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metal music reviews (new releases)

DEATH DIVINE Affliction

Album · 2020 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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I’m always a bit wary when I discover that what I thought was a band turns out to be a one man project. Nothing wrong with that in theory, but you can’t beat a band environment for quality control and having someone tell you that your latest idea is shit when you think it’s the dogs’ bollocks. Death Divine is the work of UK based musician Daniel James who prior to his latest album, Affliction, has released an EP and a full length album, The Oracle in 2019. James seems to have played everything including the vocals apart from some additional singing from Elisha Martin on the song Without You.

Affliction is melodic death metal, fairly well played, though for the large part the song structures are fairly simple. It’s a long way off the most exciting death metal I’ve heard this year but overall it’s not bad either. James has an ear for a decent melody which seems to improve after the first few tracks. In fact on the early part of the album I was somewhat underwhelmed with songs like opener Breaking Out Of Hell and Desire, whilst not bad by any stretch, lose my interest quickly being somewhat repetitive and lacking that killer punch. Again, nothing wrong with being a bit repetitive but you need a memorable riff or two to back it up. It’s on track four where things pick up. Not only does the song structure offer more variation but it also has a memorable melody, particularly when guest vocalist Elisha Martin comes in. It may be your typical beauty and the beast approach but she has a good voice and if I was James I’d use her more in the future. After that So Sick changes things to a more atmospheric vein, ditching to a large extent the melodic side. This returns for another one of my favourites, No Hope which contains some memorable hooks including a pleasing guitar solo. It also throws in a few more changes to keep things interesting. The album goes out on another one of the better songs, the title track. At six and a half minutes is it the longest song on the album and fortunately the strength of the melody carries it including an insistent keyboard part.

The production is not bad considering it’s what I assume to be a home studio recording. It lacks some teeth but it’s mixed fairly well and everything cuts through clearly. I may be wrong but it sounds like the drums are programmed. They do the job but lack power and a real drummer could have spiced the parts up a bit. James’ guitar work is overall tight and he’s certainly a decent player, not only on his rhythm parts but also on the solos.

Affliction is an overall good album from Death Divine. It’s not going to set the death metal world on fire and unfortunately down to the sheer quantity of stuff getting released likely to remain unheard by most. That’s a shame as James is not without talent. He may be perfectly happy working on his own but if he got a decent band behind him it could make all the difference to his work in the future.

ULCERATE Stare into Death and Be Still

Album · 2020 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 5 ratings
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"Stare into Death and Be Still" is the 6th full-length studio album by New Zealand death metal act Ulcerate. The album was released through Debemur Morti Productions in April 2020. It´s the successor to "Shrines of Paralysis" from 2016 and features the exact same trio lineup who recorded the predecessor.

Two words and one influence have always been among the descriptors of Ulcerate and that´s inaccessible, dissonant, and Gorguts. While Ulcerate have managed to stay relevant and continue to release albums in the years since their inception in 2002, they haven´t strayed too far from their original formula or from their obvious Gorguts influence on any of their previous releases. What they have done though is develop their sound slowly but steadily from album to album, and adding more and more of a unique touch to their bleak and dissonant technical death metal style and that´s what has happened again on "Stare into Death and Be Still". One more step out of the shadow of Gorguts.

When that is said this is still strongly Gorguts influenced technical death metal, featuring dissonant twisted riffs and open chords, complex and challenging technical rhythm work, and some deep growling vocals, which this time around has become slightly more intelligible. I won´t remove the inaccessible label from my description of the music, but "Stare into Death and Be Still" is to date the most accessible release from Ulcerate and I hear more memorable and catchy moments here than before. The songwriting is more focused on those qualities and while this is still bleak and brutal music, it features a little less of the impenetrable darkness of some of the predecessors. It´s actually quite atmospheric at times and occasionally leans towards post-metal territory.

Ulcerate generally seem a little more interested in opening up their intriguing take on technical death metal to the listener, and it´s not done by compromising their integrity or the brutality of their music. It´s small details like a semi-melodic hook, an intelligible vocal phrase, or maybe a heavy groove, which is a bit more catchy and simple than usual. A good example is the title track, which is an incredibly creative composition, featuring many intriguing riffs and rhythms and an atmospheric middle section. But while it´s certainly a complex and challenging song, there are also some more simple features, which makes it at least occasionally accessible.

"Stare into Death and Be Still" features a crushingly brutal and heavy sound production, which is perfect for the material and helps the tracks to shine. This is an album for those who are interested in a different take on technical death metal. Forget about conventional power chord riffs, guitar solos, or regular drum patterns. When you cross the threshold and enter "Stare into Death and Be Still" you are in for an adventurous ride that´s sure to challenge the conventional ideas of what death metal should sound like. A 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

HAZZERD Delirium

Album · 2020 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Hazzerd's brand of thrash metal is the higher tone type with vocals that make them sound like they could be a punk/thrash crossover band, except I haven't heard that they ever played any punk rock. Drummer/vocalist Dylan Westendrop must get part of the intensity in his voice from having to play the drums so fast! Lyrics are your typical themes about corrupting societies and chemical health hazards. If I have overlooked something, I apologize.

There is, however, something else lurking in the rapid fire thrash guitar playing and maximum overdrive steam engine speed, and that is a desire to show off a higher level of musicality which comes up in two instrumental tracks, "Call of the Void" and "The End". Here we have finger-picked acoustic guitar, clean electric guitar, and lead guitar that is melodic and beautiful at times and even approaching neo-classical style in "Call of the Void". It's a bit like finding the classical guitar parts of Metallica's "Fade to Black" and the melodic parts of "Orion" on the "Kill 'em All" album. Personally, I think these instrumentals add something to what could have been a fairly straightforward thrash metal album and give the band more cred as musicians whose skills go beyond playing standard thrash metal.

Another point I like about this album is that there are two or three tracks where the bass comes forward. It's not for long but I always find these moments of "stop the six strings and let the four string walk to the front of the stage" contribute to a track's interest.

A track that I just have to mention is "Dead in the Shed", which is about a young, garden shed drug chemist named Bill who makes LSD for the neighbourhood junkies. "Stay on drugs and don't do school," is his moto; however, Bill ends up overdosing and dying in his shed and no one finds him until his corpse stinks too much for the funeral home. Lyrically, it has a dark sense of humour but also warns against drug abuse.

Because of the more skate party thrash tone I picked up early on, I wasn't as thrilled about this album as some other thrash albums I got around the same time. Listening more carefully, there are actually a few tracks that really stand out for me, "Illuminated Truth" and "Waking Nightmare" being two more that had me checking the track listing.

A pretty solid trash album that shows a band aspiring to possibly evolve into something more.

VICTORY OVER THE SUN A Tessitura of Transfiguration

Album · 2020 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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In the 21st century there seem to be two major trends. Retro bands that strive to bring metal back to its more simplistic roots and wildly experimental acts that are hell bent for leather in driving the genre forward into almost unrecognizable territories. The Portland, Oregon act VICTORY OVER THE SUN is definitely in the latter camp crafting an abrasive metallic soundscape that honestly sounds like no other. This second album A TESSITURA OF TRANSFIGURATION uses black metal as its canvas to paint up with atonal dissonant guitar jangles much like the horrific sounds of Deathspell Omega, VICTORY OVER THE SUN is one of those meandering types that uses tones, textures and timbres to navigate through the sound spectrum rather than any sort of recognizable soundscape.

This is the one person project of Vivian Tylinska aka Cichy Duch who is one of the only trans women i’ve encountered in the world of extreme metal. This album features Vivian on guitar, bass, drums, vocals as well as in the producer’s seat and chief composer. Four guest musicians add bass clarinet, violin, and extra vocals mostly only the first track “
The Objectless World” which begins as a strange avant-garde sounding black metal track but then drifts into a post-metal parade with jazzy extras. The atonal procession is laced with extremely dissonant counterpoints fortified with Vivian’s monster growls screamed to high heaven. There is a choppiness to the guitar riffs with oddball time signatures making this a truely progressive romp through the land of avant-garde metal.

A TESSITURA features four lengthy tracks with the opener reaching almost 11 minutes. Despite sounding like a swirling pool of chaotic sound generated randomly, Vivian claims that this album was the result of hundreds of hours of writing, rewriting, recording, rerecording, mixing and remixing. This is type of metal that is for the most adventurous, for those who seek the irreverence of an exploration that leaves behind any preconceptions and has no problem with random deviations from the extremity of caustic metal sounds to a more post-rock world where jazz instruments take a stroll through a cyclical procession of amorphous sound clusters. For those into bands like Fleurety, Ved Buens Ende or Maudlin of the Well, this is for you as VICTORY OVER THE SUN has done its avant-garde metal homework and delivered a very interesting specimen of sophisticated metal madness.

Despite the instantly inaccessible nature of A TESSITURA OF TRANSFIGURATION, this one does indeed have its hooks although you have to tune yourself into its vibe. In some ways its like reading a novel while on a high speed roller coaster as all the elements of normal music as distorted and drawn out into bizarre concoctions that are seemingly alien but begin to make sense once you piece it together. Perhaps the most similar band i’ve heard is Coma Void Cluster of recent years which engages in lengthy atonal journeys through rhythmic irregulars and extremely bombastic metal elements blowing your ears out for most of the album’s run. This one is only for the avant-gardists out there but it really is an excellent example of unorthodox romps through the metal universe in the most spastic way possible. Vivian describes this music as transcendental black metal as a tribute to Liturgy but in many ways blows Liturgy away.

LIVE BURIAL Unending Futility

Album · 2020 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Live Burial have been active since 2012 but I’ve only just come across them for the first time recently missing out on their 2014 debut “Forced Back To Life. With the sheer number of death metal bands out there vying for attention I would not normally be surprised by this, but the fact that they are based only 35 miles away from me in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne makes me wonder how I’ve missed them so far. Thank fuck I like them as I wouldn’t want to give some local lads a crap review.

A quick listen to their debut album, Forced Back To Life (where they borrowed Lars Ulrich’s snare from the St Anger sessions – just kidding guys) shows the band have made considerable growth since then with Unending Futility being a more mature and paced piece of work displaying a much greater sense of dynamics. Things get off to a great start with the doomy intro of Seeping Into The Earth but the pace soon picks up. I’m reminded of early Death around the time of Leprosy and Spiritual Healing with the rawness of Asphyx. Fluid bass lines vie for attention with busy drum parts and the powerful yet atmospheric guitar riffs. Seeping Into The Earth turns out to be one of my favourite tracks but that doesn’t mean it’s all downhill from here. These guys get quite technical at times, which is not always immediately apparent through the raw production but this actually works in their favour. The emphasis though seems to be more on dark foreboding atmospherics, especially on the slower sections though they can ramp up the speed when required which they do frequently. These doomier parts work well in contrast to the busier and faster sections, sometimes having a blackened edge and the frequent changes add plenty of interest. The album may be a little formulaic and borrow heavily from the past but it’s of minor concern with the quality of the material on show and by the time I get to closer Cemetery Fog I’m ready to play it again as at 41 minutes it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome.

2020 has been a great year for death metal despite all the covid shit that’s fucked up so much in the music world. I really hope these guys get noticed amongst the massive amount of new death metal out there as Unending Futility is worthy of your investigation.

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LACERATION Realms of the Unconscious

EP · 2010 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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One of the many excellent bands to have emerged from the San Francisco Bay Area’s fertile thrash metal scene over the years however the band LACERATION which formed in the city of Windsor just north of Santa Rosa wasn’t around when bands like Metallica, Exodus, Forbidden, Possessed Death Angel were making their initial impact on the genre’s nascent style. These guys that formed in 2006 have been around now for 14 years but still haven’t released a bonafide full-length album of any sort. Instead they have left a trail of EPs and demos and have compiled all of the loose fodder as the 2019 compilation “Remnants.”

After releasing the “Demo ’08”, LACERATION followed up with its debut EP “Consuming Reality” but seems to be hard to track down for a listen so i’m making due with this second EP titled REALMS OF THE UNCONSCIOUS. This little gem of extreme metal follows in the footsteps of New York’s Demolition Hammer with a groove oriented bombastic thrash metal approach that mixes in elements of death metal, a rare yet satisfying hybridization if properly done. The band is very retro in its approach and the comparisons to “Tortured Existence” from DH are almost impossible to avoid.

This band has mastered its art quite well despite a lack of creative expressionism as heard on this short EP’s run of a mere three tracks that only amount to almost 17 minutes of playing time. The thrash elements are the most obvious with LACERATION exhibiting a firm command of the Bay Area thrash ethos that made the first and second wave acts so utterly brilliant with those galloping guitar riffs rampaging and soaked in adrenaline along with those tasty guitar solos that add the melodic underbelly of the meaty metal sinew. The death metal aspects come in the form of a more developed drumming style as well as a more guttural vocal approach that sits somewhere between classic thrash and old school death.

This tiny release that features Luke Cazares (vocals, guitars), Corey Toleu (bass), Joey Tabsharani (guitars) and John Haag (drums) is a powerhouse of top notch musicianship that is done so well and is so impressive that i cannot help but give it a well earned four stars despite existing anachronistically in the early 90s with bands like Demolition Hammer being the primary influence. This Bay Area band may not have experienced even an iota of success but clearly demonstrates a passion for the details of such a demanding tightrope act of a deathened thrash metal approach. I really would like to hear a full-length album with a bit more emphasis on adding some more artistic deviations from the status quo. Impressive.

DRACONIS Overlords of the Greying Dawn

Album · 1997 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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DRACONIS was one of the many latecomers to the second wave of black metal and formed in 1995 but decided to crash the party anyways. This band followed the path of Dissection with a hybridized style of Darkthrone fashioned evil kvlt black metal that added the technical prowess of death metal. Haling from Temecula, California, DRACONIS nailed the Swedish deathened black metal sound perfectly with its debut release OVERLORDS OF THE GREYING DAWN which came out in 1997.

This album featured ten tracks at 37 minutes with the lineup of Mike Pardi (guitars, vocals), Ryan Levee (guitrars, vocals), Gary Miranda (bass) and Chris Carmichael (drums). The double guitar effect gives DRACONIS a big sound drenched with heavy tremolo picking, filthy raw distortion and a rampaging evil sounding black metal with hefty death metal workouts. The drumming is particularly good for black metal of this era with more technical gymnastics than the average band of the 90s.

Similar to bands like Dissection and Necrophobic, DRACONIS did its homework well to imitate these Swedish masters but while displaying an outstanding version of mimicry fails to really stand out in any way as the compositions sound fairly by the books for a band that released its debut in the year 1997 when bands like Enslaved, Emperor, Ulver, Summoning and Nagelfar were releasing albums that were much more advanced in the originality department. This album would’ve been great in 1991-93 but needed something more dynamic to really stand out at this point.

Not a bad album by any means. The tracks are executed with fiery precision and the album evokes the anti-Christian vitriol that black metal represented in those early years with pseudo-intellectual rants about such esoterica. Obviously this band didn’t have the time or patience to hone its craft beyond the parameters of what had already been done and was content to deliver a rather decent style that was highly derivative of the Swedish deathened black metal scene. The band released an EP in 1999 and then waited until 2010 to release its second offering “The Cult Of The Dragon” and then disbanded in 2016. This is above average black metal for sure but lacks that special something that makes it a top priority.

STYGIAN SKY Stygian Sky

EP · 2008 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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STYGIAN SKY is a particularly interesting metal band in that it’s the closest thing i’ve heard to another band sounding like Vektor. This band formed in 2006 in Sydney, Nova Scotia in Canada’s far east and released this one demo that was somewhere along the line turned into a bonafide EP since the band, while technically still active has not released anything after save the one single “Dreaming The State Of Reality” in 2018.

This self-titled release formerly known as DEMO 2008 features a mere four tracks that just miss the 20 minute mark but the band displays a firm command of highly technical and complex metal compositions. The itself describes its sounds as a brutal combination of death, thrash and progressive metal styles and that’s exactly what you get here. The lineup is Jason Burke (guitar), Colin Capstick (guitar), Dave Grant (bass), Craig Joyce (drums) and Cliff Gouthro (vocals).

The four tracks on board exhibit a highly developed progressive thrash form much like the much more popular Vektor and Gouthro’s vocals also imitates David DiSanto’s raspy deathened style. Likewise the compositions exhibit that same dynamic delivery of changing riffs at a rapid fire pace with sudden breakdowns and deviations from the normal pattern fo things. The main complaint from this demo is that the excellent drumming style of Craig Joyce is set too high in an otherwise stellar production job and there is some truth to that as the percussion often (but not always) dominates and distracts.

For a so-called demo, this one showed some serious promise but it’s obvious that STYGIAN SKY was totally smitten with Vektor and needed to find their own voice in the wilderness but it seems these guys weren’t in it for the long haul and found other things to entertain themselves with however if they have been secretly working on an album’s worth of material after all these years then i’d be extremely interested in hearing what they conjured up in their whereabouts. This music is really excellent to experience but unfortunately it sounds like some long lost Vektor demos with some production issues to work out.

DROID (ON) Terrestrial Mutations

Album · 2017 · Technical Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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You cannot find a review of this album out there that does not mention Voivod. That is because Droid have included on their full-length debut album a lot of Voivod-isms, particularly of the likes of Nothingface and also Dimension Hatross. However, most reviews I read also mention Coroner and Vektor and a few people who are more familiar with the Canadian metal scene also throw in Obliveon. The reason for all these bands being mentioned should then make it quite clear that what Droid play is technical thrash metal.

Voivod similarities aside, Droid tend to go a bit further into seventies-influenced space and psychedelic rock, while still remembering that they are a thrash metal band. The blend is quite interesting. You'll get speedy, technical songs that break off into sparse and eerie interludes or some smooth, clean and jazzy guitar chords with bass and percussion keeping to the jazz mood. But you'll also get your dissonant chords a la Piggy and some more time-signature-bending technical riffs. Lead guitars seem to used more for melodic phrases rather than rampant soloing.

All but one of the reviews I read came to similar conclusions: the old school hardcore-meets-thrash styled vocals are rather one dimensional and need a bit of work (clean vocals do show up two or three times in mellower parts) and some of the tracks seem to fiddle about a little too long; however, the proggish compositions and interesting twists to the music make this an enjoyable album worthy of repeat listens. All but one review also gave this album four or four and a half stars.

As for my own opinion, I generally agree with what others have said. I like the Voivod-like parts but I'm glad that Droid are far from being simple Voivod copycats and follow their own path experimenting with technical sci-fi thrash metal and seventies space rock. I don't care about the vocals so much either. They are good enough on this album. Perhaps it's easier for me to accept the vocals because what's more important here is the music. Drums, bass, and guitar working very well together throughout much of the album.

If there's one point where my opinion holds a less favorable view it is regarding the production. Where others have specifically pointed out the good production, I feel the music sounds a little dulled down. Had this been just a straight up old school thrash album with really gruff vocals, the band could have blasted their way through the invisible cloak that takes some of the edge off the music. But as a technical space thrash band, I personally would prefer to have a slightly cleaner production.

Because this album is a little weird, it may not appeal to a lot of thrash fans. But for something a little quirky, this album has its rewards.

BEGRIME EXEMIOUS The Enslavement Conquest

Album · 2016 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Begrime Exemious are said to have started out as a death metal/black metal band, but listening to this album, their third full-length, I'd say they are pure old school death metal.

The music is intense and brutal with typical, barely comprehensible guttural vocals. The tempos alternate between speedy and more mid-tempo where they can blast you with heavy riffs. There are times when the rhythm or riffs abruptly change. The lead guitar goes melodic at times and tends to avoid dive bombs. The band this album most reminds me of is perhaps Dismember, but it's also a lot like other classic Swedish death metal bands.

The track "Conscription Woes" is a great example of that thundering, pummeling, not-too-fast death metal that drops in a killer riff with some very tasty wah-wah guitar effect. "Noose for a Monarch" is also a ripper with a killer riff.

Many of the songs seem to start right away, like the producer yelled, "Go!" as he pressed the recording button. There's a real feeling of haste! "Crusade Towards Self-Destruction" is also mentioned in my notes as being great.

The final track, "When the Vultures Leave" is unusual because it fades in and at the end, fades out again. But it's a killer track that reminds me of watching massive boulders fall on a mountainside village.

This album impresses me every time I listen to it. So, I've decided to get the one before this one too!

INTO ETERNITY Buried in Oblivion

Album · 2004 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.96 | 9 ratings
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Into Eternity's first two albums have scored pretty poorly on this web site; however, their third album "Buried in Oblivion" sees a full four stars. I've read some favourable reviews out there with one reviewer on the Metal Archives site calling this their best album!

The sticker on the shrink wrap when I bought the CD said, "Progressive metal for the death metal fan; Death metal for the progressive metal fan". That should give you a good impression what to expect, though I would less there's less death and more prog. The songs feature tight technical playing and lots of awesome riffs that show up like on "Desolation" and "Isolation". There's plenty of time-signature juggling as well. The vocals range from deep growls and shredded throats to soaring, clean vocals and clean vocal harmonies. One reviewer said the guitar sounds are both the "tweedly tweedly" type and the "chugga chugga" type. Fair enough!

Two points that may sway interest are 1) most of the songs feature the same elements so it takes a few listens to be able to distinguish tracks and 2) all the lyrics revolve around "desolation" and "isolation" and mental anguish and depression. I think Pain of Salvation ruined that for me with their "Perfect Element" album. Enough broken people concepts!

I personally am really surprised to know this band came from Regina, Saskatchewan. Regina has a strong metal scene that I didn't know about, though Kick Axe and the seventies rock/hard rock band, Streetheart, are both from Regina. I'm really impressed to hear a band with this calibre of playing and this sound coming out of a Prairie city. I have since bought their fifth album and have their latest album on order.

DISORDER Complete Disorder EP

EP · 1981 · Hardcore Punk
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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The evolution of punk rock was a quickened one with bands splintering into myriad directions as quickly as the genre had usurped the throne as the UK’s most dangerous musical form around the 1976-77 timeline. While the Sex Pistols would explode onto the scene like a super nova and fizzle out just as fast, John Lydon immediately crafted the post-punk movement with his Public Image Ltd but other bands were looking towards the world of hard rock and heavy metal for inspiration. Crass seems to be the anarcho-punk band along with the D-beat of Discharge that led to the hybridization of punk sensibilities with the more aggressive musical form that featured beefier bass, faster tempos and a filthy raw guitar sound that was inspired by early extreme metal bands like Venom, Hellhammer, Motorhead and Black Sabbath.

The direct descendent of Crass was a style referred to as UK82 which was basically the second generation of hardcore punk which bands like G.B.H. and The Exploited added busier drumming styles, more guitar distortion and faster tempos that the NWOBHM were employing. Hot on the fledgling style’s heels was what would later become known as crust punk which took it all even further into metal territory years before the development of crossover thrash. While Amebix generally is attributed for developing this style, the Bristol based DISORDER may actually deserve this honor. The band’s debut COMPLETE DISORDER EP came out in 1981 a year before Amebix’s first EP “Who’s The Enemy.” While the distinctions between the UK82 and crust punk styles are fuzzy, it could at least be assumed that DISORDER was the link between the anarcho-punk of Crass and what is deemed as crust punk.

This band formed in 1980 and technically is still active. The original members were Steve Curtis (vocals), Steve Allen (guitar), Nick Peters (bass guitar), and Virus (drums), although Steve Robertson soon replaced Peters, and this line-up recorded the first two EPs including this debut COMPLETE DISORDER which came out the year later and even though a full-length wouldn’t emerge until 1984, many cite this monstrous uproar of aural assault of a mere 7 minutes and 10 seconds to be the first example of the world of crust punk and given it’s cacophonous uproar of heavy distorted guitar rage and frenetic tempos, that is certainly a valid conclusion as the set of four tracks employs an upgrade of unbridled lo-fi aggression along with its pessimistic and rebellious lyrical tirade.

Personally i would probably classify this one as existing on the UK82 side of the equation. The compositions and the lyrical deliveries much more resemble late 70s punk bands like The Damned, The Clash and Buzzcocks albeit with exaggerated features. As is the nature of punk rock music, the controversy and infighting over such minutia will remain but whatever the case, DISORDER did deliver one of the earliest aggressive examples of hardcore punk that at the very least was a form of proto-crust. As a listening experience itself DISORDER wasn’t as inventive as bands like Discharge and Amebix and relied on a standard formula that doesn’t deviate much between tracks leaving the flow of things seem a bit monotonous and repetitive. The same beat, seemingly same simple chord progressions and lack of dynamics makes this one less interesting than the development in aggressive tendencies would imply. Overall it’s a good example as a rung in the ladder of punk rock progression but not really one that has aged tremendously well.

WILT Ruin

Album · 2018 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Wilt's second full-length, according to a review I read, sees the band returning to their atmospheric black metal style. Apparently, their debut full-length album, "Moving Monoliths" added a strong dose of doom metal. If there's any doom metal on this album, "Ruin", I failed to notice it.

Lyricist and vocalist, Jordan Dorge says that the album is a concept album that is inspired by the book, "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy but Dorge wrote his own narrative. One more powerful contributor to the album was the suicide of a dear friend of the band. Dorge also states in an interview that Wilt are inspired by the landscape and climate of Manitoba which is vast, open, and in the winter bitterly cold and bleak.

The review I mentioned above drops band names which the reviewer was reminded of while listening to "Ruin". Wiegedood, Drudkh, Winterfylleth - none of these bands being ones I have heard yet. My first thought, however, was that the beautiful lead guitar melodies reminded me a lot of Deafheaven, whom I saw live in Tokyo in 2019 when they opened for Empreror. But while Deafheaven oscillate between sweet melodies and intense music, Wilt combine the intense black metal riffing with the beautiful melodies. They have that post rock feel and make me think of someone who has spent days grieving but manages to look up through the tears and smile or a snow-blasted landscape with only the skeletal remains of an old collapsed homestead that, despite its impression of harsh bleakness and decay, is still beautiful to behold.

The album carries this atmopshere of anguish and emotional pain until the final track, "Requiem", which takes a decidedly positive turn as if someone's agony is over because they have ascended to the next world.

I loved this album when I first heard it and returning to it after a few weeks of not listening to it, I find it still has an impact. If you love atmospheric, melodic black metal with postrock/Deafheaven melodies, then do check this one out!

BLACK FLAG Nervous Breakdown

EP · 1979 · Hardcore Punk
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
BLACK FLAG was and always has been guitarist Greg Ginn’s baby in that he developed the concepts and has remained the primary songwriter and head honcho through the band’s many incarnations and stylistic shifts. The band started out as Panic in 1976 in Hermosa Beach, CA and adopted the simplistic punk rock constructs of the Ramones in which they added more atonal dissonance, bizarre tempo shifts and a much more exaggerated hardcore attitude which same say qualifies BLACK FLAG as the very first hardcore punk band to emerge after punk’s explosive assault on the world however there is some who claim Sweden’s The Rude Boys to have emerged first with their single “Stranglers (If It's Quiet Why Don't You Play) / Punk Will Never Die!”

While the band would firmly cement their classic sound once lead singer Henry Rollins joined in time for the debut full-length “Damaged,” BLACK FLAG released three EPs with completely different with only Ginn as the common denominator. NERVOUS BREAKDOWN was the first of these EPs and may seem insignificant with a mere four tracks amounting to 5 minutes and 13 seconds of playing time but it’s this very short yet explosive slab of raw primeval outrage in sound that qualifies as the very first example of hardcore punk upping the levels of intensity with more caustic distortion, faster tempos and more erratic unpredictabilities. This stuff made the Ramones look like school boys.

While Chuck Dukowski would play bass on the first two EPs, this was the only release that featured Keith Morris on vocals and Brian Migdol on drums. While Morris was certainly no match for Henry Rollins perfect demeanor and vocal angst, he did more than an adequate job capturing the spirit of punk. Hard to believe but this short specimen of music still is available as a CD single but can more easily be found on the more comprehensive compilation “The First Four Years” which covers all of the loose fodder of these early years. Perhaps not the longest introduction into the newly birthed hardcore punk scene but successful in shouting a big fuck you to the world at large.

EXUMER Possessed by Fire

Album · 1986 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.86 | 10 ratings
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Kingcrimsonprog
When you think of German Thrash Metal, chance are you think of Kreator, Sodom, Destruction or Tankard. Rightly so. One band who shouldn’t be overlooked however are Wiesbaden’s underrated Exumer.

I guess line-up troubles and label issues stopped them getting the same exposure and opportunity as some of their peers, because their sound and formula is perfect for this style of music. Its not blackened or crossover, not progressive or technical, not funky or avant guard, its by the book Thrash, done simply, but effectively. Imagine the missing link between Bonded By Blood and Hell Awaits. Exumer’s cult classic 1986 debut album Possessed By Fire is the closest thing to that missing link. Eschewing the darker, more extreme style most Teutonic thrashers usually opt for, Exumer are Germany’s answer to Californian music (kind of like how Xentrix are for Britain).

The vocals are not the most memorable in the world, but serve the songs. They’re mostly in the mid-range but with occasional high screams. Not too cheesy, not too extreme. The guitar and drums are solid. Not flashy, not virtuoso, but get the job done nicely.

The warm analogue production courtesy of Harris Johns (Voivod, Coroner, Kreator, Sodom) is decent for a Thrash debut (certainly better than Destruction’s early work, less tinny and thin for example).

Highlights include the scream-along Title Track, the more adventurous ‘Xiron Darkstar’ and album closer ‘Silent Death.’

If there was a criticism to be made, I guess lack of originality may be the one to level at this band/album. (They do seem to steal a few sections from other songs **cough** Black Magic *cough* Riot Of Violence** cough). However, no more so than any other C-Tier bands of the era.

A good rule of thumb is that if you take a look at the Jason Vorhees meets Attila The Hun looking artwork and get a nice warm feeling in your tummy, then you will kind of already know what this album sounds like. Does it exceed your expectations, probably not, no, but it does meet them. If you dig albums like Terror Squad by Artillery or Malicious Intent by Razor then you’ll know what sort of level to expect.

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