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QUIET RIOT One Night In Milan

Live album · 2019 · Glam Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
One night in 1981, I made my way to a hotel, to see the band who was playing there. When I got in I walked up to the incredibly small stage, looked at the complete backline of floor to ceiling Marshalls, looked at the size of the amps either side of the stage, then checked again just how high the ceiling was (not very), and knew it was going to be loud, very loud. At 11pm four ex-skinheads from Wolverhampton took to the tiny stage, and promptly tore it up. There will only ever be one Slade, a band that wrote hit after hit, and were metalheads through and through. Quiet Riot have made a career on trying to be Slade, and within the 15 songs on offer there are two Slade covers, but neither are as good as the original. To be honest, Quiet Riot aren’t as good as Quiet Riot used to be, and then with a sound engineer who has gone missing in action the result is a mess.

The line-up features both Frankie Banali on drums and bassist Chuck Wright, who both performed on ‘Metal Health’, guitarist Alex Grossi, who has been in the band for 14 years and new singer James Durbin, who was on 'American Idol' during the tenth season. This doesn’t feel like a live album, more like a good quality bootleg, and it is obvious there has been no “cleaning up” whatsoever. The drums are way too high in the mix, so much so that Banali is often more to the fore than Durbin. Durbin has a good rock voice, just needs to understand his stage patter was out of date in the Eighties, let alone now, and I could quite happily go without hearing him shouting to the crowd, saying how amazing Franke Banalie is etc.

There aren’t many highlight to be fair, as this is an album to be endured as opposed to enjoyed. “Thunderbird” is performed with a piano for the first time since it was recorded, but the Slade songs don’t hit home as they should, “Bang Your Head” doesn’t have the power it deserves (I still have the single I bought at the time!), and the rest are, well, not something to be proud of. The sound is not nearly as clear as it should be, the audience microphones are missing in action, as are the backing vocals, but the drums are always there. Pass.

FALLUJAH Undying Light

Album · 2019 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 2.79 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"Undying Light" is the 4th full-length studio album by US, California based metal act Fallujah. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in March 2019. It´s the successor to "Dreamless" from 2016 and features two lineup changes since the predecessor as guitarist Brian James has left (and hasn´t been replaced making Fallujah a four-piece on this release), and lead vocalist Alex Hofmann who has been replaced by Antonio Palermo.

Fallujah have changed their style a lot over the years, starting out a technical deathcore act and later shifting to an atmospheric technical/progressive death metal style, and "Undying Light" sees Fallujah changing things again. With Palermo on board the vocal style is now fully fledged aggressive metalcore screaming, and there are no traces of the band´s deathcore/death metal past in the vocals anymore. While the music still features heavy riffs and rhythms, there is also very little in the instrumental department of the album which reveal Fallujah´s deathcore/death metal beginnings. The music is now best described as atmospheric metalcore with heavy angular riffs. The only trace of death metal is the melodic death metal riff featured on "Sanctuary".

The band are well playing and the sound production is clear, professional, and detailed, so on most parameters "Undying Light" is a quality release. The songwriting is very generic though. There´s nothing on this album you haven´t heard before, and unfortunately also heard better. Some of Fallujah´s past releases have been pretty intriguing combinations of atmosphere and heaviness, but this time around the band haven´t managed to produce enough memorable riffs and vocal hooks for the material to stick. Upon conclusion "Undying Light" isn´t a terrible release, but it´s not a particularly remarkable one either. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

SAVAGE MESSIAH Demons

Album · 2019 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Nightfly
I’ve read a few things about Demons, the new Savage Messiah album and previous release Hands Of Fate, that make the point that after starting their career as thrash metal hopefuls and making a pretty good job of it, that they have in recent years adopted a more mainstream heavy metal stance. It has been seen as a somewhat backwards step and they are the worse for it. Firstly I find this idea total bollocks. Not that the above is not true but the view that heavy metal is somehow inferior to thrash metal. Now I like thrash as much as the next man but I equally have a fondness for well-played heavy metal and Demons is certainly that.

The album kicks off with Virtue Signal and after a power metal infused start retreats into more typical heavy metal. It packs considerable punch as well as plenty of melody. Next track What Dreams May Come is probably a contender as an example of what the naysayers are getting at. Nevertheless despite its mainstream leanings it’s a likeable enough song with a strong melody. The band occupies similar territory in other songs on the album such as Parachute, The Lights Are Going Out and Until The Shadows Fall, but they’re all played with conviction and not a weak one amongst them. There are still plenty of songs that kick ass and whilst this is primarily a heavy metal record thrash infused riffs are still evident at times even if they may not dominate whole songs. Pick of the bunch would be Heretic In The Modern World, Under No Illusions, Down And Out and Rise Then Fall, all with strong hooks and melodies without sacrificing power.

The band are all good players with a nod to drummer Charly Carreton who gives a fine performance with plenty of inventive fills and rhythmic shifts. Their ace up the sleeve comes in vocalist Dave Silver, a great metal/rock singer in the traditional sense. Kind of a Jon Bon Jovi for metal with more balls. Yes, good clean vocals are hard to beat.

While I’m not overly familiar with all Savage Messiah’s albums I’m enjoying Demons as much as any of them I’ve heard. If traditional heavy metal is your thing you really ought to check this out and I’m definitely going to go back and check out those albums I’ve missed in their back catalogue.

POSSESSED Revelations of Oblivion

Album · 2019 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.55 | 2 ratings
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Nightfly
Regarded by many to have spawned the death metal genre, Seven Churches, the debut album from Possessed released way back in 1985, whether you agree with that or not was certainly a brilliant and highly influential album. Whilst not bad by any means the follow up Beyond The Gates saw the band retreating into more standard thrash territory. Apart from an EP in 1987 that was pretty much it. Although active again as a live band since 2007 it’s taken some time but finally thirty three years later Possessed are back with a new album though vocalist Jeff Becerra is the sole remaining member of the original band.

The new Possessed remain largely true to the band’s sound of old but whilst Seven Churches despite being generally well played could be a bit sloppy in places. Not surprisingly, the new band come across as much tighter having the benefit of time and modern recording and production techniques at their disposal not to mention being great musicians. After a short intro the album kicks off proper with No More Room In Hell, a song I’d heard a while back being released as a pre-album taster. It comes in all guns blazing, fast with razor sharp and extremely busy guitar riffs. Equal parts death metal and thrash it’s a brilliant statement on intent. Becerra whose vocals are better than they ever were has assembled a fine band that does the Possessed name justice. Guitarists Daniel Gonalez and Claudeous Creamer’s riffs twist and turn with power and precision as well as playing some jaw dropping solos – these guys can shred with the best of them, drummer Emilio Marquez lets rip with a barrage of fast fills and rolling double kicks and bassist Robert Cardenas provides a solid but highly dextrous bottom end.

Hearing this a while back and being mightily impressed had led me to expect great things from the album to come. Fortunately I wasn’t to be disappointed as whilst there’s not really anything here that tops No More Room In Hell much of the rest of the album is as good or not far behind, following track Dominion being a case in point keeping things going at the same breakneck tempo and displaying equal precision. This is the case for most of the album with the tempo rarely slowing down and when it does like on Demon it’s never for a whole song. Faults? None really but at fifty four minutes it’s quite an exhausting listen with little variation in tempo so perhaps a couple of songs shorter might have worked better, but a minor issue.

Some may consider it sacrilege but I believe Possessed have not only equalled their debut, but actually bettered it. This is going to be up there with my albums of the year for sure come December. Hopefully it won’t be another thirty three years before we get another one.

DEATHSPELL OMEGA The Furnaces of Palingenesia

Album · 2019 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
Palingenesis or PALINGENESIA is the concept of rebirth which is used in disparate subjects such as philosophy, theology, politics and biology but also appropriately applies to one of the metal universe’s most mysterious avant-garde blackened bands that lurks in the shadows somewhere in Poitiers, France, namely DEATHSPELL OMEGA. Having begun as a mere Darkthrone inspired clone, the first rebirth found this band taking the world by storm with the lauded trilogy of albums that not only created some of the most technical and adventurously progressive black metal workouts in the known universe but single-handedly advanced the Satanic metaphysical principles of the black metal paradigm to an advanced occult theology that relied heavily on the themes of French surrealist Georges Bataille and the German idealist Georg Wilhem Friedrich Hegel but nonetheless reanimated them in extreme metal grandeur. The results were simultaneously eerily frightening and deviously delicious.

Having released six albums, several EPs and splits that pretty much found DOS sticking to their established paradigm, the band returns for their seventh official full-length album THE FURNACES OF PALINGENESIA which finds the power trio of vocalist Mikko Aspa, bassist Khaos and guitarist Hasjari emerging from the scenes in order to provide yet another bantering boisterous assault of unadulterated evil. While no drummer is credited, this anonymous entity returns to the pummelation power throne for another round of jazzy progressive blastbeats as well as the standard laissez-faire percussive drive that finds THE FURNACES OF PALINGENESIA revisiting the DOS playbook as well as integrating new unexpected sources of inspiration into its ever expanding liturgy of the darkened metaphysical tomes of the esoteric underworld.

Opening with the by now familiarity of spidery jangled guitar dissonance on “Neither Meaning Nor Justice,” the album begins much like “Paracletus” as it gets right down to business with the raspy vocal utterances emerging from the post-metal cyclically looped riffs in a mid-tempo prowl. Right off the bat, the subtleties are apparent as to how this album slightly differs from the previous releases. While the shock and uniqueness of DOS has long worn off and the avant-garde bombast and stylistic idiosyncrasies have become inured to the hardened musical masochists, the band constantly seeks new methods to infuse clever new twists and turns into the overwrought orotundity which loses none of its frenetic and soul searing prowess. Heavier atmospheric murkiness lurks over the compositions in opposition to previous albums. While ambience and mood enhancing electronica have always served the dark side well, on this album they work in tandem to steer the pearlescent obliqueness into more dynamic chunks of the blackened expressionisms.

While 2016’s “The Synarchy of Molten Bones” sounded more like a summary of the most aggressive attributes of the DOS stylistic approach, THE FURNACES OF PALINGENESIA engages the post-rock and psychedelic softer aspects and the extremes of “Fas-Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum.” Dare i even say that many of the compositions on PALINGENESIA are slightly less demanding at least in the frenetic display of zigzagging through various angularities and tend to focus on the post-rock / cyclical riffing loops that display variations through dynamics and instrumental interactions that ratchet up the tension to pyroclastic explosive bouts of bombastic bravado. While the standard DOS expectations are the status quo, “Standing on the Work of Slaves” comes off as distinct in that it has a nonchalant military march sort of percussive drive as well as a more standard tremolo display of black metal guitar fury.

With 11 songs that clock in near the 45 minute mark, DOS recorded this album live in the studio and mixed it all on analog gear which continues the band’s fascination with classic 70s progressive rock only expressed through the lens of the Satanic underbelly of the black metal exemplar that brings forth the demonic dementia of the philosophical underpinnings. For those well steeped in the sonic psychic attacks of the DEATHSPELL OMEGA idiosyncrasies, THE FURNACES OF PALINGENESIA will continue the journey into the belly of the beast for another well established display of black metal magic performed through the menacing skull-crushing antics of one of black metal’s most ambitious and consistently terrifying underground realities and while THE FURNACES OF PALINGENESIA may not usurp the majesty of the impacts made by the Satnaic trilogy albums, it certainly does not disappoint in keeping the DOS ferocity alive and well. This band is in no danger of selling out or becoming a parody of themselves and while i find this album less compelling than those that preceded, it certainly warrants the essential status within the band’s ever expanding continual canon.

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AMON Sacrificial

Demo · 1989 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Sacrificial" is the 2nd demo cassette tape by US, Florida based death metal act Amon. The demo was self-released in 1989. Amon were formed in 1987 and recorded two demos (including this one) before changing their name to Deicide. A name change which took place in late 1989 just prior to the recording of Deicide´s self-titled debut full-length studio album "Deicide (1990)". All material from the demo is available on the "Amon: Feasting the Beast (1993)" compilation by Deicide.

The material from the "Sacrificial (1989)" demo were recorded in a professional recording studio and feature a very well sounding production. The sound quality is actually not far from the sound quality of the recordings on "Deicide (1990)", and most of the demo tracks also sound more or less like they do on the debut album. There are small differences though. For example in how the guitars sound/are played and the lack of samples on "Carnage in the Temple of the Damned". The vocals are also presented in a more stripped down version and doesn´t feature as many effects as they do on "Deicide (1990)". Overall the quality of the material and the recordings are very high and this demo could well have been released as a regular studio release.

So the songwriting is powerful and inspired, the sound production professional and very well sounding for a demo (better than on a lot of death metal studio albums from that time), and the musicianship is also on a high level on all posts. Razor sharp and fast-paced guitar riffs and screaming atonal solos, fast precision drumming, and Glen Benton´s distinct sounding intelligible growling in front. He was a force to be reckoned with in those days and among the more unique sounding growling vocalists from that time. His higher pitched "demon" screams aren´t that dominant on this release.

Listening to "Sacrificial (1989)" it´s no wonder Roadrunner Records signed Deicide. Tracks like "Lunatic of God's Creation", "Crucifixation", "Carnage in the Temple of the Damned", and "Dead By Dawn" are high quality death metal tracks with a unique sound and considering the time of release, this is groundbreaking material. It´s not often I give a 4 star (80%) rating to a demo release, but in this case it´s fully deserved.

AMON Feasting the Beast

Demo · 1987 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Feasting the Beast" is the 1st demo cassette tape by US, Florida based death metal act Amon. The demo was self-released in August 1987. Amon were formed in 1987 and recorded two demos (including this one) before changing their name to Deicide. A name change which took place in late 1989 just prior to the recording of Deicide´s self-titled debut full-length studio album "Deicide (1990)". All material from the demo is available on the "Amon: Feasting the Beast (1993)" compilation by Deicide.

The material featured on the "Feasting the Beast" demo is pretty raw and unpolished death metal with brutal thrash metal leanings (I hear a nod or two towards Slayer). Both "Day of Darkness" and "Oblivious to Nothing" are great tracks, and "Sacrificial Suicide" is also a quality track. It´s all very lo-fi and noisy and Glen Benton´s distinct sounding intelligible growling vocals are on an early stage of development at this point. All three tracks from the demo would be re-recorded and appear on Deicide´s eponymously titled 1990 debut album ("Oblivious to Nothing" was retitled "Oblivious to Evil" though).

With a more clear and powerful sound production "Feasting the Beast" could have been a bit more interesting, but considering that the material was written and recorded in 1987, it´s interesting from a compositional point of view, as it´s very brutal and fast-paced for the time. This is not just brutal thrash metal (although there are thrash metal leanings) like most of the contemporary death metal releases actually were, but instead a genuine death metal release, which there aren´t that many of from 1987. A 3 star (60%) rating is warrented.

DEICIDE Legion

Album · 1992 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.67 | 26 ratings
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UMUR
"Legion" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Florida based death metal act Deicide. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in June 1992. Deicide enjoyed great success with their 1990 self-titled debut album and was at this point already considered one of the most prolific US death metal acts. Therefore the anticipation among fans and press were huge when "Legion" was finally released.

Stylistically "Legion" continues the blasphemous/anti-christian themed death metal of the predecessor but with a slightly more technical approach. The pace is predominantly very fast, and the material is raw and aggressive. 8 tracks distributed over a 29:04 minutes long playing time and then it´s over almost before you know it. Deicide deliver their music with great conviction and a burning passion. Fast-paced precision drumming, fast aggressive riffs and screaming atonal solos, and Glen Benton´s brutal growling/higher pitched screaming vocals in front. There´s the right authentic brutality and mean bite to the proceedings. Compared to the debut album the more technical playing is just one of the changes. Glen Benton´s vocals have also changed quite a bit. He still delivers both deep growling vocals and higher pitched screams, but his growling vocals are more the barking throaty type growls (completely intelligible) than the more brutal growling of the debut album. According to the liner notes it´s a consequence of no pitch shifters or harmonizers being used on the vocals on "Legion". Uncompromising as ever, and probably to proactively defend his new vocal sound against critical comments from reviewers, Glen Benton wrote these words in the liner notes: "This album was recorded with no harmonizer on my vocals, so for all my vocal critics, SUFFER".

The material is generally well written, but there aren´t as many catchy and memorable tracks as the case was on the debut album. The focus here seems to be more on brutality and the technically more challenging playing. Tracks like "Satan Spawn, the Caco-Daemon", "Dead but Dreaming", and "Trifixion" are still quite memorable though, and there´s nothing on the album which isn´t of a relatively high quality. There just aren´t as many tracks which stick as there are on the debut. The sound production is handled by Deicide and Scott Burns, and not surprisingly "Legion" therefore features a pretty classic sounding Morrisound Studios production. Powerful, raw, and brutal. The rhythm guitars are maybe placed slightly too low in the mix, which means the drums, the bass, and the vocals are quite dominating, but it´s not really much of an issue.

Upon conclusion "Legion" is a high quality death metal release. It shows development of style since the debut and while I personally don´t think it quite reaches the heights of it´s predecessor, it´s still a great sophomore album by Deicide, featuring high level musicianship, a powerful and brutal sound production, and good quality songwriting (although some tracks could have been a bit more memorable). A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

CYNIC The Portal Tapes

Boxset / Compilation · 2012 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 4 ratings
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UMUR
"The Portal Tapes" is a full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Cynic. The album was released through Season of Mist in March 2012. It´s not really a Cynic album though and it was probably only released under the Cynic monicker to capitalize on the wave of success that Cynic were riding after their comeback in 2006. The material featured on "The Portal Tapes" were originally recorded under the Portal monicker after Cynic disbanded in 1994. Although Cynic split-up Paul Masvidal (guitars, vocals), Sean Reinert (drums), and Jason Gobel (guitars) opted to continue playing together and formed Portal with Cris Kringel (bass), and female vocalist/keyboard player Aruna Abrams. Portal recorded enough material for a full album, but the project ended up shelved until 2012 when Season of Mist picked it up and released it under the Cynic monicker.

Stylistically there are many similarities between Cynic and Portal, but there are also some fundamental differences. First off Portal features female clean vocals as well as male clean vocals, and no extreme distorted vocals. Next there are no hard edged riffing or anything remotely aggressive about the music. The material on "The Portal Tapes" is a dreamy atmospheric/new age type of music with fusion oriented rhythms as the foundation (maybe new age fusion isn´t the worst description). There´s an almost ethereal spiritual quality to the proceedings, which song titles like "Karma´s Plight", "Cosmos", and "Mirror Child" also suggest.

The musicianship is on a high level on all posts. Aruna Abrams is a skilled vocalist, and Paul Masvidal´s sedated dreamy vocals compliment her well. It´s all very pleasant sounding and relaxing but by no means simple or easily accessible. You´ll have to dig for hooks and the tracks aren´t instantly easy to tell apart either. The latter is a slight issue to my ears, and the songwriting could have prospered from a bit more variation and more catchy moments. The album is very well produced, featuring a clean, clear, and detailed sound, which suits the atmospheric music well. So while the music doens´t make as much impact as it could have, "The Portal Tapes" is still a pretty interesting release for fans of atmospheric music with fusion rhythms and clean female/male singing, and the high level musicianship and professional sounding production pull in a positive direction too. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved.

MASTER Collection Of Souls

Album · 1993 · Death Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Collection Of Souls" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US death metal act Master. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in 1993. It´s the successor to "On The Seventh Day God Created... Master" from 1991. Since the release of the predecessor session guitarist Paul Masvidal has returned to Cynic and he is replaced here by two new guitarists in Brian Brady and Jeff Kobie. The remaining part of the lineup, who recorded the predecessor, are lead vocalist/bassist Paul Speckmann and drummer Aaron Nickeas. "Collection Of Souls" marks the end of the band´s partnership with Nuclear Blast Records.

Master was always a pretty simple old school death metal act with thrash metal leanings, and that sound is as such continued on "Collection Of Souls". It´s even more simple this time around though and there are also quite a few nods toward punk. On the preceding releases by the band there were always at least one or two memorable tracks, but the material on "Collection Of Souls" is a bit of a shallow experience, with next to nothing to hold on to. It´s never a sign of good health when the most memorable track on your album is a hideous slaughter of "Jailbreak" by Thin Lizzy (which on a funny sidenote is credited to Paul Speckmann and not Thin Lizzy)...

...add to that some sloppy playing (Speckmann´s vocals are pretty weak on this release too), and powerless unpolished production values, and "Collection Of Souls" ends up a very mediocre release by Master. After two decent releases they hit rock bottom with this one, and a 2.5 star (50%) rating isn´t all wrong.

ESTRADASPHERE Buck Fever

Album · 2001 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
Out of all the bands to find Mr Bungle as the primary influence in their genre skipping schizoid madness to making music, perhaps none was more successful in its endeavors than the Santa Cruz, CA based ESTRADASPHERE and after the band’s debut “It’s Understood,” the band returned the very next year to unleash its second electric cauldron of every genre and the kitchen sink in the form of BUCK FEVER. And if the comparisons to Bungle and its offspring project Secret Chiefs 3 weren’t already apparent then the production help of Trey Spruance on this sophomore album will only cement the connection but after all several members had already played with Spruance so the family reunion continues.

The debut album already displayed a knack for unbridled ferocity in genre skipping, fusion blending and the drop of the hat schizoid shifts from relaxing massage music to death metal and everywhere in between. BUCK FEVER continues all of this and takes it all even further by covering several styles of jazz, klezmer, surf rock, doo-wop, chiptune video game music, disco, funk, avant-prog and three styles of metal: black, death and grindcore. The entire album is the genre purists nightmare come true and the most representative successor of the Bungle legacy after that band’s retirement in 2000. The band who plays on BUCK FEVER consists of only five musicians but between them they cover a whopping 40 plus instruments which gives this album a rather busy sound.

It all starts off with a title track that that alone covers many ground but remains in a 60s sort of surf rock mode with Bungle’s “California” album as a prime source of inspiration with catchy booty shaking dance grooves, kitschy 60s pop charm and a horn section that’s on fire during the uptempo swings. The tracks vary considerably as “The Dapper Bandits” jumps into Balkan gypsy jazz number but finds itself wending and winding through jittery progressive time signature shifts and even a polka section. The next track is one of my favorites, the atmospheric black metal “The Silent Elk of Yesterday,” with haunting female vocals and arpeggiated psychedelic guitars leading in the melodic blasts of heavy guitar riffs. It’s more like a mix of black, alternative and classic 80s metal with sizzling solos and eerie ambience.

After the black metal bombast, “Crag Lake” is a cute little 8-bit chiptune video game track that reminds me of Frogger as the little froggie hopped up the lily pads to get to the other side. “Meteor Showers” jumps back into a very experimental Balkan gypsy jazz / polka track but also mixes in some metal, chiptune and ska but ends as a 60s Baroque pop track in the vein of the Beach Boys complete with excellent harmonies by many of the members along with an authentic sax solo. These guys can really pull it all off effortlessly. “The Bounty Hunter” is another jazzy Balkan folk track, “Super Buck ii” is a lounge jazz cover of the Super Mario Bros 2 video game theme and a damn good cover as well! “Millennium Child” reminds me of the Mike Patton ballads on the Bungle “California” album except Dave Murray dishes out blastbeats most of the duration.

“Trampoline Klan” is yet another chiptune track. “Burnt Corpse” is a very short burst of brutal death metal immediately followed by another cheery 30s jazz styled number in “Rise N Shine.” “Bride of the Buck” has a spoken narration over new age keyboards and my vote for the worst track on the album. “A Very Intense Battle” is the longest track on the album at 8:40 and starts off with a heavy muddled mix of keyboards, guitars, bass and drums and some spoken narrative in the background. It evolves into a grindcore / death metal hybrid with atmospheric keyboards and progressive time signatures zigzagging every now and again. As the title suggests, it is indeed very intense. “Green Hill” is another chiptune track and at this point one too many. In fact by the time i get to this part of the album it feels too long as neither the disco fueled gypsy jazz number “Feed Your Mama’s Meter” nor the finale “What Deers May Come” with a silly skit about the theme seem like filler.

Overall ESTRADASPHERE cranked out an excellent followup as they navigated through the genre list like pros but the repetition of certain ideas ruin the surprise factor and the length of the album should’ve been trimmed to around 45 minutes and this would’ve been a much more effective experience but for the most part this is quite the enjoyable slice of Bungle fever taken into the next century and proves that this band has all the chops and sense of humor to pull it off however due to the album’s inconsistency in no way dethrones the Bunglers from their perch as quirkiest prog artist since Zappa. This will surely not appeal to everyone since you have to be able to hang with the myriad genres that are juggled but for those of us who love left field twists and turns to who knows where then you can’t go wrong with ESTRADASPHERE and BUCK FEVER is a worthy successor to the eclectic wild ride of the debut.

CRAFTEON Cosmic Reawakening

Album · 2017 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
I have no idea where this 2017 album came from, but somehow it has made its way from Denver, Colorado all the way to Oxford, New Zealand. From what I have been able to discover, this is the only release to date, although according to their FB site they have been working on the next album. Their music is based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, while the name ‘Crafteon’ itself is a play on words of "Lovecraftian" and "aeon”. The band have a suitably unusual logo, interesting artwork, all wear corpse paint and have given themselves suitable names, so we have Lord Mordiggian (vocals, guitar), Fthaggua (lead guitar, backing vocals), Ithaqua (bass, backing vocals) and Rhagorthua (drums). It all adds up to one thing, right? Black metal. Well, yeah, but…

Although their music is based within the black metal genre, it is way more melodic than one would normally expect and incorporates elements of power metal and bring in early Metallica and even Amon Amarth. Some of the guitar solos are straight out of the “normal” heavy metal area, while the bass is deep and raw enough to sound as if Ithaqua has been studying the works of Chris Squire. Lyrically, Mordiggian (or Josh Mortensen to his mum) has an interesting approach that initially he wanted to write lyrics based on Lovecraft, but felt he was unable to do this justice. So he used what was in the public domain and turned Lovecraft’s words into lyrics, amending where there was no other choice. Overall this is an incredibly accessible album, and one I can imagine people coming to even if they are not normally interested in the genre. Melodic at all times, yet still keeping true to certain elements of black metal, with vocals which have been influenced by Darkthone, and plenty of riffing, it is certainly interesting. I do think the drumming could have been more powerful and provide more balance and dynamics instead of relying so much on double bass drum pedals, but I am somewhat surprised they have yet to be signed as they have a powerful image to go with the music so it will be interesting to see how they progress with the next one.

ARTERY ERUPTION Reduced to a Limbless Sexslave

Album · 2003 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
Ever since Suffocation introduced the world to the extremes of brutal death metal, bands from far and wide have been finding new ways to take death metal into even more ridiculous extremes and from those attempts emerged the slam death metal sub-genre which basically teased the technical speed wizardry of the guitar riffs into slow chugging globs of distorted sound. Since Devourment unleashed what has been called the first true slam death metal album with “Molesting The Decapitated,” it seems that the floodgates have been opened and the arms race to create the most disgusting sounds and most ridiculous album cover art has been in play ever since.

While much slam death metal tends to sound a little generic with the same old ideas recycled time and time again, a scant few albums do stand out from the legions of morbid sick minds that dream this stuff up. The Clovis, CA based ARTERY ERUPTION released what is considered to be one of the more essential examples of this disturbed form of music that somehow emerged from the cracks between where death metal, grindcore and lo-fi retardation from bands like Faxed Head lie. ARTERY ERUPTION followed the trend of outdoing Cannibal Corpse for the most outrageous album and track titles along with ridiculous over the top cover art. REDUCED TO A LIMBLESS SEXSLAVE is the debut and was released in 2003 and the music is as fucked up and hilarious as the lovely album cover!

While REDUCED TO A LIMBLESS SEXSLAVE may sound like the status quo of incessant noise and mindless aggression to the uninitiated, there are a few differences to ARTERY ERUPTION’s approach. True that the pig grunted vocals which expel unintelligible utterances reek of been there done that as do the tidal flows of chunky down-tuned slam death guitar riffs, but this album also displays some other guitar tricks such as slides, pseudo-proggy breakdowns and an irascibly chaotic delivery system. What stands out most of all though is that the guitar and bass are muddled into a murky down-tuned quagmire of distortion, the percussion sounds more like the drummer only known as Brian decided to play on any pots and pans that he could find in the kitchen and therefore the percussive drive is nothing more than a tinny delivery of beats to accent the muddled metal madness but there are also subdued blastbeats lurking under the din so i guess there are two drum parts. There are also bursts of tin pan percussive fury!

Slam death has become one of metal’s greatest dumping grounds for not only the macabre and morbid but also has emerged as a great source of sardonic grotesque immature humor which takes all the most disgusting and hilarious ideas possible and throws them in a blender. Just a glance at some of the titles like “Rage-Induced Infant Assfuck,” “Jacking off on an Inside-Out Butthole,” “Getting a Woodie in Your Sweats and Setting It on Fire” is enough to disgust and delight all at the the same time. While many slam death albums are clearly lacking in imagination, REDUCED TO A LIMBLESS SEXSLAVE somehow keeps my attention for its duration with silly movie clip narrations with emotive tugs of background music and then just a slugfest of pig grunts, unleashed slam aggression and well perversion turned up to 11 and beyond but most of all this is just fucking hilarious!

SILBERBART 4 Times Sounding Razing

Album · 1971 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 4.33 | 2 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
Straddled between the peak years of prog rock and the heavy psych 60s, Germany’s Varel (by the North Sea) based SILBERBART (Silverbeard) was formed in 1969 by guitarist / vocalist Hajo Teschner who spent the latter half of swinging 60s in a band called Tonics which to his dismay resided on the commercial end of things which pleased him not. After his Tonics bandmates jumped ship and joined the James Last band, Teschner decided to pursue a more adventurous route in the nascent Krautrock years and after combining forces with percussionist Gerd Bäker and bassist Peter Bahrens the newly founded SILBERBART resorted to playing cover songs by Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and the band whose sound was most vital to SILBERBART’s future independence, Cream.

Once Bäker departed and was replaced by the jazz drummer Peter Behrens, Teschner was finally allowed to nurture his latent inner freak and the true SILBERBART unfolded into the mysteries that composed the early 70s in all its avant-garde majesty. While accelerating towards the future, the trio remained anchored to the heavy psych rock antics of the past and in the process created one of the stranger albums to come out in the early years of the Krautrock scene. While never really finding an audience outside of Northern Germany, SILBERBART nevertheless quickly gained a reputation as one of the loudest bands in the world for their brash proto-metal guitar stomps laced with fuzz and adrenalized distortion that were perfectly accented by a heavy percussive bombast and independent bass lines which accented the band’s unique fascination with atonality between instruments.

SILBERBART recorded its one and only album 4 TIMES SOUND RAZING in April 1971 live in the studio and despite the intentions of only recording demos in reality was recording the four tracks that comprised the full-length debut. These experimental demons were based on the early 70s blues rock and heavy metal but found no problem in engaging in complete musical meltdowns, freeform nosedives into the farthest extremes of psychedelic trips and bizarre noise based chaos that generated atonal clusters of sound that were bound together sole by the rhythmic drive of the drums. I do believe SILBERBART actually prognosticated the New York based no wave movement of the late 70s but i somehow doubt that any of those bands could have been exposed to these stylistic deviations presented on 4 TIMES SOUND RAZING however the album did appear on the Nurse With Wound list in 1979 so who knows.

4 TIME SOUND RAZING has four goofily named tracks and although it begins like a typical blues inspired hard rock album of the era on the opening “Chub Chub Cherry,” the band introduces oddball insertions into the status quo but don’t really let the freak flags really fly until the second and longest track “Brain Brain” which at 16 minutes plus, begins as an airy falsetto driven slow atmospheric psychedelic groove that sounds like a throwback to the Summer of Love but then after a few verses and choruses totally freaks out at makes a hairpin spin into a high tempo chaotic swirl of bombastic noisy heavy metal that sounds like a herd of elephants stomping over a concert of rock musicians but the band regain control and channel it into a more familiar Amon Duul II styled Krautrock jam. The track continues to jump all over the place and reminds me a lot of Gnidrolog’s debut album “In Spite of Harry’s Toenail” which wouldn’t be released for another year and in England. I think it’s the atonal independence of the instruments that makes this connection. But then again Alice Cooper’s debut “Hello Pretties” fits the bill as well.

The 10 minute “God” is more of a heavy psychedelic metal rocker and probably is the most “normal” sounding track but still goes left field into warm fuzzy guitar sequences, Ginger Baker sounding drums, Led Zeppelin-esque guitar solos with Guru Guru heavy feedback with freeform jamming added for good measure. While Teschner’s vocals are fairly reserved on this album compared to the crazy instrumental workouts, at times as in the middle of “God” he hurls some blood curdling screams out of the speakers enough to scare the bejesus out of you the first time you encounter this sonic exorcism! The track then totally derails and starts to zigzag all over the place. The track ends with an assault of heavy guitar chords, bluesy slides and atonal riffs running amok.

“Head Tear of the Drunken Sun” ends the album and saves the weirdest for last! It immediately takes that honor as it enters with a series of ferocious guitar slides and then enters blues rock territory with Teschner doing his best Creedence Clearwater Revival vocal tribute. While the guitar riffs begin more like something off of Deep Purple’s “In Rock” complete with sizzling guitar solos, it eventually breaks down into an ethereal Comus like freak folk with echoey clean guitars and spooky haunting sounds in tandem including what sounds like chimes or bells of some sort. The freakiness builds in intensity with guitar sounds sliding and whizzing like the LSD has kicked in. Is this Can’s “Tago Mago?” Wow. Sure sounds like it but this is more metal oriented and one of the earliest examples of what could be truly called psychedelic metal which could rightfully be compared to the bizarre funeral metal antics of England’s modern day Esoteric at least instrumentally speaking. After completely switching gears back into sober heavy rock, the track finishes in the bluesy rock style which it began with.

This is a wild ride for sure and utterly unique for its simultaneous intensity on two completely different levels. While many bands were pushing the heaviness and others were going full force into psychedelic, SILBERBART somehow found a way to incorporate both aspects into their sound without sounding forced. It really does sound like a band that went to practice but dropped some acid before the set however the lysergic influences only intermittently affect their playing and the result is 4 TIMES SOUND RAZING. Too weird for even the proggers of the era, this band didn’t last long at all and broke up soon after. While remaining a complete mystery for decades, the 2012 reissue finally added some liner notes to give some important history. This is a must for any adventurous Krautheads who love both the heavy rock strains as well as the psychedelic trippy ones. You can think of this as the most psychedelic band that took the late 60s along for the ride and in many ways lives up to the potential of the sounds that were never fully realized by bands like Cream, Blue Cheer and Iron Butterfly. This is a delicious and demented album but a ridiculously fun one at that!

VENOM Storm the Gates

Album · 2018 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 1.75 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
What were you doing in 1979? Me, I was 16 years old and desperate to discover more about the new metal movement which was literally sweeping the UK at the time, and at the forefront of that was the magazine Sounds. I and many others used to get it every week (grief, a weekly music newspaper, we were so lucky) and devour what Deaf Barton was discovering, and although I was sending off for records from bands, by far my favourite label was Neat Records in Newcastle. They had so many incredible bands, with my favourite probably being Raven, and then they had Venom. I can’t have been the only one wondering what on earth was going on with these guys, creating sounds an image which was like none other. Those first three albums are some of the most important ever release in the history of metal, spawning sub genres like no others, and it felt as if Cronos, Abaddon and Mantas could do no wrong.

Of course, since then there has been a rather convoluted band history, but for the most part Cronos has been there belting his bass and providing his vocals, while guitarist Rage and drummer Danté have been by his side for the last ten years. I wasn’t too sure of Venom the first time I heard their music, but over the years have become a firm fan and was relishing listening to this. However, when one realises that easily the best thing about the album is the cover art, then we’re in trouble. Let’s talk about the production, or rather let’s not – the reason bands used to sound bad was due to poor equipment and not enough money, surely no-one these days deliberately goes out of their way to record something that sounds like this? Songs. Yes, there are songs, but they are boring without and fire and are way too repetitive. It almost feels as if there was an album which had to be recorded, so let’s get it done and get back out onto the festival circuit before Venom Inc. (featuring Mantas, Demolition Man (Tony Dolan) and Kling (Abaddon left last year)) steal all the thunder and bookings. On the basis of this, it may be too late.

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