or denigrate the metal. The metal passages are attractive even to those who scoff at black metal’s dogmas and clichéd excesses. This is an all-seeing album for anyone serious about metal.

ZOMBIE RAIDERS True Old School Horror Grind

Demo · 2010 · Grindcore
Cover art 1.00 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
So what can you get for free these days? Sunburn? A cold? A pamphlet from the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Not a hell of a lot. You can add “True Old School Horror Grind” to that less than stunning list.

“True Old School Horror Grind” is a free five track demo by American grindcore band Zombie Raiders, and free is an appropriate price for it, because it really isn’t very good. What you get is inexpertly executed horror themed goregrind. You know the sort of thing- smashing as many drums as possible as fast as possible, indistinct guitars distorted almost to white noise, bloppy* vocals you often find on badly recorded pornogrind, and song titles rendered meaningless by the bloppy (hey I’ve just invented this word, so I’m going to keep using it!) vocals. In short, it’s all a bit of a mess. The intro to “Soul of the Demon” is vomiting noises so silly it will make you laugh, partly in embarrassment.

There are positives though. The riffs are fairly distinct, rather than being a total fuzzed out blur. Zombie Raiders understand the value of slow, grinding riffs to provide contrast to, well, the fast grinding riffs. Also the blast beat on the 43 second long “The Dead Live!” is well executed. And if you listen to this often enough, it almost has that feel of “so bad it’s good”. Almost…

Ian Berling is the genius? Brains? Bloke in charge? Yep. Ian Berling is the bloke in charge of Zombie Raiders, playing drums and gurgling the vocals, and it turns out he was only sixteen when this was recorded, but it was already the two man band’s second release. At the end of the day, he’s not going to give a fuck one way or the other what anyone else thinks of the music he makes. This is five tracks, less than six minutes long, and totally free. No, it’s not great, but more power to Berling and his Zombie Raiders for putting it out there.

*bloppy, adjective: To make a blop sound. Origin: blop + py. Blop, noun, informal (I just made it up!): The sound of the bubbles coming from a goldfish tank.

MACABRE Dahmer

Album · 2000 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.98 | 3 ratings
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Vim Fuego
Concept albums often have very dark stories and themes behind them. Queensryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime” deals with heroin addiction, assassination and insanity. W.A.S.P.’s “The Crimson Idol” is the story of a rock star dealing with the loss of his brother, his own alcoholism, the emotional distance from his parents, and his eventual suicide. “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” is possibly a concept album, or possibly not, depending on which member of Iron Maiden you ask, but it does cover clairvoyance, foreseeing death, madness and the meaning of dreams. All these pale in comparison to Macabre’s “Dahmer”.

“Dahmer” is particularly shocking and achingly dark because it is a true story. This album follows the tragic true story of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer from screwed up childhood to eventual rather messy death. Dahmer’s life and crimes are particularly famous because the brutality and perversion behind the seventeen murders he committed caused a media shitstorm like no other serial killer in history.

This album kicks off with “Dog Guts”. Why? Because a young Jeffrey Dahmer loved playing with dead animals. Second track “Hitchhiker” covers Dahmer’s fucked up teenage years, culminating in the murder of a hitchhiker in 1978, his first victim. Macabre is well known for sticking the odd nursery rhyme into their music, and there’s a few on show here. “In The Army Now” and “Grandmother’s House” steal the tunes from “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “Over the River and Through the Woods”, lightening the grim mood somewhat. “Coming To Chicago” borrows from “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round The Mountain”, which is a truly disturbing sing-along about cruising gay bathhouses, looking for victims to fuck, photograph, kill, photograph, fuck, mutilate, fuck, disembowel and finally fuck again. Another borrowed tune, “Jeffrey Dahmer And The Chocolate Factory” has the immortal lines “Oompa loompa doompity dah/Jeffrey loved eating/Men from gay bars/And he lived in happiness too/Like the Oompa Loompa doompity doo”. Oompa Loompas don’t seem quite so innocent after that.

Dahmer tried to lobotomise several of his victims, in order to acquire a zombie sex slave, but kept messing up the operation. The song “Konerak” describes how victim Konerak Sinthasomphone managed to escape during this process, but through some of the most inept police work of all time, the cops returned him to Dahmer, and in doing so, missed seeing a decomposing body in Dahmer’s apartment, and all that was ever found of the the Thai teenager was a few bones.

As you can imagine, there’s nothing progressive or operatic about “Dahmer”, as is often common with concept albums. It’s a death metal record, but like Macabre’s previous two albums, it’s not exactly an ordinary death metal record. Macabre’s style of death metal has always had something of a cult following, rather than really breaking through into death metal’s mainstream, possibly because these guys enjoy a laugh. “Jeffrey Dahmer Blues” for example, is a swinging blues song, topped off with a solo by producer Neil Kernon. “McDahmers” is an anthem for cannibals everywhere. “Into The Toilet With You” hits a tech-death rhythm, while describing how acid dissolved flesh was flushed down the toilet.

Of course, there would have been no Dahmer, no court case, and no album unless Jeffrey was caught. “Media Circus” covers Dahmer’s arrest, using the cheerful circus music melody. “Temple of Bones” describes the macabre (no pun intended, no other word really fits) construction of skeletal remnants police found in Dahmer’s reeking charnel house apartment, along with dissolving body parts, filleted human flesh in the freezer, and putrefying bodily remains.

The song which sets this album apart from all other concept albums, and all gore themed metal everywhere, is “Trial”. Guitarist/vocalist Corporate Death (Lance Lencioni) is quite serious in his obsession with serial killers, and actually attended Dahmer’s trial. “I waited in line to see him/Through the bulletproof wall/In the courtroom/And I had a seat in the front row/To watch Jeff like a circus sideshow/Ten feet away, the cannibal displayed”. This is taking research to another level, and short of interviewing Dahmer, or becoming a victim, this is as close to the source material as it is possible to get. Reading the lyrics, describing how Lencioni was only 10 feet from Dahmer is chilling.

Dahmer was beaten to death in prison in 1994, almost bringing this entire tragic episode to an end. Final song “The Brain” covers how Dahmer’s father wanted his son’s preserved brain destroyed, which it eventually was.

This whole story is told in a coherent manner, never losing its narrative thread, yet most of the songs can be listened to in isolation without sounding strange. Well, no stranger than usual, considering this IS Macabre after all. It’s gory and gruesome, both musically and lyrically, and it stands up well to repeated listens. As far as death metal concept albums go, “Dahmer” is unique, the perfect mix of brutality, humour and true life horror.

BABYMETAL Metal Resistance

Album · 2016 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 2.97 | 5 ratings
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Vim Fuego
Babymetal caused something of a shitstorm when they dropped their self-titled debut album on an unsuspecting metal world in 2014. Imagine anyone having the audacity to mix metal with a Japanese girl band!

It shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Metal is supposed to be a grass roots form of music, created by fans of the music for the music’s sake. J-Pop is supposed to be the exact opposite, a cynical construction of fiendish big-business record companies trying to screw stupid people out of their money by making music to the lowest common denominator. Combining the two could only be a flash-in-the-pan gimmick. Metal fans the world over were outraged at the manipulation of the music they hold so dear! The protests fell on deaf ears, and Babymetal’s music did not.

Gimmick or not, there’s a huge audience for this band now, and the fad has yet to run its course. The singers Su-metal, Yuimetal and Moametal are all former members of Japanese idol group Sakura Gakuin, which was further subdivided into sub-groups, or clubs, which eventually led to the formation of Babymetal. Babymetal’s music is fairly straight forward. It’s mostly standard melodic death/power metal, in the vein of Children of Bodom, with emphasis on strong pop melodies, spiced up with metallic riffs and double kick drums, all overlaid with pop vocals. These ingredients led to the self-titled debut album charting well all over the world.

And “Metal Resistance” is more of the same. The album kicks off with “Road of Resistance”, a collaboration with Sam Totman and Herman Li from DragonForce. As you’d expect from any track featuring Totman and Li, it’s hyperspeed shred with the three girls’ cutesy vocals over it, not far removed from DragonForce at all.

Second track “KARATE” is familiar, sounding like a heavier version of such European female fronted metal as Lacuna Coil, Nightwish or Within Temptation, although with the teen trio’s shrill vocals. On the track “Meta Taro”, the vocal melodies are infectious, and the harmonies are chanted. “From Dusk Til Dawn” features dub step breakdowns, which are a little distracting, but give the song some variety. “Sis.Anger” is one of the most metallic sounding songs the band has ever played, almost veering into full on death metal, with a growled backing vocal and blast beats. In the end though, this album starts to drag. Power ballad “No Rain, No Rainbow” is generic and dull. Closing track “THE ONE (English Version)” is an endurance test, which can’t finish soon enough.

Babymetal really makes so much more sense in a live setting. The live show the band puts on is visually impressive, with the three girls highly choreographed, and the focal point of the show. The metal musicians are deliberately masked and anonymous, and no one really pays much attention to them anyway. Compared to the live show, this whole album is a little deflating, and just a bit too slick. There are a few highlights, the DragonForce collaboration being one, but for serious metal fans, this is just a bit too thin on really gripping content.

Babymetal is neither the death of metal, nor it’s saviour. Love it or hate it, “Metal Resistance” is still going to sell truckloads.

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