Friday, November 28, 2008

At Rest - Demo 2008

This is tedious, heard it before, chop and mash death-core that should frighten just about anyone looking for something with a sense of character and heaviness. Take your balls, cut them off and throw them in a blender with some fruit then drink the contents afterwards because you might as well be doing something to hurt yourself if your enjoying this. When I can tell that shit has been copied and pasted and done up in pro-tools, I just want to turn it off and listen to Grave or Dismember; a band that didn't pay way too much of their parent's money basically. I know there are the Necrophagist / Aborted / Arsis crew out there who will hear this and literally vomit forth expletives to their scenester friends about how utterly brootal At Rest is.

Think of a second rate Necrophagist with hardcore breakdowns. That is all the description you need. Where at rest falter is mainly in the structure and architecture of their riffs and guitar lines. The guitar lines are typical, the vocals are both typical low and high attempts at being masculine but when I can hear lyrics in the songs about cutting wrists or kissing lips or something like that, I just don't care. There are moments of guitar that come out of nowhere to add nothing to the song except some long hammer-on-pull-off section. Clearly Mike Newman and Dan Ladin are good guitar players and have excellent technique but where is the heart? Charlie, last name unknown, basically follows the guitars throughout the cesspool of failure At Rest has excreted upon us. I would mention something about Phil Fontana's drumming but I doubt he actually played any of this crap, it was probably all fixed and edited digitally without any regard at having a natural sound.

Pass this shit by.

Methadrone - Horizone

Methadrone is pretty fucking awesome. Craig Pillard's side project from Evoken is centered around somber, melancholy yet hopeful soundscapes. This single is downloadable for free from the Foreshadow Productions website and is an internet only release which is absolutely terrible. This would fit perfectly on a 7" or one side of a 10" Split. I see it being paired with Nortt or something similar, maybe a new Catacombs song or unreleased material. Methadrone seriously sounds like the younger brother of the two except with his room painted white instead of black and a record collection that is more geared towards Jesu and Isis than the black / bleak metal records that compose the collections of his black forged brethren.

The first cut, the single's title track, "Horizone" is an airy, reverb coated birthday cake of captivating quality. It doesn't get boring as subtle accoutrements are added to the song's layered mass throughout. The low end is breathtaking. While the percussion is minimal, echoing effects create the feeling of being in a vast cavernous expanse mesmerized by the loneliness and the scope of feeling inferior to your surroundings. Each cycle of the song's basic structural component draws you further from the world you exist in and closer to the world that Methadrone is focused on plastering over reality. Throughout the song you get multiple vocal approaches used not as a vehicle for reciting lyrics but as a method of drawing attention away from you're surroundings. Whispers, chanting, choral arrangements in the background add to the intimacy.

Second track, a shorter piece titled "Nalbuphine" is as cleansing as the drug which it is named for. The general tone is somber yet distinctively different from the cave-like loneliness of the title track. Much more, personal than the opener, I find myself placing my body in a decaying hospital, left for dead with a slow drip of the drug being pumped into my body to remove whatever pain I might feel as the world around me died. The song drones more pulses with an acoustic guitar providing the main cadence in the track; its steel strings decisively rusted with the decay of ages.

For a free download, you have no reason not to hear this. My gripe with it not being a physical release is a personal gripe though it really should be presented to fans in a physical release. Where is the fun in downloading something? I am left in a state of urgent need for their full length releases. I can find myself drugged to sleep listening to this.

Download here

This Is A
NJ Band

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Exxplorer - Symphonies Of Steel

This stuff is like candy. Exxplorer's unknown classic "Symphonies Of Steel" is filled to the brim with metal goodness. Perhaps maybe a little bit "too full." This album is like those beakers in high school that you filled with water and then tossed a little weight in and watched as the water over flowed. This beaker must be filled with a bizarre liquid, because if my facial expression was the meniscus, I would be frowning at one moment and smiling the next. I go from loving every note that comes from Ed Lavolpe's twittering fingers to hanging my head in shame at other moments as Exxplorer try too hard, make amateur mistakes and / or mock the very song they are so intimately involved with.

While Ed Lavolpe's guitar playing is nothing to frown at, his tone could use a small kick in its bony ass. Fellow axeman Kevin Kennedy is in tow with talent and a general lack of heaviness. The guitars have a vintage sound to them that anyone could enjoy but a slight tonal adjustment would leave one to face a slightly angrier bear. Both rip through a scattering of dual leads and solos across the album. Lenny Rizzo's vocals are decent though varied throughout the album. His vocals in "Going To Hell" are prepubescent. He could be singing this song while having his braces adhered to his front teeth. He makes up for this in the "Objection Overruled" duo where he sounds like Paul DiAnno on the mellow songs on Iron Maiden's self titled. Rizzo's vocals have a natural reverb to them that fills in some of the space they lack. He has the range but the power isn't there at times. Jimmy Gardner's bass playing is fantastic throughout the album and really helps the album matter. He has that 80's bass style down pat. He has a really good tone and is tight throughout the album. Mike Moyer's drums are typical and nothing special but he lays a strong foundation and pounds out some noticeable fills.

The album's songs are generally awesome. Opener "City Streets" is a memorable and standard metal tune with a great solo and those old school riffs that no one can live without. It's got plenty of headbanging moments and will make you want to romp around your room while being careful not to make the phonograph skip. "Run For Tomorrow" is, for me, the album's highlight with a great flow after the intro, which, as far as I'm concerned, is a few measures too long, and a powerful essence which leaves me wishing the song was just slightly longer. The band's namesake track chugs and gallops though never amounts to much - a let down because the opportunities were there. Cool solo though. "Metal Detectors" is stuck in my mind as the finest example of metal's acknowledgment of its own image. It's a song we've all heard before, talking about all those things metal talks about. You know...metal, steel... With lines like these, Manowar can sit proudly and smile at their disciples. "I'm hungry for metal, I'm searchin' for steel" or "The power of metal, is driving you near" and "Our numbers are growing, like a metal storm" And my favorite... "Don't let them tell you that metal is dead, they listen to Springsteen, it's gone to their head." Eric Adams would be enthralled with this track.

The two tracks / segments which form the "Objection Overruled" section of the album are no lackluster pieces of crap. The the first part is mainly slow, raunchy and doomy until the last two minutes. Basically, I would compare this entire track to "Strange World" or "Remember Tomorrow." I also get a hint of Geddy Lee in the vocals along with DiAnno. Rizzo's vocals are on full display here and they are wearing a fucking full patch covered tuxedo (damn I want one of those!). While the track picks up pace in the second half, It still maintains a general mid paced tempo and has the albums best solo section as well. This is as good as any of Fates Warning's B-sides. It ain't "Fata Morgana" or "Guardian" but I like it just as much as "Giant's Lore" or "Orphan Gypsy."

The field has some stumps though. The only-piano second track "Prelusion" is placed terribly and really doesn't prelude anything. It shares a theme that returns at the end of "Run For Tomorrow" though I'm left wondering who had the idea that a four minute piano piece as the second track on the album would help pacing and move the album along. Granted, the piano piece is really good, it just doesn't belong there. Fourth track "World War III" is a ballad. Yeah, they were all the rage at the time and the lyrics really aren't entirely about people dying, machine guns and German bombers dropping their payload on England's Anderson shelters but the song just drags. "Going to Hell" is the album's weakest track by more than a longshot. Rizzo's vocals sound stolen from Jane's Addiction. The song's lacks much drive and though a generally good riff appears once or twice, it is lost amidst awkward chord choices. A skipper if I ever heard one.

Still, of all the traditional metal that came out of New Jersey or the USA in general, for 1985, this was out there and tried to stand apart from the pack of NWOBHM imitators. If you're still skeptical that this is really that good, take note that this was originally released by the same label putting out the classic Manilla Road albums. That should be word enough that this is a worthy forged piece of metal. And Exxplorer are still exxploring! Check these guys out if you get a chance, I have a feeling you will feel like it was 1986 again. Don't forget your denim and leather though, or you won't be allowed to enter.

... or raise your fists in the air and shout "The metal detectors are losing control!!!!"

This Is A
NJ Band

Dirge - Fleshcrawler EP

Sadly, Dirge's last EP has lost a bit of the bite that Soulstorm had in favor of a more heavy-set crushing style. The punk influences, thankfully, are still visible throughout this six song testament to the lost art form of thrashing crossover goodness. Though moments of the release make me laugh outright at the vocals - usually because after I hear them I immediately associate them with the vocals in the chorus of Thor's Devastation of Musculation (look this up on Youtube drunk for a good laugh) - other moments put a wide grin on my face and remind me of why Dirge became one of my favorite unknowns from the garden state.

Whereas Soulstorm had a metallic, crisp and brittle production, Fleshcrawler has a moist, fluid and dingy production as if the whole album was properly recorded in a dank city punk club with fourteen extremely drunk audience members extruding enough energy to make forty lesser men run and cower. Erik Tucker's guitar playing is nothing to drool over but he weaves some invigorating "I have no shredding talent" solos across the album. The guitar is a bit thin though the beautiful bubbling tone of the bass fills in and plays an integral part in supporting the album's mediocre songs. Dan's drums are a bit low in the mix though they cut through with the thin guitar not providing much masking power to cover the dullness of the drums.

Boilerplate opens the album slow and heavy and points to an emphasis on the bass. Corrupted is faster and uglier. The album's third and fourth spot are generally lackluster and forgettable with Predictions suffering from some poppish moments that the band would never have been caught dead doing earlier on. Small Scene matches the bands earlier style best of all the tracks on the EP. After an Obituary-esque lead, the composition flows into a smooth jazz section before dissolving into a hasty scathing guitargasm; strongest track yet still nowhere near five-star gourmet dining.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dejecta - The Sound Of Dejecta

Aaron Freeman and Matt Olivo's post Repulsion project Dejecta grind though three catchy, memorable and blistering songs on their second demo "The Sound of Dejecta." Easy to enjoy, abrasive but accessible, this is shit that the whole family can listen to at dinner while talking about how the benefits awarded by their eight-to-five job are too nuanced. You can throw this on in the background while drinking with friends and no one would get bothered by it. It sounds less like a Demo and more like Dejecta's half of a split that was never released.

The drums are clear and cutting like a broken shard of glass from the car window you broke with that baseball bat you stole from the irascible kid next door just to piss him off and egg him on. Bill Bradley is steady and precise, never overplaying. Matt and Aaron's guitars have a vintage, grating crush to them while Sean MacDonald's bass is mixed absolutely perfectly in the mix. You can hear him lumbering along and sitting nicely in the music's groove, punching out some bass licks worth making the three songs deserve replaying just to appreciate them. Lee William's vocals have attitude and a sense of urgency necessary and suitable for the pacing of the demo. He sounds like a more genuine and ballsy Tony Foresta (Municipal Waste). At other times, I am reminded of a less old school Scott Ruth during his "The Beast" era.

Though the album starts off a bit weak for me, "Shit For Brains" has its moments though I don't get dragged in until second track "Love You Madly" which starts off with an absolutely blistering metal riff then descends into some off the wall catchy thrash shit and a tripped out solo. If it only had a bit more impact it would be one of my favorite grindy tunes in a good long time. "Shit For Brains" is a good song though a bit drawn out for me. "But its only three minutes long man!!??" Shut up, I know what I mean. It should have been played faster. Got it? Good? Best part of the track is when Lee yells "Shit for brains!!" with a decisively vicious snarl. "Hearts of Darkness" ends the three tracks with a groovy, disjointed three minutes of grinding, disharmonious metallic aggression complete will a nifty bass fill and another noisy, kick ass solo. Well worth the ten minute playing time though one or two more songs would have made this absolutely necessary for die hard grinders.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ad Hominem - Omnes Ad Unum

The first and most immediate thought racing through my head as I suffer through Ad Hominem's first demo "Omnes Ad Unum" is "who the hell puts this shit out?" I want to find the perpetrators and ask them how they sleep at night knowing that they are wasting everyone's time... the pressing plant, the artists making the covers, the plants manufacturing the Cds or, in this case, cassettes these albums are printed on. I understand the importance of maintaining a "true status" and releasing material that only "true metal warriors of the anti-Zionist regime" will understand but I can't help but pity the people buying this load of crap.

The guitars sound like a happy swarm of hornets buzzing around your ear and whispering to you when you are about to walk into a very clean clear glass door or something wholly inconsequential. The vocals are about as generic, lo-fi black metal as you can get. The drums are seeping with glue that oozes out from the tape holding the hardware together and I can guarantee you that the drummer is sitting on a milk crate disguised as the head of some Jewish leader that no one has heard of or cares about. I don't think that the bassist knows what he is supposed to be playing as he is off time, confused and out of touch with what is going on. His bass might as well be made of cheap sausage. It would sound like a more convincing instrument and only because I am currently hungry.

"In Odio Esse Sibi" brings the pretentious personalities to the forefront with keyboard interludes and clean guitars. I get the sense that Ad Hominem feels they are going to write the next great black metal masterpiece and will be loved by everyone. The problem is they can't write even a song that approaches "meh" status. The minute long keyboard pieces "Noesis" and "Requiem For Humanity" are the most interesting songs until "Ceux Qui Perirent Jadis" which somehow sinks its wintry claws into my ears and I find myself somehow maintaining a sense of fondness for the track. It keeps me engaged for some reason, the buzzing guitars adding a sense of being-chased-by-bees-that-don't-want-to-help-you kind of way.

As much as I found myself not bored senseless with the previous track, I laughed outright at the beginning of "Total Volkermord" which is, in my opinion, one of the funniest tracks I have ever heard. It almost tops Countess' Blood On My Lips. Almost. If retarded circus clowns got incredibly hammered on the cheapest and foulest beer available and attempted to make black metal it might begin to resemble the keyboard part in this song. The comedic and humorous cadence takes the cake for worst attempt at 'spooky atmosphere' that there ever was. The vomiting forth of lower, bassy vocals halfway through is a tedious attempt to save an album that has already drowned. Like a gay lifeguard trying to resuscitate a random male swimmer who drowned last year and was already buried. Just... don't listen to this.

Aceium - Wicked Metal

Heavy Metal and Canada are not two words we would usually associate with each other. Canada gave us nothing but Eskimos, Rush and Voivod. Though I wouldn't be so daring as to add Aceium's name to that list (who the hell is Aceium anyway?) this is a competent demo with some excellent, play-worthy songs. Wicked Metal is very much typical early 80's metal. The album falls into the category of "albums to play in the background when friends are over." This is one of my main problems with the album though - there are spans of minutes when nothing at all interesting happens and my mind begins to wander, towards the beer I am drinking, the porn I am watching or what I would like to put on the sandwich I am making.

Anyway... for a demo in 1982, this is well recorded and well produced. The guitars could bite a bit harder, the bass could be less passive, the drums could be more up front and the vocals could be less distant. The whole album has a "distant" feel to it. You know, that one where you feel like it was recorded in an empty hotel and the guitars were next door and the microphones were in the wrong room but the band was so loud that it cut through the walls. As the demo goes on, the severity of this distance becomes less apparent as your ears acclimate, like focusing on a friend on the other side of a class whispering to you the answers to that test you never studied for because you were too busy enjoying Saxon's full length.

The most stand out aspect of this bygone product is the guitar playing. There are leads scattered throughout the songs like gnats on a moist lawn bunching up and then floating to another part to irk you when you are trying to mow. They hit your ears and are stuck there and if you try and push your finger in they just get pushed further in and you need to run inside and get a q-tip to fish them out. The solos are like that. There will be one somewhere that will make you want to listen to it again just for the nostalgic feeling of a solo that was nothing more than a chance for the guitarist to "Let Loose." Major points to Mike Code for the guitar work on the album. Though his rhythms are a bit uninspired to these ears, those solos...

The rhythm section is quite ballsy though, as mentioned, the drums are very much in the background and at times very difficult to really latch on to. The perspective the listener is given to the drums is one of the main reasons for the whole "distant" feeling to the album. The reverb on the vocals as well adds to this. Though the drums are distant, Steven Lederman's percussive talents are very apparent. He pounds through the harder parts, throwing down some interesting and inspired fills such as in "Let Loose" and "Eyes of Pain" yet he displays expert reserve at the more mellowed sections. Richard Fulham's low end is the most recognizable instrument on the entire record. It is up front, distinguishable and of major importance in the structures and melody of the songs. He mainly plays straightforward bass parts however at the times he plays through his fills on the album, many of which seem to be improvisations at the moment of recording, he is on. Douglas Adam's vocals are competent but he is no Eric Adams as hard as he might try to be.

"Cold Steel" is a tough act to follow as an opener and "Let Loose" doesn't quite live up to the intensity of the harder, more varied, more interesting and catchy lead off track. The opening riff is awesomely and unfathomably metal to the point that someone should have already written it. Who knew that three notes could have such an effect? Sadly, most of the other rhythms fall short. "Let Loose" meanders on before becoming interesting. "Walking With Evil" is skippable, containing a few generic yet cool bass fills and a very rock 'n' roll solo while "No Peace" and "Eyes of Pain" comprise the second half of the offering's interesting tracks. "Wrong Place," though not a very good song, is worth the listen to just to hear. It seriously is the first surfing anthem / detective television show theme metal tune ever. "Satan's Laugh" is, well, laughable and can be compared to sitting down to dinner with your grandparents and waiting for them to ask you how school is and how is work going.

While not the greatest album to search for from this time period, Canada has once again given us something that maintains a certain kind of mediocrity that can be pleasing at moments and irritable at other times. As hard as this band tried to release something awesome, they fell a few feet short of the mark, possibly on concrete and possibly hurt themselves slightly which resulted in them running home to have their mother's patch up their cuts and scrapes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Black Anvil - Time Insults The Mind

Black Anvil are a black metal band comprised of the members of New York Hardcore outfit Kill Your Idols who are also involved in several other hardcore bands. Black Anvil's take on black metal falls somewhere between competent and average, though I find the whole idea of three hardcore guys playing black metal insincere at the best and provoked by ulterior motives at the worst. The musicianship is definitely there and the tone pounds sufficiently but the riffs sound less like black metal and more akin to groovy thrash with black metal vocals plastered on a hardcore template with copious amounts of tape and glue desperately trying to hold the whole thing in place. "Time Insults The Mind" is a prime example that talented musicians can accomplish playing a particular style and make it sound good but still fall short in regards to accountability.

The album opens with "Margin for Terror" which, reasonably demonstrates what the album has to offer. It trudges on through some typical riffs similar to what the next Primordial album will sound like if Alan and the boys have lost their will to be creative and run out of ideas. Paul Delany's vocals sound exactly like Jeff Walker's vocals on Heartwork. I wouldn't be driving all over the road to say that there is potent Heartwork / Swansong influence at times, notable the second half of disjointed third track "Deathsomnia." The long pause mid track before the second half of the track could be occupied with something to blend the two segments together. "Ten Talons Deep" begins with some excellent usage of subtle melody and dynamics though falls into a post-black styled verse and chorus with a somewhat upbeat and enticing melody.

Gary Bennet's guitar is right up front and crisp with some fuzz and grit. Paul's bass throughout the album is, thankfully, prevalent however it sounds a bit too clean, like a bum after a shower. It has weight but only enough to balance the see-saw in the park with the neighborhood fat girl on the other end. The bass is used to great effect though and complements the guitars without doing any drastic progressive wanderings or spacey shit. Good for Paul. Trudging along with a disregard for those looking for the next technical masterpiece. He does his thing and does it well.

The second half of the rhythm section is where I find the album lacking. Raeph Glicken is tight and varied even though he sounds like the guy who was dragged into the project and got bored halfway. "On This Day Death" is a prime example of his lackluster emotion. He does little interesting except the toy monkey-like cymbal play a quarter through the song before the slower, droning section with screams in the background that sound like a school bus of children frightened by the spiders in the arachnid exhibit at the city zoo. The screams sound like they are behind glass or deep down in a dank well. Nice touch.

The second half of the album is where the interesting songs are. "And You Thought You Knew Pain" contains the quality riffs on the album. 777 contains the weird lead section of the album though the lack of balls in the bass is most noticeable during this section. Still, the arpeggiated lead is interesting and unique enough to support the fragment. The albums shortest song, "L.T.H.L.T.K" has the most irritable opening riff, sounding downright silly. Dethroned Emperor sounds like mediocre doom.

Overall, the album is consistently mediocre, providing little if any remarkable content. Though the ideas do present themselves and the riffs are at times noddable, not once is the music engaging enough to warrant multiple listens or to necessitate added listening in the car.