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metal music reviews (new releases)

VALE OF PNATH Accursed

EP · 2019 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.92 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"Accursed" is an EP release by US, Colorado based death metal act Vale of Pnath. The EP was released through Willowtip Records in May 2019. Vale of Pnath formed in 2006, released an EP in 2008, their debut full-length studio album "The Prodigal Empire" in 2011, and their sophomore studio album "II" in 2016. Since then there haven´t been any new releases, but there have also been quite a few lineup changes since "II (2016)", which is a possible explaination for the three years between "II (2016)" and "Accursed". Drummer Eric W. Brown is only credited here as a session player, guitarist Eloy Montes has been replaced by Harrison Patuto and bassist Alan Parades has been replaced by Andy Torres. The only permanent members remaining from the lineup who recorded "II (2016)" are guitarist Vance Valenzuela and lead vocalist Reece Deeter.

"Accursed" marks a bit of a musical shift for Vale of Pnath, who on their previous releases were a technical/progressive death metal act in the vein (and quality) of artists like Obscura, Beyond Creation, and Augury. Stylistically "Accursed" is still technical/progressive death metal, but it´s often an artist like The Black Dahlia Murder I´m reminded of instead of the above mentioned artists. The vocal style is now predominantly higher pitched screaming and only occasionally growling, and the music is very melodic and often features neo-classical touches (which isn´t something new in the musical universe of Vale of Pnath though).

Vale of Pnath are very skilled musicians and the speed and dexterity of the playing is impressive. Lighting fast riffs/leads and high level technical drumming. Vale of Pnath were always successful creating dark sci-fi atmospheres and that continues on "Accursed", which features a dark and raw sound, which suits the material well. The songwriting is generally very intriguing. Just the first couple of minutes of "The Darkest Gate" (which is the first regular track on the EP after the short atmospheric opener "Shadow and Agony") features multible musical changes and changes in pace, and Vale of Pnath are obviously skilled composers, who understand how to structure musical elements and ideas to the greatest effect.

When all the positives are said (and there are many positives to mention), "Accursed" isn´t the most original sounding release. Vale of Pnath may be skilled composers and a technically very well playing act, but they lack that last songwriting uniqueness to set them fully apart from other artists in a similar vein. "Accursed" is still a high quality release though and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

FORMICARIUS Rending The Veil Of Flesh

Album · 2020 · Symphonic Black Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
This is the second album from Formicarius, who have brought in of Kevin Paradis of Benighted to provide drum duties this time around. He isn’t the only guest either as Sakis Tolis (Rotting Christ) and Nicholas Miller (Aklash) are involved on “Early Will I Seek Thee”. Both bassist Hægtesse and guitarist Lord Saunders provide different types of vocals, while there are also some female backing vocals here and there which provide some clarity through the symphonic black metal onslaught which I suspect are provided by keyboard player Morath. The final member of the band is lead guitarist Nazarkardeh, who can often be found leading the death metal act De Profundis.

There are times when this album is very good indeed, showcasing all that one would expect from this style of music, but for me it just isn’t consistent enough to make it a great piece of work. There is a reason why notes are seldom held for very long from singers in this style of music, and there are too many instances when there is just too much quavering and going off key. But the use of a twin vocal attack of black and death must be applauded as it’s not something which is heard very often. I would like the keyboards to be more aggressive and slightly more forward in the mix, but that would have to be at degradation of the guitars which are very good indeed with strong interlinks and riffs. It easy to see why Paradis is in such demand these days as he really takes control here and provides an incredible foundation for the rest of the band to work with.

If they can keep him in the band and continue to drive forward then the next album could see them taking the genre to a whole new level.

AXE Final Offering

Album · 2019 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
I can’t have been the only person to be rather surprised to hear there was a new Axe album available, given that the only releases in the last 19 years have been an anthology and a live DVD. But yes, singer/guitarist Bobby Barth has pulled together another band under that moniker and here we have the first new music since ‘The Crown’. Given that most of the years since that release in 2000 Barth has been involved with the other band for which he is most regarded, Blackfoot, it isn’t surprising that there is only one other survivor from the last Axe album, namely co-singer and keyboard player Bob Harris. This is the seventh album to have the Axe name but given that Barth is now 67 and four of the albums were released before 1984 the title of this could well be accurate if history is anything to go by.

Talking of history, one wonders what would have happened with the band if Barth and guitarist Michael Osborne hadn’t been involved in a car accident in the summer of 1984 which saw Barth badly injured and his friend pass away. Axe were finished that day in many ways, yet they had started with major promise in that the whole band were all veterans of many years playing clubs and cover music, with four lead singers, and all writers. They signed a deal before they ever played a gig, and like any young metalheads at the time I certainly knew of them back then. But what was this album going to sound like? Was it going to be heads down and meet you at the end? Look at the cover, a double-headed battle axe which is transformed into a guitar, but that certainly doesn’t describe what is inside.

I understand why the album was released under the name Axe, as it certainly made people like me sit up and take notice who remembered them, but I only hope the name and imagery doesn’t put others off who may not have heard of them before as this is polished and gorgeous from the start to the very last note. This is an album which could have been released by Axe at the height of their powers, and it is as if the last 35 years just haven’t happened as they mix and move through different styles of melodic hard rock. There is restraint, and the voices as well as the approach have matured, and the songs are all the better for it. In some ways it reminded me somewhat of the latest Black Oak Arkansas, more in approach than sound, as old rockers show the rest of the world they still have a great deal to offer and there is no doubt we are all richer for having this made available. Eleven songs on the CD but Escape Music have also released this on vinyl and for that there is one extra. If you had ever wondered what had happened with Axe then wonder no more, as with this release they are very much back centre stage and anyone who enjoys melodic well-crafted hard rock will find much on here to enjoy.

BLOOD INCANTATION Hidden History of the Human Race

Album · 2019 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.47 | 6 ratings
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Nightfly
Back in 2016 I was mightily impressed with the debut album from a little known death metal band from the USA called Blood Incantation. On starting this review I decided to start by referring back to my review of said album, Starspawn. While I could have sworn I’d done a review, apparently not, I’d only rated it – 4 stars by the way. Anyway here we are three years down the road and Blood Incantation are back with another dose of cosmic death metal and they’ve just got even better.

Hidden History Of The Human Race is only four tracks long clocking in at a meagre 36 minutes but thankfully every track earns it’s place here. Slave Species Of The Gods opens up and it sounds immense. With its crushing dissonant riffs and organic production fans of Immolation and Morbid Angel should love it. Likewise The Giza Power Plant which follows though adding some light and shade and getting a bit more trippy over its seven minutes. Compared to their debut the sound here is tighter and not quite as dense – less chaotic. That’s not to say I prefer it that way but HHOTHR shows considerable growth with a more progressive approach. Inner Paths (To Outer Space) was the first track I heard from the album and initially I was a bit concerned. It has a slow build starting with a clean sounding cosmic trippy section and took it’s time before anything resembling death metal kicked in. Hearing it in the context of the album though it works and I like it.

Not surprisingly the highlight of the album is the eighteen minute Awakening From The Dream Of Existence To The Multidimensional Nature Of Our Reality (Mirror Of The Soul) which takes up side 2 of my vinyl copy. It’s a mind blowing death metal trip with some of their heaviest riffs but even including a Pink Floyd-ish lull before kicking back in with full force again. The rhythms twist and turn, constantly shifting mirroring the riffs, never staying in the same place too long and it feels like only half its length. It’s a stunning piece of work and perhaps the finest piece of death metal I’ve heard all year.

Just when I was more or less sorted in my mind on my favourite albums of the year along comes another contender. HHOTHR is a staggering achievement and I can’t wait to see where this band goes next. The future of death metal is in safe hands.

SHILDRAIN Drained

EP · 2019 · Groove Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Doing what many angsty youngsters from far outposts of the planet do, SHILDRAIN is a new musical outlet for four metalheads from the northeastern Brazilian city of Belem which isn’t too far from the mouth of the mighty Amazon River. The band have released the first EP in 2019 titled DRAINED which i presume is related to the band name which comes from lead singer / guitarist Alexandre SHILDRAIN.

This is some extreme metal here which is a nice mix of thrash and groove metal and is influenced by early Sepultura, Machine Head, Gojira, Ektomorf, Panetera and Meshuggah. This is riff based metal with mid tempo stomps, exaggerated shouted vocals and heavy caustic distortion. The drums are somewhat laid back for a groove metal band but the guitars are more active. Everything sounds downtuned so the overall sound is dark and murky.

Vocally, Alexandre sounds possessed and gutturally down in the dumps. Angsty baritone screams and sludgy guitar riffs with occasional lead guitar squeals offer the perfect depressive backdrop for the intense lyrical themes of child abuse, suicide and slave labor. Think more depressive early Machine Head than Pantera or Sepultura and you’ll get the picture. This EP is only about 20 minutes long and serves as somewhat of a demo but a future release is well underway.

It’s clear these guys have done their homework as they’ve amalgamated various band’s styles and melded them into their own, however none of the five tracks on DRAINED really stand out. The musicianship is a bit on the sloppy side which gives the whole thing a sort of stoned out heavy psych sort of vibe but it’s not really bad or anything. Basically this EP doesn’t make a great impact. It’s all sort of bland and middle of the road despite a decent production job and nice depressive atmosphere. Not bad but not great either.

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STONE RAM GrauzaM

EP · 2018 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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One of the newer mystery bands out there, STONE RAM has only released a few singles in 2019 followed by this short three track EP titled “GrauzaM” which i assume refers to the German word “grausam” which means “cruel, horrible.”

Absolutely no info on this band but i sampled this short EP on its Bandcamp page just to check out some new sounds from far flung places. This band comes from Montrose, CO which is located in the western part of the state.

This band is also difficult to describe since all three of the tracks are completely different but each exciting enough that i really want to hear a full album from this guys. While the album cover resembles a typical black metal band, this group is anything but.

The opening “The Darkest Life I’ve Ever Known” is a gloomy dark ambient track with moaning synthesizer sounds and ghoulish whispers emerging from the darkness. A pretty cool opener for sure. It sounds like dude is “ghouling” in German but i’m not sure.

“Primal Obsession” is a riff based track. While the atmosphere is more in the black metal world, the riff is rather melodic and more like melo-death metal but really slowed down to mid-tempo while dude’s vocals are sort of croaking along in a semi-spoken manner. The drums lazily accompany the guitar but also provide some fills. There are spoken word samples that remind me of Skinny Puppy or Ministry so there is an industrial feel but the track then changes into a death metal styled riff session only with black metal creepiness. The process repeats.

“Till Fjell In Kaldt Av Gunnen” is the longest track but less than five minutes. It starts out with more film samples but then turns into a caustic black metal type of track with slow plodding guitar riffs and a slow drumbeat to match. The vocals are submerged beneath the din and are barely audible while the receptive guitar riffs hypnotizes. After the intro starts to seem like its dragging for too long, the steam picks up and the track flirts with death metal riffing along with some folky elements that sounds like Tyr but alternates between these. After an atmospheric ambient break with some Darth Vader breathing back to death metal business only once again it’s an interesting hybrid between death and black with the folk musical scales.

This one really makes me want to hear more! These musicians present many great ideas on this short 10 minute and 11 second EP that makes me excited to hear any potential debut album that will emerge. They got something that many are lacking and i can hear the potential oozing from its blackened pimply pores!

EXUSSUM Exitium Per Ignis

EP · 2006 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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EXUSSUM formed in 2004 and is the only death metal band i’m aware of that has emerged from Grand Junction, Colorado which is located on the western end of the state. This band has released several EPs and one full-length but other than its own Bandcamp site, it’s hard to find samples of its music. This second EP titled EXITIUM PER IGNIS is the earliest one i can check out and it is a six track EP that races past the 21 minute mark but no further.

This is old school death metal all the way however with a slight blackened darkness and a grindcore ferocity. There are three musicians: Impaler on drums, Drucifer on bass and Attis on guitars and vocals. The main inspiration is clearly from the early Morbid Angel years where caustic chugging guitar riffs and occasional squeals and brief solos burn down the house. The bass and the drums are equally dynamic and there are no moments of slowing down. This is a chugging riff-fest the entire duration with Attis sporting his best guttural growls from the bowls of hell vocal style.

This is all extremely well played and would’ve sounded like it came out in 1991-92 era as the production is muddy and definitely sounds like a home project which gives it a raw retro feel. While sometimes these types of projects are acceptable, for the case of this EP at least, it all sounds very generic and a definite sense of been there, done that. These guys have mastered the cloning process thoroughly but don’t offer a lick of originality. This is a decent EP for sure but it’s obvious that the band needed a bit more time for some self-seasoning. A good release that won’t blow anyone away who is already a fan of death metal classics.

SAVATAGE Dead Winter Dead

Album · 1995 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.79 | 40 ratings
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UMUR
"Dead Winter Dead" is the 9th full-length studio album by US power/heavy/progressive metal act Savatage. The album was released through Atlantic Records in October 1995. It´s the successor to "Handful Of Rain" from 1994 and features a couple of lineup changes since the predecessor as guitarist Alex Skolnick has jumped ship, and has been replaced by a returning Chris Caffery (who performed with Savatage in the late 80s and also collaborated with Jon Oliva on the Doctor Butcher project) and former Alice Cooper guitarist Al Pitrelli. Drummer Steve Wacholz had in reality already left Savatage before the recording of "Handful Of Rain (1994)" although he is credited for playing on the album. On the tour supporting "Handful Of Rain (1994)", Jeff Plate was hired as the band´s drummer, and he makes his first studio album appearance on "Dead Winter Dead".

"Dead Winter Dead" is a concept release (their second concept release after "Streets" from 1991), taking place in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo during the Bosnian war in the period 1990 to 1994. The main characters of the story are a young Serbian man and a young muslim Bosnian girl, who during the story realise the terrors of war and that fighting each other won´t help them have the future they both dream of. The story also features other twists like the old man playing Mozart and Beethoven compositions on his cello in the town square while mortar shells rain down from the sky around him (ultimately killing him). A symbol of beauty destroyed by the ugliness of war.

Stylistically "Dead Winter Dead" is a dynamic and varied release. Everything from mellow ballad type passages, to power ballads, orchestral arrangements and musical style melodies and build-ups, choirs and counterpoint vocal parts, to the occasional harder edged US power/heavy metal track, are featured on the album. All arranged on the tracklist to accompany the storyline. The band are as always professional and well playing, and the two new guitarists do a great job throughout the album. Zachary Stevens sings most lead vocal parts, but Jon Oliva makes a return singing lead vocals on "I Am" and "Doesn´t Matter Anyway" as well as singing backing vocals on "Starlight". While Stevens is a powerful and skilled vocalist, it´s hard not to notice how much stronger the vocal part of the music becomes when Oliva sings. Stevens is a class act, but Oliva is in the world elite of metal singers, and that´s just hard to compete with.

"Dead Winter Dead" is a well produced album and features a mix where all details are clearly audible. So upon conclusion "Dead Winter Dead" is another high quality release by Savatage. It´s one of their most progressive releases in terms of diversity and compositional sophistication, but it´s also one of their least "metal" releases in terms of sheer heavy metal power, and the listener should brace themselves for a more musical style listening experience. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

SULPHUR Thorns in Existence

Album · 2009 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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"Thorns in Existence" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Norwegian black/death metal act Sulphur. The album was released through Dark Essence Records in November 2009. Sulphur was formed in 1999 out of the ashes of the Bergen based black metal act Taakeriket. An act which existed from 1996 to 1999. Sulphur released the "A Relic for the Damned" demo in 2000, but then disappeared for a while before returning in 2005 with the "Outburst of Desecration" demo, which earned them a label deal with Osmose Productions for the release of the debut full-legth studio album "Cursed Madness (2007)".

Stylistically the material on "Thorns in Existence" continues in a similar technically well played progressive black/death metal style as the one Sulphur introduced on "Cursed Madness (2007)". The difference lies mostly in the quality of the material and especially in the consistency of the material and how well the album flows. I´m still reminded of an act like Enslaved, although Sulphur aren´t clones by any means. The vocals are predominantly in the high pitched raspy black metal camp, but there are also more death metal oriented growling vocals featured on the album, as well as the rare use of clean vocals.

The material on the 10 track, minutes long album are well written and relatively varied (the band successfully combine epic atmospheres, brutality, and chaotic darkness within intriguing song structures), and as a result "Thorns in Existence" is an entertaining release throughout the playing time. The album features a powerful and detailed sound production too, and upon conclusion it´s a high quality sophomore release by Sulphur. They may not have the most original style nor the most distinct sounding playing/singing style (which is about the only thing keeping me from rating "Thorns in Existence" higher than I do), but there is still something about the album which reeks high class in all departments and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

TEXTURES Silhouettes

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.21 | 7 ratings
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UMUR
"Silhouettes" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Dutch metal act Textures. The album was released through Listenable Records in April 2008. It´s the successor to "Drawing Circles" from 2006 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as bassist Dennis Aarts has been replaced by Remko Tielemans.

Stylistically the material on "Silhouettes" continues the technical/progressive metal style of "Drawing Circles (2006)". Hard edged angular riffs and rhythms, often delivered in unconventional time signatures, shouting aggresive "core" tinged vocals, and the occasional clean vocal part, and some melodic and atmospheric moments, which are often enhanced by the use of keyboards. Artists like Meshuggah and Gojira come to mind at various points of the playing time, but Textures ultimately don´t sound like those acts, although there definitely are some similarities.

"Silhouettes" features high level musicianship and a powerful, clear, and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly. The material is well written, effective, and catchy (even quite melodic at times). It´s also reasonably varied and "Silhouettes" is overall an album with a good tracklist flow. So upon conclusion "Silhouettes" is a high quality release by Textures. There are a few issues which prevent it from reaching higher levels of excellence, and that is predominantly issues with the vocals. Both the raw shouting vocals and the clean vocals are as such well performed, but none of the vocal styles are particularly unique sounding. The raw vocals sound like a thousand other "core" tinged vocals, and the clean vocals are pretty unremarkable too.

So while the material are both well written and powerful, Textures still haven´t found a sound which make them stand out from the crowd of similar sounding artists (like for example the two above mentioned artists have), and that does have an impact on my overall impression of "Silhouettes". Had the vocals stood out more and enhanced the uniqueness of the music and had the music overall had a more original sound, the sheer quality of the product would have warranted a sure 4 star (80%) rating, but as that unique sound is lacking I feel like I´m stretching, when I a rate the album with a 3.5 star (70%) star rating.

BLOOD INCANTATION Interdimensional Extinction

EP · 2015 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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BLOOD INCANTATION started out in Denver, CO back in 2011 when they were beginning their more psychedelic take on classic Morbid Angel’s groundbreaking “Domination” era mix of eruptive guitar riffs with angular off-kilter deliveries, eerie detached vocals growling in spectral aggression with a touch of the modern day Nile styled atonal chugging of the rhythms with a bass and drumming style to offer the most primo classic death metal bombast in full force.

The band started out with Paul Riedl (vocals, guitar), Isaac Faulk (drums) and Morris Kolontyrsky (guitars) and released three demos and before the addition of Jeff Barrett on fretless bass who would join the other three on the band’s full-length albums, the trio released this debut EP titled INTERDIMENSIONAL EXTINCTION with session musician Damon Good as the fretless bassist. Recorded in 2013 and released two years later, BLOOD INCANTATION took its time in crafting the perfect debut that focused on Lovecraftian fantastical themes inspired by the otherworldly artwork of Bruce Pennington.

INTERDIMENSIONAL displays the band’s knack of taking the Morbid Angel / Nile stylistic approach out of the ancient history books and into the realms of out space with psychedelic atmospheric cloud covers that offer a darkened shadow producing effect around the atonal riff clusters that collide much like the particulates of Saturn’s rings. This EP only featured four tracks but pretty much laid down the foundation that BLOOD INCANTATION would build upon and in the process popularize a new strain of psychedelic death metal by adopting some of the atmospheric properties that the black metal world has been dabbling in for quite some time.

Given the epic nature of BLOOD INCANTATION’s works, this truncated release actually feels like a sampler because it feels like it goes by way too fast. While the band usually opts for spaced out Floydian intros, INTERDIMENSIONAL wastes no time bursting into tech death bombast and saves the spiciness for the extra touches like the atmospheric backdrops and the melodic guitar solos that erupt from the din while Paul Riedl’s vocals add a ghoulish haunt from the turbulence. As a trio, the band had already mastered their unique twisted approach of melding Watchtower styled mangled riffs into digestible chunks that mimic aspects of Timeghoul, Demilich, classic Death and of course Morbid Angel and Nile.

This is a strong compelling debut which in retrospect displays a tight knit unit that was destined for greatness. The secret of BLOOD INCANTATION’s style is that it evolved just a tad beyond its influences at this point before putting the psychedelic features on overdrive as on the newest album “Hidden History Of The Human Race,” nor did it overplay the progressive aspects. All in all, i couldn’t ask for a better first slap in the face than this nice slice of stellar tech death wizardry. Beautifully designed and intricacy intermingled, BLOOD INCANTATION clearly cast the proper spells and the demons aligned to fuel the astral inspiration in all its glory. Yay!

THE BEAST REMADE Worship The Beast

Album · 2013 · Deathcore
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Female fronted deathcore from Mexico is not something you encounter every day but that’s exactly what you’ll hear with THE BEAST REMADE which comes from the northwestern city of Hermosillo comfortably located in the arid Sonoran desert near the Gulf of California. This is a five piece deathcore band that consists of Marko García (guitars), Ariel Olea (guitars), Martin Llanez (bass), Jose "Gordo" Romero (drums) and the very un-lady-like charm of Lucía Romero on vocals.

THE BEAST INSIDE is a satisfying slice of melodic deathcore with all the wicked rage you would expect only kept in the accessible zone with an underlying string of melodic hooks that while often obfuscated by the core infused fury of the deathened bombast that sails at full speed, nevertheless exhibits nice breaks from the status quo with slower thrash metal riffing extravaganzas laced with difficult listening time signatures and occasional neoclassical solos. Not exactly progressive but often hints at that direction.

Perhaps the most obvious comparison will be with Arch Enemy’s most arguable death metal diva Alissa White-Gluz as Lucía Romero captures the same untamed beast qualities with her shrill higher register screams. On the musical side of the equation, THE BEAST REMADE evokes a sense of The Black Dahlia Murder with its incessant mix of death metal and metalcore sensibilities. So far THE BEAST REMADE has only released this sole album which only just extends past the 31 minute mark.

While deathcore can be a one-dimensional rage machine which gets fairly monotonous, WORSHIP THE BEAST provides a melancholic piano “Intro” and likewise a similar “Outro.” In between the core values are firmly exercised but the intermissions into slower passages and other metal styles keeps this one from stagnating however the vocals never stray into clean territory as Romero always remains in She-Hulk territory. With compelling riffs, exuberant energetic delivers and a nice mixing it up of things without losing the deathcore focus of things, WORSHIP THE BEAST is a really nice debut that points to a promising followup which i would hope will emerge at some disclosed future date.

ANCESTRY Revelations

Album · 2011 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Formed in 2007 in Chihuahua, Mexico, ANCESTRY, founded by guitarist Luiz Monge would go through several lineup change before getting to the point where the band could craft enough material to release this 2011 debut REVOLUTIONS. Despite the turbulent origins, much of the material of this first offering was written in 2008 when ANCESTRY was performing live gigs with more international bands like Rata Blanca from Argentina.

The recording of this album took place in Mexico City throughout 2009 but due to the fact that the original vocalist, Lobo departed at the same time which left the band without a vocalist for about a year before Alex Gavilán would join on as the new vocalist. The entire fiasco caused a two year delay but REVELATIONS finally made its debut in March 2011.

Despite the claims on the band’s CD Baby page that his album is NOT a typical power metal album, in reality it really is. ANCESTRY takes the route of imitating its idols which in this case varies from the lightning fast metal of Angra and Dragonforce to the symphonic metal leanings of Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius and Helloween. The music is dynamic, melodic and showcases the extremities of Gavilán’s vocal range as well as the neoclassical shredding typical of power metal.

By this time the band settled into a sextet with the lineup of Alex Gavilán (vocals), César Castillo (bass), Eduardo Cuadros (guitars), Luiz Monge (guitars), Alan García (keyboards) and Edgar Salais (drums). Despite emerging from the northern region of Mexico where Tex-Mex traditional music reigns supreme, ANCESTRY displays no allegiance to its culture and instead completely crafts a musical specimen forged from the cauldrons of the European scenes.

In many ways, REVELATIONS is very much like a tribute album to the influences that inspired Monge to venture into the energetically delivered world of power metal. Guitar and keyboard workouts in tandem can remind of bands like Arch Enemy, Children of Bodom, Dream Theater and Symphony X and with music like this, it is imperative that the vocalist has the chops to bring the music to the higher levels and in that regard Gavilán delivers with ease. The musicianship is of the highest caliber which is what makes power metal so dynamic.

Perhaps my biggest gripe about REVELATIONS is that it never strays from hero worship and is too safe in keeping the music as closely associated with its influences without adding any sense of creative input into the ten tracks that include three instrumentals. You can expect t all the proper power metal boxes checked off, namely rampaging speed, symphonic contrasts all dressed up in epic performances with the usual fantastical adventures through storytelling.

Technical wizardry is the name of the game and ANCESTRY doesn’t disappoint in the harmonic tempos that culminate into sizzling guitar solos or the famous double bass drumming patterns that deliver vast quantities of sixteenth note frenzies. It’s hard to say anything bad about REVELATIONS as it’s a stellar power metal release other than it plays things too safe and finds ancestry trying to show they can play in the big boys’ club instead of crafting original music that stands out from the legions of imitators. In the end, a satisfying power metal album but not the most memorable one.

FORNICATADOR Nuclear Rape

EP · 2018 · War Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Coming from the remote Australian city of Darwin which sits all the way at the top of Aussie territory and a vital link with Indonesia to the north, the bestial black war metal act FORNICATADOR is lurking in the shadows of Australia’s most tropical metropolis and creating unfathomable evil sounds. Like many bands in this darkened fusion of death metal brutality cross-pollinated with the black metal underground, not much is known about this one-man band whose identity is Guy Watson aka Masokist who performs all instruments and vocals. But mystery is all a part of the image i suppose.

In the war metal world, there’s a tendency to eschew the modern trends of making “pretty” black metal with hi-fi production effects or symphonic sophistication. On this second EP titled NUCLEAR RAPE, the focus is firmly placed on sounding as lo-fi fucked up as possible which makes this EP sound a lot like a demo would have in the old days and in fact some sources claim that this is indeed a demo but the fact that this is for sale on Bandcamp as an official release, i’d have to dispute those charges.

One look at the blasphemous cover art and you’ll know you’re getting a musical style that wants to push all the buttons by blending sexual perversions with anti-Christian rhetoric. While the lyrics are indecipherable (as usual) there’s no missing the fact that with track titles like “Defecated Christ” or “Penis Of Christ,” that this is music designed to piss of the religious folk but personally it’s only the music i care about so let’s move on. This is basically a typical lo-fi war metal release with emphasis on noisy and murky distorted guitar riffs that offer plenty of feedback and reverb from hell.

This is basically the sonic equivalent of a nuclear holocaust which is why the EP is called NUCLEAR RAPE as you feel you’re being assaulted for the entire time you are listening to this. The EQ is tweaked for maximum irritation, the war metal march is either slow and distorted beyond imagination or rampaging like the Hulk on a bad day. This EP successfully delivers the disturbing underground feel that its going for however like most of these types of acts, the brevity is welcome due to the fact that the one-dimensional nature is like throwing a fire log into the volcano and watching it incinerate in a microsecond. The effect wears off quickly but is quite exhilarating while it is on fire.

In all honesty, these four tracks probably feature the most feedback and noisy mess of sound that i’ve ever experienced on a metal album. While this style of music has always seemed like a musical cul-de-sac where there’s nowhere left to go, it’s amazing that this only came out in 2018 and seems to have taken the evil mind fuck to an even more disturbing level. Sub-level that is. This hypnotic dark music seems like it is designed to accompany an intense gazing session at the cover art and therefore really does evoke the very essence of black magic unlike other black metal styles. For that i’ll have to admire its sheer determination to go as black and light-free as possible. In a short duration i actually enjoy this quite a bit but this is like a ridiculously sweet dessert where after a few bites, i’m quite satisfied and ready to move on.

POSSESSED Seven Churches

Album · 1985 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.24 | 21 ratings
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Triceratopsoil
The missing link between thrash and death metal... there are all sorts of elements that fans of those two genres will recognize: riffs that wouldn't be out of place on Death Angel's The Ultraviolence, vocals that are almost growled and certainly heavier than any thrash metal band at the time (barring perhaps Celtic Frost, another genre-defying band), tremolo picking galore, but also Exodus-style guitar dueling solos. Most Primus fans probably have no clue Ler Lalonde used to rip like this. Mostly recommended for fans of early Slayer, Death and Morbid Angel. Also a very consistent album (no filler tracks) with great production value for being a bunch of teenagers in 1985.

Hard to sit still or turn it down once this album starts playing!

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